Tag Archives: holy spirit

God Doesn’t Care…UNLESS…

Have you every talked to your children about their future?

When I’ve talked to my kids, or even youth group members for which I was the youth minister (these are still ‘my kids”), I have been encouraging in my discussion with them. There are the obvious warnings, like staying away from drugs, keeping yourself pure for marriage, and staying away from credit cards. But in every conversation, I usually get around to saying, “it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as your relationship with God is strong and your guiding force.”

Have you ever said something like this? Has anyone ever said that to you?

The basic premise of this concept is that no matter what happens, as long as your relationship with God is intact, you will be OK.

I believe this concept wholeheartedly.

However, our culture regarding God has treated that relationship as if it is different than it truly is. We treat our relationship with God as if God cares tremendously about what job we pick, what school we go to, or whether or not we have a cold.

In trivial, temporal matters, God doesn’t care.

Before you throw me out, hear me out. I’m not saying God doesn’t care about us. God cares tremendously about each and every one of us. God wants us to care about Him and Our relationship with Him. But in this relationship, our perspective of what is important is often different than God’s perspective.

If you’re praying to God about what job you should choose or what career path you should travel, God cares more about the Kingdom and your contentment. Will you rely on and follow God in whatever career you choose? If the answer is “yes”, then it doesn’t matter to God which path you choose.

If you’re praying to God about what school to attend or what to name your child or who to marry, the question God seems to be asking instead is “will you honor Me no matter what?”

God is much more concerned with how you treat others and your involvement in the Kingdom and connection to Him forever than about some temporary thing…UNLESS…

UNLESS you are overcome with anger because of your own pride.

UNLESS you are overcome with a disgruntled spirit because you cannot find contentment in God.

UNLESS you stop loving those around you and yourself because you allow others to overshadow your relationship with God.

UNLESS you are in danger of leaving God altogether.

In these cases, God cares very much. He has sent His Spirit to live in us to help us overcome these temptations in ourselves and in our brothers and sisters around us.

If you want to know what God cares about, look at the kinds of prayers the church prayed in the Bible. Look at the answers given.

God cares about your boldness in the Holy Spirit to spread the message about His love for all people.

God cares about your love for others that drives away fear in spite of intimidating circumstances.

God cares about your salvation and theirs too.

God cares about the growth of His Kingdom of love.

Your cold? Only if it keeps you from doing His work. Your cancer? Only if it distracts you from the great promise you’ve been given in Jesus. Your job? Only if it has the potential of enticing you to leave Him.

When we begin to pray for things that God is concerned about, then we will see God use us in ways we never dreamed. Until then, we may get disgruntled when we pray for some temporal thing unrelated to the Kingdom, and God seemingly doesn’t answer. It’s all a matter of perspective. Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and stop worrying about temporal things (Matthew 6) for godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6).

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Most Owned, Least Read

Annually, bibles sales account for over $1,000,000,000.00. Yet also annually, only about 20% of the population say they read their bible regularly. The Bible is the most widely owned, least read book in history.

Why is this?

Every week, church people gather to worship and hear a message from the Bible. The more devout followers also attend bible class and/or small groups one to three other times during the week. Yet, for even these, the Bible isn’t read until they are in those study settings.

Again, I ask, why?

The Bible is an intimidating book. 66 books written over two-thousand years ago at the latest, and some of them nearly 3500 years ago. Yet for 35 different authors over the course of nearly 1500 years to write a book that contains a single thread bringing hope to generations is a miracle!

The Bible contains many teachings that are hard to understand. Does anyone really know for certain what Revelation is about, in detail? There are so many religions claiming the Bible as their book, yet they differ dramatically in their practices. How can a simple person understand it? Why even try? Isn’t it easier to trust that what my preacher/teacher says is reliable?

That’s awfully trusting of you!

For years I have wondered what it would be like to preach a sermon from the pulpit and completely make up all the scripture references and tell a message that gets close to but doesn’t match up with what is really in the Bible. I’d have the fake verses on the screen. No one opens their bibles during that time anyway. How many people would even notice I’d be lying? You wouldn’t notice, unless you already knew the book.

Preachers and teachers, even the most sincere ones, are fallible humans, just like you. They make mistakes, just like you. They have limited understanding, just like you. And they can’t read minds, just like you, so they do not know how a particular passage of scripture directly applies to you, personally.

Instead of waiting for the preachers to preach and teachers to teach, what if we read the Bible for ourselves? Then, when we engaged the preachers and teachers, what if we had questions about what we were already studying? What if our study led us to feel more confident in sharing God’s truths with others? What if studying the Bible daily created transformation inside us that others could see? What if we found greater contentment and joy through the perspective given us through the scriptures daily?

If we didn’t look to the Bible for guidance and a moral foundation in our lives, then how would we be different than the atheist who claims no moral truths? We could make up whatever we felt was right, and many religious people do just that.

No! We need the Bible to show us the path God intends us to walk. We need the Bible to help us connect with the God who loves us and gave Himself for us. We need the Bible to combat the temptations of the evil one. We need the Bible.

But we cant get to the truths of the Bible through osmosis. The words of scripture won’t dissolve through the cover and enter our bloodstream to fill our minds with goodness. We have to open the covers and read for ourselves, or listen (there are many, free audio versions of the Bible even for your phone).

Do you know what’s in there? Do you REALLY know? It’s time to start your journey into the text today. Most translations are written on a 6th grade reading level. If you find something you don’t understand, then connect with a spiritually mature person who can help you. Be transformed by the word so that you can be used to transform the world.


Monday Through Saturday – Sunday Too

Why did you become a Christian? Were you looking for salvation from the wrong you’ve committed? Were you looking for inner peace and purpose? Were you looking for a way to overcome the grave? Were you trying to understand what science could not explain?

You became a Christian – you gave your heart to God through Jesus. But did you understand the implications of this transaction?

The whole bible is a long narrative that many people do not comprehend. So many people are looking at the small details of this law and that story and this church that they miss the bigger picture.

Man and God were in perfect relationship, but mankind cheated on God and broke the relationship. God worked diligently to show them a way back, but all ways before Jesus were tastes of that relationship. Then Jesus came and offered full restoration of the relationship between mankind and God. Now we have that relationship back, so we live in the kind of love we’ve been shown by God.

We’ve been given this relationship. Freely. Through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection.

Now God has chosen to take up residence, not in a temple in one location, but in each heart of each Christian. God is here. God is with us. In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

We got salvation, but were we looking for relationship?

We want God when we are in trouble. We want Him to take away our sniffles and cure our diseases. We want Him to ease the pain of heartache and exact justice on our enemies. We want God to change the world.

God simply wants us. All of each of us.

Have you ever loved someone so much it didn’t matter what they did, you’d live them anyway? That’s how God loves us. That’s the relationship He wants us to experience in Him.

Then, as we experience and understand that relationship, we are given to worship Him. We worship Him because He has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We worship Him because He, in all His majesty, desires relationship with us.

The worship we are called to is not Sunday morning worship service worship. That is one small part of the worship God desires from us. He has given so much for us; could we not, in return, offer Him all of our life in return? Worship is how we are to live. It isn’t simply an action we participate in once in a while.

When you fall in love with your significant other, your whole life revolves around them. Everything you do is to honor them. All you can think about is them. Is that how you react to God?

Everything you do, if you are a Christian, is done in the presence of God with God’s Spirit in you. When you speak life in others, you bring God glory. When you curse others, you bring Him shame. When you love, you reflect His goodness, yet when you hate, you misrepresent the One whose Name you confess. When you join together with other Christians, you recognize your part in His family. When you reject Christian community, you despise His gifts to you.

When you live in worship daily, you will be more committed to joining other Christians in worship weekly in a church building. However, when you make weekly gathering a priority in your life, you may find yourself encouraged to worship daily as well.

So, what shall we do? Pray to God constantly – recognizing your relationship with Him. Worship through actions that honor His Name in you. Gather with His family to experience His love through others who love by His Spirit living in them. Live in worship daily and so honor the One who did for you what you could not do for yourself.


Even Though…

Do you ever have times when life seems to be crashing down all around you?

The ending of this year has been tough for many people. Death, destruction, divorce, despair, drought. All of these are affecting people’s perspectives on life as we know it. Where is the hope when times are down?

Do you know the Lord?

This is kind of a cliché, but, seriously, do you know Him?

Do you know His might? Have you experienced it in your life? Did you notice when He worked mightily for you as a fulfillment of Romans 8:28 in spite of uncertain future events? Do you hear Him call you to draw near to Him? Do you feel His presence when you’re alone? Do you talk with Him like He’s your Father?

Do you know the Lord?

Many people know ABOUT God. They read (or have read) about Him in the Bible. They may even go to bible class and worship services, but their experience with God is entirely intellectual. This is not what God intended for us. This is not why Jesus came to the earth to make the way to God through his death on the cross and resurrection. Now that you have access directly to the Father through Jesus and by His Spirit living in you, you can have relationship with God Most High as His child.

When you get to know God, you find He is wonderful in every way. He is gentle and ferocious. He is loving, and He avenges those He loves. He is generous, but He is also a disciplinarian. He is the ultimate Father – better than any earthly, flawed, human father could hope to be.

So, times are down. Hope is distant. This year has been tough for you, and the next year doesn’t look too bright either.

Look to the Lord like Habakkuk.

Around 612-606 B.C., Habakkuk had a conversation with God concerning the future of His homeland. He asked God, “Why don’t You do something about all the injustice in the land?” (This is a common question many of us ask today.) God responded by telling Habakkuk about the exile of Judah to Babylon. Habakkuk recoiled at the idea that a heathen nation who didn’t recognize God would be used to discipline God’s chosen. But God comforted Habakkuk with words of just enough explanation to ease Habakkuk’s consternation.

Habakkuk learned of God’s justice but also of His love for His children. He learned of God’s might and constancy. He learned to see God with the faith that leads to righteousness. This would lead Habakkuk to finish His conversation with God in worship.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Did you see the scene Habakkuk sets up as he is led into worship? All of life around him is failing. Economy is collapsing, and famine is knocking at the door, but this will not dissuade Habakkuk from his faith in God.

In fact, “Though” is a mighty word here. No matter the situation, whether good times or bad, Habakkuk will take joy in God and look to Him for strength and salvation. He may not be able to see or understand the future, but he knows God is already there and has promised to be with him.

Hebrews 13:5-6 reminds the church that God has said, “I will never leave or forsake you.” This gives us confidence to resist fear.

Fear cripples us. Despair is a form of doubt. But God is near to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18).

So, no matter how bad this year has been, and no matter what may come in the upcoming years, we can still rejoice in the God who has saved and continues to save us through the trials of this life because of our hope in the life to come. Know the Lord. Know His comfort. Rejoice in Him. And share His goodness with others who are struggling.


Thank God for the Rain

  So much of the outcome of our daily lives is determined by our perspective. 

When Jody and I were getting married we had a beautiful service planned. We had picked out a great spot in a park with a huge gazebo.  We got chairs and decorations for everyone to sit on the grass out front while Jody and I, the minister, and the bridal party stood in the gazebo. This set up would allow for us to have a sound system so that I could sing while Jody was being escorted down the aisle. It was a picture-perfect plan. 

Then it rained. 

It didn’t just rain a little. We had been in a drought that year, and it was like God was saving all the rain for our wedding day. I kept thinking about that line in an Alanis Morissette song, “it’s like raaaain on your wedding day”.

We were going to take pictures before the wedding after a private moment between Jody and me, but instead of taking our pictures on a sunny day in a beautiful park with a gorgeous gazebo, we took pictures in the hotel lobby. Jody and I were already planning on being barefoot, but now the whole female side of the wedding party was going to have to go shoeless. I drove to every store I could think of to find umbrellas for the wedding party that would match the girls’ dresses (which I miraculously found). 

When the time came for the wedding the guests had to stand in the gazebo. With us. Crowded together in an intimate ceremony. Instead of singing while Jody was escorted down the aisle, I had to wait until we were face to face and sing.  The bridal party even had to jump a small, newly formed creek just to get to the gazebo. 

When the minister began to speak he said something I’ll never forget. “In Africa, rain is always a blessing.” 

Jody and I still think it was the most beautiful wedding we could have had. We love the rain. 

Lately it’s been raining. A lot. Since we live in the desert we are overjoyed at the rain, but it doesn’t bring joy for all people. Some people can’t stand the rain. Some people get depressed when it rains. Some people get frustrated that their plans have to change when it rains. 

It’s all a matter of perspective. 

In Jesus we are called to have a perspective shift. When the storms of life rage around us we have the Holy Spirit living inside us as a guide through the storm. When we’ve created the storm we have a God who loves us and has promised to turn everything for our good because we love Him. 

He has not promised to take away the storms, but He wants to help us have a more positive perspective within them. Remember, God invented rainbows, but you don’t get those without first enduring the rain. 


Growing in the Desert

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Living in the desert has it’s pros and cons. I love the scenery and the open spaces. I love the sunsets and the monsoon storms. I love the variety of colors in the terrain all around us. I used to think that the desert meant sand dunes and lifeless barrenness, but I now know how wrong that assumption truly is.

One of the things that is hard about living in the desert is the immense amount of sand. People talk about dirt of varying types and textures, but my yard is just primarily sand. When the wind blows hard there is dust everywhere – sand. Even the rock isn’t truly rock here but solidified sand.

Have you ever tried to grow things in sand. My yard is sand with a little clay and not much of any kind of nutrients. There is very little that grows here without being super-hearty.

It is possible to grow things here, but in order to do so we have to add nutrient-rich soil to the mix and provide plenty of water. Even our air is super-dry, so water is an absolute must in the desert in order to make things grow.

But things can grow here. We are successfully growing strawberries and tomatoes and mint and chives and pole beans. If you drive around you’ll find people growing all sorts of wonderful things in the middle of the desert.

This morning as I was watering our plants I couldn’t help but think of the desert of the world in which we live. Jesus provides sustenance and living water but so many people are trying to grow and live without that living water. You can see it in their lives that they are thirsty for something different, something more.

Our children are especially thirsty for this. When you have a young plant it needs even more water to survive than when it is mature. The same is true for our children. If we aren’t feeding them this life-giving water then the world will fill them with the poison of selfishness.

How will we grow without Jesus? How will the kingdom grow without our children growing up in the knowledge of the One who gives life to all mankind? The world is focused on our children. It wants to win them over to its purposes and pleasures. If we want our children to have true life we are going to need to be stronger and more intentional than the world around us.

This doesn’t mean taking them out of the world, but it does mean modeling to them a lifestyle that is healthy from a constant diet of the word of God and the water of life.

If you’re not feeding on the word of God (the bible) and soaking in the water of life (the Holy Spirit) then you’re malnourished yourself. Your life is a desert. Jesus wants you to be a healthy garden filled with the fruit of His Spirit. As you grow into that beautiful garden, your children and other children you’re around will want to grow into little gardens themselves.

We can grow in the desert, but it has to be intentional. His Word is real food, and His Spirit is life-giving water. Let’s feast together and become a garden that transforms this desert back into the garden God originally intended it to be.


Bringing Neighbor Back to the Hood

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I live in a great neighborhood. It’s relatively peaceful. Sure, from time to time there is excitement and I may need to call the police on someone causing mischief, but I rarely ever feel like this neighborhood is dangerous. It’s a great neighborhood for raising my kids.

The church building where I preach on Sundays and Wednesdays is in this neighborhood. I find this to be super convenient, but as I look at the demographics of our church membership I see very few people who come from within our neighborhood.

I know my next door neighbors. I know the family across the street and a few doors down from them too. I know a few of the neighbors behind the church building by name. Yet, I don’t have a real, meaningful relationship with any of them.

I feel pretty convicted about this.

You see, this church has functioned from this location for many many years. I’m not sure how many preachers were here before me, but our congregation is mostly made up of people who live outside our neighborhood and even our town.

It’s time for this to change.

As Christians, we are called to live in the world around us in such a way that people know that Jesus is the messiah. We aren’t called to be people who shrink back in fear or even in routine and make excuses for why we don’t know our neighbors.

I believe that if a church has a building then the primary mission field of that church should be the neighborhood the building is located within. Each member should be missionaries within their own neighborhoods as well, but if the church doesn’t have a good relationship with its neighbors, then what kind of message does that portray?

Some of you may know people who live in the neighborhood around the church building. Some of you may even live in this same neighborhood. What can you do to enhance our ability to reach out locally? What should we do as a church to help you reach your friends and neighbors?

Cities aren’t taken for The Lord without strategy. When Jesus sent out the apostles after the resurrection, He told them they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem (where they currently were), in Judaea and Samaria (the outlying towns and regions), and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

As a church, we should follow the same pattern. We should be intentionally engaging the neighborhood where our facilities are located first. Then we should move into other neighborhoods in the town where our congregation gathers. After that, when that town is reached, we should move into other towns. When all of that is done, then we should be sending out people to far off regions.

Engaging our neighborhood doesn’t mean door-knocking either. It means living and working and functioning within that neighborhood in such a way that relationships are built and love is shown. It is not engaging in handouts; it is inviting people into community. Engaging a neighborhood means you’re loving your neighbor with no strings attached. When they see your intentional, counter-cultural way of love, they’re going to want to know why you’re like that. Then you have been invited by them to tell them of the One who loved you first, Jesus Christ.

So, here’s our situation. We are a church that isn’t truly engaging our neighborhood. That wasn’t Jesus’ plan for us. How can we make a change here? The Aztec church of Christ puts on a block party once a year, and that is gaining popularity. What else can we do to truly engage on personal levels to love our neighbors?

We are a church trying to love God, love others, and be like Jesus. So let’s start taking steps to truly do these things.

Do you have an idea on how to reach out to the neighborhood around our congregation? Maybe you’re reading this online and you have ideas for how to begin this where you live. Talk to your pastor(s). But don’t just give suggestions; volunteer to help make those suggestions a reality.

To win a city you begin with a neighbor.


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