Every Easter there are a handful of people who come, give their life to Jesus, and then . . . we can’t find them. Yikes! If that doesn’t scare you, it should. This is the kind of thing that bothers me, keeps me up at night, produces holy discontent in me that demands a response. So how should you and I respond? Well, Jesus describes these people in the Parable of the Sower (Matt 13:3-9) let’s start with His categories . . .
People that are in the wrong place (seed along the path v. 4). The birds eat this up. For these individuals, they happen into the Easter Gathering, or get dragged there, guilted there, coerced there; and they have too many commitments to the demonic forces and ideas in their life that the seed of the kingdom of God gets snatched right away.
People who make a shallow commitment (seed on rocky soil v. 5). These people will raise their hand for salvation this Easter, they might even start coming to church for a period of time. But their commitment to Jesus runs up against a hardness of heart, and a stronger commitment to themselves (rocks). They get out of the habit of church, and their commitment to Jesus is shown not to be real. The kingdom of God is not growing in them.
People who have loud influences (seed on thorny soil v. 7). These people receive Jesus, but then listen to the louder influences in their life – worries, wealth. They can’t hear Jesus anymore and get choked out.
So how to pray? Pray for good soil! (v. 8) Good soil is tilled (God, bring those whose life is turned upside down, humble), the rocks are removed (God, soften their heart), the thorns are pulled (God, uproot all the loud influences in their life, so that your voice is the constant). Take a minute to pray right now that God is bringing and tilling good soil in people’s hearts, and that WE ARE GOING TO SEE the miracle of thekingdom of God growing in their lives!
Have you ever had one of those days? For us, every so often there’s a day when we feel like our kid’s bodies have been taken over by other very bad kids. Simple things – listening, obeying, not being a jerk to your sibling can be so hard. Somehow it’s a HUGE SURPRISE that we have to get up in the morning and put clothes on. Anyway, teaching your kids not to be jerks is a big task, filled with daily attention, discipline and prayer. The holy grail for every person is this, “How does obedience become something that is internally motivated and not externally enforced?” If laws and fear of jail are the only thing between criminals and their crimes, history proves that is not enough.
So if the answer is not more punishment (and believe me, you have to discipline and be disciplined, but there’s diminishing returns at some point), how do you train people to be great humans? Although there’s no shortcut to discipline, the Bible tells us the secret to making it stick – stay connected to the Spring of Living Water! A spring is underground, unseen life-giving flow. According to Scripture and soooo much evidence, there is only one truly life-giving spring and it’s having a personal ongoing connection with the living God.
This is why family devos (prayer, Bible reading) is an imperative for anyone wanting to raise kids who are internally motivated to make right choices. Personal devos is a necessity for everyone who wants to be consistently internally motivated for right living. Getting yourself and your kids into a community of believers (church, life group) constantly is essential for anyone needing to be internally motivated. These are tangible connections to the spring of living water that is unseen, then your motivations will be unseen and strong for a lifetime. So stop raising your kids to be jerks (he says with a knowing smile), and connect to the unseen Spring of Living Water every day.
Here are some Scriptures for further study on the Spring of Living Water – Num 21:17; Prov 25:26,;Isa 58:11; Jer 2:13, 15:18, 17:13; John 4:14; James 3:11-13; Rev 21:6.
“Why didn’t YOU invite me to your church???” She quips to her friend, with a smile and a laugh – slightly awkward, but still fun. One day earlier … one of our staff members had met a lady, had decent rapport with her and decided to give her the “Upside Down: Easter Sunday” invite card. “Hey I know someone at your church!!! Why hasn’t SHE ever invited me???” (To protect the innocent the names are anonymous – haha).
So here’s my challenge to you – avoid the awkward and get in on the fun – INVITE someone you know to church right away! Use that Easter invite card. 82% of unchurched people in America said they would be likely to attend church if invited by a friend, coworker, neighbor or family member (Lifeway). This may sound astonishing, but I’ve found it to be true. Your invite is the only thing standing between someone and their encounter with Jesus!
“You are so complicated!” frustration had boiled over into a discussion-ending outburst. As a high-schooler, I had never seen myself complicated, everything was quite simple in my head – haha! All complicated thinkers see themselves as simple until the mirror gets turned on them. Over the course of the next few years I realized – I am a pretty complicated thinker. If I’m ever going to communicate effectively I will have to learn the art of simple.
The truth is that all of us are more complicated than we think to an outside observer (Prov 25:3). They might see a tangle of incoherent thoughts and actions, while we are frustrated with their lack of understanding. One of the least simple individuals in Scripture was King Solomon (just try understanding Ecclesiastes 7). It didn’t work for Solomon–bottom line: all of us need to simplify sometimes.
King Solomon spent his whole life running after the complicated, only to boil life down with such focused simplicity: “… here’s the final word: Fear God and keep His commands for this is the whole duty of mankind.” (Eccl 12:13 JST) Jesus took complicated Martha and simplified, “You are troubled about many things. But one thing is needed [sitting at Jesus’ feet and hearing His Word].” (Luke 10:39, 41-42) “But Pastor, I have this spiral of thought I always go down, this person at work, these tasks, these family obligations – life is complicated.” True. All the more reason to simplify. What if you focused on one thing: sitting at Jesus’ feet and hearing His Word? What if that space is available in your imagination?
Imagine you’re at Jesus’ feet right now, hearing His Word. What is He saying? What are His expressions toward you? What is He stirring in your spirit? The art of simple starts right now – Be with Jesus.
That was the best steak of my entire life! It wasn’t a filet, to be honest it was probably was just a chunk of flank, but this old Montana cowboy had made me a believer! I was travelling doing music with then evangelist Sam Rijfkogel when we were invited after a service to the Montana Youth Director’s house, round about midnight he says, “Hey, you want some steak?” The answer’s always yes to that question – haha. Within minutes, he had pulled out a huge chunk of meat for each of us, and dropped an entire stick of butter on each steak. I’m thinking, “I’m going to see Jesus tonight, with this crazy unhealthy midnight steak.” And I did, but not that way, that steak was heavenly, and it became the standard for every other steak I’ve had before or since.
So what is SPIRITUAL steak? How does spiritual food become heavenly? Most people look at the teachings about spiritual food (1 Cor 3:2, Heb. 5:12-6:1, 1 Pet 2:2) and conclude that milk is elementary teaching, and meat (solid food) is deeper teaching. But that’s not how Jesus defines food, in John 4:34 Jesus said, “My food is to DO the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His WORK.” Not satisfied yet, check out what else Jesus says, “Do not WORK for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.” (John 6:27) In other words the meat, the solid food that Jesus, Paul and Peter are referring to is not just teaching, but rather doing the works of Jesus! Doing the works of Jesus is next level apprenticeship in the kingdom, where the Holy Spirit will teach you how to go deeper in Him. Some things in the kingdom that can only be learned through doing. When you graduate to meat that doesn’t mean you never need milk again, au contraire, you might need even more milk as your spiritual muscles grow. However, the growth will never happen with ONLY teaching, it’s only possible when you’re also doing the works of Jesus. What did Jesus do? He taught, prophesied about the kingdom of God, and healed people (Matt 4:23); He lifted up oppressed people, and challenged EVERYONE that God’s way is better. Ooh that sounds fun, let’s do that.
Take a moment and ask God, “Who can I lift up, challenge, prophesy to, declare God’s healing over right now?”
“I’m not in love with Jesus,” Pastor Jeff Lucas stated in his charming British accent at the pastor’s conference I went to. He went on to explain – I love Jesus, but Biblical love isn’t primarily romantic. I personally don’t have a problem with the phrase, “in love with Jesus,” because it’s simply expressing in imperfect terms the state of a person’s devotion to God. However, he’s right in that, love from Father God, flowing through us to our world isn’t primarily romantic.
Love isn’t romantic . . . primarily. I mean it can be romantic, but romantic love is a very small part of Biblical love. In fact, the Bible rarely uses words for love when talking about romance. The words we translate “love” are used almost exclusively for sacrificial love, brotherly love, familial love, friendship love and love between believers. Love from our Heavenly Father, sending Jesus to the cross so that we don’t have to die eternally is beautiful, because it’s sacrificial.
Romantic love, although it can be wonderful, doesn’t ascend to that level of impact that sacrificial love ascends to. In fact, in a romantic relationship, the best and purest parts are sacrificial. So it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow and instead of longing for romance, why don’t you extend authentic sacrificial love to someone in your world (A huge tip, an offer to help, a world-changing prayer, an encouraging word/note). John said, “Dearly loved, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11) He made the first move, calls you loved; so receive His love now, and give Him away.
“What are you doing?” She says. “I’m rubbing your back, thought you could use a pick me up,” he happily replies. [Awkward Pause] She’s glaring at him, he’s NOT getting the hint to stop. This is a familiar scene in marriages, because we give and receive love differently. Gary Chapman’s famous book The 5 love Languages, outlines different ways in which people give and receive love, and we typically give love in the language that we receive love, but that provides so many opportunities for disconnect.
Holy Spirit is very understanding, He understands that we don’t always communicate with Him in the best ways, YETrelationship requires that we learn and grow in communicating with each other. So here are some steps in growing in communication with the third person of the Trinity, God on earth now, your mentor, comforter and advocate, Holy Spirit:
Address Him by name – “Holy Spirit, thank you for being with me now . . .” There is no more beautiful sound to a human than their own name, and though the Holy Spirit does not NEED it, WE NEED to acknowledge Him more by name. It is a step toward coming into the awareness of His presence constantly.
Speak His language – anyone who’s learned a second language well knows the process can be grueling and must be worth it to find motivation. Holy Spirit took the time to learn your language and He speaks it fluently, isn’t it time you learned His? If you’ve ever been in a place where you don’t speak the language, there is something refreshing about hearing someone communicate in yours. Refresh the Holy Spirit, learn His language.
Tune your life to His rhythm – after you begin to speak His language, you will realize that He has a different rhythm than you. Spirit inspired language will reset your life rhythm when you’re doing it right – you’ll get excited about what He’s excitedabout, grieve what He’s grieving, love what He loves, etc. He is gracious to often reach out to you in your rhythm, but His rhythm is better, what if you reached out to Him in His rhythm?
Take a moment right now to connect with the Holy Spirit, “Holy Spirit, thank you for coming to meet with me right now . . .”
Naiveté is super fun until it’s not. An old comic strip said, “If ignorance is bliss then he’d be a blizzard.” It was super fun for my 9 year old to take his gloves off yesterday to play in the snow (despite our instructions) UNTIL IT WASN’T! When he came to the back door distraught, crying and in pain with his hands red mid-way up his forearms, Jessica was able to tell him as she ran his hands under warm water, “This is what the beginning of frostbite looks like,” (Aaahhhh!)
So you’ve either had this revelation (probably painfully!) or maybe I can save you the pain right now, passion and fire for God is not self-sustaining. Paul says, “Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord.” (Rom 12:11 NIRV) There is work to be done to keep any fire and passion alive – in marriage, in your work, in hobbies, and definitely in your relationship to God.
Don’t follow your heart, tend to your heart. Follow God’s heart and allow Him space in your heart to constantly create new passion for Him. If you’re bored with your devotional life, God probably is too; but there’s good news. He’s a creative artist and He has infinite possibilities for recreating that space where your passion for Him can thrive in line with His Word. Your heart will lead you to a passionless, destructive life, it is, “deceitful above all things.” (Jer 17:9) However, God has creative good for you, and His will for you is to be on fire for Him.
2018 is over – K BYE – haha! 2019 is here – Happy New Year! There is a smorgasbord of options for what to focus on, do, or shoot for this year. I truly believe that one factor will set your year apart beyond any other, and make the greatest difference in your life – learn to pray WITH God!
Heaven is filled with prayers. They go up before God like incense (Ps 141:2, Rev 8:4). I’m sure SOME SMELL BETTER than others. Both Jesus (Rom 8:34) and Holy Spirit (Rom 8:26) are praying for us – I’m sure their prayers smell sweet and amazing to God, but so many of us are praying TO God – from our own whims, desires and wants. But what if we could pray WITH God? Pray in accordance with His will the same prayers that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are praying? Then your prayer might stop smelling like flatulence in the throne room, and add value and glory to God’s domain. Do you think God is more likely to answer those prayers?
This First Wednesday (Jan 2 @ 7 PM), we are going to learn to craft prayers that smell sweet to God, by praying along with Him. Please join us in person if you’re in the Lansing, MI area or online (journeylifechurch.com/live-stream-1) if you’re not in the area – this is the breakthrough you need in 2019!
“A purple ribbon!?!” I could feel the tears welling up as my 8-year-old mind tried to process losing. The purple ribbon was the one no one wanted, the slap in the face, the kick to the groin. Mortified, I tried to hide my reaction from everyone! It was as if a million condescending hands were patting my head at once, “Good try, little buddy.” Consolation prizes are a momentary feel goodat best. For the one kid that was super pumped that they got a ribbon, there were 3 of us who wanted to get swallowed up by the floor. We would rather have gotten nothing and enjoyed the anonymity of losing. But it wasn’t to be.
Jesus compares earthly wealth to a consolation prize, “Woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:24 NKJ) In other words, all the wealth that the richest people in history amassed amounts to a pat on the head and a purple (you stink at this) ribbon in eternity.
Listen, I don’t believe that Christians cannot be wealthy. God has used many wealthy people to get glory in His world. At the same time, turn your focus from earthly blessing to eternal blessing and your life will be worth more than a consolation prize. How can you bless God today? Take a moment right now to honor Him. How can you bless people today? Take a moment right now to encourage someone. Set your heart on God’s things right now (Col. 3:1), see Colossians 3:12-17 for a list of those things.