What did Jesus do on the cross?

I don’t really know if I would be correct, but I would reason that most people look at what Jesus did on the cross the same way. I would reason that most people would say something along the lines of- Jesus died on the cross for my sins so that I can spend eternity in heaven. (This is not wrong; however, I would argue that it is very partial, and possibly gets us out of alignment in the thought process)

I think most people look at the cross in such a way as to ask the question: How can I get to heaven despite my sin problem? The answer becomes like that above, Jesus died on the cross for me. Again not wrong, but limited, and almost selfish in nature.

The point of this post is to challenge you to think outside the box, or just to get you thinking in general.

What if you were to ask the question: How can God’s plan for the growth of His kingdom be continuing when there is so much death, destruction, and corruption among humanity? The answer then becomes-when Jesus died on the cross He defeated the evil that has enslaved humanity which has ensured that evil actions would continue.

There are many answers to the question that gives this post a title, and it is my hope that you will dig in a little further.

However, lets look at some implications from this brief example alone. If I am saved just to spend eternity in heaven, then I may as well take my ball and go home. However, if I am also saved to have a purpose in God’s plan of rescue, redemption, and renewal then I have reason to be here. Jesus walked about performing miracles, healings, casting out demons, and so on. That sounds like rescue and redemption to me, and those are the same things he sent the 12, and the 70 (or 72 whichever you like) out do. It is the same thing we are to do. Asking different questions about the same event forces you to have a larger perspective.

Dig in, and go deeper!

There is great purpose for you beyond your personal salvation!

God is for you, and I am for you!

 

A brief word on becoming a son

For a very big part of my life I did things in large part in order to gain approval, or avoid punishment. That was the highest percentage of what motivated me. A couple of simple examples: I didn’t want to get in trouble with my parents, or I wanted to get a high five from my boss. It’s a good thing to please your parents and your boss. The problem wasn’t with them, or even in my actions, the problem was in my motivations. This becomes an even bigger problem in our spiritual life, and that is what I will attempt to very briefly explain today.

If I am motivated to serve God because I am afraid of punishment, feel an obligation to serve, seek approval, or feel trapped then I have the mindset of a slave. I know this because all those things are symptoms of slavery. This is very important because if I am motivated by symptoms of slavery, and I have the mindset of a slave, then it means I see God as a slave master. This is a very unhealthy place to be, and a place that will only serve to hinder our spiritual journey.

So how to do we transition from a place of slavery to a place of sonship. The reality is that Jesus has already done it all. Jesus did not partially win a battle, He has the victory in its fullness. This means that if you are in Christ you are no longer guilty, and that is at least one of the key elements. You have to recognize that you are no longer guilty. There has to be a change in the servant’s heart. You have to go from guilt to gratitude. This means that you will no longer be motivated the same way.

It means I am motivated to serve God because of my gratitude for the gift of freedom and redemption. I don’t feel an obligation to serve, I have a desire to serve. I’m not just doing things for approval, I’m doing things out of love. I don’t do things because I am trapped, I do things because I am free to do so.

This change of heart and mindset may only be a part of this transition, but it is a large part. Where a slave has to, a son wants to, and that it is a substantial change within the heart and mind of a person. Where you were once a hindrance to your own spiritual journey, you are now a partner in furthering your journey.

God doesn’t see you as a slave, and I want to encourage you not to see God as a slave master. If you take a look at your life and realize that the things that motivate you are symptoms of slavery, and you want to change that, there is no better time than now. Ask your father God to help you change your mind and your heart in these things. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

God is for you, and I am for you!

“This is what my love is like….”

“This is what my love is like”…..this is what I heard the first time I ever knew without a doubt that God spoke to me. This is a piece of my testimony, but it is really about my father God, and my wife. I’ve never spoken this testimony without crying, and I’m sure I will cry while typing it. In my experience there are some God moments where the emotions never fade.

There was a time in my life when I was struggling with how to go about life in general, and to go along with that I had a lot of pent-up emotions. I was trying to figure how to move beyond the life I had experienced while at the same time trying to figure out how to fit into the life ahead of me.

I knew my wife was going to be different as soon as I met her, and from our first date there’s never been a day when we haven’t been together. However, the early days of our relationship coincided with my time of struggle. So along with my other struggles, I was trying to figure out how to have a healthy relationship. Neither one of us really had anywhere we could draw from on what that looked like.

She was at my house, and I can’t remember what our disagreement was about, but I do remember all of that pent-up emotion boiling. I got so mad that I went out to my garage and started slamming my barbell off of the ground in a rage. I can remember thinking that she would leave and never want to return. That thought sobered me up a little bit, and I put the barbell down. I turned around, and she was standing there. She saw it, she witnessed my worst moment. She stepped to me, wrapped me in a hug, and just said it’s ok, I love you. She had every right, and reason to have responses other than that. It was a moment later in our hug that I heard God say to me “this is what my love is like.” “I love you the same in your worst moments as I do in your best moments.” Nothing in my life has been the same since that moment.

When everybody else left, she stayed. When she had reasons to leave, she stayed. When no one was there, she was. When I was at my worst she loved me. She was the physical reality of God’s spiritual reality in my life. When it comes to living a kingdom first life, God, and my wife are the biggest part of why I am where I am today.

I loved God, and I had always been in some level of relationship with Him, but I didn’t want anything to do with going to church, I had enough bad experiences with that. It was my wife who convinced me to go to a church that she knew about that would be different. There is no chance that I would have ever taught a lesson, preached a message, or even be sharing on this blog if it wasn’t for that moment. If it wasn’t for God, and my wife.

People will tell you that God loves you no matter what, and that’s a good thing. I had been told that many times, and I even believed it. However, when God Himself says that to you in your worst moment, you know without a doubt that it is true.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, there are very few things that I can tell anybody with 100% certainty; however, one of those that I can is that God loves you. At your worst or at your best, it doesn’t matter. That’s what His love is like. His love is perfect even when you are not. His love is complete, even when you are broken.

God loves you, and so do I!

 

Ask for help

There are times in life when you need a little boost, even when you are living a kingdom first life. There will be things that you are trying to overcome that you can’t seem to overcome, but really all you need is a little boost. That boost usually comes in the form of a person.

When I was in the army I had a hurdle that I couldn’t seem to overcome. It was the 2 mile run. I wanted to get the max score on my 2 mile run, but I came up just shy of it two or three times. It made me mad! I could max the push-ups and sit-ups in less than half the amount of time given, but the 2 mile run kept me from a perfect score.

There were two things that kept me from maxing the 2 mile run, and it wasn’t my ability. It was the excuses I was giving myself such as maybe my legs are too short and I’m not built for the 2 mile run, or maybe it’s because I’m a little too heavy from spending time in the gym. The second thing was my pride that kept me from asking for help. After all I was known for being physically fit, I shouldn’t need help, people come to me for help.

I got frustrated enough that I got over myself, and asked for help. I went to a person. I asked sergeant Furqan to pace me on the 2 mile run.

The morning went as usual, I maxed my push-ups and sit-ups and it was time for the run. Sergeant Furqan got beside me and we took off. The pace was faster than I expected, I was on the verge of an all out sprint the whole time. I was thinking to myself that maxing this thing really wasn’t for me, my legs must be a blur like in a cartoon, and I might die! However, for every one of those thoughts, sergeant Furqan was telling me something else and pushing me.

When we were about a half mile from the finish line, and I could see it, something crazy happened. After I thought I was on the verge of sprinting this whole time and I would never be able to keep the pace, I realized I had another gear and shifted into a new stride. I even pulled away from sergeant Furqan, and I crossed the finish line with 20 seconds to spare. I maxed the 2 mile run for the first time!

It didn’t take some miracle, or grand scheme. All it took was someone coming alongside me, and giving me a little boost. Sometimes we need people like that. People who will help you get over your self perceived limitations, and weaknesses. Someone who will help you get past all the reasons why you can’t do what you are trying to do. Someone who will come along side you when other people say you can’t do something, or that you can’t get things right.

What’s awesome is that sergeant Furqan let me pull away. He wasn’t like so many people  who call themselves leaders. He didn’t have to beat me to the finish line. I heard him kind of laugh as I kicked it into the next gear, and I could hear him pushing me on as I ran ahead of him. What an amazing thing. I want to do that. I want to get alongside people and give them a boost. I want to cheer them on as they kick it into the next gear. I hope I already do.

There are so many people who will tell you all of the things you are doing wrong, and why you aren’t blessed and have no favor and so on. This is why we need to find the people who look past your short legs, and help you anyway. We all have shortcomings, but there are people who are willing to look beyond those things. Sometimes it feels like they are few and far between, but they are out there.

All it took was one person to come alongside me one time. I maxed the 2 mile run every time I ran it after sergeant Furqan helped me. You may be stuck in a rut, but sometimes all it takes is one person to bust you out. God designed us in such a way that we need not only Him, but His people. Don’t let your pride, or weaknesses that you think are too big to overcome keep you from finding the right person. God puts people in your life that can help you. Find the right ones, and ask them for help. God has way too many great works for you to do to be stuck in a rut.

God is for you, and I am for you!

 

Own it as if…………an exhortation for you

At this point in my life, I have learned that there are things that happen in life that you do not ask for, and were outside of your control. You do everything right, or at least to the best of your ability, but things still happen. It’s a fact of life even as a Jesus following Christian.

However, your position as the steward does not change whether things are going great, or when everything has fallen apart. When “life” has happened, even if you did nothing wrong to cause it, you have to own it as if it was all your fault.

What I mean by that is that wherever you land after the event, you have to get up, take responsibility and begin (maybe better said, continue) to steward things from where you are at. Stand in your faith with confidence, be a good steward with what you have where you are at, be thankful for the growth that comes with the hard time, and start the climb.

Because of His word, I have confidence that faith pleases God, He rewards good stewards, and He has great plans in store for you.

People may or may not be around to help, but the one who has given you every spiritual blessing in heaven will be. If you will fully own it, and have faith that God is fully for you then I know you won’t stay where you landed forever. You may be there for a season, but God will use it as a springboard (the bigger the fall, the more compression on the spring) to propel you beyond where you were before.

God is for you, and I am for you!

 

Calling and purpose simplified

Everyone wonders about their calling and purpose. I would also say that most people over analyze, and over complicate their calling and purpose. I know I always have; however, things have become much more clear and simplified for me this year. With that being said I would like to share with you what the Lord has shown me in these things.

Remember this is simplified, not exhaustive.

Romans 8:28-28 And we know that [a]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (emphasis mine)

We ARE called, and we are called according to HIS purpose. Your calling does not come out of your own great idea, It comes from a God idea. His purpose for you is your calling. How does that help? I am glad you asked.

I will share a scripture that sums up purpose and calling.

Matthew 28:19-19 [a]Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

So we all have a purpose and calling to disciple nations (a plurality of people). How does that clarify what you are to do personally? This is what the Lord revealed to me.

God places a desire or you could even call it a burden in us for a place, He places in us things that we are naturally good at because of giftings and abilities, as well as desires to do certain things, and He places in us a connection to certain people that we can’t always explain as well as a desire to help certain groups of people. You could possibly say that we all have the same purpose to disciple groups of people; however, the way we are called to do it, where we are called to do it, and with whom we are called to do it is all personalized by God.

So calling and purpose simplified is to go where He has put in your heart to go, do what He has put in your heart to do, and do it with the People He has put in your heart to do it with.

Now this is where faith comes in, faith is actually doing it. Faith is getting rid of all of the excuses as to why you can’t go, and can’t do.

I’m going to leave it at that. Be encouraged, let your faith rise up, and go do it.

God is for you, and I am for you!

Vacation is officially over…..so it’s time for How to live your life kingdom first part 3.

If you didn’t get a chance to read part 2 you can read it here.

The fourth practical thing we can do to live our lives kingdom first is to humbly serve one another. This may be the thing that will stand out the most as counter to American culture. American culture is driven by chasing the dream, climbing the ladder, becoming the boss or the buck stops with me person, building bigger houses, creating personal empires, and achieving culture defined success. Furthermore, it’s done at the expense of other people, and getting creative on how you justify it. Humbly serving others goes in the opposite direction, you set aside becoming the ‘man’. Achieving the ‘highest’ rank in the kingdom if you will is to become the greatest servant. It’s not about how high you can climb the ladder or what kind of title you can get people to call you, it’s about how low you can go in order to serve others, and lift them higher. In addition to that, this is not sitting on your perch calling people higher, this is you getting down in the mud with them, and helping them out of the pit without ever asking them how they got their because the truth is it doesn’t matter. You are not their judge, you should be a servant with a heart for people. When you see those people who are struggling, and we all struggle from time to time, your heart shouldn’t be looking at how they got there, but how you can help them get out. This ties in with loving others, and accepting others. I should look at others with the love of Christ, accept them wherever they are at, and serve them wherever they are at.

Christ gives us the ultimate example in John 13:1-17. Furthermore, He commands us to do the same. Here we see the creator of all things, the king of kings, and the lord of lords come down from His position as the most high and wash some dirty stinky feet, and ultimately die for us. He said that if He washed their feet then they should wash each others feet, and He said I gave you this example and you should do as I have done to you. The truth is that you could never be higher than the one who sent you, and we are all sent by Him. To act like you are better than anyone else, or to even think it is a huge statement of pride. Furthermore, you will never be any higher than the one whose feet you are washing, we are a flawed, we are just flawed in different ways.

The word tells us in Galatians 5 to use our new covenant freedom to serve one another, not ourselves. I think Galatians 6 gives us a good picture of how we can do that, here is an excerpt: 6 “Brethren, even if [a]anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” This is a picture of humbly and gently helping someone who has fallen all the while recognizing that you too are flawed and could be tempted yourself. This is recognizing that sometimes things happen to people who cause them to have more of a load than they can carry on their own. This isn’t ‘calling’ people higher in order to sound spiritual when you really just don’t want to get dirty. This is jumping in and helping because you know that you are no better, and you may need help with your own burdens someday. We often carry way more than we could ever make it to the end of the race with, more than we could ever handle. Why do we do that? I would venture to say it is because we have been judged before, we’ve been told we won’t be blessed until we get it right, that we no longer have God’s favor simply because life happened to us.  I would venture to say we don’t want that kind of help. If He was willing to die for me when I was completely lost, then I would think He is willing to continue blessing me while I’m doing my best to live my life for Him. Human faults and stumbles don’t break eternal God promises. We should humbly submit to one another, and serve one another out of deep respect for Christ, not out of what a person has or has not done.

We should use our gifts to serve others. It is through doing this that we show ourselves to be good stewards of God’s grace. We should remain humble, and always carry a servants heart toward others.

I think Philippians 2 sums this up pretty well. Here is an excerpt: 2 “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any [a]affection and compassion, make my joy complete [b]by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing [c]from [d]selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude [e]in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be [f]grasped, but [g]emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” Look at others as better than you, look out for their interests first, and don’t do things out of selfish ambition. Sounds like the opposite of what we experience everyday. We’ve been conditioned to think it is ok to use others for our own gain, and profit. However, that is not who we are supposed to be. We should serve others in a way that we make sure they get a higher value from us than what we get from them.

For me, I know that I will always be able to improve in this area. With marriage, fatherhood, family, friends, ministry, strangers, and so on it is hard to always keep the right attitude and be the servant of all. However, I know that this is who I, and who we are supposed to be.

Make it a point to humbly serve others today, and everyday.

God is for you, and I am for you!

 

 

 

Why Americans are not attending church

While scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday I saw five different links to find out why Americans are no longer attending church. They all listed several points. I am going to weigh in on it, and give my top two points that were not listed. Time, and value. The two go together, and these two are in my opinion, two of the top reasons Americans are not going to church.

Time is very precious, I have written about that before. Many Americans don’t have any time, it is all spoken for. We live in a time where many have to work 6 and 7 days a week in order to survive, and take care of their families. When they do get a day off they would like to see one of their kids play sports, or go see their family. When they do get a day off and go to church they don’t want to be ridiculed for not being there more often.

But isn’t it true that we can all choose where, and how we spend the time that we do have? Yes it is true, and this where value comes in. We choose to go to work everyday because we value the pay check, benefits, etc, or even call it a need. We choose to go see our kids play sports because we find value, and joy in doing so. We choose to spend our time on what we find valuable. So what does that say about choosing to not go to church. It says we don’t value it.

Why do we as a people no longer value going to church? I would say there are many reasons, but one reason that can sum a lot of it up is that we have heard it all before. If it is an old covenant condemning type church we already know we are not good enough. If it is a prosperity get everything you want type church, we live in a consumeristic society, we have been taught to chase the American dream. Where do you think the prosperity movement was born? Combine some scriptures, and the American dream and there you have it. We are burdened by it every day. It breeds endless jealousy, envy, comparison, and burden. If it’s a church where we just have to believe harder, and have more faith in order to overcome life happening to us, we’ve heard that too. We’ve heard it all before.

Why do we hear more about external growth than internal growth? Why are we hearing that profit is more important than people? Business is business right? We hear these things everyday at work, we don’t need to hear it in church. Why are we going to church and never hearing about Jesus, the good news, and His kingdom?

Why is the number of people going to church in America shrinking every year, but some pastors are reporting that 100,000 people are turning to the church every year in China? Could it be that they are presenting what is valuable? Could it be that their message is Jesus the savior, the redeemer, the prince of peace, the provider, speaking the good news gospel, etc? Could it be that they know life happens, and they don’t make people feel guilty about it? Could it be they don’t just tell people to believe more, have more faith, and say they will pray for you, but they actually put their skin in the game and help you while you are down? Could it be that they understand the only thing that makes us Christians different is Christ?

The love of Christ is our litmus test. It’s how we should be identified, and known to be Christians. It’s what should make us different when people encounter us. It should come out of us when we are around people. It’s what is valuable.

I know very little, but I know this….if you can provide a place where people can come in and have an encounter with Jesus, His love, and the miracles and healings, etc that follow….they will make time to come back to Him (not you and your church) over and over again. They will find something so valuable every time that they will keep coming back to Him. Even if they falter. If it’s a safe place, they will come back because they won’t fear judgement.

We can get concerts from the world. We can get motivational speakers from the world. We can get personal finance from the world. We can get condemnation from the world. We can get judgement from the world. The only thing we can not get from the world is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Romans 10:14 “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” This is the value we could offer, an encounter with Him.

New technologies, aging generations, new demographics, etc, it doesn’t matter what you call the issue, encounters with the one true God will transform people. It may be a post-Christian America, but that’s because we decided encounters with God should come second to our own agendas.

I love the church in it’s original purpose, I have hope for the church, I minister in the church. This is my attempt to see things from the other side of the door after studying the reported data on Americans and church attendance. It is also me being transparent about my own thoughts, and things I have worked through.

I hope this didn’t come off as judgmental as that wasn’t my aim. There are no perfect churches as they are led by and full of imperfect people, but there are some really healthy, great churches in America. Jesus said ” ‘I’ will build my church”, I love His church. You will know it’s His church when you are there because He will be present.

If you haven’t been to church in a long time, go out and try to find a place where you walk away knowing you encountered the one true God, it will be worth it.

God is for you, and I am for you!

 

The turn back…it’s God designed

Have you ever found yourself being chased by the same thing? Maybe you thought you finally got away from that issue, but it showed up again. Now let me add to it, have you ever found yourself being chased by the same thing when you know, that you know, that you know you are being obedient to God, and doing what He asked you to? I have.

Now I am not talking about repeatedly choosing to sin. I’m talking about when you are trying to do what God wants you to do, but you keep finding yourself under a barrage of attack by the enemy. Almost as if going in circles. A lot of times when this happens we start to feel like we are stuck in a rut, or feel like we are stuck in some kind of bad cycle, and maybe even start being accused of such things.

There is an interesting little piece of text in Exodus 14:1-4 where God tells Israel to turn back. God delivers Israel from slavery in Egypt, and they are on their way to the promised land free and clear. They were moving in a direction that they would not even need to cross the red sea; however, God then tells them to turn back. He says you turn back, I am going to harden Pharaohs heart, you set up camp for about a week and allow him and his army to catch up. (you can read the whole story for full context)

I’m sure the people had some thoughts about this idea. The person they were just delivered from was going to be allowed to catch back up to them, and seemingly capture them again. I’d say they probably didn’t like the plan. However, Moses assures them that God will deliver them.

So moving through the story, God allows Israel to cross the red sea on dry ground, but he drowns Pharaoh, and his whole army. What God actually did was take Israel from being delivered to being free. As long as they were afraid and looking over their shoulder for pharaoh they would never be free. Delivered from his hand, but not free.

So here’s the thing, sometimes God has you turn back in order to thoroughly destroy the thing that keeps chasing you. You may have been delivered from an attack, but not free from the fear. God wants you to be free. More importantly, when He does these things in your life it lets everyone around you know that He is God, and it glorifies Him.

Live your life kingdom first, God really is for you! I am for you!

When it comes to the kingdom first life, looks are deceiving.

Success as defined by the world is not a very good indicator of a kingdom first life. I would even say go ahead and take it off of your key indicators list. The character of a person matters more. If they were to lose it all, what kind of person would be left standing in the middle of their loss? Before you tie yourself to someone consider how they reached their level of success. Did they use and abuse people? Simply put, look past what they have and try to see what kind of person they are. There are a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing. There is a lot of deception used that is justified through saying it is for the advancement of the kingdom.

I can see two major things that satan does in order to attack our faith and character, or entice us in a direction we don’t need to go, and he often uses other people to do it. He attacks our stuff, or he offers us a bunch of bling. You can understand how much importance, and unhealthy love people put on possessions just by seeing that is what satan chooses to use in order to either attack us, or entice us.

When we read the story of Job we tend to emphasize all that he lost at the hands of satan; however, satan didn’t really care about Job’s possessions. He was attacking Job’s character in order to get him to lose his faith and curse God.  The attack failed, Job maintained his character, and everything that he lost plus more was restored to him. When things don’t seem to be going your way, when people tell you that you are failing, when people tell you God won’t promote you because your house isn’t in order, when they make accusations against you, when you feel like you are losing it all, etc just maintain your faith and your character.

When you are willing to lose it all to stay true to God, that is when you have it all. If you have Christ you have everything. Your inheritance is not in stuff, or the approval of people, it is life in Christ.

Then we have the temptation of Jesus. “the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” There is nothing to gain in selling your soul. The things of this world are worthless in comparison to life in Christ, and His kingdom. When your hearts are drawn to the things of this world and all of their glory, be vigilant for an enemy could be enticing you. Maintain your faith and character.

Possessions, stuff, money, wealth, etc, they are amoral. They are neither good nor bad; however, how you acquire can be good, or bad. How you use can be good, or bad. How you feel about can be good, or bad. What it becomes to you can be good, or bad. How you present it to other people can be good, or bad.

If satan is attacking you, God will work it all out in a way to benefit you. Romans 8:28

If satan is enticing you onto the wrong path, Jesus is still standing on the right path. John 14:6

God is for you, and I am for you!