Archives For Faith

This weekend was AMAZING at Living Water!  I heard walls coming down and chains falling off as people made a declaration about who they are because of Jesus!  Take time today to proclaim the truth about who you are, believe it, and live it – in Jesus name!

Jesus at the CenterWho am I?

  • I am a child of God.
  • I am led by the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, and encouraged by the Spirit.
  • I am greater in the eyes of the Lord than I am in my own.
  • I will live from victory not struggle for victory, because I am in Jesus and He is in me.
  • I have all of heaven’s resources at my disposal, therefore I am always generous, never lacking.
  • I will love like the Father loves, serve like Jesus serves and powerfully go into my community as the Spirit sends me.
  • I will not stand idly by while darkness, doubt, disease and debit creep in to my community and destroy what God has created to flourish.
  • The time to advance God’s kingdom is now.
  • With God’s word as my foundation, Jesus as my cornerstone, the Holy Spirit as my comforter I am bringing the kingdom everywhere I go and the gates of Hell cannot prevail.

In the name of Jesus!

What else is true about you because of Jesus? Add your thoughts in the comments and share with anyone who needs to hear it!

Living Bridges

Pastor Jon —  September 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

Just like these bridges are built from soil to soil, a tangled snare of tiny roots, protecting these living pathways from rising floods and consuming rains, you can be a living bridge of testimony, spanning from soul to soul.

Remember the youth group “ice breaker” games we used to play?  Maybe you played this game at a Boy Scout campout, or at a troop meeting of some sort.  Kids sit in a circle.  One member holds a ball of yarn.  The first kid tells something about himself, and usually it’s something funny or salacious to get the group laughing together and having fun while getting to know one another; something like “did I ever tell you about the time I hog-tied my cat?”  And then another kid, who is reminded of his own funny story about the time he tried to give his cat a bath, while he was IN the bathtub with it, raises his hand, tells his story and the ball of yarn is passed to him.  Each member tosses the yarn and holds piece after piece that is passed to him until a web is built.  These yarn webs get used to illustrate all kinds of talking points.  Sometimes illustrating the ways we are all tied together with some sort of commonality, sometimes illustrating the way we are made stronger together, when our lives are intertwined.

The yarn game is a silly memory, but in a small way it reminds me of these bridges.  Our lives are meant to connect, enmesh and strengthen one another’s.  From one generation to the next, pathways are forged by small points of connection.  Did you see in the video, how insignificant the roots are when they form their connections at the onset?  Maybe in real life, when you form your connections from one generation to the next it starts with something as silly and seemingly insignificant as a stupid cat story.  But when those points of connection are forged to the deeper rooted places in a person’s heart, they can grab hold and make some significant pathways for a deeper understanding of who we are together and how God works in and through us.

Can you think of some natural connection with the other generation where you might coax and train some deeper and significant experiential truths to take root in a person’s heart?  Who do you have relationship with? And in what way are you pointing that person toward the faithfulness of God to encourage them in their faith life?

Faith is back in school

Pastor Jon —  September 6, 2013 — Leave a comment

The approach of Autumn is my favorite time of the year. There is an energy and sense of expectation that electrifies the air. Not only is it the beginning of the Jewish New Year, which has spiritual significance, it is the beginning of our school year, which touches many of us in a significant way.

Every school year I am blown away by the stories I hear about LW Youth and kids who are choosing to make a Gospel impact on their campuses. Unfortunately, many public school campuses are becoming increasingly hostile to anyone who wants to exercise their faith on campus. Additionally, a parents’ basic right to choose what their child will be exposed to is being slowly eroded away.  The challenge to protect our kids from anti-christ/christian ideals and empower them to be a witness of the Love and Truth of Christ is no small task for any parent/caretaker.

It is not time to “draw a line” and head for a commune in the hills, but it is time to be more involved in our children’s education than ever before.  Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:

  1. Pray – never take the power of specific prayer for granted.
  2. Know the people – take time to know the key influencers in your child’s education. Make an opportunity to be with school faculty, get to know them, ask them about what motivates them to teach, and tell them you know they have a difficult job and that you are praying for them.
  3. Get involved – schools need help in many areas.  Funding is constantly being reduced and school administration is looking for ways to creatively offer a great experience for kids.  Offer to be a part of the solution.
  4. Know your rights – The Alliance Defending Freedom has some great resources to help you understand you and your child’s rights on campus.  Read more from ADF.
  5. Partner with your local church – make church attendance and engagement and priority to your family.  Going to church doesn’t make your kids love Jesus, but setting a spiritual priority helps keep your family centered on the things that really matter.  The local church is also a great place for your kids to meet other kids who will encourage and support them along their faith journey.  Talk to your kids about what they are hearing and learning at church.
  6. Live it out – kids rarely take their faith seriously when they don’t see it being modeled at home.  There are many creative ways to engage in spiritual conversation with your kids, discuss what you read in the scripture and pray together. Consistency is the key, if you need help, ask one of the youth or kids leaders at church for ideas.

God bless every parent, teacher and school administrator!

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  Ephesians 4:20–24 (ESV)

 

 

 

 

What defines you? How do you see yourself? When you were twelve, or fourteen, and eighteen, labels mattered. Athlete, musician, hipster, geek; we define ourselves by the labels we give ourselves. From the swoosh on your cap, or the slogan on your graphic tee, right down to the stripes on your elite socks, it all feels like it matters. Maybe too much. But we all look for categories to fit in to. Are we cool? A nerd? Disadvantaged? Smart? Struggling? An outsider? Finding out which piece we can bring to the puzzle of life is a part of the process of forming our identities. It all impacts, either positively or negatively, who we think we are.

When we are older we realize that some of those labels don’t matter so much. We eschew brand labels, and social sub-cultures, realizing they aren’t important and don’t need to define us. At least we think we do but maybe, inadvertently, we begin to seek new labels, new avenues for identity. We look to be stable or successful or wealthy. We strive to have the cleanest home, or the nicest car, or even to have the most well behaved kids. These are a measuring rod for assessing our worth based on the successes and failures of others. It’s really not all that different than the middle school kid who cares if he is wearing the right socks.

So, How do you measure up?

Here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter! You are not who you think you are. You are who God says you are. You are a new creation in Christ Jesus. The old self is buried and then made alive and new at salvation. That’s a soul-staggering gift!

All those things which you have used to measure your worth or elevate your status need to be submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ on a pretty regular basis. That process of gradually setting aside all the old things we are accustomed to using to define who we are, and embrace the fullness of who God created us to be is called sanctification. Jesus knew that the self would be a beast of a thing for us to overcome. That’s why he said to die to it! He told us to deny the self, and take up our cross DAILY and follow Him (Mark 8:34-38, Luke 9:23); implying that maybe this is something we would need to do again and again. Like a discipline, regularly setting aside our pursuits, our labels and the parameters we put on our SELVES, and choose to live fully, abundantly and freely as the people that GOD created us to be.

Most of us want a better life. The challenge of embracing the life of a disciple of Christ is to understand that Jesus did not come to improve our life, He came to exchange our “lifelessness” with abundant life. The only way for me as a Christian to experience the abundant life here on earth, is to take up my cross, and choose death to my “lifeless life”, EVERY DAY. With every day I choose to die to MY way of living, I am forced to place my trust in the One to Whom I look to resurrect me to new life. With the attitude of “daily dying” I begin to find the reality of “abundant living”. At the cross, I find His amazing grace.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (ESV)

A law which could have given life could not be given to fallen man. Hence the Scripture by the law only concludes all men under sin. Grace comes in, thanks be to God; but it meets man in death. He must confess himself dead, (therefore we are baptized), and die, too, if the law is ever to be fulfilled in him. And no sooner do we take the place of dead ones, and own our lot as sons of men, than heaven and the kingdom of heaven is at once opened to us. Then this grace produces grace. (Four Views of Christ; Jukes)

The heart is the center of human emotion.  It is the seat of our soul.  It is often what we talk about when we are referring to our innermost being, our true identity or our most private thoughts and feelings.  We feel the most deeply connected to others on a “heart-level.”  Our deepest desires and most treasured hopes are “hidden in the heart.”  When we are deeply happy or satisfied, we say we our “hearts are full.”  If we are honest, it’s often where the ugly things are stored as well.  It can be the place where we hope we might hide the shameful things, the needful things, the unutterable doubts and deeds of our lives.  I don’t always fully understand the leanings of my heart.  I’ll bet you sometimes find yourselves caught off-guard by the things you think or feel in your hearts as well.

The human heart is fickle, deceptive even.  It disguises our sinful nature like no other thing.  We come in to this world with an astonishing propensity for iniquity; the unfortunate outcome of a charming serpent and two people who chose to believe a lie over God’s sheltering truth. But the beautiful and redemptive grace of God’s never-changing love for us is his plan to redeem us from our own sinful nature.

The solution for your inharmonious heart starts with a question.  Who rules your heart?  Are you trying to go it alone by determining a course of action to redeem your own soul with good works and religious striving?  Stop it!  Let God have it.  Give him your plans, your efforts, your hidden heart – all of it.  It’s only by being connected to your Creator in His continuous course of grace that you’ll find the loving acceptance and careful guidance you are looking for.  If it seems impossible to imagine your heart finding contentment in Jesus, you’re on the right track!  Remember, what is impossible for you, is possible with God!

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.  Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV)

My wife and I spent the last week at a conference in Southern California.  We were encouraged in our ministry by the things we learned this week.  We had the privilege to be with about 40 other pastors from around the country learning from some of the brightest minds in the world.  While I cannot mention the names of all of those involved, we heard from people who are consulting members of Congress and Supreme Court Justices on a regular basis.  It was incredible to glean from their understanding and sobering to realize how far the church at large has slipped away from being the conscience of our nation.  It was also very encouraging to see Pastor Shane minister to our church body when I was away.  I was moved by his message this past weekend and felt stirred by his urging all of us to give with abandon to God.

I want to take some time to encourage you further in the same spirit.  I was especially struck by what Pastor Shane spoke about expectation and trust.  These two ideas are inextricably tied together.  This is especially evident when we involve ourselves in the act of giving.  Whether we are giving of our time, our treasure, or our talent, Jesus only multiplies what we put in His hands.  I know that not all of us feel like we have been given an abundance of talent or resources.  We often feel like the disciples did with their loaves and fishes.  We take a count of what we have and quickly determine that it is not enough.  We all need to remember that true generosity is a faith-filled response to GIVE FREELY of your time, treasure or talent based on the direction of the Holy Spirit, rather than your personal assessment of what you’ll have left over.  Nothing that has been given to you by the Author of all things is ever insufficient.  It is all from God.  It all belongs to God.  And it is out of His great love for us that He gives us the free will to choose what we will do with the good things that He has given.  The most God-honoring thing that you can do with all that has been given to you is to lay it all out for Him.  Seek Him in prayer.  Look for direction in His Word.  Know Him intimately, so that you can discern the ways in which He is calling you to live generously.

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9:11 (ESV)

 

“We may be little, insignificant servants in the eyes of a world motivated by efficiency, control and success. But when we realize that God has chosen us from all eternity, sent us into the world as the blessed ones, handed us over to suffering, can’t we, then, also trust that our little lives will multiply themselves and be able to fulfill the needs of countless people?”  ― Henri J.M. NouwenLife of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World

If you are holding things close to your chest, and are reticent to release what you have because you struggle with trust, take all of you – this is all you have – and give it to God. Then EXPECT it to be blessed.  Expect that YOU will be blessed, and that all that you have, all that you are, will be a blessing to others as well.

Don’t Give Up!

Pastor Jon —  July 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

I used to think that obstacles were something set in my way to put me on a different course. If I was on a path to something, and an obstacle appeared, I thought I ought to turn around and go back or follow the directed course to the marked detour. I’m not so sure I feel that way anymore.

Yes, I think there are times when there are clear obstructions placed in our paths that speak clearly to us that we are going the wrong way. But I’ve come to think, more and more that those kinds of barriers are marked with clear signposts, like “Wrong Way” or “No Entry” or “Detour This Way”. When an obstacle is placed in my path for the purpose of redirecting my course, they do just that. They are accompanied by a directive, or a clear path to another place. There are times, though, when we find ourselves on a straight and narrow road and these impediments crop up in our paths.

Whether we are trucking happily along or trudging down a treacherous path, there are sometimes obstacles that appear with no sign posts, no warnings, and no alternate directions to move into. These aren’t in your way to make you change your way. They are, rather, something to be surmounted, or something to cause you to wait. They may cause frustration. They may delay you from getting to your destination in the time you thought you would. But they aren’t there to cause defeat or make you to turn around with slumped shoulders. Perhaps you just need to climb over it, hang on with white knuckles, or find the way through so you can continue on your road. Look for your ways over and through. There IS a continuation on the other side, and likely some helpers who will set you back on your course.

James 1:2–4 (ESV)
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Jesus did not pick the kind of people I would have picked to instigate the most subversive religious reformation the world has ever seen.  Jesus challenged the status quo by choosing some very unlikely candidates to be a part of His inner circle as He changed the world.  Consider these words from Larry Osborne’s “Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith”

The religious elite weren’t opposed to Jesus being a messiah or a king.  They were opposed to the kind of people he included in his kingdom.  They fought with him because he kept ignoring their definition of committed spirituality.  He refused to let them pick and choose who was going to be invited into the kingdom – and on what basis they would be allowed to come in.  So they wrote him off and tried to kill him. (Chapter 8: The Reason Jesus Came)

We’ll be talking about how Jesus challenged the status quo this summer.  Join us, you’ll never see Jesus the same.

What to do you think?  How does this “Contradiction” change the way you see the crowd passing you by? Let me know in the comments and share with a friend. See you next week.