I recently came across some interesting stats about lying.  According to one source, 60% of people can't go more than 10 minutes without lying.  By the age of 4, 90% of children understand the concept of lying.  Men tell twice as many lies a day as women.  I think it's safe to say that one of life's biggest struggles is being honest.  Honest!  

Lying is intentionally misleading someone from the truth.  Key word: intentionally.  We've all innocently given misinformation or communicated wrong facts.  That's just part of being human.  We call those honest mistakes.  However, when we intentionally mislead someone from the truth, we become liars.  Lying comes in many forms: outright deception, half-truths, exaggerations, insinuations, and intentionally leaving someone "in the dark" when you know the truth.  Because lying can literally destroy one's influence and reputation, not to mention damage others, we should desire to have integrity and live being honest.  

Lying is a big deal to God.  One of the 10 Commandments is don't lie!  There's an interesting story in the Bible about a husband and wife who sold some land and gave part of the proceeds from that sale to the church.  However, they lied about how much they made and gave only a portion to ministry after committing to give all.  As a result it costs them their life!  You can read about it in Acts 5:1-11.  Let me be clear: their sin had nothing to do with the amount of money they gave, rather their deception, lack of integrity, cheating, and misleading God's people from the truth.  Lying costs them their life.  

In order for us to enjoy the quality of life God desires for us, we must have integrity and be honest.  Understanding that 1) lying is first an offense against God, 2) when we lie we identify more with Satan (the father of lies - John 8:44) rather than Jesus (the Truth - John 14:6), 3) if you're not walking in truth,  you're walking in darkness, 4) lying is the "gate sin" that leads to other sin, and 5) lying destroys but honesty protects, we must overcome our struggle of lying.  

If we want to overcome our struggle with being honest, we must:

  1. Determine why we're lying.  Do you lie to others because you're afraid hurting feelings?  Are you insecure so you feel you must exaggerate to impress others?  
  2. Abandon behavior you're having to lie about.  Instead of lying about your whereabouts, avoid going to places where you shouldn't be.  Instead of lying about taking something that didn't belong to you, don't steal!  Instead of cheating on a test, study!  Instead of cheating the time clock at work, show up on time.  Praise your co-worker behind his back to the boss instead of taking credit for his work.
  3. Let your honesty impress.  Avoid exaggerations.  If you have to exaggerate your story to make others accept you, maybe they aren't worth your friendship.
  4. Accept the consequences of telling the truth.  Fact: the truth hurts sometimes.  However, lying will alway hurt worse.  
  5. Refuse to lie for others.
  6. Avoid deep conversations when you're emotionally charged or tired.  
  7. Be tactful.  Speak the truth in love.  Practice gentleness.

For more on this, watch the full message!  

 

Recently I was preaching at my church and I before I started the message I asked everyone to kick their shoes off.  Most did, but felt weird doing it!  We're not supposed to do that in church!  Why not?  Can we go to Scripture and see where that is forbidden?  NO!

Many are uncomfortable with kicking their shoes off in church because as a (church) culture, we've exchanged intimacy for formality.  When I go to a friend's house, I'm invited to kick my shoes off and make myself at home.  In other words, I'm invited into intimacy.  Jesus invites us into intimacy with him.  Abide in me.  

For many, one of life's biggest struggles is relationships.  So many relationships are toxic because they've not been guarded with Biblical boundaries.  The relationship is marked by selfishness instead of selflessness.  The relationship is marked by what can I get from it? instead of what can I invest in it?  But God designed us for healthy relationships.  We all need relationships but we need to be in healthy ones.  God gave relationships to us to be a blessing, not a curse; life-giving not toxic.  Jesus said the entire Law of God can be summed up in one word: relationships (Matthew 22:37-40).

A true friend:

1) Sharpens you.  Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."  True friends makes you better.  When you are with them your soul is fed.  When you depart from them you're better than you were before your encounter.  You help each other out and challenge each other to love God and love others deeper. 

2) Stabs you.  Proverbs 27:6 says, "Wounds from a friend can be trusted but an enemy multiplies kisses."  Fact: the truth hurts sometimes.  Only a true friend is willing to be vulnerable and tell you something you need to hear even when it's something you don't want to hear.  

3) Values consistency over convenience.  Proverbs 17:17 says, "A friend loves at all times..."  Fact: relationships take work and are not always convenient.  But a true friend will always be there for you, even when it's not easy, comfortable, or convenient.  

Relationships don't have to be a struggle for you.  But you need to be honest in answering a few simple questions: Does your friend help you further your walk with Jesus?  Does your friend make you a better person?  Is your friend honest and consistent?  If the answer is YES, rejoice and thank God for your friend!  If the answer is NO, maybe it's time you walk away and embrace some new friends.  Church would be a great place to start looking!

For more on this, watch the full message!

How would you define contentment?   Many would say contentment is "being happy" or "having no struggles."  However, I think the best definition of contentment is having an abiding peace.  Notice I used the word abiding.  Jesus gave us an invitation to abide, or remain connected, to him.  As long as we abide in Christ, we can have peace regardless of our circumstances.

In Philippians 4:11-13, the Apostle Paul says that whether he was in need or had plenty, hungry or well-fed, he had learned the secret to joy: learning to be content, staying connected to Jesus and having an abiding peace.  We all struggle with learning to be content.  It seems we always want what we don't have and neglect to be thankful for what we do have.  

How can we overcome our struggle with not being content?  There are four necessary steps to take:

1) Kill comparisons.  When we look at what others have we neglect what we've been blessed with.  Even more dangerous, we become envious of others and we begin to harbor anger towards them.  The Bible says that kind of envy is "of the devil" (James 3:14-16) and can lead to all kinds of evil acts.  Show me a home, church, or community where there is envy and strife and I'll show you a home, church, and community full of other evils.  Instead of constantly comparing yourself to others, rejoice in who God made you and be thankful for what he's given you.  Coveting (desiring that which God doesn't desire for you) is the number one enemy of contentment.  

2) Celebrate the success of others.  Romans 12:15 says to rejoice when others rejoice.  Like a parent celebrating the accomplishments of his child, we should look at what others have and have accomplished and rejoice with them.  Otherwise we become envious and damage the relationship.  When we are content with who we are and what we have, we are free to rejoice with others in who they are and what they have!

3) Cultivate gratitude.  Be thankful!  Look at all God has blessed you with and thank him.  It's hard to be thankful and not be content.  The Hebrew word for being thankful also means "to confess."  When we thank God for what we have, we are making a confession of his goodness and provisions.  

4) Resist complacency.  Being content in your circumstances does NOT mean being okay with being stuck in a rut!  Our relationship with God is marked by moving forward and never digressing or being stuck.  Proverbs 1:32 says fools are destroyed by their complacency.  As God continues to move in your life, revealing his plan for you everyday, be willing to move forward with him and walk in obedience.  When we follow Christ, he will take us places that force us to rely on his strength.  

To do the above, we must have great faith that God will meet all our needs according to his will and plan for our life (Philippians 4:19).  When we trust him fully, we can be content in all situations.  

For more on this, watch the full message!  

 

Fact:  if you want to get to a particular destination, you have to be on the right road.  If at any point you find yourself going the wrong way, you have to 1) admit it, 2) turn around, 3) make up for lost time and distance, and 4) get back to the right way.  The same is true in our spiritual life.  

Many people live in bondage.  Maybe it's bondage to a drug, a bad habit, a job, a negative mindset, or a toxic relationship.  Jesus died for our freedom (Galatians 5:1).  So why do we choose to live in bondage?  I think it's because we choose NOT to follow Christ.  Because of our inaction, indecisiveness, and not being intentional to live by God's Word, we choose bondage.  

Do you want to be free?  Sure!  We all do.  Let's get on the right road: the road to freedom!

There are 4 necessary stops to make along the road to freedom: confession, repentance, restitution, and restoration.  Let's look at each briefly:

  1.  Confession.  To confess means to agree with God about the reality of your sin condition.  Confession is giving intentional thought your sin that holds you in bondage and calling it out.  It requires you to take responsibility for your wrong actions and to avoid making excuses.  In the simplest terms, it's getting real with yourself and God about your mess-ups.  Confession is the first and necessary stop if you want to be free.
  2. Repentance.  The word repent means to turn and go the other direction.  Repentance always follows confession.  Without repentance, confession is meaningless.  In order to be free from the bondage of sin, you must turn from your sin and turn to God.  Jesus said if anyone were to pursue him, he must first die to selfishness.  We can't submit to the Lordship of Jesus if we constantly pursue our own sinful desires. 
  3. Restitution.  Fact: our sin affects others.  When we sin, we first offend God.  But it doesn't stop there.  We offend others.  We hurt others with our gossip, lying, and lack of integrity.  If we want to be free, we have to seek to make right the wrongs we've done to others.  
  4. Restoration.  To restore something means to return something back to its original condition.  Sin damages and even destroys lives everyday.  Confessing, repenting, and restitution allows for what was damaged to be restored!  

Do you want to be free?  Here's how:

  1. Confess that which has been holding you in bondage.  Call it out to God and seek his forgiveness and healing.
  2. Examine your who.  Who are your friends?  Do they help or hinder you in your walk with Jesus?  If they hinder, maybe it's time you turn from them and turn to some friends that love God and will love you unconditionally.  
  3. Examine your what.  What are the things you're involved in?  Are those activities helping you grow in Christ or hindering you?  Maybe you need to pursue some other things that would actually help you in your spiritual life and bring you true peace.  
  4. Examine you where.  Where do you spend your time?  Are your priorities right?  Are the things that really matter:  your faith, family, relationships and legacy, at the top of your priority list?  Is where you choose to spend your time the best for you, your family, and your relationship with Jesus?

What changes to do you need to make today in order to be free!  For more on this, watch the full message!

Have you ever noticed in our culture we honor "busyness"?  Notice, I didn't say business, I said busy-ness.  When you ask someone how they are doing and they answer, "I'm so busy," we practically admire that.  We've even created a mindset in the Christian (church) culture that "busyness equals Godliness."  I totally disagree.

Termites are busy.  However, what's left at the end of their busyness?  Total destruction.  We can be so busy doing so many things, even good things, that we miss God's plan for us and all that's left in the end is a remnant of something that once was.  

In the weeks past we've learned that God may not duplicate a method to accomplish his plan in our life.  We must be willing to move forward with God and never get "stuck" in a rut.  We've learned that God has a plan for us, and that plan includes a call on our life that is way more than a mere "job" we volunteer for.  We've also learned the importance of Biblical fellowship: hanging out for the highest purpose!  

Who are your friends?  What do you do with your friends?  Where do you do those things with your friends?  How you answer those three questions will determine how well you implement Principle #7:  Abide with Jesus so you can be less "busy" and accomplish more! 

What does it mean to abide?  It means to remain stable or fixed.  Jesus said in John 15 that he was the vine and we are the branches.  He gave us a beautiful invitation: "abide in me and I will abide in you."  Some translations say, "remain in me and I will remain in you."  Then he told us God's goal for our life is that we would "bear much fruit" for God's glory.  Jesus is saying God's goal is for our life to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and the only way that can happen is if we make the choice to remain in Jesus, the true vine.  

2 things will keep us from an abiding relationship with Jesus: 1) focusing more on the product and not the process and 2) focusing more on the destination and not the journey.  Abiding in Jesus so that our life can produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is a process.  It takes time!  So don't give up.  Resist getting discouraged.  As you focus on the process, you'll remember you need to stay connected to Jesus, the vine.  As you focus on the journey of learning about God, yourself, your faith, others, and life, you'll be motivated to remain in Jesus.  You'll learn that Jesus was absolutely correct in saying you won't accomplish anything of eternal significance apart from him.  

So, how have you answered his invitation to abide?  Click here to watch the full message!

 

When you hear the word fellowship, what comes to mind?  If you're like me and you grew up in church, the first thing to come to mind is fried chicken and fellowship halls!  But what does the Bible say about fellowship?  And why did we move fellowship from believer's homes to church fellowship halls?  What are we missing about Biblical Fellowship?

Now, don't get me wrong.  I love church fellowships.  I really love eating all the wonderful food people make!  I have some of the best cooks and bakers in my church and I look forward to potlucks and picnics.  But I'm not so sure that's all Biblical fellowship is.  I think a more accurate picture of Biblical fellowship is found in Acts 2:42-47

In this passage we find followers of Christ 1) Learning together, 2) Taking care of each other's needs, 3) Helping others navigate through difficult times, 4) Holding one another accountable, and 5) and restoring those who have been in sin (Galatians 6:1).  We find these 5 things happening in the context of eating together in each other's homes.  When you share a meal with someone in their home, your relationship is strengthened and you help one another become more mature in Christ.  This is God's design and this is Biblical fellowship!    

But for everything God has holy, Satan has an unholy counterfeit.  Sure, you can find fellowship with others apart from Christ and apart from Biblical fellowship.  However, ALL fellowship has purpose.  The purpose of Biblical fellowship is to help you grow in your faith, make sure your needs are met, and give you an opportunity to serve others.  What is the purpose of worldly fellowship?  To gain a new client?  To exercise control or dominance over someone?  For selfish gain?  To entice others to do something wrong?  To share in sin with someone because deep down you know that what you're doing is wrong so you entice others to join you so you somehow feel justified because "others are doing it"?  

Beware!  Not all fellowship is healthy for you.  So, who are your friends?  Where do you spend time with your friends?  What are you doing with your friends?  If you are a Christ-follower, do the answers to those three questions aid you in your spiritual growth?  If not, maybe you should return back to Biblical fellowship.  The church is a great place to start!  

For more on this, watch the full message!

Years ago I was training for an endurance race called the Tough Mudder.  Soon after starting my training, I woke up one morning only to realize my legs didn't want to support my weight!  As I got out of bed, I collapsed.  The other members of my body were willing to work, but my legs were saying, "Nope!  Not us.  Not today!"

In that moment lying on the floor, I was disabled.  That was unacceptable for me, so I began to rub my legs, stretch, and eventually convince them to support my weight so I could walk.  You and I recognize that a body where all members are not functioning is a body that is disabled.  We don't like that.  The church is the Body of Christ.  Every member of the Body has a responsibility.  When members don't function in the way they were created and called to function, the Body is disabled.  Can the Body move forward and accomplish ministry?  Sure!  But it will be limited in its ability to do so.  When all members of the Body function, God can accomplish so much more through the church.  We should never settle for a Body that is disabled.  

We've learned in the past weeks (last 4 blogs) that: 1) God may not duplicate a method to accomplish a similar task, so we need to put our faith in God, not the method, 2) we must be willing to move forward with God and not get stuck in a rut, 3) God already has a plan for us, so seek his will instead of our own,  and 4) do what you've been called to do.  With that understanding, principle #5 makes perfect sense: God designed the church to do the work of ministry, not just the pastors.  All members must function in the way each was designed and called to function in order for the Body to be healthy!

Ephesians 4:11-16 lays out the responsibility of each member of the Body.  The pastors and leaders in the church are to teach and equip the other members to do the work of ministry.  Notice who does the work:  the other members of the Body!  When that happens, the Body is made stronger and is built up!  A church where the expectation is that the pastor or pastors do all the work is a church destined to fail.  A church where all members are not functioning is a church that is disabled.  

As a member of the Body of Christ, the church, you must be willing to:

  1. Be a sponge!  A sponge is only useful when it soaks in the water and is rung out.  Be willing to soak in the Living Water, the Holy Spirit, and be rung out as you serve others in love.  When you need refilling, go to Jesus who will give you the living water of his Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39).
  2. Experience the joy of serving by doing what you have a passion for!  Don't serve out of obligation or because what you're doing is a worthy cause or you're serving because no one else is doing it.  Serve because you're called to that task!  
  3. Share your story!  Your story with all of its ups and downs, failures and victories, can be used for God's glory.  Are you divorced?  Encourage someone going through a divorce by telling them how God brought you through that experience.  Have you experience the loss of a job, a child, or a relationship?  How did God bring you through that?  What lessons did you learn about God, yourself, your faith, and others?  Share that!  Others need to hear and be encouraged!
  4. Ephesians 5:18 commands followers of Christ to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  This is only accomplished by having an abiding relationship with Jesus.  Seek him through his word and through prayer.  Ask God to fill you with his Holy Spirit and give you wisdom, patience, gentleness, love, and discernment.  

For more on this, watch the full message!  

2 Comments

When your phone rings, you have a choice: answer the call or don't answer the call.  If you're like me, you look at the caller ID first before you make your decision!  Did you know God has a call on your life?  As you look at the caller ID (the Bible) and see that God is calling you, how will you answer?

There are 4 types of God's calling on your life: 

  1. The call to salvation.  In Matthew 9:13 Jesus said he didn't come to call the self-righteous, but to call sinners to repentance.  The Bible affirms that God loves you and desires a relationship with you through Jesus.  Romans 5:8 says God demonstrated his love by Jesus' death on the cross even while we were in sin.  John 3:16 says God loves humanity so much that he gave us his one and only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross.  Romans 6:23 says we deserve death because of our sin, but the gift of God is we can escape hell and receive eternal life because of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross.  How have you answered the call to salvation?  Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9).
  2. The call to holiness.  Ephesians 4:1 instructs God's people to live a life of holiness, a life worthy of the calling (of salvation) we have received.  Followers of Jesus are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).  As we thirst in our souls, we go to Jesus who offers living water (the Holy Spirit - John 7:37-39) who will quench our thirst.  This call to holiness is a daily call on our life to grow in Christ and allow the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) to ripen in our being.  
  3. The call to serve.  We are told in Galatians 5 that Jesus died for our freedom.  However, we should not use our freedom to indulge in the selfish nature.  We are to use our freedom to serve one another in love.  As Christ followers, we are called to serve and help others.
  4. The call to a specific task.  God does indeed call people to specific tasks.  He called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.  He called Noah to build an ark.  He called Paul to spread the Gospel of Jesus to the non-Jewish world.  What is God calling you to do?

We can hear and answer the call of God on our life when we recognize God's holiness, confess our sin and seek his forgiveness and healing (Isaiah 6).  

Years ago I read a list of differences between volunteers and ones who are called.  In his book, The Heart of the Artist by Rory Noland, he offers this list.  I've taken the liberty to tweak his wording, but here's the list:

  1. Volunteers see their involvement in the church as community service; people called of God see it as ministry
  2. .Volunteers whine about the costs of serving; people who are called are committed to serving
  3. Volunteers shrink back from resolving relational conflict; people called of God seek to resolve conflict for the sake of unity in the church
  4. Volunteers look at preparation with dread; people called of God look at the prep work as another opportunity to be used by God
  5. Volunteers do not outside practice or preparation; people called of God prepare and avoid procrastination
  6. Volunteers are not open to constructive criticism; people called of God are grateful for feedback
  7. Volunteers feel threatened by others gifts, talents, and serve; people called of God rejoice with others involvement
  8. Volunteers want to quit at the first sign of adversity or discouragement; people called of God dig in and persevere
  9. Volunteers find their main source of self-worth in that they do; people called of God find their self-worth in what Jesus did for them
  10. Volunteers resist being stretched; people called of God remain in humble dependence upon Him and the empowering of the Holy Spirit

Are you a volunteer in the church or one who is called by God to serve?  How have you answered the call?  For more on this, watch the full message.  

Have you ever been part of a scavenger hunt, going from clue to clue to clue, only to realize at the very end of the hunt was a prize equivalent to something you would get out of a gum ball machine?  The joy is not in the prize, but in the journey!

Following Jesus is not just about getting the prize at the end (which is a lot better than a gum ball machine prize!!), it's about enjoying the journey he takes you on as you learn more and more about him, you, and life!  

We've learned in the weeks past that God may not duplicate a method in your life or in our church to accomplish a successful work (Principle #1) and that we must keep moving forward with God and resist ruts (Principle #2).  With that understanding, we embrace Principle #3:  God already has a plan, so use his!  

Whatever decision you are contemplating right now, God already has a plan.  It's okay to think, plan, discuss options, and seek advice from others when you have a decision to make.  However, in order to discern God's will for our life, we must be obedient to Scripture, for in God's Word is the solution to understanding God's will.  We read in Romans 11:33-36 a powerful praise to God for his sovereignty and wisdom.  In that doxology, a question is posed: who can possibly figure God out or know his will?  If we stop reading at the end of chapter 11, we miss the answer.  Romans 12:1-2 says if we 1) walk in obedience and offer our lives to be used by God however he sees fit and 2) renew our mind in God's word, God's love, God's character, then (and only then) will we be able to truly know God's will.  

The question on the table is not will God ever make his will known to you.  The real question is: will you remain in a position to know God's will.  That comes about by praising and worshiping him, obedience to him, and renewal of  your thought life.  When you renew your mind in the truth of God's word, you will see more clearly God's plan for your life.  

For more on this, watch the full message!  

What does traffic, toilets, and churches have in common?  None are pleasant when they're stuck!  Think about it, we never get stuck in traffic and rejoice!  We should never settle for getting stuck in our life, our family, or our church.  In order to experience the joy of following Christ, we must be willing to keep moving with God!  And that's principle #2 for a God-centered church (and life!).

We were designed for forward movement!  Our eyes are in the front of our head.  Our knees only bend one way which move us forward.  Walking backwards is doable, but awkward, and is never as productive as moving forward.  The same is true in your life and in your church.  God wants to bless us.  He wants us to have tremendous joy in our worshiping and serving.  He wants us to experience new things!  Getting stuck only leaves us to die in our complacency and apathy.  

However, there are two main reasons we avoid moving forward with God:  1) our need to "arrive" and 2) our longing to "stay."  How many times have you heard, "Are we there yet?" while taking a family trip?  We tend to miss the joy of the journey because we're so focused on the destination.  We need to arrive!  And when you're in a place you really like or are comfortable in, you've probably exclaimed, "I wish I didn't have to leave!"  We need to stay!  This desire was put in us by our Creator!  God created a  perfect place for man to live.  He then created man and put him in the Garden.  Man arrived!  And once he was in the Garden, man was designed to stay and never have to leave.  Because of man's sin he was banished from the Garden.  However, redemption was part of God's plan.  Jesus died on the cross for our sin.  If we accept his gift of salvation (John 3:16), we have the promise of spending eternity with him in heaven.  Our need to arrive and stay will be fulfilled in heaven, but never this earth!  When we look for that kind of permanency on earth, we will only get stuck!   Our longing to arrive and stay will not be satisfied and our “here” will never be permanent until God’s redemptive plan for all creation is realized, and heaven and earth come together under the rule of Christ, and we are with him forever!  Until then, we must be willing to move forward with God!

Jesus' call was to "follow" him, not "sit" with him.  He leads; we follow.  And when we follow, he leads us on an exciting journey!  We experience things that teach us more about God, ourselves, and others.  As we learn those lessons, we grow and mature and become more like Jesus.  This is part of God's plan!  But we'll never realize God's plan if we stay "stuck" in our own ways.  In I Kings 17 we read of God moving Elijah to a place alongside a brook where he would drink all the water he wanted and have food brought to him by the ravens.  Later, the brook dried up and God told Elijah to move again.  Elijah did.  Had he stayed, he would've died.  

Don't get stuck.  Notice when your brook is dried up.  Go when God says go.  Move when he says move.  As you move forward with God, you will experience all he has for you and you can be assured that what he has for you is awesome (Jeremiah 29:11; John 10:10).

For more on this, watch the full message!  

Special thanks to Jim Johnson (justapreacher.org) for his Godly wisdom and insight.  Check out his website and get a copy of his book, "8 Principles for a God-Centered Church" today!