Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Love With An Agenda

Have you ever loved someone with an agenda? I have preached and heard that we shouldn't love people with an agenda.  After contemplating that more I have come to notice that it is said more as a crutch for not sharing the gospel.

Sometimes it takes us having an agenda to get involved in a persons life.

When my wife and I first met...I had an agenda. I wanted her to like me. I wanted her to be charmed only by me. I wanted nothing else than to have her as mine. So I planned, purposed, and proposed. My plan was simple. Communicate with her as much as possible. We had a long distance relationship so I was going to write, IM, email, talk on the phone, do whatever I had to in order to stay at the front of her mind. My purpose was to win her heart. I did that by driving approx 2,000 miles to see her. Every moment I was with her I drank it in so I could pour out my own affection toward her. After several trips (not all by car) she moved to the city I lived in. About two months later I proposed. It all started with an agenda.

If I didn't have an agenda I could have lost out on the very best person I have ever had in my life.

I don't need to approach a person as another spiritual conquest. However, I need to have an agenda to open a pathway for people who don't have a relationship with God to encounter Him. If I don't because I don't want to love a person with an agenda I could very well miss out on daily opportunities to tell people I should connect with about Jesus.

People we come into contact with deserve to hear about Jesus. We cannot fail in this rudimentary portion of our faith.

Jesus didn't say "Love people if you like them" or "Just tell the people you like about Me." One thing He did say that should cut us to the heart is:  "Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord' and do not do what I say?"

You don't love a person well if they don't have a relationship with God and you remain silent.

Love with an agenda because some people don't love at all.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mission HQ or Mission Field

Generally speaking the most dominate movement within the modern day American church is to be MISSIONAL. This movement, when done with compassion, consistency, and tenacity will reshape the structure of the church.

Sinner has to assimilate to the Church
before they actually have an encounter
with God.
The predominant "missional" practice is to compel people to come to a church function (youth group, men's/women's ministries, outreach located at or near the church, etc) A great deal of time, energy, and money is spent on outreaches that draw people to the Church. This is not bad but it makes the "Sinner" take the first step...and that not toward God but toward the Church. We can believe that what we are doing is missional but it is far from it.
Church goes to where the Sinner is at
and opens the door for the Sinner to have
an encounter with God in their context.

I love the practice of those that attend Mars Hill in Seattle, WA. Their pastor, Mark Driscoll, says that you can look at his church's budget and you won't see a lot of money being spent on outreaches. And the reason that is because within his church the people know that outreach is a thing that they are supposed to do every day. So instead of 1 outreach committee and 1 outreach event a month or whatever; you have 100's of "outreaches" going every single day. That is the reality of Christians actually being missional.

Just think of the tremendous impact a truly missional church would make for Christ. Picture your church. How many people attend? How many of the people either do nothing or do everything? How often do you have a strategic evangelistic emphasis? Who gets involved? Is it the same people? Just imagine the impact your church could have if the DNA of the church was that each person intentionally reached out to someone everyday.

Let's say your church has 50 people and everyone of them reaches out everyday to one person. Now lets say that only 10% of those that they reached out to everyday accepted Christ and started attending your church with that type of DNA:  Sunday 50, Monday 55, Tuesday 61, Wednesday 67, Thursday 74, Friday 81, Saturday 89, Sunday 98 so in a sense by the time the next week rolls around you would have nearly doubled the attendance of your church.

In order for that to take place we need to infuse a new DNA within the church. It can be catastrophic or revolutionary. But it takes visionaries to start making those steps to create the change in their context to reach their communities for Jesus.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How Well Do You Believe

Matthew 10:22
All men will hate you because of Me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

This is one of those hard statements of Jesus' that we don't hear often in church. The reason being is because we have made belief in Jesus something that you stumble upon or that you just need to say "Yes" at the right places in a prayer. We even think that belief is acknowledging a particular religion or having decent church attendance. We have become so casual with our belief that it is not evident in who we are.

This verse pulls no punches. In essence it says that, "Everyone is going to hate you because you love Me over anything in this world to the point that it makes everyone uncomfortable. Because of that pressure many won't stand firm for long but those that do stand firm to the complete end will be saved."

Saying I believe is easy; acting upon that belief is hard. When I was going to a youth group I heard several different people say that believing in Jesus was easy. They would quote John 3:16 like it was just a One-A-Day vitamin to get saved. The reality is that to follow Jesus is more than just saying "I believe." When the Bible says, "...whoever believes in [Jesus] will have eternal life" it is not talking about those that say, "Uh huh" in a prayer but of those that say, "I am" in a lifestyle.

Believing in Jesus has cost me friendships.
Believing in Jesus has cost me relationships.
Believing in Jesus has cost me certain pleasures.
Believing in Jesus has cost me a tremendous amount of life's experiences.
Believing in Jesus has cost me my life.
All of these are well worth giving up to Him over and over again.

I think instead of asking a person, "What do you believe," a better question would be "How well do you believe?"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

PUT DOWN YOUR SIGN

I think the longer and longer that I am in ministry the more and more intolerant I have become. I know what you may be thinking as soon as I said that politically incorrect word but you've got it wrong.

I have become more and more intolerant of Christians who pretend that they have just finished having their regular morning frap with Jesus at Starbucks and then they pick up their picket signs and go stand on the street encouraged by the new app Jesus showed them.
Really??

I hope God smites them. I have never used the word smite before but it fit. That may have been a little unChristian but I DON'T CARE!

How we respond to a sinner reflects on how they view our God. I don't have to be a jerk to show God's love and justice to a person. Put down the picket sign and pick up a heart for people who need Jesus; not the phony cover-up of your own mess type of righteousness.

Also, when we passively dismiss, ignore and turn away from people needing a relationship with Jesus we're holding a sign just as big and don't even realize that we are just as lost as they. We break God's heart when we treat others with disdain for the same reason we needed His Son to be our Savior.

If you are so inclined to picket; start at home and stop at the Church.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people - not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked person from among you."

----------------
When was the last time you broke down sobbing for this lost generation? They don't need any more fools with signs. They need fools with hearts who are crazy enough to love them where they are.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Jesus' Bucket List

1) Hate none, serve all

2) Love God, Love People

3) Walk on Water

4) Forgive everybody

5) Teach those who think they know

6) Invite those who don't know to fall in love

7) Touch lives at all costs

8) Give hope to all

9) Disturb and disrupt the status quo

10) Embrace pain so others can live eternally

11) Set free those who deserve bondage

12) See My tomb after this is done

Monday, August 22, 2011

How "Christian" Am I

A Christian by true definition is supposed to be Christ-like. It is not about liking Christ or being in "agreement" with His beliefs. It is living, doing, and being LIKE Christ. Christ-likeness is not accomplished in a bible study or a prayer gathering. It is an undeniable identity.

So lets check and see how Christ-like us Christians are:

How many non-Christians do you hang out with?
Jesus was ridiculed, by the religious, for His constant FELLOWSHIP with sinners. We preach that we should do this but evaluate your relationships.
Matthew 9:10-13; Luke 5:30; Luke 15:2

How often have you healed the sick, lame, blind, dead?
Jesus said that we will be able to do all this and greater...was He lying or are we denying?
John 14:12

When was the last time you stopped doing the program of church but acted as the church?
We can't deny that the modern church has become so programmatic that we often miss the presence of God moving. We may feel Holy Ghost goosebumps during a worship set but when did that completely entail all of our Christian experience?
Matthew 12:9-14; John 9

How often is your faith expressed outside the church (never, annually, monthly, weekly, daily)?
Jesus was consistently doing kingdom business. He lived and breathed His mission.
John 4:34; 5:17; 1 Peter 2:9

How many people have you pointed to God the Father?
We always point people to church or a program of the church to begin or have a relationship with God. Jesus never did that. Jesus was relationally missional. He came to accomplish something and gave us a commission to complete it.
Luke 19:10; 1 Corinthians 9:19-22

When was the last time you walked on water?
Ok, I'll give that to the Son of God alone.

But clearly there is something missing in our Christian expression if these things are not evident. I would have to say that the something that is missing is Christ.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Church Planting?

First, I'd like to say that I think planting churches is necessary. Second, I'd like to say that I think planting churches is a backwards step in America.

Ok, here's the deal. I recently received an informal invitation at our church address to go to a 1 DAY CHURCH PLANTING CONFERENCE. My issue with what we call "church planting" is that it is all about establishing a new church in an area that already has a Gospel witness. Can we really call that church planting? Or is it just a multisite endeavor a few miles away from the host church for those too lazy to drive another 10 miles? For instance I know that there is a large church a few miles south of where we are that wants to plant a church a few miles north of where we are. Within just a couple mile radius of our church there are 6 or 7 other churches.

I understand if the current church is not doing anything to reach the community something must be done. Well in all honesty it's not the churches problem it's the believers problem who attend those churches. They are just attending church and not being the church. From their book ON THE VERGE by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson (which I highly recommend to any church leader) they say that most Western churches are fighting for the same 40% of people while the 60% that don't have anything to do with church still go unreached. (follow @OnTheVergeBook on twitter)

So is planting a "new" church the answer?

I say plant the Gospel and watch the church grow. If you want to see a neighborhood changed for the glory of Christ instead of putting money towards a facility; facilitate the Gospel spreading in that neighborhood then see the church flourish.

Now I know what I may say right here may sound disconcerting towards church planting but that is not my heart or intention. I just feel that there are many people who want to set up THEIR kingdom, THEIR way, and be the next big preacher.

But the reality is that we don't need more churches we need better Christians who take the mission of Christ seriously.

Let me put it this way:

There are over 16,000 nations (people groups) in the world today and over 6,600 of those are still considered unreached with the Gospel (unreached means that less than 2% of the people group are considered Christians).
About 90% of all missionary work and missions giving goes to parts of the world that already have access to the Gospel.
An estimated 6.7 billion people live in the world today. 2.7 billion live in an unreached people group.

There are 632 unengaged unreached people groups (different from just an unreached people group) with populations over 50,000; together numbering over 366,000,000 souls that are still beyond the reach of the Gospel. The 632 are perhaps the neediest of the needy as they are unengaged, which means that no church, no mission agency, no one has yet taken responsibility to tell them about Jesus Christ. (this information was gathered from Global Frontier Missions)

So before you follow the hype of planting another church on a street corner in America down the street from another church tell me how you feel about those 2.7 billion people around the world who live without an adequate witness?

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? - Romans 10:14

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Sword

Ephesians 6:17
[Take] the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.

The Sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon mentioned in Ephesians 6. Everything else was defensive to protect against the enemy.

Without the sword (Word of God) you cannot attack the enemy. The better a person knows how to use the sword (Word of God) the better fighter they become.

I just want to use an Old Testament story as an illustration of this. You may have heard of King David's Mighty Men. Eleazar was one of the chiefs.

2 Samuel 23:9-10
Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty men, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim for battle. The the men of Israel retreated, but he stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.

This dude is my freakin hero. Eleazar and David are taunting the Philistine army while everyone else is shaking and rattling in their armor. Eleazar is saying "Bring it." While the army of Israel is telling him to shut up. Whatever he did along with David to taunt the Philistines into battle it worked. It reminds me of the movie Braveheart where William Wallace offends the British guy to provoke a battle and rides back to the Scottish army and his buddy ends up saying. "At least we didn't get dressed up for nothin."

One thing I find amazingly interesting about this story is how hard Eleazar fought. It says that his hand was so tired from the battle that it froze to his sword. Oh that we would cling to the Word of God in that way. That we would till our dying breath be clutching without fear, without doubt, and with complete faith in the Word of God.

That verse says that the army of Israel only came back to strip the dead. It's the same type of thing when a person can only lean on the trust another has in the Word of God. "My Sunday School teacher said she..." or "My Pastor said that he..." but not have a story of their own. They do not fully understand the Word and so their revelation of God is small. A small understanding of God only leads to a forfeit faith. If we had an understanding what the Word of God can do for us we'd do more than just preach, memorize certain scriptures, or let it save our seat in the pew.

God's Word:

Generates Life | Creates Faith | Produces Change | Frightens Satan | Causes Miracles | Heals Hurts | Builds Character | Transforms Circumstances | Imparts Joy | Overcomes Adversity | Defeats Temptation | Infuses Hope | Releases Power | Cleanses Minds | Brings Into Being | Guarantees Our Future Forever
That's the reason this is our only weapon. We need to be so diligent and so proficiently savvy with the Word of God that we are like Eleazar with the sword; unwavering, unstoppable, unashamed, and unrelenting.

Notice this one last thing about the "Full Armor of God." There is nothing to guard your back. You can't run and hide from this. So the best option is to pick up your sword and become skilled at using it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Deeper Than Acceptance

Ephesians 6:12
Take the helmet of salvation...

A soldier's helmet protected his skull and neck from his enemy's weapons and falling objects. It also identified the soldier to whom he had allegiance to.

A person can survive most injuries depending on the severity; a broken arm, a missing limb, a stubbed toe all of which are painful but survivable. But head trauma is different. It doesn't take a neuroscientist to point out that head injuries are the most traumatic injuries a person can sustain. Head injuries can cause aneurysms, hemorrhages, hematomas and several other big fancy scary medical terms.

We, Christians, for decades have put an emphasis on salvation being something God offers and we accept. Not necessarily as a life changing new identity that we often tote as a "free gift". But more or less like an added credit card to our wallets.

God: "Do you want to accept this Heaven Express Platinum Card with a very low APR offer? We can also roll all your credit cards into your new Heaven Express Platinum Card in order to make your payments quick and easy. If you act now we'll give you this special bonus of touring our location once this card has expired. What do you say?"

Us: "Yes, sign me up today!"

Then as we incur the dept we work hard at paying it off. We don't make any true changes except for who we are in "debted" to. We pay off that debt by trying to have better behavior around church people and give Jesus a shout out now and then. But what happened to the life change?

As often as you read in Scripture where salvation is a discussed topic it mostly describes a new life or a transformation taking place. Salvation isn't found in a nod of agreement to a doctrine but in a life transformed by the person of Jesus Christ.

So if we get this salvation wrong we screw up how we view God, what we think about God, how we respond to God, and what we do for God. It's like a hemorrhage that leads to a spiritual coma. That is why it is so crucial for us to understand that salvation is meant to be worked out and lived daily.

I do accept what Jesus has done for me; that is just the beginning. Who I am is a representation of the salvation that has renewed my mind, transformed my heart, and opened my life up to a divine purpose.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sweet Liberty

“Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.” – Patrick Henry

Tomorrow our nation will celebrate Independence Day; our national birthday. 235 years old. We should often be reminded how fortunate we are to live in this great country. We've got all the best food:  hamburgers, hotdogs, pizzas, and Chinese buffets. We have so much freedom in America we can hardly tolerate ourselves. The funny thing is that all of us are slaves.

We have tasted the bitterness of slavery whether we are aware of it or not. Though it isn’t a physical bondage it definitely is a spiritual one.

Think back to the life you had before Christ or the life you're living right now. What was it really like? What benefits did you reap from the things you might now be ashamed of?

In this world people will struggle to keep from coming under the will of God even though they can find their true freedom and independence there. They will still dislike, even despise, those who so gladly submit to God’s will.

So what is the appropriate way to celebrate Independence Day? By getting drunk, firing off fireworks and guns? Gorging ourselves on barbequed whatever? How about this; why don’t we celebrate the independence of our “one nation” by staying “under God”?

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” - John 8:36

Never has there been a more true statement. Never has there been a more comforting statement. When Christ has freed you there is no force in this world that can take that away from you. When Christ has freed you, it is of little matter where you live, or how well or poorly you live. When Christ has freed you the things of this world become less and less important.

You can lock me up but I can be as happy as I choose wherever I am. You cannot jail my spirit. You can kill those I love, but in Christ, we will reunite. You can kill me, but in Christ I can even find comfort there. Who cares if I am in jail when heaven awaits me? Why should I be depressed about a body that is slowly getting weaker and older when there is a new one that awaits me? Why should I fret about money when I shall have everything I need and more in my next life?

I am one man, under God, indivisible, filled with liberty and justice that is available to all through the freedom in Jesus Christ. Such sweet liberty.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Shield

Ephesians 6:16
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

The Shield of Fatih is the Christian's protection against the attack of the enemy. When faced with authentic faith in God the powers of darkness are overcome. This is why the apostle John could say for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

One of the greatest pieces of armament that was ever created was the shield. Shields have been key in any successful military force. From ancient warriors to modern riot police; shields are being used. Though the type and durability of shields have changed over the centuries shields are an essential piece of equipment. Imagine being a warrior without a shield. You have a lot more to worry about than before and a lot more energy is exerted to dodge attacks because the shield isn't present.

A shields elementary purpose is to intecept an attack or redirect a blow. That is what our faith does. Sometimes we pray that God delivers us from stuff we are meant to endure. When we engage in a battle and must step out in faith as the enemy approaches to attack we can have confidence to know that as the blow comes in we can position our faith in a way to break up its intended purpose.

Don't just have faith. Actually PUT faith in God.

To have faith in something is like having faith a wall will hold you up. I have faith that if I lean against any wall in my office it will be able to hold me up. Yet if I never lean against it what good is that faith? So what you can quote books of the Bible. So what you got gold stars for perfect attendance in Sunday School. If what you now isn't how you act, than what you know is worthless. It is a whole other thing to say I have faith and actually commit to leaning on that very faith.

One other great thing about a shield is that you can use it to help those battling beside you. Our faith can be an encouragment to others who may be struggling to endure the very trials that we are in or have already overcome.

Intercept, redirect, endure...you can't do any of it if you're not engaged in faith.

Friday, June 17, 2011

God's Foot Locker

Ephesians 6:15
And with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

Without good shoes or shoes that actually fit the soldier that soldier would not be able to hold his ground in battle.

Your feet fitted: is a call to step into YOUR anointing, YOUR purpose, YOUR life with God and not living someone else's. It is easy to see the glory in a persons life but you may not know the struggle that person went through to get there. I remember in Bible college all us young buck preachers wanted to be like T.D. Jakes. One of his catch phrases was "Get ready, get ready, get ready." It was often imitated by several of us. I believe I sounded most like the Bishop. But T.D. Jakes has an anointing for what he does where he is by God. I am not to be T.D. Jakes Jr. I am to be like Christ and find my identity in Him.

When we try to live a life based on the outward appearance of another human we fail to see God's original purpose for us. Try God's Foot Locker and put on the shoes that have been designed with you in mind.

The readiness means to be ready to make a faithful stand. Sometimes peace is brought about through an act of aggression. Like I have said before part of living right is being prepared to fight. There must come a point where as Christians we become intolerant of the nonsense and speak the truth of the gospel. In doing so the message of the gospel of peace which is that those who trust and believe in God are no longer on the receiving end of His wrath.

Those who stand firm in their anointing and their God directed purpose are not easily tripped up by temptation. The peace that Jesus gives in knowing who we are in Him is liberating. We are liberated to have life to the fullest when we experience it in the way God intended for us.

Go in this peace and return in the victory.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Righteous Swag

Ephesians 6:14
...with the breastplate of righteousness in place.

The Breastplate of Righteousness
The breastplate was one of the single most important elements of the Roman armor. If any soldier decided not to wear their breastplate they were asking to be killed. The breastplate protected the vital organs. Many commanders would also wear it for swagger.

Righteousness means to be just or act justly. Isaiah 59 says that the Lord puts on "righteousness as a breastplate" and goes into battle against injustice and corruption, restoring peace and order to the land. God offers us His righteousness and the duties that go along with it.

Sometimes as Christians we can assume that our religion makes us righteous but that is NOT the case.

James 1:27 says,
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Our duties in righteousness is to "look after" which means protect, stand up for, support, and be a guardian of. To act, think, walk, and talk justly. This involves getting involved. No one believes a person to be righteous if they don't act accordingly.

You keep yourself from being polluted by guarding your own heart. You can only guard your heart with something that is as pure as righteousness. To be righteous a person must have integrity; publicly and privately. A righteous person is not enticed to lay it down for momentary pleasures.

Having the breastplate of righteousness in place means that it is secured; not in oneself but in Jesus. It is a command to never retreat. There is no rear defense. Nothing to guard the back. Only to engage in the mission. Righteousness must stand the test of time. It must endure to the end. When the battle gets difficult they don't run they raze hell.

Those who stay true to righteousness definitely have some swag.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Keep the Belt Tight

Ephesians 6:14
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist...

The Belt of Truth
When preparing for battle, the belt would have been the first piece of protective armor put on. It was more than a strap around the waist. It had other leather straps with brass plates connected to them which hung over the groin area of the soldier.

Belts were used to tie up the garments so they would not get in the way while fighting. Without the belt the armor becomes weak and wobbly. The same goes with the truth. If we don't have a definite absolute truth everything else becomes weak, awkward and a burden. The call to already have "buckled" is a call to already be prepared. You start with the truth. You can't go any further if you don't have the truth.

This truth is not relative. This isn't theology or doctrine. It is the one simple truth that everything else hangs on. JESUS. In the movie A Few Good Men Colonel Jessep says, "You can't handle the truth!" I believe when we try to add so many other things (theologies and doctrines) to the truth of Jesus whether they're indeed the truth or not it begins to make the truth harder to handle. The person of Jesus begins to get blurred. We are meant to be replicas of Jesus and a replica is no good if it has things added to it based on a belief about the original.

Jesus said that He is the truth. There is no other truth besides Him.

In our faith we cannot get anything else right if our understanding of Jesus is askew. It doesn't matter what you believe about the rapture, if you are pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, or about speaking in tongues, and all the other debatable topics. They come second to Jesus and a far second at best.

We cannot do Christianity right with a false Christ. An image of a true Christian is found in Christ. We find our purpose, our mission, our hope, our joy, our peace, our freedom and our life in Jesus.

So make sure the belt is tight and you'll be able to stay in the fight.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stand Ready

Ephesians 6:13
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Depending on the translation of the Bible you read it says to "stand against", "withstand", "done all to stand", "stand". Paul is trying to create a picture here. Imagine old style Roman warfare, where there are two opposing forces on separate ends of the battlefield. Every soldier is lined up in place standing. They are ready for the conflict to begin at a moment's notice. It is a picture of being in the midst of the battle and not losing your strength but to endure to the end. So knowing that you are capable of standing and can endure; STAND now.

All of this is done in preparation long before the "day of evil". If we aren't prepared to fight we will loose the battle every time. A reason, I believe, so many Christians walk around beat down and have the faith like soggy fries is because they only begin to "stand" when the enemy has already started to attack. So they run defeated.

"Stand your ground" is a determination not to back down. There is no second guesses. The soldier is all in. You've probably heard this before, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." You can not deceive a person or quickly defeat a person who has an understanding.

This is our understanding:

Romans 8:37-39
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels not demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You are to stand, prepared to fight. Nothing has the ability to overcome you unless you are not ready.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Don't Just Sit There, FIGHT

Ephesians 6:10-12
Finally, be strong in the Lord in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Notice all these phrases:

Be strong. Be spiritually powerful, tough, resilient in the Lord. Be empowered through your union with God. Draw strength from Him.

Put on. This is a command to commit to action. It is something that we must do. We're never told to take off.

Full armor of God. Every time it is mentioned it is the full or whole armor. Without putting on the full armor of God we won't be fully equipped for battle.

Here are some of the devil's schemes:  pride - lies - fear - discouragement - anger - complaining - gossip - regret - greed - self-pity - laziness - unfaithfulness - worry - anxiety; just to name a few.

Too long have we just got comfortable in our church pews and comfortable building churches that we forgot that we're meant to cause a righteous ruckus with holy indignation that hates mediocrity and self-absorption. We go to church not for our sake but to give the enemy a break.

Our battle isn't with the theology of another. Our battle isn't with an atheist, a homosexual, or a satanist. It is with the one who is behind all of it playing the puppeteer. Our battle is with:

The rulers. A person (in this case a spirit) exercising dominion.

The authorities. The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.

The powers. The capability of doing or accomplishing something.

The forces. The capacity or active power to cause change.

This is not as cartoonist portray it as the fat angel and seductive devil on our shoulders. There is a spiritual battle that we are fighting. There is no spectating. Let me say this there are no innocent bystanders. I don't believe there is a demon behind every rock but I do believe that we have overlooked the reality of the conflict. We have become disengaged from the warfare we are called to fight in.

We are soldiers who fight the good fight.
We are soldiers who don't get caught in the nonsense.
We are soldiers who raze hell.

Don't just sit around in church, pick a fight.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Don't Drink the Kool-Aid

Harold Camping has gotten a lot of attention lately. In case you have no idea what I'm talking about Harold Camping "prophesied" that the rapture would occur May 21st, 2011 at 5:59 PM. Since I am posting this at 11:50ish AM on May 25, 2011 you can logically assume that the rapture didn't take place.

This isn't about refuting some persons prophecy. This is a legitimate plea from my heart to all who may read this not to get caught up in the mockery of Harold Camping. This man has done more damage to undermine the truth that Jesus is going to be returning to take His bride (the church) to heaven than anyone in my lifetime. The mockery that even I have made (my Facebook status: It's May 22nd and we're all still here...AWWKWARRRRRD) about Harold Camping's prediction has cast a dim light on that truth.

2 Peter 3:3-18 tells of the End Times and mentions two types of ignorance.

The first is mentioned in verses 3 & 4. They are people who scoff at His coming. Their statement is "Where is this 'coming' He promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." These type of people don't even realize how ridiculous that argument is. In a message entitled Live For the Moment, Francis Chan says :

It's like saying, "Ok really, I'm going to die? I've never died. I've never experienced this so why would you say I'm going to die someday. Everyday I wake up. Every single day I wake up and you're going to tell me one day I'm not going to?" That's just like these scoffers argument "Come on the earth is going to end. It's never ended." Duh, it only ends once.
Verse 5-7 says that these people don't get that God did create the world at one point and that this same God will cause it to end at a point.

The second type of ignorance, the kind that plagues Harold Camping, distorts the truth because they are "ignorant and unstable" (vs 16). They do things for their name to be in lights and line their pockets with the wealth of others. They lead many people away from the truth because of their lies and cause callousness in the hearts of others to the real truth.

The first type of fool really just poisons his own mind with his declaration of disbelief. The second however, poisons others.

How easy it is to fall away and be deceived if we don't search scripture ourselves. How sad it is for those who listen to the prophecies of mankind and forsake God's own Word.

DON'T DRINK THE KOOL-AID. Read God's Word to find out God's plan. And most importantly "make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him." (vs 14)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Raze Hell

 

 
Raze
     1. to demolish completely (town, building, etc);
     2. level (esp in the phrase:  Raze to the ground).
     3. to delete, erase

I'm going to reference an old blog of mine:  Who In Hell Are You (if you want to read it fully click on the link).

Matthew 16:18
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

This verse is not a defensive scripture for the church. This verse isn't referring to the church being under siege by the enemy. Using this scripture as such is foolish and completely counterproductive to the true meaning of the church. This verse is about the church, or the True Christians, being on the offensive taking the battle to Hades. Look at this verse. The gates only belonged to the stronghold of that city. Gates don't fight a battle. They withstand the battle. True Christians take action in breaking down the strongholds of the enemy.

You can't raze something unless you battle against it. The principle for us is that in order for us to live right we must be prepared to fight. To be battle ready. Hell has dominated community after community and the church has idly watched from a distance rather than taking the battle to the enemy.

Forgive what I am about to say, but Christians "pray" about stuff too much. I don't need to pray about witnessing to my neighbor; I should just do it. I don't need to pray about whether or not I should serve somewhere in my local church or in the community; I should just serve. I don't need to pray to God for boldness and strength; He promised that to us already.

~ [sidenote] I can't tell you how many people I know that have asked for prayer to be bold in witnessing and when the time comes to act boldly they run away. What good is their prayer if they don't allow God to use them through it? ~

AW Tozer said, "If God gives you a watch, are you honoring Him more by asking Him what time it is or by simply consulting the watch?"

God has declared some things to us and we now have to stand on them and take the fight to the enemy.

You are a conqueror. (Romans 8:37)
You are victorious. (Psalm 18:35)
You are an overcomer. (1 John 4:4)
You are equipped. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Don't back down from the fight, start it!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Speak the Truth

Speak the truth without deceit
Speak the truth and there won't be defeat.
Speak the truth to each face
Yet don't forget that truth never trumps grace.

Monday, May 9, 2011

2 Ways 2 Look at Life

There are 2 ways to look at life; through our history or through His glory.

I've been:
     Cussed at
          Cheated on
               Beat upon
                    Lied about
                         Thrown out
                              Torn down
                                   Shirked at
                                        Spit upon
                                             Broke down
                                                  Stolen from
                                                       Slapped about
                                                            Trampled on
                                                                 Pushed around
                                                                      Hated on

Because of Jesus I've also been:
     Raised up
          Gifted to
               Anointed by
                    Heir of
                         Set free
                              Brought near
                                   Sent out
                                        Inspired by
                                             Made good
                                                  Prayed for
                                                       Filled up
                                                            United with
                                                                 Loved by
                                                                      Shown grace

Luke 22:31-32 (personalized)
[Billy, Billy,] Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I (Jesus) have prayed for you, [Billy], that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

Whatever may come your way, big or small, don't let that thing rob you of how God wants you to look at life. The life that He's purposed and the life that He has destined to do greater things.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What's The Point

For the last ten to fifteen years, I would say, there has been a tremendous focus from the church to "Love Thy Neighbor". I happen to be a firm believer in the idea that the world doesn't care how much you know until it knows how much you care. Also, that you have to earn the right to speak into a persons life.With these core thoughts compassion ministries are being birthed.

Specially in America you can see compassion ministries popping up everywhere now. If you Googled those words approximately 2.8 million sites would be listed. They are all meant for a great purpose; to put an end to the suffering of people at home and abroad. Which I think strums at the heart strings of God.

When these ministries go out to do their good without bringing along with them the good news of the gospel they are just doing charity work.

What's the point if we save a person from hell on earth but don't try to save them from hell for eternity?

We do great in the church to love God. We're doing better at showing love in our communities. The problem is that we're not mixing the two. There has to be this melting pot of our inward devotion to God that resounds while I show compassion to my neighbor.

We have to do more than pass out water bottles that say "Jesus is the Living Water" if we really want to show Christ in our efforts. I think Paul stated it best:

1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Grace Scandal: Grace Because Your Life Depends on It

Galatians 5:2-6
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

In the OT it was a requirement for all men within the Israelite community to be circumcised. Jesus was circumcised and Paul was too. The issue is not with circumcision but with what following religion leads too. it leads to being alienated from Jesus. The greatest threat to grace-living is religion-honoring.

We don't look at grace-living as a life or death issue but it really is. Once I allow religion to start playing a role in my relationship with God I begin to feel that I don't need His grace. I start looking at my goodness like the Pharisees. When I live as though I don't need God's grace I take God out of my worship, my prayer life, the intent of my reading and understanding Scripture.

People that are religion focused point out the faults in others without remembering that they need, and still need, God's grace. The grace we've received is not a badge to wear to show how holy we are. If anything grace does quite the opposite it points out that I am like everyone else; in need of a Savior.

Hebrew 12:4
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

I don't know anyone who has ever hated their own sin to the point that they were willing to shed their own blood for it. In the OT countless animals were killed for mankind's mistakes. Then Jesus the perfect Son of God came as the last and final sacrifice so that we could live. Still we have yet to shed our own. It is so easy to point out the sin in others and ignore the secret battle raging inside one's own soul.

What Jesus did so long ago was to shatter religions death grip on humanity. You can read of His criticism towards the religious leaders and teachers of His day in Matthew 23. One of my favorite, if I can call it that, is this verse.

Matthew 23:15
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

They made people fear their religious power rather than let them experience the redemptive freedom of God's grace.

When dying on the cross Jesus completed God's plan to have a personal relationship with His creation that He had missed since Adam and Eve.

Matthew 27:50-51
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.

God is tired of religious hearts. He doesn't need any more bad press. God was tired of playing hide and seek with His children. He could now make Himself known to each one who sought after Him.

God wants people to realize that they can accomplish nothing outside of His grace and freely live as though their life depended on it.

Every part of your life needs to be dependent on God's grace. Without it your life in Christ will fade to just religion.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Love God

God is love. Therefore love. Without distinction, without calculation, without procrastination, love. - Henry Drummond

Mark 12:30
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

A family member and I were talking about this the other day. Many times we divert to our strength in knowing God. If you are an intellectual person it may be very easy for you to build a relationship with God with your "mind". You can read theological books and become enamored with God. If you are an emotional person than you would find your relationship built with your "heart". You turn your iPod on and begin to listen to Jesus Culture and the culture around you surrenders to your starvation to be in His presence. And so on.

But what about, lets say, the intellectual who is very emotionally challenged? They find it hard to even talk about their feelings; let alone build a relationship with them. Is it ok for them to neglect the "heart" part of this command? I mean they love God with all their "mind". Shouldn't that be good enough?

I would have to say, "No, it's not good enough." You don't do one of these you're not loving God with your whole being and that is what we are called to do. Love God with every portion of your being. Your passions, your personality, your perceptions and your power are all meant to end on God.

Here's an argument:
But I'm not good at the "mind" thing! I like to feel God! (or whatever the weaker portion may be)

That may be the case but your worship of Him is incomplete. Just as in any relationship our communication has to be built. For instance, if I only loved my wife because of our physical attraction to each other sooner or later there is going to be a fall out in our relationship if I don't begin to try to know her more intimately. If I just say, "Well Honey, that's the way I am so you're going to have to deal with it" will only start a fight. Here is a good example for the fellas. If I am passionate about sports but don't show that same passion toward my wife she begins to feel less important to me. And I would get questions like, "Do you really love me?"

I believe that is what God asks when we only desire to know Him where it's comfortable, "Do you really love me?" I need to be at a place whether it's easy for me or not to want to know God in every single way possible.

Don't just pursue a love for God with your strength, make your pursuit perfect by enjoying a relationship that is complete.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Grace Scandal: No Right to Be Ungracious

Matthew 18:21-35 contains the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant that was in response to Peter's question, "How many times shall I forgive my brother?" A servant in this parable was forgiven of a tremendous debt he owed his master only to turn around and have an argument with another servant who owed him very little. When the master heard about this he became angry with the servant and had him thrown in prison until he could pay back what he owed.

In The Grace Scandal:  Grace Abuse I said that we are not meant to keep a count of peoples' sins against us. Here is why:

Our debt to God far outweighs the debt any man can owe us; and God forgave us of it all.

What if you've been abused mentally, emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually?

You still need to give grace.

Our actions toward others should always reflect the grace that we've been given. Not one of us is worthy before God without His grace. So we do not have the right to be ungracious.

What about people who take advantage of you?

It's not about playing dumb to peoples' actions but not allowing their influence in your life. If you know a person is abusive than that person needs to have limited access into your life. You have been given a brain so respond with intelligence and act with grace. Honestly, what rights do you really have? If your life is lived in Christ what can people rob you of here?

Matthew 6:14-15
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

That is one of the toughest and pointed statements about forgiveness I believe in Scripture. It clearly says that my forgiveness depends on if I'm forgiving.

That servant should have been very generous toward his friends. He should have forgiven every single debt that his fellow servants owed him. This is a major fault within the church where we received our righteousness from God and so think, whether intentionally or unintentionally, that we are better than the sinners around us. We don't have a special place in God's eyes that isn't offered to every person.

So in our search sometimes to find fault with others so we can feel better about our own faults we become angry and bitter towards those who have hurt us. It's easy to forgive someone of something insignificant; but those who leave wounds that cut deep are rarely easily forgiven. The forgiveness we're meant to show is toward all.

Matthew 5:43-48
You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The Kim Phuc Story (pronounced "fook") is an amazing story about forgiveness. You may not remember her name but you probably have seen this picture of her:


She was 9 years old when her small village had a napalm bomb dropped on it during the Vietnam War. This picture shows her running down the street naked because the clothes she was wearing had burned off. She had to have 17 different operations. She was angry and bitter towards those who caused her such suffering. She envied those who were "normal".

At age 19 she became a Christian. When she read the words "Love your enemies" she didn't know how. It didn't happen over night. She eventually learned to count her blessings instead of thinking negative thoughts: 

"Why did I get the scars?", "Why did I get burned in the fire?", I thought, "Kim your face and your hands are fine; and your feet weren't burned! You were able to run out of that fire and live!"
Kim went through hellacious pain and agony and carries quite literally the scars of her past. She could easily use them to remind her of the evil of those that did this to her. But instead those scars remind her that her freedom comes when she forgives.

Don't hold a grudge.
Don't be bitter.
Don't live in anger.

Don't let the sins of others be the thing that prevents freedom and grace in your life. You must show grace because you've been shown grace. You have no right not to.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

99-1 Principle

Today I was asked, "Why are there so many different churches?"

My reply, "Because the churches are building their kingdoms instead of God's"

My thought is foundationally (I don't want to use the word fundamentally) all true Christian churches believe in the same crucial theology and that being Jesus Christ is the Son of God and paid our debt of sin so we can have a relationship with God. Simply put that is the only thing that matters.

I feel that we (mankind) want church done our way so we seek out churches that fit us. If a church moves more in the Holy Spirit than what makes a person comfortable they go somewhere else. If the music isn't as sacred they go somewhere where it is. If the pastor is too boisterous they look for a more reserved reverend. These are bad things but if we get to comfortable anywhere we risk being ineffective.

Pleasing parishioners has been a big focus in the church. I remember in Bible college hearing what I'd call sound advice at the time that, "Many people aren't willing to change. So you have to take it slow or you'll risk people leaving." I made this mistake at the first church I pastored. The people wanted and knew change needed to happen. They weren't sure where to start. I had an idea but in my compassion for them I brought some change about very slowly. Not willing to completely raddle their chains and take off running.  I wasn't trying to build my kingdom and I know the people weren't wanting their kingdom established so out of mutual consideration we journeyed slowly.

That advice while good is deathly. It can cause a church to become stagnant and lifeless.

I'm about the 99-1 PRINCIPLE. The 99-1 Principle is based from Jesus' Parable of the Lost Sheep. The Shepherd leaves 99 sheep to look for the 1 that is missing. See the 99 are where they should be. So there is isn't a concern for they're comfort, joy, or security. But the missing 1 is gone out of the view of the shepherd. The 99 are ok (at least for now) so the one that needs to have the focus of the shepherd is the 1 missing. I've got to be more concerned about those I'm trying to reach on the streets than with those filling the seats.

So if people leave a church because I am unwilling to cater to them by all means they can get their grub on somewhere else.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Grace Scandal: Grace Abuse

Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked,"Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins agains me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

The idea behind this scripture is that we, mere humans, aren't meant to keep count of a person's sin against us. So if that is the standard that Jesus made for us humans by all means God's standard is greater.

If God's grace is limitless can I abuse it?

A human life is filled with many stories. Some of those stories are completely joyful and wonderful. Like the story of when a man and woman marry. However, in every human life there are some stories that we wish we had never encountered. Many of those stories bare a cold and dreary question; can God forgive me, can God forgive what I have done, can God forgive what I'm about to do?

And these are the questions of the ages. The truthful and simple answer is, yes. God can and will forgive. Because we're all jacked up Jesus had to be raised up. Ever since then we can find forgiveness from God every day, all day, and till our vary last day. God's grace is meant to be abused. We shrink at that thought but God wants us to run to Him instead of away from Him because of our sin.

Because God's grace can be abused doesn't mean it should.

The problem we have is that we confuse overlooking and forgiving. Overlooking sin is simply ignoring it or treating it as ok. That is not what grace does. Forgiveness, on the other hand, needs to be accepted and that acceptance requires a change in my relation to that sin.

Romans 6:1-2
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

When we ask, "Can God forgive me," do we really want that forgiveness if it requires repentance?

Grace pushes us towards repentance. Grace that is followed through with repentance makes me free. Grace that is misunderstood makes me fear. When I abuse God's grace I constantly worry if God will truly forgive my sin.

What we go through to commit sin breaks our relationship with God. And because of that we change; and there is no guarantee that we will ever come back to God.

See many people in these situations who abuse grace and when they are confronted about their actions say, "Only God can judge me." God is the judge but the reality is that they wouldn't want Him to judge them at that moment.

Romans 6:14
For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

None of us are sinless but grace should cause us to sin less not more. God's grace dictates that I can sin and He'll still love me but my love for Him and His grace towards me should prompt me not to sin.

A sinner sins; it's their nature. Sin is not a choice. Even their good deeds are sin based. But for a Christian sin is a choice. A Christian who is not struggling with sin but is addicted to it says, "I have more faith in the power of sin than the power of Christ's sacrifice." And I would have to wonder about the genuineness of their salvation.

At the heart of this issue isn't can I abuse God's grace but why would I. The closer I come to the Light of the World the more evident becomes my need for His grace. The closer I come to Him the more I am in love with Him and would hate to cause anything to come between us.

Are you asking, Can God forgive my sin? Yes.
Can I abuse God's grace and be forgiven? Yes.
Should I? No.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Say It If It's Worth Savin' Me

Nickelback has a song entitled:  Savin' Me. The chorus of the song says:

             And say it for me, say it to me
             And I'll leave this life behind me
             Say it if it's worth saving me

The video of Savin' Me has a guy who gets saved from a near death situation. His salvation makes him aware of the countdown looming over people's heads. At the end of the video that guy sees a young woman whose countdown is plummeting and he rescues her; which makes her aware of the countdown.

Although it's to illustrate the message of the song, there really is a countdown looming over everyone. We don't know when we'll breathe our last breath. We don't know what tomorrow holds for us. I don't know the time that I will die, but I am confident that whenever that time comes I'll be headed to heaven.

That confidence is great but it should push me towards giving others an opportunity to have that same confidence.

Every single True Christian should be running the streets in an attempt to let people know about the salvation that we have. But we're too comfortable in our church pew. We don't want to give up our seat to make room for another. So in affect we tell Jesus to take His Great Commission and shove it. Can I tell you if we neglect to tell others I feel what we are saying to them is "You are not worth saving".

We are not saved to take up a seat at the church. We are saved to reach others.

Just say it if it's worth saving ____________ (insert name).

Why do you call me, "Lord," and do not do what I say? - Luke 6:46

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Church is a Relay Race

1 Corinthians 12:12
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

I believe the church is a lot like a relay race. Where you have a team composed of different people (backgrounds, cultures, world views, etc) but they have the same goal.

The baton race tips are from Coach Nigel Hetherington, the Scottish National Sprints and Hurdles coach.

  • The race is about the baton, not the runners. The objective is to keep the baton moving at maximum speed at all times throughout the race.

Somewhere along the lines of the modern church we've made it about us. It's never about us. It's about God getting His glory out of us and us being obedient to the mission of Christ.

When you hand the baton to the next generation what condition will the church be in? Healthy? Unhealthy? How would you be missed? What would change? What difference does your presence make? What if everyone was as committed as you are? How would the church look if everyone studied the Word, prayed, and served exactly like you?

Your faith is not an add-on. You play a intricate role.

This generation of teenage and young adult Christians need to see tangible compassion in the lives of the people who make up the body of Christ.

  • The relay brings out the best in everyone. The relay should increase, not decrease, the speed of the athletes. A properly trained 400 meter relay team will post a time that is less than the four runners' combined 100 meter times.

You can be a good Christian and not go to church. But you cannot be a great one. The church is meant to create an opportunity for people to reach their God given potential. We're not meant to be Lone Rangers.

Have you reached your full potential? Are you helping someone else reach theirs?

  • Practice until the handover becomes instinctual. Athletes must learn to trust one another; no looking back.

It's important that we understand that the church is made of imperfect people and if you are in search for the perfect church and find one don't go there because you'll jack it up. What we do here in our worship is mere practice for all eternity. So we better learn how to worship, love, and show grace to others now.

  • The baton exchange should occur at very close maximum speed. The incoming athlete should not be overstretched or they will be off-balance when making the exchange. The outgoing runner must focus on reaching full speed.

Here's the deal. We often segregate the people in the church into age brackets and gender (youth, young adult, experienced adults, men, women ministries). At times these are good but healthy churches have the older or spiritually mature influencing the younger or spiritually immature. We need to allow these walls to fall in order that the next generation of believers have a better introduction to the church.

How many of you were mentored by someone besides a parent or pastor? We need this in the church. This is why experienced adults can get frustrated with the younger. "They don't know how to act in church." Has anyone come along side of them to teach them how?...and with more than a "stop it".

  • A baton drop does not automatically disqualify a team. Whoever had the baton when it was dropped may retrieve it and continue the race. If the incoming runner drops it, they may pick it up and complete the pass.

Like I said earlier we are not perfect. Because of that we need to allow room for things to get dropped. We may not do everything right in the eyes of every person, but we should allow room for those dropped batons and encourage each other to finish strong.

2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Grace Scandal: You Never Give Up On Me

Romans 8:35, 38-39
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The amazing implications of Romans 8:35, 38-39 is that you cannot out-sin God's love.

God never gives up on us.

This portion of Scripture is well known almost to the point that familiarity has lessened it. But the reality of Jesus' life on earth proves that He will never give up on us.

John 1:10-11
[Jesus] was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.

The very people that Jesus was coming to show His love and grace to rejected Him. He gave them life and they spit in His face. At any moment Jesus could have said,

"I'm tired of the disrespect. I quit! I've had enough; if they are going to act like this than so be it! To hell with them all."

But He didn't.

His love remained through all the hatred, all the conspiracy, all the way to the cross. If He didn't give up then He won't give up on you now.

While hanging of the cross Jesus showed His love for all mankind (Luke 23:33-35). I believe Jesus would have hugged the Roman soldiers as they beat Him and nailed Him to the cross. So I seriously doubt that what I do right now would make Him give up on me.

Luke 15 contains three parables that illustrate God going after something that had been lost. The Shepherd left 99 sheep to go looking for the 1 that was lost. The Woman with 10 silver coins loses 1 and does some spring cleaning to find it. The Father whose son left with his inheritance to squander it on the world's pleasures only to return back home with nothing and starving. Following each story of the lost being found there is a great celebration not condemnation.

The Shepherd and the Woman in these stories went searching for what was lost. The Father waited for the son to return. He waited patiently and still looked for his son hoping one day he would return home. Understand this the father loved his son so much that he allowed the son to do with his life as he chose. But once the son's journey brought him back to the father; the father ran to him.

The reality is that we quit on God; not the other way around. Don't get that twisted.

If one Christian wrongs a person, from that point on all Christians are hypocrites and God is fake. But for some reason they miss how many times the world has brought them down because they always retreat to the world. The world lets them do what they want. They give up on God simply because they don't want to deal with the reality of their circumstances. What they don't realize is that God loves them so much that He will allow them to go to hell if that's the course they choose.

There is only one thing that can separate us from God's love and grace and that is SELF; us simply not wanting His love and grace. However, even that won't stop God from loving you and offering you His grace.

I would have written myself off a long time ago. But God went after me. His love found me. His grace was too irresistible. I don't completely know why but He never gave up on me. So I know God won't give up on you.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Grace Scandal: One Way Love

The Bible college definition of grace is:  unmerited or undeserved favor.

What I want us to understand about grace is more than the definition but actually what it is. Grace simply is "one way love". I first heard this tweeted by Pastor Tullian Tchividjian and it is spot on with what God's grace is.

Matthew 15:1-14 talks about an encounter that Jesus had with the religious leaders of His time. They accused Jesus' disciples of not keeping certain traditions. Jesus' reply was that they keep their traditions but squash what God has said to do. Then Jesus quotes Isaiah. In essence saying that they only honored God externally (by doing religious acts and accusing those who didn't) but internally there was no connection with God.

What motivated people in the Old Testament (OT) was guilt. God used guilt in the OT to point out that something had to be done to pay for the sin that was committed. What pointed out the guilt was the Law.

Israel had 613 Laws to follow perfectly for them not to be broken in their lives. Of course no one is perfect. When just one Law was broken by a person then all the Law was broken by that person. So guilt reigned in their lives. Each time they broke a Law they had to DO something to make it right. The Law never says "You are forgiven" only "You are guilty." We desperately need a "Not guilty" verdict.

Religion than can be interpreted as guiltyism. No matter what I do in attempting to be free from my guilt I will fail; going to church, giving money, and doing good deeds will never be good enough. We can never pay this debt. Religion tries to make you feel guilty so that you will DO something to please religion.

Guilt does not equal grace.

Romans 8:3-4
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in sinful man in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

The word guilt appears in the OT 170 times and in the NT 16 times.
The word grace appears in the OT 11 times and in the NT 116 times.

Motivation by guilt was replaced with a motivation to accept His grace. Rather than focusing on obeying a long list of requirements Jesus emphasized grace; so guilt-oriented religion was replaced by grace-oriented relationship.

Grace is not about doing but about receiving. Jesus already did everything that God required.

Guilt accused us so we needed a sacrifice. A payment was needed for the wrong done. Jesus paid the debt so we wouldn't have to. He did it without humanity even realizing it. That is one way love.

Romans 11:6
And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

The Pharisees were all about rules and traditions. They were grace killers. They looked at the letter of the law. From creation God has desired a relationship with mankind. He constantly walked with Adam and Eve before they sinned. He said that He would raise up a people not a religion from the children of Abraham. So with Jesus' sacrifice God can have a relationship with us once again.

The grace of God is God showing love to a people who really don't deserve it. Nothing we can DO can pay God back for His grace. It's a one way love and God just asks that we accept it before it's too late.