Do not Do

“To do or not to do.”  That is often the question in life.  Sometimes we are asking that question as we about to do some silly prank or take some ridiculous risk in the name of fun and entertainment.

“Do Not” is not incorrect; it is incomplete.

Many people who claim to follow Christ define their faith by the actions their lives are void of not the actions their life is filled with.  They can tell you all the things they do not do but they have very short lists of the things they do because they are following Christ.

Jesus taught about the switch from “do not” to “do” in Matthew 6.  He said do not store up treasures on earth.  He said do store up treasures in Heaven.  It is not simply wrong to store up for yourselves earthly treasure; it is right to store up Heavenly treasure.  Next he told us to not be anxious but to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Anxiety or worry is the byproduct of disproportionate concern for proper cares.

Jesus speaks of clothing and food and simple life issues in this passage.  These things are proper Biblical cares.  Proverbs 31 and 1 Timothy 5:8 teach both men and women the call to provide such items for their families in honoring the Lord.  So if these things are proper, what is the issue?  The issue is anxiety.  “Oh you of little faith” is what Jesus goes onto say.  The issue is a lack of faith in the Lord to provide such things.

The question we must ask ourselves in dealing with such cares and concerns is, “Do I believe God truly cares about me in all things?”  Worry is the byproduct of disproportionate concern.  When we are overly concerned and consumed with the things of this world, we worry.

When we focus on the temporary the result is worry.  When we focus on the eternal the result is rest. How, then, would we not worry.  Is it as simple as, “Don’t worry.  Be Happy?”  No, it is not.  The answer is not simply found in the “do not;” it is found in the “do.”  It is found in the instruction to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.

We care less about lesser things only when we care more about greater things. The answer is not to stop caring about food for your family.  The answer is not to stop wearing clothes.  The answer is what you start.  Start seeking the Lord and His will in all things.  Seek God’s Kingdom and not your own.  Allow the priority of the Kingdom of God to be the filter through which all decisions are made.  The more you focus on the greater things the less you will focus on lesser ones.

We must seek the reign of Christ to experience the righteousness of Christ. You will never experience the goodness of God without the governance of God.  If you desire to know the greatness of his glory and grace in your life, you must actively seek out his governance over your life…his Lordship.

The answer to so many of life’s deep struggles is not found in the things we “do not,” but in the things we “do.”

Pray this prayer daily, maybe even moment by moment or decision by decision to help you learn this truth in a practical faith. God, I believe you truly care about me in all things. Say it over and over again.  Say it until you mean it.  This prayer is not asking God to change a thing.  It is asking God to change you.

As time rolls by…

Time is a wanderer.  It wanders in and out of our lives.  We have enough time.  We have no time.  We have extra time.  We are out of time.  Time wanders in and out and up and down.  One day time is urgent and the next it is of no consequence.

Ephesians 5:15&16 says, “ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” 

Wisdom allows us to use time well instead of being used by the wandering of time.  Time is not our problem, lack of perspective is.  Time is nothing more than a measurement.  The problem comes when we measure the quality of life by time instead of the quality of time by life.

Today I celebrate a marking of time.  On January 3, 1998, I married an incredible woman named Wendy Daniel.  19 years later it is my joy and privilege to live life with her.  God has allowed us some incredible adventures in ministry and life together and I look forward to many more.

January 6, 2002 was the first public worship service for Fellowship Church.  A small group of believers began a bold new work in the rental hall of an old fire station in Prairieville 15 years ago this week.  This small group of believers dived head first into the vision and dreams of a 26 year-old preacher kid.  We celebrate 15 years together and the humbling reality of how God has blessed our ministry together.

The celebration of time humbles me and challenges me.  I know I could have done more in my life than I have, but I also know I have tried to do well with the time God has blessed me with.  I want to encourage you to consider the following truths about time as we kick off this year and apply them to your life.

  1. Focus on being faithful not successful. Success without faithfulness is fraud.  Don’t waste your time putting on a show; spend your life pressing into serve.
  2. Do what you can when you can. Everything does not have to happen today; but something should.  Do not allow what you cannot get done today rob your of the joy of what you can do today.
  3. Time off is not time lost. Spend some time doing what refreshes you.  For some of us, that is a nice long run, for others it is anything but a run.  Whatever refreshes you is worth doing, but you do not live simply to be refreshed by God; you live to be used by God.  When you get done resting; get back to working.
  4. Don’t allow quantity to be a substitute for quality. Ministry and family do not always flow together smoothly.  Wendy and I have learned the art of quality.  30 good minutes together will outweigh 3 hours of being in the same room. 
  5. Manage your energy; not your time. Give your energy to the right things at the right time and you will have time to get it done.
  6. Enjoy the journey. This is one of life’s hardest lessons for me.  I am a type-A personality and am always driving toward better.  A life focused on better will make you bitter unless you learn to see the blessings of what is. “What is” is not the enemy of “what ought to be”; it is simply “what is.”  You can change it; it simply has not changed yet.  The key is learning to enjoy the journey as much as you do the destination.

Don’t take your eyes off the destination ahead of you – run the race marked out for you – but do not lose the ability to see the blessings of what is already all around you.

I am grateful for a wife that enjoys this journey of life and ministry with me.  I am blessed by a church that has allowed me the grace to learn from the lead.  I am no longer a 26 year old kid trying to lead a church but I am who I am because of those who loved me when I was…and every step along the way.  Thank you to all of you who are part of this ministry and life journey for your love, support, and grace.

I look forward to what is ahead but am committed to enjoying what is now.  I hope you are too.

Figure out the things that are worth investing your life and time in and then dive in head first.  Time is not the answer – perspective is.

 

Wendy,

Thank you for bringing perspective into my life time and time again.  Of all the blessings I have known in this world you are the most precious.  Your love inspires me, encourages me, and challenges me to be a better man.  Thank you for loving me when I am and when I am not.  I have indeed found “a good thing and obtained favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 18:22)

Always and Forever, KJ

The Waiting Room

Waiting stinks.  No one enjoys waiting yet we know from Scripture that those who “wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.”  People who are willing to wait will soar like eagles, run without wearying, and walk without fainting.  These truths, however, do not make the experience of waiting more enjoyable.

We have great company when we are waiting.  People like Hannah, David, Joseph, and Abraham.  The company of people who have waited upon the Lord is not always good company.  In certain seasons of life, even the most faithful become impatient and tread on what God has in store.

Perhaps you find yourself in a season of waiting right now.  What can you do when you are not sure what to do?  Faithfulness is doing what you know to do now until you know what to do next.  I want to share a few stories and points with you from the Old Testament that I hope will encourage you in your waiting.  (There will be another blog or two in the coming weeks…but you must wait.)

Fight for faith in the in-between.  Faith is easier in beginnings and endings.  It is much easier to run hard and push yourself at the beginning of a race and at the end of a race than in the middle of it.  Abraham and Sarah struggled with this.  God promised them a child and they did not wait.  Sarah gave her maidservant to be Abraham’s wife so they could be blessed with a child.  This led to generation upon generation of strife between their descendants.  Abraham believed upfront and was faithful in the end, but he did not fight for faith in the in-between.  Sometimes giving in is giving up.  Don’t give in.

Fight the temptation to demand control of what is God’s and deny control of what is yours.  Abraham and Sarah could not control the womb but they had control of Hagar.  They decided to do God’s job instead of their own.  Often when we are in seasons of waiting or struggle we deny that we have control over things like character and conduct and try to control things like people and circumstances.  Be faithful with what is yours…even in the waiting room.

Don’t forget – God sees you where you are.  Hagar ran away because she was mistreated, but God saw her where she was.  Do not think that the tough place you find yourself in life is out of God’s sight.  He sees you even when you are struggling to see Him.

Work on why you want not just what you want.  Hannah wanted a child.  That is a reasonable desire…even a God-given desire.  She wanted a child to serve the Lord, not to satisfy herself.  The commitments she made to give her child in service to God were not manipulative nor dishonest.  Her promises were of a true and faithful heart.  She had a right desire for a right reason – even in the midst of her pain.

Grieve with God, not against God.  Hannah was in grief over her barren womb, but she brought that pain to a God she believed cared, not one she though was callous.  Allow your griefs and burdens to be his grief and his burdens.  Cast your cares upon Him not against Him.

Never try to find nor become a substitute for someone’s pain.  Hannah’s husband insensitively asked her if he was “better than 10 sons.”  NO!  You might be one great husband but you will never be one great husband and 10 sons to anyone.  You can only be the one thing you are.  Dysfunction is trying to be who you are in someone’s life and who you are not in their life.  Substitutes will eventually rob you of the joy for the real thing.

Be faithful with the life you have to be faithful in asking for what you do not have in life.  You will not be rewarded with much by being unfaithful with little.  We often reject what provision we have so we can show we deserve the provision we lack.  Hannah was faithful to the Lord and her husband with or without a son.  Be faithful.

Waiting is not a game, it is a reality.  It is often difficult, frustrating, and discouraging.  Being faithful in seasons of waiting says much about what you believe about the nature and character of God.  Our faithfulness is a response to God’s faithfulness.  We love him because he has already loved us.  Do not forget that just because you are waiting.

4 Steps to Being A Fool in Any Month

It’s that day again, April Fool’s Day. The day when you shouldn’t believe anything without extensive verification. A holiday of excused dishonesty and reputation-building pranks. The origins of April Fool’s Day are unknown (as noted in this interesting history.com video), but its observation is commonplace throughout the world.

On a day such as this, should I really be writing about a serious topic? Can you take me seriously or am I going to quote 2 Philippians as a source? No, I won’t make up sources and I will be serious – on the topic of being a fool. The Bible speaks quite a bit about foolery and the personification of such in any month of the year. If you are dead set on being an April Fool, here’s how the Bible says you should go about doing it:

1. Just Keep Talking

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.” – Proverbs 18:6

 No, social media user, the Bible didn’t just tell you to beat up the fool who won’t be quiet. It is saying, however, that fools have a tendency to not be quiet (and possibly a tendency to get beat). There are several other passages that deal with fools talking (Pr.10:10,14; 14:3; 17:28; 18:7; 29:11; 29:20) with the common theme being a lack of discernment regarding when to speak and when to remain silent.

So, if you would prefer to not be a fool, then you will heed James’ admonishment to be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19). But if you want to be a fool, just keep talking.

2. Be Assured That You Already Know Everything

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” – Proverbs 18:2

 Proverbs 18, bringing the heat again! But this one isn’t a real shocker to anyone. Perhaps the most defining characteristic of a fool is just how smart he thinks he is. To be a fool, you’ll need a heaping dose of pride and self-assurance without any real basis for such things. Again, these characteristics are rebuked throughout Proverbs (10:8; 12:15; 15:5; 17:10,16,24; 23:9; 24:7; 26:4,5,11,12; 27:22; 28:26; 29:9). A fool is always instructing with no willingness to learn. A fool trusts himself over counsel. A fool returns to his folly over and over again.

So, if you would prefer to not be a fool, then you will hear that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”, and you will actually change your ways in response. But if you want to be a fool, be assured that you already know everything.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Mix It Up

“A stone is heavy, and sand is weighty, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.” – Proverbs 27:3

Solomon couldn’t have known about the phenomenon of internet trolls when he wrote his proverbs. But each of these three steps to being a fool makes you think he’d already met a few. Fools love to stir the pot, mix it up, stoke the fire, etc. A fool views Jesus’ standard of a meek, peace-making life as weak, ineffective life. In fact, Proverbs says elsewhere that “every fool will be quarreling” (20:3). I’d be hesitant to assign causation in either direction between steps 3 and 4 of being a fool, but they are certainly complimentary. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and fools love to quarrel.

So, if you would prefer to not be a fool, then you will take seriously Jesus’ commands to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. But if you want to be a fool, don’t be afraid to mix it up.

4. Reject God and His Ways

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” – Psalm 14:1

 The first three steps to foolishness on my list are easily observable. You might have even had someone or several people come to mind as you read through them. I hope you weren’t thinking of me, though I have given some opportunity in each of these areas in the not-too-distant past. This last one is tricky. The problem here is that no human needs to try to do this one – it is the default position of every human who has ever been born, save one – Jesus. So for this one, if you want to be a fool then do nothing. Ephesians 2:1-3 states clearly that all of mankind is naturally dead to the things of God. Humans naturally believe that they might be good enough to go to heaven, or there is no heaven, or the truth is inside us and we need to be true to ourselves, or any other option not consisting of the recognition of God’s holiness, our total corruption and our complete inability to bridge the two.

So, if you would prefer not to be a fool, then respond to the call of Jesus, “come, follow me.” Jesus lived a perfect life, died an unjust death, and then defeated that death through victorious life. He did everything that we could not do: account for our rebellion against God, satisfy God’s just wrath due for that rebellion, conquer death, and ascend into God’s presence. He’s the bridge, the vehicle and the every-breath oxygen of those who are reconciled to God. He now welcomes all who will simply trust that he has done everything and submit to his gracious rule over every aspect of life.

But if you want to be a fool, then keep talking, be assured that you know everything, don’t be afraid to mix it up, and reject God and His ways.

 

 

Image By Rameshng

#liveitup

Hashtags are an interesting way to view the human psyche.  In a moment of life what would a person consider worth saying #liveitup about?  I researched this question via twitter last week and found some interesting posts.

The most common post was about birthdays which makes sense.  However, another common post to #liveitup, was about someone’s death.  Remembering people in birth and death remind us of the same thing it seems…#liveitup.  Other posts were about food and vacations.  The last common post were life quotes.  I found these interesting because I found them to be terrible life quotes that made no sense.  “Time Move Fast Life Don’t” or “Things do not happen because of change.  Change happens because of things.”  #liveitup.  Not sure these are going to help you #liveitup, but it is a view into the human psyche about what it means to #liveitup.

I did find it interesting that I was at least 100 tweets into my research before I found one that had anything to do with God or forgiveness or grace.  Nothing of any spiritual depth in the #liveitup discussion.  Even when I did find God in the discussion, the thoughts were not that deep or accurate.

All of this to ask you, what do you think about when you consider what it means to #liveitup?  What does that mean to you?  Would it be about birthdays and restaurants or would it be deeper than that?

I challenge you to consider the prophecy concerning Jesus from Isaiah 61.  Jesus reads the prophecy in Nazareth and declares it fulfilled in their hearing.  Jesus claims to be the fulfillment of the prophecy that he is the one that will bind up the brokenhearted, give liberty to the captive, bring good news to the poor, and open the prison of those in bondage.  These truths found in Isaiah 61:1-4 are rich in truth.

A person who will #liveitup does more than know the promises they haveThey have the promises they know.  There is a big difference between knowing a promise and having it.  The difference is well articulated in Isaiah 61:10-11 as the prophecy turns to the words of the brokenhearted whose hearts are mended, the captive who is liberated, and poor that have heard the good news.  These people greatly rejoice in the Lord and their souls exult in their God.  They are clothed in garments of salvation and they gladly wear the robe of his righteousness.  They know the promises of God and they have them in their life.

Being freed is a gift.  Living free is a choice.

If you are going to #liveitup you must accept the reality of God’s great gift of love and grace and gladly #liveitup.  The gift has been given.  He has paid the price for your soul so that it will exult him.  He has paid the price of your unrighteousness so that you might wear that robe of righteousness.

The question is, “will you?”  You must choose it.  Each of us must choose this great hope on our first day.  Our first day of faith.  The day where we come to grips with what Jesus has done for us (if you want to consider this read Isaiah 53).  The day we confess that Jesus is Lord.  The day we choose Christ Himself.  We choose it the first day but then we must choose it every day.  Every day we must choose to live God’s grace fresh and new.  We must choose to exult him with our soul and to greatly rejoice in the Lord.  We must choose to gratefully wear the garment of salvation and robe of righteousness.

I challenge you to #liveitup.  Live this grace of God boldly and proudly.  Live it gratefully and graciously.  But live it.  And #liveitup!

The Incredible Danger of Being Right

This week, we’re dealing with the ever-elusive goal of uprooting anger. Anger is a sneaky sin, often arising out of situations or relationships in which a legitimate wrong has occurred. Throughout my life and career I have come to term this “The Incredible Danger of Being Right.” 220px-Rage_faceThe fact that a wrong has occurred does not issue license to commit a wrong in response. Still, we see in Scripture that Jesus did respond in anger at times and that he clearly did not sin. So, is my anger sin or is it a form of righteous anger?

Robert D. Jones, in his book Uprooting Anger (P&R Publishing, 2005), has some helpful criteria to examine the righteousness of our anger. Here are some select excerpts from his book:

  1. Righteous Anger Reacts against Actual Sin

Righteous anger does not result from merely being inconvenienced or from violations of personal preference or human tradition. It responds to sin as objectively defined by God’s Word, including violations of both of our Lord’s great commandments (Matt. 22:36-40).

  1. Righteous Anger Focuses on God and His Kingdom, Rights, and Concerns, Not on Me and My Kingdom, Rights, and Concerns

Righteous anger focuses on how people offend God and his name, not me and my name. It terminates on God more than me. In other words, accurately viewing something as offensive is not enough. We must view it primarily as offending God.

  1. Righteous Anger is Accompanied by Other Godly Qualities and Expresses Itself in Godly Ways

Righteous anger remains self-controlled. It keeps its head without cursing, screaming, raging, or flying off the handle. Nor does it spiral downward into self-pity or despair…. Christ-like anger is not all-consuming and myopic but channeled to sober, earnest ends…. Rather than keeping us from carrying out God’s call, righteous anger leads to godly expressions of worship, ministry, and obedience. It shows concern for the well-being of others. It rises to the defense of oppressed people. It seeks justice for victims. It rebukes transgressors. Godly anger confronts evil and calls for repentance and restoration.

Too often, we take a personal offense against us and justify our anger by claiming some “righteous anger clause”. Jesus never responded in anger to criticisms or attacks against him. However, when the offense was against God the Father or the Kingdom that God is bringing, Jesus demonstrated anger (Mark 3:1-6; 10:13-16; John 2:13-17). Even in those times, though, Jesus’ anger was purposeful, controlled, and furthered the ministry of the gospel rather than hindering it. That last sentence by Jones is powerful, “Godly anger confronts evil and calls for repentance and restoration.”

When you are confronted with sin that is atrocious and disgusting and an affront against God, how do you respond? Are your words full of hatred, pride, and arrogance? Or do you approach the sin as a forgiven sinner who knows a hidden but now revealed truth – God’s ways are the best ways and they are possible through Jesus Christ? All of anger is an outflow of the heart, so be very careful of the incredible danger of being right. And, in your anger, do not sin (Eph. 4:26).

The Well-Ordered Life

Worship is an undivided life.

In Mark 12:28-34 Jesus instructs us to remember the greatest commandment. We must remember that God is one and that we are to “love the Lord our God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our strength, and all of our mind.” Worship is the outward expression of inward passion. Worship is expressing our love for God and experiencing his love for us. Jesus calls us to a high calling of love, and undivided love.

Life, however, is divided up many ways. Many of us feel like pizzas cut up to serve the masses. Our even worse pulled apart and wasted by greedy little hands. There are many things in life that pull for our affection and our attention.

The undivided life is a well-ordered life. We are all always worshiping (something or someone). There is always something or someone that is getting our highest affection and attention. The question is what or who are we worshipping.

The well-ordered life neither neglects nor ignores the people, responsibilities, and opportunities that require our affection and attention. The well-ordered life simply starts in the right place, more specifically, with the right person, Jesus.

Here are a few questions to consider about the well-ordered life. We should consider the things that are first and greatest in our lives as we consider a life of worship. When first and greatest are wrong life is not well ordered, it is destructive.
heart clipart
What divides your heart?
What gets your first investment?
What is the greatest source of your emotions?

First does not always mean most. Jesus clearly brings the relationship of the heart to the issue of finances over and over again. Why? “Where your treasure is there the hearts is also.” Is your first investment the Kingdom of God? Does God get first in your finances or do you try squeeze him in?

If someone were to ask me to write the book My Dumbest Life Now, my main principle for it would be Follow your heart. Scripture tells us the heart is “deceptive and is evil above all things.” Do not follow your heart. Guide your heart.

That is why first and greatest matter. Love is not a feeling. It is action. Loving the Lord with your heart means loving the Lord with your investment. Your greatest emotions are caused by things that you care enough about to be emotional about. For some that is college football for others it is comments people make about them on social media. What causes your greatest emotions? When was the last time you wept over the separation from God caused by sin in your life or in the lives of your friends and family?
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What captures your soul?
What gets your first consideration?
What is the source of your greatest anxieties?

The soul is not as easily defined as it is felt. When you need to make a decision, what and who do you consider first? Yes, we must consider our spouse, our kids, the financial realities of this decision, etc. But we must also consider the Lord and his ways…first. That is what loving him with all of our soul means. He gets first consideration.

Our anxieties are a good way to examine the soul. What is causing them? Why? Have you given this issue to the Lord? Are you praying? Are you seeking the truth of Scripture in answering this life issue?
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What receives your strength?
What gets your first time?
What is the source of your greatest exhaustion?

Energy is what we manage more than time. We all only have the same amount of time. What are you giving your best time, the time of each day that gets your best energy? In life there are days where my family gets my best time.. There are other days that work gets my best time. There is one day a week, the Sabbath, where God has commanded my best time and energy. It is a reminder of the fact that I need him first in my time.   The Sabbath is a great reminder that every day and in every thing, God is first.

The things that exhaust you often show you the disorder in your life. There are often life realities that are simply exhausting. We should, however, examine our lives to ensure we are not wasting our life energy on things of little value. Things like what other think of us or how many likes our selfie got on social media. When you realize you are exhausted by things of little value, life is out of order.
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What consumes your mind?
What gets your first attention?
What is the source of your greatest distraction?

What do you think of first when you wake up? What is the first thought in your mind when you get off of work for the day? First attention speaks volumes about where you are spiritually. Now, it does not mean you will not wake worried about the meeting at work or leave consumed with how to make your football team you coach win the next game. We, as Christ-followers, need to take these anxious attention-stealers captive, though. We need to set our minds on things above and not things below.

It is not that these things do not matter. They do. They simply do not matter as much as the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. Seek those things first and everything else we be added unto you as well. Take those distractions captive.

What do you need to give up to give God your all?

We must give it up. I realize I said it needs to be ordered not deleted. We must love the Lord so supremely that we completely give him all things. That is what Lordship means. He is master, owner, King, and ruler.

The issue with Lordship is when we give it all to him completely he is in control of the order. We know that there are things that we have at the top of the list that might now come 3rd or 10th or even disappear altogether.

Do you love Jesus that much?

Today, you might need to give it all up for the first time. Pray, “Jesus, I give you all of me.
Today, you might need to give something back to God for the 1000th time. Pray, “Jesus, I give you all of me.”
Today, you might need to give a new overwhelming situation over to God. Pray, “Jesus, I give you all of me.”

Jesus, I give you all of me.