Because I’m Saved

What do children think when you hide alcohol in the house? Dad must be hiding it because he doesn’t want anybody to know it’s there. Why? Is it wrong? Maybe we should try it. You know that’s the thought process.

In my home, my sons will know where the beer is. I’ll tell them, “The beer is in the refrigerator. You can’t have it. You’re not old enough to drink. But it’s right there. In fact, I’ll tell you what, why don’t you go get me a beer. I’m old enough to drink, so go get me one, please.” I want them to be able to go get it, and hand it to me.

I’m not going to hide the fact that there’s alcohol in the house, because I want my sons to think, “Dad is being honest with us. Dad loves us and trusts us to know that there’s alcohol in the house. He’s not hiding anything.”

Sometimes kids have issues because their parents don’t want to address the reality of drinking. Some parents try to guilt their kids or scare their kids into not drinking. But that’s a problem, because then those kids only respect their parents out of fear or guilt, not love. That’s not how I want to raise my children.

LoveGreaterThanFear

I want my children to respect me. I’m hoping they will respect me enough to know that they’re not allowed to drink. If I do catch them drinking, there will be some disciplinary action. Will I have to take the alcohol out of my house? I hope not. I would, if they’re not making wise decisions. But I’m not going to start my relationship off with my sons by hiding things.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “That’s my Dad who I respect because I’m scared of him.” I don’t want them to say, “That’s my Dad who I respect because I hate feeling guilty whenever I’m around him. I would rather obey him than feel guilty.”

I want my sons to say, “That’s my Daddy. I love and respect him because he loves and respects me. He’s honest with me. I know I can talk to him any time about anything. He won’t fly off the handle and yell at me. He won’t guilt me into doing what’s right. We’re going to talk things out and I’m going to feel so calm around him that I’ll want to do what’s right, because I respect him.”

It’s the same way with Jesus. Some people say they love and obey Jesus because He’s God, but that might be putting it backwards. It’s because He loved me and died for me that I obey. Put another way, I don’t obey in order to be saved. I obey because I’m saved. That’s the relationship Jesus wants to have with us.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “I respect you because you’re the father figure of our home.” I want them to say, “Dad, because you’re the nurturing father figure of our home, I respect you and I love you. I’m not just obeying you because I’m afraid of you. I’m obeying you because I’m your son. You have done so much for me and you care for me, and I love you.”

That’s the reality that I want for my family.

I’m going to wrap up this short series on drinking with a few words for the churches. See you Monday.

Let’s Work Together

Anyone can change the world. Anyone can have a huge impact, just by joining forces with a lot of other people. If we work together, we can do anything.

A lot of people doing a little bit will do far more damage to this world’s injustices than one or two big corporations doing it all. A lot of people working together will produce a lot of energy. That’s more sustainable over the long run than trusting the work to a couple of large donors.

You know what else it is? It’s much more fulfilling! When you expect big corporations to shoulder the burdens of building the Kingdom, you quit. You say, “You know what? They have a lot of money, so I’ll just let them do it. And I’ll go on with my life.”

But when you do that, you don’t learn to understand why you’re here! When you leave it up to someone else, then you don’t learn to understand the purpose of the human race. You don’t learn to understand humanitarianism. You don’t learn to understand why Jesus came down the set the captives free. You don’t get the grace of Jesus Christ.

working together for the gospelJesus didn’t go to the biggest city He could find, teach its inhabitants to follow Him, and then say, “Now you change the world.” No. He left it to a small group of people. He left it up to them to go get more people. And then it was up to those people to go get more people, and then get more people. It was up to them to grow the church of Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus did.

He didn’t want us to leave the Kingdom work to someone else. He wanted us to do it. If He didn’t want us to do it, then He probably would have just opened up the heavens so everybody could see God. He would have said, “Either follow Me or don’t, but now you know I’m real. You can see Me. I suggest you follow Me. Now that you see Me, you’re going to love Me now. You’re all going to do it.”

But that wouldn’t make any sense! If He did that, then what was the game? What was the journey for? What was the creation for? What was the reason for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? What was the point of that?

The point is, you have to choose to love Him. He’s no dictator. Think about it: Jesus left the Gospel with twelve young men, and he said, figure it out! He left the Gospel with a prostitute and said, figure it out! He said, “Hey! I want twelve young men, a prostitute, and a couple of businessmen. You go put the Gospel into the world. You create the church of the Book of Acts.” That’s what He did! And the church grew!

That’s what He wants from us. He wants us to join together and build His Kingdom. Just a whole lot of people, doing a little bit each, and working together. You’d be amazed how much you can do!

See you Monday.

Feed the Hungry and Be Fulfilled

We did not choose to be born in America. I could have been born in Uganda. Or I could have been born in Haiti. I respect that I was born in America.

But we weren’t born here because we’re lucky. We were born here because we are blessed.

We are blessed to be born in a country where we have freedom and prosperity. We are blessed to have the opportunities that freedom and prosperity make possible. I know some people think we’re not prosperous. We hear a lot of concern about the economic crisis. But unless you’re making less than four dollars a day, you’re making more money than 90% of people in the world make.

loaves and fishesI can guarantee that people in third world countries are not looking at us and saying “Oh, poor America.” They’re not doing that. We’re in economic crisis and they’re fighting to get here! Even if you’re homeless in America, you’ll find water that’s better than what they’re drinking in parts of Uganda! Maybe there are Ugandans or Haitians that say, “If I have to be homeless and all I can do is drink water, I might as well be homeless in America and drink good water. This water I’m drinking now is killing me.”

Thanks to our abundance, we have an opportunity to help. That’s why we’re so blessed. I think that God looks at all His children and says, “Those of you in this part of the world are doing very, very well. But there’s a part of Me over here that is not.” When you don’t help out with the part of God that is not doing all that well, you’re basically turning your back on Him. You’re saying, “You know what? I’ve got my own thing to do.” You’re becoming selfish. And selfishness is not of God.

Essentially, everybody has a broken spirit. Whether you are the richest man in the world or not, you still need the love of Jesus. You still need to be saved. You still need to have the blood of Jesus on your life. And when you share the love that is shared in feeding someone who is hungry, you have done the act of Jesus. That’s where Jesus says, “You have not only fed me, you have been me.” And I think that is so important to understand.

Jesus went to the people that were hungry. He took a couple of loaves and a few fish and He fed five thousand people who were hungry. And He did it for such a simple reason. He did it because they were hungry!

And when He was here, He said, “I am It. I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one gets to the Father except through me. I am Truth, and truth shall set you free.” And if you’re going to turn your back on Him, and you don’t care about the person that’s hungry, then your mind’s not in the right spot. You’re actually doing the exact opposite of what’s going to fulfill you.

Selfishness is very shallow. Pridefulness is very shallow. Making sure that you are taken care of is actually a shallow life. But when you take care of somebody else, you have created joy. You have put a smile on somebody else’s face. When you feed other people, you don’t feel hungry. Not at all. You are fulfilled. You don’t feel hungry because you didn’t need to be hungry. You were fulfilled by helping others who were hungry.

Taking care of somebody else will satisfy your soul. And I think that is the greatest thing ever.

Blessings to you. See you Thursday.

Giving Jesus Something to Eat

In a recent post about youth participation in our Something to Eat program, I wrote:

It really feels good to see people getting excited about feeding the hungry. The Gospel of Jesus Christ feels good. Our community is finding fulfillment because with every meal we package, we feed Jesus Christ Himself. Last weekend we packaged 175,000 meals. We fed Jesus Christ 175,000 times! Think about that!

I hope you’ve had a chance to think about that. I think about it a lot. Here’s part of what Jesus says in Matthew 25:

sheep from goatsWhen the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40)

You see? When you feed somebody who’s hungry, when you clothe somebody in need, when you visit somebody in prison, or help the hurting,or  the dying, or people in pain, Jesus says, “You have done that to Me, because they are a part of Me. Whether they are living for Me or not, they’re still a part of Me. I created them.”

God created man and woman in His own image. When He did that it was as if He said, “I’ve created you with Me in you.”

You have a spirit of God inside of you. When you were in your mother’s womb, God said, “I created you in my own image. You are part of me. And though you may sin, and though you may fail, you will be fulfilled in me.”

Now think about that. If something you created or something that’s a part of you is under attack, you would feel attacked. If you attacked my son, I would feel like you were attacking a part of me. If you attacked my wife, you’d be attacking a part of me. And if you go up to my son and give him a hug and show him love and care, then that’s how you feel about me.

Since we are creations of the Almighty God, I think He feels the same way. We are sons and daughters of Zion. We are a part of His family. So when He sees someone that is hungry, He’s hungry. And when you feed someone who is hungry, you feed Him.

That’s what He means when He says, “If you do this for the least of these, then you’ve done this for Me.” You can donate one meal, or gather your friends together to donate more. Either way, you will do something amazingly fulfilling. You’ll feed Jesus Christ Himself. I’m telling you: the Gospel of Jesus Christ feels really good!

See you Monday.

Feeding the Hungry and Figuring It Out

But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God. Acts 5:39

In the Book of Acts we read about numerous efforts to kill the Christians off. In Chapter 5, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who the Bible tells us was an honored teacher, advised the Sanhedrin not to kill the Apostles. He said, “Hey, if this is not of God it’s going to go away. Things not of God will die. They will perish. They don’t work. But if it is of God, then you cannot stop it. You can do whatever you want, but you will not stop it.”

I think that’s what our young people are saying too. I think it’s what they said by working so hard to package meals last Saturday. They are saying, “We love our neighbors like Jesus did, and you’re not going to stop us.” And there’s no reason they should be stopped. What they are doing is a fulfillment of true love. It’s unconditional.

Unconditional love.

Unconditional love.

Those kids did not know one person that would be fed through their hard work. And yet they loved them enough to put meal kits together for them. That’s unconditional love. And when you love someone just to love them, there’s no greater love than that. That’s the love of Jesus. That’s why it’s so important.

Some kids told me, “If we could do this for a living, we would.” It took my breath away! That is just an amazing, amazing deal.

We’re not trying to get these kids to commit to doing this for a living. Our message is, “Do what you’re gifted to do for a living, so that you can do these things as well.” To put it another way, we want to encourage these kids to become successful by using their God-given gifts. That way, they can use that success to serve the least among us. We tell them, “Become successful so you can continue to help build orphanages. Become successful so you can help dig water wells. Become successful so you can help rescue kids from trafficking. Become successful so you can sponsor these meals to help people who are hurting.”

And I guarantee they lay in bed Saturday night and said, “I feel good about myself.” I guarantee you some kids who came on Saturday said, “For the first time in my life, I feel good about myself and what I did. I can sleep soundly tonight and know that I didn’t cause any pain and frustration. I didn’t mess up.” I’m sure some of those kids get told all the time how much they mess up. Well that day, they didn’t mess up. That day, they were fulfilling the dreams of other people. That day, they thought about people who feel like they mess up, and took care of them.

These kids have figured it out. Whether they believe in Jesus or not, they’ve figured it out. Their souls are satisfied.

Young Leaders Fighting Hunger

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12

Timothy was a very young person, and someone encouraged him saying, “Don’t let them look down on you because you’re young. You have good leadership skills.”

I’m looking forward to being with Generation Alive and Youthfront at our Something to Eat event this Saturday in East Palo Alto. I remember our first Something to Eat event, in Spokane in 2011. (Back then it was called “Feed the Hunger.”) The event was a direct experience of the leadership skills of the young. Our young people have really good leadership skills. At these Something to Eat events, they step out in front and they lead entire communities of people.

SomethingToEatAdults follow their lead because they see these young people getting excited about doing something that means selflessness, not selfishness. These young people say, “We want to serve. We want to serve people who are hurting. We want to get outside of our own selfish needs. We want to help other people, because we have and they don’t. We want to help with that.” At any age, fifteen years or thirty-three years, that’s pretty exciting.

The effects of the leadership of the young aren’t limited to just one day or just one event. In 2011, the event inspired a Spokane church to call and say, “Our fourth graders have challenged our high school youth group to a Something to Eat meal kit challenge. Who can package the most meals?” The public schools volunteered to host an event. A guy that worked at a bank stopped in to see what we were doing and said, “What if we got together and did this as a bank?” Well, that’s no problem! We’re mobile. We can go to all these places: churches, schools, banks, and more!

And there’s even more to what these young leaders accomplished. You see, now any time there’s a crisis, they’re going to be able to unite a community. They built faith within their community, and now, if a crisis like the one in Haiti or the Philippines hits and we launch a Something to Eat campaign, the whole community is going to know what we’re doing. They’ll know who we are, and they’ll join together to help.

Those kids back in 2011 really got excited about how good they felt. They brought the money, because they went from house to house. They did whatever they could. Their parents didn’t do it, they did. And now they can say, “We did it. We put 75,000 meals into the food banks. And people were fed.”

It really feels good to see people getting excited about feeding the hungry. The Gospel of Jesus Christ feels good. Our community is finding fulfillment because with every meal we package, we feed Jesus Christ Himself. In January 2011, we packaged 75,000 meals. We fed Jesus Christ 75,000 times! Think about that!

When you feed the Son of the Most High God, you can’t not be fulfilled. The love and compassion that goes into that is your ultimate fulfillment. It’s why you’re here!

The Challenge of Youth Ministry

And God said, Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. (Genesis 1:26)

The word “our” is plural. I do believe in the Trinity – the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and God – and I think when He said “our image,” He meant “our likeness.” He meant, “Who We are.” And I think that we humans are image-bearers based on that. We are to bear the image of God.

Jesus came down to show us what that image looks like. I think that’s why He came. I think youth workers and youth pastors need to take this very, very seriously.

When kids go to church, they look to one person, their youth pastor. They trust him, or her. Why? Because that’s the person their parents or the church have entrusted them to. When they listen to the youth pastor, these kids are saying, “This person cares for me, and is trying to help me and teach me truth.”

IheartYMSo these pastors have to pray hard. They have to truly ask God, “How can I reflect Christ appropriately? What do I do to bear Your image correctly?” They have to do this because for a lot of these kids, if their youth pastor fails them, they’re done. Based on their age and their time of life, their parents may not identify with them very well. Maybe some of the dads have walked out on them. So if their pastor fails them, they are lost.

When youth pastors seek to learn and understand why they’re here with kids, they realize they aren’t here to simply order pizza and play video games and babysit. They realize they’re here to show their kids the qualities and character of Jesus.

Youth pastors are here to say, “This is Jesus. He is the one we are following. He is the one the disciples followed. The disciples were in their teenage years when they followed Jesus. Did you know that? When Jesus called the disciples, they were young kids, man. They were teenagers. And He entrusted the Gospel to them like He’s entrusting the Gospel to you. And like those disciples, we have to know what we believe in, and we have to stand up for what we believe in, and we have to live what we believe in.”

If you are a youth pastor, then God has gifted you to work with young people. Young people are drawn to you for a reason. You have got to use that gifting to teach them and train them in the appropriate way. You have got to teach them how to love, and you have got to model that in your character, in your integrity, and in your personal life.

Kids are going to be around you all of the time. So they know if you fake it. They know if you’re not real. You have got to allow them to see who you are. Man, you have to love these kids with passion! Show them that your focus is to let them know who they are in Christ.

I know there are also a lot of things that kids show us. See you Monday.

Intimacy and Judgment

Jesus made the twelve disciples his intimates. He sat with them all the time. He would ask them questions. Once he asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples replied that people were saying Jesus was John the Baptist, or Elijah. Jesus said, “Okay. Who do you say I am?” And Peter said, “You are the Christ.” Then Jesus warned them to tell no one. Mark 8:27-30

You see, he built intimate relationships with the disciples. He talked to them, asked their opinions, and made them His confidants.

He went on talking to them, and the Bible tells us:

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Mark 8:31-33

That’s amazing. Jesus looked at Peter, His dear friend, and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan.” Continue reading

Believing Without Seeing

When Jesus left, He said to Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Those who have not seen are the people of faith.

The disciples died for Jesus Christ.  They died on crosses.  And I know they felt some fear, because everybody fears death to a certain point.

But they cheated!  I’m sorry, they did!   Continue reading

Selfless Like Jesus

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. In other words, you have to be like Jesus.

Jesus! When He came down, man, everything He did was a selfless act. He served everybody! He didn’t have to. 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. It was the ultimate selfless act for Him come down here.

Can you imagine what He must have been thinking? Continue reading