Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Did Jesus really die for our #happiness?

What happens when people start believing what Victoria Osteen has said on TV?

They start believing Jesus died for their #happiness


Victoria says:

"So I just want to encourage everyone of us to realize when we obey God (laughs) we're not doing it for God, I mean that's one way to look at it, we're doing it for ourselves; because God takes pleasure when we're happy. That's the thing that gives him the greatest joy this morning, so I want you to know this morning: just do good for your own self, do good cause God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship him, you're not doing it for God really, you're doing it for yourself, because that's what makes "God" happy (lifts hands) Amen?! Let's open our hearts to him today."




(May not want to mention this ^ to Job.)

Thousands clapped their hands and said amen. Why? Because it is exactly what we want to hear. We want to hear that God makes us happy. We want to hear that God takes pleasure when we are happy. We want to hear that what gives him the greatest joy is our obedience for ourselves. We have 'itching ears' to hear that when we come to church and worship him we're not doing it for God really but for ourselves.

So what's so wrong with the fact that this is what the Osteen's claim is one of their beliefs?:


Because they aren't living by it. They are actually taking scripture and completely manipulating it, or one could argue, they aren't even using scripture to make their claims.

"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." 2 Timothy 4:3-5

When the 'Christian' world is clinging to this false gospel, the world is groaning with expectancy (Romans 8:19-20) for the True Gospel. The world is longing for the Truth (1 Peter 3:18) that sets them free. And the world is longing for a hope above all other hopes that takes them into a relationship with a living, loving, and righteous Father.

But we mustn't forget what Paul wrote in verse 6 of 2 Timothy: "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come."

Or what Romans 8 says, "he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in uswho walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." And if we walk according to the flesh, or according to our #happiness we will die. "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."



And we mustn't get confused about why God has us here.

What if I said it was never about us? What if I said the Gospel was really not about what God did for us. Would it make you angry? Would it make you sad? Would the idols inside of you well up and scream out?

Did Jesus really die for our happiness? I mean, is that really how cheap grace is? Let's think back to when we received Grace. 

What did grace do for you? Did it make you stand proudly and say, "wow, now look what Christ has done for me, he has made me happy!"

Grace made us stagger. Grace made us wounded, humble, and broken before a Holy and perfect God. Grace made us see the darkness of our sin, and come crawling on our knees to the cross longing for the Light. Grace made us desperate for love and mercy. Grace walked out of the grave. And Grace showed His nail-pierced hands to us. Not to make us #happy, to make us whole. To give us the opportunity to proclaim Grace to the world.

"For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." Habakkuk 2:14

There's no bigger obstacle to loving God well than our own thorny pride which causes our minds, bodies, and souls to seek advancement and goodness for ourselves. We think about ourselves. We desire happiness. We pursue the avenue which best uplifts ourselves, even at the cost of others. But Grace turns our world upside down and inside out. Grace says it isn't about you, it was never about you. Grace says, "But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:16

We are here to be living testimony's of God's Grace. We are here to proclaim the glory of God with every breath we take. And we are here to "conquer [Satan] by the blood of the lamb and by the word of our testimony, because [we will] love not our lives even unto death." Reveleation 12:11



Let us as brothers and sisters in Christ never forget or deny the burden which Paul carried for the lost. And let us not forget the jealousy of our Father "who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:4

Let's not forget that the Bible doesn't say in Matthew 5, "blessed are those who do good for themselves because it makes them happy" but it says, blessed are: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, and blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you. That's the Gospel.

"I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen." Romans 9:1-5 ESV


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Other sources for further reading:
1. Piper, John The Pleasures of God: 1991 http://www.desiringgod.org/books/the-pleasures-of-god
2. The Gospel Coalition Blog http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/gospeldrivenchurch/2014/03/05/youre-going-to-die-and-so-might-your-dreams/

Monday, August 18, 2014

Why sacrificial giving is so important when everybody is giving

During the current rave of the #icebucketchallenge to raise awareness of ALS,

Here are the facts:
1. What is ALS? ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease." It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. (ALSA.ORG)
2. What is the cause of ALS? Although the cause of ALS is not completely understood, the recent years have brought a wealth of new scientific understanding regarding the physiology of this disease.
3. Is there a cure? While there is not a cure or treatment today that halts or reverses ALS, there is one FDA approved drug, riluzole, that modestly slows the progression of ALS as well as several other drugs in clinical trials that hold promise.
4. Why are you giving? In the past decade, major changes in the pharmaceutical industry and the drug development landscape have taken place. The severity of ALS, the absence of effective therapy, and the importance of finding treatments for all neurodegenerative diseases have combined to make ALS an attractive target for new approaches to drug discovery and development.
5. Why donate sacrificially? It costs an estimated $1-2 billion to develop a new drug; the development process takes a decade or more; and the failure rate for drug development is approximately 95 percent. As a consequence, many pharmaceutical companies have been forced to downsize their operations, especially in the areas of early drug discovery, and in the highest-risk areas, including CNS research.
6. Is there any hope then? YES! New models for drug discovery are emerging as a result. The reliance on outsourcing for the earlier stages of drug development means that small biotechnology companies and academic medical institutions have an increasingly important role in setting priorities for therapy development. The ALS Association has been instrumental in keeping the flow of therapy development strong throughout this transitional period in the pharmaceutical industry. ALSA's TREAT ALS™ program catalyzes important new discoveries that are now being used to design new treatments, as they facilitate partnerships among academic medicine, biotechs, and large pharmaceutical companies.
In light of this awakening of ALS attention, it's imperative to remember what Christ has called us to.
This is a man named David, who has ALS.

"David is the longest living patient of the Oregon Chapter of the ALS Association, and he endures his illness with grace and humor, far more than I believe I could muster under similiar circumstances. Until you experience this disease up-close, you don't really have any concept of the devastation it wreaks on those who have it, those who love them, and those that are the caregivers. David has taken part in clinical trials that he knew were too late to benefit him but that we all hope will further the necessary research to end suffering for those diagnosed in the future," says his sister Katherine.
Why is David's story so important?
Because he is an example of a sacrificial giver. Although he knows the clinical trials can not benefit him, he still counted the cost for others with this terrible disease and has donated time and energy to help researchers find a cure.
Luke 21:1-4 "Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
The woman could have given one, but by giving two she was trusting God was going to take care of her. Her offering was an act of faith. Numerically it was lower than others, but it was far beyond spiritually because she gave sacrificially. I'm not saying we as believers have to give to ALS, although it is a very worthy organization. All I am challenging my Christian brothers and sisters with is to sacrificially give in a season when it's "cool" to give. We can make an impact on many organizations if we are willing to sacrificially give. But don't sacrificially give because you feel like you have to! Count it a joy to donate your hard earned money to help researchers find a cure to ALS (alsa.org), to help provide water for those without it (charitywater.org) or to provide food for the hungry (fh.org).
I can't say whether this #icebucketchallenge is right or wrong. It has brought an incredible amount of attention to an organization that seems faithful to providing as much help as possible for ALS patients, as well it has topped the ALSA's donations from last year at this time, by 60% according to the organizations national office. Last year ALSA received $32,000, this year they have received $5.5 million. For that I have to believe there is much good coming from this ice bucket challenge. But I also wonder how much bigger of an impact we could have if we all were thinking sacrificially like David and the woman with two copper coins. Instead of taking the ice bucket challenge I challenge you to "not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" and donate to a worthy cause. While the #icebucketchallenge is hitting your Facebook news feed and "everybody's doling it" challenge yourself with the Word of Truth and give until it hurts. Then that $5.5 million will turn into $150 million.
On average people have donated $40, which is .07% of the average household income in the United States. And according to the challenge, you can actually avoid giving by taking the ice bucket over your head. My final challenge to you is not to give up pouring the ice bucket over yourself (please keep the hilarious videos coming), but to count the cost like David and still give in remembrance of somebody you know and for the hope of future patients affected by ALS.
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All information taken from:
1. alsa.org 


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Love at Lovefield




Last night Alyssa VanderWall and I were "jokingly praying" that I would meet somebody in the airport today on my way home to Birmingham that I could give my support packet to and that I wouldn't need to buy anymore support packets...

Well due to a crazy series of events I ended up in the Dallas-Lovefield airport for 7 hours, ended up at a bar watching the Argentina-Switzerland game, and ended up standing across from two men from different parts of the United States that were in Dallas on a business trip. After watching the game with them, and talking with them for an hour or so before the USA game started, learning about the companies they both owned, they asked me what I do. After sharing my testimony with them and sharing with them about YWAM, one of the men said, "hey give me your address and I will send you an iPhone! Obviously you need a new one (my iPhone is shattered)!" Humbled and thankful for this providence. Then he asked if I would come sit down with them and share more about YWAM. I happened to have a support packet in my backpack. After pulling it out and showing it to him he asked if he could keep it! (of course I let him keep it!)

Right before the USA game started I had left to go to the bathroom then came back to the bar and he said to me, "well my partner and I were just talking and we really want to support you and what you are doing for God with more than just a new phone."

I just CANNOT BELIVE IT. Even in our "joking prayers" He hears the truth of our hearts and sees a way to bring the Kingdom together by sovereignly not letting me get on my 2 pm flight to Birmingham and having to stay until 7 o'clock. Just saying yes to God who loves us and cares for us more than we could ever ask or imagine.


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Friday, June 27, 2014

Lete: Blessed

She had her whispy black hair pulled back in a tight little pony tail. Wrinkles across her forehead, a story for each one, and her white uniform collared shirt tucked neatly into her pants.

Another night, another drive around LAX, take busy people to all the places they needed to go, oh the places they go. Her devotion had gone unnoticed. Nobody knew her story. Nobody cared to know her name. But tonight.

Her name is Lete. And she is the LAX taxi driver who has been faithfully devoted to driving that taxi for 5 years. Her journey began in a far different place though: Eritrea, Africa (north Eastern Coast of Africa). Never having gone to school, she worked on a small farm her whole childhood. Her family lived impoverished though, and she knew there had to be a way to take better care of them. So 17 years ago she had the opportunity to move to Los Angeles, California and find work. With knowing no English she filled whatever jobs she could and tried to learn English as fast as she could. She lived with her sister, and sent the money she made to her family in Eritrea.

"Do you like being a taxi driver?"

"Well it's a job."

"If you could be anything you want to be what would you be?"

"I don't know."

"Do you have any children?"

"No, no children."

"Are you married?"

"No, no I'm not."

"Do you want to be married?"

"I mean i don't know, I chose this, I just want to take care of my family back in Eritrea so they aren't poor."

One of the most sacrificial selfless women I've ever met. One of the greatest sisters in Christ I have ever met. And thousands of people have gotten in and out of her cab and have moved on with their lives, never knowing that they missed one of the most "blessed" women in the world, and never knowing that their definition of "blessed" may be a bit skewed.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:3-9 ESV)

She has had a broken spirit, she has mourned for her countrymen and her family, she is meek, she hungers and thirsts for a right relationship with God, she is merciful, she is pure in her heart, and she is the peacemaker in her family.

And many people will sit in her taxi cab, never knowing that one of the greatest examples of Jesus Christ was sitting 2 feet away from them and was named Lete.

So I dare you to let Heaven invade earth today and listen to a stranger's story.

Tonight I was thankful for Los Angeles traffic (even at 10:15 pm), and honored to meet such an incredible woman.

 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Freedom of Forgiveness

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” 

-C.S. Lewis


Shouting out the name of Jesus from the highest rooftops in the darkest places.
Reviving my soul to its original degree of joy and laughter.
Bringing life to me again so I can share the love of Christ with everybody who the Lord calls me to love.

These are all things that living in the freedom of forgiveness can do to one who simply obeys the Lord's command: to forgive.

"and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12)
"forgive, and you will be forgiven..." (Luke 6:37)
"bearing with one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive" (Colossians 3:13)

And they are COMMANDS they are not a choice or an option.

And last but not least: "Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times but seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21-22).

This last scripture is the one which convicted me the most when I was praying and asking the Lord for forgiveness. Peter says how often will my BROTHER sin against me, and I forgive him? The greek word for brother in this context is adelphos which means 'a brother whether born of the same two parents or one parent; having the same national ancestor, a fellow believer; brethren in Christ.'

Not only are we supposed to forgive those who hurt us period, but also we are called to forgive our BROTHER who sins against us seventy times seven.

Every day this verse would haunt me. The longer I hadn't forgiven my brother, the greater the weight grew. And I couldn't possibly continue carrying it day after day. Like I said before, living in unforgiveness is living in bondage.

And it is all about will and emotion. I continued telling myself that I would forgive him, even when my emotions were not following, and finally one morning my emotions obeyed my will. It wasn't that I didn't love him anymore, it was that I still loved him. I loved him and Jesus enough to know I couldn't continue in the chains of bitterness. My heart could no longer hold anything against him or over him, the towel had been wrung dry. And I was ready and willing to love him again, not wishing anything bad to happen to him, but to love him purely as a brother and friend.

But there are many faces to forgiveness. Even though I felt like when I forgave him on January 4th that that would be the end of forgiveness, it wasn't. Every day I have to make a decision to live in the freedom of forgiveness. This means there can be no harsh words that can come out of my mouth about him. When I speak of him my conscience can and must be clear. Because he is somewhere in the world right now living a life that is honoring to Christ, obeying God's will and learning to love Jesus better. For me to speak evil, unkindness or bitterness over him would not be loving him well. In fact it wouldn't be loving him at all. We think that in some sort of weird sick way we can bring redemption to our circumstances by holding bitterness and anger over someone who has hurt us, but in reality we are only holding it over ourselves. My brother in Christ, I know, did the hardest thing he probably has ever had to do, and he had to live with the hurt and pain that he knows it brought me. But me continuing to hold bitterness over him, just makes me continue living in the chains of un-forgiveness, and most of all it doesn't represent the Christ, who forgave every sin that I have ever committed or ever will commit, well.

I said yes to learning to love my brother in Christ in a way that left me with a broken heart, but I can safely say on this side of things, my love for people is more genuine and rich now than it ever has been, because it better reflects the glory of Christ. To love fiercely the way Christ did is to risk getting hurt.

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” - C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

So keep loving fiercely, with the risk of getting your heart broken, knowing that at some point it will be broken again, but forgive more than you don't. The freedom of forgiveness is a precious gift the Lord has given us to learn and be and walk according to His ways.

Forgive somebody today, it's a very good thing.

You can read the first two parts to this blog here:
When a heart breaks (Part 1)
Rotting un-forgiveness (Part 2)

Someday I pray, I will be able to forgive those who hurt me even while I am in the midst of the pain and suffering as my Savior did, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

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Monday, June 2, 2014

rotting un-forgiveness

A continuation of the previous story found here: When a Heart Breaks

When can I climb out of this dark, cold, wet well Father, when?

Thus, many nights of tearful begging to the Lord continued...

But there was a hope deep inside of me. There was a hope hidden in the inner part of my heart where my deepest desires hid. The hope of the living Christ inside me. The hope that no matter how far I tried to run away from Him, He would still draw near to me. A hope that no matter how far I felt away from Him He was still near to me.

And all I knew was that I couldn't continue on the path I was on, but that I needed to be surrounded by beautiful Jesus-lovers that would speak the Truth over me even when I didn't want to hear it. I needed to be surrounded by people who would not judge me for what had happened, or that would think they could fix what had happened.

And the Lord gave me YWAM Denver. So I quit my dream job and set out on a journey to YWAM Denver to do a Discipleship Training School with 49 other broken students. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I knew I needed to find out if God, the God who "allowed all of this crap to happen in my life," was actually real. I needed to know that I know that I know that He was real, alive, and that He had never forsaken me.

So there I found myself on top of a mountain at a YWAM base in Eagle Rock, Colorado with a bitter unforgiving heart.

And the worst part about having an unforgiving heart is KNOWING that you have an unforgiving heart.

It wasn't that I hadn't forgiven him, I had said every morning since I woke up after that awful day in July that I had forgiven him, but my heart had told me something completely different.

Bitterness and un-forgiveness was deeply rooted in my heart, and it was going to take an open heart surgery to get it out. So every morning the routine continued, "Lord, I forgive him, I no longer want this inside of me, please don't let me be bitter towards him. Please let me move on. Please let me love and be loved by others again. Please let me feel you fully again, I know this un-forgiveness is hindering me from you." But I was saying out loud "I forgive him I forgive him I forgive him."

And month after month of praying, fasting, and pleading, still I saw the un-forgiveness in my heart. And it looked as bad as it felt. It looked like short-tempered, rude, snide remarks towards people who I knew were just trying to love me. It looked like the rolling of my eyes when somebody talked about their boyfriend or the so called 'love of their life.' It looked like testing my leaders and teachers to see whether their love for me was genuine. And it looked like me pushing people away that genuinely loved me and cared for me.

And it couldn't continue. It drove me crazy carrying the weight of unforgiveness in my back pocket. It made my feet heavy like I had a ball and chain connected to them. It made my shoulder hunch over as if I was carrying a barbell on my shoulders with a 100 lbs on each side. It made my creative fingers  stiffen and not be able to create. It was disgusting. And like any sickness it drove me crazy.

I praise God every day that I had such an incredible group of people surrounding me who cared for me more deeply than I ever understood. If it wasn't for them I never would have experience the freedom of forgiveness that I experienced on January 4, 2014. I woke up early with a ready and expectant heart.

There I was laying in my bed in Chiang Mai, Thailand, praying for the very guy who had broken my heart 7 months earlier. And there in that moment the Lord said, "you have forgiven him. It is over, and all un-forgiveness and bitterness has left your heart."

A series of laughter, and crying continued after that as I rejoiced with my team in everything the Lord had done in me. And a sweet moment of worship of my most holy and worthy King on top of a building looking out over the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

to be continued..

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

When a heart breaks.



Our hearts break for so many things all of the time: sex-trafficking, orphans, widows, break-ups, cancer, death sickness in general, but we can and will rejoice and give thanks in the midst of those things.

One year ago today I got engaged to my best friend, and the person who "I thought" was the love of my life. It was perfect in every way it could have been, beautiful, and the most loving thing anybody has ever done for me. God was glorified. Being surrounded by friends and family in that moment was incredible, especially having them affirm that we should one day soon get married. And like any other soon-to-be bride the wedding planning begun the day after. However it wasn't easy. The pressure to make everyone happy in planning the date was real and awful. After 6 weeks of being engaged to my best friend, planning a wedding, and buying a wedding dress, he very unexpectedly called it off. With a broken mortified heart I laid many nights in my bed weeping and unsure how I was going to go on with life. I loved him, and yet I could not make him love me.

A few weeks later I took some time off work to drive to Colorado with my dad. There were many nights and mornings on top of a mountain watching sunsets and sunrises, asking the God who created that view, "why on earth would you ever do this to me or allow this to happen? What good could ever come from this?"

And the response:
Silence. Cold, dark, eerie silence.

When our heart breaks our Father's voice is sometimes eerily quiet. And the silence is much more devastating than the event itself, because in that very moment when we need to hear Him, see Him, and feel Him, He feels impossibly far away.

Eli Eli lema sabacthani? (Matthew 27:46)

But we know the rest of the Psalm that Jesus is quoting (Psalm 22:22-26), the Psalmist ends up rejoicing and exhorting his listeners to "fear the Lord and praise him!"

Yet day after day after day, there was silence.

When can I climb out of this dark, cold, wet well Father, when?

to be continued...




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