Archive for the ‘God’ Category

 One year for my birthday I received a gift from my brother. It was a NASCAR computer game, complete with a USB controller. It was my first real computer game beyond the standard solitaire loaded on every Windows PC. The graphics on the box looked incredible and I could hardly wait to get it loaded and start doing laps at Daytona Speedway. My visions of beating Jeff Gordon in the points race were shattered when I realized my machine did not meet the necessary requirements to install and run the game. To my wife’s delight, I had no choice but to head to the computer store and purchase a new graphics card for our PC so I could fulfill my dreams of chugging milk at Indianapolis. Without the minimum necessary requirements, I was never going to be able to use the gift that was given to me.

I have come to realize that faith is a lot like that computer game. If a Christian is to have faith working in their life, there are certain requirements for getting the most out of a relationship with God. Here are three requirements I found in my studies of the scriptures.

Crown Him

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, (10) so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:9-11 (ESV)

The first requirement is to crown Him as King. This is a most elementary understanding of Christian faith and yet so often overlooked. If Jesus has the name that is above every name, then that means His name is above mine. Working in the mail room of a law firm in college I learned that the person in charge has his name listed before everyone else. Do you live like Jesus’ Name is above your name? Every Christian who has studied the scriptures knows that Jesus is King. The sentence written on His cross was that He is King (Luke 23:38). If you are going to accept Jesus as Lord, then you have to accept him as Lord of your life. This means He is Lord of your finances, relationships, career, schedule and family. Have you crowned Jesus? Or is your name still above His? Until He is at the top your faith won’t amount to much.

Imitate Him

Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

1 John 2:6 (ESV)

Along with making Jesus our King, we also have to make Him our role model. Christians today are called just like the first 12 disciples in the first century. Jesus calls out “follow me,” and he expects us to follow. To follow means to do the things Jesus did. He laid down his life for others, fed the hungry, healed the sick, spoke to the outcasts and encouraged those who were troubled. Jesus gave a clear example that is meant to be followed. The first Christians followed Him literally! They went to wedding parties, travelled on foot, travelled by boat, ate meals and watched him interact with the teachers of the Law. They saw how he acted and reacted, they watched him in the synagogue and in his daily interactions. They did this because they wanted to be like him. We should follow His example today for the same reasons. There were those in the first century that believed in him because of what he could give them, but these didn’t follow long. Only those that truly wanted to be like him followed him to the end of their days.

Glorify Him

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:31 (ESV)

You don’t have to be around someone for very long to learn whats most important to them. Jesus said that “out of the mouth the heart pours forth speech.” We talk about the things most important to us. When we have faith in Jesus that means our mouths should testify to His goodness and presence in our lives. The Christian who puts his whole trust in Jesus can’t help but testify to what Jesus has done in their life. This doesn’t mean we have to only talk about our faith all the time, but it does mean He will come up when we talk about our hopes, fears, struggles and celebrations. When Tim Tebow became an unexpected star for the Denver Broncos, there was controversy over how outspoken he was with his faith. Some affirmed him and said it was good that he took the opportunity to profess Jesus, while others said he went a bit over the top. Regardless of how you feel about Tebow, the sad reality in our day is that too few are willing to profess their faith in a day when simply having faith seems to be considered an offence. If Jesus is Lord, you will at some point be faced with the choice of giving him the credit for your life, or keeping it all to yourself.


Knowing the Requirements

The power of faith can only be realized with the necessary requirements. Sadly some people pull faith out of the box and attempt to live a life of faith without considering what all it implies to be in Christ. Some set their faith aside when it doesn’t seem to work and never recognize why they haven’t entered the abundant life that Jesus promised. They didn’t have software in the first century, but Jesus did touch on this subject. In Luke 14:28 He asked who would start building a tower without considering all the materials necessary to complete it. Today he might have said, who hasn’t looked to see the minimum requirements on a software box? If you don’t meet the requirements for following Him, you aren’t gonna get very far.

You definitely won’t be chugging milk at Indianapolis.



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I was listening to Dennis Miller on the radio yesterday and picked up on an interesting topic of conversation concerning the Christian view of heaven and hell.  He said that the majority of Christians that he knew were good people, but he really couldn’t stand the groups that say those that don’t profess Jesus to be Lord are going to spend the rest of eternity in hell.  I like Dennis and can understand why it seems a little unloving to send a message that really leaves the listener with no choice.  Where is the love in a God that forces you to call him Lord or throws you in the fires of Hell for all eternity?  The message that says “you are all going to hell!” surely isn’t the “good news” talked about in Scripture is it?

I think the problem has arisen through the message some Christian’s send that is not “news” and could no way be considered “good.”  The problem is that we have confused the message we are supposed to be sharing to the world with the message we are supposed to be sharing with the church.  We all need to learn to speak the words of Paul and say “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” (1 Cor 5:12)

The problem is that there is no more “good news” left in our message.  We share about a God who is going to either send you to heaven or to hell and it all depends on whether or not you agree to the reality that he died and rose form the dead three days later so that one day on the distant future you will be forgiven of your sins and get to spend an eternity in heaven with this God you don’t know while all your friends here on earth spend their eternity in hell burning like Johnsonville brat’s on the grill for all eternity with no hope of ever receiving relief. 

If you look at Paul’s message in Acts 17 you will see that he mentions nothing of hell to the pagan philosophers of the day.  This message instead brings the good news of God’s unveiling of himself to the Greek people of the day.  It was a message that revealed a God that could be known and walked with through life.  A God who allow sinful man to have relationship with him despite their out and out rebellion towards him.  Finally these men could stop talking about God and begin to talk with God.  Eternity could start now and this was evidenced in the resurrection.  The good news is that heaven has come to earth and all those willing could enter this rest today.

I think this whole heaven and hell thing would be better understood in the answering of this question: “Is this life more like heaven or more like hell?”

Jesus said that hell is a place where there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth.  (Matt 8:12)  Is this something we can relate to, or is it pain we cannot relate to?  Just this week there have been two murderers brought to justice and at each of their sentencing the families who spoke were definitely weeping and gnashing their teeth.  Anyone who has lost a loved one, suffered divorce, been wronged by a friends, been robbed or cheated, suffered loss, etc. has experienced pain and gnashing of teeth. 

For people in these times of life’s troubles, does it not stand to reason that they know more of what hell is like than what heaven is like?  For most people hell is their point of reference.  This is why when Jesus looked at people he saw men and women who were already suffering, not needing to hear another message about suffering. (Matt. 9:36)

What would happen if Christians began to express a message that heaven was coming to earth and that anyone from the most seedy to the purest of us could freely enter?  What would our generation have to say about the good news then?

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I read something just recently off of Alan Hirsch’s blog that got my mind buzzing about the way the church is supposed to function.  Those in the Endeavor Family know just how much I talk about the church being an organism and not an organization.  The church is a living thing, as so illustrated in the New Testament by both Jesus and the Apostolic writers.  Each and every part is crucial as defining the whole.  The key to faithful church life is to create an environment where everyone is bringing what they have been given for the benefit of the whole.  Hospitality, compassion and knowledge are all great examples when it comes to the ways in which Jesus gives gifts to his church for the purpose of edifying the whole. 

This concept of swarm theory that Alan points us to is a fascinating view into how God has designed living communities to function as a single group.  Here are some of the rules that ant colonies follow in order to function as a united body:

1. No one is in charge. 

2. High levels of interaction between all individuals is crucial to unity.

3. Individuals all act on local information.

4. No ant sees the big picture.  Even the queen is not “in charge” but only fulfills the function of reproducing more ants.

5. No ant tells any other ant what to do.

6.  All ants obey the same general rules of thumb.

It’s amazing when you consider these types of community systems just how similar they are to the way the New Testament portrays the church.  None of the Apostles view themselves as solely in charge but come together collectivly when it comes to making big decisions as a group.  No one part is viewed as more important than the others and so they all are called to serve in whatever way they can.  It would even appear that none of the Apostles are able to see the big picture of what God is doing but they each serve in the capacity that they are called to.  In this system, obedience is seen as more important than knowledge.  Christ is the head, and it is made clear that he acts as the mind for the body.

What if we were to all approach Kingdom life, like the ant colony?  Each of us acting on what information we have, each of us faithful in following through with what we were created and called to do.  It’s impossible to imagine what God might be doing in our midst. 

Maybe this is the key to each of us “growing up into Christ, who is the head.” 

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I came across a two legged dog a few years back and the image will be permanently imbedded in my mind.  It was while I was on a mission trip in Kentucky and the dog belonged to a relative of the family we were helping.  I don’t know if you have ever had the experience of seeing a two legged dog, but it has to be one of the most disturbing sites on the planet.  I’m not talking about a dog that has been helped through the miracles of modern technology.  This dog had no prosthetic replacements, no wheeled assistance.  It had only its front two legs to drag the rest of its body around.  The animal looked to be in terrible pain and several of the gentlemen on the trip were talking of putting the dog down.  The locals warned us against such action as it would be a source of conflict between us and the dog’s owner.  So we were left to watch this pitiful creature struggle to drag itself around the yard and into the shade, across the gravel road and over to get water, writhing in pain the whole way. 


As I think back on that trip it occurs to me that the church is a lot like that dog.  It is said that in the church 20% of the people do 80% of the work.  Having worked in the church for the last 10 years I would have to say these figures are accurate.  Most of the people filling chairs and pews out there on a weekly basis see no reason to engage their faith beyond their present efforts (or lack thereof).  In clearer terms, they are consumers of the gospel, of Jesus and His church.  This is in stark contrast to what is told of in the New Testament Church.   There seems to be among the people of the first century church a strong sense of responsibility toward one another.  These early believers meet and pray together daily, they share with anyone who has need, and they all feel a sense of calling to the mission of God’s people.  The glaring question in light of this contrast is, “why don’t we look like that?”


I believe the church is in the state it’s in not just because her people will not engage their faith, but because of the way her leaders engage her people.  We have created in the American church, a dependency upon leadership for the most basic of Christian life.  We rely upon our pastors and teachers to rightly interpret the scriptures for us, instead of allowing room for God’s people to discover Christ in the journey.  We depend upon a few to guide, pray, study, listen and then tell all the rest of us what we should be doing.  It is as though we are in a time machine, and we have found ourselves stuck in the middle of the Exodus story, and all of us look to Moses to go and talk to God for us instead of climbing the mountain and seeing Him face to face. 


If you don’t believe me just look at some of the examples of the few we have raised up to drag the rest of us along in the wilderness.  We put them on television and radio, and pick up their books to read instead of picking up the scriptures.  For most churches we rely upon them so heavily that without them our churches would quickly dry up and blow away.  The reality of this is seen when one of these men falls to sin and leaves the church in the wake of such poor example.  Often it becomes impossible to see Christ through the veil of their “success” in the church.  Humanity casts a shadow on the divine and we are dragged into the mire of their mistakes.  While not all of our leaders end in this type of tragic fall, these circumstances help us to see the real health of our churches.


We cannot simply blame the leadership for the current predicament we find ourselves in.  After all, they are the two legs that have taken it upon themselves to carry us forward, even though this task is a difficult one to say the least.  While they haven’t led us to engage our faith properly, most have laid down their lives in many ways and brought the heart of Christ in their service and teachings, but in order for the church to get back up on all fours, we are going to have to set aside some bad misconceptions we have about faith and life and leadership in the church. 


The first issue deals with faith: faith in a Christ who wants to walk with you and work through life’s ups and downs.  Faith and life must walk hand and hand if we want to see improvement in either one.  If faith is left to the Sunday sermon and your worldview, then you are missing out on the Kingdom that Jesus said is at hand.  We all need to shut of the TV preachers, audio sermons and put down the latest Christian best seller and pick up the Words of Life.  Stop reading about the adventures that others are having in their spiritual journey and jump into the journey with Christ today!


After we have set aside all the religious goods and services, we have to take serious the call that Jesus has placed on our lives.  I’m not talking about the call to hand out bulletins, serve as a greeter or a children’s ministry volunteer.  I’m not even talking about going on that next mission trip to South America.  We need to take serious Jesus’ call for us to come and die.  To deny ourselves and take up are cross is to adhere to the very basics of Jesus’ teachings.  Our faith is not about improving our lives; it’s about losing our lives!  This is contrary to the tone of most of our teaching today.  While this is not the nicest teaching to hear, Christ is clear that it is through dying daily that we will find life. 


After you have taken on a theology of death, you are ready to serve the people of God.  It is clear in the teachings of Paul and the example in the New Testament that God gives gifts to His people for the growth and equipping of everyone in the church.  We see that each of these servant leaders bring something for the benefit of the rest.  Early on in the church men like Stephen are appointed to hand out food to widows, but God gifts him in evangelism and uses his execution to scatter the church throughout the world.  We see everyone leading the rest on toward maturity and no one claiming authority over the rest.  Christ is seen as the ultimate authority in the church and all are willing to subject themselves to the rest out of love.  Just like the first century church, God has given us gifts for the growth and equipping of His church today.  We cannot wait for men to ordain us, but we must engage in the ways in which we are convicted.  The spirit orchestrates the body, the body doesn’t orchestrate itself.  It’s time to engage.  This may mean stepping outside of any known job descriptions.  It may mean being outside of the box.  It looks more like the example of Becky Covert with www.agapeart.org.  She is a young graduate from Bethel, working at Starbucks.  She has been hesitant to enter a career because she is afraid it would restrict her ability to follow through with what she feels called to.   Becky has felt a conviction to help an orphanage in the Philippines through art.  She and several other artists auction their photos, paintings and sculptures to help support the orphanage.  They also travel to the Philippines regularly to minister to the children and teach them art classes.  They return to the states with the art that the children have crafted and they auction off these peices to people who view compassion as the most beautiful art form off all.


When I look at lives around me, I am amazed at our inability to see the potential of what God could do in our lives.  It’s time for this dog to jump to its feet and run towards the finish line.  The Kingdom is at hand.  Will you be dragged across the finish line?

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After rounding up and bathing my three offspring last night, we all four settled down for our nightly story time.  I read from a children’s bible that the kids like because it has full color pictures of what Israel looks like today as well as the typical colored illustrations showing a single frame action from the story in the text.

Last night took us to the life of David (my oldest son likes the story of David chopping off Goliaths head) and we reached the page which depicted David entering Jerusalem as King with the Ark of the Covenant, in parade fashion, while dancing in his underwear.  In the distance you can see David’s wife Michal with a scowl on her face as she takes in the view of her honorable husband acting like a nineteen year old frat boy running through the streets of campus half naked. 

“Why is he in his underwear?  What happened to his clothes?” my daughter asked. 

I explained to her that David had taken off his robes when he entered Jerusalem and danced in front of the Ark because he was so happy that God had been faithful to His word.  Despite the fact that David had been anointed King by Samuel just three pages earlier, it had been a long time coming.  David was overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God and so he celebrated by taking off his robes and dancing around for joy so that everyone would know that it was God that made David King and given him the victory over his enemies. 

It was at this point that my two year old son who was just wearing a diaper picked up on the word dance and stood up on the bed and began to groove to music in his head.  The rest of us began cracking up as he showed off his moves with a giant smile on his face.  We began to sing this song so he would have a rhythm to follow as he got jiggy with it right there on the bed in front of us:

I will dance, I will sing,

to be mad for my King,

Nothing Lord, is hindering,

This passion in my soul!

And I’ll become even more undignified than this,

Some would say it’s foolishness,

But I’ll become even more undignified than this,

Leave my pride by my side!

La, La, La, La Hey!

This went on for about five minutes and by the end all three children were down to their underwear and dancing before God.  I laughed so hard I couldn’t sing with them anymore!

After I had gotten them to settle down and tucked them in, I couldn’t help thinking about what it must have been like for David to have waited on God’s promise all those years.  I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for him on the darkest nights when he was running for his life with nothing but the clothes on his back.  How many times had doubt crept into his mind.

All this made me think about the scripture I had been reading lately (I read from an adult bible without pictures) and how it connected to my sons little diaper dance.

Hebrews says it like this:

Heb 11:6
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Faith, at it’s very essence is believing that God does exist.  We have to really believe that He is present, not just up in the clouds watching from a distance, but actually in our lives, in our holy places and unholy places.  He goes before us when we walk into a worship gathering and when we walk into a bar.  Secondly, we must believe that God will reward us when we seek Him.  We have to believe that he will watch over us and supply our need, even if we give a large portion of our income to the needy.  We have to believe that it is worth it to give up the things he has called us to give up in order to gain a better future with him.  This is true faith.  This is being a Christian, and anything less is not pleasing to God.

Learn to do the diaper dance, and you will find fulfillment in your faith!

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I know this question is kind of hard to hear and ever harder to try and approach honestly, but I think it is a valid one.  I came across a pretty interesting web site this week while doing research for a marriage counseling session.  The site was designed to convince people of all faiths (though it does make an emphasis on the Christain faith) that the God they believed in was imaginary.  The premise is that all you have come to believe about God is purly a product of the human imagination.  The publisher, who remained nameless, presented several arguments, even in video format that “exposed” for me the reality that God is a figment of my imagination. 

The search that got me to this particular site was one I was doing on divorce rates.  This search lead me to the many findings on the divorce rate among Christians.  This very intelligent person (Rom 1:21-23) used the high divorce rate among Christians as one of his arguments against the existence of God.  He claims the apparent weakness in Christian marriages proves that God is not making our marriages stronger and therefore God is imaginary.  His strongest argument (1 Cor 1:27), in his opinion, is the fact that God never heals amputees.  Why would God heal internal diseases and illnesses, but not heal amputees?  It’s interesting to me that he thinks God’s ultimate goal for creation is to regrow my shop teachers missing finger.

This site did make me ask some serious questions though.  It made me wonder if some of us aren’t following an imaginary God.  A God that is not the authentic, true God.  It wouldn’t be that rediculuos of a notion.  If there is anything that the Old Testament points to it is the reallity that God’s people tend to follow false god’s even in the presence of the One True God.  I think idolatry creeps in when our faith becomes more ritual and tradition than active and real.  When we just go through the motions of our religion we lose the heart of what it really means to follow Christ.  James touches on this when he says:

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

This makes me wonder if the problem isn’t that God is imaginary, but that our faith is.  It seems to me that we present a faith that only relies on belief and ritual.  At what point have we been challenged or challenged one another to live out our faith? Faith has become a subject for one morning a week and for many faith has become a subject only fit for children.

What if God’s people were to awaken.  What if God brought life back to these bones of ours and the spirit would return to the body? 

I have asked myself over the last couple days whether I am a person of faith or of ritual.  Of life or of death?  Is everything I do in life an extension of my faith or of something else?  When I wake up do I start my day in faith or something else?  Am I fueled and acting out in faith or am I fueled and acting out in selfish ambition, jealousy, idolatry, addiction, pride, etc.?

Willy Wonka asked the question (Gene Wilder, not the freaky Johnny Depp version) that I think gets to the reality of change that needs to take place in our lives.  He said, “Where is fancy bread? In the heart or in the head?”  What changes first?  The will to do something, or the decision to go and do it.  Faith is responding to the word of God.  I think many of us our sitting back and waiting until God gets us to the point that we feel like helping our neighbors and loving our families.  We are waiting for God to get us to the point where we feel like praying, learning, meditating, growing, serving. 

I think God is waiting for us to get to the point where we will act out on our faith, despite the fact that we don’t feel like doing these things.

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