Journey to the Cross 4-15-19

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Jesus declared that He came so we could experience abundant lives (Jn 10:10b). The simple truth is that in Christ we are truly alive. There is an account recorded in all four gospels that reveals much about this amazing work of Christ. I am speaking of The Triumphal Entry. The Triumphal Entry sets off a week that begins with celebration and ends with Christ sacrificial death on the cross for the sins of the world.

We discover in Matthew’s account of The Triumphal Entry that Jesus entered Jerusalem amidst great fanfare riding on a donkey (Matt 21:1-8). There is great significance in Jesus riding on the donkey. Every person present as Jesus entered into Jerusalem would have understood the significance of how a king entered a city. Kings often entered cities in one of two ways. He would either enter on a warhorse or on a donkey. It might seem strange to think of a king riding a donkey. I would guess most of us, if not all of us, picture a king riding into a city on a white stallion clad in royal attire, but that wasn’t always the case. In biblical times, the way a king entered a city represented the reason (the why and how) he came. If the king came ready for war, he entered on a warhorse. But, if the king came in peace, he entered on a donkey.

Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey was a symbol of peace and one prophesized nearly 500 years earlier by the prophet Zechariah (see: Zech 9:9). Jesus entering into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, was indeed a peaceful entrance. This peace Christ brought is not temporal, earthly peace, but peace between God and humanity. Through Christ coming and death on a cross the chasm between God and humanity, due to sin could be bridged. Once and for all humanity’s sin would be paid for all people. Jesus came to redeem us. He came as the “Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6).  The Triumphal Entry displays Jesus coming in peace to offer peace.

As if this is not enough there is even more revealed in this account found in the Gospels (see: Matt 21:9-11). Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem occurred during Passover. In Exodus 12 we discover the origin of Passover. After about 400 years of God’s people living in Egypt the last of which was spent as slaves under the harsh regime of the current Pharaoh, God heard the cry of His people and sent Moses to lead them out of bondage. Pharaoh stubbornly refuses to let God’s people go. Even after nine plagues, he refuses to let them go. God has one last plague that will prove to break Pharaoh. Before the last plague, God has some very important details that Israel must do to be protected, which sets this plague apart as very different from the others. God initiates a new beginning for Israel as a nation and instructs them to choose an unblemished one-year-old lamb and bring it into their house for four days, and on the evening of the fourth each family would take their lamb and kill it and wipe the blood on the doorposts of their houses. Those who followed the command would be protected, and the angel of the Lord would “pass over” them and only inflict the last plague on those without blood stained doorpost.

As Jesus entered into Jerusalem, there was another significant event taking place. The priestly shepherds who kept watch over the Passover lambs were leading them into Jerusalem. Think about it, the same day Jesus, who John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29), was entering Jerusalem was the same day the unblemished lambs were brought from the fields of Bethlehem and brought into Jerusalem.  Four days later the lambs would be sacrificed, just as Christ would be on the cross.

You see Jesus, is indeed, the once and for all Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus was unblemished just as the Passover lambs, for He was without sin. Jesus’ blood would be poured out on the cross just as the sacrificial lambs’ blood was poured out. Jesus was our substitute and died in our place on the cross as the Passover lambs were a substitute for the people of Israel and died in place of their firstborn. The Triumphal Entry introduces Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”

When Jesus died on the cross, He died on our behalf. He paid the price for our sin and provided a way for us to experience eternal peace, to be redeemed and restored to God. He died that we may be made alive, having abundant life. The Triumphal Entry reveals more than palm branches, a donkey, and an excited crowd. He came in peace and died to bring us salvation and peace so that we can truly be alive, experiencing abundant life.

Only trusting in Christ can save you from the consequences of sin, which is death. Only His sacrifice as the “Lamb of God” can bring you salvation and peace. As we remember that entry of Christ into Jerusalem, those many years ago, I hope we do so with great gratitude for His sacrifice and love for us that allows us to know Him and that we are spurred on to make Him known. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Living With Generosity 4-11-19

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Whole-life generosity is a life overflowing with kingdom provisions and released to God for His glory, our blessing, and the benefit of others. This life begins with a right relationship with God based on His unconditional love for us. The result of such a relationship is that His love overflows to those around us. A believer’s God-empowered life is the direct result of faith where the fear of scarcity is overcome resulting in giving boldly. Therefore, whole-life generosity is expressing the love of God in tangible ways out of love for Him and others.

In Luke 10 we discover an expert in Scripture asking Jesus a question. He asks: “What must I do to have eternal life.” Jesus responds by posing this question back to the man: “What is written in the Law?” The man answers: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27). Jesus declares that the man is correct. Jesus had taught all along that following Him was about loving God and loving others. In fact, our love for God is displayed by loving other people who have been made in His image in tangible ways.

As believers, we are citizens of heaven (see: Phil 3:20), we are also called to pray and do our part in seeing “God’s kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). To be a citizen of heaven does not mean we are a mere tourist here on earth. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he knew they understood what is meant to be a citizen. For instance, to be a citizen of Rome meant to carry the responsibilities of a colonist. It was the Roman citizen’s duty to transport the values of Rome where they lived. So, if you were a Roman citizen in Philippi, the goal was to transform Philippi into the image of Rome. When Paul spoke of believers as “citizens of heaven,” he was declaring the believer’s responsibility to cultivate the kingdom of heaven right where we live while praying: “God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Whole-life generosity is the result of God’s grace, His power acting in our lives to accomplish what we could never do with our own strength. Paul writes in Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2).  As we continue in a saving relationship with God, we undergo a transformative process in which our minds begin to, in an ever-increasing way, think like Jesus, leading us to act like Jesus. We conform more to His character and His will, and the kind of generosity He modeled and have received from Him.

I promise that if you ask God to show you ways to be generous to others, He will answer that prayer. He will not just show you ways, but will also provide the resource, both financial and spiritual. As Paul writes: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor 9:8). God calls all of us to imitate Him by embodying whole-life generosity, a life expressing the love of God in tangible ways that glorify God, bless us, and benefit us.

What is your next step in your journey with God whole-life generosity? It is a privilege to serve with each of you. Let us encourage one another to take the steps God is calling us to make. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Living With Faith 4-1-19

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God calls us to whole-life generosity, which is a life overflowing with kingdom provisions and released to God for His glory, our blessing, and the benefit of others. Whole-life generosity begins with a right relationship with God based on His unconditional love for us, where His love overflows to those around us. Such a life is lived with faith.

Living with faith is a life where, out of the lavish provisions of God, believers are empowered to overcome their fears of scarcity resulting in giving boldly. Simply put, faith is placing confidence or trust in someone or something. What, then, is the opposite of faith? For many doubt would seem like the obvious answer to this question. However, when we understand faith as placing confidence or trust in someone or something, we realize that, as Scripture teaches, fear, not doubt, is the opposite of faith. The medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas explained that fear causes us to look inward focusing on ourselves. From such a posture it is nearly impossible to love, give, and serve others. He believed, “fear drives compassion right out of our heart.”

So, what is the remedy of fear? Putting our faith in Jesus overcomes fear by ending its siege and breaking down walls. Faith means trusting that God loves me and will not let ultimate harm come to me. Therefore, we find these words in 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” As we embrace God’s love and trust in His faithfulness fear diminishes allowing us to live with faith.

There are at least four realities that allow us to live with faith:

  • We are able to live with faith when we trust God, and His love for us, being empowered to overcome fear. Trust in God is what opens our hearts and empowers us to give ourselves generously to others.
  • We are able to live with faith when we willfully surrender control of our life and entrust our self into the hands of God. Faith is believing the promise that no matter what happens, God will not let you fall (see: Heb 11:1).
  • We are able to live with faith when we trust God even when He says “no,” believing His purposes are more loving and His grace more abounding than we can imagine. When our Lord says “no” to our desires, it is because He loves us too much to say “yes.”
  • We are able to live with faith when we realize today is the only place we may experience and trust God. Much of life is lived rushed. God calls us to experience Him in the present where our trust in Him releases any fear we may have of tomorrow and believing He will provide for our daily needs. This empowers us to live a life characterized by whole-life generosity.

Faith is surrendering to God’s goodness, love, and power. It means releasing ourselves into His care. Here is the crucial question: What step is God calling you to take so you can live with faith?

It is my honor to serve alongside each of you. Let us encourage one another to live with faith. Let us trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness, so that, fear will diminish and our faith will grow exponentially leading us to live with whole-life generosity. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Living With Gratitude 3-25-19

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When we speak of whole-life generosity, we are speaking of a life overflowing with Kingdom provisions and released to God for His glory, our blessing, and the benefit of others. Whole-life generosity begins with a right relationship with God based on His unconditional love for us displayed by Christ dying for our sins and being resurrected for our salvation (Rom 4:25). Further, whole-life generosity expresses itself by living with gratitude.

How do we live a life of gratitude?  Joyful gratitude begins by recognizing God’s joy over us. Jesus declared: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). To be in God’s kingdom is to be united with God Himself. When we live in communion with our heavenly Father, His joy over us, fills us, and overflows to those around us.

Joyful gratitude grows as we trustingly walk with Christ instead of worrying about having enough for the future and genuinely grateful for God’s provision for today. Far too many people see gratitude as a transactional practice. In other words, some believe that if they show gratitude to God, then He will be obligated to bless them in the future. This is not trusting God, but attempting to manipulate God. Our gratitude ought to merely show trust and appreciation to God.

Joyful gratitude also grows when we focus on the source of our blessings rather than merely the blessings themselves. Paul writes, “A believer is to give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:20). The power of practicing gratitude is that it transforms greed into gratitude and worry into worship. It can move a heart from a desire to possess to a posture of praise. Gratitude is not to only focus on the blessings we receive from God, but to Him for being our good heavenly Father.

Paul writes to the Thessalonians: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:18).  Gratitude is a spiritual discipline (or practice). When I struggled in school, my parents got me a tutor that taught me practices to help me improve. When I played sports (like football) coaches taught me practices to help me achieve a higher level of play. I was trained and equipped to live differently. Gratitude trains the believer to live differently. I have heard it said that “gratitude allows us to see the light of God in a world often filled with shadows. It trains us to recognize hope amid despair, to smile amid suffering, and to know the reality of God’s presence even when He seems distant.” Joyful gratitude continues to grow as we practice thankfulness. Thus, we learn to walk in faith.

I know some may be thinking, “What about difficulties?” James writes:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Trials are “tests” that challenge faith. When we are confronted with them, we ought to receive them with “complete joy,” not due to the hardship, but due to the opportunity for growing faith as we learn what it means to trust in the Lord. The idea behind the “testing of your faith,” is to make one’s faith genuine. The result is steadfastness, a life of faithful endurance amid troubles. Trials provide the fertile ground where faith grows and therefore ought to be received with gratitude.

Think of gratitude this way. We all realize that a car needs an engine and wheels, but it also requires a transmission that takes the power of the engine and makes it useful to move the wheels. Gratitude is the transmission that connects the engine of God’s power to the tires of our faith. Without practicing gratitude we lose sight of God, and our faith will be like a car with an engine and wheels, but no transmission. A life void of gratitude will never overflow into our world. Perhaps when we question the depth and breadth of our faith, we ought to ask if our “spiritual car” so-to-speak has the transmission of gratitude, allowing the power of God to move us forward in our walk with Him. When we choose to live with gratitude, we are able to live a life of whole-life generosity.

I am so thankful for the privilege of doing life with each of you. Let’s continue to encourage one another to live with gratitude, so that, we can live a life characterized by whole-life generosity. After all, such a life glorifies God, blesses us, and benefits others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Living With God 3-18-19

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What do you think of when you hear the word “generosity?” Webster’s 1828 Dictionary (my favorite dictionary) speaks of generosity as “nobleness of soul.” “Nobleness of soul” addresses a soul marked by the very heart of God. As we examine Scripture, we discover that God is lovingly generous. Therefore, it should be of no surprise that God calls us to whole-life generosity where our following Christ and being changed by Him is reflected in the way we love others.

For whole-life generosity to be a reality for any of us we need a proper view of God. Our view of God dramatically determines the quality of life we experience in Him. There are many defective views of God. A faulty view of God leads to a flawed relationship with Him that leads to a life greatly diminished from God’s ideal for us. To experience a life characterized by whole-life generosity we need a proper view of God.

Simply put, God is our Creator, Lord and Heavenly Father who is: good (Lk 18:19), holy (Isa 5:16), just (Deut 32:4), perfect (Matt 5:48), love (1 Jon 4:8), righteous (Ex 9:27), pure (1 Jn 3:3), all-knowing (1 Jn 3:20), all-powerful (Lk 1:37), all-present (Jer 23:23-24), unchangeable (Mal 3:6), eternal (Gen 21:33) and much more. When we wrap our minds around a proper view of God, who He is, it becomes clear that the gulf between who God is and who we are in immense. So immense is the gulf that we have to ask, “What does God really want with us anyway?”

To answer this question, we must first realize that God does not need us (see: Psalm 50:12, Isa 66:1). Second, we need to accept that although God does not need us, He truly does want us. In fact, God desires to live with us, and through us empowering us to reveal His goodness to the world. God created and redeemed us because He wants us to share in his love (see: Jn 17:21). God created us from the overflow of His love. He desires for us to live generously, which is the overflow of the love we experience in our relationship with Him.

Our generosity begins with God’s love. Consider the Father’s love for Jesus. At the moment of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, the Father declared: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). Hearing that the Father loves the Son probably does not surprise any of us, but when He declared it might. The Father said He was pleased with the Son before Jesus ever preached a sermon, ever performed a miracle, ever called a disciple, ever confronted a Pharisee, before He overcame the temptations of the Devil, before He endured the humiliation of suffering on the cross. When the Father had declared His pleasure in the Son, Jesus had not yet completed any of these things. The Father declared Jesus’ identity as His beloved before He had accomplished these things. The Father’s love came first, not the Son’s obedience. Just like Jesus God’s love for us is unconditional. We can’t earn God’s love, and we don’t have to do so. God’s love is a gift. God’s love is generously and lavishly offered to us.

Whole-life generosity begins with a right relationship with God. Our relationship with the Lord is based on His unconditional love for us displayed by Christ dying for our sins and being resurrected for our salvation (Rom 4:25). Our generosity does not flow from needing to find God’s approval. It is actually the opposite. God has already declared His love for us as His beloved children, and when His love saturates us, through Christ, and by the power of His Spirit, it propels us to obey, serve, and give – whole life generosity oozes from our lives.

I am honored to serve alongside each of you. As John writes: “What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God” (1 Jn 3:1)! God calls us to a whole-life generosity, and such a life is rooted in His love as we follow Christ. Let’s encourage each other to bask in His love and generously radiate it to the world around us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Anger 3-11-19

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Of all the emotions a person can feel anger is among the strongest. Therefore, handling anger is an important skill. If anger is left, untamed, it will lead to shattered communication that will tear apart relationships and darken the spirit of the person consumed by anger’s flames. The good news is that God’s Word is full of wisdom regarding how to handle anger in a way that glorifies God, blesses you, and benefits others.

It is important to understand that anger is not always sin. Some call this righteous anger. God experiences anger. The psalmist writes: “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day” (Psalm 7:11). This verse refers to God’s anger directed against those who threaten His followers. The Scriptures teach of anger that acceptable for believers. Paul writes: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). It is true, not all anger is sin, but the believer should not be consumed by anger. One’s anger should not even be carried over to the next day, as this will give an opportunity for anger to be stoked and lead to it becoming a consuming fire.

There are two Greek words in the New Testament that are translated as “anger.” One refers to “passion and energy.” The other word means, “agitated or boiling.” Godly anger is always anger the Lord allows to grow within believers to help them solve problems. Such anger is not a response of our self-defense mechanism, but in defense of others or of a principle. For instance, since I believe all life is sacred and made in the image of God, I am angered by human trafficking (modern-day slavery) that exist in our world. With this stated it is essential to recognize that anger at an injustice inflicted against oneself is appropriate.

Anger can be a warning bell allowing the individual to know when others have violated healthy boundaries. Victims of abuse and crime have been violated, and it is natural to feel anger. To find healing the trauma has to be accepted for the tragedy it was. Such a realization will often produce anger. However, the endpoint is not anger, but healing and peace. Therefore, the journey many victims go through to find God’s healing leads them to experience anger but when trusting in the Lord, progresses beyond anger to ultimately find hope and divine rest.

Anger that is sin often is motivated by pride and fueled by growing pride. James is referring to this anger when he writes: “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). This anger is unproductive, distorts God’s purposes, and lingers. Such anger leads to bitterness.

Handling anger biblically begins by seeking God’s wisdom and the counsel of godly believers. Sometimes we need help determining if we are experiencing righteous anger and further if we are handling it in a Christ-like manner. The Lord and Christ followers can help us recognize if our anger is sinful and encourage and equip us to bring it to Him (to God) so that it can be quenched.

The Bible has much more to say about anger. I would encourage each of us to study God’s Word and seek wisdom and God’s leading in dealing with anger when it rises in us. Only when we surrender to the Lord will He bring us to a place that allows righteous anger to lead to godly actions. Only through submitting to God will He empower us to combat ungodly anger and rest in His peace.

I count it as a real blessing to serve alongside each of you in the Lord’s service. I pray we will honestly surrender everything to the Lord, especially our anger. As we surrender God will lead us to action, healing, and divine rest. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Shame 3-4-19

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We have been created in God’s likeness, and God’s emotions are revealed in the Scriptures; therefore, God created us emotional beings. Sometimes our emotions are pleasant to experience and sometimes not. In either case, emotions can be helpful indicators of what is going on in our hearts. This is never truer than when we feel sadness and shame.

Both sadness and shame are strong emotions. Throughout the Bible, we discover many examples of both. We also find in Scripture that both are a result of the Fall. The Fall speaks of the tragic event of Adam and Eve’s sin that has devastating consequences on all humanity. Instead of trusting God, they chose out of selfish pride to rebel against God. The result of the Fall was universal: a corrupt nature, guilt before God, interpersonal conflict and separation from God. These results were transmitted to all humanity after Adam and Eve. It is due to this crushing reality, which all of us face that God sent His Son to die for our sin and be resurrected for our salvation. Those in Christ have been rescued – redeemed. However, this side of paradise we still wrestle with being in Christ, while living in a fallen world.

The psalmist proclaims: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). This verse gives an “ordinary” life span; many live fewer years (due to violence, accident, and disease), and some live longer. The real point is that our lives as quite brief compared to eternity. Due to living in a fallen world we all experience toil (or pain) and trouble during our brief span of life.

Both sorrow and shame are the result of sin either directly (sin we have committed) or indirectly (the result of the sin or others or the state of this fallen world). Therefore, it is important to remember that not all sin is caused by the sin we commit. Sometimes it’s living in a sin-cursed world.  For instance look at Job. Job (a man whose account is found in the Old Testament book bearing his name) was one who experienced great sorrow and sadness, through no fault of his own. He even had to endure three friends who accused him of bringing this hardship upon himself. However, God reveals to Job that even though he might not understand why God allowed what He did He (God) is trustworthy. This is true for all of us. The psalmist declares: “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30). Since God’s ways are “perfect,” we can trust Him no matter the circumstances.

We also discover in God’s Word that sorrow and shame, not brought to the Lord, will devastate a person. King David writes in the Psalms about the guilt and shame he felt due to some grievous sins he had committed. He also writes about the deliverance he received from the Lord. “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2). Sorrow and shame are real emotions, but so too is the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord.

Brené Brown in her book, Daring Greatly, writes: “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” As we place our trust in the Lord, sharing our sorrow and shame, He will lead us to rest in His peace. As we enter into trusting relationships with trustworthy believers God will use these relationships to bring about His healing and joy. The real question is how will each of us choose to deal with sorrow and shame. I hope we will bring both to the Lord to find true healing and His peace.

It is a privilege to serve with each of you. Although the topics of sorrow and shame deserve more than a short writing, I do believe even a brief overview leads us to the reality that to find healing and peace we must trust in God’s faithfulness. We may not understand the what and why of life’s various circumstances, but we can be sure of the who. God loves each of us and desires to saturate us with His love and peace. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Fear 2-25-19

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God created each of us with the capacity to feel a variety of emotions. Some people see emotions as a negative part of who they are and try to avoid them, while others see them as a driving force in their life. The truth is that we can’t flee from our emotions and shouldn’t try. Nor should we allow our emotions to rule over us.

In the Bible, we discover God manifests a rich emotionality. The believer has been given the Holy Spirit as the great Helper who, in part, profoundly influences our emotional life. We discover in Scripture that as we cooperate with the Spirit and sound biblical principals, we experience an increasingly vibrant and healthy emotional life.

One emotion the Bible addresses over and over again is fear. Over three hundred times in the Bible, God’s Word instructs us to “fear not.” This leads me to conclude that the Lord desires for us to live fearless and faith-filled lives. This is not to say that all fear is bad.

The Scriptures teach that there is healthy fear and unhealthy fear. Often our embracing of healthy fear and rejection of unhealthy fear are the only things standing between the life you’re enduring and the abundant life God has destined for you to live. What we do with fear matters.

An unhealthy fear can be understood as any fear that keeps you from reaching your full kingdom potential and the fullness of life God has planned for you. It is a fear that causes you to retreat or cower from the purpose and plan of God for your life. Such fear causes you to run away from the love of God.

Healthy fear in the Bible is described as fear of the Lord, which is not terror, but reverence and awe of God’s great power and love for us. Such fear is motivated by God’s awesome power and justice. When we grasp the extent of God’s mercy towards us, we begin to understand how deeply God loves us. When we see God for who He is, full of awesome power as well as love for us, our unhealthy fear of what He might do to us is transformed into reverence and awe before His great mercy. The fear of the Lord is to recognize God for who He is: holy, almighty, righteous, pure, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-wise. When we rightly recognize God, we will choose His way. In a profound sense fearing God leads us to know Him more fully. God wants us to follow Him out of love rather than unhealthy fear and for our own good.

We overcome unhealthy fears as we think more about God and His love, remember His promises, and focus on His faithfulness. Fear and faith cannot coexist in equal measure. Where fear increase faith diminishes and where faith increase fear diminishes. The key is to choose faith.

It is a privilege to be on journey with each of you. Let’s encourage one another to overcome unhealthy fear by choosing to fear the Lord. When we grow in our faith, unhealthy fear is vanquished. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Embarking on Crosswinds’ Discipleship Pathway 2-18-19

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When we talk about God’s call on His Church we are speaking of believers since God’s Church is the sum total of every one of His followers. God’s first word to man was: “Be fruitful and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28). After the flood, God’s first command to Noah was: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 9:7). Among the last words, Christ spoke to His followers was: “Go and make disciples” (Matt 28:19). God’s call on His Church is to be fruitful and multiply or otherwise stated the Church is called to make disciples and go.

Disciple making is the core purpose of the Church. Just like the multiplication of a biological family provides a new context for the addition of individuals, each multiplication of a church provides a new context for addition via disciple making at the local level. This is God’s call on each and every one of us.

We can understand God’s call in two tiers that we need to keep in alignment. We have our primary call or common calling. We are to be disciples, who make disciples, wherever we are (see: Matt 28:18-20). Then, we have our secondary calling. Paul writes, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). A believer must keep his or her unique secondary calling aligned to his or her primary calling to make disciples who make disciples. (2 Tim 2:2) This is true whether we are pastors, teachers, students, clerks, moms, and dads…you get the picture. Every believer in a church has the capacity and call to participate in the multiplication movement of God.

Jesus modeled this call by first, investing time alone with the Father. Then He poured into a few of His closest followers in transparent relationship. Jesus developed the twelve apostles in the context of personal relationship. He also invested in seventy followers in a social relationship. Lastly, he ministered to the crowds in public relationship. We discover that Jesus invested in His own relationship with the Father and had a multifaceted discipleship strategy that moved from greater intimacy and more profound impact to a broader capacity of each. Unfortunately, the problem is that many churches and believers are trying to grow in Christ using Christ’s model inverted expecting weekend worship experiences to do the lion’s share of disciple making. Although the public worship serve is an important spiritual practice, it is not the most effective form of discipleship, and this does not even take into account that approximately 60% of those who consider themselves regular attenders in American churches attend only once or twice a month. Of those who consider themselves regular attenders, only 16% participate in a small group, and less than 20% spend time alone with God on a regular basis. No wonder the church in America is suffering from spiritual anemia and impotence.

I believe a healthy discipleship pathway will encourage believers to spend time alone with God (TAWG) daily. Such a path will also encourage one-on-one discipleship as well as small groups participation. Then, there is serving inside and outside the church and participation in a weekly weekend worship experience. This may seem like a heavy investment, but of the 168 hours each of us get a week we are only talking about five to six hours a week or about three to four percent of a believers week to grow as a disciple an help others do the same. Our going occurs as we ordinary people live sent lives as everyday missionaries used by God in extraordinary ways on the everyday mission fields of our home, neighborhood, workplace, school, and community.

How does this discipleship pathway practically look? Well, Every believer ought to have a person pouring into his or her life. Also, every believer ought to have someone they are pouring into.  Then, 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 leads us to two crucial questions. First, as a disciple multiplier, what is your next step on your discipleship journey? Second, as a disciple multiplier 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)? These three crucial relationships will change your life and bear the transformational power of God on our society.

It is a privilege doing life with each of you. Let us encourage one another to make disciples and go as we continue to embark of the discipleship pathway where we truly know God and make Him known. Let us each live sent lives as everyday missionaries on our everyday mission fields. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Become 2-11-19

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As we take the step to believe we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship brings a believer into a position of belonging to God and His Church (God’s forever family). This relationship with God also leads a believer down a path of becoming the person they have been created to be in Christ. This is why it is so important to raise believers to follow Christ as they discover what it means to become.

The Bible describes believers (Christians) as a new creation. Paul writes to the believers in Corinth: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). The word “therefore” refers back to verses 14-16 were Paul writes:

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer” (2 Cor 5:14-16).

Paul informs us that all believers have died with Christ and no longer live for themselves. Our “death” is that of the flesh (our old sin nature) that was nailed to the cross with Christ. It was buried with Him, and just as the Father raised him up, so are we raised in Him.

Our being raised in Him empowers us to walk differently, as Paul writes: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). A believer, in Christ, becomes a new person, raised in Christ or as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 – a new creation.

The believer being a new creation means, in fact, something created by God (see: John 1:13). The new birth (salvation) was brought about by the very will of God. God created something completely new that is entirely fresh and unique to what we were apart from Christ. Only our Creator could bring something new from nothing.

Being a new creation means the “old” is no more. The old things are gone. The “old” refers to everything that was part of our old self apart from Christ that was a result of the flesh (our sinful nature), such as, pride, love of sin, reliance on works and the sort. Self-righteousness, self-promotion, and self-justification have been put to death. The new creation looks towards Christ instead of self. The old things died, being nailed to the cross.

Being a new creation means the old is replaced with the new, full of life and for the glory of God. What this practically means is that a believer takes pleasure in the things God takes pleasure in and displeasure in those things God abhors. A believer as a new creation has a growing love for God and others put on display by living for God’s glory and a desire to see others believe in Christ for their salvation. The sin we once held onto, we now desire to put away forever. Paul explained it this way in Colossians and Ephesians: “Put off the old self with its practices” (Col 3:9b) and “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24).

Let me say a word about sin. There is often a question about a believer who continues to sin. It is important to understand that there is a difference between continuing to sin and continuing to live in sin. As believers, we are being perfected, but not yet fully what we will be in Christ. We desire to sin less and less and do so less frequently as we mature in Christ. The believer is empowered by the Holy Spirit to live in righteousness. Believers have the power to choose to not sin and live rightly in Christ by the power of His Spirit that reigns in us. Our becoming is made a reality by who we are as a new creation, formed in the mind of God and created by His power and for His glory. Our perfection is found in Christ, and our journey is to become more like Him by the power and leading of His Spirit. It is a journey with God through a continual process of learning, practicing, and maturing, as well as failing, recovering, adjusting, enduring, and overcoming.

My prayer is that you will partner with God, being dependent on His Spirit, as you mature in Him. If you are not a new creation in Christ, receive God’s gift of salvation and accept Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you are a new creation (a believer) take the next step God is calling you to take in becoming the person you have been created to be in Christ and help others do the same.

It is an honor journeying in Christ with each of you. Let us grow in our becoming and help others do the same. It is a remarkable work of God and a real blessing to be a new creation in Him. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!