Share Your Story

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Who doesn’t want peace in life? All of us desire to live above the harmful effects of the stressors we face day-in-and-day-out. Each of us hopes to live fearless lives. Serenity is a core desire for each and every one of us. However, the truth is, in our inner world, we wrestle with past hurts, unhealthy habits, and destructive hang-ups, leaving us with troubled souls. The good news is that we don’t have to remain where we find ourselves. God calls us to a life with Him that provides a way of entering into His peace.

Jesus declared: “Peace I leave with with; my peace I give to you.” Then, He adds: “I do not give this peace to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). Jesus is speaking of the confidence and courage that comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The world speaks of peace as the absence of conflict. The problem is that the world doesn’t have the power to provide such peace. The peace Jesus speaks of exists in the midst of conflict. The peace Jesus gives to His followers is peace with God and the actual peace of God. Peace with God comes as we receive Christ as Lord and Savior. The peace of God speaks of that which is available daily as believers place their trust in God and keep in step with His Spirit, relinquishing control of their lives to Him.

It has been said, “If God is peace, then to know Him is to bask in His peace.” The closer we draw to the Lord, the more of His peace we enjoy (see: James 4:8). We draw closer to God as we enter into the presence of the Lord through His Son (see: John 14:6). As we grow in Christ, our understanding of the forgiveness and freedom we have in Him bears fruit in greater confidence and peace. As Peter writes: “Grace and peace to you many times over as you deepen in your experience with God and Jesus, our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2). We grow as Christians through an ever-deepening personal knowledge of God and His Son Jesus. The Spirit uses this knowledge to enlarge our understanding and personal experience of God’s love and peace as we continue and grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

The peace Christ gives us results from hearing and responding to the message of Christ. This is why believers are called to share their faith story, their testimony (see: Rom 10:14-15). This is why one of the steps we can take to possess the Lord’s peace is to share our story. When we share our testimony of how our lives have intersected with God’s, it brings hope to others and continues to bring healing, peace, and purpose in our very own lives.

Peter writes, in the New Testament, that our stories are not merely our own, but are also opportunities to share the hope we have found in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). In Christ, we have freedom from our past (the hurts, the habits, and the hang-ups). When Christians share their story, it is used by the Spirit to draw others to salvation and hope in Christ. Further, there is healing power for us as we share our testimony. The Spirit uses it to continue the healing process in our own lives. In short, when we share our story, God allows us to be used for His good plan and to fulfill His salvific purpose (see: Acts 20:24).

John, in the book of Revelation, shares the power of story when he writes that Satan is defeated because of Christ’s finished work on the cross and because of the word of the testimony of believers (see: Rev 12:11). Our story of salvation is a powerful tool used by God to lead others to salvation and deepen His followers in His peace. This is why one of the steps to experiencing God’s peace and power in our life is to share our story.

It brings me great joy to rest in God’s peace with each of you. Let’s encourage one another to share our faith story. Let’s bask in God’s peace as we are reminded of the work he has done and is doing in our lives. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Embrace Godly Transformation

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I know that things seem to be changing rapidly all around us. Who hasn’t said, “Please, give me a moment of peace?” We all desire serenity. But, we live in a world often defined by confusion and disorder. Even in our inner world, we wrestle with past hurts, unhealthy habits, and destructive hang-ups, leaving us with troubled souls. However, we don’t need to remain where we often find ourselves. God calls us to a life with Him that gives us a way of entering into His peace. In Christ, we discover a life of peace, gratitude, freedom, and blessing that comes only through His divine intervention. It is impossible to go through this life without facing pain and hardship, but through faith in Christ, we find hope, healing, and serenity (see: John 16:33). One of the steps we can take to possess the Lord’s peace is to embrace godly transformation. This life-change is not self-willed but comes as we turn our lives over to Christ’s care and control.

When the Bible speaks of transformation, it does so meaning “change or renewal from a life that no longer conforms to the ways of the world to one that pleases God” (Rom 12:2). This change is accomplished by the renewing of our very minds. This metamorphosis is an inward spiritual transformation that is evidenced in outward actions reflecting Christ’s character, motives, and love (Col 1:10). Transformation involves those who were once far from God being brought into a right relationship with Him through Christ’s finished work on the cross (Eph 2:13).

Godly transformation is only possible in the life of a Christian. Further, it is only possible in a Christ-follower who recognizes that the source of such life-change is not themselves, but by the workings of the Holy Spirit when they surrender care and control of their lives to Him (Rom 8:9). Paul, writing of such an experience, declares:

“I have been crucified with Christ that is, in Him have shared His crucifixion; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Paul declares that the old self, who he was before coming to Christ, is dead. The new self, which he now is in the Lord, lives in Christ, or rather Christ lives in Him. Thus, the more of Christ’s truth a believer knows, believes, and by the power of the Holy Spirit walks in, the more like Christ they will be. It is the Spirit who, as we rely on Him, controls our lives, and cleanses us from any and everything contrary to God and His will. This is a daily walk and working. I have often said, “I am not what I ought to be, but I thank God I am not what I used to be. The Lord continues to work in and through me by the power of His Spirit.” This occurs as I yield to Christ’s control of my life.

Embracing godly transformation begins with the gospel message of Christ. Through this message, we learn:

“to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:22-24).

Just before the apostle Peter’s death, he provided specific instructions on how to live out our transformed lives. He writes:

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (see: 2 Peter 1:3-11).

Our history may reflect a lifetime of attempting transformation on our own. However, true transformation is a life-long journey, where we surrender control of our lives to the Spirit, growing from one form of godliness to a greater form of godliness.

It is an honor to be on journey with each of you. Let’s continue to walk in step with the Spirit. Let’s encourage one another to embrace godly transformation, which is not the work of human will, but by the power and leading of the Spirit in the life of one surrendered to Him with a willing heart. Let’s ask our Lord how we can spread His peace to our family, friends, and community. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone).

Establish Biblical Belief

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I missed gathering on Crosswinds’ Canandaigua campus Sunday for worship but thankful to have worshiped with my family from home. I appreciate everyone who made a home worship experience possible. It is amazing to think that although we could not gather together, we could worship together. Technology can be such a blessing. If you have not participated in the service it is still available on crosswinds.church.

Our world is changing rapidly around us. This will not be forever, but is our current reality. All of us desire serenity, living with true inner peace. The problem is that we live in a world filled with chaos, where all too often, we find ourselves preoccupied with past hurts, unhealthy habits, and destructive hang-ups. Instead of Christ occupying the center seat in our life, we discover that it is these unhealthy issues driving us, leading our souls to cry out in distress. The good news is that our Lord calls us to a life with access to true peace found only in Him. This life of peace, gratitude, freedom, and blessing comes through divine intervention. No doubt, pain, and hardship are universal, but through faith in Christ, we find hope, healing, and serenity in God (see: John 16:33). One of the steps we can take to have the Lord’s peace is to establish biblical belief in our lives. We need to base our lives on Christ and who we are in Him.

Basing our lives on Christ is not merely a philosophical decision. It requires placing our faith in Christ. In the book of Acts, we discover a conversation between Paul and Silas with a Philippian jailer. The jailer asks, “Sirs, what do you have to do to be saved, to really live” (Acts 16:30). Paul and Silas responded, “Believe, put your entire trust in Jesus as Lord, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

One may ask, “Why do I need to be saved?” The simple truth is that we are all infected by sin and the consequence of sin (Rom 3:23). Sin is described in the Bible as any transgression of the law of God and rebellion against God. We are born with sin, and we all personally choose to sin. Sin divides us from a holy God. Sin is the root of our past hurts, unhealthy habits, and destructive hang-ups. We live in a fallen, sinful world and, without the salvation found in Christ, will suffer the consequences from today into eternity. Due to sin, we all deserve death (Rom 6:23). This death is not just physical death, but spiritual death eternally. We need to be saved from the destructive consequences of sin this side of heaven on into eternity.

Since sin deals with the wrongness in our life and has eternal consequences, only an infinite and holy God could pay the penalty, death. The dilemma is that God, in His divine nature, can’t die. Therefore, God took upon His divinity, humanity, entering into the world as a human being in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus came, took on human flesh, lived among us, and taught us. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10). He died for our sins on the cross and was resurrected for our salvation (Rom 4:25). Because Jesus Christ is God, His death has eternal and infinite value. Jesus’ finished work on the cross was the perfect and complete payment for our sin (1 Jn 2:2). He paid a price we owed, but could not pay. He paid a price that He did not owe, but only He could pay. Jesus’ resurrection proves that His death was a perfectly sufficient sacrifice for sin and that placing our faith in Him is the way to salvation.

We cannot earn salvation. We cannot work for it. We cannot do enough good to receive it. We are not saved by how we behave. Nor are we excluded from salvation by how we have behaved in the past. We are saved by what we believe today. Remember the answer Paul and Silas gave to the jailer, “Believe, put your entire trust in Jesus as Lord, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). God has already done the work. All we must do is receive, in faith, Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and we are saved (Rom 10:9). We need to fully trust in Jesus alone as the payment for our sins. We believe in Him, and we won’t perish (Jn 3:16). God offers all of us the gift of salvation. All we need to do is by faith receive it. Jesus is the only way to salvation (Jn 14:6).

If we are not moving toward a biblically accurate understanding of God and salvation, then we are left lost with the inaccurate. Our understanding of God forms the concept of our identity, purpose, and mission. Our belief about God directly influences our actions and attitudes. It is not a stretch to declare that our very lives depend on establishing biblical belief. We need to base our lives on Christ and who we are in Him.

When we rely on God, we are freed from the fruitless struggle of relying on self and others for what God can only do for us and in us. Serenity, true inner peace, is only found in Christ. To believe in something or someone is to commit to. We are to believe in and commit ourselves to Christ. Not only does such belief in Christ lead to salvation, but this right understanding of God and acceptance of the Lord takes us one step at a time further down the path of the purpose God has laid out for us.

Serenity is found in living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, following the Lord through the highs and lows of life. Embracing it all as the pathway to peace in Him. In the end, it is who we are in Christ and who we are meant to be in service and praise to Him that defines our future. Our future is only limited by our own inability to accept the grace God offers. By God’s grace alone, we are saved. By God’s power, we are filled with His peace as we base our life on Him and who we are in Him.

It is my privilege to do life with each of you in Christ. Let’s seek the Spirit’s leading as we establish biblical belief in our lives. Let’s encourage others to do the same in the knowledge that only through basing our lives on Christ and who we are in Him can we find real peace in our life. Lastly. let’s seek out opportunities to share our Lord’s peace with family, friends, and our community. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

On Coronavirus

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I do not usually send out such writing multiple times a week. However, as I was prayerfully collecting my thoughts on paper, I was feeling the Spirit’s leading to send this to you.  Never, since the 911 Tragedy, have I sensed in our country such angst, a rapid amount of updated and changing information, as well as decisions affecting our culture. The reactions seem to be ranging from those disinterested to hyper-diligence to outright fear. What ought my response be as a Christian?

I believe the Lord calls us to walk in His wisdom while filled with His peace. We discover these words in James: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). James is addressing believers who lack wisdom in handling trials. Biblical wisdom is a God-given and God-centered discernment regarding the practical issues in life. As we gather information, we need to prayerfully come to God in order to act wisely. The good news is that He promises to give to those who ask.

When we see the world around us in upheaval, how do we gain our footing? Paul gives us some sound advice:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).

Paul is echoing the teaching of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (see: Matt 6:25-34) that believers are not to be anxious but are to entrust themselves into the hands of their loving heavenly Father, whose peace will guard them in Christ Jesus. It is the peace of God who guards the believer. Because God is sovereign and in control, Christians can entrust all their difficulties to Him. God rules over all creation, and He is wise and loving in all His ways.

I have to be honest. I do not know what the future hold. But, not to sound trite, I know who holds the future. So, I will take all the information I receive and take it to the Lord in prayer so that by the Spirit’s direction, I can walk in wisdom. I will choose to trust in God, allowing His peace to fill me. I will place myself, my family, and all else in the hands of my loving God in the hope that He will use me to bring His peace and wisdom to the chaos.

A couple hours ago, I attended the monthly Ontario County Health Coalition meeting. I left confident that our church leaders are taking the right precautions.  I also was encouraged by the chairperson’s final words. She said, “Be prepared, not scared!” I think that is a good summary of Scriptural teaching. Use wisdom and be prepared as you walk in God’s peace, and don’t be scared.

It is my joy to be found in Christ with each of you. I ask God to continue to fill each of us with His wisdom and peace. I ask Him to use us to bring His peace and wisdom to the chaos. He is my calm in the storm. I pray He is yours as well. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Overcome Destructive Denial

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When we are preoccupied with past hurts, unhealthy habits, and destructive hang-ups, God is not the center of our lives.  Our soul cries out in distress. Jesus calls us to a deeper life, one that goes beyond our own interests and desires.  Our Lord calls us to possess a soul that is well-cared-for. He calls us to have a soul with the capacity to enter into more than just the motions of faith.  This life is our connection to eternity and can help us see past the struggles of today.  This life has access to the kind of peace, gratitude, freedom, and blessing that comes only from divine intervention.

As we journey life’s path, however, we all too often lose our way and recognize, again and again, the need for a Savior, Who—in love and grace—has provided the way back to the path and the purpose laid out by God from the very beginning of humanity.  Pain and hardship are universal, but through faith in Christ, we find our hope, healing, and our serenity in God (see: John 16:33). There are steps we can take that lead us to the Lord, establishing His peace and power in our lives. One such step is overcoming destructive denial in our life.

Denial limits and robs us of living life in the fullness offered in Christ. The good news is that God calls us to partner with Him to defeat it. Denial is refusing to grant, admit, or believe. Denial leads us to think we don’t need God because we are in power and in control. Denial causes us to believe we’re okay the way we are. However, the prophet Jeremiah declares: “You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there” (Jer 6:14). Overcoming denial begins as we admit that we are powerless to overcome past hurts, unhealthy habits, and destructive hang-ups in our own strength. Paul writes in Romans: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Rom 7:18). Paul’s words seem hopeless. It is essential to look at this verse in context. Paul is speaking how we, in our own strength, are powerless to do the work that leads to wholeness and fullness of life. This is because apart from the operation of God’s grace in our lives, we are under the control of sin. But, therein lies the solution. Paul also writes:

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 7:24-25).

Paul writes about inward sinfulness as a fatal disease. It threatens to usher us into eternal death. We want to do what is right, but continue to do what is wrong, straying back to old patterns, entrapped again by past hurts, and all other kinds of hang-ups. Is there a cure? Yes! The remedy, our deliverance, is provided through Jesus Christ our Lord. We can be delivered from the control of sin, the destructive results of past hurts, and harmful habits. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we enter into peace with God that is rooted in the precious love of God.

Defeating denial comes first, through the work of salvation. This is where we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Then, secondly, through the Spirit-empowered work of sanctification where we are set apart for God, where His Spirit is at work, making a believer more and more like Christ in character. First, we are set free, then comes the work of God, leading us to walk in freedom.

How do we partner with God to defeat denial? We must admit there is a God, and we are not Him. We must acknowledge and accept that we are powerless to control and manage the hurts and sin in our life, but that God is both all-powerful, capable, and willing to bring freedom. It is because we cannot fix ourselves that Jesus came to die for our sins and be resurrected for our salvation. Denial is defeated as we admit our weakness and come to Christ, opening ourselves up to the Spirit’s work.

It is my honor to walk in Christ’s freedom with all who believe. Let’s, in a spirit of openness, acknowledge our hurts, habits, and hang-ups admitting we need God and that He is capable and willing to defeat destructive denial in our lives. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

I Must Give the Lord My First Fruits

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This is my final week of a journey I began four weeks ago exploring in my Monday writings the topic of Keys to A Blessed Life. Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). Simply put, place God’s kingdom first, and the Lord will take care of us. Now there is a fundamental choice everyone makes when they first come to Christ, and that is placing Him as Lord of our life. Every day after that, a believer’s life either reinforces that decision or denies it. What we will discover is that this is not mostly an issue that is material or physical, but spiritual and God’s Word holds the keys to a genuinely blessed life.

The final key I am exploring, to having a blessed life, is that I must give the Lord my first fruits. God’s owning everything ought to be translated in our personal actions, in giving and living. Many believers begin the journey of discovering the keys to living a blessed life with this key, but I would suggest that until we understand the previous three, this final key is a sizable leap. Often teaching on first fruits is reduced to a mere message on the stewardship of personal belongings and income. Yes, this is part of it, but at its core, it’s a spiritual issue allowing a believer to live in empowered freedom and kingdom impact rather than living enslaved by our old walk and ways before coming to Christ.

No doubt, growing in Christ increases a believer’s generosity. However, generosity is the giving of our time, talent, treasure, and testimony. Once we understand that God owns everything, we will never really give to God again. Why? Because He already owns what we falsely believe is ours. What we will do is return to God a portion of what He has given us to steward as caretakers of what is really His (see: 1 Chron 29:14).

This principle of first fruits (giving God the first and best of what we have) and giving back to God has been exemplified since the second generation of humans. Cain and Abel both gave back to God what had been given to them. What is interesting is that Cain and Abel had no Old Testament Law regulating such actions. This came generations later. What we discover is that from the beginning, God had put in place the practice of returning to Him a portion of what He had provided. Immediately in Genesis, after we are told of The Fall, we discover teaching on returning first fruits to God. Since the sin of selfishness had entered the world through The Fall, God introduced a practice of giving to counter greed. You see, we need to give back to maintain spiritual healthiness.

When we give back to God a portion of what He has given us, our first fruits, it acknowledges that God owns everything. This principle is found throughout the whole of the Bible. This was so important that Jesus stated plainly:

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21).

Throughout Scripture, the “heart” refers to the center of one’s being, involving one’s emotions, reason, and will. Jesus is teaching that your giving will reveal your heart and that your heart will follow your treasure.

People have tried for generations to measure spirituality. But, the truth be told there are not many tangible ways to do so. Giving can be an actual measure. However, you can give back to God and not love Him. But, you cannot truly love God and not give back to Him.

In Paul’s second letter to believers in Corinth, we are presented with an example of a right first fruits mentality. He writes to the Corinthians about the extravagant love and generosity of Macedonian believers. Paul declares:

“In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (2 Cor 8:2-5).

God’s extravagant love was manifest in the Macedonians, giving even though they had little. What surprised Paul was that the Macedonians also gave themselves first to the Lord and then to Paul and his companions. This giving was not just in money, it was a true gift of their time, talent, treasure, and testimony in service to the Lord first, then to others. They had little but gave much out of love and for the Lord’s glory.

This kind of life is only exemplified in those who have decreased, while God has increased in their lives, allowing the Spirit a growing influence in the way they think, feel, and live. Such a life only comes when, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, they have undivided devotion to the Lord. Such Christians who understand that God owns everything, that they are only giving back to God what He already owns, will give with a first fruits mindset. In other words, a first fruit mindset is born out of giving yourself to God first. Our giving to the Lord is not because the Lord needs it. After all, it is already His. Our returning to the Lord a portion of what He has given us – our first fruits is for us. This key, along with the others, produces a life blessed with heavenly treasure, divine rest, and fulfillment as we know God and make Him known.

It is exciting to learn and walk in the Spirit in this blessed life with each of you. Let us encourage one another to keep these keys to a blessed life in mind. But, even more, let’s invite the Spirit of God to conform our lives to them. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

I Must Acknowledge God as the Owner

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A few weeks ago, I began four weeks of Monday writings on the topic of Keys to A Blessed Life. Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). Simply put, place God’s kingdom first, and the Lord will take care of us. Now there is a fundamental choice everyone makes when they first come to Christ, and that is placing Him as Lord of our life. Every day after that, a believer’s life either reinforces that decision or denies it. What we will discover is that this is not mostly an issue that is material or physical, but spiritual and God’s Word holds the keys to a genuinely blessed life.

The third key to a blessed life I will explore is that we must acknowledge God as the owner of everything. Only through recognizing this reality that God owns everything, including our very selves, are we released from the trapping of loving other things above Him. Only then can we live a life providing true fulfillment. You can go anywhere in the world, and owning something is important is almost everyone. Our very nation was, in part, founded on the desire to own land (a novel thought in the time of monarchs). However, as we study the Bible, we discover that actually, we don’t own anything. The gospel truth is that God owns everything. For instance, we read:

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps 24:1).

Everything under heaven belongs to God (see: Job 41:11). The Lord is the creator and owner of all. Paul quotes Psalm 24:11 in 1 Corinthians 10:26 to explain that since God owns everything, there is profound freedom for the believer. Truth be told, there is a great deal of anxiety that often comes with owning things. Therefore, knowing that God owns everything presents the possibility of real peace and power. Peace in knowing that our God, who is sovereign, holds all things together in His own capable hands (see: Col 1:17). Power in that we can stop compartmentalizing what we believe belongs to God and what we believe is ours.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:7:

“For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God?”

Paul is reminding the Christians in Corinth that all their abilities, opportunities, and blessings are from God.  Once we walk in the truth that God is the owner of everything, the Spirit produces within us the fruit of humility and thanksgiving. The whole way we see our time, talent, treasure, and testimony changes. These are gifts from God, and by the power of His Spirit, we can live a blessed life characterized by fullness of heavenly treasure, divine rest, and fulfillment as we know Him and make Him known. As we allow God to increase in our lives and we decrease, allowing the Spirit to have a growing influence in our life…As we, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, have undivided devotion to our Lord…As we acknowledge God as the owner of everything, including our very selves, we reap profound spiritual benefits. As we live with open hands, not just acknowledging that God owns everything, but eagerly desiring His will to be done with all that we are and all that we have, the resources of heaven wash over us for His glory, our blessing, and the benefit of others.

It is a joy to acknowledge God as the owner of everything with each of you. The peace and power we receive when we do so is such a blessing. Let’s encourage one another to walk in the freedom of this truth. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

I Must Have an Undivided Devotion

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Last week I started four weeks of Monday writings on the topic of Keys to A Blessed Life. Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). Simply put, place God’s kingdom first, and the Lord will take care of us. When we put God’s kingdom first, then we will be blessed with heavenly treasure, divine rest, and fulfillment as we know Him and make Him known. Now there is a fundamental choice everyone makes when they first come to Christ, and that is placing Him as Lord of our life. Every day after that, a believer’s life either reinforces that decision or denies it. What we will discover is that this is not mostly an issue that is material or physical, but spiritual and God’s Word holds the keys to a genuinely blessed life.

The second key to a blessed life I will explore is that we must have undivided devotion to the Lord. The challenge for every believer is to live above the distractions in life, giving God our undivided heart that results in an abundance of provisions and divine rest. When we give the Lord our undivided devotion out time, talent, treasure, and testimony are used for His glory.

Jesus taught that there is no way to have two masters:

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Lk 16:13).

Notice that Jesus does not say “should not serve” but “cannot serve.” Christ-followers must make an either/or choice between serving God and anything else. Jesus even uses something that often masters us, money, as an example. “Money” is personified here in parallel with “God,” indicating how money can so easily take on an idolatrous place in one’s life. It doesn’t say that money is evil, but that it becomes hazardous to our spiritual welfare when it replaces God as master of our life. It would be acceptable to replace the word “money” with anything other than God in this verse. In other words, anything that rivals God in our life as master is harmful to us.

Even after committing to making God greater and ourselves less, we have to fight to live with an undivided devotion to the Lord. Every day the world, the flesh, and the devil tempt us into a divided devotion to God. The Lord has always asked us to reserve an only place for Him, living with undivided devotion to Him. When God institutes the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as a nation, He makes a covenant with them and through Moses shares ten commandments. At the top of the list, God sent a clear message:

“God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me’” (Ex 20:1-3).

God requires exclusive loyalty. As the one true God of heaven and earth, He cannot and will not allow for life to work when one’s heart has divided loyalty to Him. Nothing in a believer’s life is to be placed above or even in equal standing with God.

When Jesus was asked to choose one command out of all the commands in the Old Testament as the most important He without hesitation answered:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mk 12:30).

The most important commandment is to love the Lord your God completely. The same faithful, covenant-keeping God from the Old Testament today asks the objects of His love to love Him with undivided devotion.

God asks for our undivided devotion because He deserves it, but also for our benefit (see: Jer 32:39). When we love God with undivided devotion, we discover a path that blesses us with a fullness of life and blesses others with an example to follow that will also bless them. There is no doubt that we ought to have undivided devotion to the Lord simply because He is worthy of it. However, this does not deny the truth that it is also for our benefit to do so. God knows that for life to work and for us to succeed, we need to be fully focused on one thing, and that thing or person is God. This is why one key to a blessed life is having an undivided devotion to the Lord.

It is wonderful to be found in Christ with each of you. Let us encourage one another to keep the main thing the main thing and devote ourselves fully to God and no one or anything else. This is a key to a blessed life, a life blessed with heavenly treasure, divine rest, and fulfillment as we know Him and make Him known. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

God Must Increase, I Must Decrease

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Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). Simply put, place God’s kingdom first, and the Lord will take care of us. Putting God’s kingdom first must be the rule of our life when ordering priorities. However, it would not be right to think that this is just another priority to fit onto our list of priorities, putting it at the top. Instead, in everything we do and everything we have (our time, talent, treasure, and testimony), we seek first the kingdom of God. What this verse calls us to is a commitment to find and to do the will of God by following the Spirit’s leading in all things. This commitment comes first. When we put God’s kingdom first, then we will be blessed with heavenly treasure, divine rest, and fulfillment as we know Him and make Him known. Over the next four weeks, I will be writing on keys to a blessed life by exploring the most fundamental choice everyone makes when they first come to Christ, and that is placing Him as Lord of our life. Every day after that, a believer’s life either reinforces that decision or denies it. What we will discover is that this is not mostly an issue that is material or physical, but spiritual and God’s Word holds the keys to a genuinely blessed life.

The first key to a blessed life I will explore is that God must increase, and I must decrease. This is an issue of surrender. We discover that when believers keep in step with the Holy Spirit, we experience a deeper dimension in our walk with God releasing the resources of heaven in our lives. Paul writes to the church in Rome:

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Rom 6:6-7).

The power of sin has been broken in those who have placed their faith in Christ. It is important to remember that it is not the strength of our faith, but the object of our faith that actually saves us. The Bible teaches us that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus and not by our own efforts or works. God loves, forgives, and saves us not because of who we are or what we do, but because of the finished work of Christ on the cross. We all were born into this world as sinners, ruled by sin. Sin’s rule was broken when Christians died with Christ, and are therefore no longer enslaved to sin. This does not mean that a believer never sins but that the tyranny, domination, and rule of sin have been defeated in them. This means that the normal trajectory of life for a Christ-follower ought to be becoming more and more like Christ. Therefore, I become less as Christ becomes greater in my life. Paul explains further:

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11).

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Rom 6:13).

Christians must realize that the power of sin has been broken in their lives. The tension surfaces between what God has already accomplished and the responsibility of His people to obey. A Christian is still tempted by desires to sin and must not let those desires gain control. Therefore, each and every day, a believer is to give themselves to God. More God causes less of our old selves to be in play. Paul shares with the church in Galatia an essential step in practically seeing God become more and us less in our lives. He writes:

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).

The only way to conquer the flesh (sinful desires of our old self before coming to Christ) is to yield to the Spirit. To “walk by the Spirit” implies both direction and empowerment. This occurs when we make decisions and choices according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, following God’s Word, and acting with spiritual power that the Spirit supplies.

When we come to Christ, we are filled with the very Spirit of God whose mission is to make us holy (more like Christ). The Spirit resides in us completely. Our walk with Christ is never an issue of the Spirit being in us, but how much we surrender ourselves to the Spirit. This is why Billy Graham often said, “It is not how much of the Spirit we have, but how much the Spirit has of us.” To be full of the Spirit speaks of the Spirit’s full control and influence in our lives.

It is impossible for Christ to become greater in my life and not at the same time for me to become less. As I surrender myself more and more to God, feeding those things in my life that enable me to grow in Christ while starving those things that would only encourage me to walk contrary to the things of the Lord, I can live a genuinely blessed life. The resources of heaven are released in and through me for God’s glory, my blessing, and the benefit of others.

It is a blessing to be on mission with Christ with each of you. Let us be reminded of the newness of life we have in Christ. We are so privileged to be filled and led by the Spirit of God. Let us be found with God increasing in us as we decrease. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Bless (Release)

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The journey God calls us to take with Him is unique to every believer but has four common movements. Crosswinds have a strategy to help people through these movements. We, as Crosswinds, will faithfully REACH people with the love and message of Jesus Christ as they take the step to BELIEVE. We will RAISE them to follow Christ as they discover what it means to BELONG to Him and His church, as well as BECOME who they were created to be. We will RELEASE them to partner with God to BLESS others by advancing His kingdom.

As we look at the final movement of being released to bless others, what we are really speaking of is living sent lives. This concept of living sent, and blessing others is firmly established in Scripture. Listen to some of the last words Christ spoke to the disciples before ascending to heaven: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (Jn 20:21). The encounter between Jesus and the disciples took place on the same day the tomb was found empty. He finds the disciples together, and it was good that the disciples stayed together. Jesus told them that when He departed, they must love one another, which assumes that they would stay together (see: Jn 15:17). He also prayed for their unity after their departure (see: Jn 17:11). This command was fulfilled, and prayer was answered, at least in the days immediately after His crucifixion.

Jesus might have gone anywhere and done anything after His resurrection, but He wanted to be with His people. He sought out His people. Not only does Jesus go to be with His disciples, but what He says is particularly noteworthy. First, Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” After their desertion of Jesus on the day of His crucifixion, the disciples probably expected words of rebuke or blame. Instead, Jesus brought a word of “peace,” reconciling “peace.” Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you,” is an assurance that there is no cause to fear, and that all is well: for they (see: Lk 24:36) were alarmed by His appearance.” Think about it. Jesus came to His fearful, faithless disciples, and stood among them, speaking a greeting of peace. What is the implication for each of us? At times we may not feel worthy, and we aren’t, but Christ still comes to each of us and desires us to have peace, peace with Him, and true God-given peace in our life. The resurrected Jesus brings peace.

Jesus adds to “Peace be with you,” these words: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Jesus gives His followers, then and now, a mission to continue His work on this earth. This was the commission to do what Jesus had already prayed for in John 17:18 (remember Jesus’ high priestly prayer): “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” This means that both then and now, disciples are sent after the pattern of the Father’s sending of the Son. This means that Christ-followers are sent ones – missionaries, after the Latin verb “to send.” Every believer is called to live SENT LIVES. Jesus sends every believer into the world on mission. Jesus was sent to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10). We are sent to do the same, sharing the love and message of Christ so that they, too, will be saved.

Practically speaking, I believe every believer ought to have a person pouring into his or her life. Every believer ought to have someone they are pouring into. And, every believer ought to have someone they are sharing the love and message of Christ with the hope they will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is how those sent live.

It is my privilege to serve with each of you. Let me pose a few questions. What is your next step on your discipleship journey? Who is your one (who is pouring into you…who are you pouring into…who are you reaching out to with the love and message of Christ)? Are you willing to live a SENT life? Let’s encourage one another to take our next step in our discipleship journey as sent ones. Soli Deo Glory (Glory to God Alone)!