Tag: "featured"

Is Your Mouth Full of Life or Full of Death?

Be A Life Giver With Your TongueThere are times when someone else says something you’ve been feeling and even trying to express much better, more elegantly than you’ve been able to utter.  Today in my inbox I received this post from Desiring God and that was the case.

In recent weeks and months I’ve been telling several friends and even people who I don’t know well, the power that lies in the tongue.  Or trying to.  Much of what I was trying to express, Jon Bloom says much better than I was able to.  So check out this post and let God refine you into the life-giving-ridiculous-faith-filled-radically-in-love-with-Jesus-disciple He’s called you to be!

FROM DESIRING GOD & JON BLOOM

A lot is at stake in what we say today. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).

In literate societies, tongues include hands that write, type, paint, or sign.

Words Cause Death

People die because of something said. Tongues can be weapons of mass destruction, launching holocausts and wars. Tongues can also be the death of marriages, families, friendships, churches, careers, hopes, understanding, reputations, missionary efforts, and governments.

Words Give Life

But people also live because of something said. The tongue can be “a tree of life” (Proverbs 15:4). Tongues reconcile peoples and make peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). Tongues can make marriages sweet, families strong, and churches healthy. Tongues can give hope to the despairing, advance understanding, and spread the gospel.

So what will come out of your mouth today, death or life? “Sword thrusts” or “healing” (Proverbs 12:18)?

What Fills Your Heart?

It will all depend on what’s filling your heart. Jesus said, “. . . out of the abundance of the heart [the] mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). A critical heart produces a critical tongue. A self-righteous heart produces a judgmental tongue. A bitter heart produces and acerbic tongue. An ungrateful heart produces a grumbling tongue.

But a loving heart produces a gracious tongue. A faithful heart produces a truthful tongue. A peaceful heart produces a reconciling tongue. A trusting heart produces an encouraging tongue.

So fill your heart with grace by soaking in your Bible. Soak in Matthew 5, or Romans 12, or 1 Corinthians 13, or Philippians 2. And be very careful taking in the words of death in the newspaper, on the radio, the TV, or the blog.

And pray: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 41:3)

The world is full of words of death. “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) who “was a murderer from the beginning. . . and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Let us not join him in his “restless evil” (James 3:8).

For “we are from God” (1 John 15:19), and we believe in his Son, Jesus, “the Word” (John 1:1), “the truth and the life” (John 14:6), and who alone has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Let us join him in speaking these.

Today

Today, make your mouth “a fountain of life” (Proverbs 10:11). Be “slow to speak” in general (James 1:19). Encourage more than you critique. Seek opportunities to speak kind, tenderhearted words (Ephesians 4:32). Say something affectionate to a loved one at an unexpected time. Seek to only speak words that are “good for building up,” that “grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

Be a person whose mouth is full of life.

“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up” (Acts 20:32).

Mark Driscoll Sermon on Hell – Sneak Peak

Questions about hell and a loving GodI’m a fan of Mark Driscoll.  Because he’s a fan of Jesus, the Bible and absolute truth!  🙂  Anyway, Mark Driscoll is halfway through sermon series on Luke.  This is no ordinary sermon series…he’s taking almost 3 years (106 weeks in all) and he’s over a year and a half in.  This coming Sunday he’ll be preaching, providentially I might add, on Luke 16: 19-31.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, I’m including that passage at the bottom of this post.  You should check that out and read that passage.

Why is this significant to me? Roughly 2 years ago Mark probably approached his elder board to run the idea of a 3 year sermon series 106 weeks in length on the book of Luke by them.  When he did that and they agreed to it, I’m fairly confident that he could not have known that Rob Bell would even be writing a book dealing with the topic of hell let alone what week it would be released and the controversy that would be swirling around it .

But God did!
Which is why the fact that he just happens to be dealing with this particular passage the week after the books release is so like God.  It’s like Him to just work things out that way.

Check out this preview of the sermon.

From the Mars Hill Church Blog (Mark Driscoll’s church not Rob Bell’s church of the same name):

The questions people ask about hell

In this passage, Jesus tells a story about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. It is a story Jesus uses to describe heaven and hell, one that uses powerful, even unsettling imagery. Heaven and hell are hugely important topics and do naturally raise a number of questions, and so Pastor Mark takes the second half of this sermon to answer some of the most common ones, including:

1. What is hell? What is it like?
2. Is it possible that people can deny God for their whole earthly lives, and have a second chance after death?
3. Why would God make people who are permanently his enemies? Why does God create certain people when he knows that their only future is to be tortured for all eternity?
4. Is hell temporary? Or are the souls of the damned destroyed?
5. Will everyone who doesn’t know Jesus go to hell? What if you’ve never heard of Jesus at all?

This sermon is an invitation, and it’s up to us to decide how we will each respond. And Jesus has made it abundantly clear what is at stake.

Read the full passage after the jump:

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers —so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

How To Enjoy Reading the Bible

How To Enjoy Reading the BibleI’ve mentioned and recommended The Way of a Worshiper by Buddy Owens in other posts on this blog before.  It’s a small little book packed with great information on living for the Glory of the father and making worship a lifestyle.  It’s great and if you haven’t read it, get it.

So after I read that book, when I found this sermon by Buddy on learning how to read the bible with your ears, naturally I was in.  Since putting this method of reading the bible daily into practice, it has been transformational.  Here’s what Buddy says about the sermon:

How to Read the Bible with Your Ears

Prayer and Bible reading aren’t two separate activities, they are two parts of a conversation with God. If you feel guilty or frustrated about your devotional life, this message is for you. Pastor Buddy Owens shows you how to enter the conversation by learning to hear the Lord speak to you in his Word. With help from the simple Bible reading method Buddy describes, you can learn to recognize the voice, the heart, and the hand of God in Scripture. Come join the conversation.

Presenter:  Buddy Owens
Date:  1/3/2007

Spiritual Muscle Development for Stronger Faith

We’ve all been asked (or more likely told) by God to wait on Him. Any of you who know my story, you know God has had me here all too often…and if you don’t know, suffice it to say I know a thing or two about waiting on God.

I know several people right now who are in this situation and I’m constantly torn between the pain I feel for them as they wait in the hottest part of Gods refining fire (Malachi 3:2) and the joy I know they will experience as they push through in faith as He refines, purifies and glorifies Himself through them. It is a double edged sword of hope on one side and pain on the other.

And that is why I wanted to share Paul Tripp’s latest post…in the hopes that those who find themselves waiting on God in one form or another would be encouraged and strengthened by these truths from the bible.

So, what happens inside of you when you are asked to wait? Is waiting, for you, a time of stengthening or weakening? Have you ever stopped to consider why God asks you to wait? Let me point you to one of his purposes.
Waiting Is Giving You Time

When God asks you to wait, what happens to your spiritual muscles? While you wait, do your spiritual muscles grow bigger and stronger or do they grow flaccid and atrophied? Waiting for the Lord isn’t about God forgetting you, forsaking you, or being unfaithful to his promises. It’s actually God giving you time to consider his glory and to grow stronger in faith. Remember, waiting isn’t just about what you are hoping for at the end of the wait, but also about what you will become as you wait.

Waiting always presents me with a spiritual choice-point. Will I allow myself to question God’s goodness and progressively grow weaker in faith, or will I embrace the opportunity of faith that God is giving me and build my spiritual muscles? (see Psalm 27:4)

It’s so easy to question your belief system when you are not sure what God is doing. It’s so easy to give way to doubt when you are being called to wait. It’s so easy to forsake good habits and to take up habits of unfaith that weaken the muscles of the heart. Let me suggest some habits of unfaith that cause waiting to be a time of increasing weakness rather than of building strength. These are bad habits that all of us are tempted to give way to.
Habits of Unfaith

Giving way to doubt. There’s a fine line between the struggle to wait and giving way to doubt. When you are called to wait, you are being called to do something that wasn’t part of your plan and is therefore something that you struggle to see as good. Because you are naturally convinced that what you want is right and good, it doesn’t seem loving that you are being asked to wait. You can see how tempting it is then to begin to consider questions of God’s wisdom, goodness, and love. It is tempting, in the frustration of waiting, to actually begin to believe that you are smarter than God.

Giving way to anger. It’s very easy to look around and begin to think that the bad guys are being blessed and the good guys are getting hammered (see Psalm 73). There will be times when it simply doesn’t seem right that you have to wait for something that seems so obviously good to you. It will feel that you are being wronged, and when it does, it seems right to be angry. Because of this, it’s important to understand that the anger you feel in these moments is more than anger with the people or circumstances that are the visible cause for your waiting. No, your anger is actually anger with the One who is in control of those people and those circumstances. You are actually giving way to thinking that you have been wronged by God.

Giving way to discouragement. This is where I begin to let my heart run away with the “If only_____,” the “What if_____,” and the “What will happen if_____.” I begin to give my mind to thinking about what will happen if my request isn’t answered soon, or what in the world will happen if it’s not answered at all. This kind of meditation makes me feel that my life is out of control. And I am able to think my life is out of control because I have forgotten God’s wise and gracious contol over very part of my existence. Rather than my heart being filled with joy, my heart gets flooded with worry and dread. Free mental time is spent considering my dark future, with all the resulting discouragement that will always follow.

Giving way to envy. When I am waiting, it’s very tempting to look over the fence and wish for the life of someone who doesn’t appear to have been called to wait. It’s very easy to take on an “I wish I were that guy” way of living. You can’t give way to envy without questioning God’s wisdom and his love. Here is the logic: if God really loves you as much as he loves that other guy, you would have what the other guy has. Envy is about feeling forgotten and forsaken, coupled with a craving to have what your neighbor enjoys.

Giving way to inactivity. The result of giving way to all of these things is inactivity. If God isn’t as good and wise as I once thought he was, if he withholds good things from his children, and if he plays favorites, then why would I continue to pursue him? Maybe all those habits of faith aren’t helping me after all; maybe I’ve been kidding myself.

Sadly, this is the course that many people take as they wait. Rather than growing in faith, their motivation for spiritual exercise is destroyed by doubt, anger, discouragement, and envy, and the muscles of faith that were once robust and strong are now atrophied and weak.
One of His Primary Shaping Tools

The reality of waiting is that it’s an expression of God’s goodness not empirical evidence against it. He is wise and loving. His timing is always right, and his focus isn’t so much on what you will experience and enjoy, but on what you will become. He is committed to using every tool at his disposal to rescue you from yourself and to shape you into the likeness of his Son. The fact is that waiting is one of his primary shaping tools.

So, how do you build your spiritual muscles during the wait? Well, you must commit yourself to resisting those habits of unfaith and with discipline pursue a rigorous routine of spiritual exercise.

What is the equipment in God’s gym of faith? Here are the things that he has designed for you to build the muscles of your heart and strengthen your resolve: the regular study of his Word; consistent godly fellowship; looking for God’s glory in creation every day; putting yourself under excellent preaching and teaching of Scripture; investing your quiet mental time in meditating on the goodness of God (e.g., as you are going off to sleep); reading excellent Christian books; and spending ample time in prayer. All of these things will result in spiritual strength and vitality.

Is God asking you to wait? So, what is happening to your muscles?

Just in case you’re ready to worship after that I thought I’d share one of my favorite songs on worshiping and waiting…

Helpful Prayer Model – Praying the 6 D’s (from DesiringGod.org)

PrayerI subscribe to the DesiringGod.org blog as the content they produce is always phenomenal. One of today’s posts was just something I had to share with my L2W (Live2Worship) readers. It’s from Jon Bloom on praying the 6 d’s. Check it out:

A few years back I wrote about the 5 “D’s” I pray for daily. Recently, I added a sixth: desperation. I need to feel continually my desperate need for God.

Whatever it takes, Lord, give me…

Delight in you as the greatest treasure of my heart.
Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

Desire to know you, be with you, and seek your kingdom above all else.
Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

Discernment that comes from a renewed mind that I might know your will.
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14)

Desperation because when I stop feeling my need for you I tend to wander.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. (Psalm 119:67)

Discipline to plan for what I discern as your will.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Diligence to do your will with all my heart.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

How Well Do You Know Jesus – Better Questions, Better Relationship With Jesus

Jesus on Cross “Why me?”

You hear people ask questions like this all the time. Or…

“What did I do to deserve this?”

Maybe you’re even one of them?  I know I used to be and still lapse back into THINKING this type of thing every now and then when things get really tough.  But after reading a book by Andy Andrews called The Traveler’s Gift and digging into the Word a bit deeper, I’m convinced that the questions we ask ourselves not only set us up for failure or success in any given situation, but they also point to how we view and understand our relationship with God.  Let me explain by giving you some examples from scripture.

Our Questions Reveal How Well We Know Jesus

When Philip asked Jesus, “show us the Father…” Jesus replied…

“Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”
(John 14:9)

See how Phillip didn’t fully understand WHO Jesus was and what His relationship to the Father was?  Jesus goes so far as to ask him “Don’t you know me, Phillip?”.  On the surface that seems pretty harsh, but even illustrates this further with “even after I have been among you such a long time?”.  While grace abounds, it’s clear Phillip asked the wrong question here based on Jesus’ response.

So does God expect us to know everything?  Nope.  That’s grace in action.  But knowing Jesus as well as is possible is the point.  Heaven and eternal life is not the point.  Eternal life with Jesus is the point.  Oh how I hope I’m wrong with what I’m about ready to say, but say it I will.  I fear so many people have said a prayer, started going to church, serving, singing and tithing thinking they are all set.  But while all those things are good, if done without seeking to make Jesus the all consuming passion and joy of your life, I fear some of them may be the ones he says “I never knew you” to.  I can’t think of anything more awful than hearing those words on that day and nothing better than “Well done good and faithful servant”.

Let’s look at some more examples.

Consider the woman at the well.

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  (John 4:9-14)

This is such a beautiful picture of so many wonderful things and so much can be said about this passage of scripture, but let’s focus on the questions.  She asks Jesus “How can you ask me for a drink?” thinking why in the world is this teacher even talking to me.  Jesus says [paraphrased] “If you knew who I was, you’d be asking me for eternal life”.  So let’s pause right there.  Jesus says “if you knew…who it is that asks you for a drink…”.

Do you see it?  She’s got the same problem that Phillip had but with a better excuse.  She doesn’t know who she’s talking to.  But notice, even though she’s still not clued in, her questions get a bit better cause she starts asking about who she’s talking to (in the “are you greater than our father Jacob” part).

Our Brains & Questions

Your brain is amazing.  And it’s because it’s so amazing that it does some slightly peculiar things.  One of those things is racing ahead and trying to constantly serve up answers to questions you ask or someone asks you.  But sometimes our brains can get stuck in a rut.  To illustrate this, try this easy test suggested in 101 Ways To Generate Great Ideas, Timothy R.V. Foster:

What do you call a funny story? – joke

What are you when you have no money? – broke

What’s another word for Coca Cola? – Coke

What’s the white of an egg? ——————–

So this is an easy one right?  Well it is if you said albumen.   It isn’t yolk, it’s albumen. Were you tricked? Most people are. The brain likes to race ahead, because it THINKS it already knows the answer.  You see your brain will always try to answer the question you ask it…even when the answer it serves up is wrong.

So when you ask self defeating or God limiting or earthly prospective (vs heavenly perspective) based questions like “why me”, you’re brain is going to work hard to serve up an answer.  But if it’s the wrong question to ask in the first place (and as a christian it most certainly is because of our knowledge of God), your soul, mind and heart don’t really WANT an answer to THAT question.  As a matter of fact, in general, they take your focus completely off God and put it squarely where it doesn’t belong…which is onto you.

Peter asked Jesus in John 21:21 “Lord what about him” in reference to how another disciple would die based on Jesus, one verse earlier, telling Peter how he was going to die.  His focus was completely on himself and not on Jesus and His perfect plan.  By the way, in the next verse Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

How much better it would be if we set our brains on a quest to answer a question with a heavenly perspective…such as, “Lord is there something I need to learn from this”, or “Lord, can you teach me how to make you my all consuming joy and passion in life”?  The brain would be on a quest to find the answer to empowering questions that bring life.  See the difference?

Pilate asked Jesus what is truth when “it” (Jesus) was standing right in front of him.  The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” Martin Luther King, Jr.

So instead of asking the self defeating or God limiting questions like  “Why me?”, train yourself to begin asking “Why NOT me?  Adversity is preparation for greatness”.  Just remember that when you ask Jesus a question His focus is on you fulfilling His purposes and will not your own.  As we live our daily lives as believers I pray your focus and mission would become one with His for your life.  Then and only then will we truly live.

Open Your Heart To the Love of God

Open your heart to the love of God“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
–William Temple

I try really hard to not OVERUSE the statement I’m about to make.  I try to not HYPE anything that I feel God is doing or might do and if I’ve ever fell victim to that, then I publicly as God to forgive me, but…

I believe that God wants to do way more than we as Christians are asking from Him and He is going to do some amazing things in the near future.  As I’ve been praying about it, I truly have faith for us to see God in new and fresh ways very soon.

Please do me a favor.  I’m going to ask you to consider doing some stuff and pray about some things below.  I guess all I’m asking is to consider what would, what could, what MIGHT happen if all of us who have laid down our lives to ENJOY making Jesus the all consuming passion of their lives EXPECTED, ANTICIPATED and PRAYED for God to move in mighty ways.  Just consider it.

OK, here we go…

  1. Pray…Seriously Pray. Make a quiet block of 5 to 15 minutes out of your schedule today and for the next week and daily pray about your next worship gathering.  In other words, and I’m going to be bold here, don’t do what I’ve done for so many years which is to intend to pray about something and then not, or just as bad, pray about it without fully expecting what you’re asking for to come to pass.  Let’s pray for opportunities to heal people, let’s pray for opportunities to get prophetic words to uplift the body, let’s pray for teaching to reach deep into peoples hearts and boldly guide them into living with more Holy Spirit power in their lives, let’s pray for our own lives and walks with Christ to be pushed to the next level and that as leaders of the church (if you’re actively praying like I’m suggesting you’re a spiritual leader in your church even if you don’t have the earthly title) that we would be in prayer for more of God in the church and event.  Let’s pray for all these things…and then expect God to act on them.  More on expectancy in a separate post…this one was getting kind of long.
  2. Live & Die On Scripture…All Of It. Words without faith and action is incomplete.  We all need our faith to be increased (I’m speaking to myself too) so we can be more effective at both winning souls to Christ, walking out our faith daily doing all He has planned for us, and living with increased Holy Spirit power!  I would propose to you that there is a point at which things we read in the bible stretch our faith to or even past the breaking point.  At what point do we struggle to believe anymore…Prophetic words?  Supernatural discernment of spirits?  Tongues?  Healing (the blind, lame, deaf, mute, dying and sick)?  Buildings shaking with the overwhelming presence of God?  People being raised from the dead (just lost a lot of you right there didn’t I)?  I believe faith starts with a decision. Let’s decide that nothing in that book is out of reach.  Let’s decide that when Jesus himself said in John 14:12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these,…“ that He really meant even greater things.  Where’s your breaking point for your faith and will you decide to stretch it farther?  If so, go to BibleGateway’s topical search tool and type “raised from the dead” or some other topic that stretches your faith or go here.  Then pray that God would increase your faith in His perfect way and time.
  3. Get Fired Up! If you wanna see God doing some cool stuff, and you should want to, check out these videos with John Wimber doing a Holy Spirit – Signs & Wonders conference in 1985.  There are 4 videos and they show God doing some amazing stuff both with prophetic words and also with healing.  Also, he’s using this as a teaching tool that I think will be beneficial for us all as we step out in faith at our churches.

    Listen in the above video as he talks about how we have westernized and secularized the church. He says that we’ve almost eliminated the supernatural from our perceptions and that we’ve come to a place we don’t anticipate God to operate as God among us. Where we think that study is an end in itself. But word without actions is incomplete. Hearing without doing is incomplete. We need the word and the works. To say that we believe the Bible in it’s entirety and then not operate as such in faith with great anticipation on what the Holy Spirit is going to do among us is incomplete.

Finding God In Tough Times – 7 Biblical Facts To Lean On When Things Get Tough

  1. Finding God In Tough Times God is all powerful, all knowing, all encompassing.
    Nothing gets by Him, nothing surprises Him and nothing catches Him off guard.  While there are things that disappoint Him, we must never forget even when He’s disappointed, He’s not surprised.
     
  2. He is Creator God.
    He created the heavens and the earth which we call the universe and everything on it, in it and around it…put simply, He created EVERYTHING.
     
  3. He loves every single person He created.
    He knows them intimately even to the cells of their body and the hairs on their head being numbered.  That includes us.  He loves us more than we love ourselves or even more than we love our own children.  He loves our children more than we love them.  His love is unimaginable.  We should reflect that love to others.  In doing so, we fulfill what we were put here to do; glorify His name by making Jesus our all consuming passion.
     
  4. He wants the best for us.
    This is a natural outpouring of number 3.  He isn’t always going to make our paths easy (in this world you will have trouble), but he will make them straight (Proverbs 3: 5-6; but make sure you read what your/our part is in that one…it’s critical).  Another even clearer scripture is this one:  “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” – Jeremiah 29:11 Make no mistake the Lord loves us and wants the best for us even when we can’t see it.  Our problem is how we define “best”.  We think of best in earthly perspective; money, health, fame, riches, happiness because of our circumstances.  God defines best as how much glory your life, even in and through your suffering at times, brings Him.  In other words, the best He can give us is Him and when your happiness comes from Him DESPITE your circumstances.
     
  5. We have a part to play.
    Sometimes I think Christians fall into the temptation of thinking that all they have to do to be in good standing with God (and be an effective Christian) is avoid sin, go to church and tithe.  I know I have before and still struggle sometimes with feeling vindicated or good enough or entitled.  But the question is What does God require? Hopefully you’ve read Worship by Joseph Garlington that I recommended a while back, but if not, I HIGHLY suggest you get it and read it.  In the beginning he reminds us of an old testament scripture where God told the people; no worship, no rain.  I’ve quoted this several times on stage.  There are conditions sometimes for provision.  I think sometimes we forget that about God.  Don’t misunderstand me, we could never EARN our way into heaven that’s what being saved by Grace is about and we should all be thankful for that one.  BUT, we should ask…What Does God Require? We should all be asking ourselves that question every day.  For that day, for that situation, for that hour, for that time, for our lives, for our family, for our church, for our team, for our FILL IN THE BLANK HERE.
     
  6. He is God, we aren’t.
    Sometimes as believers, we seem to outgrow our “britches” as my grandma used to say.  See, our kids don’t always know why we’re having them do something or endure something or wait for something or go through something, but we’d NEVER hurt them or subject them to pain unnecessarily.  Neither would He and even more so.  And finally…
     
  7. Is my focus on the earthly aspect or heavenly aspect?
    It’s good to refocus and re-align every now and then and especially at cross roads like you find yourself and I find ourselves in at times.  But always, all the time, in all ways, in every situation, with every person, our focus should be sooner rather than later the heavenly aspects of the thing.  The question I always ask here is God what do you want me to learn here?  What do you want me to see here and how can I affect the Kingdom positively in this thing.
     

How To Worship God – What Is God Worth To You?

How To Worship - Making Worship A Way Of Life

Making Worship A Way Of Life

In my post last week entitled How To Live For God – 6 Practical Suggestions that Will Change Your Life, we looked at how God transforms us through living a disciplined life.  We saw that the spiritual disciplines put us in the perfect place for God to transform our lives.

I do have a confession to make though…I did have some ulterior motives by picking the topic of self discipline to write about.

You see I’m not so naturally inclined to be disciplined.  Maybe most are, but I’m certainly not unfortunately.  So writing about the topic helped me to study and motivate myself toward a higher level of disciplined living.  I would LOVE to be known for being disciplined but in reality, not so much!

But as Yoda would way, “a worshiper I am”!

Seriously though I don’t want to sound hoity toity or somehow spiritually exalted, in fact, I didn’t ask for it, it literally found me.

Here’s how it unfolded.

In early 1999 I was a professed Christian, but very much a baby spiritually speaking.  I was a jerk to those who loved me, my marriage was in trouble and I didn’t even know it, I was broke and going deeper into debt month after month…in short, I was a mess.

Then I find out that we’re gonna have a baby.  For those parents out there, you can attest to the fact that there is no way to describe the depth to which that changes your life.  So through that and some God incidences with a co-worker suggesting we attend a Vineyard church and then seeing a billboard for the same church that said “Vineyard – the church for people who didn’t think they liked church”, I started attending Vineyard Columbus off and on…but way more off than on!

I loved the church almost immediately; rock band on stage, assistant pastor had a pony tale down the middle of his back and everyone wore jeans.  What’s not to like right?

But during the worship there were these people who I now know were truly entering the throne room of worship that were worshipping with reckless abandon. I was not familiar with this and started to make fun of authentic, sold out worshipers; even calling them names and laughing at them to my wife and friends.

Less than 6 months later I found myself wanting what they had…that connection with the Father, more deeply within me than I’ve ever wanted anything before.  I was certainly no longer making fun of them!  I wanted what they had. After we had our baby, we moved from the west side of Columbus (Dublin) to the east side (Pickerington) and started looking for a church.  Someone told me about Eastside Vineyard and we attended in it’s 2nd week in existence.

That’s when it happened…

God grabbed me (and after slapping me around a bit for making fun of worshipers), told me that He wanted me up there leading his people into worship.  Now you have to understand this was all new for me.  Music no, but worship…that was completely new ground. So for the next 4 years I grew under great earthly leadership and of course God’s leadership; and let me tell ya something, God completely transformed me!

Today I lead a worship team at the church we helped to plant in Pataskala, OH called Vineyard Christian Church of Pataskala and God is transforming me… again and still! So why is that story important? Because it’s a picture of how God wooed me to Himself, loved me, and through that love and friendship changed me.  I am a totally different person now and all in good ways. I am blessed with a healthy vibrant marriage and an almost continual awareness of God’s presence. He’s continually teaching me how to be a better

  • husband,
  • child of God,
  • father
  • and friend.

God is looking for authentic worshipers and wants to offer deep, intimate friendship with them and I simply took Him up on His offer.  And when you do take Him up on His offer and give yourself over completely to genuine, authentic worship, God unlocks the door to an incredibly deep relationship and friendship with Him.

Romans 12: 1,2 says this:

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Why We Worship

First let’s look at why we worship.  In verse 1 Paul urges us to look at God’s mercy. So what is the definition of mercy?  Webster’s says mercy is a disposition to be kind and forgiving.  So this literally means it’s how He’s wired.  Gods’ natural inclination, His default state if you will is to be merciful.  It’s literally the lens through which He sees us.  And that my friend is a good thing! This kind of mercy is completely foreign to us. We are just not wired this way.  But I can hear you say, “Jason sometimes I’m merciful though”.  PLE-ASE!  Let’s not kid ourselves here…at our absolute best (times 100) we don’t even compare to God’s mercy.

Where God loves, we judge.

You say well I don’t judge people…oh really? Need proof?  Consider first impressions. First impressions are so important to us; we always want to make a positive first impression on others and unconsciously make them about others all the time. But what do they really help us do?  Judge others…and not only that, but judge them on all the wrong things!  They say “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”.  Impression of what?  What is it we’re judging about others? Here is a short list:

  • character
  • personality
  • competence
  • integrity
  • aggressiveness
  • and overall likeability

So how long does this take?  60 seconds? 30 seconds? 7 seconds?  How about the blink of an eye!  New research tells us that first impressions or judgments are made within as little as 1/10th of a second!

I was reading an article on PsychologicalScience.org about first impressions and it said the following: “A series of experiments by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov reveal that all it takes is a tenth of a second (or 100 milliseconds) to form an impression of a stranger from their face, and that longer exposures don’t significantly alter those impressions (although they might boost your confidence in your judgments).” The article goes on to say, “Like it or not, judgments based on facial appearance play a powerful role in how we treat others, and how we get treated. Psychologists have long known that attractive people get better outcomes in practically all walks of life.”

Why Is This True?

Those Princeton psychologists have a theory as to why: “…based on evolutionary psychology, that an accelerated and accurate ability to judge trustworthiness in others may have evolved as an important survival mechanism”

A survival mechanism…really?  C’mon let’s be real here!

It’s our flesh in action.  All our prejudices and stereotypes, past experiences (usually negative first), and sinful desires cause this to happen.  God’s mercy allows Him to see past the judgment He could have about or on us and see what and who we really are.  And get this…after He searches us, examines us and sees what and who we really are He loves us anyway…despite it!

Now I don’t know about you, but I know me.  And why He takes pleasure in me and spending time with me and is merciful to me is a mystery, but I’m glad He does.  There are countless other things we could say about God’s mercy, but suffice it to say this.  This is truly a different kind of Mercy!

Worship is the only natural response to this mercy.

Ok, so let’s define worship. Worship:  [comes from old English weorthscipe or worth-ship] to ascribe, assign, attribute, declare worth. Before you can declare God’s worth, you need to discover God’s worth In his book The Way of A Worshiper, Buddy Owens asks this brutal question that I believe we should all ask ourselves “What is God worth to you”? Then Owens says “To the extent that you can answer that question, you will be a worshiper”.

What Are We Worth To God

I agree.  Discovering God’s worth is a lifelong journey and should begin with learning how much we are worth to Him because as 1 John 4:19 tells us “We love Him because He first loved us”.

So how do we discover how much we’re worth to Him?  Try to see yourself as God sees you.  See yourself “in view of God’s mercy”.  As we are able to look at ourselves through God’s eyes we begin to see that:

  • God seeks you out (Genesis 3: 7-10)
  • You are JUST what He’s looking for (Matthew 13:45)
  • You are his most precious possession (Luke 15:3-10); don’t believe it yet? 3Then Jesus told them this parable: 4″Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

I don’t know about you, but when I read these things it makes me want to say just two simple words to God; THANK YOU! Those two words are where authentic worship begins.

So now that we have a tiny view of God’s mercy, and we know that the natural response to it is worship, shouldn’t we changed and transformed as a result? Let’s look at verse the rest of verse 1 and part of 2. “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Offer up your bodies sacrificially…why do you think God wants our bodies? I believe there are two main reasons.  First, put simply, your body is God’s house.  Isaak Walton once said “God has two dwellings: one in heaven and the other in a meek and thankful heart”. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

How do you honor God with your body? Fulfill God’s purpose for your life – reach the world for Christ.  It is through your body that God reaches the world around you. We each have our own sphere of influence – people that only we can reach for Christ.  So we see that God accomplishes His purpose for your life through your body. Second, what we subject our bodies to affects our character and our character affects our walk.  Your character will be defined by what you worship.

You might ask, why did you assume I was worshiping anything?  You will worship something…it’s how you’re wired…we were literally born to worship. The question is what will you worship?

Some people worship money and they then become greedy in their character.  Those who worship power become ruthlessMen who worship women become lustful and people who worship themselves become arrogant.  But, those who worship the living God become more Christ-like.

The Result – Encountering God

Look at the end of verse 2 with me again.  “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”. If I only knew God’s will for my life I’d do it.  Have you said or felt this?

Every Christian should sincerely desire to know the will of God for their lives Not just at a high level either, but in the details of day to day, moment by moment living.  To wake up asking God for opportunities to heal, bless, and breathe life into others.  To go through your day expecting Him to take you up on your request and waiting for the opportunities you asked for to come. And what Paul is saying is that if you worship Him by offering your bodies to Him as a living sacrifice, then you will know His will. In other word He will speak to you and you will listen and hear Him.  So how does God speak?

How God Speaks

Scriptures Wise council from other Christians Divine guidance or care through circumstances or life events Opportunities and blessings Closed doors The still small voice of His Spirit speaking to and through our conscience Nature and his creation Even your children

How To Listen

The first thing you should do is to redefine the word listen as it pertains to God. As you can see from the above list, few of them involve the physical sense of hearing through some audible way.  I think Christians mistakenly think or feel that God is going to always come in a loud thunderous voice that shakes the foundations of the earth every single time he speaks. Sometimes He does, but other times I think He’s asking us to press in closer to hear HimHe blesses us with whispering because it causes us to seek Him harder and longer. Listening in this way starts with caring.

How much do you contemplate the things of God?
How often do you find yourself thinking about His greatness?
How often are you thankful for the blessings He’s given you?

The more often you care about Him, thank Him for what He’s done for you, and contemplate Him, the more often you’ll hear him speak to you through the above list and even other ways for sure.

Worship Is A Lifestyle – Pursue It!

Worship is so much more than some songs that we sing before the preacher preaches. Worship is a lifestyle…it’s a host of characteristics and traits and actions all wrapped up into one concept that we call worship including: repentance, obedience, love, compassion and grace just to name a few. Brother Lawrence described it this way over 300 years ago in The Practice of the Presence of God. He says: “I keep myself in his presence by simple attentiveness and a loving gaze upon God – or to put it more clearly, an habitual, silent and secret conversation of my soul with God.” Buddy Owens sums it up perfectly this way: “That is… the secret to friendship with God.  Are you looking for God?  God is looking for worshipers.  His invitation to friendship is open and genuine.  Will you take him up on his offer?  Will you give yourself to him in worship?”

How To Live For God – 6 Practical Suggestions that Will Change Your Life

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

“The first and best victory is to conquer self”

Plato

I’m gonna start this post out today with a quick exercise.  Unfortunately for you it requires reader participation, but don’t worry, I’m not gonna ask you to stand and do jumping jacks or anything crazy.

Just do me a favor.

I’m going to say a phrase and I want you to think of just one word, phrase or thought when I say it…this is one of those first thing that comes to your mind kinda things ok.

Ready?

Here we go:  SELF DISCIPLINE.

Ok, now lock whatever word or phrase you came up with in your mind for a second.  Now I’m not going to ask you what your word or phrase was, but let me have you think about something…was the word or phrase you thought of positive or negative?

Now if you’re like most people, it was probably negative.  There are some exceptions to this of course, but as a general rule human psychology around the phrase “self discipline” is…well not so good.

Now do me one more favor.  As you read the kind of life I’m about to describe, try as hard as you can to picture this life being your own.  Picture it as graphically as you can including feelings, emotions, scents, sounds, activities and situations.  K, here we go…as you read, remember, this is YOU:

  • You experience complete freedom now in a way that you could only previously imagine; a freedom that literally leaves you utterly care free,
  • You unknowingly experience an increasing amount of humility on a daily basis,
  • You are aware of a fresh zest and exhilaration with living,
  • You are amazed at the stunning new confidence that marks your activities.
  • Fear, worry, and anxiety no longer have a place in your life.  On the rare occasion these feelings start to arise in you, you are able to bind them in the name of Jesus and restore peace that surpasses understanding almost immediately.
  • Although the demands on your life are as great as ever and seemingly intensifying, you live in a new sense of unhurried peace and tranquility.
  • You are now aware, on a nearly continual basis, of an intense and indescribable fellowship with God.
  • You are always seeing things in and around your life with an eternal perspective.
  • Your relationships are deep, meaningful and lasting.
  • You are used often and effectively by God to edify the body of Christ and reach the lost by breathing life, encouragement and hope into others
  • You are an inspiration to people around you, not because of you, but because of who you are in Christ.
  • You are a mighty warrior for Christ against the powers of darkness and the Evil One
  • You are able to tap into the unlimited power of God that lives inside of you at a moments notice and God uses you to accomplish the same miraculous things that Jesus did and “even greater things than these”.

Now I don’t know about you, but even as I was writing those things to you, from deep within me I longed for that kind of life.  And wouldn’t you say that the kind of life I just described is the farthest thing from something negative or bad as is possible?

Well I would submit to you that the kind of life I just described can ONLY come from true intimacy with God and a Holy Spirit led life that can only be attained through self discipline.

In other words, I hope you see today that the only way to enjoy the full Christian life God intended is through disciplined living.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (New Living Translation)
24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

Recognize the Race & Your Part

Andrew MacLaren, a Protestant commentator, states, “There are few things more lacking in the average Christian life of today than resolute, conscious concentration upon an aim which is clearly and always before us.”

In other words, Christians today lack focus and direction

If you look at verse 24, you’ll see how Paul is telling us 2 important things.

  • You are in a race
  • You should want to win that race

I think people gloss over this when they read this passage (at least I did) but I think Paul is saying here to the Corinthian church is run the race of your life with focus and intensity.  Run it in such a way that second place is just not good enough.

In other words, don’t coast.

Dave Ramsey says that if you don’t tell your money where to go it won’t just stay put nice and safe in your account or wallet…it will go somewhere away from you!

Likewise, if your life isn’t focused on goals (the prize) and girded by underlying principles and values, Satan will literally steal your time away from God with busyness and steal your joy with stress.

The sad part of this is I’m not sure if Satan steals it or if we just hand it over to him by doing this.

Self Discipline Allows For True Transformation

So how do we prevent this?  Enter self-discipline.  Look at verse 25 with me. 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.

The New Kings James Version says it this way: “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown”.

So thinking there may be more to this whole crown analogy than meets the eye and having a hard time imagining a shiny Heisman trophy like statue being awarded for first century champions, I researched it and found that the crown first-century athletes won was a laurel wreath typically worn on the head as an emblem of victory.

This is a wonderful parallel for the temporary treasures of this world that we attempt to reach.

You see a laurel wreath wilts in just a few hours. It would never be worn a second day.  The prize for us as Christians is the amazing gift of eternal life and living your God-given purpose while on the earth.

Consider the analogy of the runner used by Paul.  Serious athletes, runners included, follow extremely rigorous programs that dictate

  • rising early,
  • eating a restricted and carefully planned diet,
  • exercising intensely pushing his body to new heights with each passing day (some would call this torture too).
  • When not resting, fueling his body with the proper nutrition or exercising, he is meticulously working on honing his technique and skill or enhancing his endurance.
  • At the end of the day he goes to bed at a planned and precise hour as to ensure the proper amount of rest while ensuring he’s up early the following day to start again.

Throughout the runners day, day in and day out, he not only avoids sensuous indulgences, but he must also abstain from perfectly legitimate things that simply do not fit into his program or would threaten to crowd out some aspect of it.

You see the runner is not just concentrating with intense focus, planning and discipline while he’s running.  He understands his whole life impacts the race.

So with that understanding of the race we’re in and how we should be intensely focused on the prize, let’s look at what self discipline is and is not.

What Self Discipline Is

Now for the remainder of this post, I’ll be referring to self-discipline and self control synonymously.

Self-control is the 9th and last of the fruits of the spirit listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22 –23.  Let there be no doubt, even though it is listed last, at the importance of self-discipline to living the empowered Christian life.

In that passage, “self-control” (temperance, KJV) is the translation of the Greek word enkrateia, which means

  • possessing power over oneself,
  • strong,
  • having mastery or possession of ones desires and impulses.

Along with the idea or understanding of discipline, there is also a notion of moderation and soundness of mind associated with this word.  So of course, it would stand to reason then that self discipline is going to keep us from indulging in selfish desires or impulses that could be described as sinful.

But self-discipline is more than just avoiding sin though.  Is avoiding sin at all costs important?  Of course.  Sin separates us from the Father and pains Him greatly.  But merely avoiding sin in our life will not make us grow spiritually.

There is a proactive nature to our Christian living, which I believe Paul is pointing out in this passage and encouraging us toward.

Just as with the athlete above there are many legitimate things – things that would NOT be considered sinful – that distract our focus or weight us down so as to not run the best race possible.  These can be things that are so time consuming or mind consuming that they literally pull us away from or distract us from our goal.

Again, we must first look at what our aim and goal is in this life, the prize that Paul talks about, and then, through a deliberate and conscious set of actions and decisions, discipline ourselves to stick to the plan and win the race.

Now that we know what self-discipline is, let’s look at what it is not.

What Self Discipline Is Not

First it’s important to understand that self discipline is NOT a matter of you willing to be perfect; true self-discipline is a fruit of the spirit not an outward result of your trying harder.  So for example, plants don’t produce more fruit from trying harder.  Transformation is Gods job, ours is to place ourselves in the soil and let the Holy Spirit change us.  This is what Paul is telling us in Gal 6:8; 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature[a]will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

You see a farmer is powerless to actually grow grain…all he does or can do is provide the right conditions for the growing to occur.  He prepares the ground, plants the seed, and cultivates the ground waters the seed for sure, but then the natural forces over which he has no control take over and up comes the grain.  This is the way self-discipline will help you sow to the Spirit.  The discipline itself gets you to the soil and puts you in a place where God can transform you as He sees fit.

Also, self discipline is NOT a collection of laws or rules that are used to imprison us.  This one is important…self discipline taken too far or perverted, turns into the truly ugly monster of legalism.  Now we could spend a whole lifetime of posts on the topic of legalism…but suffice it to say legalism brings bondage and leads to death.

So hopefully if I’ve done my job…even a little, you will be asking yourself where and how to get started with more disciplined living especially as it relates to your faith and walk with Christ.

Where Do I Start With Disciplined Living?

Well the first place to start is a thorough study of the Spiritual Disciplines – 3 of which are the discipline of study, the discipline of meditation and the discipline of prayer.   Through these disciplines you can begin praying for the Holy Spirit to direct you into further discipline and change in your life.  I HIGHLY recommend Richard Foster’s book on the spiritual disciplines called Celebration of Discipline.  It’s a classic and also rated by Christianity Today as one of the top 3 books of all time outside of the Bible.

If you’re looking for someplace to start, start there.

Here are some other practical suggestions:

  • First and foremost, pray about your level of discipline across all areas of your life and ask God to show you were you could stand to tighten your belt a bit.
  • In all areas of life, begin to try to live in a spirit led way more often.  The goal is not perfection at all costs here but we are modeling the only perfect life ever lived which of course is Jesus who clearly said this about Himself: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” In John 17:4 Jesus prays to the Father “I have shown your glory on earth; I have finished the work you gave me to do.” Make sure you finish what God wants YOU to do on this earth!
  • Take a class or speak to your pastor about learning how to find your gifting if you’re not sure of what it might be.  This is so you can learn how God has uniquely gifted you and to how He intends you use that gift in your life.
  • Don’t get caught up in the discipline itself but in placing yourself daily where God can transform you (remember once your in the soil, the Holy Spirit takes over, but your job is getting yourself to the soil).
  • Don’t get discouraged at failure or setbacks; this is a lifelong process and behavior pattern you’re after. Setbacks may come, but don’t let the enemy take you out of the race by quitting.

In conclusion, let me just say this; I believe with every thread of my being that many Christians unknowingly miss out on Gods best for their lives and that’s sad indeed.  But I believe there is something much more profoundly sad than that.

Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, CA once said this: “Jesus certainly didn’t die that awful death on the cross so we could go to church and tithe”.  In Jesus’ last words to his disciples He told them this: “I speak to you as my friends, and I have told you everything that my Father has told me. You did not choose me. I chose you and sent you out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last. Then my Father will give you whatever you ask for in my name”. How sad indeed would it be for the people who call Him Lord of their lives to completely miss knowing Him on an intimate level and accomplishing all He wanted them to.

Leo Tolstoy once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself”; let’s make sure He is able to use us to whatever capacity He desires to bring life and hope to a lost and dying world, Amen?

So change the world by starting with yourself!