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.

Hearing the Spirit

We’re called to all kinds of different ministries. We’re the Body of Christ! Some of us are His hands, some of us are His feet, some of us are His eyes, some of us are His ears, and some of us are His voice.

Some of us conduct studies on the problems of poverty and slavery, and others come up with programs or ministries to alleviate those problems. If no one conducted those studies or created those ministries, I wouldn’t have heard of the problems of the poor. This is the influence of the Body of Christ!

There are a lot of people called to help and they don’t even know it yet. We don’t always know it right away. I didn’t begin to fully understand my calling until I was pitching for Colorado. I’m not sure I fully understand it yet, because I’m continually growing in it.

I know that part of my calling is to make sure that people know just how much we can do. There is so much that we can do to free the slaves, feed the hungry, bring water to the thirsty, and build homes for orphans. I’m passionate about bringing awareness of these problems to as many arenas as I can. I’m passionate because when I heard about the suffering of others, I felt it. I felt their suffering. In other words, I was called.

A lot of people want to help but they don’t know where to start. And they don’t know where to give their trust! Think about all the different well-digging organizations. Which ones can you trust? We hear about the ones that put in a well but never go back and check on it. They did their “good deed” so they stop paying attention. Then the well breaks, no one comes to fix it, and the people have to go back to drinking dirty water.

Even worse, they might not even be digging any wells! There are people that promote good in order to steal. They make a lot of promises, you give them money, and they walk. There was a guy in Oakland proclaiming Christ’s return on some particular day. He told people, “Give me tons of money so I can help promote this.” People gave up their life savings and nothing happened. Meanwhile, he ran away with their money.

That’s why I get the word out about groups that I know personally. I believe that I carry a Spirit upon me that is true and good. When I partner with a company it’s because I truly trust the people involved. I see what they’re doing and I know it’s sustainable.

I want to do my part too, and I want to do it well. I don’t want to just build a well somewhere and then forget about it. I don’t want to just build one orphanage and then say, “I built an orphanage. I’m good for my life now.” There are too many opportunities out there! How could I say I’m done? As long as I can help people, I’m going to try.

What I’ve done seems good to me. It seems like I’m on the right path. I don’t boast about what I do, because that wouldn’t make any sense. I know where my strength comes from.

It seems like I’m hearing the Spirit well. I also believe that God’s going to tell me when He wants me to change. He will tell me when He wants me to continue. I’ve got to be open to Him, and willing to let Him speak into my life and tell me what to do. So far, it’s been awesome. He’s allowed me to take part in bringing the kingdom.

More about this next time. See you Tuesday.

Living to Love

We’re here on this planet for the simplest of reasons: to love our neighbors as ourselves.

When we love our neighbors, we’re happy! Loving your neighbor as yourself is so fulfilling!

When you approach your life with the mentality of discipleship, you taste that fulfillment, and you are hooked. Salvation is awesome. When you realize what Jesus did for you, filling you with grace and bringing you into God’s kingdom, the joy will spill out of you. You’ll long to chase after Christ. You’ll long to hang out with him. You’ll read about all the things His disciples did, and you’ll want to do the same. You’ll want to do more!

Making the confession that Jesus died for you is just the start. What comes next?  Your life transformed by the Spirit! Just wait until you experience what it’s like to live your salvation. Living your salvation is living the lifestyle of Jesus. It’s having the discipleship mentality.

I truly, truly, truly, believe this. Salvation is not the whole story. It is fundamental, sure. It’s the key. It’s the beginning. You have to be saved. You have to recognize what Jesus Christ did. You have to know that He died on that cross. He took your sins. He took the blame. He took it all.

But He also taught us to pray for God’s kingdom on earth. He discipled us. He called us to live the life that He lived. He called us to bring the kingdom.

And that’s simple! All you have to do is keep His commandment. Love your neighbor as yourself. Whether you’re rich or poor or in between, your joy will come from the way you use the gifts you’ve been given to live the lifestyle of Jesus.

This is what I teach my children. Life isn’t about how much money you make. It’s not about fame, either.

Life is not about what you can get. Life is about what you can do. What can you do? You can love your neighbor as yourself! It’s really that simple!

Loving my neighbor as myself is the concept that I’ve built my life around. When I use my gifts to love my neighbor, I feel like I’m fulfilling my life’s goal. It’s fulfilling to do something good for somebody else, with no thought of a return.

Try it. Do something good, and do it simply to love. It feels great!

Do you believe in Jesus? If so, then how do you use your gifts? Do you use them to love others? Then congratulations! You’re on the course of discipleship. You are living the lifestyle of Jesus.

See you Tuesday.

Heavy Burdens

No man shall live for himself. This is so important to me that I’ve had it tattooed on my left forearm. I want to be reminded of it every day. I want to talk to people about it. I want to stir a movement around it. I want to raise my sons to live by it. This is my heart. It’s the way to a fulfilling life.

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Sometimes, it even feels like a burden. I try to serve as Christ served. I try to love my neighbor and live for others. But sometimes it’s just hard to do.

I can get annoyed. I can get frustrated. And when I do, I’m tempted to start reacting that way. I want to be selfish! I think, “It would be so much easier right now if I didn’t have to represent Jesus. It would be so much easier if I could just do whatever I want to do.”

In my flesh, I want to just let go and be frustrated, and I want to react out of frustration. Or I want to just let go and be angry, and then react out of anger. The temptation can be so strong! Obviously, sometimes I do act out of anger or frustration. As long as we have flesh on our bones, we will struggle with this.

Sometimes, self-control really does feel like a burden.

My little boys are always watching me. And you know what? They act like me. I can see it. When I’m not doing well, or I’m not reacting well to challenges, they reflect that back to me. If I react to things with frustration, they react to things with frustration. If I react to things out of anger, so do they.

And then they get in trouble and I don’t! I’m sure they see that, and think it’s not fair.

(I do get in trouble. They just don’t see it. Right?)

Selflessness and self-control are very hard, and very important. It’s so important to represent Christ the right way for our children. So it can be burdensome. Sometimes, I don’t want to react like Jesus. Sometimes, I just want to react my way.

Even service can be burdensome. It can be burdensome to fight for it, and to really understand what it means. It can be burdensome to wake up every day and serve. Serving people is exhausting at times. It really is. Especially if you’re not being served in return.

Jesus, man, think about Jesus! He said, “I came to Earth to serve, not to be served.” That’s huge. People hear that, and they will say, “Oh, that is so cool.” And yes, it is! But guess what? It can be very difficult to do. When you’re serving all the time, and you’re not being served in return, that little tank of love you have can run low.

Then the doubts creep in, where you’re like, “Hey, man, I need something in return here. I need some validation. Is anything I’m doing all that important?”

Jesus served us, no matter what. But I think He got exhausted. I’m sure of it. I think He finally showed it in the Garden of Gethsemane when He started sweating blood. He must have been saying, “I’m exhausted, and I’m about to die for people who will eventually deny that I even existed. I know what I’m about to take on. There’s going to be a lot of pain.” What a burden. A stress level like that? Jesus sweated blood.

He was never a sinner, but this was a moment where He showed us just how exhausting it can be to constantly serve. Jesus was constantly needed. People were constantly asking things of him. He did it the best of anybody. He’s God! And even He got exhausted.

We’re not going to do it nearly as well as He did. We’re not going to be as reliable and repetitive in our ability to serve as He was. But we’ve got to do our best. When service grows heavy, when it gets tough, you really have to ask the Spirit for strength. You have to ask Him for wisdom, and knowledge, and understanding. He will teach you. He will show you how to represent Christ every day. And He’ll restore you. You can rest in that.

More on this next time. See you Friday.