Category Archives: Loving God

The Degree that God Intends

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you,” Acts 1:8.

Jesus smiling #6Jesus smiling #6Thailand leadersAmong evangelical believers, the Holy Spirit has received little press. We tend to be strong on sin, justice, the Word, and the Great Commission, but our daily dependence upon the Spirit’s power has  been woefully overlooked.

The passage above reminds us that the Spirit’s presence and power in our lives is indispensable.

  • We cannot be who God intends for us without the Holy Spirit unleashed in our lives.
  • We cannot accomplish what God intends for us without Holy Spirit power surging through us.

It is, in actuality, impossible.

And what is the focal point of the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives? As first eight states clearly, to be His witnesses.

  • Would it be an overstatement to say that if we fail to be his witness, we lack the Spirit’s empowerment?
  • If this is the ultimate issue for which the Spirit was given (and it is in this passage), could we assume that failing to engage in this central mission as a disciple of Jesus reveals a distracted powerless believer?

It is so natural for me to choose disengagement from my neighbors and acquaintances in the spiritual realm of things. I have manufactured lots of good reasons for this (and I’m guessing you may have, too). But I’m quite certain that truth is this: My lack of witnessing about Jesus is an accurate reflection that the Holy Spirit is not upon me to the degree that God intends.

 

 

Priority

Priorities slip. The things that we should always highly value have a way of getting lost in the fray.

ivansusancruise2013I recently looked at my wife’s calendar and was humbly reminded of how easily this happens. There in her calendar, on every Tuesday night, was a notation, “Date with Ivan.” Oh wow! This was a commitment I had made some time ago because my relationship with Susan needed time and commitment. Somewhere in the busy schedules and demanding responsibilities, I lost sight of that priority. It’s time for a recommitment.

When Jesus said, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority, but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses…”, He was giving us a clear priority.

  • Holy Spirit power trumps end times information.
  • Doing is more important than knowing.
  • Our curiosity must be held in check by Jesus command.
  • God does His part and we need to do ours.

In essence, Jesus was telling His disciples that nothing matters more than being His witnesses. Our active involvement in His plan of redemption for all mankind is to be an ultimate priority in our daily lives. Our love for Jesus is not best expressed by determining the time of His return, but by engaging in the command He has delivered.

Hold on–you may not be an eschatological wiz. You’re not enamored by end times puzzles. But, you may have let something else creep in and crop out God’s directive. It’s all the same. If we’re not doing what He desires, it doesn’t really matter why. The fact is, we’re missing in action. That’s what matters.

So here’s a important priority to embrace. Take Jesus’ words to heart. Are you involved in spreading the word about what Jesus has done for you? The priority is simply this–be His witness. Tell what you have seen heard and experienced. Again and again and again…

repost from April 2010 — FOCUS

Susan has been all about one thing this week — putting on a gardening seminar this morning. She and her friend Pam have been talking, meeting and preparing to hit a “home run” at the Chocolate Oasis workshop at our church this morning. In fact, last night she apologized for being absent this week — meaning she wasn’t giving me much of herself since the workshop was getting it all. I assured her, “It’s OK, Babe. You need to do your best.” By the way, that’s all she knows how to do — her best. I like that about her.

While observing her this week, I was reminded of the power of focus. I saw it all week with Susan. And trust me — her passionate focus will pay off in an amazing seminar. I told her that I wish I could be in her workshop! Her attention to detail, the energy expended in covering all of the details, the thoughtfulness invested in making sure it is pleasing, artsy, and enjoyable will pay wonderful dividends to her attendees. Focus lends itself to excellence.

Jesus told us to have one primary focus — Love God. If you want to love God excellently, focus is essential. All other things, even workshops, somehow need to fit within that one driving passion of our lives. When zero in our focus on the ONE who loves us with an infinite love, we find something extraordinary happen in our lives — excitement, energy, and passion grow in our souls. This never happens when God is a mere slice of the pie, an afterthought, or an entity we fit in the cracks and crevices of our lives.

Another thing happens with focus: We see more than we ever thought was there! I’m guessing that Susan learned more about gardening this week than she ever anticipated. That’s because gardening was her primary focus for days! And when God becomes the ultimate focus for us, we begin to realize the absolute beauty of His character and qualities. It will blow our minds.

So make loving God your number one focus in life, just as scripture commands. Amazing things will happen in the pit of your soul.

Know what’s cool? My little wife did this workshop today in order to love God. This is her offering to Him! She believes that when people get their fingers dirty in God’s amazing creation, they’ll get to know the creator even better.

Good call, my Love!

A Little Pencil — repost

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” Mother Teresa

Having seen the masses of destitute and suffering people in Kolkata, India — even so briefly — I am stricken by Mother Teresa’s statement here. This woman spent a good deal of her life selflessly ministering to the sick and forgotten of this strange city. She knows the pain, hardship, hopelessness, and despair of the slum-dwellers of Kolkata. Even with all of that, with the stench of rotting flesh still in her nostrils and the cries of dying hoards still echoing in her head, she declares the deep longing of relationship and significance in every human being. This need is greater than the food that keeps them alive.

Job made a similar declaration in his scriptural journal in chapter 23:12: “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food!” Recognize that Job was not simply infatuated with words from his creator God, but rather, longed for interaction in a relationship that was life-giving. He valued this more than the physical food (“necessary”) that kept him alive!

We are surrounded every day by  people who are lonely, lacking significance, and feeling unwanted. What a tragedy! And this by people who are created in the image of God. They are deeply and profoundly loved by God, but often fail to be affected by that love. That’s why one of the pieces of loving God is also to love people. As Jesus said, after clarifying the greatest commandment, “The second is like it, you must love your neighbor as yourself.” We are the hands and feet and face of Jesus in our world. God loves people through His representatives! The people around us should not feel “unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody” as Mother Teresa described. We need to love those around us with a God-kind of love.

When we do this, we are loving God too!

Mother Teresa also said, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” This amazing lady wrote quite a few love letters, touched a mass number of lives, and loved God in an amazing way. She knew what she was talking about.

Today, be a little pencil in the hand of God…

The Mark of the Believer

“…In your faith supply…brotherly kindness…” 2 Peter 1:5,7

brothery kindnessThe Greek word used in this passage is “philadelphia”. This compound word comes from “phileo”, meaning affection or fondness and “adelphos”, meaning brother, kinsman, or relative. Considering the male-dominated society to which this letter was addressed long ago, it is no surprise that non-inclusive language was used. Despite the words used, the intention of this word has always been the idea of loving fellow believers, male and female. These fellow believers are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are spiritual siblings! We’re supposed to treat one another in this way…and maybe even better than some of us actually do treat our blood brothers and sisters.

My only sister was hospitalized a couple years ago with a dangerous and potentially lethal infection in her internal organs. It was so bad that the doctors actually told her that she may die from this – she needed to get her affairs in order. My sister is younger than me…way too young to die, it seemed. When I heard about her situation, my concerns were directed toward her…and so were my energies. I took a day to drive a couple hundred miles to see her in the hospital, hold her hand, cry with her a little, encourage her, help her bear the pain and fear, and spend some time praying and ministering to her spirit. This is what brothers do with sick sisters. We go out of our way, change our plans, and make comparatively insignificant sacrifices to care for our siblings. She was family and needed to be treated as such. By the way…it seems God intervened. The day after I was there, she turned a corner in her condition and was home in week!

The characteristic that needs to be added to our faith is a fondness or affection for fellow believers. This may seem like a no-brainer until we step back a little and take inventory. I’m occasionally stunned at the inappropriate ways fellow believers treat one another. We can unintentionally begin to view our spiritual siblings as enemies rather than comrades. Instead, the behavior of believers, one to another, is to be radically different than what we find in the non-believing world. The letter to the Ephesians describes a clear contrast between what was and what should be.

“And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:30-32)

Affection, by its very nature, is a motivating reality that comes from within. When we think of philadelphia, we are referring to BOTH outer actions AND inner feelings. When you are fond of someone or something, you are excessively tender, even overindulgent — you strongly like and cherish with unreasoning feelings.

So people, let’s be sure we love one another, because Jesus said, “By this will all people know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.”

Freedom or Bondage?

forgivePeter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone. He thought he was being really generous by suggesting “seven times.” He must have been shocked to hear Jesus’ response that we should forgive “seventy times seven.”

Jesus then shares the parable of the unforgiving servant — the one  forgiven a massive amount who would not forgive someone else a tiny amount. The point?

  • If we don’t grasp how much we’ve been forgiven, we have trouble forgiving others.
  • When we don’t forgive others, we fail to grasp how much we’ve been forgiven.
  • Unforgiveness in our hearts results in a pending response by God concerning our need for forgiveness.
  • Unforgiveness on our part result in a bondage we choose to live with.

When we deeply, emotionally, and absolutely grasp the depth and degree to which we have been forgiven, it’s not so difficult to forgive others.

If you’re having trouble forgiving others of their trespasses, you haven’t truly embraced how profoundly you have been forgiven. AND you won’t live in freedom until you do forgive.

Sell Out!

There are so many reasons to sell out to God. So many. Here are a few of mine…

  1. Nothing else matters. Not really. Everything not done for God is only a temporary blip on the big screen of history. Anything done for God is a mark left for eternity.
  2. I want my life to count for something bigger than me.
  3. I HATE being average (or less than that) at anything. Why run the race of life at a slow jog?
  4. I love being part of a great adventure! The biggest of all is what God offers to you and me. We don’t get it sometimes because we actually think God’s dreams and plans fit into our little heads. No no no! He wants to blow your mind with the adventure he has for you. You just need to trust Him…
  5. I get to make an eternal difference for other real live human beings! Every day!!! Wow!
  6. I love God. That means living for Him rather than just for me. If we could only get this… If I could only live this EVERY DAY!
  7. There’s nothing so cool as being on fire for God. There are two reasons people may not dig you if you’re on fire…they don’t have a clue or they wish they were too. And I love being cool…especially for God.

What are YOUR reasons for selling out? I’d love to hear them…

Maybe you have reasons for NOT selling out. Tell me what they are too…

Fear and Faith

Authentic biblical faith is what enables us to overcome fear. Fear paralyzes us from significantly following after God. Fear is the number one thing that keeps us from being and becoming everything that God has in mind for you–the fear of failure, fear that God’s way won’t be as good as yours, fear that something tragic will happen, fear that God won’t come through like He says He will, fear that God won’t provide, fear of pain, fear of what others think.

We have a nation filled with Christians who are living an acceptable lifestyle, according to the standards of many churches today. We measure our Christianity according to the expectations of our Christian culture and fellow believer-friends. Many of us measure up quite well. But how does God see you? Are you living a lifestyle of risk-taking faith? Are you crazy for God? Would others say you are?

The Priority of Missions

A common trend in evangelical Christianity today is the movement toward holistic ministry. This orientation has a few noticeable characteristics:

  • The commitment to the lost and the poor are of equal standing–and may even favor the poor over the lost.
  • This theological view includes what we can do for others as “gospel” also, clouding the clarity of the gospel as being what Jesus has done for us.
  • It sees holistic social work as valid in and of itself apart from the responsibility of disciple making.

Yes–it is important that we are the face, hands, and presence of Jesus around the world. We must often meet the urgent needs in order to address the greatest need. We cannot ignore the human condition. But what a temptation we face in going with the flow of a trendy mission focus that reduces us to doing good things at the expense of the right thing. Only the church can offer the ultimate solution to mankind’s greatest problem of separation from God.

Available statistics reveal that from 2001 to 2005, giving toward relief and development increased by 73.4%, while for evangelism and discipleship is was only 2.7%, (Christopher R. Little, Discovering the Mission of God, p.492).young woman Numbers speak. I also have personally seen this well-intended trend all across the nation, expressed through some of our most respected churches. In our pursuit of being relevant and “current”, we may have strayed from the one thing Jesus has told us to do in His absence — to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

 

 

 

I Want that to Be Me…

The apostle Paul was a crazy man! In fact, he once told his readers that ”if it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God,” 2 Corinthians 5:13. He was a man on a mission, driven to do one thing — bring the gospel to lost people. One passage in Scripture reveals Paul’s deep feelings about the urgency of this. Consider Philippians 1:12-18:

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

15  Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. ESV

In the above verses, Paul is actually celebrating his imprisonment. Think of it. He has totally lost his freedom because of his obedience to Jesus. He can no-longer visit friends, check up on family, run to the Antioch Starbucks on a whim, or go play a game of horseshoes. He is imprisoned and eager to see what God will do with it. No resentment, regrets, or self-pity. Pretty cool.

This suffering and bondage he is living is bringing forth several God-honoring results, according to Paul:

  1. The gospel is advanced (v.12)
  2. The truth is reaching influential places it has never gone before (v.13)
  3. Those believers who are not imprisoned are infused with courage to be even more bold in the proclamation of the gospel (v.14)

But the final verses of this passage truly intrigue me. I’m fascinated by them because they reveal something of the passion within Paul. While confined in his scope of ministry, he gazes on at what’s happening in the world he cannot reach. In fact, it sounds a little like the church of today — the “preachers” are out there, but they’re not all so holy. It’s actually quite ugly with envy (wanting another person’s success) and rivalry (unhealthy competition) making the top of the dirty list.  In fact, many of those that are “preaching ugly” are trying to out-do Paul. They may be defaming him, talking him down, lifting themselves over him, and trying to get a bigger name than him. And there are some who are spreading the gospel for all the right reasons.

If I were Paul, I think I would be pretty ticked. I would be saying things like, “Christ is dishonored by impure motives.” “What a shame that the gospel is polluted by sinful attitudes.” “The gospel will never succeed in the disastrous mess.” Now these may all be true statements — I don’t really know — but I would sure feel better after expressing my disgust for all of those lowlifes. But Paul does nothing of the sort. He humbly reveals his unrelenting passion that the gospel be delivered to lost people.

“Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

The gospel is being delivered and that’s what matter most.

In this statement, I see Paul’s dependence upon the sovereignty of God — let Him sort it out. Let Him build His church. Let Him deal with the envious rivals. Paul simply rejoices that this truth about Jesus is being heard and the Holy Spirit can then do as He pleases with it.

As I consider this passage, I am humbled by Paul’s single-minded pursuit to see the gospel delivered to those who have not heard.

It drives him.

It makes his hardships valuable.

It propels him to press on for the glory of God.

I want that to be me…