A Faith of your Own


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

I’ve had a burr in my saddle for a while. I feel it every time a church service ends with an altar call . . . when folks are asked to become Christians. The words flow with passion . . . “Give your life to Jesus.” “Get saved today.” “Surrender to Christ.”

What do these words mean to an unbeliever? Even more, what do they mean to the guy or gal who went through confirmation as a kid and hasn’t thought seriously about their faith since? (See how hard it is to talk about Christian stuff without using ‘church words’?)

Watching videos of middle schoolers share their stories before being baptized, I was stopped in my tracks by these words . . .

“I now have a faith of my own.”

That’s it! These young people have moved beyond the faith of their parents and decided to believe independently. But I think the message is even bigger. Serious Jesus-followers have faith in God and live a faith-filled life! That’s the end game. “Giving your life to Jesus,” “Getting saved,” etc. are a means. The end is a life of faith in God . . . a life lived with God.

Everyone has faith . . . in a job, a savings account, a boss, a spouse, a doctor, a pension plan, a best friend. These days, we’re told to have faith in ourselves. So the idea of ‘having faith’ isn’t new. It’s about who or what we have faith in. Everything I just listed falls short at some point. The job goes away, the doctor can’t heal you, the pension plan is underfunded, the friend moves away, the spouse dies. Now what? Faith in a God who loves me . . . who never leaves, never dies, never moves away, never implodes, never turns his back on you . . . that’s what we all want.

Three things are necessary to have faith in someone or something . . .

  1. You have to believe it exists – You won’t squat in a chair if you don’t believe it’s there. You won’t have faith in an imaginary friend. You won’t put your faith in Jesus unless you believe He’s real.
  2. You have to have access to it – You might believe God exists, but if you can’t get to Him (or He can’t get to you), then you won’t have faith. He’ll be a concept, maybe a nice idea, but not someone you have faith in.
  3. You have to trust it to do what it’s supposed to do – You have faith in your car to get you from point A to point B. You have faith in your stove to cook your food, not wash your clothes. When we start asking people and things (and God) to do things they aren’t supposed to do, we lose faith in them. That’s why so many people lose faith in God and walk away . . . because God didn’t do what they thought He was supposed to do.

Are you struggling with your faith? Can you trace it back to one of these three issues? Pray right now and ask God to give you more faith.

Scripture: The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)

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Why The Bible Matters


bibleReposted from Radical Mentoring

Why do so few people read the Bible?

I’m not talking about a random verse pulled out to make a point, I’m talking about the book itself . . . the entity . . . this thing that’s integral to our faith. It’s one of the most important topics!

God’s Word is eternal . . . it’ll last beyond the internet, the Super Bowl, the iPhone, the Final Four . . . everything. In heaven, we’ll recognize the words, the wisdom, and the authors, and we’ll never tire of learning what it all means.

So why bother now? Why not wait until heaven when we’ll have all the time in the world? (. . . or out of the world?) Besides, is this stuff really important? Is it really true? Why do we struggle to ‘get into it’?

There’s the fact that God’s Word has been around . . . unchanged for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and almost half the world’s population believe its essence. A friend of mine was ready to commit his life to the nine ‘insights’ spelled out in The Celestine Prophecy. I asked, “Wow, what if the author changes his mind, or discovers some new truth?” Shortly after, he published The Tenth Insight. My friend later became a Jesus-follower.

Isn’t it smarter to build your life on a time-tested plan?  The New Testament approach to life is wise, effective, stable, practical, and true.

“But isn’t the Bible just a compendium of stories and folklore, pieced together by church people with a motive?”

Sounds convincing, until you try to explain how the Dead Sea Scrolls perfectly matched earlier manuscripts and were untouched by church people from their recording until their discovery in the 1950’s. The Bible is true. You can depend on it.

“But is it relevant?” You bet it is! Here’s just one example . . .

You get a new job or have your first child or move to a new church. You’re scared out of your skin! But when you read 2 Timothy 1:7, God reminds you “the spirit of fear is not of God, but God is love, power and a sound mind.” Suddenly, you realize “Hey, I can do this! God loves me! This fear I’m feeling isn’t coming from Him . . . I have His power within me . . . I can discipline myself . . . I have a sound mind . . . let’s get on with it!” You’re no longer afraid.

And one more point . . . the Bible is supernatural! I’m not kidding.

Remember Hebrews 4:12? For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Paraphrase: God will use His Word to help you sort out your thoughts and attitudes regarding what you want (i.e., your “heart”).

I take that to mean when I read the Bible and ask, “God, what are you teaching me here?” or “Lord, what would you have me do?” He’ll often give me wisdom I’m not smart enough to discover on my own.

And then I try to obey. I also write it down in my journal, because I don’t want to forget. I’ve unearthed much of what’s written in my blog posts this way.

So . . . read your Bible. And chat with the Author as you read. Pray. Ask questions. Listen to His answers and instructions.

Is that really in the Bible?


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Reposted from Rethink

You don’t have to look far to hear or read something that claims to be biblical that clearly isn’t. The internet is full of wackos claiming some kind of truth but in reality are just spewing lies. Most of us can recognize those untruths from a mile away. However, there are a couple unbiblical statements that have gained traction and made it into our common beliefs.

In fact some of these statements get used by Christians everyday. Worse yet, people who decide to follow Jesus assume this is what he is offering.

Here are a few statements that are unbiblical that we need to rethink how we use.

God wants me to be happy

We elevate our value of happiness way above healthy levels in this country. Now being happy is not bad, but God’s first concern is not our happiness. God is more concerned with our holiness rather than our happiness.What does that mean? In other words, God is more concerned that we are in right relationship with him, rather than us being happy.

God is more concerned with our holiness rather than our happiness.

Craig Groeschel says it this way: “God doesn’t want you to be happy when it causes us to do something wrong or unwise.”

Too often we use our happiness as an excuse to get away with something we shouldn’t be messing with. God wants you to be in a right relationship with him. Will there be happiness there? Sure, at times. But as in any relationship there will be struggles and difficulties as well. Happiness should not be our top concern.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me 

I know, I know, I can hear you now, “But I read this in the Bible, it has to be true!” It’s not the verse that is wrong, but it’s how it’s applied. This verse is not a hype up verse to gain strength to do some human feat. This verse is not about getting enough strength to win your game or gain that promotion. Not that those are bad things, but what’s going on here is much deeper.

We read this verse like this: “I can do all things, that I want, through Christ who strengthens me.” What Paul actually means is this: “I can do all things, that God leads me to, through Christ who strengthens me.” Do you hear the difference? Paul is saying that regardless of your life circumstances God will sustain you in what he has called you to.

The bottom line is I Am Not Good Enough but the God I serve is more than enough.

Everything happens for a reason 

This phrase typically shows up following a tragedy. And I get it, we are trying to offer a little hope in a difficult situation. But I just can’t believe it. It doesn’t add up. And the Bible seems to paint a different picture. Just take a glance at the story of Job.

We are grasping at straws trying to make sense of a confusing and out of control world. The truth is, in this world crap happens. Life is hard. People die. Relationships end. Our health deteriorates. And God is not up there causing these things to happen.

I know I just painted a rather bleak picture. And while I do not believe everything happens for a reason, I do believe that God takes the mess of this world and gives it reason. I have seen it time and time again. God takes the worst of situations and turns it into something beautiful. God takes our mess and points us to the hope in Christ.

God won’t give me more than I can handle

I used to tell myself this whenever I was tempted or was just facing some difficulty. I’d tell myself this only to give into temptation a moment later or throw in the towel the next day. Most of my life has been more than I can handle.

Instead of thinking God won’t give us more than we can handle, we need to give up and let God help us. Listen, there will be things in your life that are more than you can handle, but it’s not more than God can handle. God doesn’t call us to a life that we are capable of living. He calls us to a life that we are only capable of living with Him; more this here.

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says come to me when you are tired and burdened. Stop trying to do life on your own and let Jesus help you.

Here’s the bottom line of this article. Our beliefs need to be rooted in scripture. Much of what the church is known for is not biblical. We need to each examine our lives and our beliefs and see if it lines up the truth of the bible.

Not Being so Hard on Yourself


freedom-1

Reposted from Winning With Jesus

The past few weeks Jesus has led me to make time on my day off to “review the film” What went right, what went wrong and what can be changed.

As I sat down for the film session, I was ready to hear all the things that needed improvement.

As I closed my eyes, Jesus rattled off 10 areas where I did an excellent job and a whopping 1 area to improve upon. It helped to totally change my perspective of God.

I couldn’t help but laugh, here I was going into the film room with a mindset of what I was doing wrong and instead God flips the mindset into what I was doing right!

Totally God!

The more and more I understand God’s nature, he isn’t about berating me into make changes. He does it in a kind and loving way and it is for our benefit!

Romans 2:4 says,

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
Repentance simply means a changing of one’s mind. So in the example above about the film session, I repented of falling into self condemnation and hatred into loving myself and giving grace to myself right where I am at.

Prayer: Father I thank you for every reader. I pray that you help remind each reader of how kind and loving  you are. Holy Spirit, help us not be hard on ourselves for the sake of sounding spiritual . Help us to recognize where we are doing what is right and make note of it. And if we need a correction, you do it in a kind and loving way. In Jesus name! Amen!

Comments and Application:  Are there areas in your life where perhaps you are too hard on yourself? How can you show more grace to yourselves in those times. I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

When a Man is a Real Man


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

Posting about marriage is a little like taking a midnight swim in the Okefenokee swamp. You might not get bit, but you probably will. Guys always leave comments on these post and, most of which center around control. When I read words like “so I should let my wife do whatever she wants?” I think who died and made you boss? Let her? Look around. Show me a happy marriage where the guy ‘lets his wife’ and I’ll show you one where the wife has her bags packed, psychologically if not physically.”

Real men are in control, right? Not right. I confess . . . while I would have vehemently denied it, I tried to control my wife . . . for years. I had expectations. Whenever I was feeling anxious, it was usually because she didn’t do or say something I expected. After 47 years, I started making huge progress as I stopped expecting, stopped coaching, stopped counseling, stopped criticizing, stopped questioning and stopped trying to control. The more I trust God, the easier it is to give up trying to control my wife (and everything else).

Being in control implies one has authority. A lot of Christian men love the idea of having authority over their wives. They hang on the first seven words of Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands . . .” without paying attention to Ephesians 5:25, which says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” No person can control another person. Not really. And when I look at Jesus, I see the most powerful leader ever choosing to live as a gentle servant. His authority came from His influence, not from control. He could have exerted control if He’d wanted to, but instead He chose to lead through influence.

As the leader of my family, it’s up to me to lead by doing. By modeling Jesus in my marriage relationship. Did Jesus run from conflict? Did Jesus parse the truth? No. But did Jesus try to control people? No. He gave them over-the-top, unconditional love and free will.

As husbands, it’s our role to protect our wives. And if she’s making a decision that affects the family then we owe it to her to explain what we think the potential impacts might be. But very few of the decisions we want to control fit that category. We’re usually more fearful of empowering her and then losing control.

We have to remember to keep our lips closed when they’re being controlling. And instead, to encourage our wives . . . meaning to “give her courage.” Instead of more “wives, submit to your husbands” maybe we need more Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Is the husband the ‘head’ of his wife and family? Yes. Marriage between two Jesus-followers prescribes that the husband carry the burden of leadership . . . of ultimate responsibility and of being the tiebreaker in decision-making. But “Is the husband the head of the wife?” is a ‘what’ question, not a ‘how’ question. I believe the ‘how’ comes from servant leadership, character, wisdom and humility, not from power, authority or pride.

As men, our identity comes from being an adopted son of the God of the universe. If your identity is tied to being a ‘real man,’ e.g. a husband who is in control of his wife, that’s a false identity and it doesn’t look anything like Jesus.

Scripture: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. Mark 10:7-9

“I Ain’t Confessin’ Nuthin’”


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

Nowadays, we talk about transparency. But for centuries, it was called confession. It’s the idea of telling another Jesus-follower your failures and misdeeds. Confessing sin to one another was a huge part of the early church and perhaps a big part of its profound power and influence. Over the years, public confession was replaced by private confession . . . usually to a priest. He was ‘safe’ . . . faceless and anonymous.  It’s usually easier to confess to a professional than to a regular person, especially a friend . . . someone you’ll see often ­­and you fear may judge you for your failures. But Christian community was (and is) the best place for bringing our darkest ‘stuff’ into the light. Here’s a piece from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together . . .

In confession there takes place a breakthrough to community. Sin wants to be alone with people. It takes them away from the community. The more lonely people become, the more destructive the power of sin over them. The more deeply they become entangled in it, the more unholy is their loneliness. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of what is left unsaid sin poisons the whole being of a person. This can happen in the midst of a pious community. In confession the light of the gospel breaks into the darkness and closed isolation of the heart. Sin must be brought into the light. What is unspoken is said openly and confessed. All that is secret and hidden comes to light. It is a hard struggle until the sin crosses one’s lips in confession. But God breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron (Ps. 107:16) Since the confession of sin is made in the presence of another Christian, the last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned. The sinner surrenders, giving up all evil, giving the sinner’s heart to God and finding the forgiveness of all one’s sin in the community of Jesus Christ and other Christians. Sin that has been spoken and confessed has lost all of its power. It has been revealed and judged as sin. It can no longer tear apart the community.

Confessing to God in private or to an anonymous person might make us feel better, but it doesn’t always help us do better. To quote John Lynch in The Cure . . .

What if there was a place so safe that the worst of me could be known, and I would discover that I would not be loved less, but more in the telling of it?

It’s counterintuitive but public confession . . . confession among Jesus-followers, yields respect, not shame. We connect with each other’s humanity but, more importantly, we connect in a common gratitude for His pervasive forgiveness and amazing grace.

If you don’t have a friend or a group who knows your dark corners . . . where you can confess that last 10% nobody knows about you and your heart, start asking God to connect you. Don’t stop looking until you find that ‘safe place’ . . . where trust is total and nothing is hidden.

Scripture: I am sending you to them, to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. (Acts 26:17b-18)