Archives For Hope

Pastors, how do we keep people close to Jesus when there are so many alternatives in the world? Some people try to build fences made of rules and standards that keep the “good” people in and the “bad” people out. The other option is to dig wells. What will you do?

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Here’s a parable I borrowed from Deb Hirsch,

(It takes place)…between a farmer and a Japanese tourist in the Australian outback. The tourist is taken aback with the sheer vastness of the outback and comments to the farmer that as far as he can see, he can’t see any fences. The tourist asks the farmer how he can possibly keep his sheep in without fences. The farmer replies that they don’t need to build fences, they just dig wells and the sheep don’t wander very far. (Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Sexuality and Spirituality)

There’s never been a greater need for followers of Jesus to dig wells with the true Gospel of Jesus.  It’s the only thing that will quench the thirst of the people in our city.

If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. – Jesus (John 7:37)

…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. – Jesus (John 4:14)

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.

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)

 

I’m hungry.  Seriously, right now I wish I could eat.  It’s been a long day and currently, I’m 30,000 in the air.  All I want is a sandwich (or an In-N-Out burger). The longer I sit, the less picky I become.  I’m not unique, we all have preferences, but the more desperate we get, the more we’ll happily take whatever we are served.  I think that sometimes we miss out on great things that God is offering because we’ve snacked on compromise and distraction all day, and when the real meal is served, we pick at the edges and miss the thing we really need.  Charles Spurgeon said:

Dear friends, this is the way to hear the gospel, — with a great craving hunger of soul, for as much as you really want, that you shall have.  If you bring a great measure of need to the sanctuary, the truth shall be measured out to you so as to fill it. Your utmost desires shall be exceeded, for God is able to do for us exceeding abundantly above what we ask or even think. Spurgeon, Charles H.

The next time you open your Bible or come to church, come ready, with a hungry heart, expecting that God is going to show you something more valuable than solid gold.  When we come to the table that way, God does not disappoint.

Come hungry my friends!

 

Just the other morning, somebody asked me how I became a pastor.  It took me back 20 years when I was in the middle of the ghetto in Washington DC.  While I was there, I understood God’s love in a transformative way.  I had no idea what God had in store for my life, but I knew He loved me.  I never thought God would use my life in the way He has. Now that I have an amazing family and am part of an incredible church, I haven’t forgotten that all of that achievement is based on His love for me, not my talent or ability.

This morning, in our Life Journal Bible reading, the Apostle Paul was encouraging the young pastor, Timothy, admonishing him to be confident in the faith-filled ministry to which he was called.  He writes that it was  “…God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus…”

Remember that God is not a recruiter looking for talent.  He’s not a CEO looking for success.  He’s not a professor looking for intelligent people.  The Bible teaches us that God is a father, and he’s looking for sons and daughters that he can restore and bless.    God has a calling, a purpose, and a plan for you.  Remember it is not because of your good works, your pious striving or your righteous qualifications that God has given you this holy calling, it is simply because of his purpose and grace.

Knowing that God sees us through the lens of his calling and purpose, and not through the lens of the past or our failings, you and I should seek to value those around us in the same way.  Sometimes it is incredibly hard to see past the difficult, destructive, or hurtful behaviors of others. I challenge you to determine in your heart to see beyond those things and choose to see them the way God sees them.  Be a Samuel, who sees what God sees, not a skeptic, tempted to see only what is on the surface.  See past it.  See beyond the destructive to what is of value, and call that to the forefront in their lives, through prayer, encouragement, care and concern.

What do you do when you don’t feel like you have anything to offer? My incredible wife shares what God can make of our inadequate offering.

A person’s legacy will not be defined by their success, but rather by their response to failure; both their own and the failure those they love.

Is your heart ready for your life to become fruitful?  God wants each of us to allow Him to make us FRUITFUL! Are you ready!

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Nobody wants to end up in a “pit of disappointment”. We all want life to get better every day, and by better, we mean more of what we want and less of what we don’t.

The problem is that sometimes what we need is not what we want. That is when God usually steps in. There are times when the only thing that will prepare you for something BETTER, is something HARD or PAINFUL or DISAPPOINTING.

God loves us that much, to give us what we NEED based on His wise perspective, rather than what we WANT based on our limited perspective. Imagine life when we trust Him, even if we feel like we are in a pit…

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,

out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure. (Psalm 40:2 ESV)

HOPE!  The last two weekends were all about HOPE!  If you haven’t seen either of the video please take a look.  Each of us know somebody who would be encouraged by one of these two incredible stories, so take a minute to share the message of HOPE with someone you care about.

 

 

 

 

…and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:5