When I travel I try to look for things God is teaching me. I just returned from a trip to Kenya and Tanzania for ServeNow. The lesson that stood out to me on this trip was a new appreciation of having an advocate on your side. For this article’s purpose, let me share what happened in the US and then Tanzania related to the COVID testing process necessary for travel.
Waiting sucks. Can I get an amen? I don’t like to wait for anything or anyone. Waiting is one of the most painful things to do in life for me. It is also one of the most critical parts of the Christian life
Have you ever thought of faith being creative? Or how about the need for faith to be demonstrated in a creative way? I think many times we get stuck in the same routines and traditions that we fail to think outside the box and find new ways of doing things. Or maybe we see certain needs but think we are powerless to do anything about it and we give up rather than get creative.
We have elevated lesser earthly values above more important kingdom values such as mercy, justice, grace, forgiveness, and love (Matthew 24). We have lost the spirit of Jesus who came not demanding his rights; but laying down his very life and “rights” for our sake and salvation (Philippians 2:5-11). I think we have become disconnected and disoriented from our primary passion for Christ and his eternal kingdom. I believe we have lost perspective and lost our way because it is not about us, it is about God being glorified in our lives. It is not about our rights above all or above the good or consideration of others. I want to get back to the heart of worship. I want to see only Jesus
Take a moment with me and press the fast-forward button on your life. Go to the end (for we know how it ends!) and hit pause. Imagine this day when you will stand before Jesus, the King himself. Imagine what that moment will be like. At that time, we will not have the luxury of looking ahead, but behind. What did we do with our lives? How did we demonstrate our love for Jesus in the brief time we were given on this earth? Who did we serve in his name and for his sake? How many received hope because we acted out of our love for Jesus?
Say what you want about the merits of climate change (maybe we have a defensive and dismissive posture to not have to examine our lifestyles?). Still, there is no disputing from a biblical perspective that our sin has thrown the earth off in ways that play out in real consequence around the world. Specifically, I would say our greed, selfishness, consumerism, and materialism.
George Floyd, Minnesota, Pentecost. What do these three things have to do with each other? If you have been following the news recently, you know the connection between George Floyd and what is happening in Minnesota and other cities as I write this. But did you know this Sunday (May 31st, 2020) is also Pentecost Sunday? What does Pentecost, though, have to do with George Floyd and current events 2,000 plus years later from that historical event?
But as God keeps reminding me of in this interaction with Peter, following Jesus is not about making our lives comfortable, convenient, or experiencing spiritual highs all the time. It is about growing up, becoming mature in our faith, being stretched by our faith in uncomfortable ways, and living a life of sacrifice and service like the One we claim to follow.
These scenes remind me of passages right out of the bible. But I am not talking about the ones where God himself tells us he is with us. I am not diminishing those promises at all, but what I want to focus on in this blog is the fact that not only is God with us, but so are angels and other saints, both past and present. We are part of a much larger community and spiritual family than we often realize or remember. And it is this message that we are not alone that I believe needs rediscovered today.
One of the things contemporary cultural Christianity rejects or tries to ignore, downplay, explain away, or not honestly wrestle with is the fierce and wild judgment of God found throughout Scripture. Not only do we reject or ignore it, but we seem embarrassed by it. Because of that, we overemphasize God’s love to the exclusion of talking about his judgment and justice. In this article, however, I want to address the reality of judgment and speak directly to it. I want to make the case that God’s fierce judgment is a significant part of and evidence of his passionate love. Further, I want to make the case that the reality of God’s judgment is something the American church needs to hear and reflect upon more deeply.
I believe what I am about to articulate addresses, perhaps, the single greatest crisis at the core of our current cultural issues. Let me state these two truths and then expand on them a little further: The greatest current cultural, political, religious, societal, personal, family, organizational, leadership, ministry, social media crisis at present is a crisis of emotional intelligence. We are allowing our emotions to control us, divide us, and destroy us in many unhealthy ways. Secondly, I have come to realize that my most significant and personal regrets, failures, and mistakes in life, leadership, ministry, and relationships revolve around a lack of emotional intelligence, not so much spiritual depth or technical skill. The same is probably true for you too when you think about it!
This blog article is a call for all believers to recommit themselves to being disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples of Jesus Christ. If we are not doing this, we need to question whether we are truly living as disciples of Jesus. Even providing aid, combating issues like human trafficking, seeking justice for the oppressed, poor, widow, orphan, refugee, serving the most vulnerable, giving a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name are all worthy and noble causes that we are called to as disciples of Jesus. I, too, have a great passion for these things. But our primary calling is not a cause itself; but Christ himself. He alone truly transforms lives. Spiritual transformation is even noted by the atheist I quoted at the beginning of this article, as what is bringing real change to Africa.
In this brief blog post, I want to make a case for the biblical importance of hospitality and even issue a prophetic warning about closing our hearts and homes to especially others different than us. Hospitality or the lack thereof is one measure by which we can judge a culture, church, or self-professing Christian. Hospitality is one of the core character traits that are necessary when considering and selecting leaders (1 Timothy 5:10). Of all people, Christians should be the most hospitable of all and are in fact commanded to show hospitality without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9) and without fear (Hebrews 13:2).
In other words, it’s a lot of work, time and care to see anything of value grow and be sustained over time in a healthy, fruitful way! The same is so true most of all with our hearts and relationship with God. Sin, like weeds, springs up so quickly and easily, choking life and fruit. Our hearts are in constant need of the nutrients of God’s Word and the water of the Spirit. Our relationship with God also needs guarded, protected and tended to with time, care and effort.
Here’s the problem however for us: we want to understand with perfect clarity in the present what often only makes sense looking back. But as followers of Jesus, we need to come to a place of understanding that we won’t always understand everything right away…and that is ok! Part of what it means to follow Jesus is to submit to an authority higher than own, to One who sees a picture bigger than we see, who knows the end from the beginning, and whose ways are not our ways and thoughts not our thoughts.
We are living in the midst of a culture that is polarized, anxious and fearful. Even among Christians, there is a sense of insecurity and instability. In an age marked by the rejection of eternal, absolute, objective truth and one transcendent God; there is a corresponding lack of deep rooted trust, peace, security, confidence and stability.
Ironically, it might help to begin this post with something that could upset everyone on the two main political spectrum’s. First, the title of this article has probably already upset many of my conservative friends, as apparently 68% of white evangelicals believe that the US has NO obligation to accept immigrants. I find that revolting. However, this article, and my views, are not some left-wing liberal propaganda either.
While it would take too long to cover all aspects of what Jesus’ ascension means for us today, one of those aspects is that because Jesus is Sovereign over all, there is no greater authority above him. This is what gives us assurance, security and confidence in knowing that not only is God for us in principle and with us through his very presence in the person of the Holy Spirit, but he also possess all authority over every other authority that would threaten us, accuse us, condemn us or undo us.
The desert is a familiar place for the most anointed people and leaders and prophets of God! Of course the desert speaks of obscurity, hiddeness, dryness, uncomfortablness, challenge, danger, even isolation. Yet, this seems to be the place the Spirit of God himself leads his most trusted servants. It seems to be their “proving ground”, the place their character is forged, sharpened, and strengthened. It is the place they are tested and tried, and although feeling weak, emerge with a strength of spirit unrivaled by others who have grown up in more pleasant circumstances.
Part of the issue with our anxieties is also our expectations. When I am anxious about something, I want the cause of it to be resolved. I want solutions. I want my circumstances to immediately change or troubles to go away. I want his provision now for what I may actually only need later, which means I am really wanting to find security and certainty in the provision instead of the Provider. However, this is not what Jesus promised us. He has however, promised us his peace in the midst of situations that are not ideal as we pray.
“After 10 years of research, LifeWay states two things about maturity: 1. Bible engagement is the #1 spiritual discipline for growth. 2. Bible engagement affects every other discipline. People who engage the Bible give more, go more, & evangelize more. Read the Bible this year!” -Ed Stezter, Christians in the Age of Outrage
Jesus has called us as believers to bear fruit for his glory. We are expected to be effective and productive in our witness of him in this world. But bearing fruit and being effective requires a deep commitment and being intentional. It doesn’t just “happen” without effort, discipline and focus on growing in the very character traits Peter highlights above.
Faith becomes most real when trust has to be exercised in the midst of doubt, not because of lack of doubt.
So, what’s the deal with this promise of peace on earth? Why after so many years, if Jesus truly is the Prince of Peace, has peace not come or stayed? And it’s not just wars around the world between nations, it’s the fighting, conflicts and destructive wake of broken relationships we have all experienced and been contributors towards. Has this promise failed? Is Jesus who He claimed to be?
One of the devil’s main tactics is distraction. Often subtle, but extremely effective. And I am growing more and more convinced he is succeeding in distracting our current generation. We are daily inundated and over-stimulated with an unprecedented amount of information and sensory overload through technology, entertainment, activities, social media and media in general. We are a distracted generation…with studies showing an attention span that is less than a goldfish!
What if the biggest perceived inconveniences and interruptions in your life are really Divine opportunities?
Wrestling with what is wrong, must turn into working for what is right. Anger must turn to action that brings forth positive change. Bitterness must be replaced with mercy and grace. Being hurt must lead to becoming more compassionate and sensitive to others hurting or feeling unnoticed. And being upset about all the “un-Christ-like” Christians out there must lead me to becoming more like Christ myself not less.
God wants to do a new thing in your life. More than that, He delights in and finds great pleasure in doing new things! Did you ever stop to think about the power and joy of that reality? We hear and use the word “new” all the time, but take a moment to let the definition of the word “new” sink into your spirit in a fresh way. The word new speaks of bringing into existence something that has not existed before, or that is discovered for the first time.
Today, because of a family connection to the Graham family (Billy Graham/Franklin Graham), I was able to have a personal tour and meet some people at the headquarters of Samaritans Purse. It was fascinating (and a bit overwhelming!) to get a glimpse into what happens “behind the scenes” of a very large but effective non-profitContinue reading ““Do Whatever He Tells You””
He said that as he was looking at this picture it struck him that while that was an outward, visible and physical slum in a third world country, there are millions of people all around us right here in America who live in a very different kind of slum; a slum in fact that is not on the outside, but inside of themselves. A slum or poverty of the soul.
Marriage is meant to be one of the most profound and clear pictures of the kind of relationship God desires to have with us, and how it will be in eternity with him. Psalm 16:11 in fact says: “In your presence is fullness of joy and eternal pleasures forevermore.” Sex in marriage is a foretaste of even greater joy to come in the presence of God. There are eternal pleasures that supersede any earthly pleasures. God is not a cosmic kill-joy, but a life-giving joy giver!
During this vacation, I started thinking about the waves of the sea and what lessons they might be able to teach us. Below are four life lessons of the waves.
It is up to each of us to discern distractions in our lives in each season of life. We all have a race to run that has been marked out for each of us by God. I recently recorded a little message about this on my podcast site (You can listen to it here: Keeping Focus). A race requires focus. And this race is not a sprint, but a marathon. We can’t simply have “spurts of passion” for God. We need to stay on the track he wants us to be on, not being distracted by other paths that might seem easier, more attractive or are of our own choosing, but are dead-ends.
I don’t know about you, but I know it’s true of me, and even Jesus’ first disciples, that it is easy to lose that sense of child-likeness. I know first-hand and in very deep ways, how easy it is to become cynical, jaded, even bitter, due to the disappointments, hurt and things you see or experience in dealing with people and in ministry on a very intimate level. Here are four ways Jesus calls us to become more childlike.
We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. -Hebrews 6:12 This is not an easy article for me to write. I hate waiting. I live in a culture that is also very fast-paced, expects immediate gratification and is results oriented. IContinue reading “God is not in a Hurry”
There is such a big difference between us setting out to “work for God”, versus God doing his work in us and through us! God is not looking for us to work for him. However, he is looking for worshippers through whom he can do his work! (John 4:23).
The other day, a friend of mine wrote me an e-mail requesting that I write an article about something he struggles with (along with anyone else, I think, who has seriously thought about it): truly surrendering your life to God. Why is surrendering our lives to God and his will such a struggle? I believeContinue reading “The Real but Irrational Struggle of Surrender”
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followedContinue reading “Come, Follow Me”