Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hate your spouse?

See Part 1 of this discussion: Who’s your savior - your spouse or Jesus?

What’s up with Jesus telling us to hate our spouse? Is that His message in Luke 14:26 when he says,

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”
No, that is not what Jesus is talking about. He is saying that we must make everything and everyone a distant 2nd. We must be willing to depend solely on Christ. We cannot elevate anyone to the position of Christ – this includes our spouse.

But, does God use us to minister to each other? Yes. Did God bring us together so that we can uplift and encourage one another? Yes. But, we must remember that we have limits. However, God is limitless in His ability to satisfy.

Where are you expecting your fulfillment to come from – the world, your friends, your spouse, or God? We must look to God for satisfaction and fulfillment. Looking to anything or anyone else will leave us disappointed. Only God truly satisfies. Let’s make looking to the Lord our natural response.

Does this let us off the hook? Can we use this truth as an excuse to ignore our responsibilities as a husband or a wife? Is this our license to slack-off and revert to selfishness? By no means! We are called to love and serve one another. We are called to be Christ to each other. Husbands, you are called to love your wife like Christ loves His church. Wives, you are called to submit to your husbands.

Let's approach our spouse is this manner:
8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve [the other], faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. 11If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. - 1 Peter 4:8-11

Monday, July 28, 2008

Who’s your savior - your spouse or Jesus?

Too many husbands and wives expect their spouse to be their comforter, their emotional fountain of life, their peace, their joy, and even their savior.

We cannot expect our spouse to supply our needs that only Christ can supply. We can’t put our hope in our spouse. We can only put our hope in Christ. Expecting our spouse to fulfill the needs that only Christ can meet results in disaster, disappointment, and sometimes divorce.

  • “I am the vine” – Who is the vine? Your spouse? No!
  • “Come to me all who are thirsty” – to who? Your spouse? No!
  • “For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” – Psalm 107:9 WHO? Your spouse? NO!
  • “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:19 – Did that say your spouse is supposed to meet all your needs? NO!

People will let you down, but God will never let you down. Don't depend on your spouse to fill all your needs. Only God can do that.

"Cursed is the one who trusts in man, depends on flesh for his strength whose heart turns away from the LORD." - Jeremiah 17:5

I will continue this discussion tomorrow…

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Promise of the Spirit

This week's small group curriculum is the latest in the "Red Letter Summer" series that is focusing on the ministry of Christ and the present Kingdom of God.

Big Idea:
Who is the Holy Spirit and what is His role in the life of a Christ follower? When many genuine Christians think of the Holy Spirit, they imagine some impersonal force floating around the universe like “The Force” in Star Wars. However, the Holy Spirit is not an “it”; He is a person, He is God.

Why is it easier to see God the Father and God the Son as persons, but harder to understand the Holy Spirit as the person of God; a person of the trinity; a member of the Godhead? After all, it is not God in two persons, but God in three persons.

In order to better wrap our minds around the Holy Spirit, let’s take a closer look at God’s Word to see how He is described. The Holy Spirit is called our counselor, comforter, helper, intercessor, advocate, and even friend; One who is called alongside us to offer assistance (John 14:16-17). The Holy Spirit is our teacher. He reminds us of God’s truth and helps us understand how truth changes everything, including us (John 14:25-26). The Holy Spirit is our guide; He walks with us and directs our steps while leading us into the fullness of who we are in God’s kingdom (John 16:13). He helps us stay on the trail; he gives us water when we’re thirsty, rest when tired, a kick in the pants when we grow lazy, and words of encouragement when we feel like quitting. The Holy Spirit is a giver - empowering and gifting us to speak things and do things for God’s glory that we couldn’t do before (Acts 1:8).

So, how can we become more intimate with the Holy Spirit and allow Him complete access in our lives? We must be born of the Spirit. This occurs when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior; putting our faith in Christ alone, dying to self, and living wholly for Him (John 3:4-6). We must be baptized in the Spirit. There is an experience with God that is available to every believer who has been born into the Kingdom of God and it involves being filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). We must be led by the Spirit and not our selfish desires (Romans 8:14).

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

John 14:15-26
According to these words of Jesus, who is the Holy Spirit? To whom will the Holy Spirit come (v.15-16)? Share with the group examples of how the Holy Spirit has been your counselor, friend, teacher, guide, and/or strength.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11
Which Christians receive gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit (v.7)? Why are we given these gifts (v.7)? How have you benefited from others properly exercising their gifts?

Romans 8:9-17
What is the mark or sign that one is owned by Christ? What will prevent the Holy Spirit’s access and power in your life? How might you respond to someone who thinks the Holy Spirit is merely optional for Christians?

Taking Action: If you have restricted the Holy Spirit’s access in your life or discounted Him in any way, ask for forgiveness and repent. Cry out to the Holy Spirit this week and present Him with an invitation to have His way in your life and ask to be filled with His overflowing presence.

Ministry Time

Also, check out this related post called Take Off Your Parka.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Will God judge us because of our vote?

A friend of mine, Zack Hensley, recently blogged about the topic of abortion and the pro-abortion views of a presidential candidate. I typically stay away from politics on Transformed Daily, but our views and actions regarding abortion aren’t about politics.

In his post, Zack presented this challenge, “Those of us who can act to stop it, will answer before the throne in Heaven if we do not.” This statement got me thinking about the upcoming election and our role as voters. If we cast a vote for someone who is pro-abortion and they win the election only to perpetuate the heinous act of killing the helpless, will we be judged by God for our role? Isn’t voting for someone who supports abortion really the same thing as voting in favor of abortion itself? Isn’t it the equivalent of making a donation to help build another abortion clinic? Do we so cavalierly think that just voting for a candidate with pro-abortion views and agendas leaves us far enough removed that judgment won’t fall on us?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I want to do it all

Am I a disciple of Christ? What does a disciple look like? I think of two scriptures where Jesus told us what he wants His disciples to be doing.
As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:7-8

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. - Matthew 28:19-20
God, I ask that you would send me just as you sent your original twelve disciples – preaching the kingdom of God, healing the sick, raising the dead, driving out demons, baptizing, and teaching others to obey all of your commands. You say that we have all the authority in you to do these things for your kingdom; may it be so in my life. I want to do it all and be used by you for your glory. May I get out of the way and let you do your full work in me and through me.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Is there divorce in God's Kingdom?

What does God think about divorce? HE HATES IT! (Malachi 2:16) How does Jesus handle the topic of divorce? He shuts the door on it and re-establishes marriage as something that should not be broken-up. (Matthew 19:1-12)

Jesus proclaimed 2,000 years ago that the reasons being used to justify divorce no longer hold water. Why? Because, the kingdom of God has come. And because the kingdom of God has come, everything has changed - including marriage. Jesus came to make everything right again. Because of Christ and because the kingdom has come, we now have all we need to stay married. Is divorce really an option if we are living in God’s kingdom? No! Because the kingdom has come and because of Christ, our hearts no longer need to be hardened toward each other and we can now live His way. “We have all we need for life and godliness.” Jesus has thrown the excuse of “irreconcilable differences” right out the window; this is no longer a legitimate reason for divorce.

What about infidelity? What about adultery? At first glance, it looks like Jesus leaves the door open for divorce in these situations. (Matthew 19:9) But, before we quickly make an assumption that divorce is always OK in the case of adultery, let’s take a look back at the passage in the Gospel of Matthew which immediately precedes this passage on divorce. Forgiveness is the theme of His teaching at the end of Matthew 18. If we follow His teaching on forgiveness, then divorce will not occur because of an act of infidelity. How could we claim to have forgiveness for our spouse if we divorce them after they have repented from the sin of adultery? I realize there are some extremely unique circumstances that can only be addressed on a case-by-case basis, but why do we throw the divorce card out there so quickly when there has been infidelity? Sadly, church leaders are often guilty of quickly encouraging or endorsing divorce when adultery happens. But, is divorce the answer? Is it God’s way? I submit it is not.
“Whatever God has joined together, let NO MAN separate.” – Matthew 19:6
Before I conclude, I want to speak to those who might have divorced for un-biblical reasons. Remember, God is full of mercy and forgiveness. Therefore, repent and accept the amazing forgiveness of God.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What are you “Plugged-In” to?

I find it ironic that one of the most popular “Christian” entertainment sites is called “Plugged – In.” I guess their name is descriptive of what they are all about – helping Christians get plugged-in to this world.

To be fair, the Plugged-in website states that their purpose is “designed to help equip parents, youth leaders, ministers and teens with the essential tools that will enable them to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which they live.” This sounds honorable, but when a movie is reviewed and it uses the Lord’s name in vain or shows gratuitous sex, why doesn’t the site just flag it as completely inappropriate. Instead we get a detailed dissertation of the “positive elements” and the “negative elements.” So, if there are enough good qualities it could outweigh the bad.

Yes, we are “in the world, but we are not supposed to be “of the world.” Why do we Christians so quickly justify our participation in the world and our consumption of the filth this world produces? We watch trashy TV and movies that take God’s name in vain, promote lust, glorify violence, and highlight lifestyles that are completely contrary to the kingdom of God.

I am not saying that every Christian should get rid of their TV’s and never go to another movie for the rest of their lives. I know there is at least one small handful of wholesome entertainment produced each year. But, be careful little eyes what you see.
Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. – Luke 11:34
I am sick and tired of the argument that, “if we are going to reach this fallen world, then we need to engage it and understand it.” Give me a break. Jesus didn’t need to fill his eyes and mind with the trash of this world in order to authentically minister to the sinner. The gospel message is not bolstered a single bit because you have seen the latest Hollywood movie or because you are up to speed on the latest TV episodes.

I think that the fascination and participation of American Christians with the entertainment of this world is an indication of our errant belief that we can serve two masters; that we can follow Christ while still partaking of the world; that we can be Christians without repentance; that we can become citizens of heaven while keeping our citizenship in the world. This kind of thinking is very dangerous and not characteristic of a disciple of Jesus Christ. We are called to go all-in and forsake all others for Him. Let’s stop thinking we can have it both ways.

Lord, help us say no to the enticements of this world. May we honor you with the things we choose to listen to and watch.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

Friday, July 18, 2008

Have you been justified by grace?

I have been spending some time in Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship”. Of course, this book is a must read.

The problems with the doctrine of “cheap grace” are a significant theme in his book and it is clear that this twisted doctrine has been running rampant for quite a while. Bonhoeffer wrote about it in the 1930’s and unfortunately, it is even more prevalent today.
“Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian “conception” of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins”… it degrades grace to “the justification of sin rather than the justification of the sinner.” - Bonhoeffer
Do you hold this view of grace? Does your church hold this view? If you listen to much Christian radio, watch Christian television, or read many of the popular Christian books on shelves today, then you have definitely received your fill of the cheap grace message. If you are comfortable with sin in your life, then you probably have swallowed "hook line and sinker" the doctrine of cheap grace.
"The word of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works." – Bonhoeffer
Jesus makes it clear that His disciple will leave everything to follow Him. God’s grace will drive a true disciple of Christ to obedience. In fact, God’s powerful grace properly understood and applied will be the fuel that empowers a disciple of Christ to live his life set apart for his Lord.
“The only man who has the right to say he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ. Such a man knows that the call to discipleship is a gift of grace, and that the call is inseparable from grace. But those who try to use this grace as a dispensation from following Christ are simply deceiving themselves.” - Bonhoeffer

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Present Reign of Christ

This week my small group curriculum stays in the red letters and highlights the importance of Christ's Lordship and His reign in the very present and real Kingdom of God.

Big Idea:
Everyone wants to be blessed, but not everyone is willing to bow their knees to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and lay down their lives for His Kingdom purpose. It’s much easier to call Jesus Savior than it is to know Him as Lord.

Jesus is Lord and He has brought His Kingdom. There is no middle ground for the Christian: unless you acknowledge Jesus as Lord of all, you can’t claim Him as Lord at all. He is called Lord over 600 times in the New Testament. You can't make Him Lord; He has already claimed the title. What does the lordship of Jesus Christ mean to us? It means that we must recognize Him for who He is, we must offer Him total obedience, and we must give Him the honor that He is due. He has earned it; He is worthy of it. So, will you recognize His Lordship and will you submit to it?

Let’s remember that as Lord, Jesus brought with Him the Kingdom of God. Simply put, the Kingdom of God is the way things should be. It is the way God originally intended things to be before sinful man messed it all up. But, when do we get to begin experiencing this kingdom? When will things be as they were intended to be? Some religious people tell us it happens in the “sweet by and by” when we die. However, Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Not once did Jesus ever subject the Kingdom of God along with all of its promises and possibilities to a futuristic millennial age. He threw wide open the door of Heaven’s provision for our lives today. He demonstrated the presence of His Kingdom as He performed miracle after miracle. You see, not only did He declare the Kingdom to be “at hand”, but He performed miracles to show them just how close it was.

We must be careful not to miss the Kingdom of God due to ignorance, disbelief, or because we don’t understand the signs of His Kingdom. In our carnality, we must not look for personal signs to prove to us the reality of His Kingdom among us. Jesus is Lord and His Kingdom is here and now. In light of this reality, it’s time to change our thinking about everything. We can’t afford to miss the present reign of Christ.

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Luke 6:46- 49
What does Jesus expect of those who call Him Lord? What does this parable teach should be the foundation of a life surrendered to Him? Contrast the results of submitting to His Lordship through obedience with not submitting.

Luke 19:11-27
What does verse 12 tell us about why Jesus came to earth? To whom does Jesus give kingdom responsibility until He returns, and what does He expect them to do until He returns? What is the difference between the outcome for the negligent servant and those who didn’t surrender to His lordship?

Philippians 2:5-13
We are to have the same attitude as Christ. How does this passage describe His attitude? In what ways do you see your attitude becoming more like Christ’s as you grow in your faith? Why will "all things" confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ? What is the relationship between Christ's attitude and His kingdom authority?

Taking Action: This week, daily ask God to reveal any areas in your life that are not subjected to His Lordship. Repent, submit those things to God, and ask God for His grace to walk in newness of life – free from compromise and treason.

Ministry Time

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The possibility of forgiveness

Jesus makes it very clear that forgiveness is not optional. Check this out:
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. - Matthew 6:14-15
So, why do we sometimes have a hard time forgiving others? Often it is because we have an incorrect understanding of what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. Following are three misconceptions: (1) If we forgive, we are essentially condoning what was done, but forgiveness never condones or excuses a wrong. (2) If we forgive, we must forget. Forgetting the hurt is not commanded, but forgiving the person is. (3) If we forgive, we must also reconcile. Scripture requires and demands forgiveness, but reconciliation is an option. Forgiveness and reconciliation are separate concepts. Reconciliation should always be the objective, but it is not mandatory. Scripture tells us to make every effort to live at peace with others. However, it takes two to reconcile and we cannot force reconciliation upon others. But, we can always forgive others in our own hearts. Forgiveness is mandatory.

Remember, we have been given all we need for life and godliness in Christ Jesus. The kingdom of God has come. Forgiveness is not only commanded, but it is also completely possible for those who are in Christ Jesus. AMEN!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Jones Band at City of Grace Church

On March 29th & 30th, The Jones Band had the opportunity to lead some worship at City of Grace Church in Mesa, AZ.
(Sorry it took so long to get this converted and posted. Also, sorry that the audio wasn't mixed for the recording. The live mix rocked the house.)

Vocals = Faith & Mom
Drums = Grant
Guitars = Jake & Ben
Bass = Dad

Monday, July 14, 2008

A prisoner of the Lord

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. - Ephesians 4:1
Yes, Paul was in prison when he wrote these words. However, as Christians we are all supposed to be prisoners of Christ. That’s right; I am supposed to be a prisoner of Christ. I must be captivated by Him. I must obey Him. I must only do what He wills me to do. I must only go where He calls me to go. I am His prisoner. I am subject to His will for my life. Here’s an interesting thought I had… I am safer as a prisoner of Christ than as a free man able to do my own will because my will is dangerous.

Thank you Lord that I am your prisoner. Thank you for the protection it brings me. Thank you that it is a life sentence; may I never escape.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Have you boasted lately?

I will not boast in myself. However, I will boast in knowing God. I will boast in His glory and His marvelous works. I will boast in what He has done in my life. I will boast in His powerful grace which has wrought transformation and deliverance in my life. I will tell others of the change and give God the glory for what He has done.

Again, I will not boast in myself, but I will boast in the Almighty God of this universe and the Lord of my life.

So that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." – 1 Corinthians 1:31

23Thus says the LORD, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things," declares the LORD. – Jeremiah 9:23-24

Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God. – Psalm 20:7

My soul will make its boast in the LORD; the humble will hear it and rejoice. - Psalm 34:2

In God we have boasted all day long, and we will give thanks to Your name forever. Selah. – Psalm 44:8

Friday, July 11, 2008

Please, no more wimpy prayers

Too often, I think we pray from a place of timidity instead of boldness. You know what I’m talking about… we casually throw out a couple minutes of prayer where we ask God to deliver us from a habitual sin or to heal us physically, but instead of persisting until we get an answer, we prematurely jump back into the rat-race of life, and at some point look back wondering why nothing happened. It is really the equivalent of softly tapping once on someone’s door, assuming they're not home, and then walking away. Does this mean that God requires long prayers? No, but He does seem to honor boldness. Check this out:
5Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' 7"Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' 8I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. - Luke 11:5-10
Notice that this passage is smack dab in the middle of Jesus teaching specifically about prayer. In other words, Jesus is trying to tell us something about prayer. Why did the man get out of bed to answer the door and give his friend what he needed? Was it simply because of their relationship? No! It was because of the person’s boldness to knock and to keep on knocking. I submit that we need to go courageously before the throne of grace; we need to knock on the door of heaven with a heavy hand, we need to continue asking without timidity, we need to pray with boldness.

With all of this said, let’s remember what our prayers should look like. Jesus just got done presenting “The Lord’s Prayer” to His disciples. He outlined what we should include in our prayers and what we shouldn’t. Praying boldly for things that do not line up with the kingdom of God won’t amount to much, but praying boldly for the things that touch the heart of God and are according to His will is a formula for miracles and answers.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pray like this...

This week my small group curriculum focuses on prayer.

Big Idea:
So, do you know how to pray? How we pray matters. In fact, Jesus instructed His disciples about prayer on more than one occasion and we call these instructions “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Too often Christians can find themselves stuck in a rut of selfish prayers where God is reduced to a genie who is supposed to grant the three wishes of health, wealth, and personal happiness. Other times, prayer can be used by the spiritually puffed-up as a tool to impress others. Jesus corrected these misuses of prayer when he unpacked what we call, “The Lord’s Prayer”. This prayer is our Lord's teaching and our Lord's pattern concerning prayer and life. Let’s be very clear that the Lord's Prayer was not given as a literary masterpiece to be merely admired; nor, was it designed to simply be recited as a rote prayer. Rather, it was given to be a pattern and basis of prayer for real people in the real world. It is intended to help us understand how to talk with God and how to live for Him.

The Lord’s Prayer is comprised of four distinct components: adoration (praising God's attributes and character), confession (confession of our sins to God), thanksgiving (thanksgiving for the blessings we have received from Him), and lastly supplication (requests for ourselves and others). These vital components of prayer can be best remembered by the use of the acrostic ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.

Finally, prayer is vital because it is our opportunity to commune directly with God, celebrate His glorious attributes, and praise Him for His marvelous works. Jesus actually spoke of prayer very presumptuously when He introduced the topic of prayer with the statement,”When you pray.” Notice, He didn’t say if you pray. Jesus was a man who prayed, and He understands the essential role it plays in our lives. So, let’s take Jesus’ lead and pray His way.

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Matthew 6:5-8 (this week, also read The Message version of this passage)
(1) Does our motivation for prayer matter? (2) Discuss what can make some prayers wrong. (3) How do you respond to the suggestion that the Lord's Prayer is more than a prayer to recite, rather it is a model for communicating with God.

Matthew 6:9-15 (this week, also read The Message version of this passage)
(1) What significance is there in the use of the words “our” and “us” in this prayer? (2) Why should our heavenly Father's name be held in awe and in the highest honor? (3) How can we hold his name high? (4) Discuss why it can be hard to accept the will of our heavenly Father. (5) How do you react to the suggestion that we should pray for our daily bread, forgiveness and deliverance from temptation, rather than for our comfort and happiness? (6) Finally, discuss the importance of asking for forgiveness and forgiving others.

Taking Action: Put Jesus’ pattern of prayer into action by making a conscience decision while in prayer to spend time adoring God, confessing your sins, thanking Him for His blessings, and lastly asking Him for help.

Ministry Time

Monday, July 07, 2008

Who's in your equation?

Approaching any situation without understanding God’s role can be dangerous, result in poor decisions, and cause great anxiety. We can’t go through life oblivious to the fact that God is part of our equation. In fact, we must realize that God is the constant in our equation; He is the one factor that will never change; He has the greatest impact on final results.

The following statement from Oswald Chambers recently corrected my thinking and brought my mind and heart back to a place of peace as I was reminded of God’s constant sovereignty and active involvement in all areas of my life.
“Have you been bolstering up that stupid soul of yours with the idea that your circumstances are too much for God? Put all ‘supposing’ on one side and dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. Deliberately tell God that you will not fret about that thing. All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God. “ – Oswald Chambers

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Looking for satisfaction?

The things of this world just don’t quite do it for me anymore. I spent much of my life seeking satisfaction from the things that this world has to offer, but only found disappointment, emptiness, and sometimes even pain. Here's a basic illustration. Have you ever thought that getting that new HDTV, new car or new home was going to satisfy? You may find it for a moment, but that moment soon passes and you are right back where you started – discontent, bored, and empty.

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 2:10-11
Too many of us have taken a wrong turn in our pursuit of happiness and satisfaction. We have tried to find it in stuff, riches, hard work, pleasures, food, popularity, or even new relationships. But when those are achieved, we find the satisfaction quickly fades and ultimately completely disappears. This is because there is only one who truly satisfies - God. The pursuit of God is therefore the pursuit of happiness and the only path to satisfaction.

For He (God) has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good. Psalm 107:9

Friday, July 04, 2008

Are you truly happy?

This week my small group curriculum explores the topic of happiness as we study the "red letter" words of Jesus in the Beatitudes.

Big Idea:
Happiness in God’s economy is measured and acquired very differently than the happiness advanced by this world. The happiness of this world is achieved through self promotion and indulgence, while the blessings of God are the result of a surrendered life. The happiness of this world is fake and fleeting, while God’s prescription for happiness goes deep and lasts forever.

Jesus has reversed human values; He has turned this world inside-out and claims that happiness (true fulfillment and blessing) is not the result of fame, pleasure or money. Rather, happiness is the residue of a holy life that is submitted to God and His values. Here’s the worlds list of happy people: [1] the proud, [2] the boisterous, [3] the beautiful, [4] those who seek pleasure, [5] the rich and powerful, [6] the fun-loving and wild, [7] the bold, and [8] the popular. Now, let’s take a look at Jesus’ list of happy people: [1] the poor in spirit - someone that is spiritually humble; [2] those who mourn - grieve over their own sinfulness; Godly sorrow; [3] the meek - considerate, gentle, unassuming; [4] those who hunger and thirst for righteousness - desiring an obedient life. Jesus says, “ if you love me, you will obey me”; [5] the merciful - showing pity; [6] the pure in heart - personal purity, trying to live a life without sin; [7] the peacemakers - those who work toward friendly relations; [8] the persecuted - those who suffer for Christ’s sake.

So, which list best describes you – the worlds list or Jesus’ list? Which characteristics of happiness are you pursuing? (Feel free to stop and discuss in your group.)

Pursuing God’s definitions of happiness and blessing should not be intimidating, causing us to give up, or feeling that it is beyond our feeble efforts to achieve. God has given us all we need to be Beatitude happy – His powerful grace is enough. He is looking for our desire to strive for these characteristics and implant them in our daily lives. Remember, don’t worry, be HAPPY!

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Matthew 5:1-12
Discuss why we experience true happiness and blessing when we live our lives like this. Which of these characteristics is hardest for you to exhibit? What can you do to make that characteristic part of your life? Discuss as a group.

Ecclesiastes 2:10-11
How does this passage depict a life lived purely for personal gain and the happiness promoted by the world? What kind of things do we pursue that will ultimately bring disappointment and emptiness rather than happiness?

2 Peter 1:3-4
What excuses do people give for not living-out the Beatitudes? How does this passage encourage you? Discuss why it is possible to be truly happy.

Taking Action: Begin each day next week by meditating on the Beatitudes. Ask God to reveal to you a practical action that you can take in order to grow in one or more of the Beatitude characteristics today. Go for it and become Beatitude happy.

Ministry Time

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Greater love has no one than this...

On this 4th of July weekend, my mind goes to the words of Jesus, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13

I thank and honor all of those brave soldiers who have laid down their lives for their fellow countrymen - for you and me. I also thank and honor all of the soldiers who are currently putting their lives in harms way for others. May the Lord bless you and keep you.