Thoughts Along The Way

Love God, Love People

Get Outta Here, Fool!

            I don’t know about you, but sometimes I used to feel helpless in the face of temptation. Just the thought of facing temptation drove me be nervous of certain situations where I know things were going to hit me hard. I continuously felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety and even fear. I knew that the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead was in me, but it never occurred to me that there was power in that truth. I always thought of the Holy Spirit as a helper (John 14:26) – someone who would kind of push you along and tell you what or what not to do. After all, didn’t Jesus say that the Holy Spirit would be there to remind me of the things that He had said? That’s where my view of the Holy Spirit started and that’s where it ended. It wasn’t necessarily a narrow or shallow view; it was just an incomplete one. And even as I write this, I don’t profess to have the Holy Spirit down to a simple equation. But as I dove deeper into the Word, I began to see another side of the Holy Spirit, one that I had never paid attention to before – that of a source of power. I’m not talking about a power you tap into like the Force. I’m talking about the power that comes on you the moment you become a believer. It’s the same power that was in Jesus. After His baptism, Jesus went into the desert to be tested. After three attempts by Satan to disprove His deity and test the Scriptures, Jesus had had quite enough. After his third attempt I can imagine Jesus turning and giving Satan the most deadly glare and yelling “Enough! ‘Be gone, Satan!’” (Matthew 4:10) He literally scared the devil away! I want that same power! You see the Holy Spirit was around before Jesus ever came on the scene. The Spirit would come upon men and women who God chose to use. There are countless accounts of the Holy Spirit filling men and women in order to fulfill the task that God had appointed them for. Pharaoh clearly saw the Holy Spirit was upon Joseph (Genesis 41:38). The Holy Spirit empowered men and women to lead Israel during the period of the judges (Judges 3:10). But the problem was that this was not a permanent situation. There are also many accounts of the Holy Spirit departing people, the most prominent one being Saul in light of his disobedience (1 Samuel 13, 16:14). Thankfully, those days are gone. During Jesus’ ministry, he promised the arrival of the Holy Spirit to help them walk in the transformation they had experienced. He made good on that promise and the Holy Spirit came upon the believers at Pentecost. What never really sunk in was that He had also promised them power from the Holy Spirit – the same power that was in Him and had raised Him from the grave. You see when He said that the apostles would heal the sick and cast out demons, it was not by their own might. It was through the power of the Holy Spirit. This same Spirit is inside all believers today. Many of us, myself included, have forgotten this key part. Yes, the Holy Spirit is there to guide us. But He is also there to give us power to proclaim the work of Jesus. That same Spirit that was in Jesus resides in you. You have the authority to cast out demons. You have the authority to heal the sick. You have the authority to tell Satan to “be gone.” That authority is inside of you…simply walk in it! So next time you think that temptation is too strong and it seems like the devil is winning, just remember that the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords gave you the same power He possesses and use it!

We Have The Easy Job

I was terrified to share the Gospel.

Let that simmer for a little bit.
I’m sure we have all been there. If you can’t relate, then your time might be coming up soon. But I’m gonna let you in on a little secret – you don’t have to be! For me, I was afraid because I didn’t know how to even start that type of conversation. Furthermore, I was afraid of how I would be perceived. Thankfully, I don’t belong to myself but was bought with the blood of Jesus. I am in God’s hand. And so are you. The sooner you can come to grips with that, the better.

Moving on.

Like I said, I didn’t have the foggiest idea of how to begin a conversation about grace. I would plan things out in my head, making sure every detail was accounted for. I would rehearse the words I would say so I wouldn’t look like a fool when I spoke. Even after (seemingly) successfully shared the Gospel with one of my closest friends. Doubts plagued my mind about whether I had done the best I could to tell him of the grace I was living in. That’s not a very happy place to be in when you think about the fact that you’re trying to tell your friend the path to eternal salvation. But that’s where I was wrong. I was so caught up in how I was going to present grace that I didn’t let grace do the work for me.

Confused? Let me explain.

Paul says grace was given to me IN Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:4). That is understood. Now Paul is one of those guys who everyone looks up to. We automatically think of the man who wrote most of the New Testament as a powerful orator. But he himself said that his purpose was to preach grace “not with words of eloquent wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:17). WHAT?! He later says that he preached the Gospel to the Corinthians “in weakness and in fear and much trembling” and that the words he spoke “were not in plausible words of wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:3-4). Is this the Paul that became one of the most powerful and influential voices in Christianity? Is this the Paul that faced persecution and traveled all over the Roman Empire telling the Good News? You better believe it! He understood that he was weak and he accepted it. He even goes so far as to say, “I will boast…of my weaknesses” (2 Cor. 12:19). Why? Look back at the first part of that verse: “my (God’s) power is made perfect in weakness.” So he didn’t need to worry about how he preached. He didn’t need to preach the word “with words of eloquent wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:17). If it was through wisdom that man could be saved, then Jesus didn’t have to die on the cross. “The world did not know God through wisdom…” (1 Cor. 1:21). The world knew God through the grace that was given through Jesus (refer to 1 Cor. 1:4). So you don’t need to worry about how your message is going to sound. It’s not your message to begin with. It’s God’s! At the same time, Jesus knew that fears and doubts would arise when his followers shared the Gospel. God is not going to leave us hanging though. Paul says that He would sustain us. So if it’s not our message and God will help us, then what do we have to worry about?

Our job is not to convince people of their hopelessness in sin. It’s not our job to get them to believe. Actually, we can’t. Just as Jesus died on the cross because we could not save ourselves, we cannot save people. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict individuals and bring them to the realization of their need for Jesus’ grace.

So we don’t have to worry about that either? Nope!
So what do we have to worry about?

Actually, we have the easy job. This is the secret of all the spiritual giants that came before us. We just need to tell people about grace. We just need to tell them about the grace that Jesus won for us on Calvary. I don’t know what the Lord has done in your life, but I do know what He’s done in mine, and I want everyone to know about it. It’s really as simple as that. Tell the message and let it do it’s work. If you try to write the message “the cross of Christ [will] be emptied of its power” (1 Cor. 1:17).

If you don’t know what God has done in your life, then I encourage you to do something I did. Take some time to reflect back on where you have been and where you are now. You should be able to point out specific changes in your life that have occurred because of God. If this is not the case, then stop right there and make a conscious decision to seek Him more earnestly and be more abandoned to Him. For those who can see change, write it down, no matter how long or short it is. What you will end up with is your story. That’s the evidence of God’s work in your life and that is what is going to draw people to Jesus. So let’s forget about all our planning and strategizing. Let’s all take a hint from Paul and trust not in ourselves to share grace, but trust in the One who gave it to us in the first place.

 

Don’t Fall Asleep In Church

I was reading this week and found this account a bit humorous. Acts 20:7-12 tells of a young man named Eutychus. Now not much is told of who this guy is except that he is at one of Paul’s meetings. Paul was breaking bread with a bunch of believers and was preaching. Now since Paul was planning on leaving the next day, he decided to extend his sermon. Enter Eutychus who is sitting at a window (mistake number one). Since it’s about midnight and Paul is still preaching, Eutychus falls asleep (mistake number two), tumbles out of the window and dies. Now don’t worry Paul did his thing (actually God did His thing) and Eutychus was raised to life. But I just find it funny that in the middle of this great book there’s a little lesson to those of us who fall asleep during church (I’m as guilty as anyone else). So next time you think of taking a nap during Pastor’s sermon, just remember our friend Eutychus.

One

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Once in a lifetime you find someone who brings so much joy into your life that you can’t imagine your life without them. If you asked me just over a year ago if I had someone like that I would have said no. It definitely wasn’t a priority in my life to be in a relationship. But completely unexpected, and not completely unwelcome, a girl stepped into my life, or rather, God placed her in my life. From the moment I saw her, I knew I wanted to be with her. The first memory I have of her was seeing her worship during service. It was truthful and unbridled and simply beautiful. On top of that, she was pretty cute. I don’t know what came over me, but I put all fear and insecurities aside and tried my best to get the attention of this girl who seemed completely out of my league. To my surprise, she did notice me and was crazy enough to actually date me. Fast forward a year later and she still amazes me with how much she cares, how passionate she is about God, and how much she makes me smile. She has helped me through one of the most difficult times in my life. The “Moody Era” has begun and I would not have had the courage to start this journey if it wasn’t for her. To some of you this might sound crazy, but it’s plain to those who see it, it’s plain to me – God placed her in my life for such a time as this and I thank Him every day for it. Through all the craziness and all the worry and all the frustration and all the insecurities, she has been there for me. So for everything that she is and everything that I’m not, God knew what He was doing. I thank God every day for the blessing, the joy, the treasure, and the everything that she is to me.

So with that, happy one year, Hannah Jean Hansen. Thank you for putting up with me for a year and I hope you can put up with me for a lot more. Thank you for being you and for being mine.

“…To Such As These”

Changing the world can sometimes be as simple as changing one world. In my case, and the case of countless others around the globe, it’s changing the world of one child for one week. Royal Family Kids Camp is an organization that gives positive and lifelong memories to both its campers as well as those who work endlessly to make it run. The worlds of Royal Family campers are filled with fear, pain, insecurity, and disappointment. This one week during the summer is the only time many of these children know what it feels like to be part of a family and what it feels like to be loved unconditionally. Regardless of what they’ve done or what they will do at camp, we choose to love them, even though the world and many times, common sense, tells us we shouldn’t. But it’s a good thing we don’t follow the common sense of this world but rather the command of Him who we follow – to love the unloved, to be fathers to the fatherless and mothers to the motherless. This week of camp not only changes the lives of kids year after year, but also the lives of its workers.

Every year at camp, I pray for one thing – to be able to have a part in changing the life of even just one child. There is one girl in particular who I have had the privilege of watching grow up for the past three years. Let’s call her London and she first came to camp when she was seven years old. Those who have been to camp and have spent any amount of time with her know that she is the sweetest girl you will ever meet. And even though she is a quiet girl,her smile can light up the room and her laugh can turn any frown upside down. It’s hard to imagine that someone would have the audacity to treat her in any other way than with love. For the past three years, her goodbyes at camp have been, for lack of a better way to put it, a simple goodbye. But this year for the first time, she came up to me and asked “Where’s my hug?” All the sweat, near-drownings, and mosquito bites disappeared when she said those words and looked at me with her innocent eyes and beautiful smile. I stooped to give her the biggest bear hug I could muster and for the first time in my four years serving at RFKC, I felt a jerk in my heart and tears starting to come up. I didn’t cry that day, but the request for a hug was an answer to my prayer. I can’t wait to see what God Has in store for London in the next two years, but I can’t wait to be a part of it at camp. I don’t know if she will come back next year (I certainly hope she does), but I know that the seeds we have sown at camp will continue to grow until God’s plans for her life come to fruition.

I know little of what God has in plan for my life nor the lives of the children I meet every year, but I do hope that my path and their paths continue to cross every year. As you go through daily routines, keep in mind that the smallest acts tend to have the greatest effect on others’ lives. The Church does not belong in a building, but in the hearts of saints. In the same way that He loved us even when we were still sinners, let us, as the Church, love the unloved. In doing so, we love God and fulfill the mission He set out for us.

So in closing…

“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace. ”

Amen.

Summer Weather

Summer Weather

Being The Change

Ever since my first year of National Fine Arts Festival in Denver in 2005, I have never been the same. I saw my faith with whole new eyes. It wasn’t boring to me anymore. It wasn’t just another thing I had to do because my parents told me to do it. For the first time, it became MY faith. Probably the best thing about the week that I spent there was the chance to worship with other students who were on fire for God. Sure the worship bands were amazing, but just being in the same place with people whose hearts burned for God was life changing. Ever since then I’ve tried to find worship with that same zeal. But after a couple of weeks of pushing myself to worship with a real yearning, I found myself going through the motions. It’s been like that for a while–ups and downs dependent on which youth events I went to continued to frustrate me and my longing to find true worship. Part of it was that I couldn’t find people to surround myself with who were filled with the same longing I was. It was always the same for the youth group: after a youth event, our worship would be on fire for a couple of weeks. But after those weeks were over, we were as dry as we were before. I was tired of being fired up for worship just during youth events. After watching a Hillsong United documentary about how their worship team started out with only a handful of students who yearned for God, I decided to stop complaining and looking for a change and instead be the change. Why couldn’t our youth group be just like that? Worship isn’t bound by the physical fences we put up. Sure we complain about how dead the worship is or how awesome it is at this church or that church. Worship- raw, unbridled, and true worship- comes from the hearts of believers. When a believer’s heart for worship is seen by other believers, it is like setting of a chain reaction. Worshiping in spirit and in truth can’t be taught or learned in a manual- it is felt by those who have a passion for God’s work and want to be the vessels that see it accomplished. It calls for us, as united believers, to be completely honest with God, others, and ourselves. I’m on this journey myself, and I’m still learning how to die to myself every single day and let God have His way with me. Let God work in you and through you and together we can discover what it looks like when a group of believers worship in spirit and in truth.

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