Posts Tagged ‘#FullLife2017’

The Best Response? Worship!

September 13, 2017

As I’ve written over the past several days, there are a lot of events going on right now which leave people wondering, ‘What is going on?’

We usually answer that question by pondering one of these…

  1. Are these all mere coincidences?
  2. Are they all caused by man, and therefore solved only by man? or
  3. Is God trying to get our attention–either by sending these calamities, or by removing His protection and ‘allowing’ them?

It will be no surprise to you that I think that the third answer is the ‘correct’ one, and I invite you to read the last few blogs to find out why.

But that leaves us with a question, ‘How are we to respond?’

The immediate personal response is what I wrote about in the last couple of days…but what are we to do, moving forward?

Whether these tumultuous events continue, or whether we go into a period of relative calm, how are we to ‘Move On’?

I believe that the best way to respond is in WORSHIP.

That’s right–worship–‘to revere, respect or admire a ‘divine being’; to devote oneself to something or someone’.

I believe that the only appropriate response to all this is to worship the Lord more fully and completely.

‘How’, you might ask, ‘does that change anything or help with any of these calamities’?

 

First, to really ‘worship’ the Lord means embracing the calling to take our focus off of our trials and tribulations, and lift our eyes above them–to the One eternal God.

Psalm 121:1-2:

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.”

It means we need to keep things in perspective.

Our trials–overwhelming and painful as they may seem–are temporary. Even if they last us for the rest of our lives, that is ‘temporary’. Eternity is longer!

Obviously, this requires faith…it takes faith to believe in eternity…life after death…a God who is ‘above it all’.

It also takes trust–Trust in that God, who is wise (wiser than we are), who is loving (therefore, is working for our good and His glory…no matter what), and a God who is powerful enough to use all of this world’s circumstances and to ‘redeem’ them, using them for His eternal purposes.

That’s what we’re assured of in Romans 8:28:And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

What is His purpose? His glory and our eternal good.

We have to remember–by faith–that He is using every circumstance–Hurricane, Typhoon, Earthquake, Drought, Wildfire, Mudslide, Sunspot–everything we’d call ‘natural disaster’–for His purposes.

We also have to remember–by faith–that He is using every trial–at work, in our marriage, with our money, in our health–every thing we think of as a ‘personal trial’–for His purposes.

..and this requires that we trust His purposes.

This is where many people go wrong…and it’s due to their ‘spiritual eyesight’.

Many people look at their circumstances in the foreground, with God behind those circumstances in the background, partially obstructed by those very circumstances. They wonder, naturally, why God seems small and powerless compared to those circumstances.

I believe that faith–transformative, Spirit-empowered faith–enables us to look at God in the foreground, so that our circumstances are in the background, seen through the grid of our faith and trust in Him.

When we do that, then we can trust Him over the circumstances.

That’s why the Apostle Paul would go on to write,

(Romans 8:31-39)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,

For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That is why, I believe that the BEST response–with all that in mind–is to worship.

Take my focus off of myself, off of my circumstances, and off of my temporary situation…and focus instead on the One True God, who is eternal, immortal, wise, loving, powerful, kind, and good.

As I do that, I then find the strength–by faith–with the correct perspective, to then deal more fully with the current reality–whether that be rebuilding my home or rebuilding my marriage, overcoming tragedy or overcoming trial.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Worship the Lord! Keep your eyes on Him, and gain strength to overcome!

The Bride In the White Dress

September 12, 2017

Very few events are more powerful and moving than a beautiful wedding.

That moment when the groom, the groomsmen, the bridesmaids, the Minister, and all are in position and ready. They turn and look to the back of the church.

The music changes…the bride’s parents stand…all in attendance stand…and they look back in anticipation.

The doors open, and The Bride enters, with her father!

Dressed in white, hair done ‘just right’, flowers in hand, beaming and ready for The Moment!

All are breathless as they watch her. Some smile, some are brought to tears…all celebrate The Bride, especially as she arrives at the front to take the hand of The Groom.

 

Weddings are truly beautiful events.

…but anyone who has been involved in one knows that the preparation for it has been enormous. For many couples, the preparation for the wedding can be intense and stressful.

All of the work that this Bride put into the preparation is important to her. She wants the event to be ‘just right’. She’s dreamed of this day. She’s looked forward to it. She wants it to be just right–for The Groom!

 

In the Scriptures, the Church of Jesus Christ–those who are Believers in Him, and who acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord–are His ‘Bride’.

…and this is the time of our preparation.

There will be a time when Jesus (The Groom) will come for His Church (The Bride), and there will be a celebration!

Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder:

“Praise the Lord!
    For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
Let us be glad and rejoice,
    and let us give honor to him.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
    and his bride has prepared herself.
She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.”
    For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.” (Revelation 19:6-9)

What has The Bride done to “make herself ready”?

She has prayed. She has worshiped. She has rid herself of all the junk that would hold not be appropriate for the wedding. She has endured opposition, persecution, and even death!

 

Imagine if that moment happened…the doors opened..and the bride showed up with mud all over her dress, her hair a mess, and boots on!

What a tragic mess that would be!

That bride needs to be ready!

Yet, some of us will not be.

Matthew 25:1-13:

“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids[a] who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’

“All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’

“But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. 11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’

12 “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’

13 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.”

Jesus says that we (the bridesmaids) need to “Keep watch”! We need to be ready!

What can we do to ‘get ready’?

Let me suggest 4 things:

  1. Receive His gracious self-sacrifice, by faith, as payment for your sins (Romans 3:23-34:)For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”
  2. Acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord. (Romans 10:9-11): If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”
  3. Throw off the stuff that stands between Him and us. (Hebrews 12:1): “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” and
  4. Worship Him with your life! (Romans 12:1):And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”

The Bride must be ready!

Don’t waste any more time! Prepare, Watch, and Pray!

Living In the Light of Eternity

September 11, 2017

I remember that day very well.

I heard on the radio on my way to the office that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. ‘What a tragedy’, I thought, ‘I hope there weren’t many people involved’ (the initial radio report was that a “small plane” had hit). Terrible accident.

I started a meeting with the rest of our staff when our phone started ringing…like crazy! Eventually we interrupted the meeting to pick it up, and my friend said, in a tense voice, “A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center!”

“I know”, I said, “We were just praying for them”.

“No”, the caller said, “a SECOND plane has hit the OTHER tower!”

At that moment, everything changed. We knew we were under attack.

If you’re old enough, you remember the rest of that day…in some ways, a blur…but specific details stand out.

I do remember getting several calls within the next hours from people asking us we we Pastors thought this was the beginning of WW III, and could this be the beginning of the end.

At first, I almost chuckled at that…but then I realized that people were really worried about it, and I needed to answer them in an educated, compassionate way.

Fast forward sixteen years.

The headlines on our newsfeeds (back then, we didn’t have ‘newsfeeds’), read about hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, earthquakes, floods…nuclear armament and threats of attack…

As I wrote yesterday, I think there IS something to pay attention to here! After all, Jesus said,

“Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’[a] They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

“When these things begin to happen, watch out! You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.[b] 10 For the Good News must first be preached to all nations.[c] 11 But when you are arrested and stand trial, don’t worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

12 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 13 And everyone will hate you because you are my followers.[d] But the one who endures to the end will be saved…

21 “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. 23 Watch out! I have warned you about this ahead of time!

24 “At that time, after the anguish of those days,

the sun will be darkened,
    the moon will give no light,
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the powers in the heavens will be shaken…

28 “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that his return is very near, right at the door. 30 I tell you the truth, this generation[k] will not pass from the scene before all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.” (Mark 13:5-13, 21-25, 28-31)

These, Jesus said, are the beginnings of the birth pains.

These are a warning.

These are to get our attention, and lead us to repentance and worship.

They are for our good!

Note that Jesus said “…when you see all these things taking place, you can know that {My} return is very near, right at the door…”

That’s why Jesus calls them ‘Birth pains’…like contractions which lead to birth.

However, we don’t know exactly how long they will last.

This, together with other Scriptures which have been or are being fulfilled, leads many Christians to think ‘This is the time He was talking about!’

Is that true?

Obviously, we can’t know ‘for sure’. However, I think they may be.

Here’s the thing: To an extent, it doesn’t matter–in this way:

We should ‘prepare’ as if His return is immanent, because it is!

He could come back any day!

…and this isn’t just your typical ‘live each day like it’s your last’ slogan…I’m talking about taking an active posture of readiness for His return.

Jesus continued,However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. 33 And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!” (Mark 13:32-33).

Peter wrote this:

Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, 12 looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. 13 But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.” (2 Peter 3:11-14)

Peter (and Jesus) say that it does matter how we live–if we are to be ‘ready’ and ‘alert’.

We should be living holy and godly lives…

It matters.

So, Christian: Are you paying attention? Are you watching, praying and ready? Are you repenting for any sin in your life, and making the changes necessary to worship Him fully–not just in word, but in lifestyle? Are you sharing the good news of the LIFE that is offered, through Jesus, to others?

For those of you who are not Christians, let me ask you: What will it take?

What do you have to see happen before you begin to realize that you’re not ready?
More trouble? More natural disasters? More ‘shaking of the earth’ and ‘signs in the heavens’?

I would encourage you to start to pray and ask Jesus to show you Himself, so that you can know…then turn to Him in faith and be saved from whatever the future holds!

The great news is that God loves you and wants to save you! Drop your guard and let Him!

 

What’s Going On?

September 9, 2017

Wow.

What a month it’s been!

Hurricane Harvey devastated large portions of Texas and Louisiana, and now Irma is getting ready to pummel Florida, after battering the Caribbean (now Hurricane Jose is up to a Category 4, following right behind Irma, but hopefully turning out to sea).  In addition to that, wildfires (which haven’t received nearly as much coverage) are burning at record rates across the west, from California to Oregon and Montana, have burned over 1.4 MILLION Acres!

Now we hear of major solar storms, we see that Mexico has suffered a major earthquake on the Pacific side, and Hurricane Katia is headed to the Gulf side.

In addition to this, information you may not have heard about is the drought in Africa, devastating floods in Asia, mudslides in South America, extreme heat waves in Europe…

There are 3 main responses to these events:

  1. Nothing to see here. The person who takes this approach says it’s the same as it’s always been, nothing new, we just have technology to know about it now and see it 24/7 on our t.v.’s. This person will continue on his/her merry way…as long as nothing happens near them.
  2. Climate Change is happening quickly! This person looks at these events and says, ‘See?! We’ve been saying for years that mankind has changed our climate and now we’ve finally seeing it! What we need to do is get rid of all greenhouse gases, and stop giving people the choice–everyone must join this!’ That person looks for the governments of the world to unite and require the people of the world to ‘get in line’ because the ‘only hope’ is a man-made solution.
  3. God is behind this. This person sees the ‘shaking of the earth, the heavens and the climate and sees God behind it…maybe in judgment, maybe in love…but He’s definitely doing something.

If #3 were the case, and it was on a global scale, as we’ve been seeing, we’d expect to see something in the Scriptures to back that up.

Hmm.

“Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.” (Matthew 24:4-8)

Beginning? More to come? Whoa!

And when you hear of wars and insurrections, don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place first, but the end won’t follow immediately.” 10 Then he added, “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and there will be famines and plagues in many lands, and there will be terrifying things and great miraculous signs from heaven.

12 “But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers. 13 But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.[c] 14 So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, 15 for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you! 16 Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you. 17 And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish! 19 By standing firm, you will win your souls.

20 “And when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived. 21 Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. Those in Jerusalem must get out, and those out in the country should not return to the city. 22 For those will be days of God’s vengeance, and the prophetic words of the Scriptures will be fulfilled. 23 How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. For there will be disaster in the land and great anger against this people. 24 They will be killed by the sword or sent away as captives to all the nations of the world. And Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles comes to an end.

25 “And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. 26 People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then everyone will see the Son of Man[e] coming on a cloud with power and great glory.[f] 28 So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”

(Luke 21:9-28)

Wars…rumors of wars…earthquakes…famines…plagues…strange signs in the heavens…roaring seas, strange tides…

Check!

Now, again…some will say ‘those things have always been here…nothing is new here’.

Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”

They deliberately forget that God made the heavens long ago by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:3-9)

…and THIS is the point!

It is my conviction that God is using all of these events–in unison–to bring us to humble ourselves and repent!

He is extending his hand of love to us, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance and LIFE, in Jesus!

We have taken Him for granted, then ignored Him, then claimed He was dead, then defied Him…our nations are like the people in Babel (Genesis 11), thinking we have all the answers, ourselves. ‘We don’t need God, we don’t want God. We can do it ourselves’ has been the mindset of our age.

I believe that this has caused Him to remove His hand of protection, and we’re reaping what we’ve sown.

Will it get worse?

I hope not…but I think so.

For those of you who are skeptical, let me ask you: What would it take for you to pay attention? What would have to happen in order for you to think ‘there may be something to this’?

Earthquakes in unusual places? Something happen to our water sources? Military actions? Terrorism?

Wouldn’t it be better now to humble ourselves and repent?

After all, what are we resisting?

The loving care and direction of God our Creator! Life…to the Full, in Jesus the Christ!

I continually pray for protection. I pray that God moves these storms and intervenes to break them up. I pray that the calamities cease. Yet, I also pray that my friends and neighbors, my countrymen and the citizens of this world will repent of their stubborn pride, their sin, and receive forgiveness and LIFE, through Jesus!

If you’re already a believer, join me in praying for that, and make sure that you are repenting of your own stubbornness, pride, sin…and that you are loving Him and worshiping Him and seeking Him more…as I am!

God wants to love us…let’s let Him!

Moving Forward, Conclusion: Keep Seeking!

August 25, 2017

What will keep you ‘Moving Forward’, spiritually?

What will actually lead you to ‘Full Life’ in Jesus Christ?

After all, if all we do is start, but we don’t continue, that’s a failure!

In this blog series, we’ve talked about ‘Moving Forward’ by getting rid of the garbage in our lives, and we’ve talked about Moving Forward by focusing on/making room for the Good Stuff…but how do we keep moving forward?

Think about any journey you’ve taken…or any trip you’ve planned…or any strategy you’ve developed–there’s always a destination, a goal.

What is the GOAL of the Christian life?

To be sure, there are lots of things to do…lots of ‘spiritual activities’ to prioritize.

Time in the Word of God, consistent involvement in church, serving others in His name…

But that’s not the ‘goal’. Those are steps along the way.

…and, if we’re not careful, they can become ‘religious hoops’ that we jump through, with no real sense of purpose. In those cases, they become ‘obligations’…lifeless ‘duties’ we follow, hoping that one day we’ll ‘get it’.

What, then, is the Goal of the Christian life?

What is the ‘pursuit’ that gives your life direction, meaning and clarity, as a Christ-follower?

I think it has to be this: to Seek God.

Now some are thinking ‘wait…I’ve already found Him!’, and in one sense, you’re correct. If you are a born-again believer in Jesus, then you have ‘found’ Him.

However, that is not the end, but the beginning.

‘Finding God’ in the sense of becoming a believer, being ‘born of the Spirit’ (see John 3:3-6) is like your birth-day. You don’t stop living after that!

Many of us, children of God by faith in Jesus, have forgotten that.

We’ve been ‘born again’, and we’re headed for heaven, but we’re sort of in a ‘holding pattern’ here. We’re stalled. We’re waiting…we’re certainly not ‘moving forward’.

Why is that?

Because, in many respects, we’ve stopped ‘seeking Him’.

In Jeremiah 29, the prophet has a message for those in exile. He wants them to know that it won’t always be that way. There will be a time when God will restore them.

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

They were originally placed ‘in exile’ because, as a nation, they had been unfaithful to God. They had taken Him for granted, they had intermarried and begun to worship the ‘gods’ of the nations around them. He’d warned them and called them back, but they’d only responded half-heartedly, and had continued on their misguided path.

So, they were experiencing what He’d promised them: the Discipline of the Lord.

Now, He was promising them that one day, they’d be restored.

What would be the key?

They would begin to “seek Him with all their heart” (29:13)

In Hebrews 11, we’re reminded of a similar thing: without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Seeking God, it seems, is pretty important…and we can’t do it with half our hearts, a portion of our minds, and a fraction of our behavior. We need to seek God COMPLETELY!

Fellow Christian, are you ‘stalled’ in your faith?

Are you in ‘neutral’?

If so, let me just ask you: Are you Seeking God…for real?

Here @ KCC, we talk about ‘Relentlessly pursuing an ever-deepening relationship with God’.

By that, we mean to say that, no matter who I am, no matter how long I’ve been a Believer, I know that there’s more. I know that my loving Father is inviting me to go deeper, to know Him more, experience Him more…and we want to go there.

What about you?

When was the last time you really fell on your knees to ‘SEEK God’ with all your heart?

Now is the time…Today is the day…This is the hour!

Cry out to Him and ask Him to renew and revive you! Ask Him to bring you deeper…and to keep you moving closer!

Do not settle for ‘what has been’…seek Him more!

He wants to ‘Start a Fire’ within you…and keep it burning!

Will you let Him?

Moving Forward, Part 2: The Good Stuff

August 24, 2017

“Let us throw aside every weight, and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

In yesterday’s blog, we considered how the principles in that verse apply to our Physical, Financial, and Vocational health. (Go here to read: https://pastordajo.com/2017/08/23/moving-forward-part-1-throwing-out-the-garbage/).

We realized that, IF we are going to actually ‘Move Forward’ and make real progress in these areas, it can’t be done by merely increasing some positive elements–like starting to exercise, or adopting a budget, as important as those are.

If we really want to ‘Move Forward’, we simply must ‘Throw out the Garbage’.

How does this apply to our Spiritual lives?

For the Christ follower, it means constantly embracing the mindset that John the Baptist adopted when he said, plainly, “He (Jesus) must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30, NIV).

I need to be willing to identify, and eliminate…turn my back on…repent of the sins that I’ve been committing in my life, telling myself that ‘I can’t seem to find victory’ in those areas, and getting too comfortable with them. We must also be willing to set aside the habits and practices that are simply holding us back…even if they are not ‘sin’, in and of themselves.

Spiritually speaking, God is always inviting us closer.

He always wants us–as His children through our faith in Jesus Christ–to move closer to Him. He is the perfect, loving, gracious Heavenly Father who has no ‘ill-will’–zero–toward us. He isn’t too busy, He isn’t too crabby, He isn’t too stressed, and He isn’t too tired for us. He always has time for us–as His children–to come closer. He constantly invites us in. That is His character. He is the PERFECT Father.

Here @ KCC, we talk a lot about “Relentlessly pursuing an ever-deepening relationship with God”–and He wants us to!

With that in mind, think of this scenario:

A child has been adopted into a good home, where the Father is a loving, attentive, present, and in all ways healthy Father figure. He wants, more than anything, for this new child to know that they are welcome in to the family. They have been given all the rights of family members, they have access to the Father, they are invited to sit at the table for family meals, etc.

Imagine that child finding this too good to be true, and therefore–in order to protect themselves emotionally–they refuse to accept it. Day after day they refuse to speak to the Father, they refuse to eat at the table, they refuse the Father’s invitations.

If things stay this way, this child will never really ‘know’ the Father’s love–not because it’s not there or it’s not real–but because they refuse to drop their guard, adjust their agenda, and receive the Father. In this case, the Father’s heart is broken because He knows this child is precious to Him, and He wants the child to ‘know’ and ‘rest’ in that love.

When you and I–as believers in Jesus Christ–make the decision to continue in some sin, or to continue to shut down the promptings of God (through the Holy Spirit) to spend time with Him in prayer, worship, studying the Word, etc…when you and I choose the distractions of this world over closeness/intimacy with God, we are acting like that child.

We will never really ‘experience’ God’s love at its fullest if we continue to busy ourselves with the distractions of this life. C.S. Lewis wrote,

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”–C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

It really does come down to this: Do you really believe that God–your Heavenly Father, through Jesus–loves you? Do you believe He has ‘Full Life’ in store for you? Do you believe that growing closer to Him will lead to blessing–in this life, and in eternity?

Conversely, do you believe that ‘you know better’ than Him? Do you believe that this world is where you ‘belong’? Do you believe that the stuff of this life is ‘the Best there is’?

Your answer to those questions will determine whether or not you are willing to replace the ‘garbage’ with The Good Stuff–God’s best.

…and that will determine whether or not you will continue to ‘Move Forward’.

Ultimately, if you want to ‘Move Forward’, spiritually, you and I must Throw out the Garbage, and replace it with The Good Stuff.

God knows The Good Stuff. He wants it for you…because He Loves you!

Moving Forward, Part 1: Throwing Out the Garbage

August 23, 2017

Many times in our lives we find ourselves ‘stuck’.

We want to Move Forward in a particular area, but find that we are not able to.

For you, it may be a weight-loss goal…for others,  it’s financial progress…for some, it may be a vocational or educational milestone you’re trying to reach.

All of us, at some points, find ourselves ‘stuck’ and making little or no progress.

This realization, although concerning, is also important…because once we realize we’re ‘stuck’, we then wake up to that fact.

What we do next becomes very important.

Will we seek to get used to it as a ‘new normal’, or will we do whatever is necessary to shift into another gear and move forward? It’s up to us–individually–to decide.

Take weight loss.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve lost 26 pounds…mostly due to much more consistent exercise. My diet has not really changed much. I still eat cookies, I still eat chips, etc. (True, I do not eat as many, especially not at any one time, but I do still indulge in these things.)

Here’s the problem: my weight loss has stopped. I still want to lose at least 10 lbs, and my progress has stalled.

Now, it’s up to me: Is this goal important enough to actually change my diet? Will I decide to eat even fewer sweets, chips, etc.? Will I ‘pass’ on the bacon? Will I increase vegetable intake even more?

It’s up to me to decide.

Similarly, many of us make financial progress…we begin to get ‘on top of’ our finances, to the point where we’re not living ‘paycheck to paycheck’ any more…but just barely. There’s wiggle room, so the constant pressure is now off.

That’s good. That’s progress.

However, in order to take the ‘next steps’ and go further to begin to gain actual financial security, and to build wealth, we will need to decide: Am I willing to do more? Am I willing to cut the cable for awhile, stop going out to dinner, etc….in order to build up an ‘Emergency Fund’, and invest in savings?

It’s up to you.

In both cases (and many more), we need to decide: Am I ready to Throw Out the Garbage?

Am I ready to get rid of the excess and begin to actually take charge of this situation?

Am I ready to go beyond ‘losing some weight’, and actually become healthy?

Am I ready to go further than ‘avoiding crises’, to actually become financially secure…and even generous?

If so, we must be willing to ‘throw out the garbage’…to eliminate the distractions and the stuff–which may not be ‘wrong’, per se–but which is definitely holding us back. We must lay aside that extra stuff if we really want to move forward.

The writer of Hebrews wrote, “Let us throw aside every weight, and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

We’ll consider what this means in our spiritual life tomorrow, but for now, consider what it means in your Physical health…your Financial health…your Educational or Vocational life…

What do you need to ‘throw aside’–which may not be ‘sin’, per se, but is definitely holding you back?

Remember, Jesus said that He came to give His followers, ‘Life…to the Full’ (John 10:10).

That means life…the way God means it to be lived…in every area.

That’s right…Jesus even cares about your financial life, your physical health, your vocational life…all of it.

So pray about it!

Have the courage to ask “Lord Jesus, is there something you want me to ‘lay aside’ in order to experience Full Life the way you want me to? If so, show me, Lord!”

It may be that there’s ‘garbage’ in your life that you need to dispose of…and once you do, you’ll take major steps forward!

Are you ready?

Let’s Move Forward!

Continuing the Fight…for what is right!

August 19, 2017

The above clip, from Remember The Titans (GREAT movie about MUCH more than football), challenges the athletes at TC Williams High School in Virginia to ‘take a lesson from the dead’, and to conquer the battle with prejudice within…a battle that many gave their lives in during the battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War.

I remember the first time I saw that movie, I explained to my kids that the events of the movie (based on a true story), happened in 1971…when I was 9 years old. In other words, this kind of prejudice was still in existence in my lifetime.

It was hard for my kids to believe.

So, fast forward to 2017…and the words of the movie clip still ring true:

“50,000 men died right here on this field, fighting the same fight that we’re fighting amongst ourselves…”

How can this be true? How can there STILL be people who judge by the external color of skin?

Because hatred dies hard. Prejudice, once learned is easy to pass on and difficult to root out.

I remember around that time that I went to a parochial school where I had a few black classmates, Tony, Craig, Nancy, Jerome and Darryl were with me some or all of my 1st–8th grade years. I genuinely loved them as friends, but even so, I had no idea the kind of feelings they must have dealt with every day, walking into a school where they we outnumbered about 95% to 5%.

When, as is almost inevitable, middle school boys teased about the things that made them ‘different’ (as middle school boys often do), it must have felt humiliating…but they were powerless. They needed someone from the 95% to stand up for them. Did I do it? I don’t remember. I do remember being good friends with them, and genuinely enjoying each other.

Did we ever talk about it? Nope.

I wish I would have. I wish I could see then what I see now…that we’re STILL needing to fight this battle with racism, as amazing as that is…and that it is partly MY responsibility to speak out against it, as one in the ‘majority’ class.

In particular I, as a born-again Christian–who has been ‘adopted’ into the family of God, along with all others–of all races, nationalities and origins–by faith in Jesus Christ, need to understand that externals like race DO. NOT. MATTER!

What matters is that we are created in the image of God!

“then God said”Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…so God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them…” (Genesis 1:26-27)

Guess what?

Hatred still finds root in the heart of human beings.

Prejudice is still and issue in our nation, even after all these years.

…and we–the ‘majority’ class–still have a responsibility to speak out against it.

Whether we’re the President of the United States, the Pastor of a local church, or the guy in the lunchroom at work or at school.

We MUST keep pushing prejudice aside, keep affirming love, and keep fighting the fight so that one day all men (and women) will be treated equally–and in the words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”

I could quote the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, but I think he said it best…

Work It Out!

August 17, 2017

“So work out your salvation…”

We know that ‘salvation’–that new life that God has given us, through faith in Jesus Christ–is only By His Grace (Ephesians 2:8-10, John 3:1-17)…so what, exactly, does it mean to ‘work it out’?

Depending on the version of the Bible you’re reading, the Scriptures say it this way: Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.” (Philippians 2:12)

Show the results of your salvation.

What are the results of our salvation?

They are freedom from the power of sin, freedom to follow the Lord’s will and live out the faith He’s called us to, freedom to experience “Life…to the Full” as Jesus promised (John 10:10).

It is for our good, and it is the ability to live life, the way it was meant to be lived!

How does it work?

It requires me to submit to God’s work within me…to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, who’s busy helping me conform to the lifestyle of following Jesus. As the Scripture continues…For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 2:13)

It is for my good, and for His glory!

Too often we buy into the mindset which says ‘I know better’ than God.

I know better than Him what is for my good…I know better than Him what will satisfy…I know better than Him what leads to freedom, peace, joy…and in each and every case, we’re wrong. We don’t know better.

Therefore, the best way to the best life is for me to willingly submit myself to His will, as revealed in His Word, in every area of life. To ‘show the results of my salvation’ in everything.

Make no mistake: God has all the power necessary to enable us to change our lives. He has everything He needs to lead us into a new lifestyle, new relationships, new approaches to our work, school, finances, health….everything!

That’s the great news.

Our challenge is to ‘work it out’ by cooperating with Him. Trust Him. Learn and submit to His Word, in every area of life.

When we finally make the choice to do that, everything changes for the better!

So ‘work it out’ by willingly, enthusiastically submitting to Him, today!

 

 

Remind Me, Father…

August 10, 2017

Heavenly Father, Remind me…

That my future is in Your hands…

That my significance comes from You…

That You know the best plans for my best life…

That I need not fear…

That my finances are not my security…

That my job is not my identity…

That my calling comes from You…

That You love me without fail…

That Your grace is sufficient for me…

That Your power is made perfect in my weakness…

That You give me the strength I need for any challenge…

That You will walk with me through any trials…

That You lead me on to victory, as I seek You first.

That my enemy comes to mess everything up, but that Jesus leads me to Full Life!

Father, remind me of these things, for your glory, in the name of Jesus.

Amen!

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