Monday, December 29, 2014

Be Free!

These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires. (‭Colossians‬ ‭2‬:‭23‬ NLT)

Rules provide "no help in conquering a person's evil desires."



Rules (laws, statues, commandments) in scripture are designed to do one thing: make us aware of our sinful behavior, attitudes, words and thoughts. And that is God's grace at work. Because if we're not aware we're breaking his law, we'll not be convicted and repentant. We'll harden our heart.

That's what the whole letter to the Galatians is about. But I digress...

The point here is that Christ set us free from all that! (v. 20) We don't have to live with a list of rules or laws in our hands. We're free from that now. The law of Christ is in us now. The Spirit of Christ rules our hearts now.

Freedom. Freedom in Christ. Breathe it in again for the first time. Freedom.

Other than sin, all things are permissible (even though not all things are profitable). Paul says this in other places a number of times. 

What is interesting is that the less rules we try to follow, the less temptation there is for us. Rules (think laws) tempt our flesh to want to break them. 

Think about the last time you saw a sign that read, "Don't walk on the grass." You really wanted to walk on that grass, didn't you. But not until you saw the sign telling you not to!

When we're free to walk in the Spirit, we don't need the laws or rules (except maybe to inform us) to keep us from living a holy, blameless life. We're walking with the HOLY Spirit of God! I don't think he'll allow us to walk contrary to any of his laws without convicting us of it. 

So quit trying to be holy by keeping the law. Christ freed you from that! 

Walk with the Spirit (Gal 5) and enjoy the freedom in Christ we all received when we were born again.

What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Why Jesus Came

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (‭Luke‬ ‭19‬:‭10‬ NIV)

Jesus gives us in plain words why he came. He came to "seek and to save the lost."

I want to focus on the word "came." 

Advent, a good Bible word we use at Christmas, means "come or coming". Specifically, it refers to the coming of the Savior, Jesus the Christ. Coming purposefully to "seek and to save the lost."

So Christmas is about the coming of the baby Jesus who became our Rescuer. (Hence, Advent season)

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I too should "come" (or "go" might be a better way to say it) to "seek and to save the lost." Could it be any simpler?

What is God saying to you?

What are you going to do about it?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Show and Tell: Multiply Disciple-makers (xDM)

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (‭John‬ ‭20‬:‭21‬ NIV)

Jesus is walking and talking with his disciples in his resurrected body, at this point. He is helping them come to grips with what they are seeing and what has happened (the resurrection) and the implications. 

They are understandably upset, confused and emotionally exhausted. Which is probably why he keeps saying to them, "Peace be with you!"

Jesus will be around for a total of 40 days and then he'll ascend returning to his Father in heaven. So he's understandably focused on teaching what he wants them to do next. 

Mission. His mission. The mission of God:

Multiply disciple-makers.

He uses himself as the model so that they can picture in their mind what he wants them to do. Harder to forget. Follow the leader.

"As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."

It's simple, really. Just like Daddy sent me down here to show and tell you how you can walk in love with him again, I'm sending you out to show and tell others how they can walk in love with me--with my Father.

And then those you show and tell go out and show and tell to others who will show and tell others and so on. 

Multiply disciple-makers. xDM

Let's review:

It starts with "peace" from Jesus. (19, 21a)
It moves to going. (21c)
It follows that we send. (21b)
It comes with the authority to forgive sins. (22-23)

What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

One Stitch Closer: Veronika empowers other women (video)

Ok, so I don't know Veronika. I don't know how legit this video is. But even if it were fiction, it would inspire and challenge anyone who cares even a little bit. 

Great leadership, entrepreneurship and compassion in action. Makes me want to open up a shop like this in Charleston. 

Short-term homelessness is a real challenge locally. Jobs isn't the answer but it's a big step towards a solution. When we in the Church get serious about breaking cycles of poverty, things like this will happen. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Prayer - Pray for 3 people close to you (relationally or just geographically)
Care - Care for those like you--and those who aren't
Share - Share the message "Follow me as I follow Jesus"


Monday, December 15, 2014

Cross and Crown

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (‭Philippians‬ ‭3‬:‭10‬ NIV)

This is Paul's cry. He has much confidence in Christ and no confidence in his flesh. But he feels the pull of his fleshly desires to do what he shouldn't and not do what he should or even wants to.

He "wants to know Christ." He's probably talking about abiding or remaining in Christ relationally here. (John 15) His desire is to know Christ--not just know about. When you've come face to face with the living Lord Jesus, just knowing facts about him is not nearly enough. You want to spend more time with him. You want him to further transform you to the core of your being. This seems to be where Paul is.

What does he specifically want to know about Christ? Two things that would deepen his faith in Christ:

1. "The power of his resurrection." He wants to know this power that delivered Christ Jesus from sin and death. Honestly, we all do. Who doesn't want to know and access this kind of power. The thought is comforting.

2. "Participation in his sufferings." Want this one? Not so much. Few of us would and we'd think those who did were crazy.

But wait, Paul isn't crazy. He's onto something here. 

Paul sees a relationship between God's transforming power and surrender to suffering. 

Paul certainly isn't advocating that we seek out suffering. He didn't. He even ran from it and tried to avoid it. 

But he didn't use it as a cue to change course from God's mission. For example, he didn't say, "I must not be in God's will on this mission trip. Every time I turn around someone is trying to kill me. I should just go back home where it's safe." No, Paul embraced suffering because he believed it was part of the battle. 

Paul was convinced that he was walking with the Lord. So he must have concluded that the Lord allowed it or even directed him to it. (Rom 8:28) This isn't different from sending his son Jesus to live with us knowing that we'd crucify him.

Paul finishes with a further explanation on suffering. He says he wants to know the power of the resurrection and participation in his sufferings, "Becoming like him in his death."

This would point to dying and then being raised from the dead. But be willing to die for crimes you're innocent of starts with fully surrendering to God. 

Jesus prayed for his Father to take away his cup of wrath. And then he prayed, "Yet not my will but yours be done." Surrender. Trust.

This is surrendering to a God you fully trust. Jesus trusted his Father and put his life fully in his hands. He calls us to follow him and do no less.

I've heard it said that Jesus didn't receive his crown until after he carried his cross. Cross before crown. Perhaps that's what Paul sees here. We must surrender our lives to a loving, trustworthy God knowing that this world will feel more like a cross than a crown. 

Our reward will be much more than a crown. But there is a connection between the two.

Do you try to live life avoiding suffering--or even discomfort--at all costs? Are you constantly shopping for more comfortable clothing, seeking more comfortable job situations, or regularly indulging in comfort foods? Perhaps comfort is becoming your idol. Discomfort is mild suffering. 

On the surface it seems like the way to go. But Paul knows first hand that the sufferings in this world are nothing compared to the surpassing glory that awaits us.

What is God saying to you?

More importantly, what are you going to do about it?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Preoccupied with Why?

Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. 

One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? (‭Romans‬ ‭9‬:‭18-21‬ NIV)

I often struggle with this statement: "God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden."

It feels arbitrary and cold--unloving even. But that's where I get into trouble. Because God is anything but unloving. "God is love." (1 John 4:8) He can't even act unloving because that would go against his very nature as God.

But what struck me most in this passage is that when I struggle with this issue it's because I'm asking the wrong question. Ok, maybe it's better to say that I'm being preoccupied with the wrong question. Because I think asking questions is good. It helps us think and better understand who God is.  

But when I see verses like v. 18, or think about some people receiving mercy (like me) while others don't, it feels wrong. And I think I know why--it's because I'm forgetting who God is and what he's like. 

First, I'm forgetting he is love (as I mentioned above). 

Second, I'm forgetting that he created me. He literally created me out of nothing. I would not be here or exist if he hadn't decided to create me. 

Can you imagine where you'd be right now if 
God hadn't created you? No, you can't. Because you wouldn't exist. And that's unthinkable.

So like a lump of clay doesn't question the potter crafting it on the wheel, neither is it really appropriate for us to question our Creator and his ways. 

After all, to question someone who is all-knowing and all-powerful is a bit arrogant, don't you think? 

For an ant to question the one who formed it would seem silly to us. And yet, are we really that much smarter? Maybe we are in the way a surfer is closer to Japan than a toddler in the shallows of the same surf. The surfer is closer but for all practical purposes, they're they same distance away.

Sure, God can handle us asking questions. And asking questions can help us better understand who we are, who he is and how to live better in this crazy world. But if we become preoccupied with this question of "Why?" we can miss the bigger truth:

God is Creator. We are his creation. He SPOKE us into reality from nothing. That order and magnitude matters. A lot.

So before we start questioning God and his ways (again), let us step back and remember who he is and who we are in light of that. Maybe, just maybe, we'll see him in a more accurate light and find ourself...grateful.

What is God saying to you?

What are you going to do about it?

The Wrong Vows

Married? Want to be someday? 

Great article on love - "The Wrong Vows" by @darrinpatrick http://buff.ly/1x5vhV3 

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Practice Gratitude

I need to practice gratitude. I tend to take almost everything for granted.

My solution?

Thank God for everything as I go. Maybe when I look at my watch I could thank God for that many things on the spot.

An attitude of gratitude is contagious and life-changing.

I need to practice gratitude. I tend to take almost everything for granted.

My solution?

Thank God for everything as I go. Maybe when I look at my watch I could thank God for that many things on the spot.

An attitude of gratitude is contagious and life-changing.

I need to practice gratitude. I tend to take almost everything for granted.

My solution?

Thank God for everything as I go. Maybe when I look at my watch I could thank God for that many things on the spot.

An attitude of gratitude is contagious and life-changing.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Does God Need Us?

Does God need us to carry out his mission to save his people?

I believe it would be "easier" for God to accomplish his holy search and rescue mission without us. Less setbacks, disbelief, sin and failure. He could just speak it and it would be so. 

So why does he work through us if it would be easier without us? (Maybe easier is a moot point since nothing is difficult for God)

At least 2 reasons come to mind:

Our good.      His glory. 

Our Good

We grow. We grow in character when we allow God to work in and through us. Our character goes with us through eternity. He purifies us through trials and us learning to exercise our faith and overcome our temptations.

We are blessed. God blesses us to be a blessing. If it really is "more blessed to give than to receive" (and Jesus said it, so it's true), then God's greatest blessing is for us to get to be a part of his giving others abundant and eternal life.

His Glory

Which way gives God more glory: Doing it all perfectly himself, or, doing it perfectly through imperfect people? 

Answer? Through us. 

You see, he gets glory for doing things that no one else can do. One way he does that is to work his glorious power through our weakness to accomplish his purpose in such a way that we (together with him) bless others and get blessed in the process. This all while we're weak people.

What is God saying to you?

What are you going to do about it?

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Hold on Loosely

It's biblical to make plans. But it's not wise to be a slave to those plans. Leave room for God to change those plans by surrendering them to him. Hold them...loosely.

In the words of those great theologians--.38 Special...

"Hold on Loosely"
Just hold on loosely

But don't let go

If you cling too tightly
You're gonna lose control

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Better Decision-Making (Andy Stanley)

"The goal of leadership is not to eradicate uncertainty but rather to navigate it." @AndyStanley

3 Questions to ask when making decisions: (by Andy Stanley)

  1. What would my replacement do? Brings objectivity to the decision. Ex. Andy Grove of Intel
  2. What would a great leader do? (Bill Hybels) This takes you out of the smallness of your current circumstances. Ex. Truitt Cathy "If we get better, people will demand that we get bigger."
  3. What story do I want to tell? Every decision I make is nothing more than a story I tell. Every decision is a part of my story. This is the legacy question. Don't ever make a choice that makes you a liar for life. Success comes and goes. But your story stays with you forever.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014