Thursday, July 27, 2017

Yes, you really are a hypocrite. (By Alfred Turley)

The charge is everywhere:  Christians are such hypocrites.  The history of the word itself is rooted in the greek word 'hypokrites', which means "an actor, specifically someone who would act on stage.  Makes sense to me.

I think overall it’s true, at least to some degree in all of us.  Every Christian I know struggles with this tension: they know that Jesus modeled a life with actions and words and deeds that we are called to emulate.  However, we often don’t FEEL like it, or frankly we just can’t do it.  It’s too hard to love that person.  It’s too hard to control my temper.  It’s too hard to endure the pain.  It’s too hard to keep saying “no” to that thing I really want to do.

So then we set up stages to act on.  We will exert our energy and effort on the “Work” stage, and give it our best acting job.  And we will have a “Church” stage presence, where we say, “I’m fine!” or “I’m blessed!”, faking it all the way home.  But at home we often can’t keep it up, and our family sees the real us.

Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.”  (John 10:10).  

It often doesn’t feel that way, does it?

So how do we stop faking it?

Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 12
"He began to say to His disciples first: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered, nothing hidden that won’t be made known. 3 Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in an ear in private rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.

Jesus made it clear:
We must intentionally fight hypocrisy.
We must guard against it, and recognize it as a cancer in our lives and something that once it gets there, it is dangerous and will even spread to others.  People are always watching us, and allowing hypocrisy to creep in patterns it for them and even models it as acceptable.  But it is empty and dangerous, and does tremendous damage to the true, life-giving message of Jesus!

The root of hypocrisy is man-pleasing
We care way too much about what people think of us, and putting on a show.  We care about the short-term appearances and pleasing people and trying to fit in.  So we bypass the real work of thought and heart change that bears the lasting fruit we really need.

Jesus continues….
4 “And I say to you, My friends, don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. 5 But I will show you the One to fear: Fear Him who has authority to throw people into hell after death. Yes, I say to you, this is the One to fear! 6 Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. 7 Indeed, the hairs of your head are all counted. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows!

Why do you care what "they" think?
Fill in the blank on who "they" are in your life.  And then think now about Jesus' stark warning: “they” have no real power over us in the long run.  “They” can make life a little harder, yes.  But there is one who controls our eternal destiny, and we are precious and cherished to Him.  He is the one we need to be living for!

There is only one stage!
If we are Christ-followers, God is literally in us and walking around with us, and He sees it all... And loves us anyway!  There is no hiding, and He even knows what is really going on inside us, things we don’t even know!  I think when we all ponder a day when everything we have ever done or said is made known, then we all freak out a bit.  But it is biblical (what Jesus just said) and also shown in the book of Revelation.

Life out in the open is freedom.
God is not trying to embarrass us by assuring global revelation of all of our lives. He is trying to set us free.  And only when we face the truth and the reality of our hearts will we address the real problems, which are in there, not out on the stage.  When I am able to live out in the open, with my faults and failures out there as well, knowing there is no hiding, I get to walk free

My prayer today is that we walk free, knowing God is with us and loves us no matter what, and that He will help us guard against that trap of man-pleasing and hypocrisy!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Leaving the Loopholes Behind-- By Eileen Knowles

"Close all loopholes and quit making excuses."

I keep going back to that quote above. It's one of the quotes from the message at church this past weekend.  It resonates with me.  Loopholes and excuses kept me walking down the wrong path for a long time. Loopholes and excuses kept me from fully embracing the truth and fully accepting the healing that was being offered to me.

loopholes-- a means of evasion, a means of avoidance.  For years I turned the volume down on the Holy Spirit. There were signposts all along my path but I would avert my eyes and my heart. I would look only in directions that appealed to my comfort zone and my "if it feels good do it" tendencies. 

excuses--a reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense.
"You made your bed now you have to lie in it" I have made many excuses in my life but this one, by far, was the most hindering and the most deceptive to my journey towards freedom and healing. I had (for the most part) gotten past blaming others for my circumstances, instead I blamed myself...and I made a great punching bag.  You did this Eileen. It's all on you.

Can I tell you something? That very well might be true...perhaps you are to blame for your current situation but it's also a tool the Enemy loves to use to keep you living in defeat. Because he knows this lie will keep you from pursuing, seeing and accepting the incredible grace that's being offered to you right now...this very moment.

That, folks, is the beautiful truth that we must cling to and not let go of...ever.  Jesus took the blame so you could choose to live and walk in freedom today. 

I am reminded of my favorite Seth Godin quote: “If you think you have no choice but to do what you do now, you've already made a serious error.”

This morning as I was reading through an old blog post from a few years ago, I came across these verses in Acts. It's the Apostle Paul explaining his conversion to King Agrippa.

"Then I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’

“And the Lord replied: ‘I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen and of what I will reveal to you. I will rescue you from the people and from the Gentiles. I now send you to them to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified. Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision." -Acts 26: 15-19

Two things came to mind when I read these words. 

As disciples of Jesus, we have been given similar marching orders and a similar purpose: to carry the Good News forward.  We are servants, and although we have not seen the risen Savior with our own eyes like Paul, we have seen and continue to see His power, grace and mercy displayed in our lives and in our stories.  

Second, I love these words Paul offered to King Agrippa of how he embraced this purpose.

“Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision." 

Paul didn't look for a loophole, he didn't make any excuses.  He was obedient. He went to work doing what the Lord was asking him to do. He moved forward boldly preaching and relying on the Lord's help and provision to do so.  

Questions to ask ourselves:

Are there any loopholes or excuses that you are embracing that are currently keeping you from moving forward into the life Christ has called you to? 

How are you being called to move forward boldly today? 

Let's take our cue from Paul today.  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Helping People Live Out God’s Vision for Their Life - By Doug Hunt

As you invest in someone, helping them grow as a disciple of Jesus, you must help them see their true identity and potential in the Kingdom.

You see this happening early in the relationship between Jesus and His disciples in Matthew 5:1-16. Jesus has not revealed much about Himself yet but He is grabbing on to the moment and helping the disciples see life beyond themselves. He is telling them something that is almost impossible for them to believe about themselves. Robert Coleman, in the book Master Plan of Evangelism, describes the disciples this way.

“By any standard of sophisticated culture then and now they would surely be considered as a rather ragged collection of souls. One might wonder how Jesus could ever use them. They were impulsive, temperamental, easily offended and had all the prejudices of their environment…Not the kind of group one would expect to win the world to Christ.”

But imagine the sense of wonder and confidence that must have overcome them when Jesus looked them in the eye and said, “You will be fishers of men”, “You ARE the salt of the earth…YOU ARE the light of the world… …because of who you are people will worship God.

This is a moment of vision. It is you helping a person see their life from the reality of who they are in Christ.
 It is helping them see that they are defined by God’s truth about them not what the world says. It is helping them see the things they don’t see about themselves; helping them see things that they see wrong about themselves. Helping them see misperceptions about God and replacing them with Truth’s like,

“God chose you before the foundations of the world to be holy and blameless before Him to praise of his glorious grace.” – Eph. 1:4

“In Christ all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form and in Him you have been made full.” – Col. 2:9-10

“You are created in Christ Jesus for good works.” – Eph. 2:10

Maybe it is just looking them in the eye and saying “I love you. I believe in you. You matter to God.” 

When you help people discover their identity in Christ you are casting vision into their lives to do great things for God.

Todd’s Story

I’ll never forget seeing this come to life in a small group of college students I was leading a few years ago. There was a freshman in the group named Todd who easily fit the description Robert Coleman just gave us of the disciples.  He was an unlikely world changer. As our small group was winding down I was sharing about the possibility for God to move among the students in who lived in the residence hall and how God may be calling someone to the task. It wasn’t’ a dramatic speech, just a simple statement of need and possibility.  When the group ended Todd pulled me aside and simply said, “I think it is me.  I think it is me that God wants to use in the dorm.” In the month that followed, I walked to every room in that dorm with Todd and watched him share the gospel with as many as would listen.  I walked with Todd as he began his own small group in the dorm.

A couple of years later, I was casting vision for the need of the gospel at universities in the northeast.  I shared with a group of students how I believed God may be calling some students from our university in the south to transfer to schools in Boston, MA. for the purpose of the gospel. Almost immediately, Todd approached me, “I think it is me.  I think God wants me to transfer to Boston.”  A few months later I drove Todd to Boston for him to start a ministry on a campus that had no representation of the gospel.

Vision had exploded in Todd’s life.  He was seeing his life from the perspective of the Kingdom.

Here are few questions that I often ask early in the discipleship process to help discover and cast vision.

1) Have you ever thought about how God could use you to change the world?
2) If you had unlimited resources and guaranteed success, what would you do with your life?
3) What do think it means to follow Jesus?
4) What do think could hinder you from being all that God wants you to be?
5) What are you passionate about and how are you putting your passions to work?

Who can you help see God’s vision for their life? Make some time to soon to have a vision conversation with them.  It may change their life.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Our Freedom is His Reward!

Our freedom is His reward!  (By Alfred Turley)

Do we realize that all Jesus is trying to do is set us free?  Isn’t that a crazy thing…  We see religion and following Jesus so often as a set of rules and restraints and things I have to give up.  But it’s just the opposite.  Jesus died to set us free from the things that destroy us.  And He should know…  He made us!

In Galatians Paul says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”  (Galatians 5:1)

Does that occur to us when we look at God, and come to church and open our Bibles and pray?  Does the thought that He literally suffered and died to maximize my freedom and my joy hit us?  I don’t think it does… not enough at least.

Too often we see walking with God as another “have to” and another responsibility to add to our ever growing list of obligations that we take up as hard-working, productive adults. 

But nothing could be further from the truth!

Listen to what Jesus says about His own walk, and what it looks like:

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

Light & easy burden.  Gentle and humble in heart.  I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty nice!

You see, freedom in Christ is freedom from the war within us, the war of self-centeredness that separates us from our Heavenly Father.  Freedom in Christ is the child-like posture that enables us to walk as sons and daughters of the King, with all of the rights and privileges of the family of God!

This is why Jesus came!

When I am free:
I know that I am loved, and that everything I will ever need will be provided by the One who loves me.  (Matthew 6:33)

I know that I have purpose, because He gives me one, and if I seek Him and put my trust in Him, He will always lead me on the path of meaning and purpose and fulfillment. (John 15:8)

I know that I have hope, because I am not alone, I have Him with me all the time and that He promises that He is working all things out for my good.  (Romans 8:28)

I can love others and give of myself, because I don’t have to fight for my share or my rights, because He promises to provide for me and take care of my needs. (Luke 6:38)

I can live each day with peace and joy, because I don’t have to have all the answers.  All I need to do is “trust and obey” and He has the future taken care of for me.

Our freedom is His joy!  It’s the reward of His labor!

Yes, freedom is something we have to put effort toward, and fight for.  The greatest fight is within ourselves.  But the fight is worth it, and it produces sweet freedom and a lighter and lighter burden within us.  And the fight is a beautiful act of gratitude and worship to the one who paid such a terrible price for our freedom!

As we walk out each day, let’s remember that Jesus desire for us is freedom to be who we were created to be, full of joy and peace and hope. 

Let’s worship Him today by walking free!