The Storms are Raging!

Oh.

My.

Goodness!

As I sit here on a Friday afternoon I take a quick look at the news headlines:

Politically, there are Special Prosecutors, accusations of double standards against President Trump, accusations of Double standards in favor of the President, Democrats against Republicans…Immigration…Economy…Taxes…you get the idea.

In other news, there’s graphic video of the violence in New York City which has hit very close to home, in Portage. There are assaults on Police, there are trials in which is seems as if Police who went way over the line have only received a slap on the wrist…there’s division within families and turmoil, protests, and so on.

Internationally, there are countries like Venezuela, Brazil and Greece which are descending into chaos. President Trump is about to make a trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel, while tensions in that part of the world are extremely high, with militaries from many nations are very close together. It seems as though one ‘spark’ could ignite an explosive situation there.

As I look through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I see that there is conflict, stress, and controversy everywhere. Some people I love and value deeply are taking sides on these issues that others I love and value are strongly against, and arguments ensue, fomenting more division and discord.

So, what am I to do?

What are we all to do?

Sure, I could say that we should all just ‘get along’ and ‘be nice and civil’ to each other…and it’d be legit.

It’s true–the tenor of ‘discussion’ in our culture right now has taken a decidedly negative turn, and we’ve forgotten how to ‘discuss’ things respectfully, and how to ‘agree to disagree’. So yes, we should all ‘chill’ a bit and stop attacking those who disagree with us as though they were a special class of moron who does not deserve the respect that we, on ‘our side’ do. I could encourage love and respect–for the good of our families, our nation, and our world…and I’d be right.

However, I’m going to be honest with you: This is one blog in which I am specifically talking to those who claim to be Christ followers. If you’re reading this right now and you do not view yourself that way, you are certainly welcome to keep reading, but you need to know that I’m not talking primarily to you.

See, we who call ourselves Christians are supposed to think and act differently.

I’m not simply saying that we should be ‘the nicest’ and ‘get along’ the best.

I’m talking about living with eternity in mind, focusing on the things that will last…forever!

Let’s be honest: Most of the things that I listed at the beginning of this blog–the things that we’re getting all worked up about and have driven wedges into families, marriages, workplaces, etc.–those things–they don’t measure up.

They will not last.

Let me simply remind my fellow believers in Jesus of a few things:

Matthew 22:37-40:

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

So, fellow Christian: Is the stuff that you’re arguing about…and the way you’re arguing about it…measuring up to that?

How about this?

1st Peter 2:11-12:

“Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.”

Don’t get me wrong: I know that the issues going on in our world are important. I know that God has, in His sovereign wisdom, placed you and I into a country in which we have a right, and a responsibility, to influence our political leaders, policies, etc.

I’m simply saying that we–as a general rule–have ‘bought in’ way too much to our here-and-now controversies, rather than to living with the eternal kingdom of God in mind.

And that’s a mistake…of Biblical proportions.

Instead, I believe that now–here in the midst of our drama–is the time for the Church to rise above the noise and to SHINE like never before! In fact, I believe that is precisely God’s charge to us in this time of global turmoil and individual drama.

As the world gets darker and more tumultuous, the ‘bride of Christ’ must shine more radiantly.

If that is going to happen, we must ‘push back from the drama’ and get our minds and hearts right. This means that prayer, worship and the word of God must become our focus again. We must be ready for things to get worse…and to take that opportunity, in the power of the Spirit, to point people to Jesus in how we live.

Here’s the thing: That will never happen as long as we get mired in the chaos of the here and now!

God is working out His plan…and a big part of that plan is for His people, the Church, to shine!

In the Eye of the Storm, remember: HE is in control!

Live like you believe it!

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Passionate…for What?

Passion…the ‘zest’ in life, the energy behind what we do, the ‘umph’ to get us up and pursuing something when it’s not convenient.

If you have Passion for something, you will ‘go after it‘. You will dedicate yourself to pursuing it.

Oftentimes, our ‘passions’ are for things like goals–a degree, a level of income, an athletic accomplishment, a diet, etc.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “Passion” this way: “Any kind of feeling by which the mind is powerfully effected or moved; a vehement, commanding, or overpowering emotion”. 

So, let me ask you: What are you ‘passionate’ for?

Anything?

I, for one, want to be most “Passionate” for Jesus.

Around KCC, I have talked for a few years about developing a mindset in which we “Passionately, Relentlessly pursue and ever-deepening relationship with God”.

Sounds good! Many churchgoers would sign on to that…no matter what church they go to.

So...why do so few of us ever get anywhere near this goal? Why do we find our ‘success’ so sporadic and hard to maintain?

I think there are several reasons: Distractions from the ‘stuff’ of this world; a ‘Religious’ mindset which attempts to convince us that ‘passion for God’ is too emotional and therefore, overrated; and, of course, our spiritual enemy, the devil who is the thief, who comes to ‘steal, kill, and destroy’ everything that God wants to do within His children.

Fortunately, we are not powerless in this. Passion for God can be developed, and in fact, it is something God wants to stir within His children–without doubt!

So, how about it: Do you have ‘Passion’ for God? Is your faith in Jesus driving you to ‘hunger and thirst’ for Him more?

As the Psalmist wrote,

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2)

Do you have ‘thirst’ for God–do you ever feel ‘parched’ for a fresh connection with Him?

There are few things better than a cool drink of water (with a squeeze of lemon, perhaps) after a long run, or working hard in the yard, or a game of basketball in the driveway. But think about it: Part of the reason that drink satisfies is because we know we’re thirsty!

Our bodies, our brains…everything…is telling us that we need refreshment!

I believe that, for many of us, the Holy Spirit is telling us the same thing: We NEED refreshment in our faith!

We need a fresh ‘filling’ of the Holy Spirit, and we need to ‘drink in’ our faith in the Lord again.

Are you thirsty for Him?

I am!

The Apostle Paul prayed this for the Ephesians:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3: 16-19)

This desire to “know this love that surpasses knowledge” and being “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”, is still my prayer…for myself, for my family, for our church, and for all believers.

I absolutely believe that the Lord still wants that as part of the “Full Life” that Jesus came to give His followers (John 10:10).

So, don’t move too quickly from that question: Are You ‘thirsty’ for Him? Do you have a ‘passion’ for Him? Are you ‘relentlessly pursuing an ever-deepening relationship’ with Him?

If not, don’t rationalize it, don’t excuse it away.

Instead, realize that maybe–just maybe–you’ve developed passion for the wrong stuff!

Ask Him to begin stirring up a passion to know Him more within your heart.

He certainly wants to…but He won’t force it on you. He awaits your request.

Join me as I seek Him more!

 

 

Playing for the Wrong Audience

The Wrong Tune…

There’s a great scene in the old Blues Brothers movie (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) where they ‘substitute themselves’ for the band which has been scheduled at a rough country bar. They come out with their typical (and great, imo) ‘blues’ intro and are greeted by…crickets. Nothing. No welcome, no applause. It quickly goes spirals downward and bottles begin to be thrown at them. They realize that they’re playing to the wrong crowd, and change their music to fit the audience. (The ‘Stand By Your Man’ song is comic genius!)

The Wrong Audience…

I was reading the Gospel of John today and I realized that there were those who ‘played to the wrong audience’ there as well.

Specifically, in John 12:42-43 says, Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.”

These people were leaders.

They had seen the works that Jesus did (in John 11, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead!) He had cast out demons, restored sight to the blind, healed the leper, enabled the lame to walk, multiplied loaves and fishes to feed a great number of people…

They had seen all this, and heard His teaching–as one with actual ‘authority’ and understanding.

That’s why they had come to believe in Him.

But rather than changing their tune to get in line with their newfound faith, they hid that faith, and ‘played to the wrong audience’–the Pharisees.

They knew (rightly) that going all-in and declaring their faith in Jesus would mean getting excommunicated from the synagogue. They knew it would cost them, socially, financially, emotionally and relationally.

They refused to make that choice.

…and from the writing of the Gospels until today, everyone who reads these verses knows that their refusal to align themselves with Jesus was out of fear. Fear of the cost.

Make no mistake: The Fears were very real.

However, those fears were allowed to keep them away from Jesus, and therefore, their fears won the battle. Their ‘faith’ succumbed and was defeated (at least at that time).

We Get Confused…

Today, there is still a cost to follow Jesus. In fact, I believe that cost is increasing and will continue to do so, rapidly–even in our culture.

There is–and will be–increasing pressure to deny our faith, or at least to ‘keep quiet about it’ out of fear.

Fear of being ‘exposed’ as a Bible-Believing Christian, fear of being ‘labeled’ in a negative way, even (in the not-too-distant-future) fear of being pressured to conform to govt. policies which directly go against our allegiance to Jesus.

There will be a cost!

Those ‘fears’ are real!

So, what will we do?

Will we ‘play to the wrong audience’, or will we stand boldly, consistently and faithfully, and declare that Jesus IS Lord and Savior, no matter the cost.

Time to Stand…and Shine!

In fact, I believe that this will be one of the best times for The Church in America!

I believe that we will SHINE like stars in the night sky, the radiant Bride of Christ…IF we worship Him fully, and are willing to pay the costs.

By His grace, in His strength, I Will Stand!

Will you stand with me?

#IStandWithJesus

This Is What I Was Made For…

This is what I was made for…

To raise my hands to you in worship,

To give you the glory You deserve,

To give my whole heart.

 

This is what I was made for…

To lose myself in Your love,

To revel in Your care for me,

To bathe in Your unending grace.

 

This is what I was made for…

To bow down to the Father,

To give my utmost praise to the Son,

To be overwhelmed by the presence of the Spirit.

 

You, oh Lord, call me deeper. You call me higher.

You invite me into your presence, and gaze at me with loving eyes.

I revel in Your love for me,

I soak in everything You’ll give.

I return love to you, and my heart expands.

The more I express, the more I receive.

Your love, O Lord, is amazing! It is beyond words.

You, the God of all, love me?!

It is too much to comprehend.

My life is finally found in You.

Full Life…Eternally Life…REAL Life is in You!

 

I praise you with a full heart.

Every fiber of my being exalts Your name!

You, my Lord, are worthy.

 

This is what I was made for…

To know You, to love You, to worship You.

 

This Is what I was made for…

To give myself fully to You.

 

This is what I was made for…

Me, personally…to find myself in You.

 

This is what I was Made for…

Created to be Yours.

To know You and be known by You.

To lose myself in Your presence.

To glory in Your love.

To worship You with everything I am.

 

May You, or Lord, know my heart and my mind.

May You know the depth of my love.

My I give everything I am to You, today and every day.

 

This is what I was made for!

 

 

Our Response

“God’s kindness is intended to lead us to repentance.” (Romans 2:4)

We often mistake the kindness of God to mean that it really doesn’t matter to Him what we do.

We take His grace and mercy for granted, and assume that we can just ‘do what we want’ and we’ll be forgiven later.

As the phrase goes ‘Better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission’.

Yet, God takes our sin very seriously.

In fact, He takes it seriously enough that He sent Jesus to die for our sin.

That’s pretty serious!

Therefore, when we think of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness, it should lead us to repentance–to getting right with God, and eliminating anything standing between Him and ourselves.

There are 3 main kinds of attitudes or actions we do toward the Lord for which we should repent:

Neglect. (Taking His love for granted, and not spending enough time deepening our relationship with Him.)

Compromise. (Rationalizing ‘going along’ with the standards of our world or of unbelievers, while compromising His standards.)

Rebellion. (Openly defying a known standard–telling Him ‘No’, outright.)

These are 3 of the main ways we treat the Lord for which we should immediately acknowledge, confess to Him, and repent from–to turn back to His way.

Yet, these are the 3 things that we often rationalize and become desensitized to.

It was the same for the people of Israel.

Despite his massive, consistent work on their behalf, they would regularly Neglect Him, Compromise with the nations around them by intermarrying and eliminating the standards that He had for them, and then Rebel by worshiping other ‘gods’.

God would call them to repent, but they often would not.

On one occasion, the Lord warned, through the prophet Joel, of the impending ‘Day of the Lord’. He would send a locust plague upon them to devour everything and drive them back to Him.

“Before them the earth shakes,
    the heavens tremble,
the sun and moon are darkened,
    and the stars no longer shine.
11 The Lord thunders
    at the head of his army;
his forces are beyond number,
    and mighty is the army that obeys his command.
The day of the Lord is great;
    it is dreadful.
    Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:10-11)

This would be serious…but did you notice who was leading this plague?

“The Lord thunders at the head of His army…” God Himself was leading them!

Why would He do that?

Because He loves them!

Any responsible parent knows that there are times we must discipline our children–because we love them, for their good–even though it’s unpleasant for both them and us at the time.

If we don’t do it–if we simple ‘permit’ them to do whatever they want–we are not being ‘loving’ to them at all. We need to be the Parent, and to look out for their long-term good.

That’s what God was doing.

Yet, even then, as He warned them, He was inviting them back.

Come back, willingly. Turn around, willingly.

“Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
    and he relents from sending calamity.

14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
    and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
    for the Lord your God.” (Joel 2:12-14)

He was offering–even then–to them a chance to avoid this discipline…by turning back. Repenting.

In His love, He knew that the best thing for them was to turn back to Him…and He would rather they’d do that then to send His loving discipline.

What should be their response?

“Blow the trumpet in Zion,
    declare a holy fast,
    call a sacred assembly.” (Joel 2:15)

They needed to come together and seek the Lord. They needed to repent. They needed to pray. They needed to get rid of whatever Neglect, Compromise, or Rebellion which had caused the Lord to send His discipline.

So, what’s this mean for us?

 That we need to take our own Neglect, Compromise and Rebellion as seriously as He does.

And we need to get together, repent, confess, and seek His face.

Especially as the world grows darker and more hostile to Jesus, we–the people of God–must get rid of anything that is standing in the way of a vibrant and growing relationship  with Him!

I believe that He is calling the Church to SHINE, ever brighter–especially in contrast to the darkness–and that He will use us for His glory as we do so.

But We Will Never Do So if we’re not willing to get right with Him again.

Believer, Listen Up!

Times are serious! The Body of Christ must step up! It is time to shine!

But first…it’s time to come close to Him, in repentance, confession and worship.

Are YOU ready?