Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Every Tribe, Every Tongue, Every Nation

This good news of the kingdom [the gospel] will be
preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to
all the nations, and then the end [of the age] will come.
Matthew 24:14 AMP

While we are called to share the gospel with everyone we meet throughout our daily activities, sometimes I think we forget that there is a bigger picture. The Bible states over and over that the gospel will be shared with every tribe, every tongue, and every nation before Jesus returns. We forget that our job as Christians is to make Jesus famous throughout every nation! It's so easy to get comfortable in our routines of going to church and serving our community that we forget there are still unreached people throughout the world. You should never stop going to church and serving our community, because the people in our backyard need to have a love encounter with the Father! But, looking at the big picture you should be moved to do more than just reach your backyard. Did you know that about 40.4% of the people groups in our world today are unreached? That's over 3 billion people that have never heard the name of Jesus! These are people that have never had the opportunity to even choose Jesus. There's no Bible in their language and no church in their backyard. How often do we take those two things for granted? These aren't even including the people groups that are daily persecuting and killing Christians. We are in such a bubble here in the US. Even turning on the news doesn't seem to make it real. Yet, people are dying everyday without the hope of Jesus. What's your desire? As Christians we should be so in love with Jesus that we desire Him to return. He's given us the road map. We know He's not coming until every tribe, every tongue, and every nation have heard the gospel. So that means it's time to get to work! If you have never given unreached people groups a thought I encourage you to do some research. Ask the Lord how He can use you to spread the gospel to every nation. For some you may be called to pray and intercede for these people. Others may be called to give so that missionaries can go into these dangerous places to share the hope of Jesus. And then some of you may be called to go. The first thought that usually pops into our heads when we hear about these parts of the world are, "That's not my calling." When in fact if may very well be. We're all called to do something. I pray that you would sincerely seek the Lord to see how He wants to use you to reach the nations. God bless you as you walk in obedience this week!

The Simplicity of the Gospel

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that
brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
Romans 1:16

While the story of Jesus is full of power, the beauty of the gospel is that sharing Jesus is simple for everyone! So many times we complicate sharing the gospel. Instead of telling the person in front of us about Jesus we point them to a church or a program thinking that once they experience it they will then surrender their lives to the Lord. Many times we look straight to these programs and miss the fact that the person in front of us is ready to surrender right now. While many people do get saved through church services and different programs we must remind ourselves daily that sharing the gospel is for everyone and not just the people that run those things. We miss so many opportunities to share Jesus with others because we complicate the gospel. We put on a show, use how-to books, or create a slideshow to make things more interesting thinking that we have to do something extravagant to get people to Jesus. The beauty of the gospel is that it doesn't matter what your story is, what college you went to, or how much money you have in the bank. The power is in His story not our ability or strength. Acts 10:34-44 tells us how Peter shared the gospel. It says, "So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.While peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word," There was no program, no lights, no music, no special step by step books. Peter opened his mouth, spoke the truth of the gospel, and got out of the way so that Holy Spirit would do the work. Acts 10 goes on to say that those he was speaking to were baptized right then and there. We complicate sharing the gospel. We water it down. Yet, all God has asked us to do is open our mouth and tell the story of Jesus. The Holy Spirit does the work! If you are struggling with sharing your faith with others ask yourself if you're complicating it. Let God use your story for His glory. Don't miss the opportunities right in front of you this week. The gospel is enough. Be obedient, keep it simple, let the Holy Spirit do the work, and praise Him for using you to share the love of Jesus today.

Count it all Joy

Blessed are those that hunger and thirst
for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Matthew 5:6

Count it all joy. A phrase we quote when everything is going well and a phrase we ignore when life seems to be falling apart. James 1:2-4 says, "Count it all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." Wouldn't it be amazing to live a life complete and lacking nothing? Why is it so difficult to count all of our trials and struggles as something joyful? Even when we know that the trials we go through are temporary some days all it takes is one thing to goes wrong to ruin the rest of the week. It could be sickness, receiving a bill you didn't expect, losing a job, family issues, work issues, and the list can go on forever. We never know when trials are going to hit. They have the potential to ruin your day or strengthen your trust and peace in the Lord. I have found that the only way to count it all joy is when I'm truly hungry and thirsty for God. It's when I long for Him more than anything else where I find myself completely satisfied and lacking nothing. Matthew 5:6 says we are blessed and satisifed when we hunger and thirst for righteousness. It has only been in these moments of hunger where I have truly been content in all circumstances. It's in the moments of contentment when one minute everything is wonderful and the next the whole world looks like it's falling apart that my faith and peace never waver. It's in those moments where we experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. It's in those moments where your intimacy with God deepens because your faith and trust in Him reminds you that He is faithful. It's in those moments where you can truly count the struggles as something joyful because you know that your Heavenly Father is working everything together for His glory. If you've never felt you've been able to count it all joy I encourage you to lay down whatever you need to in order to fall deeper in love with Jesus. In my experience I'm only able to truly count EVERYTHING as joy when my heart hungers and thirsts for God above ALL else. Being complete and truly satisfied in life is possible. Lacking nothing in life is possible. Being able to count it all as joy is possible. It's actually easy when you desire God above all else! We pray this week that you would be so hungry and thirsty for God that you would experience unending joy and peace in every circumstance. You can never be the same after experiencing the love of God! Don't let another week go by leaving you frustrated and discouraged in your circumstances when joy is waiting for you!

All Things

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

There are several scriptures that you see everywhere; t-shirts, bracelets, picture frames, cards, etc. Philippians 4:13 is one of these verses. Everyone knows it. It is the go to verse when people are struggling to accomplish something. It quickly becomes a reminder to keep pressing on towards our desires and plans. The thing is that most of us take this verse out of context. When I hear Philippians 4:13 I think of success, victory, and happiness based on circumstances that are always in my favor. Yet, Paul wrote this passage of scripture while he was in prison, when circumstances were not in his favor. The verses before this scripture say, "I don't say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content - whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need." (Verses 11-12) Paul was saying that though he was in prison he was not discouraged. His circumstances didn't change the way he responded or how he felt. In fact this verse had nothing to do with Paul at all. This verse only boasts in Christ who makes Paul content in all situations. It has nothing to do with our desires and selfish plans. It says that whether we have everything we could ever want or struggle day to day that we can get through it by God's strength alone. It is because of Him we have joy and peace in every situation. His faithful and steadfast love keeps us content wherever we are with whatever we have. Philippians 4:13 has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with Jesus! Next time you quote this scripture make sure that it is not for your own gain, but only boasts in God's power and aligns with His will. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, because of your dependence on Him to meet your every need in every circumstance!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Tenacious Love

Four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn't bring 
him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a whole through the roof above 
his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 
Mark 2:3-4

Tenacious: persistent, determined, tireless, patient, 
steadfast, unwavering, unswerving, unshakable, unyielding

I was listening to a podcast on our way to Guatemala a couple weeks ago of a ministry in Africa that has been working to reach a specific people group that have never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus. The testimony of everything it took to reach this specific people group was incredible. Over and over again they talked about the tenacious love that drove their commitment to reaching this people group with the gospel. As I listened to this podcast my heart became convicted. How often can we say we love tenaciously? It would be easy to blame our culture for our good intention surface type love, yet we each have the choice to boldly love. Most of us just choose the easy way out. If I was to be honest and evaluate my love I would find it to be produced out of selfish intent. Most of the time we love when it's convenient for us. We love when we benefit from the outcome. We love when it makes us feel good about ourselves. We love when we think we have to. Our team got to experience what tenacious love looks like during our week in Guatemala. On one of our home visit days we got in the car and began our hour drive to one of the church plants outside of PoptĂșn. It may not have been considered a "mountain", but to our Florida team the drive was through more than just a hill! Up and down and around we followed the pastor in his truck while our team was in the van. We were almost to our destination when the pastor's truck got stuck on one of the hills. Our van tried to pull the truck up the hill without any luck. Our team and the locals tried to push it up the hill and it still wasn't going to happen. Finally a local truck filled with people came and pulled both vehicles up the path. At this point in our week we were tired. We already had laid the cement slab and distributed all the wheelchairs. I would be lying if at one point I didn't think about how easy it would be to just turn around and visit some of the families we had already passed by. In all reality it would have been super easy to say, "let's turn around." Little did I know that at the top of this hill was a pastor who desperately needed some encouragement. His church building was a small room maybe about 15x20 feet. The walls were infested with termites. The pastor lost his bean crop this year because of a severe drought which was his only means to feed his family. In their home they all sleep in the same room. All seven of them divided up into three beds at night. Their mattresses were maybe an inch thick and laid across thin pieces of twine. Yet, this pastor, his wife, and their five children have faithfully served this church for the last four years. They love Jesus. They want nothing more than to serve Him. This family has a tenacious love for their neighbors. The kind of love that is only produced through having a passion for Jesus. If you were honest with yourself, how would you evaluate your love? We each have a different story, yet there are still people all around us that need to experience the tenacious love of Jesus. Our story for His glory. There are people all over the world striving to reach the ends of the earth out of love for the lost. It's not easy. There are always hurdles. Yet, God is faithful and His grace is more than enough! I pray this week that you would push through the hurdles to love those around you. Let your love be the overflow from your passion for Jesus. May you reach those around you with the same tenacious love as Jesus gave you!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mental Health Day

For to set the mind on the flesh is death,
but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Romans 8:6

Have you ever heard of someone taking a "mental health day?" For the longest time I thought that sounded like a good name for a day simply to get out of work. For some it might be, but for many taking a day or several days to refresh the mind may be vital. Our minds are powerful. They control our thoughts, actions, feelings, and our words. Yet, making sure our minds stay healthy are usually last on the list. When our bodies are sick we make sure we take time to let them heal. When our minds are exhausted and overwhelmed most of the time we think "it's all in our head" until we break. There are many circumstances in life that can cause our minds to get tired. Some may struggle with anxiety or fear. Others may struggle with depression or grief. Some people struggle with keeping their priorities in line. Then there are others that simply lose focus when their prayers aren't getting answered when and how they want them. There are a million different reasons why our minds get weary and tired. We can try to fix the issues by taking time off, de-stressing, and reprioritizing, but if we don't approach the root of the problem the cycle may never end. The root of most of our mental exhaustion is a spiritual issue. Romans 8:5-6 says, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” No matter how long you have been walking with the Lord you've probably experienced a season in which you could not get a hold of your mind. A death in your family, the loss of a job, or simply too much stress can occur in our lives unexpectedly. Though our flesh may fail at times we can be encouraged in knowing that God has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Through Him we are able to surrender our thoughts, our exhaustion, and our pain and let Him work within our soul to align our thoughts with His will. When we renew our minds to focus on the Spirit we experience life and peace. If you are in a season of struggling to fix your mind on the things of the Spirit take extra time to spend with Jesus this week. If you need that mental health day take it! If your mind is unhealthy it will overflow into all the other areas of your life. Only Jesus can give you rest. Don't waste another day trying to fix the issue on your own. I pray that through every situation your mind would overflow with joy and peace as you surrender your thoughts to the Lord this week.

When You Can't Earn Grace

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis
of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
Romans 11:6

Whether you are a perfectionist or not there are just some times in life that seem impossible to catch up. It doesn't matter how long your to-do list is, every time you cross off an item another one appears. The perfectionist's list can leave a sense of accomplishment when everything is in it's rightful place. Yet, during those times you can't catch up the lists can leave an overwhelming sense of discouragement. This discouragement can occur in our walk with the Lord just as easily as it can in the chaos of our daily lives. In your Christian walk you have probably heard the phrase, "be a good steward," over and over again. While being a good steward is extremely important in our Christian walk there are many of us that struggle with finding the balance of stewardship and grace. Stewardship can often be viewed in the same way our to-do lists are. We have a list of things that God has given us and we hold tight to taking care and using these blessings the way we think He wants us to. So, what happens when we fail? What happens when we don't make perfect choices? What happens when we don't know what we're doing yet, make the best decision we know how even if it's wrong? Much like failing to complete the to-do list, failing to be perfect and make perfect decisions can often lead to discouragement and even fear. We can try and try to do things perfectly yet we will always fall short because we are human. Often I think we view being a good steward as being able to earn God's grace. It's easy to get wrapped up in thinking God expects us to be perfect. Our lists turn from motivation to condemnation when the items can't get crossed off. But, God has never expected us to be perfect for Him. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows when we're awake and when we're asleep. He knows everything about us and He loves us the same. God's grace is not just for when we're perfect. We can strive to be the perfect son or daughter yet, we will never be able to earn His grace. God has given His grace abundantly as a free gift to us. No strings attached. And there is nothing you can do to deserve it or earn it. If you have been striving to be perfect or striving to do everything "right" in your relationship with the Lord, I pray that the Father's love will break down this mindset and fill you with the truth and freedom of His grace. God's love and grace is not based on who you are or what you do. It's based on who He is. Rest this week in knowing that you are loved simply because you're His!