We are witnesses.

witnesses

We are witnesses.

In the aftermath of another deadly shooting in America.

We are witnesses.

In places devastated by recent hurricanes.

We are witnesses.

In a country dealing with racism and hate (and what to do with the American flag).

We are witnesses.

In a family ripped apart by divorce and a culture redefining marriage.

We are witnesses.

In places where people are forced out of their homes due to terrorism and war.

We are witnesses.

In a world full of sin and brokenness.

We are witnesses…

That there is no other Savior.

10 “But you are my witnesses, O Israel!” says the Lord.
    “You are my servant.
You have been chosen to know me, believe in me,
    and understand that I alone am God.
There is no other God—
    there never has been, and there never will be.
11 I, yes I, am the Lord,
    and there is no other Savior…
    You are witnesses that I am the only God,”
    says the Lord.”  (Isaiah 43:10-12)

 

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Why believing the Gospel isn’t enough

Gospel

Life is action…

And action is based on belief.

We make choices everyday to do something based on what we believe to be true.

Let me put it to you this way…

Recently, we’ve seen millions of people in Houston and Florida do something because they believed that they were in the path of a hurricane.

Action was taken to move out of it’s direct path.

Sacrifices were made to save others.

A lot of people did something because they believed that their lives depended on action.

But, what if they didn’t do something?

What if they believed that the hurricane was coming and chose to do nothing?

Now, in the aftermath of these hurricanes, thousands of people from all over North America will travel to Houston and Florida to do something…

To help clean up homes and businesses wrecked by wind and rain.

To provide food and shelter for those who’ve lost even the most basic necessities.

To come alongside and encourage and pray for those devastated by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

But, what if they didn’t do something either?

What if the first responders and volunteers from across our country believed that their were millions of people in need of help…but chose to do nothing?

My point is this…

If there is something that we can all learn from these two recent natural disasters it is that believing something to be true is not enough.

Belief requires action.

Imagine that the people of Houston and Florida believed that a life-changing hurricane was coming…but chose to do nothing.

And then ask yourself…would their beliefs even really matter at that point?

Action (and inaction) reveals what we truly believe and what we value.

As Christians, the recent devastation in Houston and Florida should remind us all that following Jesus is more than just believing in Jesus.

Following Jesus requires us to do something.

If you believe in the truth of the Gospel, your everyday choices and actions should reflect that belief.

And, even though God may not be asking you to travel to Houston or Florida to do something today (or in the future), He demands that we act on our beliefs wherever we are.

Just believing the Gospel is not enough.

Because, belief without action is unbelief.

Do something.

 

14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing,16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

James 2:14-17

 

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

saved title.png

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

busyness title

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

belong-2

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.