Live It Well

Switchfoot has a song entitled “Live It Well.” For the past day or so one line in that song has been stuck in my head. “Life is short I wanna live it well.” For the past couple of days I have thought about my life and the fact that I want to live it well. I want my life to count, not for the sake of me but for the sake of the gospel. I don’t want to live a life that pursues the “American Dream” more than pursuing Jesus and His call for my life.

I wonder what it would look like if Christians began striving to live their lives well. I wonder what changes would take place in society if Christians said enough with pursuing material possessions, enough with pursuing fame and popularity, enough with just pursuing stuff. And instead of pursuing all of those things, what if we said we want to pursue Jesus above everything, therefore we live our lives well for the sake of the gospel.

Friends, may we dream big dreams! May we dream so big the only way to explain it would be to point others to God! Don’t be afraid of dreaming too big, after all we serve a big God who is able to do more than we can imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Let’s not put God in a box in an effort to stay in our comfortable routine. Instead, may we realize life is short and we’ve been called to live it well.

What does living your life well look like? For each person the answer to that question may be different. But one thing each person who lives their life well has in common, is faith. They have faith to know God is able to do more. They have faith to know God won’t call them to something He won’t see them through. They have faith that God is enough.

May we not waste the short time we’ve been given with this life. Instead, may we live our lives well seeking to make much of God. May we not be afraid to dream big. Let’s stop worrying about accumulating things that won’t last and let’s start living our lives well seeking to reach many with the gospel.

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Fearless

I grew up playing football. From the third grade through parts of college, with the exception of a handful of years, I played. I would say I played competitively, but that would be a stretch since┬ánot many of the teams I was on were very competitive. When I was playing pee-wee football in elementary school, anybody from third through sixth grade could play. Now, I’ve always been a healthy fella, but there is a big difference between a third grader and a sixth grader. One memory from my fourth grade year stands out.

I’ll never forget the sequence of events that took place during one particular game. It was at some point during the second half of the game, I’m sure we were losing, and I was lined up at right guard. For the football illiterate, I was to the right of the center (aka the guy who snaps the ball to the quarterback). Now, I had been playing this position the entire game up to this point, so I had gone up against the same guy all night long. My job was simple, fire off the ball and drive my opponent back to form a hole for our running back to get through. For whatever reason, the opposing team put in a new defensive tackle (the guy I was responsible for guarding). This doesn’t seem like it would be a big deal, but it was. You see, the guy I was now guarding was a sixth grader, or a recent college graduate, it was hard to tell the difference. To make matters worse, I remember looking up at him from my stance and hearing the guy growling and barking at me. I mean, I hadn’t even had a chance to talk bad about his mom at this point (I’m slightly kidding) and I didn’t steal his lunch money (I didn’t go to school with him). I don’t know what possessed this guy to bark, but it put fear in me like I had never felt up to that point.

Again, I knew my job. I knew what I was supposed to do. I knew the technique (as much as a fourth grader could). Just because I was facing a new opponent didn’t mean my job changed any. My job was still to fire off the ball and block the guy in front of me. Here’s the thing, that isn’t at all what I did. When I say this guy scared me, that is a tremendous understatement. I may have just come short of yelling, “I want my mommy” when I saw this guy and heard his vicious growl. So the quarterback eventually calls for the ball, the centers snap it, and the play is under way. I didn’t do anything like I was supposed to. In fact, I stood straight up (a no no for offensive linemen), pivoted (another no no), and watched the guy I was supposed to guard fly past me untouched to tackle the quarterback. Now, I know this sounds bad, but really, it gets worse. Our quarterback was slow to get up. Once he finally got up, he was holding his arm. Yep, his arm was broken. Oh, and our head coach was the quarterback’s brother. Life was not good for me, but I have to admit, that defensive player had textbook form on that tackle.

I know that story is kind of silly. The worst part is it’s true. I think there is a lot for us to learn from this though. You see, I think more times than not, as followers of Christ, we play scared. We know exactly what we are supposed to do. We know we have been commissioned to go and make disciples. We know we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. We know we are called to share the gospel and Christ’s love with those we come in contact with. We know the techniques. We know everything we need in order to be successful, but we are scared.

We are scared what others will say about us if we speak up for the gospel. We are afraid of what people may think about us. We are afraid of what it may cost us if we live our lives in the manner Christ has called us to live. Some of you may be reading this and thinking to yourselves, “I’m not living in fear. I’m not afraid of what people will think about me?” When is the last time you shared your faith? When is the last time you helped a stranger in need? You see, it’s easy to say we aren’t afraid, but it’s harder to live that way. Can’t we just talk to people about football, our relationship status, and the burdens of work? No, that isn’t what Christ has called us to share with others. Are those bad topics? No. However, we often can talk to people about everything under the sun, except for our faith in Christ. Maybe the above conversation topics can be starters for getting somebody to open up for a gospel conversation, but often, if we are honest, our conversations end at football, work, or some other topic.

May we start being fearless. May we commit this year to being obedient to what Christ has called us to. May we share Christ this year with those we come in contact with. May we not be overcome by fear, but rather, may we rest in the Lord and trust Him to guide us through each conversation we have. I don’t won’t my life to be summed up with the word “fear”. Instead, I want my life to be summed up as “faithful” and “obedient”.

Brothers and sisters, we have the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us not live a life of fear. May we be like the disciples in Matthew 4 and cling to Christ even when it may mean leaving everything we have ever known behind. May we be like David in 1 Samuel 17 and charge the battle lines for the sake of the gospel. May we be like Peter and John in Acts 4 and continue to speak about Christ even when people tell us to be silent. May 2017 be a year we all choose to be fearless. We know that Christ is enough. We know what Christ has called us to. We know He has given us the power and ability to do this through the Holy Spirit. Let us get busy in seeking to see the Great Commission fulfilled. Let us get busy telling people about the hope that is only found in Christ. Let us get busy living fearlessly for the sake of the gospel. We have work to do. May we accomplish much for the sake of the gospel in 2017.

When Will It End?

Each day it seems, as we turn on the news, we are being bombarded with stories of black men being killed by police. As soon as the news reaches us we instantly form an opinion. Blacks cry out that the man was innocent, while whites cry out about the man’s criminal history. Why does something as tragic as someone being killed draw us apart? Why has the division between whites and blacks grown so far apart due to these incidents? Why do we rush to conclusions instead of allowing all the facts to be shared first?

You see, with each person who is killed (white or black) our hearts should break. We should be saddened at the death of one created in the image of God and by God, no matter their skin color, and no matter the circumstances. Instead of being unified during these times, all we see is division and anger. Whites get disgruntled because a white man who was killed by police at some point in time didn’t get the press that the black man’s death did. Blacks become disgruntled because they feel they are being attacked, and therefore, attack white police (or police officers in general). When will it end?

Over the past few days I’ve been reminded of the children’s song that goes, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red, yellow, black, and white, they are precious in His sight.” What ever happened to us believing those words? At what point did we decide that not all people were precious in God’s sight? At what point did we decide to live in constant bickering, rather than in unity? At what point will all of this end?

Yes, America, we have a race problem, but that problem can end. There is hope in Jesus! May we, who claim to be followers of Christ, step up and seek to unite this country, not under the banner of our skin color, but under the banner of Christ! May we stop arguing over events that we don’t have all the details too. Instead, may we be saddened by these events and seek to be unified through these times. It has to end! It can end! Who will step up and lead?

If we protest, may we protest in a way that is unifying, rather than seeking to continue to pit races against each other. May we be heartbroken over the death of individuals, no matter their skin color.

America, we are better than this! May we rest in Jesus during these days, seeking to be a unifier of races rather than a divider of them. The Lord is good and in control, may we seek to make His name known even in these hard times.

Just Be Patient

Today, like many days, I went to lunch with a book in hand. I had every intention of sitting down for lunch and getting several pages read in one of the books I’m currently making my way through. Unfortunately I didn’t get as much read as I had intended. At the table in front of me were two teenage girls discussing life. I couldn’t help but catch some of the things they were discussing, and instantly my heart broke.

You see, like many teenagers (and adults), these girls had given into the lie that they didn’t need to wait on certain things in life. I couldn’t help but wonder if their parents had ever taught them godly principals and told them that it’s okay to not give in to the things of the world because Jesus is much better than instant gratification. I couldn’t help but want to go and tell them that sleeping around wasn’t the answer and that it wasn’t any way to find hope.

I don’t have any children, but I wonder if we would see a decrease in premarital sex if parents would have the “awkward” conversations with their children because they care about them and want what’s best for them. I wonder what it would look like if parents began preaching patience to their children instead of telling them they can have and do whatever they please.

It breaks my heart knowing that teenagers (and adults) are looking to fill a void by pursuing relationship after relationship and hookup after hookup and often times parents are clueless as to why or what’s going on. We live in a society that says you have to sleep with as many people as you can in order to be relevant and popular. We live in a society that says if you aren’t in a relationship something must be wrong with you.

Can I encourage you to be patient? Just wait. Don’t pursue any relationship more than you pursue Jesus. He is worth it. I recently had a conversation with a student where I told him to pursue Jesus more than he pursued a girl. He responded by saying he was trying to pursue both equally. My response to him was that he couldn’t do that. We must stop pursuing the next relationship or the next best thing more than we pursue Christ. May I just say that our relationships will never look like Christ intended them to look if He is an afterthought and we pursue Him as much as we pursue that guy or girl?

Hearing those girls talk today made me realize how many people are settling. They are doing things they will regret, but the desire for gratification now doesn’t allow them to see thing that way. May I encourage you to stop settling? Stop pursuing the next relationship for the sake of popularity and just rest. Rest in knowing Christ is enough. Christ is the one who satisfies, not the one night stand or the guy or girl you are willing to settle for.

To the guy or girl who feels empty inside and longs to be in a relationship, wait. Patiently wait on the Lord. Don’t date for the sake of dating, because then you’ll be tempted to have sex just to have sex. Wait. Patiently wait for that guy or girl who will treat you as a brother or sister in Christ first, rather than their next boyfriend or girlfriend. Wait for that guy or girl who love Jesus more than they love the thought of being in a relationship with you. Wait for that guy or girl who has the same core beliefs and values as you. Don’t compromise. Don’t settle.

Psalm 37:7 says, “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him…” Pursue Jesus, rest in Him, trust Him that He is enough. Don’t settle for anything less than a relationship that brings Christ honor and glory. Just be patient!

 

Get Out of the Boat

Around a year ago the Lord led me to resign from serving as student pastor at a church without any real plans set in stone. I had a couple of part-time jobs lined up, but nothing full-time seemed to be on the horizon. Many emotions filled my heart and mind during that season of life. Those feelings of letting people down, those feelings of being afraid of the unknown, and those feelings of doubt causing me to question if this really was what the Lord had called me to.

I remember leaving the church for the last time and driving to my mom’s house, where I would be living for who knew how long. I remember wanting to go and tell people bye just one more time for the sake of one last conversation. I remember wanting to weep because to say I was afraid would have been an understatement. I remember wanting to curl up in a corner and hide from people. After all, I knew I was going to face question after question as to why I left and what was next. I could answer the first question with ease, I left because I desired to be obedient to Christ. The second question, well that was a lot more difficult to answer. Again, I had no full-time job lined up. I was moving back in with my mom and was working part-time. Those things alone caused me to fight against my pride. You see, I wanted to be successful in the eyes of those around me and instantly I felt like I had become a laughing stock. I mean who moves back in with their mom at the age of twenty-five to work part-time jobs?

All through that season of life the Lord reminded me I wasn’t to live for the satisfaction of man. I wasn’t called to live a life that made sense to those around me. I was called to live a life of obedience. And in this season, obedience looked like leaving the comfort of a full-time job to live with my mom and work odd jobs.

This is how I believe many of us live today. We get so caught up in trying to please man that we care nothing about how we are pointing others to Christ or bringing Him glory in our lives. Have we gotten to the point that we desire approval of man more than we desire obedience to God?

Through that whole season of life the Lord reminded me of the call of the disciples in Matthew 4. I’ve had the privilege of preaching this text a couple times over the past few weeks. Through preparing for these sermons I have been challenged to reflect on the Lord’s faithfulness in my own life over the past year.

Matthew 4:18-22 says, “Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.”

I love how Scripture describes the action of the disciples as “immediate.” Scripture doesn’t say the men sat around and thought about what to do. No, Scripture says, “Immediately they left their nets.” Sometimes I wonder why we aren’t like these men. Why, instead of living a life of faith, do we stay in the boat? It would have been easy for these disciples to make any excuse to not follow Jesus, but they didn’t. They got out of the boat and followed Him.

What is keeping you in the boat? What is that one thing you’re clinging to out of fear of the unknown? What are you clinging so tightly to that you forget Christ hasn’t called you to live in fear, but He has called you to a life of freedom?

I want to be like the disciples in this moment. I want to step out of the boat and pursue Him even when I don’t know exactly where He is leading me. I want to live a life of faith and obedience, not a life of fear and regret.

May we, today and everyday, realize we don’t need to know all the answers to the questions we have. We don’t need to know all the details. We just need to trust the One who controls our future. Maybe, instead of asking what will happen if we get out of the boat we need to start asking what will happen if we stay in the boat.┬áMay we pursue Jesus for the rest of our lives, desiring to be faithful even when we don’t know all the answers.

 

Press On

As we watch the things taking place in the world often we may ask ourselves, “How can this be? Why does there seem to be such evil in the world?” The easy answer to these questions is sin. We live in a fallen, broken world and we see the evidence of that each time we turn on the news. Here’s the thing though, it won’t always be like this. John 16:32-33 says, “Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Where are we finding our peace today? When life gets tough where do we run? If we are attempting to find our peace outside of Christ we will never have peace.

When we look at the sin in the world: abortion, immorality, murder, and on and on we could go, yes we should weep for such things, but we also must cling to the cross knowing this isn’t how it will always be. May we rest in knowing that Christ has overcome the world. Instead of looking at the current circumstances we may be facing and complaining about how bad things are, may we start using the tragedies in life as a platform to be a witness to others! May we not complain about things and refuse to share the hope of Christ with people, but may we run to the front lines of the battle with the gospel of Christ knowing He has already won the battle.

Many times we, as Christians, sit back and are satisfied with doing nothing. We think that as long as we aren’t committing a certain sin we have nothing to worry about, but that’s wrong. We must be an advocate for the unborn, we must cry out against the sin of immorality, we must weep when families are destroyed by divorce, and we must be saddened when lives are taken by murder. All of these things are wrong. All of these things are evidence of the fall, but these things won’t last! We know, as Christians, this isn’t the end. There is more to it than what we see now. May we press on, refusing to remain silent. May we press on by proclaiming the gospel during these dark days! May we refuse to settle for complacent Christianity and begin reaching all those we can with the gospel. May we stop complaining about the way things are and fight for the gospel!

The author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 12:1-3, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” May we press on and run the race set before us! Let us never forget the battle has already been won. Death has been defeated, Christ is reigning on His throne! Let us not lose sight of who Christ is and what He has done on our behalf.

When I come to the end of my life I pray Christ doesn’t tell me I wasn’t faithful in the race. Rather I hope He tells me “Well done”! May we live obedient lives for the sake of the gospel because Christ has won. Our victory is sealed! Let us run to the battle, not hide from it!

Loving the Unlovable

Many times, as followers of Christ, we only love those who are easy to love. We seek to surround ourselves with those people we get along with, those people who have the same interests as we do. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing in itself, but what would it look like if we began loving the unlovable? Aren’t we, as Christians, commanded to love the unlovable? Matthew 5:43-46 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?”

As followers of Christ we must love our enemies. If we don’t love those who persecute us, those who mock us, those who take advantage of our families, those who clearly don’t love us in return, will these people ever believe the gospel of Christ? We know salvation has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the work of the Holy Spirit. However, we must constantly live out our faith among our enemies. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Why do we love our enemies? Because, as Paul writes in Romans 5:8, “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” If we refuse to forgive those who have wronged us, what does that say about our faith? If Christ, being sinless, was willing to become sin on our behalf so that we may have a relationship with Him, isn’t it time we begin focusing on the power of the gospel rather than how hurt we might be because of the actions of others? What would happen if, instead of condemning those who wronged us, we loved them like Christ loves them?

I am not telling you this is easy. Most of the time it’s hard to forgive others because we want an apology first. However, that’s not what Christ teaches us. We must forgive others, period. Whether or not we forgive someone doesn’t depend on their standing with us, it doesn’t depend on whether or not someone has asked for an apology. No, the basis for our love and forgiveness towards our enemies rests in the finished work of Christ on the cross. On the basis of Christ’s death and resurrection alone, we forgive!

As followers of Christ we can forgive, we can love our enemies, because we know our hope is in Christ. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:54-58, “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” May we seek to love and forgive those who seem unlovable because of the work of Christ! May we truly be a living testimony of the power of the cross and the hope we have in Christ! Let us seek to forgive those who have wronged us, because who knows, through our love towards them maybe, just maybe, they’ll realize their need in making Christ Lord of their lives.