Crazy Love!

SCRIPTURE

Luke 5:28-29 “…, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

OBSERVATION/APPLICATION

Some things that Jesus says are just really hard to swallow. I’m a pastor and I have a hard time looking at these things. I can believe and have faith that He lived a sinless life, died for the sins of the world, came back to life and ascended into heaven. Why is it then so hard to believe that we can do what He commands us to do here? He says that we are to:

LOVE your ENEMIES, DO GOOD to those who HATE you, BLESS those who CURSE you, PRAY for ABUSE you (well at least you don’t have to hang out with them right? pray from a distance).

It’s easy for us to love the one we love, bless those that we care about, do good for those that like us and do good to us, and to pray for those that are doing good to us. Right’s it’s almost like, ‘keep it up bud, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’

Here’s what Jesus is getting at. He didn’t come to sacrifice His life and become the sins of the world, JUST for the ones that would like Him and be nice to Him. He loves all of humanity, even His enemies, He is doing good to all, even those who hated Him, He blessed those who cursed Him and the ones that abused Him and hung Him on the cross, Jesus prayed for them ‘Father, forgive them…’

For this reason, if we are to be His followers, we FOLLOW what He did. To those that show us hate and bitterness, we love unconditionally!

It’s crazy! A lot easier said than done.

PRAYER

Father, help me to do this. Help me to not just love and do good to those that treat me well. Holy Spirit give me the eyes to see people as you see them and the strength to look beyond any hurtful things that might come my way. Thank you Jesus. Amen

(Also posted at http://www.newlifetc.com)

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Audacious

In my time of prayer today, I’m simply reminded to be AUDACIOUS!

I think this is for all who believe in Christ, to be audacious!

Audacious Faith – That the God of the universe, the God who loves you personally has the power to do anything!

Audacious Prayer – Because He is capable of anything, we can pray about everything we are incapable of, Dream Big, pray audacious and fervent prayers. Audacious faith and prayer spurs on Audacious Courage.

Audacious Courage – Allows us to see the impossible become possible, not because of our ability, but because we are confident in God’s ability. That kind of courage allows us to Love deeply, serve courageously and give generously

Audacious Love – Is always manifested in what we DO. Allow that fervent prayer add fuel to your love for others and how you serve and give to others.

Audacious Serving – It’s one thing to open a door for a person, its another thing to sell you car and give to someone in need.

When we start living Audacious lives, we can’t out-love, outlive, out-give, out-serve, out-do what God does through us. He will continue to provide for you, add to your faith, your strength, your vision, passion, and action. Try being audacious in your faith and prayer. He will transform you. I dare you!

The Proof is in the Pudding

James 2:22

“You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works”

OBSERVATION

So often I hear people say (and I am guilty of this myself) “I just don’t know what to do, I’m waiting to hear from God”.

This statement is powerful, indicating surrender to God’s will and faith that God will provide a way and direction.

BUT and this is a big but. We often use that as a spiritual looking excuse for inactivity. Meaning, “I know what I’m supposed to do, I just don’t have the faith and gall to do what I believe God is telling to go do.”

Abraham is credited by James here to have faith and that faith was manifested in his works and his obedience. He didn’t have all the answers he was simply obedient and faithful. And because of his faith “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” – and he was called a friend of God.”

APPLICATION

Often we boast of having a faith in Christ. I think many ‘Christians’ miss out on true faith. It’s not just believing that Christ is King, it’s living it out. Walking in faith the things that He calls us to, stepping out even if you don’t see firm ground on the other side.

I don’t understand the saying ‘the proof is in the pudding’, but I think it may apply. Your faith is reflected in the way you live your life.

How you love, how you serve, how you give and how you’ve changed inwardly.

In the last 3 months, what has God done in your life? If we can’t respond to that, then maybe we aren’t walking in faith.

PRAYER

Holy Spirit help me to see the areas you are calling me to step out in faith. Your Word has quite a bit, you tell us to out and make disciples, to not neglect meeting in your name, you tell us to serve one another and people around us, you tell us to forgive and pray for our enemies, and many, many more kingdom building commands. Help me Jesus to realize those in my life and to lead others to do the same thing.

Swift Like a Ninja

SCRIPTURE   James 1:5-8

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

OBSERVATION

God really wants to give to us. Like a good father, one who truly loves to see his child smile and grow and prosper. God wants to see that glimmer in our eyes, that spring in our step of being cherished and adored and that security of being taken care of.

Therefore we can ask with all confidence for God’s wisdom. (Many have taken this text out of context and replaced it with a gospel of prosperity where ‘if one prays and believes, God does IT. The text here is talking about wisdom that God provides during trials). This is a kind of wisdom that allows us to wade through times of trouble, a wisdom that allows us to step through troubled times. Not necessarily without pain, but without loss of faith and growth, not necessarily unscathed, but faith fully intact. In fact a faith supplemented and strengthened, like rebar in cement, made to last and endure.

‘Do not waver’, he says do not doubt. Doubt is like saying ‘I don’t trust in God’s goodness.’

When we doubt we ultimately say, “I like God, but I’m not sure if He has it all together to know and understand where I am coming from or know how to equip me in my time of need.”

It’s like we are holding out for a better way than God’s wisdom. “Hmmm, you way is pretty cool, but I’m going to wait for the next bus, it might be more promising.” ATTACK THE DOUBT ASAP.

APPLICATION

I need to trust His wisdom and His goodness. It’s a step of faith, but I need to CONTINUALLY and CONSTANTLY ‘walk by faith and not by sight’.

PRAYER

Jesus, You are King of my life. My life is in Your hands, help me Holy Spirit to follow Christ completely and entirely with all of who I am. To Love how He loves, Say as He says, Think as He thinks, Do as He did, Serve as He served, Lead as He Lead, Surrender as He surrendered. Help me to trust in Your Goodness and Wisdom. Amen.

PS     ON DOUBT

It’s okay to doubt, just don’t stay there. Do not get complacent about your doubt! Once we do that, our hearts begin to callouss against God and His leading. Doubt can be used in a great way to add to our faith. Much like a ninja uses her opponents’ size, strength, momentum against the opponent. If she doesn’t act quickly, she may loose the battle. Use the urgency of that doubt to trump it and continue to grow in your faith and walk with Christ!!

Friendship Is Thicker Than Blood?

1 Samuel 20

Observations / Application

Saul is bent on killing David. He will stop at nothing to see this young man die, he knows its inevitable  that the throne will belong to him instead of his own son Jonathan.  But we see Jonathan’s heart and soul are tied together with David’s. A true friendship and bond, thicker than blood.

True Friends, they CAMP with you through life’s journey.  They form Covenants, Accountability, Live on Mission with you and Protect you. Take a closer look.

True Friends Are Covenantal (v.16)    Through thick and thin, this bond is strong, much a like a marriage. Refined by the fires of life and trials of sometimes violent discomfort. True friends stick it out and don’t allow circumstances or geography to come between the bond. Only upon betrayal do they forfeit that bond. It’s a trust through time that cements the covenant.

True Friends Are Accountable  (v. 4-5)   True friends keep each other accountable. Just like in protecting one another from dangers, part of that protection is helping that man become the man that he is called to be. If my bro fails in helping me stay accountable, he fails as a brother. Part of that accountability piece is the openness to receive correction from your friend. Being humble and open to receive from your friend how you might possibly be headed in a wrong direction.

True Friends Look At the Mission (v. 31)   True friendship is larger than life. It’s not simply about the bond between two people its about the mission they have been given to live out in this world. In David and Jonathan’s case, the mission is to preserve the promise of God to the nation of Israel – that David would be king and continue to carry out the bigger picture and promises given to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3)

True Friends Protect (v.2)    Jonathan will guard his friend from danger, even if it is his own father that brings danger. Friends don’t only protect from others causing danger. True friends protect us from the danger we can cause ourselves. They are truly in the details of your life and look out for our best interest despite our emotions or feelings. They tell it like it is, full of grace and truth. Just as Jesus would.

Looking at the life of Jesus, this is the kind of love we are to provide for those that we call brothers and sisters in the faith. To CAMP through life. As we CAMP together others will see this love and be attracted to it and thus given themselves to walk with Jesus and decide to CAMP with us as we grow.

Prayer

Father, help me to be this kind of friend to other. Help me to continually choose carefully who becomes a Jonathan in my life, but also, help me Lord to be a Jonathan to a few others. We can’t do life without people like that in our lives; bring some men (I recognize Lord that there may be a few in my life already) in my life that I can CAMP with through out life. Amen.

The Golden Cup and Disciplined Athlete

SCRIPTURE

2 Timothy 2:20-22

20 In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. 21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.

22 Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.

 2 Timothy 2:24-25

24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth.

OBSERVATION / APPLICATION

Paul gives us two pictures a bowl and a baller. A utensil and a someone who is disciplined in running.

Both have the quality of being used for honorable tasks. A utensil made of gold has gone through extensive purification to become fine and fit for noble use. Likewise, a runner knows when to run, how to run, and where to run.

Keep Yourself Pure, Run from Lustful Stimulation (any kind of greed that might incline your heart), Pursue Righteous Living (pursue Jesus, His example, teaching, and the Holy Spirit), Pursue Faithfulness, Love and Peace (when we have a love and faith in Christ their is a reciprocating love and a peace that encompasses all anxiety, your confidence is in Him), Have Companionship with others who call on the Lord (breathing life into one another, building up and encouraging in the Lord, there is beauty in the community of the brethren [decided to get old school in my speech, but really, when a group of believers are together, its no longer about the Mariners or the wind — the topic is Christ and His devotion to us and others. His gentle pursuit of us, His thoughtful beckoning of our hearts that draws us to Him, His

Because of Him, we are then able to to Gently and Patiently lead and listen and guide others.

PRAYER

Father, help me to see how to pursue you and chase you more vehemently. Help me to lean on you and depend on you. And help me to see the opportunities I have in being more patient with others, kind and gentle, and how to hear your voice of correction in my life that I may live in your will not mine. Help me Father to be used by you like a golden cup for your noble purposes and like an athlete running to you, from his weaknesses, help me to pursue you with all that I am. Amen.

Awkward Gains

Have you ever been hurt by someone and didn’t say anything?

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

OBSERVATION / APPLICATION

Jesus is pro-confrentation. Not because He likes fights, but because He lives for true/authentic relationships! There is nothing better for a relationship than for healthy confrontation. Jesus is saying, ‘go tell him his fault’, ‘go tell him how you’ve been hurt’.

Our culture says ‘No, I don’t want the drama. I’ll just let it go.’ But do we just let it go? Pretty soon, you’re telling your mama and the she tells everyone and drama spreads from your mama!

Or you don’t say anything, but you end up placing a wedge between you and the other person and sooner or later you’ll find yourselves drifting and other person may have no clue that they hurt you. [Sad thing is, they may know they hurt you, but since you didn’t say anything you loose credibility with them (not that it matters because, they’re punks for not apologizing for wronging you)]

Jesus, on the other hand, He says that if you confront that person and he listens, then you will gain a brother. A more real relationship happens. Borne through the process of forgiveness and understanding, humility and acceptance. Awkward Gains.

Let’s go for the Awkward Gain! If they don’t listen, then you know where they stand, and they know where you stand with them. No more pretending or acting like everything is ok.

PRAYER

Jesus, help me to pursue those awkward gains as they arise. Give me courage to confront in loving way, that I may gain a brother. This ultimately reflects You, thank You for Your example and Way. Amen.

Disturbing, Yet Full of Grace

Everyone has asked the question “If God is so good, why does He allow pain and suffering to exist?”

Today’s reading gives us one look at answering part of this multi-faceted question: Matthew 13:24-30

The Parable of the Weeds

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”

OBSERVATION / APPLICATION
Jesus uses this parable of weeds and wheat to show us humanity. This is disturbing in the sense that here we see two types of people. God sees us and determines/judges whether we are wheat or a weed. One simple way to treat this text is to ask yourself, “Which am I?” It’s too simple of a treatment. There is a deeper understanding of God and the world around us seen in this text.
This text answers some important questions. ‘Why not just get rid of the weeds? Why are there weeds in the first place?’
When the weeds are young they look too much like the wheat, so uprooting them is not an option. On the other hand, when they are fully grown they are too intertwined with the wheat that to remove the weeds at that time would mean that the wheat too would be lost. So, the response is wait until the time of ‘harvest’. In this case the day of judgement. Disturbing, right?
This passage shows us that God will not purge evil, otherwise hurting the ‘good’ in a considerable way.
Think about it like this…
We are all a little bad. Right? Admit it. We’ve all ‘sinned’. We’ve all possibly lied, or taken when we shouldn’t have, held a grudge, and the list can keep going. We are all a little bad.
If God were to purge ALL evil from this world, He’d have to get rid of us all. Yet, God loves you and I dearly!
This offers tremendous HOPE! Not only do we grow in our patience as we love and wait till the ‘day of harvest’. We also get to see from God’s vantage point… somewhat.  We get to see what He sees, and love what He loves and be on Mission in the same vein of Jesus. We can also see how amazingly Good God is verses, how evil evil can be… not only in us but as a whole [this helps answer the question ‘Why are there weeds in the first place?’ — there are other ways to answer this: freedom of will, God didn’t create pre-programmed puppets that say ‘I love you God’, thus the option not to love Him and to  love self which quickly leads to greed and inward focused living – evil].
Most importantly we see how amazing God’s Grace really is… He is patient and waits and works and woos and relentlessly loves us! Helping us want to love Him and those around us, helping us weed the gardens of our heart.
He does that by sending us the Holy Spirit to work in us, guiding us and leading us.  Let’s be open to Him!
PRAYER
Jesus, help me to always be thankful for your goodness, to be attentive to your Spirit and to be sensitive to His leading. Give us strength to live by Your Word. Help us to honor You in all we say, think and do! Amen.

3 Things to Newlife

I’ve been watching how people in our church love, serve, give, laugh, and grow. Here are 3 things I’d like to comment about and encourage you in.

1.   The Barnabas Factor

Look up Barnabas! He was the encourager of Paul when he was converted to Christianity! Barnabas was a key catalyst to Paul’s credibility in ministry (Acts 9:27-31).  Let’s continue to build the Barnabas factor at Newlife. Here is what I’ve seen many of you at Newlife do:

  • You are Encouragers: You Breath Life Into People    Proverbs 10:11  “The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions.”
  • You Speak Highly of Each Other:  Word comes back to me about ‘OUR Church’ and all I hear is people speaking highly of ‘YOUR Church.” This means that some of you Barnabases are speaking highly of YOUR family. Keep it up.
Those that are weak in their faith and identity in Christ will often be the ones that tear down and speak negatively/harshly/belittling, either at an/or to others.  But those that have the courage to see what Jesus sees in others will always build others up and love others even when it is difficult. Let’s be strong in faith, identity in Christ and lets breath life into others!

2.   On the Faith Journey with ‘Simon, Paul and Timothy’ –>  Best Formula For Growth

  • Do you have a Paul in your life? The Pauls in your life are the ones that have gone ahead spiritually. Followers of Jesus that have ‘been there, done that’. Men and women of the faith that can challenge you in your faith journey. Pauls that will listen to you, but not afraid to speak the truth to you. A Spiritual Mother (for ladies) or a Father (for the men) that will help guide you and pray for you. You can be the Timothy to someone who is like a Paul. Do you have at least one Paul in your life? Let them know it! (It’ll bless them to pieces!!)
  • Do you have a Simon in your life? These are the men and women in your life that are peers to you. Same place in life, learning the same things as you, process the same things you’re processing. Who is a Simon in your life? That can relate to you and both of you can encourage one another and keep each other accountable? You gotta have a Simon!
  • Do you have a Timothy in your life?  It doesn’t matter how much you know there will always be someone that knows more than you do, and it doesn’t matter how little you know, there will always be someone who knows less. Those are your Timothy’s. People in the Journey with Jesus that can learn from you. Who is your Timothy? Paul poured his life into Timothy like a father would. Who are you pouring into, what you know about Jesus?

An Amazing Formula for Growth!

3.   Testimony

What do you say when someone asks you about your faith? Is it tough to articulate? I bet it might be since our faith is in everlasting flux (growing, week to week). In the next few weeks I’m going to do my best to teach you how to share your faith or ‘testimony’ with people. Your own personal journey with God that helps people see what you see and possibly help those listening start their journey.

Be thinking about your walk, your story and how that might help others get to know God!! What’s Your Testimony!