No Half-Bottom Jobs

If Marsha and I ask the kids to sweep the kitchen floor, but they only sweep half, will we be satisfied with their effort? Of course not. From an early age, we try to teach our children the importance of hard work and discipline. Do your best, right?

No “half-bottom” jobs, as I like to say. Growing up, I often heard coaches and others call it “half-something else” jobs or efforts, but I am trying to be clean and appropriate with my kids, while still getting the point across that we need to work hard. We need to give our all. We need to be committed. Do not go through the motions. Be all in!

Are you ever satisfied when you pay for something, need something, request something, etc., and you get an effortless performance or poor product in return? Rarely, if ever. Yet, are you ever content to give your half-best or leftovers to God in service and in worship? Are you satisfied with a half-hearted effort of going through the motions? May we never be!

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Malachi 3:7-12 on the call and responsibility to give “The Full Ten Percent.” Of course, this applies primarily to our obedience in stewardship, but the commands and principles that are clear throughout Scripture call us to obey God’s Word fully in every area of our lives. Not partial obedience but complete obedience. No half-bottom jobs in life, and no half-bottom jobs in service to the Lord. And, really, everything we do is to be done in service to the Lord. So, no half-bottom jobs. Period.

Are there areas in your life where you are tempted to go through the motions? Are there commands in the Bible that you are compelled and convinced to obey only when comfortable and/or convenient? If so, regret (at best) and devastation (at worst) will come. Do not settle for less than God has in store for you (spiritual fruit and fulfillment) by giving less than God has called you to (faith and obedience).

Have you given your heart to the Lord? If so, make sure He has your whole heart in all things. If not, will you turn to Him today?

Knowing and following Jesus is the only way to have a right relationship with God and grow in a sincere desire to honor and please Him. To learn more, check out The Story.

Evangelism as Evidence

One very big difference in my life now from my life before I was a follower of Jesus Christ is my desire for others to follow Jesus. Before becoming a born-again Christian, I really did not think much about the salvation of others, let alone care. Sure, I declared myself to be a Christian, but because I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus but was rather just going through the religious motions, I never really considered the importance of others having a relationship with Jesus. Thus, evangelism – sharing the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our salvation – was never on my radar. Really, that is just the job of pastors and preachers and missionaries, right?

After surrendering my life to Jesus during my sophomore year of college, though, I desperately longed for others to know what Jesus did for me. I wanted others to know what He did and could do for them. And, while the commitment, obedience, and even the passion, at times, have been all over the spectrum from on-fire to barely flickering to somewhere in the middle, the flame of longing for others to know and experience the salvation that only Jesus Christ can give has never ceased.

THE SOURCE OF CHANGE

Why the stark difference from my life now and my life before becoming a Christian? The obvious answer is because I have experienced new life in Jesus, life that did not exist before I was 20 years old. Yes, I believed the right things about God and even knew I needed His forgiveness, but life (really, my march toward eternal death) was just about me, or so I thought. What could I get out of this religion thing? How might this help me achieve more for myself?

When God opened my eyes and my heart to the truth of the gospel, though, I was changed forever. The Holy Spirit began a work in me that continues and will continue until Jesus returns or calls me home. He is the source of change and the reason I so long for others to know Him.

Have you experienced that change?

THE EFFECT OF CHANGE

The Holy Spirit of God is the source of change, as He is the only One who can change our hearts for good. What is the resulting effect of that change, then? Well, there are many answers to that question, as the effects of change are the fruits of the Christian life (like we see in places like Galatians and 2 Peter). One effect, though, that I do not believe we talk about nearly enough is evangelism. The effect of gospel change in one’s heart and life is a passion for evangelism.

As is true for all Christ-followers, I believe, evangelism is evidence of salvation. We are either evangelizing or greatly convicted that we need to be.

Yes, we all struggle with obedience at times. Sure, we see various levels of passion and commitment. Certainly, some are more gifted in evangelism than others. The heart of evangelism, though – telling others how they can experience what you have experienced – should be evident in the life of every single one of us who follows Jesus. Truly, I believe it will be.

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Not a suggestion but a command. Not an idea but a calling. Not a possibility but a promise. When you trust in Jesus, you receive His Spirit. When you receive His Spirit, you receive power. When you receive power, you evangelize.

Again, that does not necessarily imply that you are faithfully proclaiming the gospel in your everyday life, but it certainly does imply that you know you need to be. Do you?

Evidence of salvation is not limited to evangelism, but it is certainly not less. We ought to long for much more than just that others would also follow Jesus, but we should never want less than that.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Acts 1:1-8 on the challenge we should all consider – “Are You Powerfully Proclaiming?” Are you telling others how they can have eternal life and pleading with them to turn to the Lord? If not, are you burdened that you need to be?

If Jesus has changed your life, I cannot fathom how you would not long for others to experience such change. May we continually pray for evangelism as evidence, hold one another accountable, trust God’s provision, and seek His help. To Him be the glory!

If you have yet to experience a changed heart and changed life, would you check out The Story and turn to the only One who can generate such change?

Not a Penny to My Name

Think back to your childhood for a moment. Do you remember how much you had to rely on your parents or guardians? Food, clothing, shelter, etc. – it all came from someone but not from us when we were children. Most of us were fortunate to have families who provided for us.

I did not think about it much then, but really, I had “not a penny to my name.” Everything I had was from my parents and others who provided for me. Okay, maybe I had some toys and other stuff in my room that I considered “mine,” but even those things were given to me. I did not earn them. I did not work for them. I did not purchase them. Really, you could argue that they, too, truly belonged to my parents.

Regardless of the technicalities of ownership, I greatly depended on my parents to meet my needs. No way I could make it on my own.

Do you remember when you felt like you did not have a penny to your name? Maybe you still feel that way. Maybe you are that way (or close to it).

Really, though, I would argue that we are all that way, regardless of how much we have (or think we have). If what I shared last week is true – that “God Is the Owner of Everything” (1 Chronicles 29:10-22), then the obvious application for us is that we really do not own anything. Lord willing, I hope to communicate that clearly on Sunday as I preach from Genesis 1:26-28 and 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 on why we were created and who we are to be.

God owns everything, and we own nothing. Thus, our priorities and stewardship principles should reflect that truth. We ought not worship nor worry about stuff. We need to be wise with what we “have,” what we spend, how we give, and what we prioritize. All this stuff is not ours, after all.

One day, Christ Jesus will return, and we will give an account for how we managed our time, money, resources, talents, etc. – His time, money, resources, talents, etc. Are you ready for that day? It could be any day, and He expects us to be ready. He calls us to be faithful, as He illustrated so clearly and powerfully in Matthew 25:14-30. Will you hear the words, “Well done!”?

What changes need to take place in your life to honor God with all that you manage? Do you know Him, and do you, as a result, desire to please Him?

I have not a penny to my name, and neither do you. In and through a relationship with Jesus, though, you can one day have more riches (that do not perish) than you could ever fathom. Thus, do not settle for temporary pleasures and pursuits, but find your hope and satisfaction in the One who owns it all forever. Then, you can and will rejoice that you have not a penny to your name. Praise the Lord!

While you and I have not a penny to our names physically, we can have and experience so much more spiritually by believing and trusting the gospel.

Faith with Effect

Late in his life, King David prayed the following prayer before his son Solomon became king of Israel…

May You be praised, LORD God of our father Israel, from eternity to eternity. Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom, and You are exalted as head over all. Riches and honor come from You, and You are the ruler of everything. Power and might are in Your hand, and it is in Your hand to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we give You thanks and praise Your glorious name.

1 Chronicles 29:10-13

David’s faith had an effect on his actions, including his prayers. His faith had an effect on his decisions, his leadership, and his plan of succession.

Really, is this not true for all of us? What we believe affects what we do. How we live is impacted by our faith. Some might argue that their faith is separate from other areas of their lives, like politics or policies or careers. That belief and attitude, though, simply mean that such “faith” is misplaced (perhaps combining faith in a god with faith in oneself).

SINCERE FAITH AFFECTS ALL THINGS

If you are serious about your faith, such faith will impact every area of your life. Your conversations, your commitments, your attitude, your passions – all are impacted by sincere faith.

Faith that does not have such an impact is an insincere religious activity of going through the motions when convenient, advantageous, and/or comfortable.

How much would you say your faith impacts your everyday life?

WHAT YOU BELIEVE MATTERS

Because sincere faith is so effectual, where you place your faith is of critical importance. What you believe matters. In fact, what you believe is even more important than how strong such faith is.

If you have just a little faith in the weather report, for example, but enough faith to bring an umbrella to a football game when the weather forecast calls for rain, then you will not get wet when the rain hits. You may have been hesitant to believe the forecast, but even a little faith that compelled you to take action was enough to deliver you from the rain.

If you are completely confident in a different weather report that called for sunny skies, though, and you thus do not bring an umbrella, you are not protected from the rain. You may have had all the faith in the world, but your faith was misplaced.

What you believe matters. Who you put your faith in matters.

As David declared in 1 Chronicles 29 and in so many other instances throughout the Psalms, God alone is worthy of our absolute faith and assurance. He alone never fails, is worthy of worship, and will satisfy our needs. If you trust in Him and do so with sincerity and according to the Truth of His Word, He will never fail you.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a new sermon series on a call to biblical stewardship. The foundation for such a call is the truth that “God Is the Owner of Everything” (1 Chronicles 29:10-22). If we truly believe that, we will live in such a way that others will see that belief by what we say, in what we give, through what we do, and by where we go.

Faith with effect will have such an effect not only on those with such faith but also on those who see the living out of such faith.

Are you experiencing the effects of sincere faith? Are those around you? Saving faith in Christ alone will be enough. Turn to Him. Trust in Him. Follow Him. You will be blessed, and the world will be impacted.

To understand and experience the only “faith with effect” that endures forever, check out The Story.

What is discipleship?

At the heart of Christianity is the answer to the question, “What is discipleship?” because a disciple is a student and follower of someone or something. Thus, a disciple of Jesus is what being a Christian is all about, and many of us use the term “discipleship” to explain this lifestyle.

What is discipleship, then? As a follower of Jesus and as a pastor, I talk about this often and try my best to clearly communicate the answer to that question to our church family. Simply put, discipleship is following Jesus and helping others to follow Jesus. Put another way, discipleship is growing closer to Jesus and helping others to grow closer to Jesus.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be starting a new sermon series through 2 Peter (“Grow in Grace“), and, like many of the New Testament letters, I believe Christian discipleship is at the heart of 2 Peter because God’s Word exists in order for us to know Him, know whom He created us to be, and know how to help others know Him. So, the Bible is our manual for discipleship, answering life’s most important questions and revealing to us the most important truths.

As I have been studying this week for the first message in this series, “Grace to Grow,” I have been reminded how much I need the Lord above all, but also how much I need my brothers and sisters in Christ. Again, discipleship involves both following Jesus and helping others to follow Jesus. That means we need Him, and we need each other. We need God’s Word, and we need God’s church.

For these reasons, and because life tends to get busy and filled with fruitless distractions, I have discovered the importance of being very intentional when it comes to discipleship. Yes, the major part of following Jesus and helping others to follow Jesus should be what we do in our everyday lives. In other words, discipleship is not a program but a lifestyle. Still, I need some intentional focus, or my everyday lifestyle looks less and less like how the Bible calls me to live.

When God saves us, He gives us everything we need not only for eternal life but also for spiritual growth now (see 2 Peter 1:1-4). He gives us His Spirit to enable and equip us, and we have His Word to know Him and know how to live. We still have a responsibility, though, when it comes to our life of discipleship.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with…” (2 Peter 1:5check out verses 5-9 for the list).

Am I “making every effort”? Are you?

In my 22+ years of being a Christian, one of the most helpful tools for my spiritual growth has been discipleship accountability groups (DAGs). Really, DAGs, along with the other three things I shared a few weeks ago (Bible, prayer, and church), have been used by the grace of God to bless me, challenge me, sharpen me, encourage me, and grow me.

In a perfect world, a DAG would not be necessary, as we would be diligent about prioritizing our faith, holding one another accountable, and helping one another grow closer to the Lord. We do not live in a perfect world, though, and we are far from perfect. For that reason, I mentioned the importance of being intentional.

If not for DAGs, would anyone ever ask me if I am walking in sexual purity and avoiding things like pornography? How often would people ask me when the last time is I shared the gospel with an unbeliever? Who would challenge me to memorize Scripture and spend daily time in the Word? Again, if we were all as spiritually mature as we should be, these questions and others like them would be part of our regular Christian relationships. My experience, though, has been that without DAGs or something like them, these questions rarely get asked.

Are you in a weekly DAG with a few other believers (men with men, women with women – since we deal with different issues)? If not, would you consider being in one? I am actually preparing to start a new DAG next month, and if you are interested in learning more about DAGs, resources we have, how to get started, etc., please let me know.

Let us seek with all that we are to grow closer to Jesus and help others grow closer to Jesus. Let us be disciples who make disciple makers.

Of course, to be a disciple, you must first surrender your life to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. If you have yet to make this most important decision of your life, please consider checking out The Story for more information.

Obeying When You Don’t Feel Like It

As a dad, one thing I have never said to my kids is, “If your heart is in it and it feels right, do what I tell you to do.” Rather, I expect them to obey me, whether they feel like it or not. If you are a parent, I am sure you are the same way, right?

When I recently asked my kids to help me load my truck with chunks of concrete and asphalt (from the piles of dirt in the picture above), I did not expect they would jump for joy and celebrate the chance for manual labor on a muggy day. Still, I needed some help, and it was good for them to help me.

Granted, we can make mistakes as parents because we are sinners and far from perfect. Still, we give our children instructions and expect their obedience because we are trying to teach them right from wrong, educate them on the value of things like hard work and discipline, want what is best for them, and know (usually) better than they do what they need.

To an infinitely greater degree, of course, our Creator knows what we need. He knows what is best for us and has given us His Word to guide us. For His glory and for our good, He expects our obedience, and that expectation is not contingent upon our feelings. Because we are sinners who do not always have a great attitude, there will be plenty of times when we do not feel like obeying God. Will we obey anyway? Will I? Will you?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Ezra 7 on “Reclaimed Obedience” because God’s Word is essential for all of us. We must look to the Lord and depend on the Lord for growth in our obedience to the Lord.

No, we will never, on this side of eternity, be perfect in our obedience. Jesus alone was and is that, and He died on the cross for our disobedience and brokenness. He took the punishment that we all deserve for our sinful disobedience. Then, Jesus rose from the dead and conquered sin and death for all of eternity. By turning to Him for forgiveness and salvation, we can and will live with Him forever.

One of the clearest and most important evidences of that salvation is growing obedience to the Word of God, both when we feel like it and when we do not. As the Holy Spirit of God transforms us and shapes us, too, we will grow in our desire to obey. By the grace of God, though, we will learn to obey even when the desire is lacking.

Will you seek and trust the Lord to help you be like Ezra, who “determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10)? No matter how you feel, as God to help you obey Him in all things.

Are you growing in your obedience to God’s Word? Do you desire to grow and obey? If not, would you examine your heart and consider your relationship with the Lord? You can learn what it means to know and follow Him by checking out The Story.

Why My Mind Changed About Tattoos

After I became a Christian during my sophomore year of college, I remember having some conversations with a Christian friend about tattoos. In my attempt to convince my friend the err of his ways, I told him tattoos were sinful, as I misapplied Bible verses and took them out of context. I was convinced that getting a tattoo was a sinful act, and surely, one cannot walk faithfully with Jesus and willfully get a tattoo.

As I grew in my Christian faith, however, I began to better understand the Christian liberty my friend explained. Sure, not everyone agrees on the issue of tattoos, and they certainly can be sinful if they, just like anything else, dishonor God and glorify sin. The Bible, despite my early misunderstandings and many others’ misrepresentations, does not condemn those who get tattoos. Rather, there is freedom to get them or to not get them.

Now, this is not a post to defend the case for tattoos or condemn the practice. A short and potentially helpful article on battling with that in your own mind is here. Rather, I simply want to make the point that what I once thought to be a form of godliness (judging others on issues of liberty, like tattoos) was actually a great deal of spiritual immaturity and ungodliness.

Do you have issues in your life like that? Are you finding yourself stumbling spiritually over the freedoms of others? If the Bible is clear on something, then let us stand up for such Truth. When the Bible is unclear, though, let us not divide.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on the “Weaker Believer Syndrome” (1 Corinthians 8:8-9; Romans 14). “Food will not make us acceptable to God. We are not inferior if we don’t eat, and we are not better if we do eat” (1 Corinthians 8:8).

Are you letting debatable things like food (and tattoos) rise to the level of that which makes us “acceptable to God?” If so, you are struggling with what Bob Ingle calls “weaker believer syndrome.” By the grace of God and a growth in spiritual maturity, you can grow past such struggles of conscience and pursue biblical unity in the body of Christ.

No, I have no desire or plans to get a tattoo. While I used to tell my parents I was going to get one as soon as I turned 18 (because they would not let me as a child), that desire diminished. I am thankful for that because I had planned on getting a really silly one that I would certainly regret today. Still, I in no way think that a Christian who gets a tattoo (as long as motives are pure and God is honored) is any less faithful to God’s Word.

Telling a Christian he is in sin for getting a cross tattoo on his forearm is no different than that same Christian telling me I am in sin if I do not get the tattoo. We can feel differently, respecting one another’s freedoms while uniting in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Have you embraced the gospel and the resulting reconciliation with God (and His family)? If not, would you consider watching and/or reading The Story?

Help Needed… Always

Earlier this week, Micah got some sensory fidget toys (seen in the picture above). These little toys can be great for kids and adults for relieving stress, sharpening the mind, and simply having fun. Apparently, however, they can also be frustrating.

One of our boys took a puzzle ball apart, and Micah asked me to put it back together. When he handed me the five pieces, I thought, “Sure, why not?” A few minutes later, though, I was dumbfounded and asked Micah for the instructions. There are none.

I proceeded to spend what felt like hours working on that thing, and I still have yet to figure it out. The toy that is apparently for adults and children has stumped me to the point of frustration and the realization of my inadequacy.

Like always, when it comes to that which is most important, I need help.

Of course, that little puzzle ball is not very important, which is why it remains in pieces (for now, as I will eventually put it together… I hope). When it comes to things that are important, though, I also need help, and so do you. We all do.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be finishing my sermon series through Hebrews, preaching on why “Jesus Is the Better Equipper.” I hope to communicate a couple of reasons we need to trust in Jesus to do the work of sanctification in our hearts and lives. We cannot rely on ourselves.

We need help… always.

The moment we think we “have arrived” and figured things out, we will fall and fall big. In this life, we never “arrive” but rather continue the journey of faith in and through Jesus Christ.

How is your journey going? Are you trusting Jesus each day to equip you for the journey? This requires the understanding to know help is needed, the humility to admit help is needed, and the faith to trust help will be given.

Jesus is the better Equipper. He alone can and does enable us to be the people God has created us to be and to do what God calls us to do. Do not trust yourself to figure things out and do what God requires. Trust Jesus to do that work in and through you.

Before we can live the life God has created us to live, we must surrender our lives to His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Learn more by watching and/or reading THE STORY.

The Best Leader

I have known a lot of great leaders and am thankful for how God has used leaders to sharpen, encourage, and shape me. Because I know I would fail to mention someone(s), I am not going to start listing all the great leaders who have influenced my life. If you read the Bible, though, you know that Moses was an incredible leader used by God to impact millions of lives (and eventually billions of lives).

Moses, though, was really pointing to someone better. He was one of the best leaders in human history because of Whom He followed. In fact, Moses prepared the way for the Ultimate Leader when he said, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to Him” (Deuteronomy 18:15).

You will not often hear successful leaders with an incredibly large following tell you to listen to someone else, and especially someone else who has yet to come. Yet, that is exactly what Moses did. Moses was constantly pointing people to the Word of God, and Moses knew a much better leader was still to come.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will preach on why “Jesus Is the Better Moses” (Hebrews 3). Jesus is better than Moses and better than every other leader in human history because He is not only a man but also the Son of God.

In my message, I hope to communicate our need to submit to Jesus’ authority over our lives and share why He is superior to all leaders for all time. Then, with that being the case, what is our necessary response?

Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start” (Hebrews 3:12-14).

For you to be one of His companions, though, you must first come to know Him. If you have not yet surrendered your life to Him (or are unsure), would you click the picture below to learn more?

We are all leaders of someone(s). Let us lead well by leading others to the best Leader.

Lead well by leading people to the best Leader – Jesus Christ our Lord. Of course, this must start with surrendering your all to Him and continue with an ongoing commitment to His Word, to His church, and to His mission.

The Good Life

This past Saturday, Zoe and I had our monthly daddy-daughter date. Because it was Zoe’s turn to pick where we ate, of course, we went to McDonald’s. Oh, the simple things that are yet so satisfying! When we were sitting there enjoying our meal which cost well under $10 for both of us, we were happy. We were satisfied. Life was good.

Life is full of moments like that, as well as the opposite, is it not? When we are happy and content in our circumstances, we tend to be satisfied with life. When our circumstances are not so good, though, we might find ourselves dissatisfied with life.

CIRCUMSTANCES ARE INADEQUATE

Surely, there is more to “the good life” than circumstances, though, right? Circumstances can change in an instant, so if good circumstances are required for “the good life,” we are all doomed. Our circumstances will eventually let us down. They will eventually disappoint, no matter how much money we have, how healthy we are, how great our jobs are, etc. Circumstances are inadequate.

We can be healthy, wealthy, and well today and then lose everything tomorrow. If you settle for satisfaction in your circumstances, you will one day be disappointed, if not in this life, in the next. There is so much more to life than french fries, happy meals, and fountain soda – even as great as those gifts of God are!

JESUS IS THE ANSWER

If you somehow discovered a circumstance that could never change (i.e. wealth you could never lose, health that would never deteriorate, a job that never left you feeling disappointed, endless french fries that never got cold, etc.), you would certainly feel like you were living “the good life,” right? Of course, there is no such thing as such a perfect, lasting circumstance. Everything the world offers is temporary.

Jesus Christ, though, is so much better. He created us to find our satisfaction in Him because satisfaction in Him is the only satisfaction that will never disappoint. As long as we seek to know, follow, and honor Him, we can have incredible joy and contentment, regardless of our circumstances. More importantly, we can have a right relationship with God that will never end.

DO NOT SETTLE FOR LESS

If you are letting your circumstances determine whether or not “life is good,” you are settling for far less than God has for you. Life is good because God is good. Life is good because Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead to defeat, once and for all, sin and death. Life is good when we know and follow Jesus and help others to know and follow Jesus. Period. Praise the Lord!

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will finish our Who’s Your One? sermon series, preaching from John 1:40-42 on when “Life Is Good.” Christian discipleship is essential, so I will share two keys to the good life – the life found only in and through Jesus.

Do not settle for less. Let Jesus be the source of your satisfaction by surrendering your all to Him and helping others surrender their all to Him. If you have not yet done so, click the picture below for more information.

If you want to have peace now and peace eternal, read and respond to The Story.