Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Love It to Live It

The article below is an excerpt of one from Josh Hunt, a phenomenal teacher of Bible teachers & an exemplary follower of Jesus.  You can learn more of his heart & his ministry by linking from his name above.  I was challenged & I pray that you will be too.

Do you serve God to give or to get?

The real spirit of the question is, "Should you serve God to give or to get?" If you were all you should be, godly and right thinking and mature and Christ-like, would you serve God for what you could get out of it, or what you could contribute?

I think we would quickly agree that we should serve God to give. We should be more about contributing and less about receiving. We should, if we were more godly, serve God to serve God--to give. We might think so, but we would be wrong.

Hebrews 11.6 lists two steps to drawing near to God: "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

The two steps are:

  1. We must believe that God exists. Turns out, this is a pretty easy step. About ninety-five percent of people on planet earth do believe that God exists. Even the devil believes that God exists.
  2. We must believe that God rewards. As the NASV has it, "He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." We either come to God for reward, or we cannot come to God. We must come to God seeking to get a reward. There is no other way.

It makes sense if you think about it. If we are thinking rightly, we realize He is rich and we are poor; He has plenty, we have need; He is strong we are week. The idea that we would come to God to help God out might sound good at first blush, but if we think about it at all we realize we can't help God out. He doesn't need anything. He certainly doesn't need anything we have to offer. We don't have anything He needs. We can't do anything for Him that He needs us to do. He is complete. We are needy.

Eventually we come to the place where we say, as the old Hymn writer said it, "I need Thee every hour. .  I need Thee, oh, I need Thee, every hour I need Thee."

How wrong it would be to turn this classic hymn on its head and say, "You need me, oh you need me, every hour you need me." The writer got it right.

Jesus emphasized this point of reward in Mark 10: “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30 (NIV)

C.S. Lewis talked about this:

"If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. "

The research indicates this was the #1 predictor of spiritual vibrancy: whether you strongly agreed with the statement, "It is always in my best interest to live the Christian life." People who strongly agreed with that statement were two and a half times (145%) more likely to be spiritually vibrant when compared with those who only agreed with that statement. When compared with those who disagreed with the statement, those who strongly agree were five and a half times (450%) more likely to be spiritually vibrant. This one factor mattered more than anything else I could find.

You might be tempted to think this is a rather abstract theological point that has not much to do with every day life. You'd be wrong. Here is why.

We are irrevocably hard wired to pursue what we believe to be in our best interest. It is built into our programming. We can't avoid it. We have to learn to live with it. If we believe that God is a rewarder and we will be rewarded for following Him, His yoke becomes easy and we follow Him almost automatically. If we think we should follow Him but we would rather go our own way because we think we know best, we are going to be in a constant battle of the will with God. It is not enough to submit our will to Him. We must believe--not merely believe that He exists. We must believe He always rewards. We must believe it is impossible to follow God and not be rewarded. Ought-to, and should and you-better will never do. We must believe  that he rewards.

I have written thousands and thousands of sentences, but I have only written one that I think is profound. Here it is:

We must come to love the Christian life,
or we will never come to live the Christian life.

Break it down: we must come to love prayer, or we don't pray very well. Prayer moves from being a duty and an obligation and becomes a delight--a sweet hour of prayer--or we are not praying very well.

We come to love serving or we are not serving very much.

We come to love the Word and it become sweeter than honey as the Bible says, or I will bet you struggle to spend time in the Word. You have to force yourself and you can't force yourself consistently.

You must come to love the Christian life, or you will never come to live the Christian life.

Self-discipline is over-rated in a lot of Christian teaching. Not to say there is not a place for self-discipline. Balance is an issue. Sometimes you need self-discipline. Sometimes we need to do what we should do whether or not we feel like it. But, if you try to live your whole life this way, you are in trouble. If you trying to live your whole life forcing yourself to do what you don't want to do because you don't think it is in your best interest, you can't live that way. You will get tired. Eventually you will do what you believe to be in your best interest.

You must come to love the Christian life, or you will never come to live the Christian life.  

Lord Jesus, grow my love of you & all things that will assist me in loving you better.  Amen.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


3:06am. Woke up hurting fierce. Fiery pain in my belly. Front, left side. Just above the belt.

Unmistakable pain. Kidney stone.

Woke up Melanie. Writhed in pain. Broke into feverish sweat. Thankfully Mamaw & Karli are here from Louisiana so we didn't need to wait for childcare.

This is my third kidney stone, but first since we've had children. A few days after I'd endured stone two, I'd heard from a co-worker who'd had three children--naturally--& two kidney stones that stones hurt worse than childbirth. Of course that evening I went home & announced this to Melanie. I was, in a sense, defending my honor & propping up my wounded ego after my unmanly behavior of rolling on the living room floor wanting to cry for my Mama. Melanie, ever quick, her eyes fixed like pins popping my balloon stated, "If you breathe a breath of that when I am in labor, I will slap you into next week!"

I still tell that story, however. Just did. You read it.

Back to today... Got my kind nurse. Got my confident nursing student. Got my little open back gown. Got my IV. Got my nicer than expected lady doc. Got some morphine.

Didn't take the edge off. Kidney stone pain tends to come in waves. Not unlike contractions. Mine were coming about every three minutes at that point. That means its time to deliver, right?

Got to the cat scan room. Didn't hear a meow. Maybe a purr as that thing spun. Not even the sight of any shed fur. It is a hospital you know. Clean. Gotta ask how they remediate that pesky fur.

Quicker than I knew it was legal as per some unspoken hospital rule I got my test results. Resisting my urge to ask where the cats were hidden, I got the news from the doc. Yes, my medical layman's diagnosis was accurate: kidney stone. 3.5 millimeters. The good news: It is ready to pass soon. The bad news: There is a second one "up in there." Her professional medical terminology.

Twins. One is ready to deliver. Soon I hope. The other may linger.

Got some Toradol. That worked. After two hours in pain, ten minutes of Toradol had me feeling much better. And the doc even threw in a RX for the road so I could go home before my sleeping kids even knew I'd been gone: hydrocodone.

So, in honor of the drugs that work for me, I decided right there to name my pain in waves like contraction causing twins, Tori & Hydi.

Yes, I'm "under the influence" even now. Could you tell? A cheap-drunk pastor with a laptop & a blog can be a dangerous thing. My hope is that I made you smile & maybe even laugh.

My greater hope, however, is to deliver the twins soon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Who I Am

The reFocusing proccess at my church asked us to discover who God has created us to be. As a reminder to myself, here I am.

My Biblical Purpose

I exist to be loved by God through the risen Savior & the powerful Spirit.

My Values

1. Kingdom: Living faithfully by the principles of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.

2. Discipleship: Becoming evermore Christ-like & influencing others to be the same.

3. Missionary: Extending the Kingdom in an Acts 1:8 movement.

4. Courage: Surrendering in faith to take risks for the Kingdom.

5. Family: Loving my family whole-heartedly without compromise.

My Vision

My vision is to love my family in words and actions, prayers and presence as God loves me so that Melanie will be vibrant and my children will be confident.

My vision is to love the Church as a discerning pastor and a passionate preacher as Christ loves me so that we might see with an eternal perspective, walk in transformational discipleship, and live with a missional impact.

I desire the Kingdom of Heaven to be enlarged because I gave my life away.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter If...

I shared something like this with my congregation yesterday & wanted to share a grin with you...

It might be Easter if the sunrise meant a little more to you today than on any other day.

It might be Easter if you stayed up late or woke up early to iron some special clothes.

It might be Easter if you are, by choice or against your will & better judgment, wearing  some shade of pastel today.

It might be Easter if you considered how to start in on that tasty chocolate bunny: ears or tail?  Or maybe feet, so he can't run away!

It might be Easter if you were somehow in some way more considerate of your personal relationship with Jesus this week.

It might be Easter if you have some sort of artificial grass "growing" from your living room carpet right now.

It might be Easter if you have a ham in the oven & your worried that it'll be dried out if the preacher goes long.

It might be Easter if you are wondering where you hid that last plastic egg.  Was it under that or back there?

It might be Easter if its 10am & you have a sugar-buzz from all the candy you consumed before coming to church.

It might be Easter if you cried when we sang "Because He Lives" just a few moments ago.

It might be Easter if you are smiling beacuse you know Jesus loves you & even an army of bunnies with baskets & sweets can't get in the way of that truth.

Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Present Tense

Somewhere along the way in one of my preacher books I learned that our English word eulogy means "good words." At any memorial service I officiate, I am sure to recall as I know, or call on others who do know, to speak good words about the person who has passed from this life.

Today, I write facing the inevitable passing of a trusted friend. I know his eternal destiny is secure in the hands of Jesus, but I mourn. I have been encouraged to think what I might say when officiating his memorial service. I know the Christlike character traits he exhibits that I will extol. I know I will preach from the book of James. I know I'll cry like I am right now...

But I know one more thing.

It would be unrighteous for me to wait until after he has passed into his eternal reward to speak these words of him. I must speak them to him while I still can.

Rather than saying, "I loved him because he was," to others, I must say, "I love you because you are," to him.

When you have something good to say--not just to the person near to heaven, but to everyone, anytime--when you notice an admirable deed, when you hear a kind word, when you see Christlike character, don't wait. Speak your blessing at that moment. Offer your praise without delay.

Philippians 4:8 challenges,
whatever is true
whatever is noble
whatever is pure
whatever is lovely
whatever is admirable
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy
think about such things.

Speak about them too.

Present tense.