Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Source of our Saltiness

I want to put these words to page this morning in a spirit of love for you...love for God...love for the Kingdom.

You and I are made in Christ for great purpose!  We are called to be the salt of the earth!


Now I could spend all of my time this morning teaching on what that means...but the truth is you've probably already heard a sermon or ten on it.


Instead, I want to look at the verse with you this morning from a different angle.  So, here it is:


“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot." (Matt. 5:13-14)

Focus on the end of that verse with me, will you?  If salt loses its saltiness...it is no longer good for anything.


So, here's the love...we are meant to be men and women of great influence in this world. Not because of our personalities, our great looks, or our bank accounts.  We are meant to be men and women of great influence because of the person and the power that lives inside of us.


The great marker for the first deacons in the Bible was that fact that they were men "full of the Holy Spirit."  In truth, that is the great marker for all servants of the King!  You can keep your theologians, your politicians, your bank rollers...give me seven men full of the Holy Spirit of God and get out of the way!


When we abide, walk, keep in step with...the Holy Spirit our lives our full of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self control.  


That's what salty folks look like.  That's how they taste.  Good!  People want to be around folks like that.  They turn to folks like that when they face struggles and trials in life.  They ask folks like that to pray for them.  They ask folks like that why they are different.  They ask folks like that how they can experience the same joy and peace that they see in their lives.


These are the kinds of people that Jesus intends us to be.  So, how do we do it?


The answer is simple: We hang out with the Source of our Saltiness - Jesus.


Jesus is the one who stops the bleeding in this life!  Jesus is the one who fills the empty stomach!  Jesus is the one that makes the lame walk and the blind see!


Maybe it sounds too easy!  But I promise you it's true.  The key to being useful in the Kingdom is spending time with the King!  


I heard it put this way last week: At the feeding of the 5,000, we know that there were probably more like 15-20,0000 people.  How did Jesus feed them?  Well, He had them sit down...into sections no doubt.  And He broke the bread and the fish and gave it to the disciples to hand out?  How much food could Peter carry to his section of over 1,000 people?  Only as much as his hands could hold.  Maybe enough for 60?  A 100?  What did he do when he ran out?  He had to go back to Jesus for more!


Friends.  Jesus is our bread!  He is the bread of life!  He is the source!  The more often we go back to Him, the more effective we will be!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What's that smell?

We were at my in-laws house and all of the boys were playing with their cousins.  We had traveled for the night to roast some marshmallows and head to a pumpkin patch the next day.

The s'mores were good and sitting by the fire was fun.  But my favorite part was watching the boys and Faith run around and play with their cousins.  They had a blast!

And that's when it hit me!  As the kids came over to roast their marshmallows the odor came over too!  I knew what it was immediately.  We have all smelled that smell before.

I immediately began checking all of the shoes of the kids.  Trying to determine which one had stepped in the dogie doo-doo (sorry...that's the cleanest phrase I could come up with at six in the morning).  To my surprise, all the shoes were clean.  But the smell lingered.

It wasn't until we got inside that we figured out what happened.  The football the kids were playing with had evidently landed in a fresh pile.  My son wiped it off (or so he thought) and then he picked it up and continued to play with it.  Running around and tightly gripping the ball to his chest as others tried to catch and tackle him.  The smell wasn't coming from his shoes, it was coming from his shirt!

Gross, right?

Well, that's the picture the Bible paints about our pursuits.  In Philippians chapter three, Paul outlines all of his reasons for personal pride.  And then he drops this bombshell in verse 7 and 8: But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ...

That word garbage...you guessed it...dog-dung.  Paul made a realization.  Compared to Jesus...all the things he used to hold dear...all the things he used to grip tightly in life were actually dog-dung.  Can you see it?  Or rather, can you smell it?

You and I are made for so much more than this world has to offer.  We are made to be the aroma of Christ!  But if that's going to happen we need to loosen our grip on a few things.

And if we do, maybe next time we're around someone, they'll ask themselves "What's that smell?' ...and it will be a good thing...a God thing even!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Please don't pray for my safety!

Dear friends, I love you!  I appreciate you!  I covet your prayers!  This pastor thing is tough!  What am I saying?  This life thing is tough!  So, I appreciate your prayers.

But, would you please do me a favor?  Don't pray for my safety.

Pray  that God would be glorified in me.  Pray that the gospel would be advanced through me.  Pray that the kingdom would be my focus and Jesus would be my aim.

But, please don't pray that I would be safe.

You see, I don't want to be safe any longer.  Safe keeps my door locked.  Safe keeps me from speaking even when I feel like I should.  Safe keeps me from dreaming and believing in the big things of God.  Safe is paralyzing!

The gospel of Jesus isn't safe!  It's dangerous!  It has the power to break strongholds.  It has the ability to overcome generations of sin and darkness.  It brings dead people to life!  It makes the lame walk and blind see.  It gives the orphan a loving home and provides food and shelter for the hungry. The gospel allows me to open my heart up and willingly love others knowing that I might get hurt.  It forces me to look at my finances differently and question what success really is.  The gospel changes my priorities and my plans.

That's the life I want! Jesus told us that we would have trouble in the world (Jn. 16:33) so why do we pray that we won't?  I want to be in the center of storm.  Not because I'm crazy.  Not because I have some kind of morbid death wish.  But because I know I'll find Jesus there.  And even if He doesn't calm the wind and the waves... His presence will be more than enough!

The greatest blessings I've ever experience in life have come in the few and far between moments that I decided to live dangerously for the Kingdom of Christ.  I guess what I'm saying is...I want more of those moments in my life.  Thanks in advance for the prayers!  May God be glorified!

In Him,

Jason


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Commitment

The agony I endured that day has become the stuff of family legend.  A young, head-over-heels in love kid...had decided to ask a man for his daughter's hand in marriage...a large man for his daughter's hand in marriage.

I thought through a hundred different ways to ask, but just kind of blurted out one Sunday morning...something along the lines of "Ed, I'd like to talk to you about my intentions towards your daughter."  And with the escape of that eloquent sentence, He rose from his seat, called out to his wife and left without saying a word.

He was having a bit of fun!  I, on the other hand, was dying a slow death.  It wasn't until after church that day that he (at the prompting of my now mother-in-law) finally said, "how about you and I take a walk."

As we walked outside that day I felt more nervous than any big game I had ever played in.  Here I was walking alone with a very large man...and I was asking for his daughter's hand in marriage.  When he began to question me...I found it difficult to muster up the words to speak.  It was only one question, but to this day I remember the turmoil I felt as I tried my best to answer it.

Here's my best recollection of how things went down that day:

LM (Large man)  - "There's one thing that makes a marriage work.  Do you know what that is?"

ENK (Extremely Nervous Kid - Me) -  "Umm....ugh..." - with a puzzled look on my face.

LM - "It's one word"

ENK - Silent.  Was he wanting me to say a word?  What's a word.  It's one of those things made up of consonants and vowels, right? Oh...yeah..I've got it.  "Love!"  Right?  Love is the answer.  Love is all you need (thanks John)!

LM - Before the "o" in love makes it off of my lips..."Don't you say love!  Love comes and goes.  It changes constantly.  It's important, but it's not enough!"

"I'm looking for another word.  It starts with a letter C."

ENK - A letter C?  What is this Scrabble?  Wow, I should have paid more attention in school. "Umm..." Now at this point I have to be honest...I think I had a bit of an outer-body experience.  There was profuse sweating, an intense desire to see my lunch again, and for some reason I wanted to fall down into the fetal position and start sucking my thumb.

I think I managed to say "Christ?" I mean I paid attention in Sunday school that morning.

It was then, with a firm hand on my shoulder that my father-in-law to be taught me one of the most important Bible lessons of my life.

"The word is commitment my Son.  The word I'm looking for is commitment.  At some point in every marriage...the love fades...one ore both of you wants to give up...you feel like walking away.  But marriage is a commitment to the other person and to God."

The profuse sweating began to subside immediately, but the profound lesson lives on strong...nearly 17 years later.

Commitment.  Being faithful and determined to love and to stay together...even when my heart lies to me and tells me otherwise.  Commitment.  Staying the course in good times and bad....sickness and health.  Commitment.  Being a man of your word and staying the course with resolve much greater than anything man can muster.  Commitment.  Learning to love serving someone and seeing it as one of God's greatest blessings in life.  Commitment.  Sweet death that never says "good by" but gently whispers with a kiss on the forehead...."my love...my best friend...I WILL see you soon!"

That's the lesson I learned that day...and every day since.  God is faithful.  Even when we are not.  He is. (2 Tim. 2:13)  He is steadfast in His commitment towards me.  He loves me with purpose.  He loves me for the long-haul.  It's one of the greatest truths of the gospel.  A God that is committed...a God that is all in for all time.  And it's because of His love...I choose to do the same!

How is my marriage?  A lot like my relationship with God.  There are struggles...usually attributed to me not spending the time I need to on our relationship.  But...the gospel IS being lived out here!  In the deepest parts of who God has created me to be I find resolve to be faithful because God has been so faithful to me!

To this day... "the walk" (as I now infamously call it) stands as one of the greatest Bible lessons I've ever learned.  And as we now "walk" through this crazy adventure called life, with all of it's highs and lows,  I remain steadfast...overwhelmed...filled with love...and most of all...committed.  Committed to God...and committed to my beautiful wife and best friend!

One word with profound impact.  One word that I'm still learning about and learning from today.  I hope and pray you will too!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Is your heart a raging sea of resentment?

Anger...bitterness...resentment.  They beat against your heart like raging waves pummel the side of a sailors vessel.

Only there is one major difference.  These mighty waves of life don't batter us externally...they do their damage from the inside...stirred into a frenzy by a heart that rages from hurt.

And the great problem with this storm is that when you find yourself in it...you loose your bearings. The waves are so great, the wind so strong, that it consumes all of your time and attention.

But to the weary war-ragged heart there is a great hope.  Believe it or not, there is a way to stop your heart from continuing to stir up the raging seas of resentment.

It won't come naturally.  In fact it can't come naturally.  The way that I speak of isn't natural in nature.
There is only one way to calm raging seas.  And it involves super-natural authority.

Jesus taught us that "All authority in heaven and on earth had been given unto Him."  It's the authority that he constantly displayed during His ministry: healing the blind, raising the dead, calming the storm.

And that super-natural authority is still alive and active today...even if it's not as visible to us as it was to the disciples.  When we take our hearts full of raging resentment and turn them over to the ONE who has authority over the "wind and the waves" Jesus does the unthinkable.  He gives us the ability to breathe again.  The ability to love again.  The ability to trust again.

How?  Because He teaches us what forgiveness really is.

And once we have truly understood the depth of His forgiveness...forgiving others suddenly seems possible.

With Christ on board we find new courage to stand in the midst of the strife and speak boldly out into the gale within.  "Be still. You no longer have a hold on me.  In the name of Jesus I forgive."

And with his authority...the unthinkable occurs. The resentment...the hurt...they begin to subside. Our heart stills and we are overcome by calm peaceable seas within.




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Treasure

Treasure...it's the focus of any great pirate novel.  You know, the one's with a secret map, a secret cave, and an X marking the spot.

Have you ever stopped to think about why we still read books and make movies about pirates?

I think I may have stumbled across the answer this morning in my devotion time: Treasure.

We are a people obsessed with treasure!

Oh sure...we all love a good pirate joke from time to time, but the thing that gets our blood pumping is the hunt for the hidden.  The pursuit of the pieces of eight and the gold doubloons.

There's a name for it in the mining industry: gold fever.

And it's a well deserving name.  Evidently once a man finds his first bit of gold...his excitement reaches such a heightened place that he ceases to think rationally...begins to fantasize or believe that he is bound to strike it rich.

Gold fever has been the end of many a man.  Loosing everything in pursuit of what's deemed as great gain.

(Do you see where we're headed here?  Can I love you enough to be honest with you?)

According to the bible...we've got a pretty bad case of gold fever too.  It's so bad...it's even made it into many of the pulpits of our churches.  We want possessions and prosperity so desperately that we're willing to listen to anyone and try anything to get them.

We spend out lives in a constant pursuit of consumption...and yet we are never content or satisfied.

And in the midst of our exhaustion...our wrong priorities...our sickness and sin...Jesus steps in and simply tells us to stop.

Stop chasing after that elusive promotion or position of power.

Stop setting your sights on the accumulation of more stuff.

Stop fantasizing about a fleeting romance or a newer version of your spouse.

Stop.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." (Mt. 6:19)

In other words...stop longing for and living for things that won't last!

"Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven..." (Mt. 6:20).

Friend...God understands your desire for treasure.  In fact, He placed a great desire for treasure deep within your heart.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has "set eternity in the human heart."

But what you need to understand is that you and I have exchanged that pursuit of true treasure for a poor, man-made copy!

We constantly cling to the wrong things and wonder why our heart aches for more!  Why we feel so distant and discontent!

We fail to understand that our heart can only be in one place.  "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Mt. 6:21).

This week our family is trying something new.  We are attempting to center ourselves around a single prayer for the week.  Something we desire for every member of our family.

If you happen to be reading these words, I want you to know that I consider you part of our extended family, and thus I want to share this simple prayer with you too.

"More of you Jesus."  That's it.  Less of all the rest.  Everything else has to decrease in our lives, but Christ needs to increase!

That's my prayer for you this week too. Stop chasing after the cheap copies and start spending time with the King.  Jesus is the true treasure.  And when we seek Him with all of our heart we will find Him (Jer. 29:13).  And when He is our treasure...when our hearts are with Him...we find all of the joy, peace, and contentment that we so desperately long for.

I'm not asking you to stop searching.  Rather, I'm praying you'll start searching for the right treasure.

"More of you Jesus, more of your face, more of your glory in this place..." I promise you won't regret the adventure!

Happy hunting friends!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why Me?

Ever think about why God wants to use you?

I do.  On a regular basis I am astounded that God chose me...that He called me...that He allows me to be His ambassador (2 Cor. 5:20).

The thought of why is bouncing around in my head again this morning as I write in a new journal my youngest son picked out for me this week.

Caleb was out shopping with his mom when he saw it at the bookstore.  It's a "God's Not Dead" journal, and the moment he came through the door with it he had the biggest smile on his face.  This was and act of love.  It involved thought on his part.  He has a journal that he uses and carries to church and he thought I needed one too!

And last night I knew I better start using it!  He moved it around several times so I knew exactly where it was.

Now here's the deal...I've been journaling my thoughts on the computer lately.  It's been quicker...it comes with spell check (which I need).

But as I scribbled down these words this morning...I did so with a pen and my journal.  A journal brought to me by my son who loves me with all his heart.

I don't need to use the journal...but I want to!

Did you know that God chose you and uses you for a reason?

Yes...using broken...simple vessels like us brings Him the  most glory!

But God also uses us because He loves us.  He doesn't need us, but He wants us...because He is our Father and we are His dearly loved children.

And that is the thought that floods every recess of my being this morning as I write in what might be the best journal ever.

It's not the biggest...the pages aren't wide...the lines are narrow...but, it's my son's gift.  It's his act of service to me and that makes it special and important!

Here's the truth...God doesn't need me...and He doesn't need you.

But He loves us dearly and wants to use us...just like I want to use this journal.

Because He loves us, He invites us in to play a part in His great story of redemption.  We get to be used.  We get to do good works which He has prepared us in Jesus to do.  We get to reflect the glory of God so that others take note and turn their eyes to Him and praise His name.  We get to be ambassadors and ministers of reconciliation.

Loving God and serving Him in obedience brings great joy to our Father's heart...and to ours.

In a few minutes...a boy that loves his father with all of his heart will get out of bed to start his day. I'll offer him breakfast and he'll accept. But at some point...as the sleepiness wears off...he will make his way to the couch and the end table where he placed this journal last night.  And when he does, he will find that the once blank journal is blank no more.

And the look on his face will be priceless.  The smile worth a thousand words!

Dad, thank you for using me...even though you don't need to.  It makes me feel indescribable joy in the very depths of my being.  I hope you see the joy it brings me too...and I hope you feel about me the same way I feel about my son.