The Truth About Belonging

We all want the same thing…

You, me, and the other 7 billion people on this planet.

We all want to belong.

We all want to be a part of something that’s bigger than ourselves.

We all want to fit in.

We all want connection.

We hear about it constantly in the songs we listen to on the radio or on whatever music app we use.

We see it played out in the TV shows and movies we watch.

We are reminded of it every time we check Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, our friends’ Snapchat stories, or whatever social media app we spend our time on.

We all know that we need each other.

We just have different ways and different places that we look for belonging.

The good news is that the One who created us knows that we need each other too.

He knows this because He created us to need that sense of belonging-no matter who we are or where we come from…all 7 billion of us.

Why do you think we all want to belong to things like clubs, or political movements, or sports teams, or Facebook groups?

We all want to belong to something.

But, most of the things we end up belonging to only feed our physical need to belong, and not our spiritual need to belong.

We are spiritual beings…it’s what separates us from the rest of God’s creation.

And, as spiritual beings, we need more than just physical connection and belonging.

True belonging doesn’t happen in clubs and sports teams and social media groups.

That kind of belonging comes and goes.  It’s a temporary kind of belonging that we create.

True belonging is different.

It’s different because it lasts forever and it meets our need for both physical and spiritual connection.

True belonging starts the moment God comes into your life and says, “You belong to me.”

He is the only One who can meet our spiritual and physical need for belonging.

If you are tired of looking for belonging that doesn’t last…

If you want to belong to something far bigger than yourself…

If you are looking for the kind of belonging that feeds your spirit and your soul…

There is Good News if you are willing to look to the One who created you to belong…the only One that makes true belonging possible.

You can belong to God.

You can belong to His family…to the millions of people who God has carefully put together to become what the Bible calls Christ’s body, the Church.

Do you belong to Him?

 

19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.  Ephesians 2:19-22

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If taking the easy road isn’t your thing…walk like this

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“Look carefully then how you walk…” the Bible says.  (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Which begs the question…

Where are you learning to walk?  Where are you learning to live?

Because, the culture that we live in loves to tell us how it thinks we should walk.  It loves to tell us how to live.

Walk this way, the culture says.

If it feels good, do it.

If it’s legal, smoke it.

Same sex.

Premarital sex.

Abortion.

Divorce…

…it’s all good as long as you’re being true to yourself!

Just ask Bruce Jenner…

We live in a culture today that says what’s true for you may not be true for me.

What is truth, anyway?

Truth is whatever you think it is.

Is that how you want to walk?  Is that how you want to live?

If that’s how you want to walk, then welcome to the crowd.

Welcome to the wide path.

Welcome to the dead end.

Welcome to an empty, meaningless life.

If that’s not how you want to walk, then consider this…

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Even though we live in a culture that can’t handle truth, truth exists…truth is real.

And, we find that truth in God’s Word.  His Word is truth.

Think of God’s Word as a manual on learning to walk. 

And, any good manual isn’t just full of instructions.  It’s full of illustrations…pictures or examples of how to do what it’s telling you to do.

If taking the easy road isn’t your thing.

If you want to live life to the full…

Then consider walking like these people…and follow their example.

Walk like Daniel, who “made up his mind” not to walk like the culture around him by choosing not to eat and drink what the king put in front of him just to fit in with the crowd.  (Daniel 1:8)

Walk like Joseph, who could have hooked up with an older woman that wanted to sleep with him, but chose to run away from her instead.  (Genesis 39:10-12)

Walk like Esther, who could have kept her mouth shut, but chose to speak out against injustice and risked her life in the process.  (Esther 4:15-16)

Walk the narrow road.

13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

(Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14)

Are You Trying to Fit God into Your Lifestyle?

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I have a neighbor.

He is not a Christian…

He doesn’t go to church…

He isn’t really even religious.

So, when he said this to me the other day, I was a little shocked…

“You can’t fit God into your lifestyle…you have to fit into God’s lifestyle.”

Simple.  Profound.  True.

And, the dude doesn’t even go to church.

But, he understands you can’t mess with God or His Word.

You can’t pick and choose what you want to believe about Him.

You can’t cut and paste the Gospel.

You can’t ignore truth just because you think it’s inconvenient or “outdated.”

God is the same…

Yesterday.  Today.  Forever.

He doesn’t change.

But, maybe it’s time for you to change…

Change the way you think about God.

He is not someone you just fit into your life…

Otherwise He ceases to be God and just becomes another idol you’ve created.

Are you trying to fit God into your lifestyle…or are you trying to be more like Him and fit into His lifestyle?

What god do you believe in?

The God of the Bible, or the god of your imagination?

Check yourself…your neighbor is probably watching you too.

15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”  Ephesians 5:15-16 (NLT)

What’s stuck in your head today?

Admit it…

You get songs stuck in your head.

It may be a catchy tune from a TV commercial or a Top 40 hit or that favorite song from back in the day.

But, it happens…

We get that song stuck in our head, and we can’t get it out.

So, we sing it or hum it or even listen to it again…and it keeps on sticking in our head.

Like an endless loop…

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Here’s a thought…

The Bible is full of songs.

So, what if instead of getting “that song” stuck in your head, you got something like this stuck in your head?

 

In that day you will sing:
    “I will praise you, O Lord!
You were angry with me, but not any more.
    Now you comfort me.
See, God has come to save me.
    I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
    he has given me victory.”

In that wonderful day you will sing:
    “Thank the Lord! Praise his name!
Tell the nations what he has done.
    Let them know how mighty he is!
Sing to the Lord, for he has done wonderful things.
    Make known his praise around the world.  (Isaiah 12:1-2, 4-5)

 

What if you had that looped in your head all day? 

Think it would change your perspective?

Think it would change what matters to you the most?

The fact of the matter is the more we fill our minds with God’s Word, the more we’re going to get it stuck in our heads.

So, what do you want stuck in your head today?

 

 

 

Chicken & Waffles: what my son taught me about reading God’s Word

Chicken and waffles.

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Been around for a while, but not exactly a delicacy in the northwest corner of America…which makes it a bit unusual that my son decided to eat it for breakfast this morning.

What makes it even more unusual is that my son is a pretty picky eater, and not one to try new things.

But, he liked the chicken and waffles…

Makes me wonder what else he’d like if he actually tried it…picky eaters miss out on so much sweet-tasting food!

This morning, I came across this verse in Psalms that reminded me that God’s Word is sweet to the taste.  The verse goes like this…

103 How sweet your words taste to me;
    they are sweeter than honey.  (Psalms 119:103)

It made me wonder if that’s how I really treat God’s Word…like a sweet-tasting food.

Or, am I a spiritually picky eater?

Am I content with the “easy” or “comfortable” or “familiar” parts of Scripture?

Or, am I willing to explore new parts of God’s Word that I’ve never read before?

Spiritually picky eaters miss out on so much of God’s sweet-tasting words. 

If you approach all of God’s Word with the attitude behind this week’s verse, you’ll soon find that reading it is like sitting down to a never-ending feast.

So, open up your Bible and let the feasting begin…

(Don’t know where to start?  Try reading the rest of Psalms 119…)

Are you in love or just religious?

Back in the day, we used to write love letters.

Before the rise of the Internet.

Before Facebook took over the world.

Before cell phones and unlimited texting.

Before selfies and Snapchat and Instagram…

Remember what it was like to open a letter from someone you loved?

You’d open the letter…smell the paper…and read every word.

(And then you’d do it again and again and again…)

Back in the day, love letters gave me a window into the life of the girl I love.

I learned all kinds of things about that girl in those letters, and I fell more deeply in love with her every time I read them.

(By the way, that girl and I got married and will be celebrating nineteen years of married life together this year).

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The Bible has been described as God’s love letter to us…

But do we treat it like a love letter?

Do we open it with excitement and expectation and hope like we would if it came from someone we love?

Or, has it just become another book to us?

Here’s something to think about…

The way you view the Bible reflects the way you view God.

A lot of people claim to believe in God, but believing in God isn’t the same thing as loving God.

A lot of people claim to be religious, but going to church isn’t the same thing as loving God either.

If you believe in God, but don’t truly love Him, then the Bible is just another book for you to read.  Opening it is like opening a love letter from someone who has a crush on you…but you don’t feel the same way about them.

So, it’s awkward…and kind of pointless.

It’s hard to get excited about reading that kind of a letter because you have no feelings for that person…no emotional connection…no shared experiences…and no real desire to get to know them.

But, if you believe in God, and you love Him, then opening the Bible is like opening a love letter from someone you love. 

You open it with excitement and expectation and hope because you’re reading the words of the Creator of love Himself.

Are you in love with God, or just religious?

Do you view the Bible as a book of rules and moral principles to live by…or do you view it as God’s love letter to you?

Think about it…because your place in eternity could be at stake.

103 How sweet your words taste to me;they are sweeter than honey.  (Psalms 119:103)  (NLT)

Jesus: Madman or Messiah?

Prophet.

Teacher.

Hippie carpenter.

Magician.

Madman.

Messiah.

Son of God.

There’s a lot of opinions out there about who Jesus is.  Nothing new really…

Even when Jesus walked on the face of this earth, there was a lot of opinions about Him.

So, I guess the bigger question is, who do you say Jesus is?

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In his classic book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes…

“There is no patronizing nonsense about Jesus Christ being just a good moral teacher.  Either this man was, and is the Son of God, or else He is a madman or something worse.  You can choose to spit at Him, shut Him up, and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and Savior.  He did not leave any other options available to us.  He did not intend to.”

The answer to this question isn’t about whether or not you believe that Jesus is real.  Or, even that Jesus died on a cross and then beat death three days later.

It comes down to a choice.

Picking sides.

Drawing a line in the sand.

Putting a stake in the ground.

You’re either for Jesus or you’re against Jesus.

No fence sitting.

No pretending.

No jumping on the Jesus bandwagon.

Who do you say Jesus is?

The answer to this question is really about who’s side you’re on when all is said and done.

“16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

(John 3:16-18) (NLT)

Unwrapping the Ultimate Gift (Part 3): The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Jesus.

He’s either the Ultimate Gift…or just a pretty box.

So, what difference does opening the gift of Jesus make?

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Jesus Himself said that He came so that we “may have life, and have it to the full.”  (John 10:10) (NIV)

He came so that we “can have real and eternal life, more and better life than we’ve ever dreamed of.”  (The Message)

When we open the gift of Jesus, He gives us life and hope and peace and meaning.

He gives us the stuff in life that we can’t buy or earn.

The stuff that everyone in this world is looking for regardless of what color they are, how much money they have, or where they live.

Deep down inside every person is a desire for something greater than themselves.

A desire for a life that’s not messed up with broken relationships.

A desire for a hope that there’s more to life than lost jobs and a bad economy.

A desire for a peace that brings comfort when natural disasters strike or when someone you care about dies from cancer.

A desire for meaning-that I’m here on this earth for a reason-something to live for and get me out of bed every day.

When we open the gift of Jesus, He comes into our lives and He gives us all that and more.

Jesus is the Ultimate Gift because He is a gift that really does keep on giving.

His promises to us don’t expire or break or “go bad.”

He is eternal and His promises to us are eternal.

When we open up the gift of Jesus, we open up His promises to us.

Not just promises for life and hope and peace and meaning, but promises like…

God will forgive you (I John 1:9).

God will guide you (Proverbs 3:5-6).

God will provide for you (Philippians 4:19).

God will fight for you and be with you in hard times (Psalm 46:1-3).

God will give you strength (Isaiah 41:10). 

So, what are you going to do with the gift of Jesus?

Carry the gift around and wonder if it’s really worth it?

Or, unwrap the gift and open your life up to the only One who can truly promise you real and eternal life?

“Dear God, I want to unwrap the Ultimate Gift of Jesus.  I understand that I am a sinner and that I need your forgiveness.  Please forgive me.  I understand that you are the only One who can truly give me real and eternal life.  Please come into my life and guide me.  Thank you for your promises and most of all, thank you for the Ultimate Gift of Jesus.  Amen.”

Unwrapping the Ultimate Gift (Part 2): Ultimate Gift or Pretty Box?

Jesus.

I think a lot of people know who Jesus is…they’ve just never really opened up their life to Him.

Kind of like knowing what the gift is underneath the wrapping paper, but deciding not to open it…

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So, instead of really experiencing what it’s like to have a personal relationship with God, a lot of people carry around their pretty Jesus box.

We go to church…with our pretty Jesus box.

We get in a tough spot and need help…we go look for that box.

We go out and have a few too many drinks with our buddies…and leave the box at home.

Here’s the problem…

God did not give us the ultimate gift of Jesus for us to leave the gift unopened.

When we leave the gift unopened, we never truly experience what it’s like to have it.

When we leave it unopened, we soon begin to wonder if having a personal relationship with Jesus is really worth it.

Jesus becomes a burden we carry…kind of like carrying around an unopened gift.

So, what is Jesus to you?

Ultimate gift or pretty box?

There’s a big difference between believing Jesus exists and accepting Him as the ultimate gift from God.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.”  (John 3:16-17)  (NLT)

Next week: Unwrapping the Ultimate Gift (Part 3)

“The Gift that Keeps on Giving”

Unwrapping the Ultimate Gift (Part 1): The Millennium Falcon

Christmas memories.

As a kid, one of my favorite Christmas memories was checking out the presents under the tree every year…the shape and size of each gift.

The number of gifts with my name on them…

One of my favorite Christmas gifts as a kid was the Millennium Falcon ship from the Star Wars movies.  I had hours of fun with that toy and with the little plastic Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO figures that came with it.

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Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if I had never opened that gift…if I had just left it wrapped underneath the tree.

I guess I would never have really experienced what it was like to have it.  And, I’d probably wonder if it was really as fun or as cool as I thought it would be.

Have you ever thought about Jesus like a Christmas gift?

Think about it…He’s really the Ultimate Gift.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…”

But, let’s imagine for a second that Jesus is like a wrapped gift underneath your Christmas tree.  And, opening that gift represents accepting the opportunity that God has given to each one of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

What would it be like to know that God has given you this Ultimate Gift for you to open, and never open it?

It’s one thing to know who Jesus is and believe that He exists.

But, that’s like me knowing there’s this thing called the Millennium Falcon and believing the toy exists.

It doesn’t mean much to me personally until I open the gift and experience it for myself.

Kind of like opening up the gift of Jesus…

Next week… Unwrapping the Ultimate Gift (Part 2)

Ultimate Gift or Pretty Box?