Outcasts

THE LOST & FOUND

OUTCASTS CAN’T OUT-SIN GOD’S LOVE

“The Church is not a select circle of the immaculate, but a home where the outcast may come in”  James H. Aughey

At one point or another, everyone experiences the frustration that occurs as a result of being rejected by others or not measuring up to another’s standard.  If that is you, I want you to know this.  You are not alone, and you are not the only one who has ever struggled with the feeling of being lost, just trying to find your way through this world.

While on my own personal journey, I turned down roads that seemed promising and offered me what I thought I needed.  I bought into the lie that a godless world sold me, and in the end I all I wanted was a refund that I never got.  I’m confident that you know what I mean.  There are so many lost souls out there looking to find purpose, hope, happiness, significance, and meaning.  But instead of finding fulfillment, they end up emptier than when they first started.  Then they start all over again, in search of looking for something that they sense is missing.

Notice that we only look for things that we’ve lost that matter to us.  I am frantic when I happen to lose my keys, wallet, money, or other important items.  When that happens to a normal person, they do whatever it takes to recover what was lost.  We retrace our steps.  We  move everything and anything.  We might even recruit others to help us or at least tell us if they had seen what we are looking for.   The more valuable to item, the more effort we put in searching for it.

I read an article once about a woman who put up a $10,000 reward to anyone who would help her find her lost dog.  That amount of money could buy her more dogs than she could deal with, but to her having her dog back was more valuable than any amount of money that she was willing give.  This woman was so desperate to find her dog that she did more than just put up posters.  She would go down into ditches, crawl through pipes, and rent out helicopters in order to find her dog.  She would go into dangerous areas of town where there were known activities of drug trafficking and gang violence, all to see if her long lost dog was there.

Her life and career were pretty much put on hold because of this mission of hers.  When asked why she would put herself in danger and risk so much for a dog, while having five others back at home, she said that her dogs are her life.  She was willing to do and give up anything because they meant everything to her.

If this woman was willing to go to such lengths to get her dog back, and we if we go to such lengths to find our lost stuff, how much more can you imagine a loving parent would do in order to find a lost child?  Many of us hope to never find that out for ourselves, but God knows the feeling.  To Him, you are I are his sons and daughters who are born lost in sin.  We are Heaven’s outcasts on the road to death and destruction, and He knows it.  This is why I want to look at a conversation that Jesus had with two groups of people that were both lost in their way and were both confused about the how God views outcasts and the lost.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2

The first group was made up of tax collectors and other people who were given the general term of “sinners”.  The other group was made up of religious individuals.  The first group were treated as outcasts by the second group because tax collectors were considered to be traitors, working for their Roman oppressors, while sinners were outcasted from society because of their rejection of God and His ways.  It is true that God, through His Word, tells us to be careful with who we associate with in order to protect our hearts from being corrupted and lead away.  But these religious individuals were more interested in guarding their reputation than their heart.

Unlike the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus was willing to draw closer to them and reach out.  Just because Jesus was constantly surrounding by people who didn’t act like Him or believe in Him doesn’t mean that He was approving of their lifestyles.  They were lost and Jesus came to help them find what they were looking for.  This criticism from the scribes revealed their hearts, that there were some people in this world who are not worth the time or effort to help or save.  This is when Jesus begins to tell three stories to help each group better understand their true condition while also discovering God’s heart.

THE PARABLE OF the lost sheep & coin

So he told them this parable:  “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  Luke 15:3-10

Just like in my examples above, Jesus uses a fictitious story to create some common ground.  Normal people look for lost items that have meaning and value.  And when we find what we are looking for, we are extremely happy and relieved!  So far, everyone in the audience is tracking with Jesus, agreeing that they would be happy to find something valuable that they had lost.  Jesus turns that around and says that God feels the same way too when a lost sinner is found repenting and turning back to God.

This is where both groups probably began to react differently to Jesus’ revelation.  The first group might’ve began to think to themselves, “Does it mean that God could actually love US and that returning back to God is possible, despite everything wrong that we’ve done in the past?”  The other religious group probably starting having a problem with Jesus at this point, thinking “Are you saying that God could actually love THEM and wants them back?  That can’t be.  Sinners deserve the wrath of God, not the mercy of God!”.  This is when Jesus gives his last example.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.  And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.  Luke 15:11-32

In this this story, we have a Father who has lost an ungrateful son to the pleasures of this world.  The fact that the son desired his portion of his inheritance before his father had actually passed away shows us that his father was “dead to him” in his own eyes.  There was no love for his dad, only for himself.  The son thought that he would find a better life away from his father’s house, but in the end he was bitterly disappointed.  He was so broke that he ended up becoming a slave.  He got to live the life he always wanted, only to find out that it’s not what he truly needed.

 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.  Luke 15:11-32

Here, the son realizes he has made a big mistake.  He starts to not only see how life back at home was pretty great, but his heart towards his father also is beginning to change.  Being a slave and servant himself, he realizes that his dad was a pretty good guy after all, especially in the way he treated his own servants.  So he prepares a speech and practices it over and over again on his way back home.  He doesn’t expect his father to forgive him completely and act like nothing ever happened.  Instead, he’s hoping that his father would at least make him a servant because he doesn’t view himself worthy enough to be treated like a son again.

Meanwhile, while the lost son was no where near home, we see that His father is “a long way off” from home too.  The father wasn’t content on sitting on the porch and waiting for his sin to return.  He went out looking for him and was overjoyed when he found him!  He was so happy to see his long lost son again that he completely ignored and interrupted his sons prepared speech!  He had already forgiven him, the son just hadn’t realized it yet.  The group of sinners in Jesus’ audience, who represented this lost son, probably began to sense God’s love for them in the way the father embraced his son who had done so much wrong.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.  And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.  And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’  But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,  but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’  And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.  It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”  Luke 15:11-32

The other son, who remained at home, didn’t share his father excitement over the return of his brother.  Notice how he uses the phrase, “this son of yours” and can’t seem to understand why he would be embraced with such open arms.  This son too was lost, even though he never left home.  But his father showed him the same love and compassion that he did the other.  The Pharisees and scribes of Israel in Jesus’ audience are represented in this second son.  They were consumed with comparing themselves with others and trying to gain Father God’s approval through their works, instead of realizing that everything that God has done for them and given them was a sign of His love and acceptance!

I want you take notice that in each of Jesus’ examples, the seekers (the shepherd, the woman, the father) were the focal point of each story, not the lost items.  Jesus tried to get both the sinners and the religious people in his audience to know that God still loved all of them and wanted to make things right not only between each of them and between them and God.

If there was anything that Jesus wanted everyone to know it was this.  No outcast can ever out-sin God’s love.  Even though they were lost, they hadn’t lost their worth.  A lost $100 bill isn’t worth less than a $100 bill in my pocket, is it?  Neither is a sinner.  No one is so lost that they are beyond being found.  We know this now because we have seen to what great lengths our heavenly Father has done to rescue us.

Since the garden, God has been pursing man kind.  And since the day you were born, God has been trying to get your attention.  Even though we are born lost in sin, God knows where we are.  It’s up to us to find Him, and the good news is that God didn’t choose to wait at home in heaven and see if anyone would come home.  He knew none of us could make that journey.  So He left heaven to come to earth to make a way for us to come back home with Him!

Like the prodigal son, don’t feel like you need to have a prepared speech to beg God to take you back.  Also, don’t reject God’s offer to restore you because you feel that don’t deserve to be a son or daughter of God.  To be honest, none of us deserve it, but He chooses to restore you anyways because of His great love for you.  There is no outcasts that can out-sin God’s love.  Your value and worth is not lost.  It’s in Christ!  So don’t waste another minute trying to find meaning in life outside of God or trying to impress God with your efforts.  You have everything that you need at home with Him.  Jesus is more than enough for you!

Stories Series

MOTION ACTIVATED

EACH STORY COLLECTIVELY TELLS ONE STORY

“When we preach Christ crucified, we have no reason to stammer, or stutter, or hesitate, or apologize; there is nothing in the gospel of which we have any cause to be ashamed.” C.H. Spurgeon

Great stories at their core tell of the transformation of it’s characters.  At one point in my life I was very into writing lyrics for music.  I devoured every book I could get my hands on.  In my study I came across a simple principle that marked every hit song ever written.  It’s the same principle that guides authors, playwrights, and screen writers.  The one thing I learned was that a good lyric, like a good story, is a journey that you take the audience on.  For the story to develop, the characters have to develop and have a sense of movement to remain interesting.

The progression of the characters that we are connected to are designed to activate our interest and engage with our emotions.  The “Happily ever afters” are so magical because of the final results of the transformation we have witnessed.  If you could tell your story right now, wouldn’t you give an account of who you are in the present as a result of the things that you have done or events that had occurred in your past?  Your story would be an retelling of your own personal transformation, whether for better or worse.

The positive change that we want to see doesn’t happen by chance.  It’s a result of walking on a personal journey.  If you want to arrive at a predetermined destination you will not be able to do so if you sat around all day in the same spot.  Eventually you would have to get up.  You can’t see results in any area of your life if all you do is make excuses.  You have to make moves instead. Faith develops in the same way.  We activate the power of God in our lives as long as our faith remains active.  This is why God consistently encourages us in His Word to WALK by faith.

Most of us are familiar with motion activated devices.  There are lights and cameras that turn on when a sensor detects movement.  Also much of our home security systems have a feature that sounds the alarm and calls the police when motion is detected.  I have personal knowledge if this because one day, when I was around the age of ten, I slept walked down the stairs of our two story house and tripped the alarm.  I woke up and found myself in the living room, and not my bedroom.  Instead of coming to the logical conclusion that I must have activated the motion sensor, I said to myself, “Someone is trying to break into the house!  I’m on the bottom floor!!!  They’re going to kill me!!!!!!”  That’s when I ran back up the stairs, into my parents bedroom, and sat on the floor in the fetal position as I tried to cope with my so-called near death experience.

The alarm was activated because it detected my movement.  Salvation and the forgiveness of our sins is activated in our lives when God detects the movement of our faith as we begin to open our hearts and believe in Jesus.  The more we walk by faith in the light of Christ, the more we give access to God to work in our lives.  We can see God doing this in every individual story found in the pages of the Bible, and especially in the following verses.

  • Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8)
  • Call on the name of the Lord and you will be saved (Romans 10:13)
  • You will find me when you seek me with all of your heart (Jeremiah 29:13)
  • Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7)

Active faith activates the power of God in our lives.  In Acts 2:41-47 we get a clear picture of what happens when the Church is active in this way rather than being passive.

“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  Acts 2:41-47

Remember that characters experiences a transformation as a result of following the plan of a guide that they had a previous encounter with.  Here we see the results when a group of committed Jesus followers actively follow through on God’s plan.

God’s Plan

  1. Be raised to new life (2:41 Receiving the Word of God and being baptized)
  2. Walk in this new life (2:42 Devoted to study of the Word of God and fellowship of believers)
  3. Share this new life (2:42-46 Prayers, love, encouragement, generosity, service, community)
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 (2:47 More people were raised to new life, walking in it, and sharing it)

Their faith was active and so was their God.  Individually, they all probably had a great God story to tell of the wonders that He had done in their lives.  But together, there were able to paint a bigger picture.  Haven’t you realized that every movie you’ve ever watched and every good book you’ve ever read is a collection of stories that tell one over arching story?

The authors and directors take us on a journey by jumping from one storyline to another.  Seldom do we ever follow the same person the entire time.  As the plot develops, we see different perspectives and observe the actions of the supporting cast and villains.  Each individual’s experience, when combined with the others, helps us to appreciate and better understand what has is happening.  Each story is connected to each other, and together they tell a greater story.

The life of every believer displays the Truth and power of God in their lives.  It’s been said that a true Christian is the only Jesus some will ever meet and the only Bible others will ever read.  I want you to understand that you are a storyteller, whether you view yourself as one or not.  What are you saying with your life?  What picture are you giving others of who God is?  What evidence of life change are you able to recognize as the work of God in your life?

As long as you are walking in this new life through faith in Christ, you too will have something amazing to share.  But one thing must be clear, and that is that you must activate your faith by living it and sharing it.  It’s called the Good News of Jesus not the good secret about Jesus.  Secret are meant to be kept hidden.  News is meant to be declared and shared!  God can do a lot when one of us tell our story, but just like in the account of the early church, He can do so much more when more of us share our faith together.

The truth is that the the more we share our God stories the better others will get to know the God of our stories, which is nothing but a retelling of His amazing love and power in our lives!  Remember the example of the motion activated light I mentioned before?  If one of us could cross the path of a motion sensor of just one light, that light would shine.  What if each of us were able to trigger a different motion activated light?  How bright would that light be?  How much would we be able to illuminate?  The more we walk with Christ and maintain an active faith by living and sharing it the more we will active the power of God and see Him do signs and wonders in our time too.  So Christian, tell the story of God’s victory in your life!

Stories Series

REPEAT STEPS 1 THROUGH 3

JUST HOW EFFECTIVE IS GOD’S PLAN?

“I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame, and I choose it above all things on Earth or in Heaven.” A.W. Tower

When you think of great characters from movies or books, who comes to mind?  Regardless of who you just thought about, you would consider that person to be the hero of the story? Though they might’ve saved the day, won the big game, married the girl, or did some other amazing thing, you could say that the main character isn’t the only hero of the story.  You can make the argument that the guide in every story is just as important.

We are usually introduced to the main character during the  opening of every movie and book.  As part of the introduction, we also begin to get a glimpse of the internal and possibly some external conflicts that could be a problem later on.  This is designed to get you emotionally engaged with the main character so that you are willing to track with him or her as the story develops.  From here things usually go from bad to worse until the future hero meets the guide.

At some point the heroes realize that they need help.  That’s when the guide provides a plan.  If they follow the plan, things will end well.  If they don’t, then the story will not have a happy ending.  The introduction of the guide is key to the story but the true turning point occurs when the hero embraces the plan and decides to change.  This one conscious choice results in the hero going through a transformation that propels him/her to victory.

Where would Rocky be without Mickey showing him how not to be a bum? Where would Lighting McQueen be without Mater and the rest of the crew at Radiator Spring teaching him how to rely on others?  Where would Luke Skywalker be without Yoda’s wisdom about the Force?  Where would the Beast be without his beauty, Bell and all of his servants who taught him to love again?  The role of the guide as a major supporting character is very critical to the development of the story.  They purpose is to provide the hero with vision and get them to imagine a new world of possibilities.  Then they provide a road map for them to follow that will lead them to that desired destination.

“Everybody ends up somewhere in life.  A few people end up somewhere on purpose. Those are the ones with vision.” Andy Stanley

We are the main characters in our own lives.  Each of us deal with plenty of internal and external conflicts that we are seeking to resolve so that we can either achieve or avoid a certain outcome.  This is why we look for guides in our lives.

  • Conflict- Overweight = Guide – a workout DVD and meal plan
  • Conflict – Pass the math test = Guide – working with a tutor
  • Conflict – Looking for direction in a career = Guide – teachers and mentors
  • Conflict – Loneliness = Guide – love relationship

We believe that if we follow the guide and their plan, we will be able to get healthy, pass the test, find a meaningful career, or live happily ever after with the love of our lives.  If we fail, then we fear that we will continue to be out of shape, rejected by our college of choice, stuck in a dead end job, or die alone.

One thing that we must come to realize is that we will never reach our destination without first having a true confrontation with the guide of all guides, and second experiencing a profound transformation from following the plan of all plans.  I’m talking about God and His Will.  There are plenty of good guides in our lives that are willing to provide great plans, but none of it matters if we don’t encounter God.  When we do, there should be a very noticeable different between who we were before Christ and who we are now after.

Diet plans, exercise trainers, and many companies love to use before and after pictures as a way of getting more people to hire their services or buy their products.  The transformation validates the work.  Paul had a very clear understanding of who he was before he met Jesus and after he encountered Him on the road to Damascus.  He went from Christianity’s greatest enemy to it’s greatest ally.  He went from shutting churches down to setting them up all over the world.  This transformation validated the work of God.  In Paul’s mind, this final result was not a result of mere behavior change.  It was more miraculous than that.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—  among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”                     Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)

Humanity’s Condition

The Holy Spirit of God reveled to Paul what our true condition at birth truly is.  We are dead.  Both helpless and hopeless to save ourselves.  Notice how though we are spiritually dead we all are following a guide.  Before God, we were “children of wrath”,  guided by the devil and by the sinful passions of our minds and bodies.  Right here is where Paul interrupts this gloomy view of humanity with two powerful words…“BUT GOD”.

God’s INTRODUCTION

When an individual believes in Jesus and accepts His perfect work on the cross, a radical change occurs at one’s corer.  God isn’t just making “bad people good but dead people alive” (Ravi Zacharias).  We are raised up to new life and seated with God Himself.  This is a description of authority, love, worth, value, and rest.  And God’s motivation behind it all… His great love for us.

Personal Transformation

Could a drowned victim who has been sitting at the bottom of the lake for month pull himself back up and perform CPR on himself in order to revive himself?  That would be impossible even for the most well trained paramedic or lifeguard.  In the same way, we too are unable to save ourselves.  But God is able.  Before Christ were were DEAD.   After believing in Christ we are now made ALIVE in Him.  This is how you mark the authenticity of one’s salvation.  There must be a turning point when the individual surrenders to God and where one is able to notice a change from before and after that decision.  You can’t get a better before and after comparison than someone who was once dead and now is alive!  For this to occur, there has to be a turning point.  A decision when one embraces God by believing in Jesus.  Notice that when we do this we are not only raised to new life but we are also given new passions and desires that align with the mind and heart of Christ.  We are changed from the inside out and given a new purpose to live out.

Paul is clear to point out that we are not saved BY our good works.  We are saved FOR good works.  These good works are rooted in the same immeasurable love of God that fueled the good and mighty work that He is doing in all believers.  The “good works” are the plans that He has now placed in our hearts to do.  The specific will of God can only be known by you personally as the Holy Spirit guides.  But the Bible does reveal to us God’s general will that we are to follow through on.  It’s a theme that is consistent from Genesis to Revelations.

God’s General Plan

  • For you to be raised to new life through an encounter with Jesus.
  • For you to walk in that new life through a relationship with Jesus.
  • For you to tell others of your new life that you have found in Jesus.

A good work that all believers must walk in is telling others of how God is doing such a good work in their lives.   Sharing your story will not only grow your faith but it has the potential to inspire the faith of others like few things can!  The fact that God turned your life around can give someone hope that He can do the same thing too with them.

It’s God’s plan to save people as we serve them by living out and telling them about our God story.  There is nothing else that needs to be added.  Like Paul previously wrote, this amazing transformation was done by God alone.  Because of Him you realize that even though you might not be where you want to be, but through Christ you are not who you used to be.  We are His workmanship, meaning as long as we are alive God is still working on us.

Sometimes Christians assume that there is something else that they need to do to hurry the process up, almost as if God’s grace was only 99.99% effective, like hand sanitizer.  In reality, God’s grace is 100%.  We don’t need to add anything else to it.  But just like hand sanitizer, we have to apply it for it to be effective.  We do so when we follow God’s general plan for our lives by striving to reflect Jesus in all that we do and tell our God story to others too.  This is how God can use us to guide others who are far from Him into a chance encounter with Him so they can find new life in Christ too.

Stories Series

REALITY CHECK

FILTERS CAN’T FIX YOUR PROBLEMS

“Children of God should not make a general confession by acknowledging their innumerable sins in a vague manner, because such confession does not provide conscience opportunity to do its perfect work. They ought to allow the Holy Spirit through their conscience to point out their sins one by one. Christians must accept its reproach and be willing, according to the mind of the Spirit, to eliminate everything which is contrary to God.” – Watchman Nee

Most of us have seen a movie, watched a TV show, or read a book that was based on a true story.  But just because the narrative contains events that occurred in real life, doesn’t mean that everything we will see or read really happened in the way it is being displayed.  Some writers and directors utilize their creative license to help the timeline fit the genre.  Sometimes they feel that certain “additions” need to be made because the real story wasn’t exciting enough.

The people in Hollywood aren’t the only ones who portray reality in an amplified way.  Everyone does.  There have been occasions when I might have exaggerated the details of an incredible experience that I had once had.  I too am guilty of responding with the cliche “Great” when people ask me how I’m doing, even though not everything is great.  We all will find ourselves editing life in one way or another.  This is why we love using filters on social media so much.  They help to enhance our complexion or make our surrounding look better. Continue reading

Stories Series

ONCE UPON A TIME…

HOW YOUR STORY CAN MAKE HISTORY

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”– Rudyard Kipling

Human beings are hard wired for stories.  It’s a unique form of communication that engages our mind, emotions, and hearts like nothing else can.  This is why I believe God chose to communicate the truths of His character, power, and love which are found in the Bible in the form of a story rather than a list of bullet points.  Stories have the potential to be powerful depending on the message that they carry.  One thing to consider is how every good story contains the same elements.  Think of the plot line from your favorite book, movie, or TV show and you will find a certain structure that is present.

Every good story contains… Continue reading

Rethinking The Church Series

RETHINKING COMMITMENT

PLUNDERING HELL & POPULATING HEAVEN

“The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose.”      C. S. Lewis

If you had the opportunity and the ability to do so, would you want to change the world?  Who wouldn’t.  Many people grow up with dreams of making a difference only to find themselves barely making a dent because the task is too tough.  I am only one man with limitations, and so are you.  Does that mean that we should never strive to make our lives count on this earth because it’s too hard?  Instead we should rethink our strategy on how we are to accomplish such an ambitious goal.

One person might not change the world, but one person can change someone’s world.  One person can’t do everything, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do something.  I can’t save every soul on earth alone, but God can use me to save someone’s soul at least.  There are opportunities all around us to make a difference, as long as we are willing to step out of our convenient comfort zones.  For some, that’s a scary territory.  But it is in those moments when we come to the end of ourselves that we begun to scratch the surface of God’s power and presence in our lives.

Understand that God cares more about your character and the condition of those on the road to hell than He does your convenience or comfort level.  If it’s in the deep waters of faith where God desires to change the world, why would we want to settle for splashing in the shallow end?  There are chances all around us to change someone’s world, as long as we are willing to take notice and take action.  We should care about the way that we care for others by reflecting Jesus.

We don’t do non-believers any favors when those of us on the inside of the Church proclaim one version of Jesus yet others experience a different version of Him with they interact with us.  It’s like ordering food from a menu because the food looks so good in the pictures and then the waiter bringing you something that looks nothing like the image of the food you had ordered.  We all know what that feels like.  If those fast-food workers and cooks had prepared the food as if they were preparing their own food, they would’ve taken greater care in their presentation.  If we are supposed to “Love your neighbor as YOURSELF”, we should care more about our service to others, especially to those who are sick in sin and don’t know it?

“And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Mark 2:15-17 (ESV)

It’s amazing how we read in the Bible of people who liked Jesus yet personally weren’t anything like Him.   Could we say the same thing about how non-Christians view Christians in our world today?  Don’t get me wrong.  A Christian’s goal is not to be liked and accepted by people but rather reach the lost so that they may accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  What’s remarkable about this passage is seeing just how far Jesus was willing draw near to people who needed Him the most.  Others apparently disagreed with His strategy.

“Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell”  C.T.  Studd

Jesus knew that in order to reach these sinners, He had to go to them before they ever could go to Him.  He knew that He had to step out of his comfort zone and put Himself in a position where He knew He would experience opposition.  But to Him it was worth the discomfort.  This famous statement of Jesus, declaring that the healthy don’t need a doctor but rather the sick, is an interesting confession.  The sinners that Jesus was describing didn’t know they were sick, and had no way of knowing unless they had been told of their condition.

If you’ve ever had to care for sick people in your life, you know that it isn’t easy.  It is physically and emotionally draining, especially when you are caring for someone that you love deeply who happens to be sick.  You would do anything possible in order to remove their suffering, even if it meant you could trade places.  That’s impossible for us to do, but not for God!  We know this because that is EXACTLY what He did on the cross for us!  He took our place and took upon Himself the sickness sin so that all who believe in Him could be healed.  There is a process called a blood transfusions where someone who is sick has their bad blood replaced with someone else’s good blood.  When you make the confession that you believe in Jesus, you then go through a spiritual blood transfusions, where the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross fills you and heals you from the inside out! For that blood to have been received, it had to first be given.  If someone has helped us to find new life in Jesus Christ, we must we willing to do the same for others.

“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”  Charles Spurgeon

We must rethink our commitment level as a part of the local church, and we must rethink how we treat both insiders and outsiders.  We can make a dent in the world if Jesus first makes a difference in our lives.  If Christ has transformed our personal world since the day that we placed our faith in Him, we should then take greater care to express our appreciation to Him by loving our neighbors and sharing the Good News with strangers as we strive to plunder hell and populate Heaven.

Rethinking The Church Series

RETHINKING COMPASSION

BEARING THE BURDENS OF A BROTHER

“Friendship is born the moment one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one” C.S. Lewis

We all have baggage that we can accumulate through out our lives.  Some were the consequences of a mistake that we made.  Others where from being rejected, ridiculed, or replaced by others.  Yet some of the heaviest weights that we carry are a result of our own doing.  Insecurities, comparing ourselves to others, fear, doubt, frustration, and unforgiveness can pin down even the strongest person.

We all have more than enough to deal with on our own, let alone have enough engergy to help others.  But that is exactly what God expects of us in the Church.  He is very clear in His Word that Christian will not only be held accountable for their own actions but also for how they held their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ accountable as well. Continue reading

Rethinking The Church Series

RETHINKING OUR COMPLAINTS

Can there be a purpose for pain?

“As long as a man is alive and out of hell, he cannot have any cause to complain.” – Charles Spurgeon

One of my biggest complaints over the years has been rooted in my overall health.  As I’m writing these words, I’ve been trying to live healthier and exercise daily.  Most days I don’t want to get up before 6am to do so.  Something that has helped me is that I don’t workout alone.  Every morning before work I meet with Rob who is a neighbor and old high school classmate of mine.  When we jog throughout my neighborhood, I am constantly struggling with the thought of giving up and taking it easy.  But what keeps me from quitting is seeing Rob run.  It challenges me to push on.

Studies show that those who exercise in groups tend to see better results because seeing others working hard instills a desire to work just as hard, if not harder.  If I would be alone, I wouldn’t even be walking.  I’d be sleeping.  Instead, I’m running, getting closer to reaching my health goals.  I believe that a healthy church is the best environment anyone can be a part of that will help them handle and overcome their complaints and issues.  Those of us in the Church are meant to run side by side each other, encouraging one another to press on and keep our eyes on Jesus!

Attending a church doesn’t make a difference.  Connecting with God through community that does.  Those relationships can help us find purpose even in our pain.  Regardless of what we may face, I believe that a healthy church is the best environment that can help you to handle and even overcome the causes of your complaints.

If you think you have personally gone through hell on earth, I doubt you would want to trade places with a man named Paul.

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Rethinking The Church Series

RETHINKING THE CHURCH

More than something to do on Sunday

“Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.” Dwight L. Moody

The time between one get’s engaged and married can be very stressful. There is so much that goes into planing and preparing for the wedding and starting out on a new journey as man and wife.  During that time, my wife and I had the blessing to be able to not only purchase a home but build it from the ground up.  We got to choose the lot of land we preferred and the model we liked more.  Not only that but we got to choose the style and color of our appliances, exterior paint, and other kitchen upgrades. We customized the house to our liking.

With the advancement of technology, more and more of our lives will continue to become even more customizable. This is a great blessing that requires some personal responsibility. Though we might be able have things a certain way, we must understand that we can’t always have everything our way everyday. Continue reading

Rethinking The Church Series

GREATER THAN

A REFLECTION FOR THE FIRST DAY OF THE YEAR

Instead of making a New Year’s resolution, consider committing to a biblical solution 
Mary Fairchild

As a kid growing up in the 1980’s, playing video games was a big deal.  My brother and I were introduced to the gaming world with the original Nintendo Entertainment System.  My brother actually got it for his fifth birthday but it really was a gift for the both of us.  Regardless of the game or the system, there is a feature than many of us wish we had in real life as we prepare for a new year.  PAUSE and RESTART. Continue reading