Living Woelessly


SilloetteWe have the ability to change the way we think about the challenges in our life. Many people seem to be surprised to learn this. We tend to excuse ourselves from taking responsibility for choosing a more God-honoring approach to life because, after all, “This is just the way I am.” We whine about the way things are as if we’re victims of our circumstances. We get stuck in the “woe is me” default mode of our humanistic thinking.

We need to get this foundational life principle:

Living the way God designed us to live greatly diminishes the importance of outward circumstance.

Why? Because we’re “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” [Hebrews 12.2]

Circumstances will always change – sometimes from one moment to the next. But Jesus will never change. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” [Hebrews 18.8]

Jesus is the Rock we cling to…the shelter in the storm…our sure redemption.

For this reason, we can “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” [James 1.2-4]

We can change the way we think about the challenges in our life, knowing there’s a purpose beyond our momentary afflictions. And knowing we serve an unchangeable Lord and Savior who loves us with an unwavering love…and that he has a plan for us, and the plan is for GOOD!

Jesus is COMING…Look BUSY!


Boy working    I saw a bumper sticker earlier this week that read: JESUS IS COMING…LOOK BUSY!

So I began to think about the importance of being busy about my Father’s work. My natural tendency is to be busy—about something…anything. Sometimes my busyness is the thing that “easily entangles” me [Hebrews 12.1]. Others’ natural tendency may be to “veg out,” feeling grateful to know we are neither required nor capable of “earning” our way into heaven. Many find themselves resting on that assurance.

Back in the 70s there was a popular mantra in the air that went something like this: “Be a human being, not a human doing.” It had a catchy ring to it, and I think it caught on for many reasons, one being that it offered a valid excuse for checking out of mainstream society.

It was around the time of the “make love, not war” love-cry in the air. It was a time when iridescent posters glowed in the black light of weed-smoke-filled head shops, serenaded by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead. Back then I enjoyed strolling the streets in Old Town, Chicago, with the scent of incense in the air, basking in the afterglow of love and peace.

“Far out, man.”

And there’s some truth to the mantra of being rather than doing. It’s easy to get so caught up in the frenzy of doing that we lose the art of being.

But it’s not an either/or kind of thing. It’s both/and…both being and doing.

We are designed to be human beings doing the things we were created to do… “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” [Ephesians 2.10]. It amazes me that God has invited us to participate in his kingdom plan. We sometimes call it being “the hands and feet of Jesus.” So much of what God wants to do about the needs of his people happens through his people.

And there are times when God will accomplish what he wants accomplished without involving us at all. It’s easy to lose our place in the plan—exaggerating our importance– acting as if we believe we’re more vital in the grand scheme of things than we actually are. So our Creator also reminds us to “Be still, and know that I am God!” [Psalm 46.10]. One version puts it this way… “Cease striving…” [NASB]. In other words, God reminds us “I’ve got this. Step back from all your activities, cease the frenzied pace, and rest in My sufficiency.”

We serve most effectively when we’re resting in the sufficiency of God. Our soul is most deeply satisfied when “in all our ways we acknowledge him” [Proverbs 3.6] as the source of all we are. We are nourished as we live in alignment with his calling and purpose in our lives, just as Jesus said, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work” [John 4.34].

We experience deep satisfaction as we participate with God in his kingdom plan. We discover peace that boggles human understanding when we rest in his sufficiency…remembering that “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” [Philippians 1.6].

We are human beings doing life with God…both when we are resting in him, and when we are busy about the work of his kingdom in our day-to-day lives.

Jesus is coming. Be found doing life with him…and fulfilling your role as a member of his body.

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My Life as an International Drug Runner – Part THREE


Kenyan MusiciansI’m not sure if it was planned, or if it was a spur-of-the-moment thing, but the mission leader decided to hold a crusade in a little village a few miles from where he lived. The village was called Kobare. I found out about the plan while we were on our way, driving to the crusade. That’s when I first suspected I might be the speaker for these crusades.

We drove to the village on a road that rattled our teeth. The driver took special care to avoid the two-feet deep ruts that could have broken an axle. When we finally arrived, a stage had already been constructed out of rough-sawn lumber. We sat up the sound equipment, which was powered by a generator chugging along in the background. It was raining, but no one complained, because it would not be raining unless God decided a little rain on the crusade would be a good idea.

I couldn’t tell if there was a scheduled starting time. It seemed a little arbitrary. But eventually, the worship team began to play their instruments…a keyboard and drums and tambourines. And they sang. I have never been so moved by music, partially because of the beauty of the sound, and possibly even more so because of the love and passion expressed on the faces of the musicians, sometimes wet from the rain. When it rained a little harder, the keyboardist threw a piece of plastic over the keyboard…and kept on playing.

The sound of the music attracted people from the surrounding bush—from miles around. The musicians played and sang for a couple of hours, which gave ample time to those who lived several miles away an opportunity to find the source of real soul music.

When several people had gathered – I’d estimate somewhere between 150 to 200 – I got “the nod,” and I made my way to the makeshift stage. The people were totally attentive, standing on their feet for hours. Even the children, many of whom lived without parents in communal groups in the bush, stood motionless, mesmerized by what they were experiencing.

Toward the end of the service, one of the worship team members offered an invitation to the people to accept Christ as their personal Savior, and dozens responded. The scene was beyond anything I had imagined. I thought my heart would burst, just to think my Lord had invited me here for a time such as this.

One day we arrived early in Kobare so we could do some “hut to hut” evangelism. We walked for several minutes between huts, seeking those who might be ready to hear about God’s love, and his desire to have a personal relationship with them. Most were friendly, and some even invited us in to their homes.

Kenyan Mom & KidsMy favorite home was a 10’ x 10’ one-room mud and straw hut that provided shelter for a mom and her three children. We had to bow down low to get through the doorway. The floor was clean-swept packed dirt.

Kenyan GirlThe next home we visited was a little fancier, complete with a concrete floor and metal roof. When we told the teenage girl who lived there the reason for our visit, she began to cry softly. She explained in Swahili that she had prayed earlier that morning that God would send someone who could tell her how she could know him. We knelt with her on the concrete floor as she prayed and received Christ as her Lord. As we left, the thought came to my mind that if this girl had been the only one to receive life in Christ on this trip, the assignment would have been worth everything it took to get there.
(Part 3 of a 5 part series…)

Works by Salvation


SCAREDIn our effort to avoid the appearance of “salvation by works,” we sometime dilute the truth of the gospel. Yes, we are saved by grace, and by grace alone. Salvation is a gift…unearnable, unattainable in our own strength. That’s what makes it the “gift of salvation.” We get that, right!

But nowhere in Scripture do I read that Jesus died so that we can live comfortable-cushy lives. And He did not save us so that we can go on living our lives the way we’ve always lived our lives…doing what we FEEL like doing; disregarding what we know to be true…as if we do not know the truth.

Jesus died so that we, too, can die. We are invited to “die to ourselves”…to our whims and our selfishness and our stubbornness…so that we can be made ALIVE in Christ. And the life we experience in Him sets us free – and empowers us – to become “faithful and obedient servants”.

Although we are not saved BY our works, we are saved TO work. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” ~Ephesians 2.10

May we step up and be faithful and obedient servants…full of joy and compassion…and shine brightly in dim places.

http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Libido-Craving-Passionate-Life/dp/1414124449/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369344189&sr=1-1&keywords=holy+libido

Jesus Speaks to the American Church


Marvelous Marv Gerbig(The following is a GUEST BLOG POST written by our friend Marv Gerbig in Illinois, senior pastor at Wyoming 1st Church of the Nazarene in Wyoming, Illinois. Marv wrote this in response to my challenge posted on Facebook to identify “Seven Survival Tactics for Thriving Churches.” Thank you Marv for sharing…)

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ~Revelation 2:2, 11

This is what I commend you for:

You have excelled in education. You have studied and gone very deep into my Word. Your system of education in the Church is unparalleled in all of Church history. Anyone who desires to go deep into the Word of God can fill their desire in your churches. You educate believers.

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you:

You have taken your educational system in the churches and made it a stumbling block for the sheep of my fold. Especially when it comes to Sunday School, you have made learning the Word of God difficult. You have taken too much authority from me, Jesus, as the Teacher. Have you forgotten what I said? “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah” (Matthew 23:8-10). Too many of my people feel as if they need the church to tell them what the scriptures mean. You have created a dependent church and have made people think they cannot learn from me directly.

This is what I commend you for:

Your leaders have been highly educated and somewhat trained.

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you:

You have created a professional office of ministry that only those who are of a certain learning ability can achieve. While you may think this is a way to qualify those called into ministry, you have created a system that is not duplicable. If the leaders of the church were to be taken out, your churches would cease to exist. How do you read Acts? My church, from the beginning, was not dependent on professional leaders. If a leader was taken out, the church could not be stopped!!

This is what I commend you for:

You have taken into account how I created believers to understand my Word as they age. Your ministry by age group is truly amazing as far as it goes.

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you:

Yet, you have segregated the generations from each other. No longer do my people congregate together as families, but rather on Sunday morning we look like the age-segregated secular world I am saving you from. Separating families from the time they enter into your churches until the time they leave is not my command. If my servant Paul were to see your world today, could he tell the difference between an elementary school and your church?

Creating age barriers is not my heart. Take a look at all the churches in America that are filled with seniors and no young people in the service. That is the fruit of generational segregation. Repent.

Your desire to build the church is admirable. You have many ways of attracting people and attempting to lead them to me. Yet, did I not say that I will build the church on your faith (Matthew 16)? Why have you tried to do my job? Did I not command you to “go and make disciples”? Why then do you try to get people “saved” when I told you to disciple them? I am Lord! I am the Savior! You are my friends and servants and your mission is to teach obedience in everything I have taught you. Yet, I see no obedience training anywhere in your churches. You have educated believers, but not many true disciples that understand how to be disciple makers.

My heart grieves as I see the American Church look more and more like the Gnostics. Prepare for the last days. Again, look at the Great Commission as I gave it to you in Matthew 28, and GO, MAKE DISCIPLES, for I am the Lord your God—and I expect obedience from you.

(Rod’s Comment: And so, dear brothers and sisters, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts! May we listen continually to the still small voice of our Lord. And may we glorify him in all we do!)

“Holy Libido” in a Nutshell


Holy Libido_3-D CoverAs you might imagine, the book title “Holy Libido” raises eyebrows. In a nutshell, here’s what the title means:

“Holy” can mean to be whole and complete, living life in submission and obedience to the design of God; living life with an intimate connection with our Creator, made possible through the righteousness of Jesus. I believe we can think of being holy as becoming the masterpiece we were created to be. (Granted, the word “holy” is so much more; this is my “nutshell” version.)

“Libido” is an intense craving or desire, a longing after, straining for fulfilment. Although the word “libido” is typically used to express sexual desire, it may be used to express our longing – or craving – for anything.

What if we were more passionate about an intimate relationship with God than we are about our “natural” cravings…cravings that have no eternal value? What if we longed for completion in God!

Holy Libido ignites something within us that is unstoppable, incomprehensible, irrefutable. It is adventurous life with God…empowered by the unrestrained flow of his  Spirit to accomplish the work we were designed to do…for his glory!

So, what do you think? What does the title mean to you? Looking forward to your comments!

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” ~Ephesians 2.10

http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Libido-Craving-Passionate-Life/dp/1414124449/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371563001&sr=8-1&keywords=holy+libido

Don’t Stop Believin’


TightwireThere’s a story in the Bible that sheds some interesting light on faith. I’m encouraged to know that the people Jesus encountered while here on earth are people just like you and me. They were not super-human men and women with super-human faith.

There was a guy who had a son who was possessed by an evil spirit. The spirit would throw the kid to the ground and make him foam at the mouth and gnash his teeth. (Some of us with kids and grandkids can relate: we sometimes wonder if some strange spirit has invaded their body as they kick and scream on the floor.)

The father of the tortured boy asked Jesus to heal his son.

Here’s the conversation we read in the 9th chapter of Mark:

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” (This strikes me funny. The boy is rolling in the dirt, foaming at the mouth, and Jesus is having a casual conversation with the dad.)

The dad told Jesus, “From childhood. The spirit has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Can you imagine saying to the Son of God, “If you can!” Come to think of it…yes, I guess we can imagine that.)

Jesus repeated his words: “ ‘If you can’? Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

WOW…me, too!

So…what can we learn from this encounter?

First, there was nothing impressive about the father’s faith. The guy said to Jesus, “If you can…” So faith is not the absence of doubt. Faith is refusing to allow our doubt to stop us from believing.

Second, it’s okay to be honest about our faith. We do not need to fake our faith. The man said, “I believe; help me in my unbelief.”

I can easily relate to the father of the tortured boy. I believe. And I wonder – not if he can – but if he will.

We sometimes mistakenly believe that the “size” of our faith is inadequate. But I don’t think it’s about the amount of our faith. We do not need to be the Superman (or Superwoman) of faith. I think it’s about whether or not we are willing to “risk” trusting God with all we’ve got. Like the little widow lady who gave her last few coins as an offering to God, it’s not the amount that impresses God. It’s about whether or not we will offer it all.

Possibly we have only a couple of small “coins” of faith. It’s enough! I believe God has some great things in store for those who are willing to trust him with everything they have to offer.

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