Archives For God

Live Well

Steve —  5.19.2010 — Leave a comment

I was asked by a friend who’s life was falling apart why he should live according to God’s Word. After all, good behavior had gotten him nowhere; in fact, he considered himself worse off because of it.

The second part of our banner is Live Well. We covered Love Much in a previous post and Light Your World is coming up. What used to come to mind for me when I heard the term “live well” was keeping my nose clean and staying out of trouble, but I’ve come to learn it’s much more than that.

Just like loving much involves more than taking someone some chicken spaghetti when they break a leg, living well is much more than staying out of jail. Evidence of this is found in the Gospels (first 4 books of the New Testament of the Bible) in the way Jesus talked to those He met. The call was (and is today) to go and sin no more.

That’s it.
Very simple command.
Very difficult implementation plan.
And He knew that!

You see, you can’t go very far down the Live Well road before you understand that you must Love (Him) Much first. Living a life well is a response to His Love and must be rooted in some very weighty beliefs.

First, you must believe that God desires the very best for you. When Jesus talked about the abundant life, he wasn’t talking about a life free of pain and struggle. He was talking about a life that is used to it’s fullest potential to impact His Kingdom. He was talking about life lived with His perspective, not ours. With His priorities, not ours. With His values, not ours.

Second, you must believe that God has a purpose for your life. He uniquely crafted you with abilities, skills and experiences for His purposes. Exploring what those things are, with an eye purpose, is a fantastic way to understand why you are still sucking wind behind your keyboard. Assessments, other people and some good ole soul searching are great tools to uncover this information.

Finally, you must understand that a life lived well typically will mean hard times become the norm. There’s an Enemy lurking for anyone who starts making waves for God. For some, that will be enough to return to status quo, but for those resolute few who really desire to live well, it merely strengthens their resolve. Additionally, there is still Joy to be had when hard times come because we now have a perspective that we’re being used to make a difference.

So, the question about why we should live life well goes all the way back to a response to His Love and moves out from there to being effective in Lighting the world around you. Hmmm…that seems to be the next topic.

*PARADIGM CHECK: Are people asking you about how or why you live life the way you do? A life lived well is different from the world – different decision grids, different actions and certainly different values. If you look, act and smell just like everyone else, perhaps it’s time to examine your life from His perspective and ask some overdue questions…on your knees.

Love Much

Steve —  5.18.2010 — Leave a comment

My church, Fellowship Bible Church | Little Rock, recently had a sermon series called “Love Much, Live Well and Light the World” – a three-parter that was magnificent. I wanted to spend s0me time telling you why I think so.

First – the combination of the three summarizes perfectly the message Jesus has to mankind. If you spend any time reading the Bible – especially the first 4 books of the New Testament – you will see this message over and over. Jesus was always calling people to love God and others, to live with purpose and integrity and to influence the world around us.

Furthermore, the order is right on. We first need to love – it is the key to everything else. I have a working philosophy about love and it goes a little like this:

The degree to which we can love others is based on how we love God and the degree to which we love God is based on how fully we understand His love for us.

I believe the reason we don’t/can’t love people deeply is because we don’t grasp how incredibly deeply we’re loved by God. A paradigm shift is needed – as with all things related to God. We must examine what’s inside before we can reflect it outside.

One of the best places to start your journey of understanding of God’s Love is the book of Ephesians in the Bible. God describes us as noble heirs to His Kingdom through the redeeming blood of His Son. To be reconciled to God is to return home – right where you belong and the peace and love you feel from the Father will allow you to love people well and extend grace just as it was extended to you.

Being loved by your creator is incredibly life changing, but all too often, we can get in the way. We believe the lies and play the tapes that say we’re not worthy or ready and we resist being embraced. Once again, you have to change your beliefs and it starts with knowing that you are the most valuable thing to God. He sent His Son to die so you and He could have a relationship – what could be more evidence of your worth to Him.

Let that sink in, believe what you read in Ephesians and ask Him to make it all real in your heart. Over time, you will understand what it means to love much and how important that is to living well and influencing the world around you, but more on that later.

May our hearts break for those in the valley, rejoice for those on the high places and may we never forget how He loves us much!

*PARADIGM CHECK: Spiritual maturity is measured in love, not years. We must evaluate ourselves and others against how well we love people.

Continuing the series Meat & Potato (MP) Sermons is a foundational, yet greatly misunderstood part of the Christian faith. The importance of understanding Grace in the context of God’s Love is mind-blowing and life-changing to say the least.

Grace is defined as unmerited favor and it is a gift from God. Gifts are valued by what they cost and I think the lack of understanding of what Grace cost God is the root of the issue for why most people don’t “get it”. In order to process the immeasurable value of Grace, you really have to go back to the garden of Gethsemane and see Jesus wrestling with His destiny of being separated from His Father for three days.

Jesus spent hours asking one question in the garden – are you sure there isn’t some other way – all the while committing that the Father’s will be the leading factor in the entire decision. Think about that for just a minute. Here is the Son of God wrapped in human flesh – the only man to have perfect communion with God 24/7 – wrestling with God over having that communion broken for 72 hours.

If you’re a parent, you can probably remember the first time you left your child with someone else overnight. There was probably multiple phone calls and very little time not wondering how they were doing. That bond is insignificant compared to the bond that Jesus has with His Father.

Grace is a gift that is given at a very high cost and it was Love that propelled both God the Father and Jesus toward being able to present that gift to mankind. Grace is what allows us to respond to God’s call when He wants to save our eternal soul. Grace separates unrighteousness from the person God wants to use for His purposes. Grace is the ultimate expression of God’s Love and is the only way God and His creation can be in relationship with one another.

Understanding the Grace that God gave us should also have a dramatic effect on the way we relate to others.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. ~ Col. 3:12 – 14

You see, we have been forgiven everything and been loved into eternity with God. That Love dictates that we extend that same kind of forgiveness and love to others. May we allow that very Love to compel us to place the highest of value on each and every person we face and consequently strive toward relational harmony always.

Bitterness, strife and hatred are signs that God’s Grace isn’t understood. Likewise, legalism (the strict adherence to rules at the sake of relational intimacy) is a sign that we place a higher value on being right than being close and indicates spiritual immaturity.

We need more teaching on Grace and Love – first to better understand what God gave us and then applying that same gift to the people all around us.

Lord, may you continue to extend my understanding of your precious gift and grant me the wisdom and courage to act accordingly toward those people you place in my life. Thank you for saving me and expressing your wondrous Love via Grace.

Faith of the Mind

Steve —  4.23.2010 — Leave a comment

In college, I was surrounded by very smart people. I went to a small Liberal Arts college in Central Arkansas that had a reputation for excellent academic standards and somehow they let me in, but that’s not the point. I started my freshman year with a small idea about who God was, but had no faith in Him whatsoever, but that changed on April 1, 1991 – the spring of my freshman year when I was re-introduced to the person of Jesus and I placed my faith and heart in Him to do with my life whatever He wanted.

I tell people I was drafted because the next three years were a flurry of activity. I was being taught and was teaching others who wanted to learn about Jesus and it was in talking with other students that I often found myself in a recurring situation. Because the average student was brainy – the discussion invariably came down to understanding God with their mind before they would allow their heart to hear His call. A hard conversation to have for sure if you are wanting people to believe something, since beliefs are rooted in the heart.

Recently, I was having a Facebook “discussion” with a proclaimed Atheist that took me back to those days in college, but something was different. I think that part of my roadblock back then is that I didn’t know how to get people to move past their mind and listen to their heart. Today, that’s not the case. You see, I think God understands how we work – at a physiological level, we have to “get it” with our mind first.

The “ah-ha” for me came when I realized that in order to understand God mentally, I had to broaden my capacity to embrace something that I couldn’t prove, touch or existed in my past experiences. It’s hard to do – don’t get me wrong, but completely possible and it starts with humility. Recognizing that there exists a possibility that I don’t know or even have the capacity to grasp everything about this universe is the first step, which is hard for brainiacs.

If your mind is open, if just a little bit, to that possibility, the door to your heart will start to open and His love is able to make all things seem right – both mentally and emotionally.

I believe God wants to engage the WHOLE person – mind, heart and soul – and He designed our minds to be the gatekeepers of the heart for a reason. The pursuit of knowledge is a worthy one – we are made to learn and use that knowledge to enhance our world. That pursuit should include, most especially, those things that we can’t explain or readily understand.

Moral Authority

Steve —  4.22.2010 — Leave a comment

Today, I heard Rush Limbaugh talk about how he doesn’t think “positionally” when he thinks about politics. He was describing how he doesn’t think about the need to elect/appoint people based on filling a quota or making sure some sense of positional “fairness” is obtained.

This made me think and immediately disagree with El Rushbo based on the fact that we (conservatives) do desire people in office that subscribe to and believe in a moral authority. Let me explain what a moral authority is. Morality is our sense of right vs. wrong and is built in us from a very early age most notably from our parents. Their morality is impressed on us and shapes our morality and somewhere along the way, we build a moral authority in our minds that then helps us filter decisions based on right vs. wrong.

The problem with individual morality is that there is no consistency from one person to another and that leads to what seems right to one person is heinously wrong for another. It is in that tension where trouble is born. This discrepancy played out in politics is the recipe for corruption and closed-door deals that are not in the best interest of the majority.

The way through this seemingly natural difference between what is right and what is wrong is to agree to subscribe to a higher moral authority – one that isn’t subjective and based on our own experiences, but rather objective and based on timeless principles. For followers of Jesus Christ, this moral authority is God and His Word.

Even without the proclamation of faith in Jesus, we see proof of a even more basic moral authority and the evidence of that is when we can all look at something and all identify it as wrong. Take the World Trade Center (WTC) attacks of 2001. The majority of Americans identified that attack as wrong and most went on to call it evil. How on earth were we all able to agree on that if it weren’t for some basic moral authority we all subscribe to?

What separates that morality from the morality of God is the source from with the determination of right vs. wrong is made. General morality is man-based and isn’t universal. Again, look at the WTC attacks – apparently the terrorists that carried out the plan didn’t think that was wrong and it is that kind of disconnect that prevents us from being able to trust general morality to ensure we all make the right decisions – it is still subjective because it is a construct of man.

The morality of God is a construct of the One who exists outside of time; who is completely consistent; who is all powerful; and who isn’t surprised by anything. So when He says something is wrong – we can all trust that it is.

So, when we vote people into office without looking at whether or not they subscribe to God’s moral authority, we should not be surprised when they act in a way that is inconsistent with how we would act. Their decisions are based on a personal moral code.

So, Mr. Limbaugh, I disagree that we shouldn’t elect/appoint people based on positional qualities. I do agree that we shouldn’t care about their race, color or gender; however, we should care a great deal about their character and to which moral authority that character submits. Most notably, you’ll find submission to the higher moral authority in people that profess to have a faith in God. In light of this, religious position must be a characteristic by which we choose candidates. At least then there is hope that they will act in a way that is consistent with an objective standard of right vs. wrong. No guarantee, but still hope nonetheless.

As part of the human condition, we will naturally gravitate toward what is not good for us or others. It’s OK, we can all finally admit it – we are not inherently “good” by any definition of the word. This is unequivocally true when looking at the person of Christ for He is the only good man that has ever lived and died on this spinning rock.

Which brings me to the importance of being intentional and keeping the things our renewed heart longs for right in front of us and chasing hard after them. Because, as Christians, we have been changed at a fundamental level, life – true life is now obtainable in a world where death is all around.

I’ve been reminded (again) that life is not found alone – for some reason, God designed life to be found, experienced and given in the context of intentional relationships. Seeking out others and doing everything you can to ensure the relationship survives thrives is what is required.

If you look at the life of Jesus, He chose His followers with a great deal of intentionality – seeking out just the right men to train and eventually hand over the future of His church. It wasn’t random or left to chance – it was tactical precision based on the end He knew was coming.

For us, such precision isn’t possible because we can’t see the end of our story, so we have to explore and evaluate what God is doing when He brings people into our lives. Sometimes, it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but being open to taking a look is the key.

James Bryan Smith writes in the last chapter of “The Good and Beautiful God” about pickles. It is an analogy to God’s people and just as the ordinary cucumber is transformed into the mighty pickle through the right environment over time, we are transformed when we soak in His spices (Prayer & Scripture) and bunch up with other people in the process throughout life.

Making pickles is a very intentionally transformational process – one that can’t be rushed and produces a wonderfully unexpected result. It is time we become intentional about relationships again and commit to putting the small stuff behind us and allowing the Grace of God to overcome our bumpy exteriors.

Who is in your life that knows EVERYTHING about you and loves you anyway? If the answer is “nobody”, let me suggest that you add that request to your prayer time. It might take some trust and will for sure take some faith, but in the end, we were always meant to be a Sweet Baby Gherkin rather than just small cucumbers.