Category Archives: Spiritual Development

5 Things To Do After You Get Baptized

baptism-1So you did it!

You were baptized, you took the plunge, you got dunked!!

That is so awesome!  Just know that the party in heaven for you declaring Jesus your Lord and Savior is just getting started.  If you haven’t heard, “there ain’t no party like a Heaven party, cuz the Heaven party don’t stop!

So after you dry off, finish with all the hugs, and feel the adrenaline wear off…now what?  I mean, shouldn’t there be a meet and great with an angel or maybe a lighting bolt tattoo that mysteriously shows up on your left ankle?  There has to be some sort of next step or way to remember this amazing event that happened right?

Sure you will get a super duper awesome certificate in the mail commemorating your day, but I think your soul has bigger questions than what kind of frame should I hang this in?

Well to help you with your next steps of faith, I thought I would outline five tangible steps you can take after your baptism.

#5 – Tell Someone About It

I can’t overstate how important this step is in your journey.  Telling someone what you did and why you did it is vital to making this experience be more than a cheap bath.  It is establishing your testimony.  Calm down, I’m not asking you to stand on a street corner and let it rip at the people passing by.  I’m simply asking you to tell someone you love what God did in you in a very real and honest way.  This may be your mom, dad, brother, coworker, or even child, but telling someone helps to keep the meat on the bones of what you decided to do.  I guess I’m saying that the answer to the question, “How was your weekend?” may need a different answer this week.

#4 – Get A Bible

You may already have one of these at home, but if it’s used to level out your broken coffee table that might not be the way God intended you to use it.  In all seriousness, find a Bible you can understand so you can start your journey.  I recommend to both new and seasoned believers the Life Application Bible.  It is the NIV translation and gives you help reading through the Bible when you hit the stick points.  You can find it wherever you like, but it’s worth the investment to have a good Bible to use and let it speak to you.

#3 – Find A Reading Plan

After you get your Bible you may need help deciding where to start and a Bible reading plan can be very, very helpful.  I recommend a plan called the SOAP reading plan which stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, & Prayer.  This approach to reading your Bible provides you a structure to follow when reading.  Our church puts out a regular SOAP Reading Plan based on this model which may be helpful.  Download it, follow it, dive into it.

#2 – Join A Small Group

You may need to stretch yourself a little bit here.  I know that the thought of sitting around talking about the Bible, praying, and meeting a bunch of strangers may sound goofy, but stay with me.  Small groups is the way that you will see your faith grow astronomically because you get to see it in real lives.  I’d encourage you to join a group at your church and if you are a Parkview person you can go to our Group Finder and it will lead you through finding a group.  Getting in community with other believers is one the best ways to keep the fire of your baptism alive and running.

#1 – Keep Going To Church

Finally I would encourage you to stay connected to a church family.  There is a growing number of people in the world that feel church is an “option” in their faith.  They feel they can connect with God anywhere they want and don’t have to attend a church to do it.  I’d agree that God is everywhere, but the fact is that Jesus died FOR the church so I’d say it may be important.  Church is where you go to get fed, encouraged, challenged, grow in community, learn to serve, and so much more, but you need to be there to receive the fullness of that blessing.  I’m not saying you have to go to my church, but go to A Bible believing and Jesus loving church near you and get plugged in.

*For my Parkview readers you also could consider coming to one of our What We Believe Classes coming up.  At the Lockport Campus it is on May 7 and at our Orland Park Campus it is being offered May 18.  This is a great class to learn more about Parkview as a church and also find out what your next steps in your walk can be at Parkview.

I hope you still have a smile on your face remembering your moment under the waters of baptism.  I pray the joy that God gave you through the gift of the Holy Spirit has permanently changed you forever.  I know I’m smiling just thinking of it too.

However, I do know that this type of adrenaline high is impossible to maintain.  You need next steps to grow and to keep following God’s path.  Take a look at these things, ask questions, get plugged in with a good church, and keep following Christ.  Would I also love to see you connect with a seasoned Believer for mentoring, accountability, and to walk through life with?  Yes, but these 5 things are great next steps to start with today.

So, I pray that although the water may be dried on your body, that your soul remains drenched with the love God has for you.

Congratulations!!!

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Seeking Wisdom – Proverbs 23: How To Be Fat And Happy

Fat Orangutang

“Buy the truth and do not sell it;

get wisdom, discipline and understanding.”

Proverbs 23:23

 

 

My wife and I once went to an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet in Las Vegas with my in-laws.  Next to the birth of our children and our wedding day, this was arguably the greatest day of our lives.  We are such seafood fans that when a restaurant created a buffet seemingly dedicated to us, it would have been rude not to have dove face first into it.

Our favorite seafood delicacy hands down is Crab Legs.  Not “Krab” legs.  Crab with a “c” legs.  I’m tell you that just typing the words crab legs at 6:00 am at my kitchen table makes me drool like a monkey staring down a banana tree.  They are so good, but when Cherie and I get our hands on them, you would have thought we stole them because we devour them quicker than you can put them down.

As “professional” crab eaters, we certainly understand that there are different quality levels of crab legs and some restaurants are far better than others.  But when it comes to buffets we know it’s about quantity not quality and the phrase we live by is “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  In other words don’t worry about breaking your fingers over the skinny, pinky finger kind of legs, just stay focused on the fatties because those bring the most bang for your buck.  I have to say that approach has done us well and rolling out of that Las Vegas buffet with our jeans unbuttoned, ankles swollen, and two chapped smiling face was a great feeling.

However we both know that we can’t do that every day unless we want to weigh 600 pounds a piece and have TV cameras follow us as we go through his and her stomach stapling procedures.  Too much of anything can turn deadly and that’s why we try to pace ourselves on these seafood adventures and do them once every…oh…10 years I guess.  I mean, my hands are just now de-puffing from that glutinous Vegas buffet so I’m just about ready.

Solomon knows a thing or two about indulging and gluttony.  After all, he was considered one of the richest men that every lived and to say he had an addictive personality was an understatement.  Whether it was palaces, animals, gold, land, or even women he had a Vegas buffet’s worth of them at all times.  Yet his words in Proverbs don’t brag about his gluttonous ways, but rather urge us as the reader to be careful and seek moderation.

Here is just a few highlights of what he warns us about

  • Don’t gorge on food: “When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony” (v. 1)
  • Don’t gorge on money:  “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.” (v4)
  • Don’t gorge on women: “For a prostitute is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well.” (v 27)
  • Don’t gorge on alcohol: “Do not gaze at wine when it’s red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly!  In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.” (v 31-32)
  • Don’t gorge on foolishness: “Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words.” (v 9)

However, through all of these warnings Solomon does encourages us to get fat on one thing…wisdom.

“Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” (v 12)

“Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path.” (v 19)

“Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding.” (v 22)

God is completely fine with us getting fat and happy on wisdom.  In fact, He would be overjoyed if His children were obese with wisdom and using it to live their lives in His ways.  Yet more times that not we get distracted by other things around us and pursue those like a dog chasing it’s tail.  All that leads to is a dizzy and frustrating existence that gains no traction and distances ourselves from God’s design for our life.

Don’t be fooled by a life buffet full of imitation junk.  Hold out until you are able to gorge yourself on things that bring about wisdom and life.  Life is too short to waste days recovering from foolish and unwise decisions.  Value each breath that you have and choose wisely the things that you consume in your life.  Don’t sweat the small stuff in this world, instead hold out for a fatty bite of Godly wisdom because only that will leave you satisfied.

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Malaysia Flight #370 and You

Vacuum failureOn March 8, 2014 Malaysia Flight #370 with its 239 passengers disappeared from radar detection and has yet to be found.  A worldwide effort has been made to comb what seems like the entire ocean to find out what happened.  Satellites have been used to look for remnants of the plane. Planes from every nationality have scoured every small lead. Helicopters and boats have attempted to recover what was thought to be leads floating in the ocean, but as of today nothing has been seen. 

While the mystery of this plane’s disappearance has befuddled and frustrated the world, no one has been more affected than the loved ones of the 239 missing people.  Their hopes rise up like exposed nerve endings every time a press conference is held.  In their spirits they cling to a thread of possibility that their loved ones are somehow okay and have been found.  Sadly, with each passing day and each passing empty lead their thread of hope slowly frays causing them to slowly come to grips with the reality that their loved ones are gone.

My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to all that are involved.  I pray that God comforts them in this most desperate of times and gives them a peace that surpasses understanding over time.  Yet through this tragedy I believe we can see a great deal about ourselves.

You see this plane was headed in the right direction and had done so hundreds, if not thousands, of times.  Because of someone’s terrible decision, or perhaps a mechanical error, this plane got dreadfully off course.  A course that led them further and further off track and further and further into the unknown.

Our lives are much the same when we stop and think about it.  I feel that it’s safe to say that no one plans on having a drug addiction.  No one plans on cheating on their husband after 30 years of marriage.  I’m not sure I’ve met anyone that wants to lose their house to gambling debt.  These are never things that are on the flight plan when our lives took off.  Our goals are far different, but as a result of our decisions and our sin we may find ourselves off course.  Now clearly, my analogy deviates away from the Malaysian flight as none of those people on the plane chose the new flight plan they were forced to take, but I think you see my connection.

In Proverbs 4:25-27 King Solomon say it best:

“Let your eyes look straight ahead,

fix your gaze directly before you.

Make level paths for your feet

and take only ways that are firm.

Do not swerve to the right or the left;

keep your foot from evil.”

Without question there are things in this life that were thrust upon us that we didn’t ask for that alter the course of our life.  We are often on the other end of someone’s poor decisions and are forced to pick up pieces of our life that we never dropped.  Yet even in the midst of cleaning up a life mess that someone else made we have a choice on how we react, deal, and redeem those moments.

However, we must realize that a greater part of our life is under our care and responsibility.  We choose far more of the trajectory of our life than others do.  It’s in these moments that we would be wise to flee from sin and run into the arms Jesus. Into His perfect and holy ways that will keep our feet on the solid path and into a life full of purpose, passion, and meaning.

Never let someone else take control of your life by making sinful and bad choices.  They will only lead you down roads you never intended to go and you end up asking yourself, “How did I get here?”  God’s road doesn’t leave you empty. In fact, it leaves you full but craving more!  You may actually say to yourself, “I can’t believe that I get to be here!”  His blessing and the life that is found in following Him are unmatched by what the world can offer.

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and your flight plan will be smooth.

Stay focused my friends.

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4 Things The Flu Taught Me About Sin

Recession-Flu_1245775c

Last week I caught the Influenza A virus that has been crushing every corner of the United States.  I wish I knew the person who spewed their mucous laden, virus infused spit on me so I could “thank them”, but alas I do not.  What I do know is that between bouts of trying to pry the toilet off it’s base while dry heaving my soul into the bowl and having schizophrenic episodes of body shivers and sweats I realized that the flu actually teaches me a lot about sin.

 

Here are Four Things I learned.

1.  The Flu Makes You Look Repulsive…so does Sin

I’m not sure if you knew this or not, but you don’t look good when you have the flu.  Pale, sweaty, and puffy are not part of the next “in” fitness craze.  The reason is that the virus inside you is causing your body to revolt and fight it with every possible means necessary.  It’s not looking for style points.  The same happens with sin in our life.  You look repulsive when you sin.  Your soul is trying to do whatever it can to make things right but the sin just distorts the whole picture.

2.  The Flu Isolates You…so does Sin

My room became my cave for 3 days and no one wanted to come in.  My wife would only come into check to make sure I was alive and maybe thrown a Lysol grenade in from time to time, but other than that it was me, my pillows, and my misery.  Sin will cause you to do the same thing.  Sin wants you to isolate yourself and build up a cocoon of selfishness that no one can penetrate.  Sin wants you weak, alone, and dependent on only it to survive.

3.  The Flu Hits When You Are Weak…so does Sin

The easiest time for you to get the flu is when you are stressed, tired, and not eating the right things.  When your body is weakened it’s defenses are compromised which is a playground for viruses.  Why in the world do you think so many college students get mono around finals time?  It’s because they are stressed out and their bodies are more worried about their calc final than fighting off a bug.  Sin loves when we are weak too.  In fact what it loves to do is attack you when you are down and out because it can get it’s best claws in then.  If you are wondering why you seem to be sinning more maybe check how you are taking care of yourself and your soul.

4.  The Flu Is Easily Spread To Others…so is Sin

The worst part about the flu I just had was that I spread it to my staff.  Yep, we had an all staff retreat the day I started to feel crummy and it wasn’t until after the retreat was over that I went to the doctor.  Sure enough about a day later, one by one my staff was texting me and saying they had it too.  The flu was now having a field day with my crew, but you could trace it back to this guy right here.  I felt doubly terrible.  I’m not sure if you knew this, but your sin effects other people too.  There is collateral damage to the decisions we make when we sin.  It effects those we love and care about even when we think it’s only effecting us.  That’s part of the evil of sin.  It sprays like a shotgun not like the sniper’s bullet we want it to be.

There is not doubt that the flu sucks the life out of you.

Don’t kid yourself, sin is sucking the life out of you too.

The difference is that the flu will usually pass after a few days, but sin may last an eternity if you don’t deal with it.  Jesus is the answer to your sin virus.

He says “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

Let me let you in on a little secret.

You and I make really crummy sin doctors.  In fact we are literally the worst, but Jesus is the Surgeon General of sin annihilation.  Let Him do what he does best and run like the wind from the sin in your life.  Believe me, living a life with Jesus Christ MD as your personal physician is way better than self diagnosing and being in the fetal position rocking back in forth in a warm shower the rest of your life.

 

 

 

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A Las Vegas Winter Coat

sweat-skin-1So there I was in Las Vegas wearing a full winter coat.

I had gloves in my jacket pockets and a stocking hat in my backpack.

Tucked away was an ice scraper and some hand warmers just in case.

Now one would think that wearing a snow coat in the middle of the desert would be at best not advised.  After all the average temperature in Las Vegas in the middle of December is still 65 degrees.  I mean wearing that amount of clothing in those temperatures makes about as much sense as the president of PETA being the keynote speaker at a hunting convention.  It just doesn’t end well.

But, what if I told you Las Vegas wasn’t my final destination.

See, I wasn’t in the middle of the Las Vegas strip doing push-ups, I was in the airport.  I was getting ready to connect to a flight to Chicago.  A city where the current temperature was literally colder than the North Pole at the time.  I had a car buried in snow and my family to get into it so that coat and thermals was crucial to me surviving and getting my family safely home.

Now think about this.  What if I had given in to the awkwardness of being in Vegas with my winter gear and planned for Vegas instead of Chicago?

What if I had planned on shorts, t-shirt, and maybe a sweatshirt at night for my time in Las Vegas?  After all, I would have fit right in when I was there, but I would have been in trouble when I got to my final destination.  Real.  Trouble.

As Christians I think we sometimes get tired of wearing our spiritual winter coats in this world.  It would seem that we are being held back to all that this world has to offer because of this Christian coat

  • Why can’t I sleep with whomever I want?  Oh, the coat.
  • Why can’t I spend my money however I want?  Oh yeah, the coat.
  • Why can’t I talk, think, and act however I please?  Of course, the COAT.

Why do I need to wear this stupid Christian coat all the time!?

The reason is that you aren’t dressing for this world but for the next.  This isn’t our final destination, but rather a stop until the eternity plane makes it’s final descent.

The writer of Hebrews says it this way, “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” - Hebrews 13:14 (NLT)

Peter would say, “Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.” - 1 Peter 2:11 (NLT)

The problem with shedding our spiritual coat for the fashionable clothing of the world is that we may create comfort in this life, but we have lost sight that this isn’t our final destination.  At some point our worldly Visa will expire and we will be forced to head to our home country.

Let me break away from my analogy and talk straight.

The life we live now as Christians is not for waste or a period of “waiting around” until we die.  It has purpose and meaning that should bring God glory.  However, this life is not the end either, but just the beginning of the life God has called us to.  We are aliens in this world in that we live contrary to the way the world says we ought to live.  In doing so we may feel strange, look strange, and act strange, but we are living not for the approval of here and now, but of the yet to come.  We are living for an audience of One who we will one day spend our eternity.

If we are able to keep that perspective then we will learn to be comfortable being out of fashion in this life so we are on the cutting edge in the next.   So bundle up and smile because the best is yet to come on the next leg of this flight.

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A Christmas Heart Tattoo

Cute_Heart_Wallpaper_jmkbuI’ll be honest I am really considering getting a tattoo.  I feel my super white skin is a tattooer’s dream canvas and I’ve been keeping it from them for too long.  Ok, so I don’t think like that, but I do think I want to get one.  After all my little brother Brandon has some ink already and I can’t let him get too far ahead of me. 

The problem I run into is always the same however.

“What should I get?”

I’ve gone around and around of what I want to put on my body since it will last forever.  It’s ranged from Bible verses to Pound Puppies to even a glow in the dark picture of Stewart Scott from Sportscenter that can only be seen in a laser tag arena, lit up by black lights, and when he glows you can read the word “BooYah” on his left arm.  Ok, so I really only have thought about Bible verses, but I had to sweeten the pot a little.

A tattoo is a permanent fixture on your body it is true.  And, yes, there are some people out there that will tell you you’re going to hell if you get a tattoo.  However, those guys must have missed the verse in Revelation 19 where Jesus comes back riding a horse, wearing a robe dipped in blood, with a tattoo on His leg.  I mean if it’s good for Jesus, it’s good for me.  But I do agree that it is a big decision and not one that you rush into.   Ask any Spring Breaker that rushes into it and then later regrets getting Kermit the Frog riding in the Barbie convertible on their forearm every time they go for a job interview.  All that to say, I still don’t know what I want, but when I do get one it is going to mean something deeply to me and I want to be proud of whatever marks me forever.

So I write this just days before Christmas here in Chicago.  I’m preparing Christmas services at church, putting finishing touches on gifts for the kids, and mentally preparing to fly to Utah to see family the week after Christmas.  I’m in a bit of autopilot mode because it seems to be the same thing year after year.  Yet, I can’t help but stop and ask myself “What should I be getting out of Christmas?”  “How am I being marked this year by Jesus even after all these years of celebrating?”

Sure, I could just roll through the season checking off the list of things I have to do and get to do, but I feel like there is more.  I feel like I’m supposed to be changed by what we are celebrating.  After all, Christmas is meant to remember God sending his only Son to the earth to save mankind from their sin.  It’s not just an excuse to go into deeper Credit Card debt once a year believe it or not.  There is so much power in what we are celebrating that I want more than just holiday cheer.

Then it hit me as I was studying in Deuteronomy.  While Moses was addressing the Nation of Israel on the cusp of entering the Promised Land he encourages them to not just go through the motions but stop and have this moment change them.

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them to your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Deuteronomy 11:18-19

It wasn’t enough for the people just to walk into this new land, it had to mark them.  It had to change them.  It had to influence their lives, souls, and beings.  It was more than a new address it was a fulfillment of the promise of God started years prior with Abraham.  God wanted them to tattoo this moment on them forever so they would not forget.

God wants that for me and for you this Christmas too.  He wants us to tattoo the meaning and the hope of this season on our heart, mind, and soul.  He wants us to impress the reason we celebrate on our children early and often in their lives.  God is asking us to stop and mark this moment so permanently on our lives that every day we wake up, take a step, or lie our head down we remember Jesus and his love.

Don’t let this season passively go by with it only making an impact on your wallet.  Dig deeper into the reason we celebrate and allow Jesus to mark you permanently in the way you parent, love, serve your spouse, give, use your time, and forgive.  A Christmas Tattoo could be the best gift you ever give yourself and it will be a visible reminder to your soul that Jesus is more than a Season, but He is our Savior!

 

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The Guy In The Handicap Spot

handicap logoBefore the “lovely” Chicago weather changed and it became unsafe for human life to be outside for more than the length of a Bear’s timeout, I was having coffee while, reading outside a restaurant.  As I read I noticed that a very sporty black Mustang with back rims and black windows roared up and parked in the parking spot upfront.  Out popped a woman who clearly had the coffee order in her hand for her and the driver.  She ran in for what was clearly an in-and-out stop before they continued on their way.

Out of the corner of my eye I then noticed a couple in their 80’s making their way towards the restaurant too.  The wife had a little quicker gate so she made it to the door first, but her husband needed some time and I would say after nearly 5 minutes he made it to her.  I then overhead her say that “I can’t believe this guy parked in the handicap parking spot!” to her out of breath husband.

They were right, the hare had taken the parking spot from the tortoise, but in this case the tortoise was handicapped, aged, and would never win a foot race again.  However, what blew me away was what happened next.

The gentleman in the Mustang leans his head out and starts swearing and yelling at the elderly couple as if it was their fault!  I couldn’t believe it.  The old woman couldn’t either and, rightfully so, she called the man a “selfish jerk” as she held the door for her husband to gingerly shuffle through.  The other woman came out about that time and got back in the Mustang, drinks in hand, and the black shadowy car sped off.  Instead of admitting he was a tool, apologizing, moving his car, and maybe buying the couple’s coffee, Mustang-Man decided to stand his ground and yell at the people he offended.

Now before we start driving around the south suburbs looking for this mysterious black Mustang to let the air our of his tires, we need to realize in a lot of cases we are just like him.  Just as he justified his position for parking in the handicap spot, so do we justify things we do in our life.  In an effort to make ourselves not look foolish, ignorant, or wrong we will try to ice over our offense with all kinds of sugary excuses.  Here are few examples:

  • It’s the husband that cheats on his wife then blames her for it because she was not “meeting his needs”.
  • It’s the employee that fudges their expense report numbers because after all “they don’t pay me enough as it” is so they deserve it.
  • It’s the gambling addict that has lost everything but blames his father because that is “all he ever knew.”

Proverbs 16:2 sums this craziness up well.  It says “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighted by the Lord.”  That is exactly what all of us find when we try to sugar coat our sin instead of dealing with it and asking for forgiveness. When we think that our ways is better than God’s we are required to justify ourselves because, after all, we need to establish our “rightness” and “innocence” to our self to keep going forward.  However, God knows the true motive of our heart and can see the damage being done by our sin and it grieves Him.

The proper way to handle these areas of sin in our life would be to follow the wisdom from Proverbs 16:6 where it says, “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil.”  We find forgiveness and love through God by confessing our sins and not hiding them, and by having reverence for God and His plan we avoid future pitfalls.  This is where we find peace in life and not in the rabbit trails of sin justification.

So watch where you park your life, and if you find yourself in the wrong spot don’t start yelling at God.  Rather, sit down, buy Him a cup of coffee, and repent so you can begin to heal.

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Spiritual Procrastination

beat_procrastinationAs a rule, I’m a pretty proactive person, but there are times that I procrastinate.

My nature is to get things done and move on, but from time to time things will sit unfinished or even unstarted.  I look at these things day after day and beat myself up inside saying “Why are you not just taking care of that? It’s right in front of but you still walk by it!”  There are a great number of things I dislike about myself, but this is near the top of the list right next to my lack of patience.

Yet when I do get my head out of my procrastination and get things done I feel better.  I feel like I’ve accomplished something.  I feel like my world is back in rhythm.  Now regardless of what kind of organizational mess you are, all of us can agree that the feeling of getting a task done is great.  No one ever walks away from doing something they were supposed to do in the first place and say “wow, I should have just ignored that longer.  Having that done just makes me feel worse about myself.”

That’d be crazy!

Now, a huge part of me wants to run home and start knocking out all the projects in the house I’ve been sitting on just so I can get a rush of “atta boy” in my system, but sadly I can’t do that now.  After all there’s always later.  :)

One area of life we really push to the “maybe later” category is our relationship with God.  There is a spiritual procrastination within us all that will deprioritize God so low that He sometimes falls off the To Do List all together.  The reasons for this vary and often looks like one of these:

  • Sometimes we feel like we’ve neglected Him so long that there is no salvaging the relationship.
  • Other times we see that our relationship with God isn’t that bad compared to other people so we figure it can hold up a little longer until we get some “free time”.
  • Others will go so far as to say that God is an unnecessary waste of time and energy because He may not even really exist so why bother?

All of these thoughts are simply different degrees of spiritual procrastination and all find their root in the Evil one.  Satan usually doesn’t have to work to hard to keep us normal people away from God.  All he needs is to make us feel a little more tired, a little more stressed, or plant a simple thought in our mind and we are sprinting away from God justifying our retreat all the way.

However, Jesus talks with much more urgency about our spiritual life.  In fact he may even come across as down right pushy if you don’t know His heart.  Listen to what He has to say in the Book of Revelation.

“Behold, I am coming soon!  Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” – Revelation 22:7

“Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” – Revelation 22:12-13

“Yes, I am coming soon.” – Revelation 22:20

I have this little rule of thumb when it comes to reading the Bible.  When I see an exclamation point I stop and read it again because it must mean something important.  When I see Jesus using exclamation points I stop and read it twice because He doesn’t use them often so it must be really important.  That’s why when Jesus says I am coming!” I realize that His urgency is pointed towards me and I need to do something with what He said.

Now I could always follow my natural human nature and just wait to act because after all it’s been 2000 years since He died and He hasn’t come back yet so chances are I’ve go time.   Or I could stop dancing in the fire and decide I need to believe His return is real and be prepared.  In other wrods I need to consider my eternal reality and make sure my life is matching up with the God I claim to know and love.

We all must realize that our current life is only the opening act for our eternal life, but it’s this life that will dictate what our life on the other side looks like.   I pray we all feel the urgency of what Christ says and realize He IS coming…soon!  If we believe that, then  getting our spiritual affairs in order becomes much more important that cleaning out the garage so our golf clubs are off the ground.  Don’t allow spiritual procrastination to hold you back from the love and grace Jesus is offering and begin living in His truth now!

Trust me the feeling of getting this taken care of will be the greatest sense of accomplishment you’ve ever felt!

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My Jealous God

MyJealousGod-EverythingAboutYou-BE-12-Label-AIf you’ve been in the Christian world for very long you probably have heard this phrase before.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

Now that seems to make sense if you’re sitting in a church service and a pastor or priest tells you that.  After all you’re in God’s house so why would you offend the Host by saying otherwise?! I  mean just out of common courtesy you’d agree!

That could be the easiest way to get a lighting bolt between the eyes if you ask me.  It would be like telling your grandma you didn’t like her pumpkin pie right in front of your mom. You may get the words out of your mouth, but you are sure to get a handprint on your booty from mom after you do and a mouth full of that pie you all of a sudden really “like.”

Now if this was just a pastor’s one line sermon that he crafted to drive home his point about commitment and dedication to God then I would be ok with nodding your head and forgetting it as you drove home.  Heck, I even come up with lines like these for sermons and I don’t remember most of mine for heavens sake!  But what if I told you this was more than a sermon in a sentence kind of deal?  Would it mean more?  Would you take it to heart more?  Would it change how you felt about God?

The words we just read were said by Jesus in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but they date back even earlier than Jesus’ time on earth.  You see these words are part of a promise given to the people of Israel by Moses after being freed from Egyptian slavery.  Remember, “let my people go!”, Charlton Hesston, and the Red Sea miracle deal?  Yeah, back then.

“The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4) was actually part of a daily prayer ritual the Jewish people performed called the Shema.  In fact, some families would choose these words as the first Scripture their children would learn and would recited the Shema at a minimum of 2 times daily.  Yet we see this idea of loving God singularly used by Jesus, Peter, and Paul throughout the New Testament so clearly God intended this to continue into the Christian faith and stay central to His teachings.

But why?

Why is it so important to “Love the Lord your God” and to do so with what appears to be everything part of who you are?  The answer is really within the prayer itself.

#1 “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” – The beginning of this prayer establishes the most important aspect of our relationship with God in that we should have no other God except him.  This idea is established in the first Law of the 10 Commandments when it says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)  This idea of worshipping one God has a fancy theological term for it called monotheism and is central to the teaching of Christianity. (If nothing else you just got a great word for Words With Friends later) This is so important because as Christians we are called to not muddy our spiritual waters with other gods spiritual or natural alike.  If we believe who Jesus is then we have made ourselves exclusively His and all other gods get the boot.

#2 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” – The second part of this prayer gives us the expectation God has for our relationship with him.  In a crude way this is the job description for being a Christian.  When we decide to join “Team Jesus” the stakes are high and the expectations are higher.  You see the proof of whether or not the first part of this prayer is true is found in if you are able to do the second part.  If God is your only God then you are left with nothing else but to give him everything you have.  After all if you have one option who else could you give yourself too?  However, too often we don’t give God everything we have, but rather the low hanging fruit, the easy stuff, the stuff we need help with, or the stuff that is leftover after we get in all the sinning we can.  The truth is that we serve other gods like our jobs, hobbies, and addictions and in so doing splinter our worship.  However, what happens to us when we do give Him our heart, soul, mind, and strength is that we start to come alive.  When our spirit is no longer divided, we become laser locked on the things of God it becomes easy to relinquish our self to Him.

God makes no bones about the fact that he is a “jealous God” (Exodus 20:5) and that jealous God wants all of you.  However our view of jealously and God’s is much different.  We see jealous as the creepy ex-boyfriend who wouldn’t stop texting you to see where you were all the time.  God see’s jealousy as someone that is protective and so loving that they don’t want anything to hurt them or distract them from His love for them.

I’m glad we have a God that wants that type of relationship with us because if he was ambivalent about his feelings toward us I’d be more concerned.  If God changes his feelings towards me as easy as the wind blows I’d feel pretty uneasy about my eternity with Him.  But a God that sets up high expectations and exclusivity with Him in return is one that I want to know and be loved by.  That is a powerful feeling of love that only our God can provide and sustain.

So the next time you hear someone talk about loving the Lord your God with all your heart lean in and smile because that may just be a little Shema-kiss from God telling you He loves you.

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The Church According To Voltron

voltron-1Growing up I used to watch this cartoon called Voltron.  It was kind of a hybrid of Transformers and Battle Cats, but in the show these space explorer guys would fight intergalactic battles by taking there tiger looking robots and combining them together to make one giant butt kicking robot.  One robot would be the foot, one robot the arm, another would make up the body and so on, but the power of Voltron was found when all of them worked together to make this unstoppable robot stud.  On top of that, the huge robot had this gigantic sword, which pretty much would dominate anything that came into it’s path so this dude was really rad to say the least.

Yep, I just said “rad”!

Now how in the world does this have to do with anything spiritual?

Glad you asked…keep reading and no I’m not starting a new cult or something.

As I was reading the other day I think that Paul was a Voltron fan before it even was a show.  Check this out and see if you see it too.

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12: 4-8

Paul is reminding us that the church should actually look like Voltron!  You see each of us has certain abilities that when used together with the abilities of others create the most powerful church possible.  The body of Christ is the healthiest and most effective when it has it’s parts working together for one common purpose not when individuals do their own thing with their own power.

Ok, let’s get passed the retro-cartoons and cut to the real message here.

All of us have been given abilities by God not just to differentiate ourselves from one another, but also to compliment and strengthen one another.  We believe this in college group projects, team sports, and even in our marriages, but somehow we fail to think that the church could be wired that way too.  It’s our default to think that somehow the pastor or the people working at the church are the ones that make up the church of Voltron, but in reality we are simply parts of the bigger body too!

As the pastor of a church you need to hear me loud and clear.

THE CHURCH NEEDS YOU!

Now I don’t mean that in a begging way that makes the church look desperate and you look like Super Volunteer with a cape swooping in to save the day.  I say that because the church needs all of us working together regardless of our God given talent to have the biggest impact on the world.  That means that if you are a plumber by trade the church needs you.  That means if you are single mom the church needs you.  That means if you are a tech geek the church needs you.  That means if you are a coach of a co-ed, golden retriever, juggling team the church needs you.

I agree that not all of us have been called to teach and preach.  I wasn’t called to do a lot of things like male modeling for example and I’m ok with it…now.  Never feel like your ability or your gifting isn’t “good enough” to be used by God.  For crying out loud God used fishermen and tax collectors to be his first disciples and start his church so clearly the bar started low!

Here are my 3 key takeaways from this idea of the Church of Voltron:

  1. Join a church because God desires it for you.
  2. Get involved and get connected.
  3. Jump into an area and if it doesn’t work keep diving in until you find a fit.

Listen, I know that being in a church can be draining and, depending on where you are at,  overwhelming.  However, what I do know is that it’s the best headache you’ll ever be a part of in your life.  Yes you are working with people that have attitudes, brokenness, and pride issues which may drive you nuts, but think about what God deals with on a daily basis with us and realize we aren’t always a treat to deal with either.  Keep in mind that the reason the Church of Voltron works is so the biggest impact can be made for the Kingdom of God not the kingdom of me.  God is most pleased when his children work together for His glory and His church works together to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Being a part of that is a powerful thing and the most rewarding thing you will ever be a part of.

Remember: You are always more effective working together than by yourself.

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