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.

Read the Word

Joshua read aloud all the words of the law – the blessings as well as the curses – according to all that is written in the book of the law” (Joshua 8:34).

If you read the end of Joshua 8, you will notice that Joshua was honoring God with an altar after a great victory God had given His people. Joshua was following God’s instructions, and then read God’s instructions – God’s Word – to all the people of Israel. He read all of it to them – “the blessings as well as the curses.”

How can we honor God like Joshua did and help others to do the same? By reading His Word, declaring His Word to others, and following His Word. Like Jesus said, we prove ourselves to be disciples by going and making disciples and baptizing them and teaching them to observe everything He has commanded us (Matthew 28:18-20). Oh, and He promises to be with His disciples “always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).

Do you know the Word? Are you reading the Word? Are you obeying the Word – all of it? With all of the incredible resources available to us in the English language (and in so many other languages), we have no excuse not to engage God daily through His Word.

Read the Word and pray for God’s help to obey.

If you have no desire to read God’s Word, perhaps you have not yet received God’s rescue from sin and death through His One and Only Son. Would you consider the Story and turn to Jesus today?

What is a Christian disciple?

When Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20), His command of focus is “make disciples of all nations.”

The going, the baptizing, and the teaching are underneath the emphasis of making disciples. What is the meaning of “make disciples,” though? What is a disciple of Jesus?

A disciple is a follower of Jesus who helps others follow Jesus. In our church, we say often (and have been emphasizing the past few weeks during our 2020 Vision series), “Our passion is the gospel. Our church is our family. Our world is our mission.” That is a purpose and vision statement, I believe, that is true of someone who is a Christian disciple.

A Christian disciple is someone who has been changed by the gospel and thus is passionate about the gospel. As a result, a Christian disciple is part of an eternal family and longs to be actively involved in a local church – a church that preaches the gospel. Then, of course, that passion for the gospel drives the Christian disciple to help others know and experience the new life that is only found in and through the gospel.

A Christian disciple goes on mission so that others can become disciples and be baptized and learn to observe everything that Jesus has commanded.

Gospel. Family. Mission.

Go. Baptize. Make disciples. Teach to obey.

What is a Christian disciple? A Christian disciple follows Jesus and helps others to follow Jesus. Are you following Jesus? Are you helping others to follow Jesus? If you are a Christian disciple, you will either answer those questions with a yes, or you are convicted that something needs to change in your life.

As a Christian disciple, you have the Holy Spirit. You have Jesus “with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 20:20b). And, He will not allow you to live contently without being a disciple who makes disciples.

If you are not a Christian disciple, what is holding you back? Will you turn to Jesus today?

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All or Nothing

After the recent winter storm that brought us 18 inches of snow, our furnace stopped working. Actually, it worked just enough to confuse us. If I messed with the thermostat a little or manually reset the ignition switch to light the burners, the furnace would kick on for a little bit. Still, the actual temperature could not rise to the set temperature.

I was baffled. Talking with some trustees from our church (we live in the church parsonage), we thought maybe it was the thermostat. Then, we thought it must be something with the furnace itself.

Finally, we called a professional to take a look, and after he did some diagnostic tests, he realized the furnace was not getting the air intake necessary to allow the burners to ignite for more than a few minutes.

Why was that the case? Well, there was so much snow on our roof that the air-intake pipe was sucking up snow rather than air, causing the furnace to malfunction. Above, you can see a picture of our roof at the time and how the snow around the white gooseneck pipe was starting to break away.

Thankfully, just enough snow melted that same day, so I did not have to get up on our metal roof. The problem is solved. Our furnace is working again.

When it was only working part of the time, though, were we satisfied? No. What did we say? That our furnace was not working. First world problem, I know, but people are not content with a furnace that only works part of the time.

Much more importantly, God is not satisfied with an individual who only submits to part of His Word. God does not want just part of your heart. God is not calling you to serve Him part of the time.

All or nothing. Jesus is Lord of all, including Lord of your life and Lord of my life. Not part of our lives but the entirety of our lives.

So, just like every other person in all of human history, you have a decision to make. Will you daily surrender yourself to Jesus Christ and submit to His Lordship? Or, will you pick and choose when and how to obey Him?

King Saul wanted to pick and choose. He had everything but had the kingdom torn away from him because he decided full submission to God was not necessary. Lord willing, I will be preaching from 1 Samuel 15 on Sunday morning – “Villains Refuse Submission” (from our Becoming the Villain series).

King Saul began as God’s chosen man to lead God’s chosen people, but he became a villain – an enemy of God. Do not let the temptation to only partially submit to the will of God and the Word of God cause you to become a villain, too.

I have no desire for a partially working furnace, and God has no desire for a partially committed disciple. Surrender your all to Him today and every day. Trust Him to change you, equip you and enable you, as you surrender to Him.

This picture of Zoe has nothing to do with this post, but I love her afro and wanted to share this great picture, which is a fitting representation of her fun personality, too.

Either Obsession or Rejection

Imagine if my son Noah (pictured above shooting a free throw) decided that he wanted to play basketball but that he also wanted to play video games on his Kindle during basketball practice and/or games. No coach in his right mind would be okay with that. You cannot give your best on the court if your mind (not to mention your eyes and your hands) are elsewhere. You have to focus. You have to be committed. You have to do your best.

My dad, who was my high school basketball coach, used to say something like, “You’re either all in, or you’re not in at all.” In fact, if you were not “all in,” you literally would not “be in” (in the game, that is).

While I found myself obsessed with basketball (and sports in general) when I was a teenager, I was eventually sorely disappointed when basketball did not take me (or I did not take basketball) as far as I wanted to go. I am thankful, though, for the life-lessons of teamwork, commitment, loyalty, hard work, dedication, sacrifice and priorities that are learned through sports.

Still, sports are just a part of life. They are not, despite what I believed as a student athlete, life itself.

Following Jesus, however, is different. Yes, there are sports-related lessons we can apply to a life of faith, but sports, like everything else in life, pale in comparison to knowing the Lord. Walking in a genuine relationship with Him is what we were created to do. This relationship is life.

Thankfully, I learned this as a sophomore in college, when God opened my eyes to the truth of the gospel, and I placed my faith in His Son for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

To follow Jesus, according to the Bible, means being 100% sold-out for Him. In other words, you are either obsessed with Him, or you are rejecting Him. Too many people seem content to find a middle ground, but there is no middle ground with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. You either give Him your all, or you are worshiping something or someone else. You’re either all in, or you’re not in at all.

Tomorrow, I will be preaching through Mark 14:1-31 during our church‘s morning worship service. In verses 3-9 is the amazing story of a woman who gave up something of incredible value in order to worship Jesus. As a result, Jesus said, “I assure you: Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).

This woman was obsessed with Jesus. Are you? Or, are you rejecting Him? Do not settle for the lie of an acceptable middle ground. Surrender your life to Jesus, ask for His help, and be all in. Unlike sports, He will never leave you disappointed.

Don’t be deceived.

Last week, Marsha and I took our kids to the Missouri River near Jefferson City. The kids were surprised at how big the river was and how fast the river was moving. Before this trip, I think they assumed they could swim across the river with ease or wade along its banks with pleasure. They quickly changed their mind, though, once they saw its width and its speed.

Not once did they ask if they could jump in for a swim, even though it would have felt good that warm, sunny day. And, trust me – it is rare for our family to be by a body of water without anyone getting wet. Thankfully, common sense (along with some parental instruction) helped our children realize that jumping into the Missouri River would very likely not end well for them. While a bird’s-eye view of the river would have indicated fun in the sun, a closer look was necessary.

When considering Christian discipleship, people often make assumptions from a bird’s-eye view, too. Instead of sincerely seeking God through His Word, they assume they know what discipleship is based on what they see from a distance and/or based on false teachings they have heard from others. God is the One who defines truth, though.

We are not able to decide for ourselves what discipleship is. Nor are we able to understand discipleship without seeking and trusting the One who created us – the One who created us for Himself and for discipleship, meaning following Jesus as revealed in the Bible.

Some might wrongly assume that the rejection of discipleship only takes place when someone blatantly and explicitly rejects Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Yes, that would indeed be the rejection of discipleship. What about those, however, who believe Jesus to be the Son of God and even believe He is who He said He is, according to the Bible, but do not fully embrace and surrender to Him?

Can one be a disciple without proper understanding (and resulting acceptance) of essential biblical truths like Jesus’ Messiahship and resurrection life?

If you read the first half of Mark 12, you will notice Jesus confronting those who were rejecting Him and His Word. You do not get to pick and choose what you will believe and what parts of God’s Word you will obey, and then still claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. If you do that, you are ultimately no different than the ones who completely rejected Him and sought His crucifixion.

Tomorrow I will be preaching on “The Rejection of Discipleship” from our Discipleship 101 sermon series. Will you recognize and confront the rejection of discipleship? This begins by examining your own heart, making sure you have a genuine relationship with God. And, it continues every day as you walk with Jesus and help others to do the same.

Don’t be deceived by a bird’s-eye view. Look closely by seeking God through His Word and growing alongside His church.

aerial photography of concrete bridge
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Jesus is better than football.

Whether it’s my son Noah’s junior high game (like the picture above), “Friday Night Lights,” or the NFL, I really enjoy watching football. I enjoyed playing football when I was in high school. In fact, I still enjoy playing it today.

When I was watching my favorite NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, lose to the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night, though, I began to experience an overwhelming sense of conviction in my heart. No, I was not convicted about my decision of being a lifelong fan of a disappointing team. Nor was I convicted that I was watching the game. Rather, I was convicted because I was allowing the disappointment of the game to ruin my mood.

Of course, as a Vikings fan, I did not experience extreme disappointment Thursday night for the first time. Most likely, it will not be the last time either. Not only have the Vikings never won the Super Bowl (0-4 all time), they have not even made it to the Super Bowl since before I was born, having lost their last six trips to the NFC Championship Game.

If this trend continues, and if the Vikings continue to underperform, I will not see the confetti fall in their favor at the end of a season.

Butas much as I would enjoy a Super Bowl title for my all-time favorite sports franchise, it really is not a big deal. It really does not matter.

Even if they do end a season at the top of their sport, like my favorite NBA team, the San Antonio Spurs, have done five times, the jubilation will be short-lived. Fans (and I imagine players and coaches, too) end up being extremely disappointed if another championship is not achieved the following year. There is only one winner, and so most people who care usually find themselves disappointed.

Have you ever considered how ridiculous it is to allow sports to rob us of our joy? With the exception of my senior year of high school football, when we won the state championship, I cried at the end of each of my sports seasons, knowing that I had “failed” and had to wait another year to win. Or, in the case of our playoff loss in basketball my senior year, I experienced the crushing realization that I might never play competitive basketball again. My career ended with a disappointing performance in a loss.

Guess who actually cares about my senior football and basketball seasons today, though? Pretty much no one. Guess who really cares about who won the Super Bowl a few years ago? Pretty much no one.

More importantly, guess how much the results of sporting events actually matter? They do not.

Please do not get me wrong. I have no problem with people playing or watching sports. I think we can learn a lot about life, teamwork, hard work, dedication, loyalty, discipline, etc. from sports.

But, to let sports dictate our moods and/or guide our lives will be a tragic mistake. Jesus is so much better than football. He is the eternal, authoritative, powerful Son of God. He died on the cross for our sins, and He rose again to win eternal victory for everyone who calls on Him.

Following Jesus is not just another activity we tack on to our lives, like football or some other hobby. Following Jesus is life itself for those who are His genuine disciples.

The true joy that comes for those who follow Jesus is everlasting joy. Consider –  it would be utter foolishness to look back after your team won a championship and let one bad play upset you. You won! Who cares about that one play? Well, it would be eternal foolishness to try to find your satisfaction in the things of this world rather than in the One who is eternal. To try to find your satisfaction in one play rather than in the end result is foolish. Jesus has won the victory, the eternal victory. Do not make the mistake of settling for anything less than peace and hope in Him.

Tomorrow, I will be preaching on “The Lord of Discipleship” (Mark 11). While you will be able, Lord willing, to listen to the message HERE tomorrow afternoon, I would like to encourage you now to make sure you seek and surrender to Jesus. He is Lord of all, and seeking to find your hope, satisfaction, joy and salvation anywhere else will leave you disappointed today and leave you sorry forever.

Jesus is better than football. He is better than everything. He is Lord.

man wearing viking helmet focus photography
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