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The Cutting Room Floor, Easter 2017

Posted on Apr 26, 2017 in Blog, Devotional Thoughts, Featured

One of the hardest parts of being a pastor is having to cut out talking about something you’re really excited to talk about. I had to do that this past Easter. So, I thought I would share part of it with you on this Wednesday. Maybe to serve a reminder of Easter, or what we talked about this past Sunday. Or maybe to just encourage you in the middle of your week. Here you are, trying to live for Christ, Sunday seems like a long time ago…this Sunday is still a ways away.

The weeks leading up to Easter, I was enthralled with this section of John chapter 10. Jesus calls himself the good shepherd.

John 10:7a, 9-11

Therefore Jesus said again, . I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Living on a farm is interesting. The cattle know my uncle’s voice. When he calls them, they will usually come. That is, as long as there isn’t something more enticing in front of them.

A couple of times a year, while my uncle is out of town, the kids and I will take on feeding my uncles cattle. We will use my old Massey Ferguson 65 tractor and a trailer, that way all the kids can participate. That old tractor has a unique sound. The newer tractors on the farm sound different. It’s got an old sputtering kind of a sound to it. It’s pretty cool.

A while ago, we fed the cows for about a week. We used that tractor twice a day, morning and evening to feed. After a couple of days, once the cows figured it out, the cows we start coming towards the barn when they would hear me fire up the 65. Often times, they would come from a far off place in a rush to get what we were feeding them, only for us to take them right back to that same place. They would even be slobbering all over themselves, because they knew what was coming.

Well, a couple weeks after we had done that, I had to pull out my tractor and use it for something. What do you think happened? The cows came running. Only to be disappointed. I had nothing to offer them. It was only a deception.

This reminded me of Jesus talking about himself as THE good shepherd. There is only one good shepherd. Jesus not only refers to himself as the Good Shepherd, but as the gate. The only way to be saved is to enter through him. He also calls himself the way, the truth the life. No one can come to the Father without going through Jesus. There is only one good shepherd.

However, we tend to think there are others. 

Jesus says: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

The promise of following Jesus is that we will find pasture. If you don’t know anything about sheep or cattle, you might pass over this. I’ve learned a few things over the past couple of years.

Two summers ago, we had a very dry summer. All the pasture dried up. There wasn’t anything for the cows to eat. When they didn’t have food, they would get “adventurous” and start finding ways out of the safety of the fenced in pasture to go find greener food. They were willing to endure the shock of the electric fence to find better food.

They may find some greener food, but they may also find trouble. There are a lot of other dangers outside those fences. They may wander off and never find their way back to their shepherd.

What Jesus is saying here is that those who enter through him will come in and go out and find pasture. They will have what they need. They will have peace. They will not have to worry about their needs being met. There will be comfort.

But, we tend to still think there are others…

Just like the Israelites grumbled and complained about the manna and quail, we want more. So, we start looking for someone who will give us what we want instead of trusting the one who has already given us everything we need.

It doesn’t take long. “The thief comes, only to steal, kill and destroy.”

We think the main tactic of the thief is to come and snatch sheep out of the pen when no one is looking. I suppose that could be. But really, I think it works in many different ways.

One of those, is that the thief will come along and give us what we think we want.

There might be green pasture all around us, but “what’s that sound?” “Oh hey, there’s something to eat coming toward me.” A little time might pass…then we hear it again. The old 65 is firing up again. “The last time I heard that sound, I got to eat something different.” Before too long, we find ourselves salivating once we hear the sound of the 65.

And we’re getting what we want.

For a time.

But, what we don’t realize, is that the thief has no interest in feeding us and taking care of us. No interest in protecting us or providing for us. The only aim of the thief is to get us away from the good shepherd. Once we’re off on our own, we’re easy prey.

You may find yourself being lured into things that having nothing to do with the kingdom of God. But remember, often, what we think we want is not what we really need. The good shepherd knows what we really need. We may think we want what’s outside the pasture we have been led to, but we may not realize there are things mixed in with that “greener pasture” that will kill us.

Have you been lured away by the sound of the thief? Are you listening to a voice that isn’t there to care for you, but only to destroy you? Maybe it’s time to start listening for the voice of the good shepherd.

Matthew 18:12-13

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.

The Shepherd is calling out for you. Do you hear his voice? Will you listen to it?

Or will you keep chasing the old 65?

3 Reasons Being At Church Every Sunday Is So Important

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

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.

What Do We Do Now?

Posted on Nov 9, 2016 in Blog, Culture, Featured

Every year, many of us get our hopes up about a particular football team. We root for them throughout the course of the season, and we root against their opponents. If we’re lucky (which my team hasn’t been for almost 30 years now) our team will get to the Super Bowl. Many of us will spend the weeks leading up to the big game trash talking the other team, and speaking of how our team is going to win the day. Inevitably, one team wins and another team loses. If we are fortunate, it was our team. For me, that’s never been the case, the Bengals have been to the Super Bowl twice and lost both times to the Forty-Niners.

If our team won, we want to go brag about it and celebrate. If our team lost, we want to mourn. Either way, we probably said some things that shouldn’t have been said. We probably believed some hype that shouldn’t have been believed. We build up our team and tore down the other team in unjustifiable ways. And, we have to learn how to get along with the fans of the other team.

We’ve just gone through something very similar in this years’ election. However, we’ve been building up to it for almost 2 years instead of 2 weeks. And it’s not a football game. This was based on deeply held beliefs on both sides. There has been a lot of trash talking going on. There has been a lot of hype we probably shouldn’t have even given a consideration to. Both sides have been vilified. Both sides have been pitted against each other. Both sides have been demonized. 4 & 8 years ago one team won, and one team lost. Yesterday one team won and another lost.

And, now we have to figure out how to get along with the other team. 

Part of  what always discourages me is seeing how people respond in such negative and fearful ways. It happened 4 years ago. It happened 12 years ago. It is happening as we speak.

My question for us today, is what do we do now? (Romans 12:14-21)

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This is what we do now. Especially for those of us who follow Christ, our hope was never in any political candidate. Whether the candidate you voted for won or lost, that candidate is – like you and I – a broken person whose only true hope is in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.  Christ is not only our redeemer, but our example. If you aren’t familiar with His story, He didn’t come out on the winning side. He was betrayed, despised, rejected, beaten and executed. He was truly innocent, the only truly innocent there has ever been, and he was executed as a criminal.

And how did He respond? 

“And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. (Luke 23:34)

He had been wrongly accused and was in the midst of being wrongly punished for crimes he didn’t commit, and he was asking the Father to forgive the very ones who were stabbing him, the very one who had driven the nails in him, the ones who were mocking him and spat on him.

You believe your team is the right team. But only one team won. What do we do? No matter which team you were on, we need to all do the same things.

  • Forgive.
  • Bless those who curse us.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice.
  • Weep with those who weep.
  • Live in harmony with one another.
  • Don’t be proud.
  • Associate with people of a low position.
  • Don’t be conceited.
  • Don’t repay evil for evil.
  • Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone (not only the people on your team)
  • Don’t take revenge
  • If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
  • Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.
  • As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

That’s what we do. All of us. Regardless of which team you were on. Why? Because, for those of us in America, we’re all one team. We are all joined together by the fact that God chose for us live in this nation in this time for His glory and His cause. And for all of humanity, we are all made in God’s image. There are many who may not understand that or believe that, but we are joined together by that fact.

As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 

  • Don’t respond out of pride if your team won.
  • Don’t respond out of anger if your team lost.
  • Don’t further the division and spite by venting your joy or frustrations in front of the other team.

Be an agent of peace. You can’t control the people around you. But, you can control your response to them. As far as it depends on you, be an agent of peace.

What can you do today to bring peace to a divided and hurting world? We’ll get much further by seeking to live at peace with one another than by blasting those we don’t agree with. If you and I commit to being agents of peace in the midst of a divided world, we have the chance to shine brightly the hope of the gospel of peace.

As Chuck Colson reminds us:

“I meet millions who tell me that they feel demoralized by the decay around us. Where is the hope? The hope that each of us have is not in who governs us, or what laws are passed, or what great things that we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people, and that’s where our hope is in this country; that’s where our hope is in life.”

Be the hope. Be the peace. As far as it depends on you, be an agent of peace to bring unity to a divided world. 

 

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

When Is It Okay To Leave A Church?

Posted on Oct 18, 2016 in Blog, Church, Culture, Lost Virtues

“This church just isn’t meeting my needs.”

I can’t read your mind. No pastor can. (Though some think we have that super power. If I could choose a super power, I don’t think that would be it, haven’t you ever watched Bruce Almighty?)

But, if I could read your mind, I’d be willing to guess you’ve had that thought about your church. “I think it’s time to start doing a little church shopping because I’m just not getting what I need here.” “If they would do this program like this other church, I might stay, but…” “If the pastor was funny like the other guy…” “If the pastor would just feed me instead of making me laugh…” And the list goes on. And the list goes on. (Insert Sandi Patty music here.)

So, we go shopping trying to find a church that is going to meet our needs. And everything changes.

We go from being a part of a loving community to being a consumer of a good or service. We stop thinking about the good of the whole and start thinking about our own good. Without a thought of how our actions are affecting others, we just change everything.

Churches aren’t commodities. Churches aren’t storefronts or business. Churches don’t exist to please its constituents.

I’ve had several conversations with people who have left our church over the past few years that I’ve been here. If someone leaves, I try to talk to them and find out why (if I don’t already know). Not once, has the issue been something relevant. “We are leaving because you’re teaching heresy.” It’s always been something preferential. We need this or that. We want this program. We want our kids to have this thing. When I ask the question, “Have you considered how you leaving will affect the rest of our community?” people don’t really have an answer. Some have thought about it, but their own personal desires trump the good of the whole.

(By the way, I’m not writing this post in response to someone leaving our church. In fact, we’ve had some new families join us and stay. So, that’s why I’m writing it now. It’s a good time to write about when you’re not having the problem)

Maybe you’re thinking about looking for another church. Let me as you a question: who is church for? If you’re answer is you, then you should probably do your church a favor and leave. “Harsh words man, lighten up a little bit.” Sorry, but that might be what you need to hear.

Churches exist for worshipping God, for the good of the local body of Christ and for shining the light of God’s love into the darkness.

“My personal pleasure” is not a role that churches are supposed to play. To reduce your church to pleasure puts it in the category of a social club, and we have not interest in being that for you.

You’re not getting anything out of church? Maybe that’s not the point. What have you given to your church lately? What have you contributed? Have you loved your brothers and sisters in Christ in a way that serves them? Or are you just looking for people to meet your needs and serve you?

These are the problems we face in the church today.

Reasons people leave church:

  1. My needs aren’t being met.
  2. I don’t like being under authority.
  3. I have a disagreement/conflict with someone in the church and it’s easier to leave than work it out.
  4. I don’t like the style of music.
  5. I don’t like the teaching.
  6. My kids’ needs aren’t being met.

There are others. Honestly, too many to list here. What makes these wrong?

Your needs will be met if your in true biblical community. True biblical community starts with me sacrificing myself. If you have a problem with authority, you will have a problem with every church, because your problem is not with the church but with God. If you can’t solve conflict, you just shouldn’t be around any human, stay at home and watch a TV preacher. There must be someone who likes the style of music your church uses, think about what’s best for that group of people and not what you want most. Is the teaching heretical? If not, there is something you can learn. If your kids’ needs aren’t being met, maybe that’s why you’re there.

“Okay, what’s the point of this article preacher man?”

You are where you are for a reason. What can you do to be a part of the solution? Maybe God wants you to help your church serve one another better, but He needs you to get over yourself first. I don’t know. What I do know is that God wants you to be committed. And until you make a commitment, you will be constantly disappointed because church isn’t about you and that’s what you’re trying to make it about.

Commit to worshipping God. Commit to the body. Commit to shining the light. Put your name on a pew. Be so committed that people know where you sit and notice when you’re missing. Meet the needs of other people in your church. Meet the needs of people in your community. Love God above everything and love your neighbor as yourself. Get those two things right and not matter what church you are in, you will be blessed.

When is it okay? Well, if the pastor is teaching heresy, that would be one. If something immoral is happening and not being addressed, then maybe. But only after following what the Bible says to do about confrontation, etc. Aside from those two things, there’s not much.

What are your thoughts? When is it okay to leave a church? Mad at me? Let me hear it!

At The Proper Time

Posted on Oct 17, 2016 in Blog, Encouragement, Featured

Galatians 6:7-10

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I get tired and weary. There are times I wish things would happen faster. I wish I would see the progress quicker. I’ve been working hard on something for a long time and it’s still not where I wish it was.

I thought, by now, I would be further along. The benchmark I had in my mind for where I would be at this particular earmark is still quite a ways off in the distance.

I don’t know if you ever feel that way, but if you’re anything like me (human), I know you have.

It can be hard can’t it? Being patient. Waiting. Watching something grow every day, makes the growth seem small. Not much changed between yesterday and today. Not much has changed in the last week or even month. I keep watching the plant, but it just doesn’t seem to be making much progress.

But then someone, with a fresh perspective comes along. And they notice the change. They notice the difference. They remember where we were and compared to that, we’ve come along way. There is a difference. Things have improved. Things are better.

That helps.

But not for long. Because soon I’m back to my day to day grind and it just seems like things aren’t going where I want them to go.

What do we do when we get in this situation?

We keep going. We keep doing the good that we’ve been doing. We keep trying. We try a little more than we did yesterday. We get a little step further ahead, even if it’s a baby step.

Why do we keep going? Because we trust God’s word to us. “Okay, churchy guy, thanks for giving me the Sunday School answer.” Hold on. Don’t stop reading yet.

At The Proper Time

 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

On the front side of progress, all I see and think is: “I could be doing that.” I overestimate my abilities and maturity and think I can be doing what someone much wiser and more skilled than I can do. That’s where we get hung up.

We don’t have a proper assessment of our abilities and maturity. “Well, you’re being kind of harsh today, aren’t you?” No, just being honest with how I’ve been. And guessing I’m not the only one who’s been here.

Like I said, I thought I would be further along today than I am. But, I also have a perspective today that I didn’t have back then.

Looking back, I can see how unprepared I was for what I wanted. And if I had gotten what I wanted, it could have been potentially disastrous for me and lots of people involved. Why? Because when you’re not ready for something, you’re not strong enough to carry the weight of it for the journey.

We think we want the success, but we don’t understand that success has weight. And If we haven’t been built up for it, it will eventually crush us.

That’s why we keep going

Because, God is in the process of growing up. He’s building us up. If we are plugged into a committed community of believers, God is going to use that group of Jesus-followers to build us up. As we keep going, we keep growing and building up the foundation our lives need to withstand the success that we hope for.

So, don’t be discouraged today if, today, you find yourself far off from where you thought you would be. Because there’s a purpose in the process too. What you’re going through right now is significant for what you are going to be going through in the future. What you do today will prepare you for tomorrow.

So don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. Just because you’re not where you want to be doesn’t mean you’re not in a good place.

And, just like God says: “at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

The harvest is coming. You may not have the tools or knowledge or skills you need to bring in the harvest. And that’s what you’re doing right now. You’re acquiring what you need.

And at the proper time, the harvest will come. And you’ll be ready.

Make Every Effort

Posted on Aug 22, 2016 in Blog, Church, Deliberate Living, Featured

I’ve discovered something about myself. This may come as a revelation to you too. That is this: things that require more effort are harder for me to do. 

I know, that’s a revelatory statement. You’re probably thinking, “I clicked on this link to read that. What a waste of my time.” Well, before you click away, give me a second.

At SixEight Church we’re in a series going through these verses of 2 Peter:

2 Peter 1:3-7

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

Granted.

That’s a pretty powerful statement. God’s power has granted to us, given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Those things we need for life and godliness have been granted to us.

How have they been granted to us? Through the knowledge of the one who called us to his own glory and excellence. The calling placed on our lives is not one of mediocrity and averages. We are called to the same glory and excellence of the one who called us.

By this knowledge of holy one who has called us we have been granted/gifted with his precious and great promises. The knowledge we have of the holy God who called us is where we find the promises He has made to us.

And it is through these promises that we become partakers of the divine nature. It is through these promises and divine power that we escape the corruption that is in the world through sin.

But at this point, Peter creates a contrast. To now Peter has been talking about what has been granted/gifted/bestowed to us. And it’s all great stuff. But, he’s going to change course.

Make Every Effort. 

Spoude. Pronounced spoo-day’. It means diligence. Earnestness in accomplishing, promoting or striving after anything.

You see, there’s the work that’s been granted and gifted to us. There’s the aspect of our faith that we have received freely. It’s awesome and amazing. But, the problem is, we stop there. We stop with the easy part. We’ve been given this great gift, but we don’t do our part.

What’s worse, is we often feel entitled to the outcome with out doing our spoude. We want God to just give us the fruit without making any effort to produce the fruit. And we get mad when God doesn’t make us the kind of people we think He should be making us into.

Even though we haven’t done anything to change.

Yes, there is the granted and given aspect of our faith. But, Yes, there is also the working, spoude, diligent, striving aspect of our faith. We have to “press on/strain toward the goal.”(Phil. 3) We have to “Do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2)

We don’t become “spiritual giants” by waiting for someone else to make us one. We don’t become more like Christ by waiting for God to do all the work for us. Will God do the work in us? Absolutely. It can only be done through Him. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any responsibility to work at becoming like Christ.

The problem is, I’m lazy. I don’t like doing things that require effort on my part. Can’t I just pay someone to do that for me? Isn’t there an easier way.

Samuel Johnson said: “What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.” Faith may not come naturally to you at first, but if you make every effort you can in it, it will come more naturally to you. Virtue/Moral excellence may not come naturally. But if you work at it, strain and strive after it, it will come more naturally to you. Knowledge will not just magically appear in your mind. You have to work to attain it.

The Question:

Instead of blaming God for not granting us our prayers for Him to do something in us that we’re not willing to do in ourselves, we should ask: “Am I making every effort?” Maybe we’re not there yet. “Am I making any effort at all?”

You and I will never grow in our faith, in our relationship, in our walk with God if we don’t make an effort.

How can we make an effort? Spend time reading his word. Read 2 Peter. Read it slowly. Read it once a day. It’s not long. If that’s too much, just read these 5 verses once a day. Think about it. Let it sink in.

Spend time praying to God. Just communicate with God, have an honest conversation with Him about your struggles. Ask Him to help you conquer this or that.

Worship Him. Humble yourself and exalt Christ. Humble yourself and lift Him up. Make sure you are not elevating yourself above God. Don’t make God a fairy or a jeannie in a bottle who exists to grant your wishes. Make much of him and less of yourself.

The Point: 

Our frustrations with our faith are nearly always because we’re not making an effort. What would change if you started making an effort today?

Probably a lot.

It’s time for some Spoude.

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