Radical: Honesty Part 2

Well, if you read the previous post, then let’s get moving and see what this Radical Honesty really looks like:

First Of All, Radical Honesty Requires An Element Of Discernment

The Ability To Tell The Truth Begins With The Ability To Hear The Truth.  (Did you hear me?)  You might also say it this way:  The Ability To Speak The Word Of God Begins With The Ability To Hear The Word Of God. This requires discernment.  You have to be able to distinguish between the sound of God’s voice and all the other voices that fill our ears.  Samuel wasn’t able to do this at first.

When God spoke to Samuel, he thought it was Eli. Verse 7:  Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before.  In other words, Samuel didn’t recognize the voice of God.  But he was willing to listen.

The fourth time God spoke his name, Samuel finally was able to say to God, “Speak, your servant is listening.”  He had to learn to Hear And Recognize the voice of God.  Learning To Recognize The Voice Of God Is A Process, and God is patient with us while we learn. He called Samuel’s name four times before Samuel realized who was speaking to him.

God wants us to speak the truth to a world that is desperate to hear it.  But before you can speak the truth, you have to make sure you have heard the truth and make certain that you know the truth.  Before you tell someone what they should do, make sure you know what you’re talking about.  Make certain that it is God’s voice you have heard—that it is God’s truth you are speaking.  The only way you can do that is to have an attitude that says, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.

Radical Honesty Involves An Element Of Hesitation.

God gave a message to Samuel, and the Bible says that he was afraid to tell Eli the vision.  I don’t think he was afraid of what Eli would do, because he knew Eli had a habit of doing nothing.  I think Samuel was afraid to tell Eli because he knew the message would hurt.  Samuel loved Eli like a father, and he was reluctant to tell Eli that he would have to face the consequences of his actions.

We must be willing to speak the truth even when it hurts, but there must be an element of hesitation on our part to speak words that will be painful to hear.  If you get too much pleasure in telling someone the hard truth, your words will lose impact.  We all know people who delight in saying these 4 words:  I Told You So!  Some people get a little too much pleasure out of being right, if you ask me.

There are times when we have to confront people with things that are unpleasant.  When that happens we must make sure that we know what we’re talking about—that we have heard the word of God on the matter—and we must make sure that we speak the truth gently.  If It Hurts For Them To Hear It, It Should Hurt For Us To Say It.

Radical Honesty Involves An Element Of Participation.

God didn’t tell Samuel specifically to repeat this message to Eli.  In fact, the message wasn’t for Eli, it was for Samuel.  He became a prophet of God and, eventually, the judge of Israel.  Eli approached Samuel and asked to tell him about the vision.  He said, “Do not hide it from me.  Tell me everything!”  So Samuel told Eli the whole truth, because he asked to hear the truth.  There was an element of participation on Eli’s part; he was willing to hear what Samuel had to say.

Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth.  Have you ever tried to tell someone something they didn’t really want to hear?  They would hold their hands over their ears and say:  “Talk to the hands because the ears aren’t listening!”  Sometimes it’s done as a joke, but that’s the way some people really are.  They don’t want to hear the truth.  You can talk yourself blue in the face, and they’ll never listen.

However, when you find that they are willing to listen, do not hold anything back.  Even if it hurts you to say it, even if it hurts them to hear it, tell them the whole truth.  If they’re listening, and if you have made sure that you’re speaking God’s truth, and if you approach them with a certain amount of nervousness, then someday they will be able to thank you for your honesty.

God calls us to live a life of radical honesty.  In order to speak the truth we have to be able to hear the truth.  And then, we have to speak the truth carefully—If It Hurts Them To Hear It, It Should Hurt You To Say It.  And, if your words are to be effective, they have to be willing to hear the whole truth and you have to be willing to speak the whole truth.  This is radical honesty.  You won’t find it in many places.

Some people who pride themselves in being “brutally honest” are more into the brutality than the honesty.  Radical honesty is balanced—it is the art of speaking the truth tenderly and persuasively.

Here is the true nature of Radical Honesty:  It Is Truth That Is Clothed And Filled With Compassion!  And True Compassion Makes Us Hurt Deeply Within!  Jesus looked at the crowds and His heart ached because they were sheep without a shepherd.  Jesus’ heart ached as he cried over Jerusalem!  Compassion that doesn’t make our hearts ache is worthless and a counterfeit to Godly Compassion.  It’s an ache and a hurt that moves us to change our hearts and action that makes the difference in another person and our world.  Radical Honesty changes our hearts, attitudes, opinions and actions BEFORE it changes the world.

Do you know what the results of such honesty are?  What you say will have more impact than you ever imagined possible.  The Bible says of Samuel:  (v. 19) As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable.  If you’re willing to be radically honest, you begin the process the same way Samuel did as a young man.  You say: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

And, of course, remember to love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

Radical: Honesty Part 1

Let’s keep thinking about the standard of being a real disciple of Jesus requires us to be radical.  How many of you remember the latter half of 1999?  If you had email, you would certainly remember 1999.  My email box was full of warnings that my computer would crash, than ATMs would fail.  That airport radar systems would fail and planes would crash.  I had many offering to sell me a special program to save my computer.  I had emails that told me to buy enough water and non-perishable food to last at least 6 weeks because commerce would come to a stand still.  Oh, and get out all my cash from the bank by December 31 or I wouldn’t be able to get it for weeks.  I woke up on that Saturday morning and nothing crashed, nothing failed; life went on.

Some may argue in their defense:  “They thought at the time they were telling the truth.”  However, it can also be argued that this is no excuse.  If you lead someone astray, it is no consolation to say, “Well, I thought I was right at the time.”  That doesn’t get anyone off the hook.  As believers, it is our responsibility to speak the truth when we know the truth, and to remain silent when we are not sure.

Have you ever known someone who loves to be the bearer of bad news?  I certainly have.  They seem to relish in telling someone who they didn’t get hired, that they were fired, that they didn’t get the loan.  They love telling people bad news.  I’ve also met people from time to time who believe it is their responsibility to tell everyone else everything they’re doing wrong.  Some people simply believe they have God’s insight on every situation, and they are doing the world an injustice if they don’t verbalize every negative thought that comes into their head.

There is a balance we must achieve.  As believers, we are called to speak the truth—even when it hurts.  But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.  Earlier I mentioned the fact that we have to tell the truth about sin.  But remember, it’s not enough to talk about sin.  We also have to tell the truth about repentance and we have to tell the truth about forgiveness.

We are called to live lives of radical honesty.  This means that we have to be willing to tell the truth even when it hurts, but when it comes to living a life of radical honesty, we must proceed with caution.

Look at a story in 1 Samuel 3 about a young man named Samuel.  Samuel was an apprentice to Eli, a priest who served in the Tabernacle.  Samuel had a good heart and a strong desire to serve God.  His mother Hannah had prayed to God for a son, and if God would give her a son, she would dedicate that boy to God’s service.  And at the appropriate time, she sent Samuel to live with Eli at the Tabernacle.  But Eli had two sons who were also priests, but they had no desire to serve God.  Eli knew about his sons contemptible behavior, and he nagged at them a little bit, but he didn’t do anything about it.

The Lord began to speak to Samuel about judgment against Eli and his sons.  This was a difficult message for Samuel to hear.  Eli was his boss and mentor.  Samuel had lived his life in the Tabernacle; Eli was like a father to him.  The Bible says Samuel was afraid to tell the Eli the vision, which is understandable, but the next day Eli called him and asked, “What was it the Lord said to you?”  Apparently Samuel hesitated to answer, because Eli said, “Tell me everything.  And may God strike you and even kill you if you hide anything from me!”  So Samuel told him everything.  Even though Eli had been disobedient, he was a man of God, and he recognized God’s judgment.  He said in vs. 18:  Let him do what He thinks best.

I want us to take a closer look at this story, because the events in Samuel’s life demonstrate how we can learn to live a life of Radical Honesty.  Being radically honest requires three things.  And let’s look at them next time.

And remember, love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

 

Radical: Life, Part 2

OK, let’s pick up where we left off yesterday.  I will admit that I am a bit of a radical.  I have a pony tail and am the lead pastor of a downtown “first” church.  I ride a motorcycle.  I hate wearing a suit and tie and admit that I am not comfortable wearing the clergy robe.  But these things do not make me the radical that God is calling me to be.  And, I  am not yet the Radical that God wants me to be, and wants for you to become.  Here is what it takes to be a real Jesus Radical in today’s culture, be it “church culture” or “real world” culture.

Recognize That You Have A Higher Calling.

Hundreds of years before John the Baptist was born, the prophets Isaiah and Malachi wrote about John’s mission.  John knew that he had a purpose for being here.  He knew that he had a message to tell others.  His purpose was to prepare people for a personal encounter with Christ.

He did this by preaching a simple message: repent and experience God’s forgiveness.  We also have a higher calling.  We have an obligation to the world to share with them the message God has shared with us.  Our message must be the same as that of John the Baptist; it must be Biblical and it must be balanced.  John’s message had 2 key components: he challenged people to repent, and he promised them God’s forgiveness.  I’ve heard some preachers blast away at sin all day without mercy, and I’ve heard some preachers get all mushy about God’s mercy, without mentioning God’s standards.  Mercy and judgment are both part of God’s love.

Sin is just plain ugly, through and through.  It breaks the heart of God and it ruins the lives of people.  If you fail to repent of the sin in your life it will ultimately destroy you.  And it’s not so much God ‘punishing’ you for your sins—sin brings about its own punishment.  When a parent tells a child not to touch a hot stove, and the child disobeys and does it anyway, what happens?  The child gets burned.  Who burned the child?  An angry, vindictive parent?  No, the hot stove burned the child.  The loving parent tried to encourage the child not to touch the stove in the first place.  This is why we need to tell the truth about sin.

We also need to tell the truth about repentance.  Simply feeling guilty or sorry you were caught is not repentance.  Repentance is an about-face—it is a decision to stop moving in one direction and start moving in another direction. The Greek word that is translated repentance means, literally, to ‘change your mind.’  When you repent, you change the way you think.  When you change the way you think, you change the way you live.

Repentance is not a negative experience, it is the most positive experience a person can have.  When you repent, you turn from doing things that can only create misery in your life, and you turn toward doing things that will create joy and fulfillment in your life.   When we encourage others to repent it’s not, “Repent, because you are so bad.”  We’re saying, “Repent, because God is so good.”   Repentance is not a punishment, it is a privilege.  We have a higher calling in life—a message to share with the world.  It is not a message of anger and judgment; it is a message of hope and deliverance.

Hold Yourself To A Higher Standard.

As I mentioned earlier, John the Baptist lived in the desert, wore clothes made of camel’s hair, and ate locusts and wild honey.  John was organic and off-the-grid long before it became the basis for TV shows.  But I want you to notice that he didn’t expect everyone else to do this.  He never said, “If you want to be right with God, you have to become a desert monk.”  That was a standard he set for himself, but he didn’t impose it on everyone else.

He made some radical choices about his lifestyle, but they were not the heart of his message.  The question is:  Why did he do it?  The reason is simple:  Holding himself to a higher standard gave his message more credibility.  There are three ways we can hold ourselves to a higher standard like John the Baptist.

  1. Be willing to sacrifice comfort. Remember, God may want to stretch you.  Some of life’s greatest discoveries lie outside our comfort zone.
  2. Put a lid on materialism. John the Baptist wasn’t concerned with appearances, instead, he concerned himself with the content of his life and message.  Now, I’m not saying you should take a vow of poverty, and neither is God, but we do need to rethink our attitude toward “things” and “stuff”!
  3. Starve your appetites. Now, there is nothing wrong with a good meal.  And there is nothing inherently spiritual about eating locusts.  Your appetite can control you or you can control it.  It’s not about food here, it’s about focus.

There is power in self-discipline.  Living a radical lifestyle means holding ourselves to a higher standard—we live a life of sacrifice and discipline—so that we can concentrate our focus on pursuing our higher calling—proclaiming the good news about Jesus Christ.

Submit To A Higher Authority.

Many leaders in politics, in businesses, and in churches, fall because they believe all the hype being said about them.  Not so with John—he always kept in mind that his position in life was secondary to that of the Messiah.  John made certain that he never deluded himself into thinking that he had absolute power.  He lived his life in submission to the authority of God.

Nothing is more dangerous than for a person to think they are too powerful to face consequences.  We’ve seen this attitude in political leaders.  We’ve seen this attitude in a number of high-profile athletes, musicians and actors, and we’ve seen how their careers have unraveled.  Even among well known TV evangelists we’ve seen them fall and fall hard.  Common wisdom among celebrities is “Don’t believe your own press.”  In other words, don’t think you’re as great as you say you are, or that every one thinks you are.  Put God first.

Jesus introduced a radical concept.  He said:  “Whoever wants to become great among you must become your servant.”  Christianity is a radical faith and it calls for us to live a radical lifestyle.  It calls for us to become servants:  to spend our lives pursuing a higher calling, to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and submit ourselves to a higher authority—the Lordship of Christ.

And remember, Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

Radical: Life Part 1

We don’t always think about it, but Christianity always has been, is now, and will always be a dramatically radical lifestyle.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  To be a disciple of Jesus requires both commitment and courage.  I believe that the Enemy has a big belly laugh when it looks at churches that emphasize that to be a Christian, one has to be meek, mild, and gentle like Jesus.  I mean, have you ever looked at how some artists portray Jesus?  Look at this picture:

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Do you really want to follow this kind of Jesus?

Yes, Jesus was meek.  Yes Jesus was gentle.  Yes, Jesus was kind.  But not in the ways so many try to portray Him.  There is also an audacious side of Jesus, a bold and strong image.  Over the years, at least here in the good old U.S. A., the church has created an artificial Jesus, a “Jesus” that has been tamed.  And that is why the Enemy is having a free run and destroying so many lives.  And why the church in the U.S. continues to be in decline.

Too often the church is guilty of propagating the idea that God’s objective is for us to become carbon copies of June and Ward Cleaver, like they represent the ultimate in Christian living.  Nothing against the Cleaver’s, but nothing could be further from the truth.  In the next few posts we will see that God desires for each of us a to live a life far beyond that which we have come to know as “The American Dream.”

From the website dictionary.com, the word “radical” is defined as “extreme, especially as regards to change from accepted or traditional forms”.  In other words, a “Radical” is someone who refuses to accept the usual and seeks to bring change.  This dictionary definition describes Jesus when He walked this earth in human form.  Jesus truly is a “radical” and could it be that for us to be His follower we must be “radical”, too?

Being a Christian is not about playing it safe.  It’s about living life on the edge.  It’s about taking chances.  It’s about participating in a revolution that will overthrow the kingdom of this world and usher in the kingdom of God.  Christianity is not middle-class, and it is not middle of the road.  It is life in the fast lane.  God challenges believers everywhere to adopt a radical lifestyle, to live a life of radical honesty, to be consumed by His radical grace, to embrace His radical mercy, to pursue radical spirituality, and to be driven by that radical ambition.

Let me ask you a question:  “Who was the greatest person who ever lived?”  Some of you might say the greatest person ever lived was your big brother or sister, since your mother always tried to get you to be more like them.  Some of you may think the greatest person who ever lived was the person who had your job before you.  I know there are many pastors who think the greatest person must surely have been some previous pastor.  Some of you may think the greatest person who ever lived is the person your spouse thought he or she was marrying when they married you.  According to Jesus, the greatest person who ever lived was John the Baptist.

4-6 John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.

7-8 As he preached he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.” Mark 1:4-8 (The Message)

John truly was an amazing person.  Before Jesus began his ministry, John the Baptist preached in the Judean desert, challenging people to repent of their sins and be baptized.  The fact that he was calling for them to be baptized is interesting, since baptism was a ritual reserved for Gentiles.  When a Gentile converted to Judaism, they were initiated into the faith through baptism.  The baptism symbolized that the convert had renounced their Gentile heritage and had fully embraced life as a Jew.  In fact, when a Gentile was baptized they were referred to as being “a brand new person, one day old.”

John wasn’t preaching to Gentiles, he was preaching to Jews—and telling them to be baptized.  He was saying, in effect, “Being Jewish isn’t enough. You must repent of your sin and give your heart completely to God.”  Thousands of people came to the desert to hear John preach; many of them confessed their sins and were baptized.  John the Baptist was, in every sense of the word, a radical.  He can best be summed up this way:  He was not the kind of person mothers hope their daughter will bring home one day.  He was unconventional, wearing unusual clothes and ate locusts and wild honey.

However, it wasn’t the fact that John the Baptist lived in the desert and wore funny clothes and ate strange food that made him a holy man—it was his message and his lifestyle.  In John the Baptist we see a prototype of the person God wants us to be.  Let’s take a closer look at John the Baptist, and we will see how we can imitate, even today, his Radical Lifestyle.  There are three things that John the Baptist emphasized that we must also emphasize (and it has nothing to do with eating bugs covered in honey).  Watch for the next edition!

And remember, Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

There’s A Time And Place For Everything, And This Ain’t The Time For That!

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Last week Debbie and I took a 5 Day Sabbatical to Fort Morgan Beach near Gulf Shores, Alabama.  We needed some time away in order to refocus and re-energize our spiritual batteries.  We needed some time to reconnect to ourselves, each other and of course, with The Father.  And this certainly qualifies this as a Sabbatical.  Some of you are thinking, “That sounds like a vacation, not a Sabbatical.  As a pastor you only work a couple of hours a week.  Why do you need a vacation?”  If you are one of those who think that being a pastor is easy and only requires a couple of hours a week, I want to say to you, “Bless your heart.  I can remember the time when I, too, was oblivious to the real world.”  I think it lasted from birth until I was about 5 years old.  Bless your pea-picking heart if you still are oblivious to the real world.  (If you’re not from the South, you may not know what “bless your heart” can mean–so check out this definition)

While on our short Sabbatical we spent most of the day on the sugary white beach feeling the breeze, the warm sun on our faces, the sound of the waves as they reached this beautiful beach.  We saw wonderful sunrises and sunsets and the night sky full of stars and even a full moon.  We also are card carrying members of the International Society of People Watchers.  So some of this Sabbatical was spent watching people.

We watched 3 twenty-somethings walking along the water’s edge with their heads locked into their Smartphones as they walked.  We heard another man talking business on his Smartphone while sitting in his beach chair.  We saw a group talking about their problems and issues while their feet were in that sugary white sand.  Personally I prefer the term “cell” phone because many people are a prisoner to that phone.  One nap was interrupted by a child screaming and crying while their mother tried to reason with that child, threatening a time out.  When the child only screamed louder she offer to let the child back into the water if he would quit screaming and apologized to her and his grandmother.  I was thinking that SHE needed to be sent back to her room until she decided she wanted to be a parent.

In this act of watching people, I had one of Jeremiah’s moments.  Allow me to explain.  It seems to me that Jeremiah was struggling one day to come up with a message God wanted to share.  Perhaps after several hours of failure to find the right words, Jeremiah heard a suggestion from God.  “Hey Jere, go down to the potter’s store and just watch him for a while.  You will find what I want to say down there.”  He did and from that watching, it came to Jeremiah what God wanted to him to share with the people that God loved so dearly.  It’s from Jeremiah 18 but I only want to lift up for your consideration the first 5 verses.

1 The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah.  He said, 2 “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” 3 So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. 4 But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.

5 Then the Lord gave me this message: 6 “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.”

Jeremiah learned something about God while watching the potter at work in his shop.  And here is what God taught me in this Sabbatical to the beach.  Do you ever wonder why it is that when a child does something for the first time, or makes something they will say, “Hey!  Watch me!  Look at this!  Come see what I’ve done!”?  There is an excitement on their face and in their voice.  Where does that come from?  I believe it comes from The Creator, our Heavenly Father.  They are reflecting what I have seen from God.  On that beach, as in so many other places, God is saying, “Hey, look at this!  Look at what I’ve done!  Watch me!”   I see God with that same sense of excitement as that little child showing off their latest drawing.  He wants us, longs for us to see His handiwork.  And when a child is ignored, you can see the hurt in their eyes.  And when God is ignored when He is showing off His handiwork, He, too, has hurt in His eyes and His heart.

And what Monday Morning Attitude am I addressing today?  It’s the attitude and mindset where we are completely oblivious to what God wants to say to us.  Right smack dab in the middle of this portion of God’s beautiful creation, so many–too many–were missing out on what God was offering them on that sugary white sandy beach.  He’s offering us rest from the “stuff” that happens which robs us of the joy that God wants us to experience in this life.

When this life is lived as God intends, it becomes dress rehearsals and glimpses of a much better life later.  Unfortunately, many are so locked into the present life or some long way off future life, they miss the wonder and grandeur of what God is offering us here a now.  So the next time a child runs up to you and says, “Hey, come see what I’ve done”, remember they are a perfect mirror of our Heavenly Father.  He has so many things to show you.  Get your head out of your little world and take the time to look around and see with marvel and amazement, how creative and loving our Father truly is.  Our toes buried in the sand, our ears filled with the sounds of the waves, the blue waters and bright sky have renewed us and refreshed us.  Thanks, Papa, for showing off some of your best work.

When we take the time to enjoy God’s presence and his handiwork AND for a short season forget about the stuff that happens, then we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Father, please forgive me for the times I haven’t really seen what that little child had done.  I am so sorry for the times I told that little child, “After a little bit.  Let me finish this first.  I don’t have time.”  That little child was perfectly reflecting you, and I missed it.  Help me hear and see the future moments when just like that child you say, “Hey!  Come here and see what I did!”  Help me remember that you are even more excited than that child to show what you do.  Amen and Amen!

This Week’s Challenge:  See if you can find your own “go to the Potter’s house” experience, a place or situation where God has a message for you!

Our Warrior God! Part 2 of 2

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Yesterday I hopefully left you wanting to know a secret about this Warrior God.  So here it is:  WE Need To Know That Our God Is Our Warrior God!  When we face our personal battles, we need The Warrior God.  When we are facing the mountains we need The Warrior God.   When we are facing the giants, we need The Warrior God.  When we are hemmed in by confusion, chaos, or fear, we need The Warrior God.  When Satan attacks us and his blows hurt, we need The Warrior God.  When the weight put on our shoulders is about to crush us, we need The Warrior God.  And when we make up our mind that we are going to be followers of Jesus and become the Body of Christ, we need The Warrior God.

We gather as the Body of Christ in worship, in study, and in fellowship because there is a war going on out there.  We need our wounds healed.  We need our minds encouraged.  We need our spirits renewed.  We do all this because we need to get out there in the battle against sin and against Satan.  Think about God as the Warrior who does powerfully amazing things like…

God Is The Warrior Who Fights For The Heart, Mind And Soul

God’s love is pure and unconditional.  At His heart is this unconditional love.  Love is His identity.  But God’s love isn’t an emotional sentimental kind of love.  Our God’s Love Is Fierce And Intense.  Our God’s love is unstoppable.  His love is strong, durable and resilient.  He never stops His pursuit for any of us.  He goes the distance with a determination that cannot be matched or exceeded by anything or anyone else.

God’s love, yes, is kind and gentle, compassionate and merciful; But His Love Is Also Fierce And Intense.  You and I are so important to the Father; more important than we could ever imagine.  But Satan doesn’t want us to know this!  Satan lies to us and tells us that God doesn’t love us, can’t love us.  And when we believe his lie, he owns us.

Once he owns us, he controls and dominates us, and we are powerless to stop him.  And he doesn’t want to let go of us.  So God fights for our heart, mind and soul.  Jesus fought for us in the wilderness.  He fought for us in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He fought for us on that Cross.  He fought for us in death.  And He still fights for us, to give Him our heart, mind and soul.  He fights for us to discover, accept and live in the only life we are made for.  If you have never accepted God’s gift of a new heart and a new life, right now He is fighting for you to see your emptiness, to see your brokenness, and see that He will set you free.  He will never stop fighting for you.

God Is The Warrior Who Fights—Against Darkness, Fear, And Sin

If we will accept The Gift of New Life, God doesn’t stop fighting.  The Warrior God doesn’t fight against ideas or groups or ideologies.  He fights against the powers that seek to enslave us again.  He fights against the darkness that seeks to rob us of our joy.  When we are living in joy, Satan wants to steal it away.  He tries to put us in a fog so that we can’t see our way out.  When the darkness tries to creep over you, when Satan is trying to cause you to give up, The Warrior God is there fighting for you and for me.  He fights the darkness with the Light that is His love.

When Satan comes against us with fear it can unnerve us.  We can allow fear to control us—fear of being alone, fear of being sick, fear of losing our job, fear of what might happen.  And if we are not careful, we will let fear control us.  But we have The Warrior God who fights against fear by giving us His peace that nothing can take away.  He will remind us of His peace because He is fighting against our fears.  And He fights against sin—sin in the world, and the temptations we face.  It’s easy to be overtaken with sin.  But our God is The Warrior who will always be in the world fighting sin in whatever form it takes.

God Is The Warrior Who Fights—With Us

Now, here is where we need to be every day of our life.  Our God, The Warrior Who Fights For Our Heart And Against Everything That Tries To Destroy Us, Want Us To Join In The Battle.  Being a real disciple of Jesus isn’t a spectator sport.  It is not enough to show up and be counted on Sunday morning.  God wants us to fight, to join in the battle.  But He doesn’t want us to go with just our strength, or with the strength of a few friends.  First, He fights FOR us, But Then He Wants Us To Fight With Him.  He wants us to fight for the hearts, minds and souls of those around us.

The Way He Wants Us To Fight For Them Is To Do What He Does—To Fiercely Love Them.  He wants us to put our time, energy and efforts into making more disciples for Jesus.  To fight means we make the commitment to do whatever we can to show them God’s love.

To fight means that we need to become restless, to feel the burden God feels for those who do not know Him.  He wants us to fight against the darkness, the fear, and the sin that is in our world.  He wants us to fight by feeding the hungry, clothing those in poverty, caring for the least, the last and the lost.  And We Can Make A Difference In Our World When We Remember—Remember That God Is The Warrior Who Fights With Us.

Our God Is The Warrior God, and He waits for us to remember—remember that He is calling us to join in the battle.  The great tragedy of many churches is that they have either forgotten we are in a war, or worse, they have given up.  We are called to become engaged in the most significant battle of all time and eternity.  Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12-13—“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.”

And remember, that we do not go into this battle alone.  You can’t sit on the sidelines and follow Jesus.  Many want to think of Jesus as being gentle and mild.  Jesus is gentle for sure, but He definitely isn’t mild.  He is The Warrior, and He fights for you.  Will you accept His offer for a relationship with Him?  And if you have, will you step onto the battlefield with Him?

There’s movie called “We Were Soldiers.”  It was based on what happened to the Lt. Col. Hal Moore in the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam.  Before they were deployed, Col. Moore said, “I will be the first to step onto the field of battle, and I will be the last to leave.”  He’s not the only one who said that.  Jesus said it long ago and He is still on the battlefield.  This is MY God—The Warrior!  Is He your God?

Remember these words from that same Psalm, Psalm 68:32-35 (NLT)

32-35 Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth.  Sing praises to the Lord.  Sing to the one who rides across the ancient heavens, his mighty voice thundering from the sky.  Tell everyone about God’s power.  His majesty shines down on Israel; his strength is mighty in the heavens.  God is awesome in his sanctuary.  The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.  Praise be to God!

 

 

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

Our Warrior God! Part 1 of 2

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I need you to do something before I begin; actually it is something God wants you to do.  I want you to clear your minds of any distractions, and prepare yourself to be open and honest.  Take a deep breath in and slowly exhale.  Get rid of any tension—slowly roll your neck and shoulders; shake your hands and feel the tension just leaving you right now.  Today I want us to look at something that maybe some of you have never thought about.  Your mind and thoughts need to be open to something that I had not given much thought about until recently.

I want us to begin with a thought that we can all agree upon.  It’s rare when everyone agrees on anything, but I think we can on this:  Let’s agree that God is so holy, so awesome, so magnificent, so glorious, so powerful that there is no way we can contain Him.  Can we all agree on this?  Here is the question we need to really think about:  When you think about God, what are some of the images that you think of?  Maybe one of your images is God is our Shepherd.  David understood God that way in Psalm 23 when he wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd.”

Maybe you think about the time when Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, and you see that God is Our Provider.  Maybe one of your images of God is Father as you think about Jesus gathering the children around Him and blessing them.  Maybe your image of God is Compassion—as you remember Jesus healing lepers.  Maybe your image of God is The Judge—as you remember what He did to Sodom and Gomorrah.  When you think about God, what’s that word or phrase that almost immediately comes to mind?

Hopefully, one of those word images you have for God is Savior—as Jesus died on that Cross for you and me.  But we need to remember that there is no single image that defines or describes who God is.  God is bigger and more than any single image we may have about Him.

Furthermore, if we put all of our images of God together, collectively they still would not express who God is.  Now, if you can define your God completely, then maybe your God is too small.  Now that you are thinking about how you would describe God, have you ever seen God as Warrior?  Does that image of God even come to mind?

God is not just a warrior, but He is the Ultimate Fierce Warrior.  Now before you think that writer and teacher John Eldridge has corrupted me, listen to Exodus 15:3—“The Lord is a warrior; Yahweh is his name!”  The reason I bring this up is because our world is looking to us, who go to church, who profess to be Christians, who are viewed by this world as disciples of Jesus, to show them what our God is really like.  In every human heart is the desire for a God that is two things:  1.  That He is bigger than they are; and 2.  That He can be counted on to be there for them.

Think about it, the person who loves money wants it because money will get them things bigger than they are; but it always disappoints them because it is never enough.  The same holds true for the drug addict, the alcoholic, and those who crave pornography, power and prestige.  It is in our spiritual DNA.  Solomon testified to this when in wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has planted eternity in the human heart.”  And because all this stuff out here always disappoints them, they are looking, even longing to find a God who will satisfy that deepest longing of the heart.  And our text today is all about that and much more.  It’s found in Psalm 68:1-10 (NLT)

1-10 Rise up, O God, and scatter your enemies.  Let those who hate God run for their lives.  Blow them away like smoke.  Melt them like wax in a fire.  Let the wicked perish in the presence of God.  But let the godly rejoice.  Let them be glad in God’s presence. Let them be filled with joy.  Sing praises to God and to his name!  Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.  His name is the Lord—rejoice in his presence!  Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy.  God places the lonely in families; He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.  But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.  O God, when you led your people out from Egypt, when you marched through the dry wasteland, the earth trembled, and the heavens poured down rain before you, the God of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel.  You sent abundant rain, O God, to refresh the weary land.  There your people finally settled, and with a bountiful harvest, O God, you provided for your needy people.

In any moment of every day, we are expressing our image of God.  How we act, the ways we react, the priorities we set, the words from our mouths, and the attitude of our mind are all expressions of the God we are following.  And our world needs to know that the God we follow, the God we profess our allegiance to, is among many things, Our Warrior God!  And can I let you in our a secret?  I’ll share that secret with you in the next edition!

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

You Are Gifted, But You Are Not THE Gift, Part 2 of 2

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Let’s pick up where I left off yesterday.  Every church of every tradition and size has only one mission from God:  To Make More Followers For Jesus.  This is why every church exists.  It’s not to serve us, but to give us a place to serve God through serving others.  The vision must be to serve the mission of making Followers for Jesus at all costs.  Folks, we have made church more complicated that it really is.  There is a simplified way to make followers for Jesus!

But it is not all that easy but it is really simple.  If we believe that Jesus is God’s Son, that He died on the Cross for our sins, that He arose on the third day, that He ascended back into heaven and sent down the Holy Spirit to live in the hearts of believers, and that this is true IN us, then we have to believe what Jesus told His first Followers is what He tells us:  Go make followers!  Listen, Jesus didn’t say, “Uh, folks, I would like for you to try to make more followers.  As long as you try, that’s good enough.”  No!  He said:  “Go make Followers!”  If we aren’t making followers then we are not the Church.  Some of you may be thinking, “Preacher, that’s hard to do!”  My response is this:  It’s NOT hard to do.  It’s not hard to do, if we remember 3 things:

 1.  Presence. (Verse 3—So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.)

We live with the confidence that He actually is present with us.  Only His presence gives us the passion, the desire to do what we are redeemed to do.  The Holy Spirit is who sets our hearts on fire.  If Jesus has never done anything for you, then there is no fire in our hearts.  But we can have a fire when we realize what God has done for us.  We can have a fire when we realize what God is doing for us.  We can have a fire when we realize what God will do for us.

And what has God done for you?  He has nailed your sins to the cross and you bear them no more!  What is God doing for you?  He is at work transforming you and your moments for your good and His glory.  What will God do for you?  Stay by your side until you as you live forever in His Kingdom!  To make another Follower of Jesus doesn’t take a committee nor a team, but the passionate conviction that God has been, is now, and will continue to be present and at work in your life.  The Passion To Make Followers Comes From Knowing The Presence Of Jesus.

2.  Power (Verse 4—There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.)

The source of our power is the Holy Spirit.  Have you ever been surprised or amazed by something you did or said?  Then afterwards you wondered, “Well where did that come from?”  Those are moments when HE has complete control of us.  It is so important that we stop relying on our abilities by living in His power.  Do you know why some meetings are irrelevant, dull and boring?  It’s because we have forgotten the real power of the Church.  Whatever it is that God calls you to do, He will give you the strength and power to do it.

When you feel the nudging and prompting of the Spirit to do something, do it because with His Prompting comes His Power.  God designed the Church to withstand the power of hell itself!  And this is the power that lives in us.  Did you hear me?  The power that conquered death, the power that hell cannot overcome, is the power that lives inside each and every one of you when you desire God above all else.  Remember the third thing:

3.  Provision (Verse 7—A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.)

To engage our heart in what God is doing, we have to know the Provision of spiritual gifts that are designed by God for the common good.  The gift God gives you is designed so that you are able to help others both inside and outside of the church.  The Work Of The Body Of Christ Is A Spiritual Work And Requires Spiritual Tools.  These provisions are not rewards for us being good, but they are the result of our God being awesome!  God Gives Us The Tools We Need Not To DO Church Work, But To BE The Church That Is The Body Of Christ In Your World.  You have to know your spiritual gifts.  God does reveal your spiritual gifts.  If you do not know your Gifts it’s your fault.

It’s not easy, but it’s not hard.  I know, I know, I’m sounding like a politician.  You’re thinking if it’s not hard, then it is easy, but if it’s not easy then it must be hard.  If you think it’s too hard to do the ONE thing God wants this place to do, then remember Genesis 18:14—Is anything too hard for the Lord?  God had just told Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son within a year.  He was an old man and she was an old woman.  Looking at them, you would be right to believe that they were too old to have a child.  It was impossible for them.  But do you know what?  By the next year, they had a son.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is too hard for the Lord.  All you have to do is Trust Him with all your heart.

When you give Him all of your heart, over and over again, when you worship Him with all of your heart, when you listen to Him with all of your heart discovering the truth about God, the world and yourself, here is what you will discover:   God Is Making Available To Us His Presence, Power And Provisions  To Fulfill Our Primary Task in His Kingdom And That Is To Make More Followers For Jesus!

Failure To Do This Is Failure To Love God, Worship God and really, Failure To Know God.  Pursuing the heart of God means that after surrender, after worship, after studying The Word, we must be doing the things that will make disciples of others, which will bring them into this process of surrender, worship, study and doing!  This is the cycle of Kingdom Life.

You and I NEED His Presence.  You and I NEED His Power in order to be faithful to our Primary Task.  And You and I NEED what He alone can provide to be more than disciples of Jesus in name only, to be real Followers of Jesus by doing what HE wants done.

And the question for you in such a time as this, is Do You Have It?  To have it you must WANT it.  You and I must say:  I WANT Your Presence.  I NEED Your Power so that I can be found Faithful.  I MUST HAVE what You Provide for the Task You have given me.  Without it, you miss not only The Gift, but most importantly, the Giver…

 

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

 

You Are Gifted, But You Are NOT The Gift! Part 1 of 2

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As many have read and heard me say so many times, somehow the Body of Christ has got off track in a big way.  We have change the Message of Jesus from The Kingdom of God to the Kingdom of the Church.  Don’t get me wrong, the Church has had an interesting narrative that has resulted in a lot of folks encountering Jesus and finding the life they were created for, BUT…

Nowadays that message has been diluted into a very human-centered message rather than the Kingdom of God’s Epic Saga!  The result is that Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters have entered into the Enemy’s delusion that we are now the experts on all things related to the church.  They see themselves as THE GIFT rather than being Gifted By The Giver.  And while they may be experts on all things related to the church, they are missing out on something much bigger, and a whole lot better.  Let’s look at the passage found in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 from The Message:

1-3 What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It’s different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit.

4-11 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:

wise counsel

clear understanding

simple trust

healing the sick

miraculous acts

proclamation

distinguishing between spirits

tongues

interpretation of tongues.

All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.

Think about the things that make up our day to day ordinary life.  What is the story that you are telling your world and culture?  In the beginning of the Body of Christ, the vast majority of disciples understood they lacked the moxie to do what God was calling them to do.  The result was they opened their heart, mind and life to God so that HE could equip them with what was needed for this enormous task of being the presence of Jesus in a fallen world.

And God provided what they needed through His Spiritual Gifts.  And I Believe That Today God Is Still Making Available To Us His Presence, Power And Provisions  To Fulfill Our Primary Task in His Kingdom And That Is To Make More Followers For Jesus!  These gifts are not merit badges or rewards for us being so good.  Spiritual Gifts are the only way to fulfill our primary task as Followers of Jesus in the Body of Christ, which is to make more disciples for Jesus.

Let me tell you a story.  After Satan could not convince Jesus to avoid the Cross, he began to worry.  After Jesus conquered death, Satan began to wonder how he could stop the Gospel.  Eager to please their master, demons did a variety of things.  One began to persecute the believers, even having them killed.  But this only led to the Gospel being spread out further.  Another tried to get the early church to dilute the Gospel by mixing it with other beliefs and religions, and while it did capture a few souls, it wasn’t the huge success he was wanting.  The Gospel continued moving forward.  The demons tried and persisted with their evil designs.  At times they seemed to be successful by getting the church to replace relationship with rituals and rules.

But then there would be someone like Martin Luther, John Knox, John Wesley, C.H. Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, or Billy Sunday (to name just a few) came along who would get the church back on track.  One demon though, patiently watched and studied all the efforts being tried before he came up with his idea.  At one particular business meeting as the demons were all bemoaning their failures, fearing the wrath of their master, this one demon spoke up.  He said, “I have an idea.”  Just about everyone, including Satan, rolled their eyes as if to say, “What failure do you have in mind for us?”  And the demon said, “It’s obvious that we can’t stop the Gospel, but I have a way to slowing down its impact on people.  I call it ‘Committees’.”  Someone asked, “What’s a committee?”

The demon explained—“It’s a group of people who sit around talking about what they should be doing.  The key concept is ‘talking’.  Committees will then insist that everything in their area has to done their way; this will stifle creativity.  Some churches will make it that only a committee can do something in their areas, this will create a spectator mentality.  If some people don’t get on a committee, or a particular committee, they will get angry and stir up trouble, this fuels selfishness.  Committee meetings will become irrelevant, long, boring, or heated, and eventually, all of the above and this creates division.”  The Board room of hell was silent, until they saw their master with his infamous sly grin.  And though they couldn’t stop the power of the Gospel, they had found a way to slow down a church by making it ineffective.

From my story you may think that I don’t like committees.  I want to set the record straight.  I don’t like committees.  I don’t like committees that talk more than they do, stifles creativity, creates spectator mentalities, fuels selfishness and creates division.  But I am not against having committees.  But because of the well-earned reputation of committees, I prefer to form teams.

I am against the thought that the vision and mission of the church is to serve committees or teams.  This happens when more emphasis is put on committees and teams rather than the mission.  If you’re on a committee/team and I’ve made you mad, just listen to one more thing—The purpose of our Committees and Teams is to serve the vision and mission of the church.  That’s all.  Now that I’ve adequately offended some of you readers, I have something more to say.

Every church of every tradition and size has only one mission from God:  To Make More Followers For Jesus.  This is why every church exists.  It’s not to serve us, but to give us a place to serve God through serving others.  The vision must be to serve the mission of making Followers for Jesus at all costs.  Folks, we have made church more complicated that it really is.  To understand how to simplify this, read the next edition!

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

You’re Just Not Yourself When You’re Hungry! Part 2 of 2

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Welcome back!  For this to make sense you need to read yesterday’s post.  I left off with the truth that our heart hungers for a way to hear the voice of God in a way that is personal, and in a way that acknowledges 3 things.  Here are those 3 things:

That We Are

God did not create us to be His slaves, but His children.  God made us to experience an intimate relationship and fellowship with Him.  In The Word we discover that God knows us.  He knows where we are.  He knows what we feel.  When we are deeply hurting, God knows that we are hurting.  When we are so afraid, God knows we’re afraid.  When we are so angry, angry at life, angry at others, angry at Him, God knows we’re angry.

When we mess up and our life lies in ruins around us, God knows our despair.  When we doubt His presence, doubt His love, doubt His promises, and even doubt His Word, God knows our doubts.  Are you afraid that God will turn away from you?  Don’t be!  In The Word we discover the God who knows everything about us and with tender compassion understands our fears and our pains.  This Word always finds us and in the good times and the darkest times.

That We Are Important

God values you and deems you important to Him.  Your family may tell you you’re worthless.  People you know may tell you that you’re worthless.  Bosses and coworkers may tell you you’re worthless.  Your world may tell you you’re worthless.  Even your mind may tell you that you’re worthless.  But you will never hear God call you worthless.

In Isaiah 43:1 we hear The Word say:  The one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”  Every day we read or hear about a child, a spouse, an elderly person, someone mentally ill being abandoned.  But you are so important to God that He will never abandon you or forget you.  In The Word we hear God speak in Isaiah 49:16, “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.”  Those hands are nail scarred hands.  To hunger for the Word is to know that you are going to encounter the One who has written your name on His hands!

That We Are Important To His Purposes

In The Word we can discover that God has a plan for this world and that you are an important part of His plan.  God has a place for you.  Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”  God sees you as His Masterpiece.  As we immerse our minds and hearts into His Word, we can discover and see His Masterpiece.  A simple glance at The Word is not enough.  We cannot see the Masterpiece that He sees until we linger and remain in His Word.  He reveals what He sees in us, and what He made us to be.

But it takes time, and often, a lot of time.  God does not reveal it all at once, but piece by piece.  In this process we will discover the trustworthiness of God.  You are so important to His purposes that He will not give up on you, even if you do.  He created Adam and Eve to be an important part of His creation plan.  And he saved us to become an important part of His redemption plan.

In The Word, as we read, study, wrestle, and reflect we do indeed discover that God has a plan and a purpose for your life.  And you are important to Him.  How important is He to you?  Let’s read the rest of the passage from Matthew 13:18-23 (The Message)

“Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road. The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.  The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.  The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.” (Verses 18-23)

Each of us is found somewhere in this story.

  1. Some people’s heart is like the road. They put up a barrier to God’s word.  Some put up a barrier because they are unwilling to surrender their hearts to God.  Some are afraid that God is going to take away the fun in their life.  I believe that many more are afraid to give up control of their life.
  2. Some people’s heart is like ground covered in gravel They lack the depth to allow god’s word to grow in them. These are the ones who choose respectability over commitment.  They want to give the appearance that they love God.
  3. Some people’s heart is like ground covered with weeds. They allow doubts, fears, worries, problems to be bigger than God.
  4. Some people’s hearts are the good, fertile ground. The good soil is the heart that takes the seed deep within, where we find strength, comfort, hope and the challenge. It’s in the deepest parts of our heart where we wrestle and struggle.

The word is not always easy to understand, nor is it automatically easy to accept.  His Word Comes To Stir Us Up, To Face The Truth About God, About The World, And Most Importantly, About Ourselves.

 

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him

You’re Just Not Yourself When You’re Hungry! Part 1 of 2

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Remember that line from those Snickers commercials?  I just love that ad campaign.  I’ve always heard, “Never go grocery shopping when you are hungry.”  Know what?  It’s true!  My wife Debbie will send me grocery shopping when the budget is a little tight.  She sends me because I have a list—and I stick to that list.  If it ain’t on the list it ain’t going in the shopping cart, unless it is a really good sale price.  BUT, you should know I have a but to put in here, if I go when I’m hungry, I stray big time from that list.  So, I don’t go grocery shopping when I’m hungry.

Here’s another but, BUT when it comes to reading God’s Word (The Bible), I need to be hungry; otherwise I will probably miss what my heart is truly hungry for.  To limit one’s self to a list when grocery shopping is a good habit.  My tendency is that without that list I buy too much of the wrong stuff and forget what we really need.  I even have an app on my phone to help me stay with “The List”.  (FYI, my favorite app is ColorNote®)

When it comes to God’s Word, many people read it with a shopping list.  For many people that shopping list doesn’t have “How Can I Be More Like The Real Jesus”.  It has things like, “How can I prove my point?  How can I find a verse to justify my life?” Unfortunately our “twisted-unrenewed-untransformed-into-the-mind-of-Christ” perspective will usually find a verse (taken out of context of course) that justifies our position and our life.  The Bible isn’t God’s gift to help us feel better about ourselves, but His gift to help us know Him better.  Maybe it is better that we just go hungry while “shopping” in the Word.  And in knowing Him better, see a truer image of ourselves.  This truer image of ourselves starts with understanding our own brokenness and sin.  As a side note, read the Bible to see where your life is going wrong, not to point out what’s wrong with others and the world

Let’s look at Matthew 13:1-9 (The Message) 

At about that same time Jesus left the house and sat on the beach. In no time at all a crowd gathered along the shoreline, forcing him to get into a boat. Using the boat as a pulpit, he addressed his congregation, telling stories.  “What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.”  “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

Inside each of us is a hunger that will never go away.  People are always trying to satisfy that hunger.  Some try things like money, possessions, drugs, and power.  Others even try to fill that hunger with respectability.  They try to give the appearance of being kind, caring and loving.  They try to believe if they look good, then they are good.  They truly put on a good show, so good that they are able to hide the emptiness from others, but never from themselves.

This hunger is so much more than anything on this earth can fill.  It is a hunger to hear the voice of God, to hear His Word in a way that is both to us and for us.  Our hearts cry out to hear God speak to us.  We try to silence that cry by occupying our time with other things, but the heart still cries out.  The heart knows what the heart wants and needs.  We try to silence it, but it will not go away.  If you try to give it anything other than The Word, it will not be satisfied.  To truly pursue the heart of God, you must have that unending appetite for His Word. To hunger for the Word means we want to encounter the living God.  There’s more to The Word than ink and pages.  Every word of the Bible is meaningless without the Presence of God.

There is not a single word in this book that will transform us without the Power of God.  I do not mean to be irreverent to God, but I may offend someone who hears this:  Having a well worn Bible does not necessarily mean you have a well formed life in Christ.  Our heart hungers for a way to hear the voice of God in a way that is personal, and in a way that acknowledges 3 things:  And we will look at them tomorrow.

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