Listening For God’s Voice

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

I’ve been reflecting recently on justice and righteousness, the foundations of God’s throne. We are called to create justice and righteousness in the world, and to do it, we need God’s wisdom. But how do we know when we are receiving God’s wisdom? The Bible gives us a variety of examples. Jesus famously turned the money changers out of the Temple, but he also reached out in love to Zacchaeus, the tax collector, and made a disciple of him.

How do we know when to be loving and compassionate, and when to grab a whip and do some cleansing? How do we know when we’re doing what the Holy Spirit tells us to do, versus doing what we want to do? How do we know when we’re doing God’s will and not following our own will?

How do you know that the voice you hear speaking into your life is God’s?

Galatians 5I think you’ll know it because of the peace you’ll have when you’re sharing that wisdom. Have you seen people on their soapboxes sharing John 3:16 and they’re yelling? They’re actually sharing Jesus by telling people, “You’re going to go to hell if you don’t believe that God gave His only son for your sins!” There’s no way those people have complete and utter peace in what they are doing. I think they want to do the right thing, but they don’t know how. So they just yell it. Their faces are angry, and they spit it out. And then they say, “There, I got the Word of God out there. Now it’s their fault if they don’t accept Christ.”

They don’t show self-control. When people challenge them they don’t even want to listen. They just keep saying the same thing over and over again. I’ve seen it happen! Someone challenges them, and they just point their finger right in their face and go on yelling about John 3:16. That’s not self-control. It’s chaos!

I think you have to ask God for wisdom all the time, and you’ll know when you receive it because you’ll feel peace about what you’re doing. You’ll see the fruit of the Spirit. That’s how you’ll know.

Selfless

There’s no better way to reflect God’s love than by helping someone in need. Why is this the best way? Because you have to be selfless to help someone in need. You have to be like Jesus.

Jesus! When He came down, man, everything He did was selfless. He didn’t have to, but He served everybody! He didn’t have to do any of the things that He did when He came here. He didn’t even have to leave heaven. Coming down here was the ultimate selfless act.

Can you imagine what He must have been thinking? I’m sure it was something like this:

I have to come to this little planet here, and help these people? You’re telling me that I need to come here, to this place, where they’re going to deny me, persecute me, judge me, run me to the edge of cliffs, and basically try to kill me all the time? Uh, really? Fun times.

He knew how hard it was going to be, but He did it. It was a selfless act.

Because I think He also said this:

You know what? I love these people, man! They are the reason why God, my Father, created life. He created life for the purpose of relationship. And I’m going to go down there and fix that relationship. I’m going to restore it. I’m going to feed the hungry, and I’m going to set the captives free.

It feels good to feed the hungry. Ask these Whitworth University students, who spent a day packaging meals for the hungry.

He came to restore us to God. That’s where Matthew 25 comes in, because that’s where Jesus separates the sheep from the goats. You know how it goes: “When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was in prison, you visited me.”

That is huge! Think about it. It’s so big! “When I was hungry, you fed me.”

We may not understand why there is hunger in the first place. I don’t think we can truly understand why, because it’s not our call. It’s God’s. But it doesn’t have to paralyze us, because we have a calling. We’re called to be selfless like Jesus.

Jesus was selfless to come here. He did it because He loves us, and He promises to remember every one of our selfless acts. He shows us the way. He shows us how to be selfless just like Him, and He inspires us to do it with love. “When I was hungry, you fed me.”

And here’s the greatest thing of all. When we’re selfless like Jesus, selfless out of love, we find fulfillment. Being selfless like Jesus brings the fulfillment that we crave. We may not even know we crave it, but we discover it. All we have to do is experience it.  Fulfillment in Jesus is exactly what our souls crave.

When you can say that you helped someone who was hungry by giving them something to eat, you’ll experience it. That’s when you’ll know.

See you Monday.

The Discipleship Lifestyle

The Bible tells us to live and love like Jesus, and it shows us how to do it, by showing us how He lived and loved. Last time, I told you what I think it’s all about.

Now I’ll tell you what living like Jesus is not about. It’s not about health, wealth, and prosperity. These are things that God chooses to bless us with as He sees fit. Living like Jesus is also not about your “best life now.” Not all the time. I know some Christians say that once you’re saved, everything’s going to be hunky dory. But that’s a tactic they use to get you saved. And it works! People hear a promise like that, and of course they get saved. They think they’re going to become rich!

But then when they don’t become rich, they say there is no God.

We get into this salvation mentality. We think we just have to get people saved, and then once we do that, we think we’re done. I truly don’t believe that’s where it ends. I truly believe that salvation is just the beginning. It’s the beginning of a life of discipleship. It’s living out an understanding of what the Gospel means.

What is the Good News? I mean, what is the Jesus Gospel? That you have to accept Christ or rot in hell? There are people out there who are seriously claiming that a threat like that is “good news.” I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

The lifestyle of Jesus, the one He lived and taught us to live, is good news. The discipleship lifestyle is the Gospel. Salvation and justification are part of it. They are our beginning, but we’re called to live it.

You hear people ask, “Did Jesus speak the Gospel?” And some people will say He didn’t. They will say He couldn’t have. They will say the Gospel didn’t come until after Jesus died.

That’s a little mind-boggling to me! I mean, Jesus is the Gospel! Jesus is the good news! Whatever Jesus did was the good news. He was IT! Of course He preached the Gospel, because He did the Gospel! But people don’t think like that.

That just shows me where we’re at. We’re stuck in this salvation mentality. We focus everything on Jesus’ death. We think we’re done being Christians when we acknowledge His death for our sins. But what about His life? How can we ignore that, when the Bible contains a detailed account of all the things He did and all the things He said, and all the instructions He gave to everyone who wanted to be His disciple?

Sometimes I ask myself why I live the way I live, and that nails what I’m saying here. Why do I live the way I live? I don’t ask myself why I am the way I am. I know the answer to that. I’m saved. I’m justified by Christ. But I don’t assume that means I’m good. I’m not necessarily good. I’m not necessarily right. I’m not necessarily on the right path. I examine the way I live, because I want to be His disciple.

Do I mess up? Yes. Am I always good? No. Am I always on the right path? No. But when I get off on the wrong path, I ask the Spirit to lead me back. And I believe that the Spirit does, because I want the discipleship lifestyle. I want to be deeper, I want to go further, I want to be on His path. How do I know when I’m on His path? I’m there when I’m fulfilled, when I’m happy, and when I’m full of joy. How about you?

See you Thursday.

Abundance: Simpler Than We Realize

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Abundant life! What a gift! But what is it? An abundant life is a life without need. You don’t need to find food, because you have food. You don’t need to find water, because you have water. You don’t need to find a place to live, because you live somewhere. You don’t need to find a job. You have one.

It doesn’t mean you have millions of dollars. We think “abundance” and we see dollar signs. I think that’s America. But abundance is much simpler than that. Abundance is having enough, plus something for somebody else. If you have enough, and you have extra, then you live in abundance.

Clean water is abundant life.  We saw the joy clean water brings when Generation Alive built a well in a Ugandan village.

Clean water is abundant life. We saw the joy clean water brings when Generation Alive built a well in a Ugandan village.

Think of what abundance means in other parts of the world. There are so many places where people are locked in a daily struggle to keep themselves together, body and soul. You could go to any one of those places and ask, “What does abundance mean to you?” And they’ll say, “Abundance is a home. I don’t care if it’s a 600 square foot home. It’s a home. My family doesn’t have to live on the street. My kids are going to school. I’ve got a job and we’ve got food on the table. I’ve got access to a well with fresh water, so my kids aren’t dying of dysentery. Now that’s abundance. I know what it was like to try to live without a home, a job, clean water, and food. When I have these things, my family is safe. That’s abundance!”

Sometimes we struggle to understand the simplicity of abundance because we live in a consumer culture. It’s hard for us to see it, but consumerism can actually kill people. We get caught up in buying stuff that we don’t even need, while there are people around us who will literally die if they don’t get our help. That’s the situation we’re in.

I know people are going to tell me, “Well, Jeremy, you have stuff.” And it’s true. I mean, I have an iPad, an iPhone, and a laptop. I can access the internet with three different devices, all at the same time! Do I need to do that? It’s probably excessive. But I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have anything. I’m not saying that you should never buy anything for yourself. I’m only saying that we also need to have a mindset to help someone in need. If our drive, our heart, and our focus is simply to make sure that we have what we need, then we have the wrong heart. If we’re always thinking about what we want and what we’re going to get, and at the same time we don’t have a thought for anybody else, then we’re being shallow. We have the wrong mindset.

Jesus came so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. When He came, He gave us the message, He gave us the example, and He gave us abundance in Him. When He left, these things didn’t leave with Him. He gave them to us so that we’d live accordingly. Now we are His ambassadors! So if we are to represent Him, we need to focus our minds and hearts on bringing abundance to others.

See you Monday.

Fighting for the Kingdom

Jesus knows our lives. Even when He walked among us, Jesus could see into 2014. He could see how bad the world would become. He could see how comfortable with sin our world would be. Sin is becoming just another part of life, and the prevailing attitude seems to be, “Hey, to each his own.” Jesus looks at this, and He says, “Man! The world needs a lot of forgiveness!”

Jesus knows that believers walking the earth today need a lot of hope and encouragement. And we need a lot of His wisdom!

We need wisdom even when we do something really obvious for His Kingdom, like fighting human trafficking. There are tons of groups out there fighting human trafficking. Tons of them! But Dave Batstone of Not For Sale has an approach that really speaks to me. Dave uses a lot of wisdom. Not only is he fighting human trafficking, but he’s using entrepreneurship to do it. He’s creating opportunities in work and in life for former victims, and saving potential victims from falling into trafficking networks.

People involved in fighting trafficking face a big question. Once you rescue slaves from traffickers, what are your next steps? Once you rescue children, what are you going to do? Do you have homes for them? What about the adults? Do you have jobs for them? Can you help them support themselves and their families? Can you help them rehabilitate, laugh again, thrive?

Too often, people don’t have an answer for that. All they can say is, “I don’t know! I just know I’m supposed to rescue them.” Well, yes you are, but it doesn’t make sense to do that without a plan. You need a strategy! You need goals and tactics! You need to take care that you don’t add to the harm already done to them.

We should have already learned this lesson. Remember when we used to pick a poor country and go down as a church? We’d say, “Oh, we’ll build this poor village a church. We’ll build them this, that, and the other. We’ll build them some homes!” And we did. And then we just left. So what happened? We built homes, churches, schools, clinics, and community centers. We built buildings for them, buildings they needed, but they had no way to take care of them. They had no money and they had no supplies. So after about three or four years, the buildings crumbled. In the end, the people we went to serve didn’t have buildings anymore. They had rubble. All we did was trash their village!

We threw ourselves into “helping” when we didn’t have a goal or a purpose. We had no strategy. We didn’t understand why we were doing something to help. We had no wisdom. Our thoughts ran no deeper than, “Oh, this is charity.” So we did the wrong things. And that’s why there are a lot of people now saying that charity is hurting people.

The Book of Proverbs speaks all the time about Lady Wisdom. Lady Wisdom says, “Do not deny me. Because if you deny me, the road you go down will lead to death.” And so I’ve been asking God lately to give me wisdom. There are so many things going on in the world today that don’t look right to me, even though people are saying it’s okay. I need wisdom to know how to handle it. I need wisdom to speak into people’s lives. Wisdom will show us how to fight for the Kingdom of God.

See you Thursday.

A Second Chance from God

To His followers, Jesus said, “I’m not only here to die for you. I want to show you how to live. And once I show you how to live, I’m going to redeem you and give you a second chance.”

To us, Jesus says, “Now that I have shown you how to live, you can be like me. And because I have died for you, you’re redeemed. Because of my blood, you can come into heaven. I did that for you because right now, without my redeeming blood, you don’t have a shot. You can’t live the right way. There is too much sin in the world.”

Second chances are so important. We all need one. We all need a lot of them! And that’s why we turn to Jesus. His blood is so powerful. There are too many things working against us now, here in the world, telling us to live the wrong way. We need His blood. Without it, we have no hope.

This is also why we need to do justice now. We can’t wait for Jesus to return. It’s our job to show others what Jesus showed us. We don’t wait for Him because we have to reflect Him now. People don’t really understand who He is, and without Him, they have no hope.

Mary Magdalene by Leonardo da Vinci

Who is He? For one thing, He’s a risk taker. He entrusted the Gospel to twelve men and a prostitute. He gave them the Gospel to take into the world. He relied on them to show people who He was, and then to remind people who God is. And Mary and those men did it. They did it well!

And now He’s asking us to do the same thing. He’s entrusted His Gospel to us. We have to continue that heritage. We have to continue the legacy left to us by Mary and the apostles. We have to show people who Jesus was.

Some people have lost sight of that. Some people think that the legacy of Jesus is make sure you go to church on Sunday, hang out within four walls and a roof, and then go home. That is not the legacy of Jesus! Jesus walked the streets! He hung out with people. He hung out with sinners and He didn’t judge them.

Jesus said, “I created you and I understand you. I don’t live like you but I can see how you would sin. You’re going to need a lot of forgiveness, because you’re going to mess up. You’re going to need my blood, because you are going to tank it. All the time.”

Jesus knew how hard it would be for us. So He showed us how to live and gave us a second chance. Then He asked us to make sure the world understands.

See you Monday.

Winning the Battle

Christians know the battles that go on inside men’s souls. We’ve been through it too. So we shouldn’t go around blasting people, telling them that they’re wrong or calling them idiots. We shouldn’t accuse them or say, “You’re a terrible person.” Jesus didn’t even do that when Peter betrayed him. Peter denied even knowing Jesus, and yet Jesus never showed any anger. We need to reach out to people in love.

Here’s what we can say: “Man, I know the battle that’s going on inside your soul. I’ve had it myself. And the only person who can make it right is Jesus. I’m here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He can handle the situation you’re in right now. He can handle the battle over right and wrong, over what is good and what is evil. I just want to love you and share with you, and show you who Jesus is.”

This is very hard to do. I’m not saying it’s easy. And we will mess up, because we have flesh. While flesh is on our bones, sin is there. It is going to be there. It’s always going to be there. We’re always going to sin. It will happen.

But I believe Jesus knew that. I believe God knows that. And that’s why Jesus died, so that now when God looks at us, He sees perfect people. And even though I sin, I have the blood of Jesus on me. Immediately I’m wiped clean.

It might seem that sin is free because we’re forgiven. But that doesn’t mean we’ll live as if we have fire insurance. We won’t just do whatever we want. We won’t decide to live in sin just because we’re covered by the blood of Jesus and God thinks we’re perfect. You see, when we’re saved, our identities change completely. We become saints. In our new identity, we don’t want to sin. We want to live in grace. We want to live righteously and justly, because that’s who we are. That’s who we have become. We live by the Spirit, not by the flesh. We avoid the sins of the flesh simply because we want to. We want to enjoy the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. Who doesn’t want to enjoy all of that? That’s how we want to live.

And that’s justice. THAT’s justice, living out of those things. When you find someone that doesn’t live in those things, and you share the love of Jesus in such a way that they will want to live in those things, then that too is justice. That is taking something that is wrong, and making it right. We need to take that approach more often.

See you Thursday.