Heart Change

But what does [faith] say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13)

The Bible says that you must make a confession with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. The key to salvation is the acknowledgement and confession of who Jesus is. You must confess that Jesus is Lord in order to be saved. There has to be an admission there, and it has to be real.

But the Bible also says that the word must be in the heart. I believe a lot of people say “Jesus is Lord” without understanding what salvation really entails. It’s not enough to just say the words. Verbal acknowledgement that Jesus died for us is not the whole deal. There has to be a commitment of the heart.

When the word comes into your heart, it brings a heart change. And when you see a heart change, you’ll see a lifestyle change. Saved by the Spirit, you will then live by the Spirit. (Romans 8:13)

You could go through a really emotional time, and meet a Christian who says something that touches you. So you make the confession that Jesus is Lord. You’re saved!

You could go to a big conference, and a speaker or a song hits on a message that really touches you. Maybe you’re touched because you’re having a difficult time, or maybe you experience an emotional high. Someone says to you, “Do you believe in Jesus? Do you want to be saved? Come forward!” So you go forward. You say the prayers. You’re saved!

But this is not enough. What happens to you after you get home? You’ve been saved, but nothing changes. Your struggles continue. You have come from a time of high emotion and high expectation, and you have said the words. But you only said them because it was the right thing to do at the time. What if you don’t go on to live out your newly found salvation in the lifestyle of Jesus?

Becoming a Christian involves a passionate, lifelong commitment to being in a relationship with God.

If you want to really understand Jesus in your life, you have to live in the mentality of discipleship. You won’t understand it if you don’t live it. You won’t understand it if you just say some words. Mere words don’t substitute for infinite passion. They can’t substitute for a relationship with your creator and savior. It has to be heartfelt.

If you’ve been saved but you feel unfulfilled, just try a little discipleship mentality.

More on this next time. See you Wednesday.

Living It Out in Joy

The resurrection is power, man. Resurrection power says, “I have conquered death. I have given eternal life.”

When Jesus resurrected, He said, “We’re family. Now you live in a family in which your sins have been taken from you. Now you live in a family in which death has been conquered. I have died for your sins, and I have resurrected, giving you new life.”

I am in the family of God because I believe in who He is and what He’s done for me. I’ve been justified. I’ve been justified because of the blood of Jesus and the faith that I have in what He did.

But I believe the lifestyle of Jesus is really where it’s at. I believe in living it out. I love humanity. I love the concept of human life and why we were created. And I love God, the creator of life. So I worship that God and I serve that God. I do that by doing my best to live under the commandment that He gave us, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

I worry about those who say, “I’ve accepted Christ and I’m justified, so now I’ll just sit here in my chair and I’ll wait for the Second Coming.” I worry because I believe they will fail. They won’t find happiness that way.

There are tons and tons of people that choose salvation. They do the message, and they admit they’re a sinner, and they believe in the justification, and yet they’re not happy.

They’re not happy because they’re not living the life of Jesus. The joy comes from living it. It’s about asking, how am I striving to live for Jesus? That’s it. That’s the way to happiness.

You’re starting to see more and more people on that course. Those that live the life of Jesus, man, they find joy. Think about it. Just handing some food to a homeless man or woman and walking away feels really good. It makes you happy.

Why does it feel so good? You didn’t make any money. You actually lost money doing it. You know? So that’s not why you feel good. You feel good because there’s something inside of you that says, “Man, that was awesome.” It just feels awesome to love your neighbor as yourself.

And whether you believe in Jesus or not, you just did what Jesus would do.

The sad thing is, I believe some people live their lives every day with that “love your neighbor as yourself mentality,” but they don’t believe in Jesus. I think it’s going to be a sad day when judgment comes. But even the non-believers who live out the “love your neighbor as yourself” concept find joy in this life. They find it. That lifestyle will always bring joy. It’s in everybody’s soul to be that way.

See you Saturday.

Getting Connected

God is a jealous God, so your relationship with Him is your number one priority. And when you truly strive to have a relationship with Him, there will be a change in you. You will become a better person. Intimacy with God means intimacy with people, and there is so much joy in that! Ask anyone who walks that path.

I think sometimes Christians work on their relationship with God but don’t work on their relationships with people. That’s a shame, because working on the vertical without working on the horizontal doesn’t get us very far. It’s only half of our calling.

Here’s a familiar example. You’re driving to work, and this is what goes on in your mind:

“I’ve got to make sure I read my Bible today, and I’ve got to make sure I take communion, and I’ve got to memorize my memory verse. Hey! That person just cut me off! Eff you!”

That’s a little comical, I know, but we’ve all been there or somewhere like it. When it happens, we know that we can confess it to God and let it go. We know that we’re forgiven.

But sometimes it’s so much worse. Sometimes Christians see people right in front of them and think, “I don’t care about that person.”

If this is you, then you’re messing up. When you’re connected to God, you don’t struggle in your relationships. So if you’re not connecting to people, you’re not connected to God. You’re struggling in your relationship with Him. I know. Sometimes I struggle in my relationships, and I know what it feels like.

The key is to find the source of the disconnect.

If you’re having trouble caring about people (or you are cussing at them) then somewhere along the line your ability to connect to God has been disrupted. To connect, you have to open your heart. Reading or memorizing verses isn’t enough. If you’re not doing it with your heart, then you’re not doing it. The Bible says, “Write the commands on your heart so they will not leave you.” (Proverbs 3)

Write these commandments on your heart. Love the Lord God your Father with all your heart, soul, and mind. That’s the first commandment. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said the second is like the first (Mark 12:31). Loving your neighbor is loving God. That’s why an increase in intimacy with God leads to increased intimacy with people. There is no separation between them.

All people were made by God. All people bear His image. And we were all set on this world by Him. We are called to love everyone! Yet God looks at the world and says, “I have created everyone in my image, but some people are so much less fortunate than others.”

If you forget about them, you’re forgetting about God.

Matthew 25 is the way into understanding this simple point:

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40)

Jesus is saying, “In every human being, you need to find me. I am there, in everyone. When you feed a hungry person, you feed me. When you give water to a thirsty person, you give water to me. When you help shelter and clothe people who are homeless or in great need, you take care of me in my time of need. When you visit the sick, or visit people in prison, and love on them in any way you can, you love on me.”

Do you want to be a better human being? Pursue a relationship with God! As you grow more intimate with God, you’ll become more intimate with people. Are you going to mess up? Yes. You’re going to mess up. But in connecting to God, you will learn to love your neighbor as yourself. That is what He is asking you to do.

See you Wednesday.

Replacing Suffering with Joy

I don’t know how to replicate what Jesus did for me.

I know it’s not by standing on a soap box. It’s not by holding up a sign, saying that without Christ you’re going to rot in hell for eternity. I don’t believe Jesus did it like that. Jesus did not walk through the villages and say, “You better accept me or else rot in hell.”

So how do I do it? I’ve spent years working on this question. I’ve read and prayed. I’ve asked God to show me how He wants me to reflect the love of Jesus. I’m not done yet. I think this is an ongoing part of the Christian life. But the effort so far has been worth it. I truly believe that God has given me an opportunity to reflect Jesus in an awesome way. God has shown me how to follow Jesus by becoming a servant leader.

As a servant leader, I get to help give suffering people every possible chance to experience joy. What a blessing! I want to do this! I want to ease their burdens. I want to help create new and sustainable ways of living through clean water, food, family, freedom, and fulfilling work. I want to help create joy in the very best way that I possibly, humanly, can. That’s the most that I can do, but it’s the least that Jesus does. He loves us so much!

Being a servant leader also means guiding and teaching. While I am doing my best to create joy in places where people suffer, I am also creating opportunities for young people to participate. I am nurturing them as servant leaders. To me, there’s no greater way to feel Jesus than that.

I love my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I will do whatever He asks. I want to know that He looks down on me and smiles. I want to feel that so much, and I can feel His smile when I do something good for somebody. I can feel His love reflected back to me.

That’s why I feel good when I go to bed at night. I lay my head down on my pillow and I feel great. I’m enjoying life so much!

You can do the same. You can go to bed saying, “I just helped someone get rescued from slavery today.” Or you can say, “I just helped a village of 1500 people get good drinking water.” You can say, “I just helped build an orphanage that will put shelter over kids’ heads and give them positive opportunities to learn and to be leaders.” Or you can say, “I just sent 200,000 meals to hungry families and fed them for a year.” Whatever! There are so many opportunities!

There are so many opportunities for us to create joy. Not a day goes by that we don’t receive the opportunity to reflect the love of Jesus into the world. And when you know that you’ve done it, man, that’s just an awesome feeling. You have received the love that He gives and then you’ve shared it. You’ll feel it because you’ve replicated it.

That’s the joy of bringing the kingdom!

See you Friday.

A Well-Known Miracle

Last time, I wrote about the abundance that Jesus brings. Jesus is famous for feeding the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. But the Bible also tells us that He fed far more than five thousand people. He fed five thousand men, the Bible says, and the women and children who were with them.

This might be Jesus’s most well-known miracle, but there was so much more to it, right? Jesus didn’t simply feed those hungry people that day. We keep reading, and we see that they ate until they were full. Then they gathered up twelve baskets of leftovers! This is awesome! Jesus fed five thousand men and their families with just five loaves of bread and two fish. Everyone ate until they were full, and when they were done, they had more left over than when they started.

And then, Jesus told us, “Those who believe in me will do greater works than I have done.”

What? Greater works than feeding thousands of people with nothing more than a bit of bread and fish?

Yes!

We can bring the kingdom the same way that Jesus fed the five thousand: with leftovers to spare! We can bring the kingdom with abundance!

Our mission in life is to do as Jesus did. He was moved with compassion for people, and he healed the sick and fed the hungry. Then He gave that mission to Mary and a handful of apostles. He commissioned them. Later he called Paul the Apostle. If you don’t believe that we can do greater works than Jesus did, just look at what these people accomplished. It is estimated that by the end of the apostolic age, there were one million Christians. From fourteen people to one million! By the year 100!

Have faith that we can do great works, and do them with abundance. We’re not like Jesus. We’re not God. So we have to work together. But the greater our numbers, the more we can do. We can feed the hungry. We can bring abundance to those who are starving. We can help make their communities healthy and sustainable. That’s the same as leftovers! We’re not feeding them once. We’re feeding them while helping them build sustainable ways of feeding themselves and others.

If we help communities grow healthy and sustainable, then they will always have enough food. Enough, and then some. This is how we save lives. Our mission is to reach out to communities that are hungry, or struggling with sickness and disease because they don’t have clean water. We reach out with a Spirit-led passion for freedom from slavery, for plentiful food, clean water, housing, and industry. The communities we reach out to will have more than enough, so they’ll be able to live and thrive. They’ll enjoy the abundance of Jesus.

That’s what we bring. That’s bringing the Good News.

We’ll always have work to do. If we could solve the world’s hunger problems once and for all, then we wouldn’t need Jesus. We’ll always need Him, and He will come back. When He does, hunger will end. When He comes, He’ll say, “I have come to redeem the world. This is it. I died on the cross and now I have come back. Now it’s over. Now no pain. Now no hunger. Now no thirst.”

He will give us His fullness when He comes back. I truly believe that. But until He does, we’re called to be His ambassadors, and do our best to bring the Good News. We’re called to restore love and redemption to people as much as we can. This is the journey that He’s called us to undertake.

That’s why I’m going to do the most that I can do to make sure everyone can eat, and drink, and live, and understand who Jesus is. This is my life. I’m hoping you’ll make it yours, too, because the greater our numbers, the more we can do!

See you Friday.

Greater Works Than These

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. John 14:12-14

Jesus said, “Greater works will you do when I leave than I have done.” Think about that. He’s talking about you and me, and He is saying that we’ll do greater things than He did. It’s almost mind-boggling!

Jesus expects us to take the Gospel into the world. He expects us to live out the Gospel in the world. We can do this. He isn’t asking the impossible. Not only is there no law against love, but He said that if we ask anything in His name, He will do it. And He keeps His promises.

To take the Gospel into the world and live it, we have to know what it is. The Gospel is the good news, right? The good news. It’s not hellfire and brimstone. The Gospel does not say, “I’m going to scare you to death.” It’s not the judgmental news. It is the good news. We can bring it to the world. We only have to do what Jesus did.

What did Jesus do? He loved on people! When they were hungry, he gave them something to eat. The Bible tells us that once, He fed five thousand people. In fact, it was way more than 5,000. The Bible says He fed 5,000 men, and all the women and children that were with them. And when you look at that passage, you’ll realize that He not only fed them, but He fed them until they were full. And then there were leftovers! He fed them so well, that there was more food left over than when He started.

This is abundance! Jesus says, “Where I am, there is abundance.” Where He is, there is enough and more left over. That’s good news! This is what Jesus expects us to bring to the world.

For two thousand years, Christians have been doing that. We have! Do we do it well? Not always! We can be selfish.

Our selfishness is a sin. When sin came into the world, the potential for suffering came with it. Selfishness causes hunger issues, and it perpetuates them.

Remember when Joseph was interpreting dreams? He told Pharaoh, “There’s going to be a famine, because food production is going to come to a halt. There’s going be dry areas. There’s going be times of no fruit. So you better store up.” Pharaoh listened to Joseph. He stored up against the famine, and the people survived.

We see famine in the Old Testament all the time, and we see it happening right now. But today’s corrupt governments don’t plan for famine. They don’t store up.

It’s the poor that pay the price. They pay with their lives.

There has to be a redemptive love for them. That is our job as ambassadors of Christ. Jesus expects us to bring the good news. He wants us to bring His kingdom to earth. And we get to do it the way He did it. We get to bring it with abundance.

We can do it! We have His example, His Spirit, and His promise.

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.

New Creatures

It’s really difficult to understand God’s purpose when we look at what’s happening in the horn of Africa. A combination of drought, escalating food prices, and war has put an estimated 6 million people at risk of famine. It’s one thing to ask about God’s purpose for my life. I have a home and clean water. My children are not at risk of starving to death. But for many Somali families, that is exactly what they are facing. What is God’s purpose for their lives?

That’s a very tough question. I don’t know if I have the answer, but one thing that helps me get through it is the Lord’s Prayer. One day Jesus was praying, and when He finished one of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And Jesus said, “When you pray, say, Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” (Luke 11:1-4)

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We pray for God’s kingdom to come to earth, just as Jesus taught us to do.

God didn’t have to create us to need food. He could have created us so that we’d never need to eat. I think maybe our hunger is the physical sign of our craving for God. It’s the material symbol of our hunger and thirst for righteousness. Without food and water, we physically die. Without righteousness, our souls suffer.

In the kingdom of heaven there is no hunger. Obviously there’s no hunger, because in the kingdom, we have Jesus. We have the fulfillment of everything. But here on earth there’s hunger. Now we hunger. Hundreds of thousands of Somali children could die in the coming famine. You and I hunger and thirst for righteousness.

God has promised that we will all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:6, Luke 6:21) Still, sometimes we look at the suffering around us and we ask, “When?” We ask, “How long, Lord? How long?

In the Bible it says we are new creatures in Christ Jesus. And before Jesus left, He said, “You are my best friends.”

That’s awesome. A master never reveals too much to his servants. A supervisor never reveals too much to her employees. But we are Jesus’s friends. He reveals everything to us! He says, “I’m your friend, so everything that my Father has taught me, I have taught you. I’m going to let you in on God’s ways.”

That’s why we are new creatures. We have a new life now. We’re not of this world. We have a Spirit that lives inside of us that says, “You are different. You are going to understand the ways of God.”

It’s His friendship that has made us into His ambassadors. We are ambassadors of Christ. As His representatives, we get to help bring His redemptive love to the ends of the earth. That’s bringing the kingdom. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. In heaven there is no hunger, because part of God’s way is helping to fill those that hunger.  So feeding the hungry? That’s bringing the kingdom to earth. That’s what His ambassadors do!

Now, I know that helping families in the Horn of Africa is probably tugging at you, but remember, it is only a start. Becoming new creatures in Christ is about something so much greater. It’s about that Spirit that dwells within.

More on that next time. See you Friday.