Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who Will You Run To?

I think it so awesome, and am so thankful that Christ loves His kids so unconditionally. Case in point; me. He has an uncanny way of saying " I know you better than you think, and I am watching you right now." (paraphrased of course) The other night I realized my helpless human shell that I am entombed in is just that; helpless without Christ.

I had just had a major discussion (a.k.a. fight) with my wife of 18 yrs. I did not want to talk to her, my friends, and least of all - God! He would just tell me to pull up my boot straps, grow a pair, and figure it out. I didn't want to listen. I actually felt like getting ripped. Going and buying a 12 pack and sitting down by the river, and saying "to hell with the world" for awhile and just get lit up. I was pissed at life in general, using my wife as the catalyst and blaming her. Messed up. Now, I have been a Christian for a long long time, and I have not wanted to get drunk in a very long time. I love a good beer or red wine, but have absolutely no desire to get tipsy or drunk. Nope, not any. Been there, done that. I have to consider myself a little wiser now knowing that throwing up on my floor is not my favorite past time. However; I didn't really care that night. Here's where Dad comes in.

I stormed out of my house with a cloud of anger brewing above my head, and got into my Suburban ready to hit the 7-11 for a short case of whatever. I turned my key and the radio had been left on from earlier. The first words that came out of the radio were; "you decide, who will you run to?" A song by a band called "Fireflight." At first it made me angry that God was there, and then, as angry as I was, I had to chuckle at His timing. Did it make me think? Damn straight it did. It gave me a visual of Jesus on one side and my 12 pack on the other. "You decide, who will you run too?"

I didn't get my beer that night, nor did I have the desire to after that. I opted for a solo viewing of the movie "Inception" at our local movie house. In the days after, I have been thinking of that song and what it means. Some times life sucks. It just does; but we have to decide who (or what) we will run to.

Thanks Dad for caring enough to speak to me through the radio the other night. Love you.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The New Dream Team

Well, I thought I would do my quarterly post for all two of you out there - Bueller...Bueller. I posed a question on Facebook this morning that got me thinking. If Jesus were walking the earth today, and he was choosing the 12 Apostles to change the world, who would he pick?!

First, one's mind would think of great and well known pastors, or maybe an activist leader trying to rid the world of hunger and poverty. Maybe. Would he gather men from one country, or all over the globe? Who would be Judas?

My finite mind would immediately go to people like; Francis Chan. Chan's house may be the first one Jesus stops at. He is such a selfless man, and is like my blog title - "Sold Out" for Christ. I think he'd be a great pick. Maybe someone like Mark Driscoll? He is passionate, articulate, smart, and sometimes has a foot shaped mouth. He would be a perfect Peter. Billy Graham is old, but seasoned well. Dietrich Bonhoffer? Maybe.

What about people like Bono, and his work with the AIDS pandemic? Or Rick Warren from Saddleback. I don't know of many prominent Christian men in other countries, so "my picks" are primarily from the states. Remember; there is a Judas out there too. Any ideas? Careful, your answers may not be PC, but they may be close to the truth. Would he be a political leader perhaps? A famous athlete seemingly on fire for Christ? Hmmm.

Yeah Steve, those are all great names, but Jesus didn't pick high profile speakers, or eloquent men of great stature. He started with some fishermen. These are ordinary people, ordinary Joe's like you and me. He started to pick His apostles where you would least expect it - in the margins of society - places we would never think to look, if we were picking a team to change the world. Smart man that Jesus.

So, how cool would it be to let your mind wander and think that Jesus is walking the earth as your read this, to pick his new "dream team". Just be prepared. If you're just an ordinary Joe with a heart for walking and talking with Jesus, and for saving lost and destitute souls, then maybe, just maybe, you might get a knock on "your" door. He probably won't be wearing a choir robe, or have the 80's hair band look, but he might be wearing flip flops. (especially if he lives in Bend, OR)

So if you listen real hard, I'll bet you can hear the knock.
Question is: will you answer it?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cheapskate Christian

The bible tells us as Christians to tithe 10% of our first fruits. In today's world that means 10% of our income. Debates arise as to whether or not that is 10% of gross, or net, or everything, or just money, blah blah blah, and the debate rages on. Should it be for my church, or can it be a combination of my church, and a charity, or my grandmothers cat's vet bill etc. You get the picture. Regardless you have to ask yourself if you are tithing 10% of your income. Are you tithing 5%? 2%? Anything at all. Maybe it's a token $20 when a powerful speaker tugs on your heart strings and you feel compelled (or guilty) to give something for their cause.

Here are few interesting things I have read regarding the Christian giver / penny pincher. In the year 2000, only 2% of church members were giving 10% of their earnings to the church. Pathetic huh? During the great depression that number was 3.3%. Yeah, it was higher. It seems the more we have, the more we want to hold on to it. The more we need, the more we give. Typically a little over 10% of the church members give 80-90% of the money to their respective churches. That's really stepping it up all you Sunday seat warmers. You know, it would seem to me that if you loved Jesus, you would love the church. And if you don't love the church, then you don't love Jesus. You know, the bride and groom thing. It's a relational concept.

Here's a simple formula with an astounding effect. Take 100 committed adults in a church. That's all there is at this hypothetical church. It's hypothetical, because I can't think of a church that would do this. And each of them makes, oh, lets say $40K a year. They love Jesus, and the mission of their church, and they tithe regularly 10% of their wages. Now do the math. 100 committed, sold out members each giving 10%, which is $4K a year. What does that equal? $400,00! All of this from only 100 members! If you really want to have fun add another 100 or 200 committed people. What if the 100 only gave 5% or even a measly 2%? That's still $80K a year! Now I'm not concerned with how much money the church could make, it's not a contest, but think what could be done with that money for the mission of the church. For the mission of Jesus. Too many scenarios for me to list, so I'll let you dream up something yourself.

Bottom line is we are told by Christ to tithe. It's also the only place in the Bible where He says "test me". We have personally in our house, and He hasn't disappointed. In fact He's amazed us.

Like the commercial says..."What's in your wallet?"

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Pure" Religion

James 1:27 states that "pure and undefiled religion" or some translations say "faulty religion". So we have religion, or better yet, a type of religion that is pure - undefiled - one that God himself accepts. That tells me that the flip side of the coin represents a "faulty" or "defiled" religion... and that all religion is not good. So what is it? What type of religion should we be striving for to be in Christ's favor? Well he describes it about as clear as crystal. "To care for the widows and orphans in their distress." I guess the question I have to ask myself is am I?

I can talk a good talk as well as anyone. But what about acting upon it? Caring for the orphans has always been on my heart, and lately even more so. It seems God won't quit smacking me on the ear to let me know He's still there. It's as if He is saying "that's all you got Steve? You can't do anything more?" "We'll talk later when you come to my place."

It's the comfort factor. Why step out of my comfort zone? Because I don't want to let go of control. "Religion", as defined by us, is what God hates. The legalistic, fundamentalistic type of religion makes Him sick. In Malachi He gives us good insight to His thoughts on twisted religion. In Matthew Jesus tells us what He thinks of the Pharasitical thought process and lifestyle. We are on this earth for a nano second in the grand scale of eternity, and we will face Jesus at some point. Isn't it about time for us (me) to start living out His desires now.

He also tells us to care for the least of these. Ask yourself what you are doing to care for the least of these? What if you were one of the least of these. What would you want from the so called "Christians" Pray about what you can do. Adopt, support financially to a cause for the needy? Get involved in an outreach program here locally? Pray.

Tomorrow could be too late. James 1:27

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Satan Is Alive & Well

Lest we think we are safe from the arrows of satan, we should think again. He is the ruler of the world as we know it today. He is in control of this earth for as long as God allows it. He is the great deceiver, and no one is greater at it than he. 2Corinthians 11: 14-15. He is always looking for an opportunity to pierce us, and is always on the prowl, we must be alert at all times and recognize his stealth tactics 1Peter 5:8 . If he has difficulty penetrating your defenses, he will switch tactics and go for what is most important and valuable to you. He may start with monetary items, or worldly possessions. Stronger people realize this attack, and pray through it. Then he will go for the jugular and make it personal. He will attack your family. Your marriage, and even your children.

This is where the strong are brought to their knees. Satan has a mission in mind - to kill and destroy, and deceive. John 10:10. It may be adultery, pornography, drugs, lies, lust, deceit, or more. Any and all of these. If you think it's easy to fight against this spiritual warfare, then you are spiritually dead. Satan is the greatest tactician of darkness. He will pit us against one another with ease and a flick of his wrist. He is the father of lies who defies God and despises truth. John 8:44. Remember - God is Truth. How ironic is that?! In these extreme economic times, we are left to wonder what will become of our lives, our families, our future. This breeds doubt, discontent, discouragement, anger, fear & uncertainty. All satanic weapons of mass destruction. I myself have been blitzed with these weapons recently, and memories of the past still haunt me, and envisions of the future scare me. My children, my wife, my family, my mind, they are all affected.

Oh the prince of darkness is having his day right now, and will continue to gain power
Ephesians 6: 12 until the day when the Lord says "enough!" and comes to end his reign here on earth. Be aware of satan and his legion of demons, but more so be into the Word, and prayer and pray against his attacks. But also remember these things: Satan was created "by" God and not equal to God Proverbs 16:4, and given limited power Job 1:12, and most importantly he was defeated by Jesus on the cross. Death a.ka. satan could not keep it's grip on Jesus. Three days later he arose with life. "The temple will be rebuilt in 3 days." Satan is defeated. Satan will win some major battles in the coming years, but in the end, he will be forever defeated.

Therefore resist the devil and cling close to God James 4: 7-10. Draw near to Christ in your times of trouble, and He will draw close to you. Satan is alive and very well, but Christ is the ultimate victor. Draw strength from the power of Jesus and no other and you will defeat the attacks of satan. If God is for us - who can be against us. Praise God!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Are you really ready?

We talk big, and act out all the right characters in perfect timing. But the facade that we construct will at some point break apart and crumble. Usually when we are at our lowest point. Why do let it happen that way. Let's accept the love and direction that Christ offers to us NOW! We say we are ready for Him, but we don't act like it. Let Christ's love run deep within your soul, and reap the benefits He so wants to give us. Whatever it takes. Here are the lyrics to a song by Kutless calle "Ready For You"

Lord, You take my heart away with Your love
and I am willing to put on my faith in Your plan.

Come and take my life.
Make my soul refreshed in truth now.

I am ready for You.
Take my heart and make me new now.
I am ready for You
to come and fill my soul.

Cleanse all of my mind that is not of You.
Break me, teaching me how to find rest in Your hands.

Come and take my life.
Make my soul refreshed in truth now.

I am ready for You.
Take my heart and make me new now.
I am ready for You
to come and fill my soul.
To come and fill my soul.

Whatever it takes,
I'm needing to make Your will be done
and I'm letting go of my control,
for I see what You've done in me.

I am ready for You.
Take my heart and make me new now.
I am ready for You
to come and fill my soul.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I Feel Like I'm Gonna Hurl

There's any empty pit feeling in my stomach. The fear of losing my business is becoming more of a reality every day. I still have tremendous faith that Jesus can provide a miracle and save my business, but I don't know if He will. It's kind of like that feeling you get when you get sick. You know - you feel like you're going to hurl, but so badly don't want to. So you lay there tossing and turning and doing whatever you can to not blow. Then there comes a point where you just say - "let's get this over with and be done with it." "If it's gonna happen, let it happen."

That's kind of where I'm at right now. People tell me that God won't let you suffer more than you are able to handle, and that He will take care of me, and He has an ultimate plan. I know all that, but it really doesn't pay the bills right now! It still stings like a needle piercing the skin on my arm. Thank the Lord that I have Him, because without Him, I'd be a wreck. I'd be going off like a loaded gun, and regretting every bit of it later. Without Christ, I'd be a mess.

We learned about real perseverance last night in our small group. Paul. Paul was ridiculed like George Bush at a PETA festival, and beaten like a red headed step child. Yet Paul got up, pulled up his pants (robe) and jumped back in the fray. Crazy? Yeah he is kind of crazy. He's crazy filled with the Holy Spirit that's what. He totally believes that he's gonna continue to get the crap beat out of him, rocks thrown at his head, and driven out of town by a bunch of jacked up loons that think he's Zeus's sidekick!

But he also believes that God will take care of him. Take care of him then, and more importantly - in the future. He is not focusing on the seen, but the unseen. He is preparing this day for that day. He 100% full on believes in the power of Jesus! Do I? If I really do, then why am I getting my shorts all in a bunch? I pray that I will be filled with the Holy Spirit the way Paul was! Believing that is possible is where I draw my strength from. This is temporary, and we should expect that it's not going to be easy like Shaq putting down a two handed dunk. But I think I draw the majority of my strength (aka faith) from knowing that my Jesus has my back. No matter what. And one day (in the future) He is going to let me in on His heavenly party. And oh, will we par-teh! No more doubt, nor discouragement, nor suffering.

Thanks Jesus for having my back, may I never falter in my faith that you do.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

It's Just Outside Your Front Door

It starts in our own backyard.  Sometimes we get so caught up in foreign missions we forget about our own surroundings.  Maybe it's just naivety in the fact that we think someone else is taking care of it, or maybe we are just cowards.  Cowards in the sense that these are the people we live with, work with, and play with.  What if they knew exactly how we felt about Jesus.  After all it's way easier to preach the gospel to someone you don't know who doesn't live where you live.  Right?  There's no fear of rejection.  And if rejection did happen - not a big deal, you'll probably never see them again.  Easy.  I guess the real question here, without going off on a tangent, is if you are a Christian, why wouldn't the poeple you hang with know exactly how you feel about Jesus?  Alright, staying focused here.  

Global missions ARE needed, and are as important as anything.  In fact I personally have a soft spot in my heart for Africa.  The AIDS orphans and villages that have been devastated and ravaged resonate deep within me.  I will go there someday.  Hopefully more than once.   Other nations that are in dire straits also need our help, and we should help out of love and compassion, not out of duty or responsibility.  However;  coming back around to the locals -  here is what I came across this morning while reading the Bible.   I was actually reading out of "The Message."  The Message is a paraphrase of the Bible, not a translation, but sometimes gives a fresh relevant approach.  It's good to broaden your scope of reading and not get sucked into a single only translation.  i.e. KJV only or NIV only.  So here is what spoke to me this morning while reading in Matthew.  

Jesus is addressing the crowd and states that the harvest is great and the workers are few.  He then calls his 12 disciples up and gives them this direction.  "Don't "begin" by traveling to some far off place to convert unbelievers.  And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy.  Go to the lost confused people RIGHT HERE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD!"  ..."Don't think you have to put on a fund raising campaign before you start.   You don't need a lot of equipment, you are the equipment!"  I like what Jesus says next - "All you need is three meals a light."    Now understand this is a paraphrase version, these are not the literal words of Christ, but the message is there plain and simple.  

So yes, let's continue to focus globally.  Like our mission statement at our church "Journey"  Let's transform the world by starting in Bend Oregon.  Don't think that's really possible?  How many people did Jesus call up to hit the local neighborhood?  12.  Look what's happened.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Over ANALyze

If anyone reads this blog.  Thanks!  If you would care to comment, that would be great.

Something that has been bugging me for awhile that I keep forgetting to write down - is over analyzing people - especially bloggers.  It seems that everyone has become an expert on everything spiritual anymore.  Analyzing this, critiquing that (which I am just as guilty of) suggesting this or that, and lost focus of what I believe is the core.  The heart.  

People are analyzing the type of worship, the style, the songs, the way you sing the songs, the band, their clothes, their hair, are they smiling too much etc.?  Are they performing? Is it called a stage or a platform?  People comment on the pastors, or reverends, or teachers of the Word.  What translation is he using?  What kind of props are acceptable?  How long should the sermon be?  Should it be topical or exegetical?  Then how about the decorations of the church?  Everyone has an "opinion" on that?  Or how about the ever controversial "coffee area"!!  Oooh!  Should it be good coffee, just O.K. coffee, Starbucks coffee, or should we even have coffee at all!

People are analyzing and opining on things like - do we love God or do we love loving God?  Are we worshiping for Him or for the inspiring song?  If it's for Him, (which is should be) are we not allowed to enjoy the experience?  Or is that not about Him, but about us?  The whole thing is out of control.  When I go to a game, or see my kids excel at a sporting event, I'm the loudest one there.  My wife genuinely gets embarassed.  Should I say "well that was a public display of attention that was centered around me."  No!  I'm excited for my team or my kids, and I'm having fun with it!  It's not about me, it's about my team or my kids!  I am enjoying my kids and the experience they have drawn me into with them.  Having fun with Jesus is NOT wrong, in fact I would encourage it, and I think He would too!

Where is the heart issue?  Jesus is more concerned about your heart than He is about the freakin coffee, I can assure you of that.  As far as I'm concerned, jump, shout, laugh, sing loudly at the worship songs!  David in the bible did!  Oh yeah, he got analyzed over that too. Get engaged.  Are you saying you can't have fun and worship God at the same time?!  Then you better go to a Baptist or Lutheran church if that's how you feel.

When you realize that it's your heart your pouring out to Him, everything else becomes so irrelevant.  When He realizes that your pouring out your heart to Him everything becomes so authentic.  Enough of the over analyzing and micro managing ideology.  Are there black and white issues?  Absolutely.  But don't tell me how to worship the King, or what translation is best, or that I can't get excited about at church, because then it's not really about Him, it's just the "atmosphere" that's been created that your excited about. 

Pour your heart and soul into Jesus and you can't not produce fruit.  He tells us to draw near to Him and He will draw near to us.  It's a no brainer.  So all you super intellectual, over analyzing, theological spiritual wanna be's ...shut up.  Commit yourself fully and wholly to Jesus.  Quit being His earthly go to guy.  He doesn't need your help, He's got it pretty well figured out Himself.  If you want to help, go out into the world and love on someone for who they are, and let Jesus take it from there.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Prove It To Me

It tells us in the Bible that our sins are forgiven when we become Christians.  Psalm 103:12 So when we get to heaven, we are still judged.  Right?  For what?  I believe that when we become a new creation in Christ, all or our transgressions are forgiven forever.  So that means when we enter heaven we are pure.  Right?  Then what are we judged on if I'm correct here?  I believe we are judged on what we did once became a child of God.  It's going before the judge and presenting your case.   2 Corinthians 5:10

Here's what I mean.  Imagine the judge (in this case God) asking for proof that indeed you were changed when you committed your life to Him.  "where's the evidence?" He asks.  "All I see here is a bunch of lust, drunken-ness and excuses."  "Where is the proof that you really turned your life around?"  "How would you like to proceed here?"  "Do you have any evidence?"  "Church?"  "Church?"  "Do you expect Me to believe that by going to church your life was changed?"  "Do you realize to whom you are speaking?!"  "Now be careful here - I know your thoughts."  

Would you have enough evidence to prove that your life was changed?  That you were a true believer and follower of Jesus?!  "O.K., do you have any fruits that you could use as evidence?"
Will you hang your head, and ask the almighty to just believe that your intentions were good, and that alot of things got you "off track"  and you meant to "come back" but just didn't get around to it in time?!  "Show me proof!!"  "Show me the fruits of your labor, surely there must be something more concrete than reading your bible once in awhile, or going to church!"  "Surely there must!"  

Would you have enough evidence (any concrete evidence) that you are a converted child of the almighty judge?   If you are a true christian, you will go to heaven, but it may be an uncomfortable conversation with the judge.  Just a thought I had.