Jesus Math

A little reminder that God can do crazy things when we stop being Negative Nancy’s…

I just love this little excerpt from AW Tozer on how the Lord doesn’t necessarily need us, but oh how He wants us to join up with Him in miraculous works!

Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” John 6: 5-7

“The Lord Himself was concerned with the people’s need for food. But He made it Philip’s problem. He honored Philip by letting him participate in the solution. The thing is, He did not want just to feed them and have it over with. He wanted some blessing to flow all around as a result of it. So He picked out one of His disciples – Philip – saying to Himself, I am going to bring Philip into this. I am going to honor him by letting him become a part of this plan. He can help Me work it out, although actually I do not need him at all. So Jesus encouraged Philip to tackle the problem along with Him. He nudged Philip a little and got him into a hard spot, just to reveal to Philip his own emptiness.

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Drifting

 

“People do not drift toward holiness.

Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.

We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” Don Carson (For the Love of God)

I looked up “drift” in the thesaurus and one of the meanings was to “coast and glide along without much effort”. 

Sometimes we need to drift along and unplug a little. We need to take care though, that we aren’t disconnecting ourselves in unhealthy ways. We tend to distance ourselves from the things we need (family, face to face conversation) and tightly hold on to things that are not healthy. Hardness sets in quickly and sometimes unexpectedly through little openings we think are harmless.

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Good things and God Things

Happy 2018! I think I’m not supposed to say this, but I don’t mind one bit the end of the holidays. I love Christmas, but there’s something about January. December is a month filled with family, friends, food, activity and just… a lot. I love decorating the house, and I equally love un-decking all the halls. There’s just a fantastic feeling about hitting the reset button in different areas of life.

Like most people, our family has goals for 2018, some big, some small, some practical and others lofty. As we were talking with our kids about the specifics of them yesterday, two words popped in my head: big picture.

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Evangelize With Joy, Not A Sandwich Board

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Our pastor said something at church this morning that really stuck out to me, I jotted it down on the notes section of my phone… (which says a lot, because I barely know how to use the notes section of my phone). He was speaking on evangelism, which at first, made me scrunch up my face and shrink back a bit in my chair. Not so much comfortable with evangelizing,  I have to say. Not in the sense that I usually think of it, anyways. He said there are probably two big reasons why we react this way: we’ve either seen it done really poorly and we don’t want to be ‘that’ Christian, or we’ve seen it done really well and we feel totally inadequate.

It’s the angry loud guy on the corner with a giant sandwich board telling everyone they are going to hell, or Billy Graham himself. No middle ground. So yeah, it’s easy to see how we can push this area aside. It seems impossible, and besides, aren’t certain people just called to evangelize and gifted to do it?

The truth is, we are ALL called to make disciples and spread the good news (Mark 16:15). No special calling required, except our relationship and belief in Jesus and what He accomplished for us.

To evangelize is simply to declare the good news to those still in captivity. He used the verses in Isaiah 52 to paint a beautiful picture of this:

Awake, awake!
Put on your strength, O Zion;
Put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city!
For the uncircumcised and the unclean
Shall no longer come to you.
2 Shake yourself from the dust, arise;
Sit down, O Jerusalem!
Loose yourself from the bonds of your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion!

Put on the bright garments and take off the mourning clothes. Shake off everything that holds you down and stand up!

Israel was still captive, but God was calling them to anticipate their coming freedom and act accordingly. How much more then, should we, being set free, put on our bright garments and stand up? We are supposed to be known for our JOY, Christians. Not phony, fake smiles and slick Instagram posts, but real, abiding joy that comes and stays despite challenges and in the face of difficulties.

“Live and love in a way that demonstrates the reality of your rescue” he said. Are we living that way? Or are we parading around in our dark mourning clothes all hunkered down in the dirt? Do people recognize something different in us or are we so blended in with the world that nobody would ever know if we were Jesus-followers or atheists?

To evangelize is simply to get up and share the good news. With actual people in our lives. We can demonstrate it in so many ways, but we are called and commanded to do it. We make things way too hard when we think this is something to be left up to the pastors of the world. Taking little steps with the people in our lives can make a huge impact.

Don’t be afraid to declare the good news. We may not all be bold like Billy Graham, but we do have the Holy Spirit and that’s pretty amazing.  As long as it’s not angry yelling on the street corner, I bet we’d be surprised at people’s responses to actual good news. The world needs it the way dry soil needs water. Get out and share Jesus and demonstrate to the people you come across the reality of your rescue.

Brokenness Isn’t All That Authentic

 

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“We want flawed. We want imperfect. We want real. And this kind of corduroy rather than polyester faith is a growing and refreshing influence in the world today.” Josh Riebeck, Fighting for Authenticity
If there is one prevailing topic I read about over and over recently, it is that of living “authentically”. It is the badge of honor of an up and coming generation to shake the dust off of the conventional traditions they grew up with for newer “more authentic” experiences. The churches of their parents and grandparents have been a little too polished, the doctrine too narrowly defined, and their leaders too phony. Authenticity is at the top of the list for many church goers and seekers. The bar is high for relationships and personal experiences. People desire community and fellowship, both of which mean nothing if people are not able to be their true selves.

Enter a whole new kind of thinking in our little life circles: being authentic means showcasing our jagged edges and messes, so much so that brokenness is in fact paraded around as a kind of medal of honor. It’s a mantra so often repeated in the books we read and messages we hear I can’t help but wonder if we have gone off the path just a bit. Here’s just a taste of some recent book titles:

Messy: God Likes It That Way;  Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life; Life is Messy, Embrace the Mud;  Dirty, Rotten, Messy Christians;  

Ann Voskamp’s latest book The Broken Way asks “what if brokenness is the path to abundant life?” 

Jen Hatmaker went viral after she wrote a hilarious piece on why she was the worst end of year school mom ever, and mothers all raised their praise hands and chuckled in agreement.

To read something humorously and passionately written about the battles we all face is encouraging, it resonates and makes us feel like we aren’t alone. Life is indeed messy. We are broken people.

Look closely though, at what these messages are telling us: your authenticity is defined by your brokenness. In order to be relevant, you need to have a ‘hot mess’ thing happening somewhere or else you just aren’t relatable.

After awhile, brokenness is not only normalized, it’s embraced. Whether it’s in holy or humorous ways, we read the stories that end with “bless this mess, Lord” and breathe a collective sigh in knowing we aren’t alone in our shortcomings.

To be clear, brokenness is not having a sink full of dirty dishes, piles of laundry or unsigned reading logs. True brokenness is sin separating us from a loving God who offers healing and redemption. Grace, in much of the same way doesn’t just come to fill in the gaps where we fall short or have decided to loosen up our convictions. If we cheapen the meaning of these things, it all becomes dangerously relative. If everything is broken, nothing really is. We don’t see sin for the danger it is, we make light of it. Or ignore it entirely.

“If we are constantly looking for someone else who is broken in all the same places, we overlook the comfort we can have in the perfect God-man. Grace covers. And it covers again and again. Thanks be to God. But if we stop there, we are only telling half of the story… Receiving grace for my failures also includes Christ’s help to turn from sin and embrace new obedience.” Megan Hill

What if… what if the most authentic, real, and relevant thing we can do as believers is to actually pursue wholeness instead of wallowing in the muck of our sin and mess just waiting for Jesus to return? What if we viewed ourselves as new creations who are called to live a life of abundance and not brokenness? (2 Corinthians 5:17, John 10:10)

This isn’t pie in the sky wishful thinking that discounts the effects sin and a broken world have on our lives. This isn’t ignoring genuine tragedies that at times leave us busted-up, messed-up, hollowed-out people. Jesus knows. That’s the whole point. We have a Savior who completely feels the depths of our every sorrow (Hebrews 4:15, Isaiah 53:3). The fantastic news is that He came and redeemed us from having to dwell in that brokenness and sorrow. And that’s where I see the disconnect. We are promoting brokenness over wholeness. Darkness over light. Struggle over victory. We understand there’s no foolproof method to glue all the pieces back together, so we abandon the process entirely and embrace things we were never intended to hold on to.

If I believe brokenness is my permanent condition, how do I view sin and grace? Do I ease up on Biblical doctrine because it’s too harsh for today’s culture to embrace? Do I receive grace for my sin and keep on sinning? C.S. Lewis has a warning for us on this:

“A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. You find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.” Mere Christianity

See where this leads? If we only take our spiritual cues from people who struggle with the same sin as we do, we all remain stuck. It’s like being shipwrecked on a desert island and wanting to stay with fellow passengers instead of searching out a boat with a competent captain.  There are too many prominent Christians giving in and lying down because they mistakenly believe that’s what will save everyone. In the end, we all starve to death. Our role as believers isn’t to wallow in brokenness together. The Bible tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15) because that is the rhythm of life in a fallen world. In the in-between times, are we called to “encourage one another and build each other up” (I Thessalonians 5:11), and to “pursue holiness” (Hebrews 12:14). Walk it out, work through it, process it… with Jesus, with fellow believers and friends, whatever it takes because Christian, you are no longer a slave, but God’s child (Galatians 4:7). God’s children do not sit and bask in brokenness.

Desiring wholeness (not perfection) is fantastically, amazingly and entirely AUTHENTIC. God loves and honors the broken spirit, He acknowledges it and would never despise or turn His back on our condition (Psalm 51:17). Nobody wants a phony polyester kind of faith, and God Himself does not desire that for His children. He calls us UP and OUT of the dust, the mess, the sin and INTO a beautiful life. We don’t have to muddle through, we can indeed be restored. God uses the broken things, sometimes extremely powerfully to make us who we are. Lets not, however, fall into the trap of believing that this is the only true path to anything good or authentic.

The Results Are In… Now What?

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It’s been a week since the election, and we are still here! Praise indeed.

It’s been a draining week, an emotional week, and I for one have never felt such an acute ache for God’s presence to just come and soak through every fiber of my being as I did these past seven days.

We said we’d feel better once this was over, but I’d venture to say that most of us just felt a kind of ‘shift’ from one unknown to another. The anxiety of not knowing the outcome has simply been replaced with a new kind of restlessness now that we have our end result.

So what now? Half the country nervously awaits, biting their fingernails and hoping the guy they voted for doesn’t completely blow it and prove them to be incredibly foolish in their choice of candidate. The other half are shaking their heads, woefully disappointed at best, completely unhinged at worst, skipping work and demanding a re-do.

We are living in two Americas. Heels are dug in solidly on both sides and nobody is going to move. Politics have become our religion and religion has become our politics. Focus on it too much and too long and it will finish you. Anyone with a Facebook account will tell you this past week has been trying on the soul.

This election cycle boiled us all down to the sum of our labels. Republicans are (fill in the blank). Liberals are (fill in the blank). Feminist. Socialist. Libertarian. Can I be brutally honest? None of them mean anything unless and until we know ourselves through the One who created us. I can not sing “Hail To The Chief” until I first sing in my soul “Hail Jesus You’re My King” and mean it. We will support our leaders but also speak up for injustice as needed. We are not blindly following any party or person. We are first and foremost the Church of the resurrected Christ, both  with a capital “C”.

Christ-follower. That’s the only label I remotely desire at this point.

We are more than a political party, we are a BODY. We are here to elevate truth, to speak it with conviction and love. I’m not afraid to dip my toe in the political waters, but I need to make sure I have first immersed myself in the fountain of LIVING WATER that only Jesus offers.

Church, we need the Truth now more than ever. Regardless of where it lands us on the map of political correctness, people are desperate for it. It may earn us the label of “ally” and it may get us branded as the “enemy”, but please don’t let it hinder your voice. At times it will be lonely, but we are never alone. Let’s not put all our hope into a party or platform or human being… let’s pray for our nation and put our hope in Jesus because the truth is, He has already overcome it all. Woefully lamenting our circumstances and shouting gloom and doom isn’t worthy of our position as believers. It’s never going to be perfect in this world, but we must remember to take heart, because we follow the One who has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

We are strangers in a strange land and it would serve us well to remember that fact. The world is going to ebb and flow as it always has. We serve a God who will never change, and that must be our firm foundation.

“A changeable God would be a terror to the righteous, they would have no sure anchorage, and amid a changing world they would be driven to and fro in perpetual fear of shipwreck… Our heart longs for joy as we bow before One who has never broken His word or changed His purpose.” Charles Spurgeon 

Your Compromise isn’t a Virtue

 

Friends, we are called as disciples to “preach the Word” and be ready in season and out of season”when the circumstances are for us and when they are against us. We are told to “convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Why? Because “the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

 

Do you know how the church can “do better”? By adhering to God’s Word and loving our neighbor in truth.

How is it that we can “dig deep” and “do the hard work” that God really desires of us? By searching His word and hiding it in our hearts. It is the TRUTH that sets people free, not our well-meaning actions. The opinions of culture, authors, historians or professors don’t set people free, in fact they can do just the opposite.

Lets open our arms, but with the true gospel.

Our God is holy and righteous. He is also loving and full of mercy. These don’t cancel each other out, and we can’t adhere to one and not the other.

Sin has a diabolical agenda that will take us further down the road of good intentions than we ever imagined. Following Jesus requires hard things sometimes. It means we die to sin and self. We don’t rejoice in sin but flee from it. When others are stuck, we point them to a God who loves them and wants them free. The argument of “you’re too judgmental,  God just wants us to love each other” is worn out with me. A true disciple does everything in love. Speaking the truth does not equate me with Westboro Baptist lunatics. If we ignore what He says in His Word, if we rearrange it to suit our feelings, no matter how noble they may be, we are not living as Jesus followers. We are nothing more than people-pleasers.

“In the end its like two locals telling a visitor how to get into a building. One tells the visitor he must go through the main gate, while the other says to go through an easier side door. The latter fears the main gate is too far away and too hard to enter. Initially, this local appears to make it easier for the visitor to get in, while the other seems to impose a harsher standard – until you find out there’s no side door. 

While the easier instruction is well intended, it’s sadly just another way of keeping the visitor out.” Derek Rishmawy, The Gospel Coalition 

It is precisely because we don’t want any to perish that we are speaking up. We don’t want anyone left out,  Jesus didn’t come to be exclusive, He came for all of us. Ironically, those screaming to include what God has deemed not acceptable in His kingdom are shutting the door on the very people they hope to bring in.