If You Want to be Happy

If You Want to be Happy

The book of Psalms holds some of the most-loved Bible passages known in the World. It is a collection of 150 poems that express a wide variety of emotions towards God (love, sorrow, desperation, thankfulness) People who were bringing their emotions to God; good and bad.

The original Hebrew name for this book was Tehillim meaning ‘Praises’.

It was later changed to its Greek name when the New Testament was being established: Psalmos meaning ‘Song’.

The Psalms capture our human experience. They express the emotions and attitudes of the average individual. People love the Psalms because they can identify with them.

In our experiences, no matter how deep the pain or how big the frustration or how great the joy, we can find a psalm that echoes our inmost being.

The first Psalm serves as the gateway into the whole book. This psalm takes topics found in wisdom literature such as Proverbs, and makes them the subject of song: the purpose is that those who sing the psalm will own its values.

The psalmist reminds the readers that in the end there are really only two ways to live.

The truly happy person guides his life by God’s instruction rather than by the advice of those who reject that instruction.

The first two verses of the first chapter read:

1 Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

Your happiness comes straight from studying the Word of God.

Your capacity for happiness is directly proportional to your knowledge and application of the Word of God.

So,

are you happy?

What are your habits concerning the word of God?

Charles Spurgeon once said,

“A Bible that is worn and falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.”

How Well Do You Know Jesus?

How Well Do You Know Jesus?

A long time ago there was a man who was so influenced by the power of Jesus that God used him in extraordinary ways. People would gather from all over just to touch pieces of clothing to his skin… handkerchiefs, scarves, etc. these would be taken to the sick and they were healed of their various diseases and demons.

This man’s name was Paul.

Seven brothers were traveling into town and wanted to try and heal people too. These seven brothers came to the house a man who was demon possessed they came in and declared “I command you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims”

But then the evil spirit inside the man talked back: “I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul, but who are you?” The Bible says the demon possessed man jumped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them. All seven of the brothers fled out of the house as best they could naked, bloody, and wounded.

“I know Jesus, I’ve heard of Paul…

but who are you?”

There is no substitution for knowing Jesus.

That’s what people mean when they say they’re not religious they have a relationship with Jesus.

At one point people wondered if John the Baptist was the messiah.

John lets them know how they will know the messiah:

You will know He who is the messiah because he will ignite kingdom life, start a fire inside of your being, the Holy Spirit will dwell within you.

He will change you from the inside out.

He will clean house- make a clean sweep of your life placing everything in its proper place and order before God.

Everything false will be put out with trash to be burned.

He will refine you with fire.

In the same way judgment will come and separate the growing from the dying in this world…

Jesus comes to separate the growing from the dead in you.

Like a farmer He throws our lives into the air so what is good wheat can be separated from chaff.

His goal is not necessarily to come and burn the chaff, his goal is to save the wheat.

The goal is not to take away all that is bad as much as it is to save all that is good.

How well do you know Jesus?

The Bible says that some upon entering heaven will say “Lord I did all this good stuff in your name”. And he will say, “I never knew you.”

There is a big difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus.

How well do you know Jesus?

Balance

Balance

Different people reach different people.

Does it frustrate you when churches are 20 years behind the world we live in and it almost seems irrelevant or outdated?

Or does it irk you how some people will water down or change the message of the gospel in order to make it palatable for people?

No doubt there are extremes on both ends but how do we find the happy medium?

We can’t twist the Bible to say different things to different people so that they will like it.

That would not be preserving the gospel.

But at the same time, we can’t not adapt to our world around us.

The message always stays the same.

But the methods of delivering have to change

constantly.

Balance is everything

It’s like walking out onto a steep, slender cliff and trying not to fall too far to one side or the other.

Remove anything offensive about the gospel and the gospel is gone.

Failing to appeal to people is equally damaging.

If you under-adapt or over-adapt you lose the gospel.

Balance is everything

Conservatism (or non-adaptation) threatens the gospel just as much as liberalism (or non-preservation) does.

We must never exclude someone from whom God has included in His people.

If we could only be humble enough to recognize the work of God in and through those who work in a different way, with different people, the gospel would go forward no matter how steep the cliff on either side.

What are ways that you over adapt or under adapt the gospel?

Shortcuts

Shortcuts

In the Hollywood film Limitless, Bradley Cooper plays a writer with a book contract that experiences writers block. He depressingly looks and smells like a drug addict. Suffering and stressing out from a lack of inspiration in his dumpy New York apartment his deadlines are getting increasingly closer.

His girlfriend breaks up with him because of his lack of progress and financial dependence.

Then he bumps into an estranged extended family member who offers to make all his troubles go away. He gives him a pill. A pill that allows him to access 100% of his brains capacity. He’s able to learn faster and recall memories from his distant past that he didn’t know existed.

He uses this ability to talk his way out of paying rent, clean up himself, organize his apartment, and finish a whole chapter of his book he was stumped on. After the drug wears off he seeks out the family member for more of it.

This new ability almost like a super power is leading him towards everything falling into place. He had found a shortcut in life. So he starts to wonder if there is any limitation to what he could do? What could he accomplish if he really put his mind to it?

After he gets more of the pills he is able to finish his book in one night and then starts testing his abilities on the stock market. He makes very large returns on small investments. This success leads to him advising a business tycoon who is merging two very large corporations.

But just when things are really taking off he starts experiencing side effects. He starts experiencing blackouts, apparently having moved great distances between periods of lucidity. He finds himself in random places often wondering how he even got there.

He begins to find himself in a whole world of trouble being hunted by both the police and mafia. And he doesn’t even know why.

All because he was desperate to take a shortcut in life.

Recently the creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg gave a commencement speech at a graduation ceremony. One of the things he said was that there are no shortcuts in life. As many assume he became the world’s youngest billionaire in a moment because an idea popped into this head. He says it never would have happened without years and years of education and experience in computers and social context.

There are no shortcuts.

Like Zuckerberg John the Baptist makes the same declaration in Luke 3. Crowds of people came out for baptism because it was the popular thing to do. John explodes he calls them “A brood of Vipers” which in today’s language would be like saying, “You S.O.Bs. He says do you honestly think a little water on your skin is going to deflect God’s judgment? It’s your life that must change.

And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming to “read the Bible”, or “go to church”.

God can make children from rocks if he wants to.

What counts is your life.

John’s message offers a Moment of truth: Devises for maintaining an illusion of innocence must be abandoned.

The condition of your heart has to change.

Constantly.

You can’t talk your way into this.

There is nothing to swallow, no act to be done, and no invoice to be paid.

You must do the hard work of allowing yourself to be changed from the inside out.

You are always either growing or dying.

You never stay the same.

Are you growing or are you dying?

Because you’re always doing either one or the other.

If you’re not growing then you’re dying. If you’re dying, you will eventually come to a point where you are spiritually dead.

And the Bible says in Luke 3… what is dead gets thrown into the fire.

Good Friday

Good Friday

“I am the bread of life.”

Jesus said that. “Whoever comes to me shall not hunger.”

Bread is a basic dietary food. A person can survive a long time on only bread and water. Bread is such a basic food item that it becomes synonymous for food in general. We even use the phrase “breaking bread together” when talking about sharing a meal with someone.

A group of people known as the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years under the leadership of a guy named Moses. At one point this large congregation of Israelites grumbled about there being no food and they lashed out at Moses saying, “have you brought us out here to starve us to death?”

Then God tells Moses he’s going to make bread fall from the sky.

And he did.

Bread falls from the sky.

Why did Jesus say he was the bread of life?

Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee and a huge crowd had followed him. His disciples were worried about taking care of the crowd, they were hungry and hadn’t eaten. But they didn’t have money to feed all these people. Then, one of them brought a boy who had five loaves of (you guessed it) bread and two fish. The boy gave it to Jesus and He miraculously fed 5,000 men along with women and children with food to spare. Every time a disciple would reach into a basket to hand out more the basket was full again.

The crowd follows him yet again and he tells them to worry less about the food for their bodies and more about the food of eternal life. Then they ask Jesus for a sign and tell them that God gave them bread form the sky when they were wandering the desert. Jesus tells them they need to ask for the true bread from heaven that gives life. Then they ask Jesus for this bread and Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Jesus is essential for life. He tries to get our thinking off of the physical realm and into the spiritual realm. Because there is way more going on around us than what we can see with our eyes.

Jesus compares himself to bread. Something everyone would know. It was part of the devil’s temptation to him “Turn these stones into bread”, his miracle of feeding the 5,000, the instrument used at the last supper.

When Jesus was in the upper room with some of his closest friends they all sat down for what we know as the last supper. Jesus took bread and broke it saying, “This is like my body which is going to be broken for you.”

In order for bread to be enjoyed like it’s supposed to be, it needs to be broken.

In order for Jesus’ life to save ours it needed to be broken.

Which brings us to the nails.

Jesus’ body was broken with many different weapons but the Nails were what sealed his death.

Crucifixion was invented about 300-400 before Christ by man for man (women were never crucified). It was the most painful way to die, it was punishment. It’s actually where we get our word excruciating.

The nails which held Jesus to the cross must have been driven into His wrists and not his palms. They were made of heavy, probably square, iron material, 7-9 inches long.

Artists have depicted Jesus being nailed through His palms. This would be impossible; the weight of a fully-grown man was going to be suspended by three nails.

The nails would’ve been first driven through small wooden disks to eliminate any chance of the heads pulling through the flesh. The site of the incision in the arm was critical, and the Romans had perfected it.

There is a space between eight small bones which permits a full body weight to be supported. If the nails had been driven into the palms of the hands, under the extreme weight, they would have ripped out between the fingers.

The third nail had to be driven through both feet, which were turned outward so the nail could be hammered inside the Achilles tendon. Crucifixion victims would hang painfully until their diaphragm went into spasm and they literally suffocated to death.

This was the worst way to die.

And there is such power in that.

How can the power of the cross to change your circumstances?

The bible says those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed their sin to the cross and they are crucified there.

So, if you belong to Christ no matter what you’ve done, no matter what’s been done to you. Any reason that you ever have to doubt yourself is completely nailed to the cross with Jesus if you belong to him.

Do you belong to Christ?

Is Jesus Lord of your life?

People seek to earn their way to heaven this is because God created us with eternity in mind. The Bible says God has placed eternity in our hearts.

The Bible also tells us that there is nothing we can do to earn our way to heaven because we’ve all sinned and fallen short.

Our dilemma is we have a desire we cannot fulfill, no matter what we do.

That is where Jesus comes in. He, and He alone, can fulfill that desire.

When Christ died on the cross, He took your sins upon Himself.

He died in your place because he loved you that much.

When you place our faith in Him, your sins go to Jesus and Jesus’ righteousness comes to us.

How do you place your faith in Him?

The Bible says that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will have eternal life.

It really is that simple.

Labels

Labels

Millennial

Boomer

Gen Xer

Liberal

Conservative

GED

PhD

Immigrant

Complementarian

Egalitarian

Hipster

We are so obsessed with labels.

We love labels.

Which goes to show this hasn’t changed in thousands of years. Humans have been obsessed with labels since the beginning of time. Wanting to be like God in order to know good and evil.

Labels.

That’s what was going on at the church in Galatia. People are adding to the gospel saying, “Yes you need to know Jesus, but Jesus was Jewish and kept the Jewish law and in order to follow him you need to keep the Jewish law.”

Imagine “Yes we want you to follow God but first… it requires a little bit of surgery…” I don’t care what you have to offer you’re not getting near me with that knife!

Circumcision was a big deal,

it was a label.

It was a question of identity, of knowing not only who you were yourself but who else belonged in your group, your tribe, your ethnic family.

We do this too….

Every time you tell someone that Christians dress a certain way, or vote a certain way, or act a certain way.

You are adding to the gospel. You’re saying that Jesus’ death and resurrection was a good start but it’s not enough. That there are still some things you need to do in order to be fully accepted. We add to the requirements of salvation based on our own preferences.

If anyone has ever made you feel like you were less than, like you need to get your life right, like you need to change in order to draw close to God…

I am so sorry.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

We don’t have to be smart enough, clean enough, biblically literate enough…

God doesn’t judge by external appearance.

There is no need to add external behaviors to internal belief in Christ in order to be saved.

We must not insist on additions to gospel belief. Some churches teach that we must believe in Christ plus be baptized to be saved or others add their distinctions i.e. predestination or speaking in tongues, as ways we are sure that we are real Christians.

Don’t add anything to Jesus.

Jesus is enough.

Jesus meets us right where we are.

If the gospel is truly good news then it’s good news for everyone.

Externalities are to do with our doing. Internality has to do with our being.

Christianity is about who I am in Christ, not what I do for Him.

In Galatians Paul is saying the biblical gospel gives freedom, while his opponents ‘earn-your-salvation’ message would lead people only into slavery

So how does the gospel give freedom?

Cultural Freedom- moralistic religions presses for rules of dress and behavior. If your salvation depends upon obeying the rules, then you want your rules to be very specific, doable, and clear. You don’t want things like love you neighbor, it’s so ambiguous there can be endless implications as to what that means. You want things like: don’t go to movies, don’t drink alcohol or don’t eat this type of food.

Emotional Freedom- anyone who believes that our relationship with God is based on keeping up moral behavior is on an endless treadmill of guild and insecurity.

The gospel provides freedom, culturally and emotionally. Any other gospel provides slavery.

Any other gospel, Paul says, is no gospel at all.

It’s not about being told what to do, it’s about being reminded of who are.

Are there times when you think your performance counts toward your salvation?

In what way?

Why do you feel the need to earn God?

God loves you.

Not because of anything you can do for him.

Just because of who you are.

Saul’s Name was Never Changed to Paul

Saul’s Name was Never Changed to Paul

The Apostle Paul wasn’t always an apostle.

His reputation was quite different before his apostolic calling.

Paul hated Christians, he persecuted Christians, he even killed Christians.

That is, until one day he became one.

Paul’s transformation was so powerful and miraculous that he became a missionary. Paul began planting churches all over Eastern Europe and Asia Minor. He later ended up writing letters to these churches encouraging them to stay on the right path. These letters became scripture making up 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament.

He had two names: Saul and Paul.

It is a common misconception that after his conversion God had changed Saul’s name to Paul. That’s actually not true. There is no biblical basis for this whatsoever. In the Old Testament it wasn’t uncommon for God to give people new names when they had been called by him. But this is not one of those cases.

He had two names the whole time. His Hebrew given name was Saul and his Greek given name was Paul. God doesn’t change Saul’s name. Luke does. Luke was a doctor that wrote the book of Acts. In this book he records Paul’s conversion experience and his missionary journeys. Luke refers to him as Saul up until he begins his missionary journey, then he starts calling him Paul. Most likely because that’s what he went by when he started reaching Gentiles and Greeks, he went by his Greek name.

Not everything you hear is true. Even if it’s been said for a really long time.

Study for yourself.

Explore.

You might even find some treasure.

Washington D.C.

Washington D.C.

We recently went to Washington D.C. for an event and took advantage of taking in all the sites that the District of Columbia had to offer. Including a picture in front of the White House…

We recently went to Washington D.C. for an event and took advantage of taking in all the sites that the District of Columbia had to offer. Including a picture in front of the White House…

The Washington Monument…

The Washington Monument…

The Lincoln Memorial…

The Lincoln Memorial…

Got a tour of the new DC Dream Center. I love that the initials are DC DC.

Got a tour of the new DC Dream Center. I love that the initials are DC DC.

Got some coffee a few times at Ebenezer’s on Capitol Hill.

Got some coffee a few times at Ebenezer’s on Capitol Hill.

And yes, had to sit in Mark Batterson’s office above the coffeehouse.

And yes, had to sit in Mark Batterson’s office above the coffeehouse.

We also visited the Bible Museum for the first time. We weren’t sure what to expect but it blew our minds!

We also visited the Bible Museum for the first time. We weren’t sure what to expect but it blew our minds!

Especially the Old Testament Tour. It was amazing! If you ever go and don’t do anything else. This is the one!

Especially the Old Testament Tour. It was amazing! If you ever go and don’t do anything else. This is the one!

They also have a tour of the New testament…

They also have a tour of the New testament…

and the world of Jesus…

and the world of Jesus…

We even saw an original manuscript of the book of Isaiah from 100-150 BC.

We even saw an original manuscript of the book of Isaiah from 100-150 BC.

The event we were in DC for was at the University of Maryland for the Society for Pentecostal Studies. I even saw friends there that I had no idea I would see like Brenton Fessler my Pastor friend from Orange County, California. All in all, a great time in the Capital of the good ‘ole U.S of A!

The event we were in DC for was at the University of Maryland for the Society for Pentecostal Studies. I even saw friends there that I had no idea I would see like Brenton Fessler my Pastor friend from Orange County, California. All in all, a great time in the Capital of the good ‘ole U.S of A!

Control

Control

What causes you to get stressed out? What causes you to feel the pressure?

When you are alone and all the noise is silenced what causes your nerves to vibrate and your resting heart rate beat 10 times a minute above average?

Control.

There are things in life that give a feeling of stressful urgency caused by the necessity of doing or achieving something. Most of the time this is useless emotion that is a counterfeit due to an illusion that you are in control.

Control.

It seems that the things that stress us out the most are things that we are not in control of. The opinions of others, a business pitch, a big exam, planting a church, raising money, you name it. But somehow we have this self-absorbed way of putting it all on ourselves don’t we? We think that we’re in control.

There’s an epic example of this in history. A King named Ahab who reigned in Israel. This King was pretty arrogant and the author of 1Kings says that Ahab did more to provoke the anger of God than all of his predecessors combined. He thought that he was in control.

There was this prophet. A man who spoke on behalf of God his name Elijah. He said this to Ahab, “There shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

Ok.

So what does that mean? Our God is the God of rain?

Yes.

But there’s so much more…

For all of those who stress or feel pressure from the need to take control of every situation and when things don’t go the way that you had predicted or wanted our God is the God of rain.

Control.

It was never yours in the first place.

God is in control. But not just in the generic way that the Clergy tells a cancer patient at a Catholic hospital.

It will not rain unless I say so. Not only will I control whether or not it rains but I am at the level of controlling condensation. A blade of grass will not even sweat unless I say so. God is not just at the level of rain, he is in every single very specific detail that you and I don’t even pay attention to.

Control.

It’s not ours.

We shouldn’t take what’s not ours.

That’s called stealing.

1 Kings 17.1-6

Sea-Green Cinderblock Walls

Sea-Green Cinderblock Walls

I can remember as an infant my parents bringing me to church in a rustic suburb of Chicago and taking me to the nursery. (It’s amazing how I can remember repressed memories from childhood but not what I had for dinner last night). There were uninviting, cold walls made of prison-like cinder blocks painted a nasty sea green. (The color in the 64 Crayola box that no one uses, kinda looks like a shamrock shake from McDonald’s) I can still remember what became known to me as “The smell of Church”…

Damp…

Musty…

Moldy…

church.

This experience conditioned me to associate the cold, not-well lit, sea green walls with God. And if I could cry hard, loud, and long enough my mother would come and get me and settle me by bringing me into the stain-glassed sanctuary with rotting wood where the pastor pointed, yelled, and screamed even louder than I could. I found myself in a situation that wasn’t much better than where I was… however I was with someone who I knew loved and cared about me.

Ever since I can remember I’ve always hated church and anything that was related to religion. It had always been a separate entity from anything that was real life to me. I mean where did my not so secret fantasy of becoming a Ghostbuster fit into the world of religion?

This makes me think how many people are there out there think the very same thing? Not that adults had fantasies of becoming Ghostbusters but, to how many other people was church just a cold, musty, sea-green cinderblock wall?

Now assuming the Church has a message to deliver that’s worth understanding and even applying how can these people be reached? Is it to shut down all churches who don’t have the finances to have a discovery zone as their children’s ministry? Or only to have churches with volumes beyond 5,000 members?, or that a rock concert for Sunday morning worship should be mandatory?

I mean if the church is representing God in every way shouldn’t it be the best in every way? How can God become more to people than just a lucky rabbit’s foot or a carried-on family tradition motivated out of guilt? How can these people be reached?

The same way I was.

Someone who I know loved me and cared about me rescued me away from the cold cinderblocks when I cried hard, loud, and long enough.

Relationships are everything.

Everything else is secondary.

If we listen close enough… we can hear people in the world who have been crying hard… loud… for a very long time.

1 john 3.11

Decisions, Egos, & Dirty Feet

Decisions, Egos, & Dirty Feet

With every decision you make your heart is either growing or shrinking.

Your life sometimes is a series of tests.

Each test is designed to be more difficult than the last.

These tests allow you to go deeper in maturity with your relationship with God.

Your closeness with God depends heavily upon whether or not you pass these tests in front of you.

Not even Jesus was excused from these kinds of tests. Every chance he got he made decisions that allowed his heart to grow bigger. One of them is found in the gospel of john 13.

John is the author of his self-titled gospel. He was one of the twelve disciples and also had given himself the self-proclaimed title… “The Disciple whom Jesus loved”.

John is the shortest of the four gospels covering perhaps more general ground than the others. Writing to both Jews and Gentiles in the larger Greco-Roman world meets people no matter what road they’re on; whether they’re traveling through Greek philosophy or Jewish tradition. He meets people on whatever highway they’re on and leads them all to the same tunnel at the same time.

A collision with the epiphany that Jesus is the Son of God.

In chapter 13 Jesus, this coming king, Messiah gives us one of his many “how to” examples to follow.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Years ago when I was 25 years old and itinerating to be a missionary church planter and I was speaking at a special event in Osage Beach called Parent Night. Basically, it was a big service for students and all of the parents of the students were invited to come out and attend.

I arrived early to meet with the Pastor and leaders. I set my Bible and notes down on the front row in the sanctuary before joining the leadership team. After we were done praying I went into the sanctuary as the service would be starting soon.

My Bible was gone. The place was packed out with teenagers and their legal guardians. The entire front row was taken up by high school girls. I found that my Bible had been moved down to the end of the row with one seat left. I retrieved my Bible and sat down. When I did, the girl next to me turned and looked at me, I could feel her looking at me. She said, “Hi I’m Cassie, what’s your name?”

I knew what was going on, I was newly married and this was my first chance to break a young girl’s heart. This was the moment they talked about in premarital counseling- the importance making it known you had taken yourself off the market, you were married, done, unavailable.

I thought about flashing my wedding ring (clearing throat) and letting her know we were not on the same level. And then she says, “So, who’s dad are you?”

Ego shattered.

A couple years ago I spoke at a big church in Portland, Oregon. There were two services and in between the services a few people came up to me. One was an older gentleman with white hair dressed well in a tan suit and a bolo tie.

He was a retired navy seal and he said. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I judged you.” He began to explain how when I walked up on stage my skinny jeans and weird haircut he thought how could this kid possibly have anything to say of substance. He said that morning the Lord spoke to him through the message and he was convicted. It took great courage to say what he did to me. It took great humility.

Jesus shows us that serving others and humility go hand in hand.

This does not mean that you think less of yourself.

It means that you think of yourself less. -C.S. Lewis

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. -Philippians 2:3-5

Serving others and genuine love go hand in hand.

But what exactly does that look like?

How do we position ourselves to act humbly?

Take a look at your schedule. Are you doing too much?

Allow Him to free up your time.

Begin placing others first in your day to day.

Think about the needs of others and how you can place them before your own.

Serving others is a better way to live.

Your life is a series of tests.

May you pass all of your tests with flying colors.

May you see the good that comes from thinking of yourself less.

May it be ever so clear to you that with every decision you make your heart is either growing or shrinking.

The Crystal Ball & God's Will

The Crystal Ball & God's Will

Have you ever heard people say they want to know what God’s will is for their life?

If you study all the Scriptures that talk about God’s will, it seems as if they all have something in common. It’s as if they communicate God’s will being the perfect balance of love and holiness.

Theologian, J.I. Packer suggests the Scriptures refer to three different facets of God’s will: The Ultimate will, the Revealed will, and the Permissive will. God has one will just as he is only one God,  but Packer suggests that one will has three facets (three in one).

The Ultimate will acknowledges that God is sovereign or supreme. In this we understand that nothing ever happens that is outside His will. Ephesians 1:11 says that he works all things according to the counsel of his will. This doesn’t necessarily mean he causes things to happen, just that he permits them. This is the hidden part of his will, containing things that we don’t know will happen until… after they happen.

The Revealed will is just what it sounds like: the part of God’s will that is revealed to us. And it is revealed through the Bible and our conscience. The more our conscience is in line with God’s word the more we walk in his will. If the word of God is in us, then the will of God comes out of us.

The Permissive will. This is the part of his will that exposes his attitude and it defines what pleases him. For instance we know that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, however he still wills or decrees it. Jesus said the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God, but they will inherit death. But that doesn’t mean God takes pleasure in that. As a matter of fact I would be willing to bet

that

just

breaks

God’s

heart.

So what about this heart?

I just want to know God’s will for my life.

When people ask that, what are they really saying?

Sometimes I think we expect to sit across from God at a table as he hovers over his crystal ball waiting for him to reveal to us what the future holds so that we can know what kinds of decisions we need to make.

The problem with this is when seeking to know the future… we’re longing to know what we can’t know.

Clutching to our limited understanding is exactly where God wants us to be so that our strength is in him and not in ourselves.

But we still want to know don’t we?

Maybe it’s because we are easily preoccupied with what we’re doing instead of who we’re becoming.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this very thing in what’s considered his most important theological legacy. The longest letter he ever wrote which was addressed to the Romans.  

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God what is good and acceptable and perfect.” 

Romans 12.2

Easter & Ecclesiology

Easter & Ecclesiology

Hands and feet nailed to a tree, stood up, hung to die, and through this our sins are forgiven. This is the execution device we wear around our necks and get tattooed on our biceps. And while he was on this cross they stuck a sword in his side just to make sure he was actually dead. All this happened on a Friday. 

Jesus is buried in a tomb and the glorious thing about this Holiday is not just pastel colored button up shirts, hardboiled eggs, or the freakishly adult-sized bunny who answers to the name Peter Rabbit, but the fact and belief that Jesus was raised from the dead. He was resurrected. And this happened on a Sunday! Resurrection Sunday!

Then, in cool fashion Jesus approaches Mary who is crying outside Jesus’ tomb and she thinks he’s the gardener. Jesus calls her name and immediately she knows exactly who he is. She runs to tell the disciples. That night Jesus reveals himself to the disciples and their minds are blown.
However, there was one who wasn’t with them…

Thomas.

Who has been referred to as “Doubting Thomas”. But really, Thomas’ story is our story. Because of his doubt and unbelief we like to point fingers at him, but the truth of the matter is we too understand that the novelty of Jesus wears off doesn’t it?

We get used to it. We rehearse it. We get indoctrinated in it. It can actually get old.
There is something in us that loves what is new.
We like new things its universal to the human condition.
We keep up with our committed beliefs by mouth and perhaps that’s only because we don’t want to face the repercussions of option two of being on the other side.
Well, far too often in life, we have drifted away from God.
You start to have the habits of faith without the heart of faith.
You have structures without the Spirit.
You are going through the rituals but you don’t have the real thing. You are going through the patterns of faith but no longer with the power.

And if you have ever come to that time in your life, when things aren’t quite right,
when your religion has become more of a ritual than a real thing,
when it is more of a pattern than power,
when it is more structure than Spirit,
then something needs to be done.
 
You see, Thomas is not so different from us.
This is an insight that says you are this person.
Thomas is a spirit that lives inside you and I.
 
How much of you nodding your head at these declarations of Jesus are programmed… automatic… habitual…?
 
Spiritually speaking, if you don’t feel like you’re alive for the very first time then perhaps you need to rediscover the magic and the mystery that allows you to experience life for what it really is.
 
Rediscover the art of believing in Jesus.
 
Believing in Jesus gives life and brings us back to where we came from
for the very first time.
 
May we all be restored with fresh faith in the Jesus that not only died for our sins,
but also by the power of God was raised from the dead.
 
May we believe in Resurrection,
and through it may we constantly be made brand new.
 

Hosanna

Hosanna

Why do we celebrate Palm Sunday? 

Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week, which is the week before Easter, commemorating events in the last days of Jesus Christ's life. According to ancient scriptures Jesus rode into Jerusalem where people gave him a hero's welcome during the Jewish Passover celebration.

As he rode in on a donkey with all his disciples following, people threw down their clothes and tree branches for the donkey to walk on. It was like rolling out the red carpet.

The tree branches would’ve most likely been from palm trees.

This is why we call it Palm Sunday.

As Jesus is riding in on the donkey people are shouting a word…

“Hosanna”

What does Hosanna mean?

This is not a word that was made up my Hillsong United.

When the word "hosanna" occurs in the New Testament, it’s the the same word in Greek- "hosanna." When it was translated we just used English letters (h-o-s-a-n-n-a) to make the sound of the Greek word.

The Greek dictionary will tell you that it’s not even a Greek word. Those who wrote the New Testament in Greek did the same thing to a Hebrew word that the English translators did to the Greek word.

They just used Greek letters to make the sound of a Hebrew phrase. Our English word "hosanna" comes from a Greek word "hosanna" which comes from a Hebrew phrase… 

hoshiya na

And that Hebrew phrase is found one solitary place in the whole Old Testament.

Psalm 118:25, where it means, "Save, please!" It is a cry to God for help. Like when someone is falling: "Help, save me . . . Hoshiya na!"

But something happened to that phrase, the meaning changed over the years. In the psalm it was immediately followed by the exclamation: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" The cry for help, hoshiya na, was answered before the author could blink. Over time the phrase stopped being a cry for help.

Instead it became a shout of hope and exultation.

It used to mean, "Save, please!"

But gradually, it came to mean, "Salvation! Salvation! Salvation has come!"

It used to be what you would say when you were falling.

But it came to be what you would say when someone was about to catch you.

"Hosanna!" means, "Hooray for salvation! It's coming! It's here! Salvation! Salvation is here!"

This is why people shouted it when Jesus rode in on a donkey. 

This is why we celebrate Palm Sunday.

Salvation is here.

Leadership is not Forever

Leadership is not Forever

Recently my wife and I were talking about a friend of ours who for most of his life displayed a brilliant business plan. He would start a certain kind of business in a community. Then he would hire an apprentice, show him the ropes, and eventually after building the business up sell it to his apprentice. Then he would go and start another one in a new community and repeat the process.

He did this over 30 times.

I started thinking about this at a red light while my wife sat in the passenger seat. I said, “You know, I think a church is the only place that doesn’t happen… If you put in the hard work of building up a church, you can’t sell it to someone like a business; even if that’s what the day to day operations are modeled after.”

You give it away.

Then my wife being the giant of brilliance PhD student she is- says,

“That’s because it’s a church.”

It wasn’t so much that I was unaware of this truth as much as hearing someone say it out loud brought all these implications to the surface for me.

Stewardship.

This must be why corporations have defined retirement dates for their executives. If those in charge are not submitted to an overall plan, the thrust of what they are doing will not work in the long term.

Leadership is not forever. And there are no exceptions to that rule.

An airline pilot has the authority to enter the cockpit of an aircraft. He is qualified by skill, training, and experience to fly. He has the temperament and has passed the physical examination.

Together with the navigator, co-pilot, and attendants, he will fly that aircraft from Chicago to San Francisco. When he arrives in San Francisco, he will leave that plane, knowing that the next person has the competence, experience, and skill to handle the job as well as he did.

While he was sitting in the pilot’s seat, he had the authority to fly that airplane, but he did not own it. It was not his — it belonged to the airline. And when he arrived at the destination, he left the aircraft for somebody else to fly.

No matter what you accumulate in life (things, people, power) …

No matter what authority has been granted unto you…

May we all be awakened to the universal truth that we actually don’t own anything,

May our hearts be adjusted to the realization that we are not owners but managers.

And may we manage in a way that inspires the owner to say,

“well done.”

 

 

this article originally appeared in TheoMag