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Posted on Aug 23, 2017 in Blog, Church, Featured

What Is Your Motive For Coming To Jesus?

What Is Your Motive For Coming To Jesus?

 

John 6 is one of my favorite chapters in the gospels. I’ll explain why, but, it would be great if you went over and read it before continuing to read this article.

In that chapter, we see Jesus perform one of his most popular miracles – feeding the 5,000.

It’s one of our favorites from the time we are kids. Many of us probably grew up seeing that story taught on a flannel-graph. If you don’t know what flannel-graph is, then you missed out.

After Jesus feeds the 5,000, the disciples get in a boat and start rowing to the other side, Jesus strolls out on the water and meets them.

The next morning, everyone who had eaten the bread saw that Jesus and His disciples were gone, so when some boats arrived, they got in them and went looking.

Jesus teaches. And his teaching gets more difficult.

“Anyone who wants to come after me must eat my flesh and drink my blood.” When I hear Jesus teaching this, my mind immediately goes to the Walking Dead. Especially the scene a few seasons back where people were becoming cannibals. And since they didn’t have refrigeration, they had to keep their victims alive to preserve the meat. And that epic line: “You taste good, Bob.” Sorry.

What was their response? “This is a hard teaching, who can accept it.” Ya think. What in the world was Jesus getting at here?

It’s no wonder people left. We probably would have left too.

What was Jesus getting at here? This is the thrust of what Jesus was getting at:

“Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

In his retelling of this story, John uses the word believe 10 times. What does it mean to “believe in the one he has sent”?

Belief in the New Testament is not just intellectual. In reality, neither is belief today.

There are many who claim to have beliefs, but when you look at their lives they don’t live out those beliefs. We all understand this to mean that they don’t really believe what they say they believe.

The kind of believe that Jesus (and John) are talking about is this, the kind of belief that when you believe it, you reorder your entire life around it. This is how belief is understood in the New Testament. If you believe something, it will be seen by your actions. The is true for the word hear in the Old Testament. If you’ve truly heard God speak, you will do what He says. “Hear, O Israel, The Lord your God is one…Love the lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” If you’ve heard God speak, then you will do what He says.

That’s what Jesus was getting at here. The work God requires is to reorder our entire lives around Jesus.

What were the people of the crowd doing? They were following Jesus for what they could get from him. They got some good bread and wanted more. They weren’t following Jesus because they believed he was the holy one sent from God. They were following Jesus for a freebie. They liked the handouts.

This is a very important point and question for us to ask as followers of Jesus:

What is your motive for coming to Jesus? 

Why do we come to Christ? Is it because we, like Peter, believe that he has the words of eternal life? Or, are we like the crowd, and we just want Jesus to give us free stuff?

Too many of us, myself included, have come to Christ for what we can get from Him. When what we really need to do is come to Christ to give ourselves wholly over to Him.

We treat God like a genie in the sky whose primary existence is giving us the stuff we want in life.

We can see this fleshed out in our prayer lives. How much time to spend seeking God’s face compared to how much time you ask for his hand? How much time do you spend seeking to know God, to hear God, to understand God, to learn what His voice sounds like, to get to know your heavenly father who created you in his own image and loves you more than any other created thing? Contrast that with how much time we spend asking God to give us this thing we really want, or this job we really need, or to change this person so they won’t annoy me so much or to resolve this situation so I won’t have to deal with conflict, or to make me rich so I don’t have to worry about money and can just focus all my time on loving people.

Isn’t that what most of us do? Don’t most of us come to God because we want bread to fill our stomaches when what we really need is the bread that can fill our souls? No wonder we’re so messed up! We’re trying to fill our souls with something what was only meant to fill our stomach.

We allow the drive to fulfill the desires of our mortal flesh to supersede the need of our immortal soul.

How do we know when our motive has shifted from fulfilling our desires to belief in the one God sent? 

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.

We know our motives have shifted when we stop being consumed with doing our own will and become consumed with doing the will of the Father.

When it seems as though the world around us is falling away from God…when it appears that so many people who were once followed Jesus, but have since stopped…when person after person seems to drift away and never return…what do you think is happening?

What’s happening is, people aren’t getting what they wanted from Jesus, so they go somewhere else to find it. The call of Christ is not simply one of association with him. Were there people who hung out with Jesus? Sure. But that was never his point or mission. His mission wasn’t just to amass a crowd. This story is the proof of that. He didn’t want social media stats to prove he was the bizznezz, he wanted people who would follow Him no matter the cost.

There will always be a cost to following Jesus. In fact, the requirement of following Him is for us to lay down our selfish motives and agendas, and daily pick up his mission and mandate for us.

So many of those in our modern era who appear to have “fallen away” were likely never “in Christ.” They were merely associating with Him to get what they wanted from Him. And when the call of Christ on their life became to great, and they weren’t getting their own personal dreams and desires met from Christ, they walked away. Just like the crowd here.

What will your response be to the call of Christ on your life? 

My prayer for me is that my response will be like Peter:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

There is no where else I can go, Jesus. You’re the only true source of life. You’re the only true bread of life. The pull of everyone and everything else is death. The pull of the desires of this life are fruitless. The hunger of this world can never be filled by the darkness of it. There is no where else I can go. I not only know intellectually that you are the Holy One of God, but I believe that you are the holy one of God. I believe to the point that I’m willing to reorder my entire life around your will.

This is where I want to be. This is where I long for you to be as well.

What is your response?

 

 

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Posted on Aug 15, 2017 in Blog, Church, Culture, Featured

The Church Is Not A Community

The Church Is Not A Community

I’ve often described the church as a community. Many churches do. Many churches have it right in there name. This-or-that Community Church.

But, is that really the best description of what we are supposed to be as a church? What does that communicate to the people of our church or the people outside our church? Have we even thought about it?

What is a community? This is the primary definition:

“a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.”

Is that what we are? Is the church just a social group, and the only reason we’re together is because we live in the same neighborhood?

What do you think of when you think of community? For me, I think of neighborhoods. I think of the people that live around me. That’s my community. Many of us go to church with people who don’t live anywhere near our community.

Are we just together because of our cultural and historical heritage? Is that all that binds us? Let me challenge you, if that’s the only reason you’re a part of a church, you need to dig a lot deeper. You don’t go to church simply because that’s what your family does. There’s so much more to it than that.

So, what are we? We are family. We may not be related by dna, but we, who have put our faith in Jesus Christ, have the same Father. We have been adopted into His family, and now we are sons and daughters. We have a seat at the table of the King. We have an inheritance. We are co-heirs the the Lord of all creation.

More than that. We were bought with a price. We are joined together by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In that sense, we are all blood relatives. We are bound together by the blood of the lamb. He is the bridegroom and we, all of us joined together are His bride.

It’s still more than that. Because of this love we have received, we are all on the same mission – bringing more people into the family of God. We are called to go out into the people in our communities and live a life that shines before them and share the love of God with them. When was the last time your community passionately tried to get new people into the neighborhood? Usually, the talk is “how do we get that one crazy family out?” But, not in the family of God. We are joined together as family.

Does that sound like a community to you? It doesn’t to me.

“What’s the big deal?”

Well, as a pastor I do a lot of thinking about the state of “the Church” today in our culture. One of the things I dwell on quite a bit is, what has led the church of today to it’s current state? What do I mean?

The church is nothing like it used to be. Gobs and gobs of “regular church attenders” consider themselves a part of their church community even when they only go once a month or less. Commitment levels in church across the country have dropped and continue to do so. Why? Why does it seem that our current church climate is so apathetic about these communities they are a part of?

Well, I think there are probably dozens of reasons. But, this, in my humble opinion, is a big one that is seldom talked about. Reasons tend to include things like busyness of schedules, widely increased sports activity for kids, crazy work schedules, etc. Are those problems? Sure. Is that the biggest problem?

Let me ask you a question: When there is something that is really important to you, how to you approach it? Let me give you an example. For most of us, our families are very important to us. Most of what motivates us in life revolves around our family priorities, agendas and desires. We take vacations to spend time with our family. We hurry home from work to see our family. We save money to care for our family. When a family member is sick, we care for them.

Our families are really important to us, so we approach our families with intentionality, purpose and passion. We make our family the top priority – as we should. Our family purpose changes the way we approach everything in life. Why? Because it’s our family.

Our approach to church used to be quite similar. The example set before us in the New Testament was very much like a family. The “held everything in common” they “shared with anyone as they had a need”,  they devoted themselves to fellowship, they ate together daily. They were a family. In fact, I would challenge you to look at the descriptions of the church in the New Testament and see for yourself which word best describes what God did among them: Community or Family?

My church experience growing up was like a family. Everyone knew everyone in the church. We at meals together regularly after Sunday evening service. We visited people in the hospital. We brought food when other families needed it. Other families in our church provided our family with clothes. All of this, by the way, happened without the church leadership having to facilitate it an organize it. Sure they would encourage it and teach about it from time to time. But, it was just how we cared for one another. Why? Because we were family.

When our approach to our church is community, I think it creates some problems.

  • In a community, the problems are always someone else’s fault and responsibility. That’s why we have Neighborhood associations and elected officials right? It’s their job to take care of the problems that arise. Isn’t that what they’re paid for? Have you ever heard that kind of talk in a church? I have. Why do we have to visit people in the hospital pastor, isn’t that why we pay you?
  • Communities are full of critics. You’ve heard your neighbors complain about this problem or that problem. How many of them ever take initiative to do something to fix the problem? They/you may care, but not enough to act. Or, when the community leaders make a decision we disagree with, we voice our complaints loudly. Our churches are full of critics too. Full of people who like to complain about the things they don’t like but refuse to get involved to solve the problems. We like to voice our complaints, but when challenged to solve the problem, we resist.
  • Community isn’t permanent. It used to be. People very rarely moved. Today, people move across town all the time. I’ve known people who moved multiple times a year. Others who move every couple of years. We get bored with a house and with our neighbors, so we decide it’s time to find something new. So we do. And we love it until it gets old too. Church used to be something we committed to for the long haul. Now, many of us change churches more often than we change communities.

I’m sure there are other problems, but these are some of the big ones I’ve noticed.

“Gee, it kind of sounds like you’re being critical.” I guess I am. But, there’s a reason.

In treating the church like a community, we miss out on the majority of the benefits. 

I’ve often said, you get out of something what you’re willing to put into it. Over my years in several different churches, we’ve had people leave our church, frustrated that they never really connected with anyone. When we ask the question, “what did you do to try to get to know people”, the answer usually comes, well, “I just didn’t have the time…” or “Isn’t that your job?” In essence, the reason they’re leaving is because they expected others to do the work of getting to know them, but were unwilling to put in the effort to get to know others.

Do you know the people who stick at our churches? They’re the ones that come in and make it their mission to get to know the family. It’s very rare that one of these families will leave the church unless they’re moving out of the area. They get more out of the community because they invest into it.

In other words, they treat their church like a family. They approach church like a family. They see it as something into which they need to invest. It’s not a commodity to be consumed. It’s a family to be committed to.

How are you approaching your church?

Do you feel like you’re not getting anything out of being a part of a church? Is church just something you do once in a while, if there’s nothing better to do? Are you sitting and waiting for someone to twist your arm to be a part of this or that? Or, are you jumping in to the deep end?

We can sit around and blame the church all we want, but in the end we all know, that much of the reason we don’t get anything out of church is because we’re not putting anything in. We want to make continual withdrawals without every making a deposit. We want to be cared for and loved without ever having to care for or love anyone.

Our mindset towards church needs to change. If we can get the right mindset and approach church as a family we are eternally committed to (because we are), it will drastically alter our personal experience of church. It won’t be this outdated thing that people used to do, it will become an extremely relevant and extraordinarily powerful part of our day to day lives.

Will you join me? Will you start to shift the way you think about church? Will you start to see the church family God has placed you in as your literal brothers and sisters in Christ?

If we will, I think the end result will be so compelling to the unbelieving world around us. That was what Jesus said would happen, “They will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another.” What kind of picture of Jesus have we been painting for the world with the way we approach our church?

Maybe it’s time for a new canvas.

(If you’re looking for a church family to be a part of, we would love to have you join us at SixEight Church!)

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Posted on May 24, 2017 in Blog, Church, Freedom

The Gospel Gives Us: Freedom

The Gospel Gives Us: Freedom

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

We have many misconceptions as to what the Gospel is about. Many of us, when we think about the gospel, the first thing that comes to mind is cheesy tracts that try to “share the gospel” through some contrived form. They had their place. They once worked, I don’t think they have much effect anymore. Because of this, we think of the Gospel as the “Four Spiritual Laws.” And images of bridges made of a cross, gaps, short-comings and the sort come to mind.

Sure, we are sinners. Oops. I’m not supposed to say that anymore. I’m supposed to say, we struggle with issues. Truth is, we are sinners.

But, the truth about truth is that, too often, we have only focused on the truth about our human condition and not enough on the truth of what the Gospel produces in us. I am not seeking to minimize the human condition. I acknowledge it. It’s apparent to us all. Apart from God, we can be pretty messed up.

But, what if we started – as believers and followers of Christ, as pastors and church leaders, as influencers – what if we started paying at least equal attention to the fruit this gospel produces in us? What if, instead of spending as much time harping on all the failures and shortcomings we have, we started talking more about what this new life in Christ is supposed to look like?

That’s what I’m trying to do as a pastor. I will not neglect the contribution we made to the crucifixion of Christ. However, I also firmly believe we shouldn’t neglect the new life that Christ died for us to have.

What is this new life? Well, it’s many things. Many joyous things. My hope, as I write of these things is to call you into the greener pastures of God’s goodness and faithfulness He desires for you. I don’t want to be the kind of pastor that is always driving from behind, trying to force everyone to go the direction I think they should go. I want to be the kind of pastor that calls out from those greener pastures, drawing people out of the brush and into God’s goodness.

So then, back to it, what is this new life. One of the first and foremost aspects to this new nature is freedom. Freedom from bondage to sin. Freedom from the life we were once controlled by. Freedom from the passions that used to drive us.

What does the Bible say about freedom? 

Romans 8:20-21

20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

Galatians 5:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:13

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

As you can see, the world exists in bondage. The world is frustrated (no wonder it’s frustrating too!). The world was corrupted from God’s original design when we rebelled against Him. Since then, creation has been waiting for the day when it would be restored to what had originally been put in place. Creation is in bondage. We, as a part of creation are in bondage.

Bondage to what? Sin. Yes. We have to talk about sin to be able to talk about freedom. Sin is the way we rebel against God. Most sin can be categorized under one idea: Selfishness. We want or desire things for ourselves. Sometimes those things are inappropriate in/of themselves. Other times we do inappropriate things to get good things. But, it’s all self serving.

Jesus turned all that on it’s head when he game and lived the perfect, sinless life. What did that life look like? You, you, you. He, being God, could have made everything about him. But, he didn’t. He gave everything, for you and me.

Consequently, the life we receive is this life. We are not receiving God’s stamp of approval on all our selfish pursuits. We are receiving this gift of life that is all about giving. Why do we give? Because we have received so much. This kind of truly selfless life can only be lived by the power of that Holy God living in us through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

When we try to give, give, give, but all on our own strength, we are giving of a limited source. It’s a well that will dry up. But, when we live a life of giving because we are powered by the Spirit of the living and giving God, that’s a well that will never run dry.

Our freedom is not that we may do as we wish. We’ve spent a life of doing that. And that kind of life was what leads to our need of a savior. Our freedom is being set free from that kind of life. It’s also being set free from the bondage in our thinking that comes with this life. We don’t realize it, but we are shackled to our individualistic pursuits. We are trying to get ahead, restrained by our inability to see beyond ourselves. That’s not the freedom we receive.

The freedom we receive is freedom from that. We are not free to do whatever we wish. We are not free to use our freedom for selfish gains. Our freedom is not an license to sin. God’s freedom in us revokes that license. And now God is at work rewiring our very nature so that those things of sin that once enticed us, become things that repulse us. God starts to teach us to identify the ways we are taking advantage of others and this world for our own benefit. Then, through his ongoing work of setting us apart for his purposes (called sanctification), he fills in the void left by sin with his truth.

Think of it this way. Sin is like a dandelion. When you go to pull up that dandelion, you have to be sure to get the whole thing out, otherwise it will grow right back. It’s roots go deep into the soil. It make take quite a bit of effort to remove it in its entirety. And once you do, there is a void, there a hole. If left to our own devices, we will fill that hole back in with other weeds. But, with God’s great work of freedom, he fills in the hole with his truth. The world is rooted out of us, and we become the recipients of grace upon grace.

This is freedom. God’s truth and grace is our freedom. This is what the Gospel does. The sin and death that we used to be handcuffed to, has been done away with. We are set free. And if the son has set you free, you are free indeed. Really, really free.

But, as Peter shares with us: Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” (1 Peter 2:16). We aren’t to use our freedom to get away with murder. Our freedom leads us to be bound to God, willfully bonded to God’s purpose and plan for my life and for the life of the world around me. My life is no longer my own, I was bought with a price. I will spend my life bound to the God of freedom. I’m either bound to my selfish pursuits and the corruption of this world, or I’m bound to God. But, being bound to God frees me from the shackles of this corrupted system. Being bound to God eradicates the me-virus that is thriving on a dead host, resurrects the host, giving it the only true life that exists in all of creation – the life that comes from the Spirit of God breathing life into it.

That’s what the Gospel gives us. Well, that’s part of it – that’s the freedom part. There much more to it than that!

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Posted on May 9, 2017 in Blog, Church, Culture, Featured, Worship

Motive Shift

Motive Shift

What drives you? What are your motives? What is that thing, which, at the end of the day makes you push a little farther, work a little harder and drive a little longer?

Why are you doing anything that you do?

At the end of the day, for most of us, I think our motive is: self. I work hard so I can play hard. I work hard, so some day I can retire and do what I want to do. Yes, I’m working. But, the reason I’m working is for something else. I want this kind of a house, with this kind of a car, with this kind of a family, with this kind of a life.

I want.

Motive = me.

I’m that way. I often have selfish motives. So, I’m not judging you, I’m just speaking from what I know of me. Maybe you’re not selfish like I am. If so, good for you. You’re awesome. I’m pretty sure they make a T-shirt for that now.

This is probably no surprise. I mean, it’s not like any of us have to try to be selfish. We just are. I don’t have to try to make the world revolve around me, I just naturally do it. It’s not because I have some kind of psychological delusion. It’s because I’m human. Just like you.

So, what’s the problem? You might ask me. Well, as I said, self, when left un-checked, has a tendency to make everything about itself. Everything. We have a tendency to make work about us, to make family about us, to make relationships about us, to make money about us, to make church and God all about us.

“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We quote. And we get a hearty, “Amen!” from the batpicostals in the room. It is about me. Jesus died for me. That whole redemption story, is about God loving me. 

Then, everything has to be approached from that vantage point. And if something dares question that, well, there’s going to be hell heck to pay. When that crazy pastor dares suggest that God is all about His own glory, and that my salvation is for His glory and that my life is supposed to be for the praise of His glory, well. Be careful pastor. You’re treading on thin ice.

We can even endure such talk to a point. As long as it stays abstract and philosophical and intellectual, it’s fine. Okay, fine, God is all about God. He saved me for Him. I can intellectually affirm these statements. But, as soon as we take the next step from knowledge to heart and life change.

BOOM! Don’t you tell me how to worship God. That’s personal to me. I’ll worship him how I see fit. You can’t judge my heart, doesn’t the Bible also say not to judge? Who’s the hypocrite now? 

We are okay with God, as long as God doesn’t expect us to give Him total ownership of our lives. We’re okay with God as long as he remains external to our situation, a figure we can ask for free stuff and blame for the bad stuff. But, when God expects me to live my life as a sacrifice for His purposes, well, it’s time to find another church.

And many do, and many have.

This reminds me of Jeremiah. At the beginning of his ministry, as he is learning what it means to be a prophet, he has some soft words to share with God’s people.

“I will pronounce my judgements on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshipping what their hands have made.” Jeremiah 1:16

“What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.” Jeremiah 2:5

Jack Hayford said: “Worship changes the worshipper into the image of the one being worshipped.”

When we have self at the center of everything, we are really worshipping ourselves. Me, with a capital M. And when we do that, there’s really no point to anything. Worship is about ascribing worth and honor to something. It’s about submission and surrender. What good is it to ascribe worth to ourselves based on ourselves. What good is it to submit to and surrender to ourselves. We are already pretty good at doing that.

That’s not how God designed things. He designed us, created us to worship him. When we worship things other than him, we become worthless. Ouch. Glad I wasn’t the one that had to tell people that. I can just pass the buck back on to Jeremiah.

But what does this mean? Let’s get a little more substance to work from:

“But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men…those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” – Psalm 115:4,8

“At Horeb they made a calf and worshiped an idol cast from metal. They exchanged their glory for an image of a bull, which eats grass.” Psalm 106:19-20

So, when you worship something other than God, you are ‘exchanging your glory’ for the thing you are worshipping?

We still need a little more help:

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Wait a second! It’s right there, Pastor. We are the ones that are crowned with glory and honor. To which I would, say. “You’re right…kind of.” Yes, we are crowned with glory and honor, but who crowns us?

“Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.”

Do you see it? The only way we have glory is because God gives it to us. The only reason God can give it to us, is because He already has it. He is the one true God. His glory is in the heavens, far above and beyond anything we can experience in its entirety. But, he has given us glory and put everything under our feet?

Why? We have to go back to see where the psalmist got this idea of putting everything under our feet:

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

God made us in His image. That is, was and will always be the only reason we have any glory at all. We have glory because God gave it to us. We are the only thing in all of creation that has his image. We are the only created being that reflects God.

If we have glory because God gave it to us, is it any wonder he would be a little put off when we decide that we are the most important thing in the universe, that we would make this whole thing about us, and we would make our relationship with him all about what God can do for/give to us while at the same time refusing to give anything of ourselves back to him?

We’ve taken the glory that He has given to us, and exalted ourselves to His position – WITH HIS OWN GLORY!

The reality is, none of any of all of creation has any worth or value if it wasn’t given by God.

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.” – Charles Spurgeon

When we realize that, we begin to understand why things have gotten to be such a mess in the world. We’ve prostituted God’s glory for our own purposes and agendas. We’ve used God’s glory to advance our selfish pursuits and desires. We’ve made it all about us, and we get mad at God or anyone who would dare suggest it should be any other way.

May I ask you a question: Do you really want it to be this way? Haven’t you ever seen Bruce Almighty? Do you really want to be God? Of course, even asking such questions is ridiculous because none of us can be God.

“Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?” – Francis Chan

Wouldn’t you rather worship the God who created you, the God whose name is “I AM.” The one who is the beginning, the middle and the end. The creator of all things and sustainer of all things. The author of life, the one who numbers the hairs on our head, whose thoughts for us are more numerous than the sands on the seashore. The one who knows each and every one of us by name, formed us in our mother’s womb, created us for a purpose and created good works for us to do. Wouldn’t you rather worship the one whose name is provider and healer? Wouldn’t you rather worship a God who is too big to comprehend, who is immortal, all knowing and all powerful?

Obviously, none of us are any of that. And, (also obviously) none of us will ever be any of that.

What is worship? Paul makes it clear:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 

Worship is living sacrifice. Why does that ring a bell?

“24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” Matthew 16:24-27

May I ask, what are you living your life for? Who are you living your life for? Have you spent your life in pursuit of your own dreams? Are you chasing the pleasures of this life and this world?

For those who are Christ-followers the call is clear. Worship isn’t about my own wants, desires or preferences. Worship is actually denying them. My true and proper worship is not touting and lauding me, it is sacrificing me. Worship is conformity with God’s will, which requires nonconformity with the world. Can you and I say this is our motive right now? If not, it’s time for me and all of us to repent and turn away from that desire to seek our own glory.

If you happen to be reading this and you’re not a Christ follower, may I make an invitation to you? Step into this idea and see for yourself if God really is who He says He is. Try it out. If I’m wrong, what have you lost? But, if I’m right, it could change everything, literally, forever.

 

 

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Posted on May 2, 2017 in Blog, Church, Deliberate Living, Featured

What Keeps Sunday’s Intention From Becoming Monday’s Action?

What Keeps Sunday’s Intention From Becoming Monday’s Action?

Sunday can be a great day, can’t it? We gather together with other believers, we hear from God’s word, we humble ourselves before Him in worship. Often times, we will leave church on Sunday with a decision to do this or that differently. I don’t have something specific in mind. It’s just that God’s word has a way of illuminating the things that aren’t in harmony with his plan for our lives.

So, we leave, with the best of intentions.

But, then something happens between Sunday and Monday.

What is it?

I think it can be boiled down to a few underlying problems.

1. Margin.

We are too busy. I’ve been there. Still am from time to time. We’re busy with good things, (mostly), but we’re busy. We’ve got things to do on Sunday afternoon and if we don’t get them done today, they won’t get done until next weekend. So, we spend the rest of the day doing those things.

Then Monday morning comes. And, we don’t want to go to work (because we haven’t yet realized what a gift it is that God has blessed us with this job, and surrounded us with opportunities to live for Him…) so we hit the snooze button 7 or 8 times. We run out the door, cut in and out of traffic and make it to work a few minutes late.

Monday is a hard day, we have to work late, we get home late, rush dinner, sit down – exhausted, fall asleep on the couch and drag ourselves to bed.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday…You get the picture. Of course you do, you’re living it.

Before we know it, it’s Sunday again and whatever we intended to do last Sunday is long forgotten. All we remember is that we were going do to something and we didn’t. Now we wrestle with the guilt which keeps us from getting up and getting to church.

Can I add something to your “To Do” list? Spend some time right now thinking about your schedule for this week. What can you cut out so you can make time for the most important thing – spending time with God.

We can’t live this life on our own strength. We need the resurrection power fueling us. When was the last time you spent time with him outside of church? If it’s been a while, you might need to create some more margin in your life. Give God some room to help you turn your intention into action.

2. Old Patterns/New Habits.

This one is similar to my first point, but still different. It can take anywhere from 21-42 days to develop a new habit. It only takes a few days to undo a good habit. If you’ve ever tried to do an exercise regimen, and had some success, then gone on vacation, you know what I’m talking about. You come back from vacation and try to get back into the swing of things and realize that those 8 days undid most of what we had been doing up to that point.

But for some reason, there are old patterns in our lives that keep us from being able to create new, healthy habits. We’ve had unhealthy ways of thinking, self-talk, time-management, etc. that have been ingrained into our way of life for so long that we just can’t get out of them. It’s like what happens when you move. You leave work to go home, only to find out your driving to what used to be your home.

What old, unhealthy patterns do you need to cut out of your life so you can start working on creating a new habit of putting your faith into action.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. – James 2:14-17

3. Relying on the church/pastor for faith.

We may make a decision to follow Christ, get baptized and declare to the world that we are following Christ. But, then we stop, right there. We get comfortable, content and complacent. Our only experience with the God who created us, called us and redeemed us is vicarious. We don’t ever encounter or experience God for ourselves, we only experience Him through our pastor or church.

We have the presence of the Holy Spirit living with us and in us. But, we still treat that “with us” presence as a priest who has to intercede on our behalf. We all have access to the holy of holies, but the only time we ever go there is when our pastor takes us.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. – Hebrews 10:19-22

What if we took advantage of this reality that has been gifted to us? What if we started spending time with God each day? What if we prayed and read his word? What if we worshipped him by living a life of sacrifice?

4. Lack of supporting community/accountability.

The last reason I have is that we think we can do this all on our own. We don’t need no stinking help. I can follow Jesus by myself, thank you. That’s the world we live in, at least in this country. Like a local ad says, “We are fierce, independent thinkers.”

“Now, wait a second. Didn’t you just say I needed to do this on my own?” Yes, yes I did. You/I/we have to follow Christ on our own, we can’t rely on anyone else for that personal aspect of our relationship. But, a relationship with God is not only personal, it’s communal.

God himself is communal. God’s existence is community. Three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit living together in an eternal relationship. Yes, we must pursue God on our own, but we must also pursue Him in community. We cannot live out all that is expected of us on our own, solopreneur power.

In fact, the verse immediately following that last verse is:

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:23-25

Plus, there will come a time in the not too distant future when you will need a little help. You may be walking through a trial, you may find yourself being persecuted for your faith or having some of the trouble that was promised to us as believers.

Who can you invite into your life who will support you in your walk? Who can you support in their walk? How can you help live out the communal aspect of the God who saved you?

Intentions are good, but if they don’t lead to action what’s the point?

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I don’t know about that. What I do know is that the road to a deeper experience with God will not be found in the land of good intentions.

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Posted on Jan 9, 2017 in Blog, Church, Featured

3 Reasons Being At Church Every Sunday Is So Important

3 Reasons Being At Church Every Sunday Is So Important

A couple of years ago, when we started looking to move, I had one requirement: we had to get up high enough in elevation that we would be able to get some snow from time to time. I love the snow, seriously, love it! And I really missed it, because we rarely get snow in the “valley” around S.W. Washington. Well, when we moved into grandpa’s old house, it met that requirement, 1040′. Woohoo!

On New Years eve and New Years day, we got some snow. Over 8″ of it! And it has been awesome. Since New Years Day fell on a Sunday morning, I got up and plowed the driveway and cleared off the Suburban so we could get to church. I was expecting there to be some snow down in town, but to my surprise, there wasn’t. None at all.

I guess that’s not entirely true, because there was some…on the top of our car. We still had 3-4 inches that had clung to the top of our car the whole drive in. I finally got to be the guy I hated. You know the one who drove down from his house in the mountains with 15″ of snow on top of his vehicle.

Well, on Tuesday morning I cleaned the snow off my car and drove it in. It was cold in town, so that snow remained on my car when I drove home after food pantry. But when I drove in on Wednesday, there has been just enough sun and wind and my fast driving to pretty much clear the snow off the car.

This week I’ve been leaving the beautiful, snow covered hills and coming down to the snowless roads and parking lots of Vancouver.

And it got me thinking. That’s a lot like Christians and the need for going to church. And that leads me to reason #1.

#1 – It’s hard to shine the light of God’s love into the darkness of a fallen world when we DO attend every Sunday. It’s so much harder when we aren’t there.

Imagine with me, if you will, that snow is kind of like what happens to us each Sunday. We come together and we rally toward the mission God has placed on each of our lives. We may have come into the service worn and tired. Hopefully we leave a little more charged up for another week of mission. It’s like we come to church and get a little more covered with snow.

Then we go out into the world. And the sun and wind and rain all start to melt the snow away. It gets harder and harder to shine for Christ as the week goes on. Then, Sunday rolls around and we don’t feel like getting out of bed. So we don’t. We stay home. But, Monday is still coming, whether we like it or not and we’re going to have to try to shine for Christ. We think staying home is what we need, but the reality is that it was the opposite.

What we needed was to get to church and get a fresh coat of snow. Instead we stayed home, and we have less and less snow to show as we go through the next week. We miss another week of church, and there’s hardly any snow at all.

(Don’t read too much theology into this illustration. I’m not saying you lose your salvation if you don’t come to church. Though, that is something we should talk about at some point. However, this is just an illustration)

If the mission of your life was to show the world your snow, wouldn’t it be good to go to the place where you could get that snow to show?

But that’s not the only reason. There are more…

#2 – How can the body be the body when parts of the body are missing?

Too often, our thinking about church is driven by selfish thinking. We decided whether or not we are going to go to church based on what we think we are going to get out of it. If we think it’s going to be a good week, with good “worship” and a good sermon – we’ll be there. But, if we catch wind that someone we don’t like is preaching, we’ll skip out. I know this from my own selfish tendencies.

When was that last time you thought about church as service? Not the kind you attend, but the kind you do? Do you think about how your attendance is actually serving your brothers and sisters in Christ? Because it is! You are a part of the body. And without your part, something is literally missing. You may not know everyone or be able to encourage everyone. But there are some whom you know and some whom you encourage. Just like in our body, it’s all the parts joined together that make the body. But, not every part is literally connected to the others. We are all connected in the sense of being the body. But just like your “shin bone is connected the knee bone,” the “shoulder bone” isn’t connected to the shin or knee. Your role may only affect one or two others around you, but, without you, a critical piece is missing.

#3 – You’re missing out on being in the presence of the God of the universe.

There is something special that happens when God’s people gather to worship Him, hear from Him and be in His presence. Yes, God is always with us. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. So that means God is always with us. It’s amazing. But, there’s something more that happens when all of us gather together who have that same spirit living in us. The Bible tells us to meet together. Actually, the Bible uses stronger language than that. It says: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Heb 10:24-25. 

If we could do this whole God-thing on our own, there wouldn’t have been so much emphasis on community in the early church. If we could live this life, shine this light in the way we are supposed to without other believers around us, God would have made it clear. God would have told us, go and do this on your own. You don’t need anyone around you. You are an island.

But that’s not the case. We need each other. The life and mission we have been given are too important to miss out on the very thing that was created to fuel our drive towards completing that mission.

You may not have a “great worship experience” and you might not hear an “amazing sermon.” But, you are gathered together in unity with others who have the same Spirit in them – the Spirit of the living God. The Spirit of Truth. And if you allow Him to, He will speak truth to you. He may speak it during the singing. He may speak it during the sermon. He might speak it during a conversation or prayer you are sharing before or after the service. He may share it while you serve with the kids. But, He will speak the truth you need to hear.

As we start of a new year together, would you consider the ways in which you might need to bolster your commitment to your church community? I can say with confidence, whatever you invest in this community in the coming year will be returned to you. And much more. This could be the very thing that will make the biggest impact on your life in 2017.

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