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)

An Election Day Prayer

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An election day prayer…

“O God, would you stir the heart of our next president?  Would you stir their heart to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly?  (Micah 6:8)

O God, would you stir our own hearts toward the next president?  Would you stir our hearts to submit to the governing authorities whether we voted for them or not?  (Romans 13:1)

O God, would you stir up a heart of repentance in us?  Would you restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts?  (Isaiah 57:15)

O God, would you stir up a heart of revival in our nation?  Would you wake us up and clothe us with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ?  (Romans 13:11-14)

O God, would you have mercy on us this day?  Would you not abandon us, for we have had more than our fill of the scoffing of the proud and the contempt of the arrogant?  (Psalms 123)

O God enthroned in heaven, we lift our eyes to you in a time of great need for our nation.  We keep looking to you for your mercy.  Please remember us today.”

Amen

Time to show people Jesus

“In order to see Christianity, one must forget all the Christians.”

That quote was made by a Swiss philosopher well over one hundred years ago, but it could just as easily have been made in the year 2016.

The truth is that saying that you’re a Christian doesn’t really mean that much anymore.

Not just because we don’t always back up what we say with our actions, but because there’s a lot of confusion in our culture about what Christianity is and what it stands for.

Christianity has long been victimized by the postmodern idea that it doesn’t really matter what you believe in as long as you believe in something.

So, we can make up our own versions of Christianity, call ourselves “Christians” and think that we’re all right.

For example, we can have different views on current hot button issues like gun control, the LBGT community, and the rise of terrorism in our world.

We can even throw out our favorite verses to back up our views, and come to completely different conclusions about what Jesus would do or say if he lived in our culture today.

But, can we all be right?

Do we really know what Jesus would do if he lived in our culture today?

Do we really know what he’d say in response to the most recent attack and tragedy in Orlando?

Do we really know Jesus?

Do we know his heart?

Do we know what he cares about?

Do we know what he loves…and what he hates?

Do we know what he stands for…and what he doesn’t stand for?

Do we know what he says…and what he doesn’t say?

Now is the time to not just tell people that you’re a Christian, but to show people Jesus.

And, if you’re going to show people Jesus, you need to know Jesus personally…not just know about Jesus.

Following Jesus is a radical way to live…

So radical that we really shouldn’t have to tell people that we’re Christians before we tell them how we think Jesus would respond to the brokenness in our world.

We’d probably just confuse them anyway.

The better option for all of us right now is to point people to Jesus, and if we’re going to do that, we’d better know who we’re pointing to.

 

1And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John 1:14)

 

 

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

What are you known for?

 

 

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What are you known for?

If I walked into your house or your workplace or your school or anywhere else that people see you and know you, what would they say about you?

Truth is, we can be known for a lot of things.

Maybe it’s our personality.

Maybe it’s our accomplishments.

Maybe it’s our hobbies.

Maybe it’s our appearance.

We might be known for lots of different things, because we’re all a little different.  But, there’s one big thing we should all be known for.

Our love.

Apparently, love is a big deal if you’re a Jesus follower.

It’s such a big deal that Jesus said that loving others is second only to loving God.  (Matthew 22:36-40)

Ever wonder why loving others is such a big deal to God?

Why would Jesus tack on loving others to loving God as the two most important things that we should be known for as Christians?

Because it’s proof.

Proof that God is real, and proof that you’re for real. 

In one of His last conversations with His disciples, Jesus said it this way…

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Notice what Jesus didn’t say…

He didn’t say people will know that you are my disciples if you go to church or if you are religious.

We can go through the motions with church, and we can fake religion.

But, we can’t do that with love.

Loving others comes from the deepest part of who we are…the dead part of us that God gives life to when He takes up residence in us through the Holy Spirit.

We love because God loved us first.

We love because God gave us life.

We love because God is love…and He lives in us.

So, what are you known for?

If you want to know more about what this kind of love looks like, check out what the great missionary and apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13.

 

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.

(I John 4:7-13) (NLT)

 

 

Why Prayer Feels Like a Waste of Time

prayer title

I like to pray big prayers…

I just don’t like to wait for the answer.

Or, maybe I just don’t like answer…

Or worse, maybe I just don’t believe God is going to answer…or that He can do anything about it.

I’ve had my doubts when it comes to prayer.

Is God listening to me?

Can even He do anything about what I’m asking Him to do?

Does He really care about my life?

Prayer is complicated.

Depending on your view of God, prayer is either like pushing the intercom button on your desk and asking your secretary to do something for you; or it’s like putting a message in a bottle, throwing it in the ocean, and hoping you get an answer back.

Or something like that anyway…

prayer

Let’s assume for a second that prayer really isn’t that complicated.

That when you pray, three things are happening…

God is listening.  (Psalm 55:17)

God is able to do even more than you could ever ask Him to do.  (Ephesians 3:20)

God cares about you.  (I Peter 5:7)

If all of those things are true, then why do we sometimes feel like they’re not true?

Could be a lot of things I guess, but all of them boil down to one thing…

Doubt.

When we doubt God, we short circuit our prayers.

James said it this way using the example of asking God for wisdom…

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

If you expect to receive anything from God when you pray, don’t doubt Him.

God is listening.

He is the God of the impossible.

And, He cares about you.

It’s your move.

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

walk like this.title

“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…

learning to walk.2015.7

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)

Following Jesus Isn’t Cheap

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The cost of following Jesus is hard to figure out…

Or maybe we’ve made the cost of following Jesus hard to figure out (at least in America).

Many things in life demand our time, our money, and our attention.
And, every day, we count the cost for what we value most.

Every day, we choose to DO some things and choose NOT TO DO other things based on what we value the most and what it will cost us.

Generally, we are willing to make sacrifices & give up a lot for the things that matter the most to us.  And, it’s ultimately these everyday decisions that define us…that make us who we are now and who we will be in the future.

It’s why Jesus turned to a crowd of people who had been following Him in Luke 14 and basically said, “Ok, if you really want to follow me, here’s what it’s going to cost you…”

“Do you really want to be like me? Because if you do, it’s going to take sacrifice…and I mean giving up everything. Do you hear what I’m saying?”

Jesus never intended for His followers to be unsure of what it would cost to follow Him.  He made the cost very clear…like the BIG neon numbers of the sticker price on a new car without all the extra haggling.

In fact, He made it so clear that the number of people who were following Him at the time of His death and resurrection was in the hundreds…

Because, thousands left when they heard how much it was going to cost them to follow Him.

Lots of people wanted to jump on Jesus’ bandwagon at first…

But then they realized that following Jesus isn’t cheap.

What about you?

What is it costing you to follow Jesus right now?

Think about that…

If Jesus says that it’s going to cost you everything, and right now, it’s not costing you very much, then are you really following Him?

25 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.

28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost.

(Jesus in Luke 14)

Playing Hide & Seek With God

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Hide & Seek.

I’ve played a LOT of Hide & Seek in my lifetime…

And, as I think back to the games I’ve played, one thing sticks out in my memory.

It’s that moment when the person counting yells “Ready or not, here I come!”…

And I’m not ready.

Know the feeling?

As a kid, you probably did what I did and either yelled back for more time or quickly scrambled just to hide yourself somewhere.

I hated that feeling.

I always wanted to be ready…that was the point of the game.

And, I think that’s the point of being a Christian too.

We need to be ready when Jesus returns.

The Bible (even Jesus Himself for that matter) makes it clear that the “game” is on.

Only the stakes of this “game” are a whole lot higher than any game of Hide & Seek you’ve ever played.

Somewhere, Jesus is counting, and He’s waiting for the Father to say “Go!”

And, at that moment, there won’t be the option to yell for more time or even scramble to hide yourself.

You’ll either be ready…or not.

44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.  Matthew 24:44 (NLT)