Food for Jesus

We did not choose to be born in America! We could have been born in Uganda or Haiti. Imagine that! 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 economy. But unless you’re making less than four dollars a day, you’re making more than 90% of people in the world. 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 or Haiti. There are Ugandans or Haitians that say, “If I have to be homeless, and all I can do is drink water, then I might as well be homeless in America and drink good water. Here, I’m drinking water that’s killing me and my children.”

We have an opportunity to help. That’s why we’re so blessed! God looks at all of 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, you’re basically turning your back. 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 His love in the act of 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.” It is so important to understand that! Jesus went to the people who were hungry. He took a couple of loaves and a few fish and He fed five thousand people who were hungry. Why did He do that? Because they were hungry! He said, “I am It. I am everything. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one gets to the Father except through me. I am the Truth, and the truth will set you free.”

If you’re going to turn your back on Him and you don’t care about the person who is 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 feed somebody else, you have created joy and a smile on their face. Then you lay your head in bed at night and you say, “Man, I forgot to eat dinner and I didn’t even notice.” Why? Because you were feeding other people! You were not hungry yourself. Not one time. You didn’t need to be hungry. You were helping others who were hungry. You weren’t hungry because you were fulfilled.

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

Good and Faithful Servant

In recent posts, I’ve been focused on the causes of doubt, be it doubt in God’s existence or His purpose for us. These are the doubts that come from our own lives, when we struggle with failure or frustrated desires. But God is everywhere, not just in our personal circumstances. We have to remember that, because another kind of doubt arises when we look beyond our own circumstances. This one is a serious challenge. What are we supposed to make of God’s purpose when a newborn baby starves to death? What plan could God have possibly had in that?

That’s a tough question, and I don’t claim to know the answer. If we wanted to end poverty, we could. There’s enough money in this world to end poverty forever. But it’s not going to happen, because sin is in the world. Selfishness will always keep that from happening.

Instead, I think about the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” As ambassadors of Christ, we are called to help bring the redemptive love of Jesus to the earth. That’s bringing the kingdom. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” That’s bringing the kingdom to earth.

I think God has a plan for how this is going to all work out. It’s a perfect plan. And there are so many ideas, so many talents, so many skills, so many different callings, and so many different passions among people that we are overflowing with opportunities to bring the kingdom. I don’t really know how much I can or cannot do. I won’t know unless I truly challenge myself, and I challenge myself more and more all the time. I am certain that I’m always going to try to do as much as I can. My biggest fear is that I’ll sit before the throne of God one day and He will say to me, “You gave me 90%. I needed one hundred.” I don’t want Him to say that. I want Him to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I’m not saying that I’m working for my own salvation, because that’s not what I’m doing. I don’t have to! By the blood of Jesus, I am saved. No, what I’m trying to do is be a light. I’m trying to be a city on a hill. I don’t want to be one of those cities that didn’t light up enough. I want to be as bright as I can possibly be. I want to make sure that I’m hearing God call me. I pray for understanding, and pray that I’m doing what I need to do. I pray without ceasing that I will hear and respond to Jesus when He calls.

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.

Just Sit and Listen

Recently, I’ve been writing about doubt. Doubt is a normal part of the lives of the faithful, especially when we’re facing failure. Humans are “show me” types who need to see to believe, so it’s really easy for us to wonder if God is truly with us when things are going wrong (or threatening to). Our Biblical ancestors were “show me” types just like us. They doubted just like us, even though they were eye witnesses to God’s miracles, signs, and wonders! If they saw and doubted, it’s no wonder that we doubt! But spending time in the wonder of creation can comfort and reassure us. It satisfies our need to see God and be shown His goodness. The amazing complexity and beauty of creation clearly reminds us of God’s incomparable sovereignty.

Sometimes, though, we doubt God’s purpose. Sometimes, even when we believe that He exists, that He is with us, and that He is sovereign, we doubt. We doubt that He knows what He’s doing!

This kind of doubt is particularly painful, and it’s particularly hard to overcome. We doubt God’s purpose because we are always trying to control our own lives. How often have you asked, “Well, if I were God, this is what I would do. Why isn’t He doing it?”

It’s so hard to give up control. There have been so many times in my life when I wanted God to do what I wanted Him to do. Yet in every case, with hindsight I can say, “Well, now I know why He didn’t do that. How awesome that I didn’t have my way! Look at how well everything turned out. What would have happened if He’d given me my purpose and not His? Thank you, Daddy!” God sees it too. He says, “Yes, I know. I’m God, remember? You can trust me. My thoughts are not your thoughts. My ways are not your ways. My way is better than your way. I created everything, remember? So I probably know what’s best!”

When we look back and see what God has done, we realize that we don’t have to control everything. We don’t even want to! It’s so much better to surrender control to God. He knows what’s best for you and He loves you so much. Be like Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus. She just sat there and listened. It comes to a point where you have to do the same thing. You have to just sit and listen. Trust and obey. Lean back, and fall into the arms of God. Say, “okay,” and believe that it’s all going to work out.

Whether things go your way or not, you can trust God’s purpose. You can depend on Him because He loves you. So just sit at His feet. Tell Him, “Okay. I’ll go with you on this. I’ll believe in this.”

It is so empowering to listen to the Spirit and understand that He is everywhere, not just in our circumstances. We are so blessed! Hearing His word and seeing His goodness can deepen our understanding of His global presence. Listening to Him deepens our sense of His grace. It guides us to understand that we are so important to His plan for all of humanity. You are so important to His plan! What happens when you understand that?

It is wondrous and awe-inspiring to understand, but it comes with its own challenges. Maybe it’s even more challenging than overcoming doubt! More about this on Friday.

God Clearly Seen

The most common cause of doubt is frustrated expectations. People doubt God because things don’t go the way they planned or wanted. “If God loves me and knows my heart,” they reason, “He would give me what I need, or what I long for.”

A lot of these people are parents, and they probably don’t do that with their own children. I don’t do it with my sons. I love them and know their hearts, but there are things they want that I won’t give them. Sometimes, I have to disappoint them because I know what will happen if I give them what they want. They don’t see that, though. They just want what they want. They don’t know that I’m protecting them from a bad outcome.

Sometimes they get frustrated or mad at me, but they never doubt that I’m their dad. They can see me! I’m right in front on them! God’s children can’t always physically see Him. That’s why, when He doesn’t give us what we want, we sometimes doubt His existence. We don’t realize that He doesn’t give us what we want because He wants to protect us. Instead we say, “Where is God? Let me see God.”

Well, it’s been a while since God walked among us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t see Him. We can see Him everywhere we look. Look at the Earth! Look at what’s around us. You know what will happen? You’ll find yourself saying, “There He is. There’s God.” You’ve just got to look at your chest moving in and out and say, “There’s something allowing me to breathe. There’s something that allows my brain to tell my lungs to suck in air and breathe out carbon dioxide. There’s God.”

You want to see evidence of God? Contemplate nature! This will help relieve your doubt. Just look at how a leaf is formed. Think of everything that must occur in order for a leaf to grow and develop. Science will show you that creation is very complex. You can’t just say that there was a Big Bang and then all of a sudden there was this incredibly complex creation. There had to be a Creator. There had to be something that developed this complex scenario and then set it in motion. Our bodies work in such complex ways. Our brains! We barely know anything about how the brain works.

There are so many things that can release doubt if we actually start thinking about them in a certain way. Paul’s letter to the Romans says that, too. Paul teaches us to look at the very nature of the Earth and know that there is a God. Just look at how the fish of the sea work. Look at how animals work. Look at how human beings relate. Look at how complex we are, and how our souls connect. Look at it all, and see what may be known of God.

Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…  (Romans 1:19-20)

I’ll meet you back here on Tuesday.

See It to Believe It

Doubt was a big part of the experience of our Biblical ancestors.

Consider the Israelites. God rescued them from Pharaoh’s army by parting the Red Sea. “There must be a God!” the people said. “He parted the Red Sea!” Moses told them to have faith. He said, “God is going to give us the ability to cross this sea.” He smote the water with his staff, the waters parted, and the Israelites crossed safely to the other side. Having seen it, they believed. They said, “There must be a God!”

But then after forty years in the desert, wandering in circles, seeing the same thing over and over again, they doubted. They said, “Well, maybe He isn’t who we think He is.” And so they made a Golden Calf. They made the image of the God they wanted, because they doubted the God who is.

Think about all those people in the Bible, man, they saw God work miracles, signs and wonders, and still they doubted His very existence. They kept asking “Are you really Him?” Look at John the Baptist! This was the guy who prepared the way for Him and still, when he wound up in prison, he sent people to Jesus, saying, “Hey, ask Him! Ask Him if He’s really the guy.”

This is after John personally witnessed signs and wonders. He stood with Jesus in the Jordan River, and saw the dove come down from heaven. He saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus as he baptized Him, and still he wondered, “Are you the guy?”

Faith takes trust, but we have to see something to believe it. We can’t help it. We’re physical beings. Suppose you tell me there’s a tree right in front of me. If I can’t see it, I won’t believe it’s there.

I’ve had people tell me, “Well, you don’t see air, but you trust that you’re breathing.” That’s not a good example. I can see my chest moving in and out. That’s how I know I’m breathing — I can see my body functioning!

Sometimes I suspect that the people with the least amount of doubt are blind people. They really have to trust. If someone tells a blind person there’s a tree in front them, they need to believe it. They have to believe it when they hear the beep that tells them that it’s okay to cross the street.

Jesus declared, “Let the blind see.” I think he said that because he wants everyone to see the sovereignty of God.

But can we? Is there physical evidence of His sovereignty that will satisfy us “show me” types? Sure there is. I’ll tell you next time. See you Friday.

Facing Failure

There is a kind of doubt that goes hand-in-hand with faith in God. We experience it when we’re facing failure. We know that we depend on God. We know that He is the great I Am. He is attuned to our needs, and has promised to be our fortress and our refuge. Yet when we’re facing failure, we’re not feeling very protected. We feel like we’re all alone. That’s when we have a tendency to think, “Well, God’s not here.”

We humans are “show me” types. We need to see evidence. So when bad things happen, we might think that He’s left us. This is painful, and in our pain we take it further. We think, “I have to get through this but He’s not here. So who do I depend on? I’m going to have to depend on myself. And if I have to depend on myself, then why depend on God in the first place? If He’s even real, that is. I mean, I can’t even see Him, and this bad thing is happening!” Sound familiar?

I’ve dealt with that. I dealt with it in baseball. Nothing’s a sure thing in that game. You don’t ever know. They say it’s a game of failure, but everything is based on success. I had to succeed for teams to want me to play, and to succeed, I had to depend on so many things. I had to depend on making the right pitches. I had to depend on the hitter to hit the ball to the defense. I had to depend on the defense to make the play. It was really tough when I wasn’t succeeding.

No matter what you do, in baseball or any other undertaking, you have to depend on so many things for it to go right. And when it doesn’t, you wonder about God.

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps. (Prov. 16:9)

That’s what the Bible says, but sometimes it’s so hard to deal with. We have a certain way that we want things to go. If things don’t go the way we want them to, then we wonder if God’s even there. When we’re struggling, or we feel out of control, or we are failing ourselves and others, we want to feel better. Even though we know that God sees the whole picture, it’s really hard to surrender to His wisdom.

Sometimes it’s just so hard to believe that things are going to turn out okay. Instead we start wondering, “Do I believe in a God who’s not there?” Or we ask, “If He’s real, then why is this happening? Where is He?” In our fear, we decide to take control. We decide to rely on ourselves. We quit leaning on Him. We quit believing in Him. We doubt Him.

We forget that He’s got us!

There’s no shame in this. When you read the Bible, you realize that you’re in very good company. Our Biblical ancestors had to deal with doubt all the time, and their stories have a lot to teach us. We’ll look at this next time. See you Tuesday.

Too Much Doubt

Is it possible to have 100% trust in the Almighty God? Absolutely! It’s not always easy. We humans are “show me” types. We like to see it before we believe it. That’s why the believer will always deal with some doubt.What’s amazing, though, is how much we create doubt. That’s not necessary! We have enough doubt as it is. We don’t need more!

There have always been situations where people create doubt, especially among the religious. This has been going on throughout history. As long as there have been people, there have been sorcerers, magicians, psychics, and even mediums that call upon the dead. These have all created doubt, because they make it hard to know what’s true and what isn’t.

Sometimes preachers create doubt, too. Look at the TV evangelists in the 80’s that stole money from people. They created doubts about all preachers. Now when we see preachers on television we wonder, do they even believe in what they’re preaching? Or are they just doing it for the money? Talk about creating doubt!

And then there’s the most common scenario of all, the one that occurs during those times when everything’s going really well for you. When things are going well it’s easy to feel good and confident, relaxed about life. We say something like, “God loves me. I’m so blessed!” Or we say, “God is so proud of me,” or, “You know what? God is shining on me today.” We feel great!

Then things change, and that’s when the doubt comes in. Things aren’t going all that well, and now we say, “Maybe there is no God. Because why would God allow this to happen?”

We tend to have this mentality about God, and it creates doubt. We believe in God when things are good, and then we doubt God when things are tough. We actually create our own doubt!

I think God looks at this and asks, “You’re not really looking at me as sovereign, are you? You’re just trying to make me what you want me to be. You’re trying to contain me in a box. And do you know what that is? That’s making idols, and you can’t do that.”

I think this is what Paul is talking about in Romans 1. He’s saying that because we did that, God gave us over to the lusts of our flesh. God said, “There’s going to be chaos, because you’re looking at me, but you don’t see me as sovereign of all creation. Instead, you’re saying, ‘Well, God is only real if things are going good, because God wouldn’t let bad things happen.'”

We’re creating doubt with our own mistaken thoughts. God doesn’t “let” bad things happen. If that surprises you, then good! Next week, we’ll take a look at Biblical history. The Bible has a lot to say about doubt. But first, we’ll take a look at the connection between faith and doubt. See you Friday.

Laws and Tithes

For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14

If you live a Spirit-led life, you will naturally do the right thing. You won’t have to live by the law. You won’t have to live by dos and don’ts. You’ll never say, “I won’t steal, because the Ten Commandments tell me not to.” Instead, the Spirit of God, living in you, is going to speak to you and say, “Don’t steal, because that is not right. Not in a pure life with me.” You will love the feeling of fulfillment that comes with that.

This is one of the foremost themes in Paul’s epistles. His letters are genius! In both Romans and Galatians, he tells the churches, “If you’re going to live by the law, you need to obey the law. Good luck with that!”

It’s impossible to live by the law. I’ll give you an example. The law says, “Do not covet.” Well, it’s hard to avoid checking out your neighbor’s shiny red sports car. Right? Now if you think that’s hard, try to avoid even thinking about looking at it! That’s what it takes to live by the law.

To live by the law is to live in condemnation. It’s a miserable place to be. Why not live in grace instead?

Paul says that those who live in grace will have freedom. Those who live in grace just take what’s dealt, and they deal with it. They don’t have to live in a world boxed up by rules, a world where bad things happen when the rules get broken.

Tithing is a great example. If you give because you have to, it feels like a burden. It’s not going to feel good. In the life of grace, there is no rule about tithing. You don’t even see the word “tithe” in the New Testament. That’s because in the new covenant, there is no such thing as tithing.

In the Spirit-led life of grace, the Spirit says to be a cheerful giver, and you know what? You’ll feel it. You’ll want to tithe. You’ll want to give. You’ll want to support missions and projects. You’ll want to support your church, and help people in the ministry. You’ll want to help people in poverty.

You’ll be led by the Spirit into a Spirit-led life, and you will be so free! The righteous life will be inside of you, the Spirit at work. It’s so good to love your neighbor when you are led into it by the Spirit’s love. Let Him lead you into freedom!

Where Will You Throw Your Net?

It’s amazing to me how the whole Bible opens up and begins to live, I mean really live, once I look at it through the lens of grace.

The Gospel of John tells us a story about the day the resurrected Jesus miraculously filled the disciples’ net with fish (John 21:1-14). It’s a wonderful example of what happens when we choose to live and work in grace.

You see, the disciples had been fishing all night, but they hadn’t caught anything. That was discouraging! And yet when morning came, there was Jesus, on the shore — and cooking fish! You can imagine the conversation. The disciples said, “Hey, you caught fish!” And Jesus said, “Yeah! Where’s your fish?” “Well,” the disciples said, “We’ve been working all night, but we didn’t catch any fish.” So Jesus said, “Well, why don’t you throw your net over there?” And they said, “Jesus, didn’t you hear us? We already labored all night, and we didn’t catch anything!”

There it is. They labored all night. “Jesus,” they said, “we worked all night, but we didn’t succeed. We worked, and worked, and worked.” And Jesus said, “Yes, I know, but hold on a second. When you live with me, it’s different. I am grace! I am truth! So when I tell you to throw your net somewhere, believe me, you will catch fish!”

This is an awesome message! “Work in my wisdom,” Jesus says. “That’s where you will find your success. You tried to do it all on your own. You worked and worked and worked to get your fish, right? I saw you! But guess what? You don’t have any fish! So why not just do what I say? I’ll give you the wisdom you need.”

So what did the disciples do? They said, “Okay, Jesus, tell us where to throw the net.” “Throw it right there,” He said, and they did. Boom! There was so much fish that their boat almost sank! There was so much fish that their net should have broken! But Jesus even took care of the net for them. That’s grace! That is grace!

Jesus tells us, “Apart from me, you can do nothing. Work all you want. Live by the law all you want. But I’m telling you, you will not find what you need. Instead, why not live with me? Why not listen to me? I am grace! I am truth! You know what? I will set you free! Work in grace, and you will have abundance.”

Every single day, Jesus teaches us in grace and truth. “Come, live with me,” He says. “When you are apart from me, you can do nothing. But when you are with me, all things are possible.”

Think about that! John’s story is a lesson in grace. Work with Jesus. Let Him save you.

Love and Fire

The Lord your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good. For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers… (Deuteronomy 30:9)

It is God’s will to prosper us. The Bible is clear on this point. But prosperity doesn’t always come right away. There’s more to the lifestyle of Jesus than taking that first step. Yes, you start by loving Jesus. Yes, you embrace what He stands for. Yes, you accept His sacrifice for you. But the time still comes when you have to figure out who you want to be, in Christ. You have a decision to make.

God calls all kinds of people. There are the Pauls in Christ and the Peters in Christ. The Doubting Thomases are in Christ. There are the Marthas in Christ, and the Marys, the Davids, the Josephs, and the Joshuas. They all represent a different skill set in Christ. The church needs them all. Some are teachers and some are preachers. Some are evangelists and some are counselors. They’re different people, just like the parts of the body are different. (1 Corinthians 12:4-12) We all come together to make the church body work.

Everybody can be who they want to be in Christ. God will prosper you with giftings, too. Ask Him! He’ll show you. But you have to be open to becoming the person you’re going to be in Him. It can be a hard and even scary decision, because once you open yourself to God, there’s a fire you have to go through. God doesn’t simply allow you to be whoever you want to be. You have to become who you want to be. In Christ. It takes fire.

That’s why some people are fearful of saying, “Okay, I’m ready. Make me who you need me to be.” I understand! I don’t wish trials and tribulations on anybody.

But God’s love stirs in your soul. It stirs and calls to you. When that happens, you will ask Him to change you. You won’t be able to help yourself. You’ll want Him to make you into whoever you are going to be in Christ, fire or no fire. You will ask and He will take you up on it.

I’ve heard people say that they look forward to the fire. They say, “I welcome the trials and tribulations, because I know I need them to get to my next level.” I’m not one of those people. I don’t look forward to the fire. I just know that when I come out of it, I’m going to be better.

Paul said, “Be joyful in trials and tribulations because it makes your faith stronger.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) For me, this means that I can find joy in the midst of trials. I can ask God to give me joy while I’m going through the fire. I know He will! I’m confident that even in times of trial and tribulation, I will be joyful.

So when you’re ready, take this step. God has so much for you. He’s only waiting for you to ask.