Culture says this…Jesus says that.

Jesus and Culture

Jesus has a way of turning things upside down.

Culture says this.

Jesus says that.

The question is…who are you going to listen to?

(For the context of the rest of this blog, check out Mark 10:13-31).

 

The culture says kids have no status…they have nothing to offer…they’re powerless.

Jesus says if you want to get into the kingdom of God, be like that.

 

The culture says people with status & wealth have it better & easier than the rest of us.

Jesus says those things make it even more difficult to get into God’s kingdom.

 

The culture says that things like our time and our money and our family and our comfort is to be valued above all other things.

Jesus says the value that we place on those things is what keeps us from following Him.

 

The culture says that the time you have on this earth is all you have, so make the most of it…be first.

Jesus says that the time you have on this earth is all you have, so make the most of it…be last.

 

15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it…”  31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”  (Jesus in Mark 10:13 & 31)

 

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life[d] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.  (Jesus in Mark 8)

Why we need to be saved: to the runaway, reckless, lost, drifter, & the stuck in all of us

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Life is full of salvation stories.

If you’re like me, it doesn’t take long to think of times in your life when you’ve needed to be saved or rescued…

Like the time when I was five, and I decided to run away from home…

I figured with a full piggy bank, I didn’t need my parents anymore.  And, even though I didn’t get far, I needed to be saved.

I needed someone to come get me and bring me back home.

Or, the time when I was seven, and I wandered away from my mom while we were shopping, and I got lost…

One minute my mom was right there with me, and the next I couldn’t find her.

I needed her to look for me and find me.

Or, when I was ten, and my dad pulled a man out of a burning car near our house…

The man was driving recklessly and took a corner too fast, and he needed to be saved.

He needed someone to rescue him from a desperate situation.

Another time, I watched the Coast Guard rescue some students from drowning at the beach…

They were just playing out in the ocean and got distracted, and had drifted away from the beach and carried out past the waves.

They needed someone who had the power to go out and bring them back to the beach.

It wasn’t that long ago that I drove my family down to Oregon for Christmas in a snowstorm…and we got stuck at the bottom of a hill only a few hundred yards from our destination.

I tried every possible way I could think of to get us up the hill, but nothing worked.

We were stuck.

And, we needed help to get unstuck and make it to our destination.

So, why do I tell these stories?

I tell them because they help us see why we need to be saved.

Some of us are spiritual runaways…we’re running away from God, because we think we don’t need Him.  And, what we really need is for Him to come get us and bring us back to Him.

Some of us are spiritually lost right now…we know God is there, but we’re really not sure how to find Him.  We need Him to come find us.

Some of us are living recklessly and we’ve gotten way off track…our life is a wreck and we need God to rescue us before it’s too late.

Some of us are spiritually drifting…we didn’t even mean to get that far away from God, but we just got so distracted by life that we need His power to bring us back to Him.

And some of us are just plain stuck…spiritually stuck.  We’ve tried lots of ways to get to God on our own, but we just keep getting stuck, and we need God’s help to get us unstuck.

We need to be saved, because we’re all helpless.

We need to be saved, because we’re all sinners.

Our own choices have created this impossible distance between us and God.

And, we need to be rescued.

The Bible says that the wages of our sin…what we owe God because of our sin…is death.  And, salvation is the only solution to our sin problem.

Salvation is the only way…

For the runaway to be brought back home…

For the reckless to be rescued…

For the lost to be found…

For the drifter to be returned and…

For the stuck to be set free.

And, here’s the thing…

God is the only One who can save us…and He loves us enough to do it.

He loves you enough that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for your sin by dying on a cross.

Think about that…Jesus saved you by dying for you.

Runaway, reckless, lost, drifter, stuck…He did it for all of us.

 

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!).  (Ephesians 2:4-5)

 

When busyness becomes an idol

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Life is busy…

I get it.

When you slow down long enough to ask someone how they’re doing, you’re often going to hear some variation of…

I’m busy.

Busyness has become a badge of honor that we wear.

It’s the way we often choose to identify ourselves in face to face conversations and on social media.

We compare schedules.

We post about our activities and to-do lists.

And, without even realizing it, we’ve let busyness become another idol.

There’s an old saying in church circles that says, “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”

The question that we should all be asking ourselves then is, when is being busy bad…and when is it not?

When exactly does busyness become an idol?

The short answer is that busyness becomes an idol when it becomes our identity.

God created us for relationships…

Relationships with Him and relationships with others.

So, our identity should ultimately reflect His purpose for creating us to live in relationship with Him and with each other.

When our busyness hurts either of those relationships, it becomes an idol.

Think about your own relationship with God right now, and ask yourself whether or not busyness is keeping you from knowing Him more.

Are you too busy to spend time reading His Word and talking to Him every day?

Are you too busy to wait patiently for Him?

Are you too busy to seek and worship Him with others at a local church?

Are you too busy at church to really stop to seek and worship Him?

(Those last two questions are tricky ones…we can get it wrong both ways).

Now, think about your relationships with others, and ask yourself whether or not busyness is keeping you from the people God has given you to share life with.

Are you too busy to eat a meal with your family?

Are you too busy to reach out to a hurting friend?

Are you too busy to date your spouse?

Are you too busy to stop and talk with your neighbor?

Busyness is so subtle, because it numbs us to the relationships we really need.

The relationships that God created us for in the first place.

If busyness has become your idol, it might be time to think hard about where you get your identity from…

What gives your life value and purpose?

Is it a to-do list or a full calendar…

Or, is it knowing God and sharing life with the people around you?

 

36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[f] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:36-40)

 

 

Caring for the bullies in all of us

caring for the bullies in all of us

Deep down, we’re all bullies…

It just comes out in different ways.

Bullies are selfish, self-centered, and scared people.

And, that describes all of us.

We’re all selfish.

We’re all self-centered.

And, we’re all scared of something.

Because, we’re all sinners.

Bullies will continue to rule the playground and the workplace and the neighborhood and social media until Jesus comes back again.

In the meantime, there is something we can do about bullies…

We can care for the bullies in all of us.

We can care for each other.

We can be kind.

We can be selfless.

We can trust God and seek Him in all we do.

And, we can be a people who care more for what matters to Jesus Christ and less about ourselves.

 

20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.  (Philippians 2:20-21)

Living in the Land of Confusion: 3 basic questions we should all be asking ourselves in a confused culture

We live in a land of confusion.

Confusion about sexuality.

Confusion about marriage.

Confusion about life (and when it starts).

Confusion about identity.

Confusion about the roles of religion and government.

Confusion about refugees.

Confusion about walls.

Confusion about allegiances.

Confusion about values.

Confusion about freedom.

Confusion about truth.

It’s hard to know who or what to believe anymore.

We killed truth and called it freedom.

Freedom to do and believe anything our wicked minds could imagine.

And, now we’re stuck living in this land of confusion.

The confusion actually started way back when the devil asked Eve a simple question:

“Did God really say you must not eat the fruit…”

Eve was confused (and deceived), and now so are we.

So, what do we do?

How do we free ourselves from repeating the same mistake Eve did every time we’re faced with questions about sexuality, marriage, identity, and all of the other topics that are creating lots of confusion in our culture today?

We start by asking ourselves three basic questions:

What is God’s perspective on ____________ (insert cultural topic here)?

Where can I go to find it?

Can I trust what I find?  (In other words, can I trust God?)

God gave us His perspective…we call it the Bible.  (2 Timothy 3:16)

Jesus showed us God’s perspective…He called Himself the truth.  (John 14:6)

The Holy Spirit teaches us about God’s perspective…He leads us into all truth.  (John 14:16-17)

The land of confusion isn’t going away until Jesus comes back again.

But, that doesn’t mean that you need to be stuck living in confusion every day.

You can replace confusion with truth by looking for it in God’s Word, learning about it from Jesus, and letting the Holy Spirit lead you to it.

When you do this, you will find the truth that Jesus says will set you free.

And that’s true freedom.

 

31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  

John 8:31-32

 

 

 

 

How to quench a thirsty life

thirsty-life

Have you ever been thirsty?

I mean so thirsty that you can only think about how you’re going to quench your thirst?

Everything else just kind of doesn’t matter at that point, right?

Your mouth is so dry that you can’t feel your tongue.

Your lips start to burn and crack.

And, you’re desperate to drink something that will make your thirst go away.

Have you ever been that thirsty?

The truth is we’re all thirsty…

Thirsty for meaning.

Thirsty for hope.

Thirsty for peace.

Thirsty for comfort.

Thirsty for love and relationships.

Deep down, we’ve all got the same thirsts…we just choose to quench them in different ways.

We quench our thirst for meaning in a career.

We quench our thirst for hope in a government.

We quench our thirst for peace in a bottle.

We quench our thirst for comfort in a vacation.

We quench our thirst for love and relationships in a screen.

We desperately seek after all these things hoping that in some way they will quench our thirst.

But, the more we drink, the thirstier we get.

It’s a vicious cycle really.

And, it’s why so many of us live unsatisfied, thirsty lives.

If you really want to quench your thirst for meaning and hope and peace and comfort and love and relationships, stop drinking from the same old wells.

Thirst for God instead.

 

O God, you are my God;
    I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
    my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
    where there is no water.  (Psalm 63:1)

 

Live like you don’t belong

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Belonging.

We all want to feel like we belong.

So, we work hard at fitting in…

Or, blending in with the crowd.

But, the problem is we really don’t belong.

We were created for more belonging than this sin-infested world can give us.

The belonging we look for here is so temporary.

Friends come and go.

Jobs change.

Families move.

Graduation happens.

People die.

One of the biggest challenges you’ll face today is to look for the right kind of belonging…

The kind of belonging that ultimately lasts forever.

If you want to find that kind of belonging, you need to live every day like you don’t belong.

Sounds crazy, right?

But, if you do that, chances are good that you’ll find other people just like you who are doing the same thing.

And, that’s where you’ll find the kind of belonging you’re looking for.

 

“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. 10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory.  

14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do.

20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”

Jesus in John 17

 

 

 

 

Your Purpose in 2017 in Seven Words

purpose-2017

2017 is almost here…

It’s that time of year when we start thinking about resolutions, goals, fresh-starts…

And purpose.

Everybody wants to know the purpose of life.

Some of us are seriously asking ourselves questions right now like…

Why am I here?

What’s the point of my life?

Why did God make me?

At the risk of oversimplifying the answers to all those questions, I’d like to suggest that your purpose in 2017 (and every other year you live on this earth) can be summarized in these seven words…

Love God wholly.

Love your neighbor radically.

These seven words do not represent a brand-new thought, but they are revolutionary.

They are not rocket science, but they have the power to change the world.

Jesus knew that.

He was the one who made such a big deal about these words to begin with when He said…

“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.  (Matthew 22:37-39)

If we all took Jesus’ words seriously and did those two things in 2017, not only would we find our purpose for living…

We’d find our world a better place to live in.

What do you call Jesus?

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Name calling.

We do it all the time.

It started back when we were little and learned to call our parents “mom” and “dad.”

Those were the good old days when name calling was the biggest way we identified with the people who cared for us the most.

Later, when we were old enough to go to school, we learned that not all name calling is good.  Some of us were called “stupid” or “fat.”

We learned quickly that the names we call people are powerful…for good or for evil.

Name calling can be a powerful way to affirm someone, but it can also be just as powerful a way to destroy someone.

Of course, this is nothing new.

The New Testament author, James, once wrote this about our name calling…

“…no one can tame the tongue.  It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.  Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.  And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth.”

Sometimes, we use our name calling to bless…

And sometimes we use our name calling to curse.

Which got me thinking…

With Christmas now less than two weeks away, what do you call Jesus?

Are you like the prophet Isaiah, who called Jesus…

“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace?”

Or, are you like others who called Jesus names like “madman,” “prince of demons,” “good teacher,” and just another “son of a carpenter?”

What do you call Jesus?

The truth is Jesus’ identity won’t change no matter what names you call Him.

But, someday you will have to give an answer for all the name-calling.

This Christmas season may be a good time for you to think about who Jesus really is…

Will you call Him “Wonderful Counselor?”

Will you call Him “Mighty God?”

Will you call Him “Everlasting Father?”

Will you call Him “Prince of Peace?”

Or, will you call Him something else?

May you celebrate the true identity of Jesus this holiday season, and may all your name-calling be a blessing to Him and those who celebrate with you.

 

For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor,[a] Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
    will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
    for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
    will make this happen!

 

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NLT)

Fighting & Winning Your Everyday Spiritual Battles

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We all have our battles.

Some of them are physical…

Others are emotional…

And, a lot of them are spiritual.

Truth is we face spiritual battles every day in the form of temptation, lies, fear, pride, selfishness, hopelessness, and a whole bunch of other things.

The bad news is that the one fighting against you (the devil) has been fighting a long time, and he’s good at it.  He knows how to push your buttons and he fights dirty.

The good news is that even though the devil has been doing this a long time and has lots of ways that he can beat you, he’s not invincible.

These are battles you can win.

But, it’s going to take the right kind of strength, the right kind of armor, and the right kind of strategy to beat him.

If you want to “stand firm against all strategies of the devil,” and “resist the enemy in the time of evil,” then you need to consider doing these three things:

Fighting your daily spiritual battles with the Lord’s strength and not your own.  (Ephesians 6:10)

One of the reasons why we end up losing our spiritual battles is that we try to do all that we can to fight the temptations and lies of Satan first, and then we ask God for help.

The problem with that is that we’re weak and beatable in our own strength.  But, our God is strong, and He’s already won the ultimate spiritual battle.

Putting on all of God’s armor every day (for a full list of God’s armor, look up Ephesians 6:13-17).

You might know all the right answers (belt of truth), and work hard at being a good person (breastplate of righteousness), but if your faith is weak, the devil knows that…and guess where he’s going to attack you?

You need to put on all of God’s armor every day, because the devil will always attack where he knows you’re weak and the most vulnerable.

Praying in the Spirit at all times throughout your day.  (Ephesians 6:18)

How often do you talk to God during the day?  At meals?  Whenever something bad (or good) happens?  When you feel like you need Him for something?

We tend to think of prayer as something we do only at certain times or in certain places or for certain things…but prayer is something we should be doing all the time.

Think of it as an ongoing conversation with someone that doesn’t ever really stop…

Sometimes you’re talking.

Sometimes you’re listening.

And, sometimes you’re just sitting quietly together.

That’s prayer…and it’s a great strategy for fighting against anything and everything the devil throws at you.

We all have our spiritual battles.

The question is…how will you fight your battles today?

 

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  (Ephesians 6:10-11)