Calm Down and Believe In Me

hearing-bad-news-beautiful-young-women-covering-her-mouth-men-touching-her-shoulder-87984750When someone gives you news that you don’t want to hear such as their serious medical diagnosis, the passing of someone you love, news of a close friend or family member moving far away, or of a marriage ending, it’s difficult to process the initial thoughts and feelings.

An audible gasp, followed by murmuring and furrowed brows swept across the room where the disciples were finishing the Passover meal after Jesus told them that He will be going away soon.

I remember when Kim and I told my family and friends that our family was moving 1,500 miles away, to Maine in order to plant a church; their reactions were understandable. The proverbial shoe had long ago been “put on the other foot” when at least three of my siblings had left to live in different parts of the United States. I totally understood what I felt in those moments when I found out, (one of them only left me a note to tell me they were leaving); I had no difficulty empathizing as they expressed their  feelings.

The gravity of the situation around the Passover Meal in John 13 and 14 is intensified by Jesus’ command for the disciples to love each other in the same way (or capacity) which He has loved them.

parents-talking-with-tweens

It reminds me of how we would beg our kids “love each other, treat each other like you love each other, be good to each other” just before we would go on a date.

He tells them that if they love each other people will know that they are His disciples. Certainly, the disciples must have thought “yes, but… if you’re around, they will know that we’re your disciples… wait…what’s going on here?!”

These men had abandoned everything, they were part of a movement which stood in direct opposition to the established religion, left their families and their occupations, stood beside Jesus as He made some pretty incredible claims (most of which they didn’t understand at first); even if they wanted to, they would never be accepted back into society again.

The panic and anxiety in the room was reaching a fervor as the loving Master offered these words to His friends,

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Me.” John 14:1 ESV

First, Jesus addresses their feelings of panic and their anxiety by telling them to calm down calm downand choose to not LET their hearts be troubled or stressed out. In our moments of anxiety we need to recognize that ultimately, we have a choice.

 

 

Then, Jesus points back to the Father and commands them as if saying, “No matter what, always believe in God – trust in God, don’t let anything sway your faith in God.” This isn’t a suggestion on how to get through this, it’s a command. Believe in God – this is absolute foundational truth for us to get to the next step. If you can believe in God then you can believe in Jesus, whom God sent.

Finally, He follows up by telling them to take that same unshakeable faith and apply it to Him. He’s not asking them to believe in some ethereal concept or ideology – He’s asking them to believe IN Him.

My precious wife and children have had some pretty big favors asked of them by me; many times I’ve required them to “believe in me” as we made some major life decisions over the years.

kenny rogers

 

One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received has been my wife telling me that she believes in me.  I know that she believes in my ability to make decisions, trusts that I have her’s and my family’s best interests in mind, and she believes that I know how to hear from God.

It’s important that we understand that Jesus isn’t asking us to simply acknowledge some new information or to assent  to some new philosophy; He is asking us to believe IN Him. Jewish people understood what it meant to believe in God (they had that under control) but believing in Jesus in the same way was a new thing.

I would argue that it’s a new thing for some Christians.

Jesus isn’t asking us to simply acknowledge some new information or to assent  to some new philosophy; He is asking us to believe IN Him.

Do you believe in Him? Do you trust Him to be capable of handling your life? Do you trust Him to cause “everything to work together for the good”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sweet Secret Revenge

Most people aren’t the type to allow themselves to engage into malicious hateful revenge liar vengeance(or at least most people wouldn’t admit to it); although I think most of us have endured some situations where it may have felt warranted. Most of us are much more acquainted with a lesser form of revenge that  psychologists have called “Passive-Aggressive” behavior.

 

This kind of behavior is typical in office work where decorum prohibits you from openly discussing issues which would easily be resolved if you could openly speak about them, also online forums and social media are breeding grounds for this softened version of revenge.

But there is no end to the possibilities where we might encounter passive-aggressive behavior! You might find it in the home, at church, in the market, or in even in rest-room stalls 😉  There are some really nasty spirited people out there who have some aggression issues that need to be dealt with, just look at this!

HOTDOG ICE?!?! This is proof there is evil among us!

Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.”
    Wait for the Lord to handle the matter.  Proverbs 20:22 NLT

Even if someone has legitimately hurt or offended you, and they honestly meant to do so, revenge and vengeance isn’t an activity with which a citizen of the Kingdom of God engages. The behavior of someone who has been transformed by the love of Jesus is to allow God to deal with punishment of others; it it not the activity of the chosen to punish other people. Discipline, correct, or rebuke, but not punish (the former three all are activities which should be done in love according to scripture).

In reality, when we try to understand other people we find most people aren’t bent on hurting or offending others, instead we discover that we simply don’t understand what their personal struggles are and how those struggles are affecting them.

A lack of understanding another person’s viewpoint can easily bring us to the point of frustration and aggravation and if left unchecked can quickly transform into revenge (in all its nasty forms).

The very least we can do is the RIGHT THING – love people and love God enough to trust

right thing

that even if their motives were malicious, God will handle them; all we are supposed to do is love God and love people in the process.

 

Are You Ready?

If I told you that I scheduled my first home invasion through Jim Bob’s Home Invasion…JBHIyou would tell me that I’ve lost my mind! Literally no one schedules their own home invasion! The truth is that no one knows when it’s going to happen! Jesus addresses this in Luke 12:39-40

39 “Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

The point is that we are to be ready because just like a home invasion, you don’t know when He is coming!

 are you ready

There’s no need to panic – as far as I can tell there are really three critical things every believer needs to be doing… (without oversimplification)

LOVE GOD PEOPLE DRAW

Ultimately we are given three directives; love God, love people and draw people to Jesus. Certainly there are other disciplines which grow our relationship with God like daily Bible reading, worship, and prayer but when you boil it all down if you love really God you’re going to do those things anyway. If you love people, you’re going to have to address the sinful attitudes and habits in your life to better love them, and if you love people you are going to be drawing them into a relationship with Jesus.

So, if you are doing the above three things… more than likely you’re ready! If you’re not, now’s the time! Since we don’t know when Jesus will return, there’s no time to waste – begin today by loving God, loving people, and drawing them into a loving relationship with God.

How do we love God? Think of how you express love to people – spend time with Him (prayer, reading, and worship), spend time with His people (go to church), learn to hear His voice, invest into His church (give tithes and offerings)

How do we love people? This is basic. Put other people before you, serve and don’t command or demand, spend time and build relationships, ask questions, meet needs as you’re able, don’t think yourself better than them, and most of all pray for them.

How do we draw people to Jesus? Pretty much doing the above makes you the most attractive thing in the world to thirsty souls. You attract more flies with honey than vinegar, so love God and love people. The bottom line is somewhere in your relationship, you will need to tell them about how Jesus has changed your life. You don’t have to have a doctoral degree to manage this – just tell them what happened in YOUR life. Tell them how it happened, what you prayed, and how you have lived since. Boom. Done.

There are probably a hundred different approaches like the “Roman’s Road”,  the “ABC’s”, etc. but if you are honestly listening to God He will give you what needs to be said.

Get out there – love God, love people, and draw them to Christ! Be ready for Him!

Pastor Kevin

Roll the Dice, Move Your Mice

We may throw the dice,
    but the Lord determines how they fall. Proverbs 16:33 NLT

Perhaps you’ve seen these phrases before;

I-AM-THE-MASTER-OF-MY-FATE-AND-THE-CAPTAIN-OF-MY-DESTINY.-Nelson-Mandela      or maybe this one…     ceo

I’m fully aware that there are a great number of people who not only subscribe to this philosophy but live their lives with these statements as “life-declarations”.

How frustrating it must be when you self-declare that you are in charge only to find that life doesn’t work that way.

In the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament portion of the Bible we find the verse at the beginning of this blog. We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.” Clearly, some may find this verse absolutely infuriating; I’ve found that people are ultimately divided into two camps. 

In camp one we find people who read a verse like that and feel like a child upset with a parent not giving them the control or authority they feel they deserve.

tantrum

This is part of the original lie Satan gave Adam and Eve in the garden – you need to be just like God – you need to know what He knows, and God is holding something back from us. If we haven’t learned what we needed from that lesson I will explain it briefly; No, we don’t need to know what God knows, nor do we need to be just like God, and NO, God isn’t holding anything good from us.

loving father

And in camp two we find people who understand that God isn’t trying to control us so that He can lord over us with nefarious and malicious intentions;  instead these people in camp two understand that a loving Father is guiding our steps through this life. As we learn to trust Him more and more we recognize His love and grace through the most difficult times in life.

So the challenge for you today is this – which camp do you find yourself? Are you ever vying for control and authority, ever frustrated that no matter what you can’t seem to find control or authority?

Are you settled with God guiding your steps? Isn’t it sweet of God to let us roll the dice?

 

Love More Than Your Friends

If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.                                                                                          Matthew 5:47 NLT

Love should be this incredible easy thing, something you just experience and give so freely, a feeling that flows uncontrollably from others and from us with absolutely zero effort.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Unfortunately that is not the case, people can be decidedly unlovely, making it difficult to choose to love them when love hasn’t been shown. But that seems to be the problem doesn’t it? We tend to treat love like there’s a prerequisite of love shown in order to show love, or at least like it needs to be reciprocated in order for us to continue to show love.

Christians aren’t supposed to allow circumstances to dictate whether or not we show love to other people because while were still sinners we were shown the most intense love imaginable (actually beyond our imagination). It is an act most ungrateful to behave unlovely towards other people, regardless of their actions.

When we refrain or withhold love from people we have effectively stopped loving them. We make light of this when we excuse our actions based on other people, when there is no excuse for us.

“Even pagans do that” isn’t meant to be a slight against pagans as we know them today, rather an observation, made by Jesus, of people who had not been transformed by God’s love who had shown love to their friends.  The point isn’t about pagans, it’s a reference to how we (who’ve experienced the power of God) should behave differently than those who haven’t.

Jesus’ question is, of course, timely for us, “how are you different”? I invite you and I to ask ourselves that very important question today.

How are you different? 

In what ways are you showing love to unlovely? In what ways are you expressing the power of Christ in you?

Are You and Jesus On the Same Mission?

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When you wake up, what do your goals for the day look like?

Many of us have goals we work hard to complete so we can mark them off our list each day; career minded people have different goals than a stay at home mom, a student has different goals each day than a retiree.

Some people aren’t just interested in fishing their goals for the day; they’re on a mission!

tenor

The Blues Brothers coined the phrase “We’re on a mission from God!” which has widely been accepted as a phrase people use when they are filled with incredible determination to see something accomplished, regardless of what it may take.

Are you on a mission in your life? What is driving you? What is the singularly most important goal in your life?

I only ask because when Jesus came to earth he came, as did the Blues Brothers, on a mission from God. In fact, he expresses in chapter six of the Gospel of John that while he was on earth he had no intention fulfilling his own desires or wishes, only the will of the Father.

For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. John 6:38 NLT

Logic demands that we consider Jesus’ words, “a servant ism’t greater than his Master” (John 15:20) therefore if our Master determined in His heart to follow the will of His Father, shouldn’t we determine to follow in His steps and make His mission our mission?

Our mission and Jesus’ mission should look identical!

If Jesus was emphatic about us being a people who loved others….New-commandment

I’m just suggesting that hate shouldn’t even have a seat in our mental dining table. If Jesus blatantly told us to make disciples of everyone  we meet, I’m thinking that we should be much more prepared to love people, build a relationship with them and lead them to Jesus.

What might a goal list look like that makes Jesus’ mission OUR mission? Oddly normal, just your motivation for your actions will have changed.

  • Go to the work (get there early so I can build relationships)
  • Grab dinner at a fast food (Go inside so I can have a chance to chat with someone)
  • call Bob  (develop that friendship – maybe lead him to Jesus)
  • Finish “Gotham” (so I can have something fun to break the ice with Larry who loves Gotham)

Our seemingly mundane and terribly normal activities are suddenly transformed into spectacular spiritual service when it is motivated out of love for Jesus and love for the people for whom He died; when His mission becomes our mission life explodes with purpose we’ve never experienced!

Are you on a mission from God?

 

Real Joy Comes From Jesus

This is the third week of Advent; we are turning our attention to JOY this week!

Often times we confuse happiness and joy; before assumptions start flying… I’m not against happiness – it’s pretty important too! That said, I’ve found there’s an incredible difference between the two.

Here’s some examples which will help to draw the distinction between the two:

  • someone who is “unhappy” in their marriage can still find “joy” in their children or grandchildren.
  • someone who is “unhappy” in their profession can find “joy” in a hobby
  • someone who is “unhappy” with their physical or mental condition can find “joy” in a friendship.

Unfortunately, each of these “joys” are very temporary – children grow up (and out), interests in hobbies wane, and friendships tend to fade over time as well. The joy we cultivate and experience is horrifically temporary.

But there is a REAL and lasting joy for anyone who believes and follows Jesus. On John’s gospel, the fifteenth chapter we find this beautiful gem,

 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11 ESV

This verse tells us that Jesus’ joy has been placed in us! The exciting part of that is that Jesus’ joy isn’t temporary, it is eternal! Who is going to steal His joy? Who will rob Jesus of His joy? No one!

As we begin to focus on the joy He’s placed in us (not our temporal joy), we find that our joy is full or complete; no more working tirelessly to cultivate joy only to have it taken from us or wear off over time – Jesus in you gives you joy, REAL and complete joy.

Tap into that joy this week by worshipping, reading, and prayer, turning your attention away from circumstances and onto what He’s already placed in you. You don’t have to muster up this joy – it’s already there!

Joy to the world!

 

The God Who Works for His Waiters

I’ve always been a self-starter, (at least that’s how I remember myself ) which is generally considered a positive character trait. Unfortunately, my “go-get-’em” drive usually forces me to push ahead of people for the sake of accomplishing whatever goal is set before me.

“Slow down” and “Wait for me” has been a phrase which I’ve been all too familiar with over the years. To be honest, for most of those years, I really believed that these were people who just didn’t understand how quickly I could catch things or who were just generally slow people. “Don’t they understand how busy I am?” I would ask myself.

.slow down gif

In reality, usually, they were trying to teach me something the right way the first time, or they were teaching me something that required absolute attention to detail (something to which I haven’t always exhibited much interest lol)

But what if these people were teaching me part of the nature of God? We are familiar with the numerous people all through scripture who were made to wait…

waiting in bible

What is difficult to understand for most followers of Jesus, is that as we wait on God, He’s already working on our behalf; most of the time we’re just getting worked up and in the way while He’s asking us to wait on Him. Look at this verse from Isaiah;

“For since the world began no has seen or heard of such as God as ours, who works for those who wait for Him” Isaiah 64:4 LB

Waiting implies trust; while we wait we communicate, “God, I trust that you have this under control and you are working all things out for my good.” (Romans 8:28)

God is at work on your behalf, why would you want to interfere with that?

What would your blood pressure look like if you waited and trusted?

What would your stress level be like if you waited and truly trusted?

How would waiting on God affect your relationships with other people?

Wait on God, He’s working for your good!

Who Is In Control

The apostle Paul was encouraging the people of Thessalonica to live as people who knew the God that sets captives free when in 1 Thessalonians 4:5 he wrote,

“Don’t be a slave of your desires or live like people who don’t know God.” 1 Thessalonians 4:5 CEV

To assert that they were living as slaves to their desires implies that their desires were their master. Allow this image to set into your mind for a moment. A slave has no power to make their own decisions; the slave driver or the master is bent on enforcing their own will and agenda. The slave is not in control of their life.

This verse begs the question of us today, “Who is in control of our lives?” Are we driven by our desires in the same way a slave master would drive slaves to do their bidding? It seems like an oxymoron for the children of the living God to be chained and enslaved by ANYTHING because they are God’s children!

The reality is that so many believers live as if they don’t know the God that sets the captives free! We behave like Christ hasn’t won the victory! When we (followers of Jesus) allow our desires to dictate our activities and thoughts we are living like people who don’t know God!

This slave-like behavior comes as we shift our focus away from Christ and the salvation He has given us, as we forget how He purchased us from the auctioneer’s block, broken the yoke of slavery, and as we forget that we’ve been adopted into God’s family; ultimately when we place our affections and attentions on anything other that God.

Paul pleads with every person who has turned their hearts away from God and ALLOWED themselves to become enslaved by their desires, when he wrote, “Don’t… live like people who don’t know God”.

DO YOU KNOW THE GOD THAT SETS YOU FREE?

God loves to liberate captives… God loves to liberate slaves… God gave His Son for the express purpose of redeeming our sin-filled hearts!

I challenge you today to stop living like you don’t know God and submit your mind and your heart to Him again; watch how quickly your desires cease running your life and how wonderfully fulfilling your life becomes again!