Jesus Doesn’t Play

When it comes to down to it, Jesus doesn’t play around concerning faithfulness. Read the following:

Matthew 11:20-24 NIV
Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. [21] “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. [22] But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. [23] And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. [24] But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

This passage implies the following:

1. There will be different levels of judgment dished out in the day of judgment (“…more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”).

2. The more miracles that a city witnessed, the stricter their judgment will be for rejecting Christ.

In other words, “to whom much is given, from him much will be required…” (Luke 12:48). I’m convinced that a significant population of Christians in America do NOT really believe, I mean REALLY believe, certain truths that are clearly revealed in Scripture. The existence of Satan, the eternal reality of Hell, the reality of demons, spiritual gifts, and the day of judgment are to name a few. Do you really believe that you, all by yourself, will stand before the Maker of the Universe and answer for your life? And if you really believed it, how would your life change on a daily basis? Would you be more generous with your words? Your money? Would you finally start tithing? Would you forgive that person? Would you start giving money to charities that can save starving children across the ocean? Maybe you would quit complaining about church and become part of the solution. Maybe you would quit finding fault with everyone and rather, choose to extend them the grace that you are so thankful for receiving from Christ. Would you finally dig/search the Scriptures as if your life, and others around you, depended on it? Would you quit wondering whether or not you heard God and finally take the leap of faith? Or maybe, you wouldn’t be so afraid of failure. Would you go back to school so you can end up one day doing the dream God has put in your heart for his glory? Would you obey Jesus and get baptized? Would you serve a person in need by doing their yard? Would you bless that widow by inviting her over for dinner? Or, maybe you would finally knock on your neighbors door and introduce yourself so that eventually, a spiritual conversation might ensue? Come on Christians, let’s jump. Let’s go for it! You live in America, the land of such spiritual opportunity and freedom. Yes, I, and you, will be held more accountable.

It’s Easy to Please God

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Do. Do. Do. Do. Do. Hurry. Do more. Do . Keep doing. Be productive. Run. You aren’t doing enough. Potential failure. Rest is waste. Emotional breathing irresponsible. Again, hurry! Do. Do. After all, you have to please God! Do. Do. Do.

STOP!

Be.

My son is a little over 7 weeks old today. I believe with all my heart in the power and authority I have in my son’s life. I am declaring my heart, God’s heart, God’s Word, God’s promises, etc. One of the things I have found myself continually whispering to him is, “I love you. You are my son.  I am proud that you are my son.. You do not have to do anything for me to be proud of you. I already am.”

Does not the following thought seem a little silly: If I do not do enough, if I do not perform good enough (in terms of quality or quantity), if I do not go faster and do more for God, then I fail. In the last 7 weeks, not once have I looked at Ezra and thought, “I can’t wait till he gets older so that he can mow my yard, clean this house, cook my meals, etc.” Now, I will definitely require certain things of him. That is what it means to be part of a family. Paul wrote, “For each one shall bear his own load” (Galatians 6:5). But, not for a minute is thereason for my son’s existence. Far from it. Matter of fact, if he in a few years starting believing that the main reason my wife and I brought him into this world was to help us doing things, this would absolutely crush my heart. Absolutely not! First and foremost, he is here for me to give my love to. I want him to know I love him, care for him, dream great things for him, and will sacrifice anything for his good. And in the end, I hope all of that brings him closer to me. I want intimacy. I want closeness. I want partnership. I want him to stay away from evil because it will destroy him. My goal is for my son to NEVER experience one moment in his entire life that he would doubt my heart toward him.

This being said, do you live like this as a Christian?

This morning, I read the April 21st devotion in Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost For His Highest. This is what I came across: “Let not your heart be troubled . . .” (John 14:1,27). Am I then hurting Jesus by allowing my heart to be troubled? . If I believe in Jesus and His attributes, am I living up to my belief? Am I allowing anything to disturb my heart, or am I allowing any questions to come in which are unsound or unbalanced? I have to get to the point of the absolute and unquestionable relationship that takes everything exactly as it comes from Him. God never guides us at some time in the future, but always here and now. Realize that the Lord is here now, and the freedom you receive is immediate.”

No wonder the ministry of Jesus was and is so powerful. He had nothing to earn and nothing to prove. He had already received everything he needed from Daddy. Don’t you remember? Right BEFORE his ministry began, God the Father spoke, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 NIV).

Just like my son Ezra, if you will simply be God’s kid today, your inner task master’s voice will grow quieter and quieter and quieter. Paul wrote, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16). In other words, when your spirit was married to God’s Spirit at salvation (1 Corinthians 6:17), he entered you. Now, his central role is to spend all day and all night singing into your spirit the following words: “You are God’s son/daughter. You are God’s son/daughter. You are God’s son/daughter. Just be.”

If you and I will do this, it will result in MORE doing and MORE fruit for Christ than we will ever have produced as people who primarily see ourselves as God’s slaves.

It’s easy to please God.

Psalms 106 Meditation

As mentioned in a previous blog, I have been reading the book, “Boundaries in Marriage,” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. The first part of the book was informative and good. However, the second part of the book is really challenging me. As I read the stories of these two Christian psychologists, it is becoming so very clear to me that I am not the husband I want to be. This is one of the major roles I fulfill in my life. I am God’s son, a husband, a dad, a pastor, an instructor, a friend, a citizen, and the member of a local church. All of these roles make up a significant piece of who I am as a Christian. There are not categories, no compartments, no isolated areas in a person’s life. My life is one big spiritual house before the Lord. Here is the basic struggle within me in every area of my life: whose needs will I put first? Mine or God’s? Mine or my wife’s? Mine or yours? If I am honest, there is a deep ache (i.e. longing, yearning, prayer, deep cry) in my heart to be more like Jesus today. I love Him, and that love is unsettling me this morning. I do not want to be a selfish person. I need God’s help. I need mercy. So many people spend their lives telling others about God’s mercy without ever coming to grips with their desperate need for it. Mercy is easy to preach and difficult to simply receive. Yet, it is our only hope.

Psalms 106 speaks of two things: (1) the failure of God’s people, and (2) the faithfulness of God.

The failure of God’s people exemplified in the following verses:

(6) “We have sinned.” (7) “They did not remember.” (7) “But rebelled.” (13) “They quickly forgot His works.” (13) “They did not wait for His counsel.” (14) “tempted God.” (19) “worshipped a molten image.” (21) “They forgot God their Savior.” (24) “They did not believe in HIs word.” (25) “grumbled in their tents.” (25) “They did not listen to the voice of the Lord.” (29) “They provoked Him to anger.” (33) “were rebellious against His Spirit.” (39) “they became unclean.” And the list goes on and on.

After reading the above list all mentioned in this single chapter, how did God respond?

(8) “Nevertheless, He saved them for the sake of His Name.” (9) “He led them.” (10) “And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.” (44) “Nevertheless, He looked upon their distress.” (44) “He heard their cry.” (45) “He remembered His covenant.” (45) “And relented.” (46) “He also made them objects of compassion.”

No wonder the psalmist ended this chapter with, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting. And let all the people say, ‘Amen’. Praise the Lord.”

There is hope because God is merciful, kind, and faithful, and will stay the course as we stumble through the process. I want to become like Christ. I want to help others become like Christ. I want my wife to experience Christ everyday when I go home.

Christians, the above should result in the following:

  • Hope in our heart that God is going to cultivate His Son Christ in our lives; we will mature!
  • A tender, loving patience toward people around us.
  • Worship due to how good God really is toward us.
  • A radical desire for intimacy. How can you not want to get closer to a Being that treats us like this?

Happy Easter! Oh the cross of Jesus that made all of the above possible!

“You Stopped Being a Son”

At RLM, we just finished up our annual Prophetic Conference. It was a very powerful time. For me personally, the Lord really took some time to speak some different things to my heart. You know, as Christians, we are always going around talking about how much we want Jesus to speak to us. We want direction for this, instructions for that, a yes or no for some particular question, and so on and so forth. And then there are those times he gives an answer to a question that we never actually asked. He really is still in the business of reading our hearts.

I had not realized how “cold” and “dry” my heart was until about a week ago. This is not a dark time in my life and I haven’t spend months or years in this spiritual place, but nonetheless, i noticed that not very much was “moving” my heart. It seems my faith had become a little more cerebral and much less passionate. When this happens to a person, one’s worship, love for the Word, desire to help others, generosity with time and money, and a host of others things wither.

The Psalmist wrote, “My heart…is withered like grass” (102:4).

The Psalmist wrote, “My soul clings to the dust” (119:25).

The Psalmist wrote, “My soul melts with heaviness” (119:28).

Every person’s spiritual bones get dry from time to time (Ezekiel 37). As of late, mine have been. It really started to concern me. I talked to the Lord about this. Now, part of this I know is the lack of sleep due to my wife and I’s newborn. Less sleep is the price you pay and it is totally worth it. However, not only have I been really run down, but I my routine of spending time with God in the morning by my window with a cup of coffee has gone out that same window. Things have been turned upside down. I am a firm believer that God gives you time and grace to adjust to new seasons. He has not been mad or frustrated at me at all. He is giving me space to learn and grow. Yet, that does not change the fact that my heart is missing him, his tangible presence, and the fuel that fills my inner tank.

In the midst of my heart growing a little cold and my bones getting a little dry, I did not realize something until the Lord whispered it to me during the conference. Here is what he spoke into my deep heart: “You stopped being a son.” OMG, he is right. It never occurred to me. Funny how sometimes, the person we understand the most and the least is ourselves. I knew my symptoms but I had no idea as to the source of my illness. But the Lord did, and he cared enough to show me in a loving way. He wasn’t mad, frustrated, or even sad. I sensed he was simply pointing something out so I could quickly get back on track. How ironic that in the midst of having our first son and the business of being a husband, father, pastor, and professor, I had gotten away from my core identity being, “I am God’s son.” When you exchange this identity for something else, even if for a short amount of time, coldness and dryness begin sneaking through the back window of your spiritual house. There is a chill in the air. You may be a good person, keep going to church, throw some money into a tithe bucket, help a person in need, or who knows what else. But your heart, the thing God wants to burn up with his presence and root in his love, goes into hiding. When the Lord spoke this convicting, wonderful word to my heart, I immediately had an ah-ha moment. You know when something is right. I knew he was right and was thrilled he showed me. I asked the Lord to get me back to that place in which the main song I hear beneath the surface of all of my everyday activity is, “You are my son. I love you. I accept you. I enjoy you. This is who you are. Do everything today with the peace and joy that results from knowing that the One who matters most is passionately in love with you and for you!”

Daddy God fixed my heart. He restored my center. John writes, “Yet to all who did receive him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NIV). We are all God’s creation, but only through Christ does one become one of his children. When you lose the sense of son-ship (or “daughtership”), you lose peace, joy, a deeper sense of vision behind what otherwise would seem very mundane, a drive to help others, and even your physical body can suffer additional fatigue.

If you have gone crooked as of late, hurry back to that center you were created to live out of: That you are God’s child and he loves you. When you move away from this, even for a day or week or month, things can dry up quickly. So come back to Dad, open your heart, and let him remind you that he did not save you to be a machine for his glory. He saved you to know him, love him, and rest in him. Anything you do for him will flow out of that and therefore, will be interwoven with the peace of trust rather than the sweat of self-effort and religion.

The Story of a Man, Woman, Dog, and a Goldfish

ImageI am currently reading a book entitled, Boundaries in Marriage, by two of the BEST Christian psychologists ever. Their names are Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend. Here is an excerpt from my reading today:

(Dr. Cloud) “I was talking to a young man one day about  his girlfriend. He was thinking about getting married, and he had questions about their relationship. Several times during the conversation, he said that something she did or something about the relationship did not ‘make him happy.’ It was clear that this was a theme for him. She was not ‘making him happy.’ When I asked, I found that she wanted him to deal with some things in the relationship. He needed to do some work that took effort. It was not a ‘happy’ time. When he had to work on the relationship, he no longer liked it. At first, I was trying to understand what the difficulties were, but the more I listened, the most i saw that he was the difficulty. His attitude was, ‘If I’m not happy, something bad must be happening.’ And his immediate conclusion was always that the ‘bad’ was in someone else, not him. From his perspective, he was not part of the problem, much less part of the solution. Finally I had heard about as much as I could take from his self-centered ramblings.

‘I think I know what you should do,’ I said.

‘What?’ he asked.

‘I think you should get a goldfish.’

Looking at me as if I were a little crazy, he asked, ‘What are you talking about? Why do you say that?’

‘It sounds to me like that is about the highest level of relationship you are ready for. Forget the marriage thing.’

‘What do you mean by the highest level of relationship?’

‘Well, even a dog makes a demand of you. A dog has to be let out to go to the bathroom. You have to clean up after it. Other times, it requires time from you when you don’t want to give it. A dog might interfere with your happiness. Better get a goldfish. A goldfish doesn’t ask for much. But a woman is completely out of the question.'”

Now for a few final thoughts.

  • The pursuit of happiness can be ultimately selfish (doesn’t have to be though) if you are not careful.
  • If you are single, what attitude will you take into marriage one day?
  • Single or married, will you and I TODAY must take responsibility for the selfish pieces of our heart/life? Be honest with yourself. We are invited to bring our selfishness to the cross of Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to begin cultivating in us the heart of Jesus which is SO other-centered. Jesus didn’t tell us to love others and ignore our own heart. On the other hand, he didn’t tell us to love ourselves and ignore others. In a brilliant tightrope maneuver, he instructed us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matthew 22:39). It is both/and, not either/or.
  • Don’t make any more excuses for bad and/or selfish behavior. Do not blame shift. Do not write things off as, “Well, that is just my personality.” Do you have not the Holy Spirit in you, or, is your personality something He has not interest in redeeming? The moral choices you make toward others, including the people closest to you, are not a personality issue. Your moral choices are not hard-wired. You really can hold your tongue if you love the person across from you. You really can keep your tone of voice down. You really can watch your language. You really can let someone besides yourself get the last word in. You really can admit you are wrong. You really can start growing today. What you excuse is still hidden in darkness. Only that which is brought into the light can be dealt with. If you are married, stay in prayer until you see your spouse with God’s eyes. It will change everything.
  • Change what you can, lay the rest at God’s feet.
  • Don’t focus on what needs to change in that person you are thinking of right now.

If the love of Christ will burn up our hearts for other people, I will live for other people’s success. I want this in my life as a person, as a husband, as a professor, and as a pastor. Everywhere I turn, I want my heart to beat for other people’s success. I have a ways to go, but I’m going. You can too. Don’t stop short of radical heart of love that Jesus didn’t just model, but promised he would LITERALLY deposit inside of us. Come Jesus, here is my heart.

“Happiness is a result. It is sometimes the result of having good things happen. But usually it is the result of our being in a good place inside ourselves and our having done the character work we need to do so that we are content and joyful in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.” (Dr. Henry Cloud)