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It’s been a while…

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here.  I confess, I’m not given to posting my thoughts on the internet, but I would like to use this time (whenever I post) as an online journal.  Please feel free to comment and/or ask questions.  I would love to dialogue with folks, but I may take a long time to respond depending on my schedule.

Yesterday I read Psalm Chapter 1.  I’ve read this song many, many times before, but for some reason the words stuck deep in my heart.  Here’s the Psalm:

The Way of the Righteous and the Wicked
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

The first thing that really struck me was as a follower of Jesus my delight is in the law of the Lord.  In fact, I should be meditating on His Law day and night.  What does this mean?  I thought followers of Christ were no longer under Law, but under Grace.  True!  This doesn’t mean, however, that as a follower of Jesus I shouldn’t think about the Laws of God.  In fact, I should think about them constantly.  One major difference between thinking about God’s laws as a follower of Jesus and thinking about His Laws as a “non-follower” is my joy is now found in following God’s laws as a believer.  Before I became a follower of Jesus, His Laws were a burden.  Now, His Laws are my joy.  Why?  Because I’m a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).  I am no longer who I was.  I have completely changed.

Next, our lives are compared to the life of a tree.  This is what really struck me yesterday as I read this Psalm.  We are compared to a tree that is planted by streams of water.  The analogy seems quite simple to understand.  Jesus said that He is the living water.  He said if we drink of Him we will never thirst again.  Jesus is the “stream” in this analogy.  So, if our lives are planted and rooted in Christ we are analogous to the tree planted by streams of water, our life source.  This also reminds me of John 15:5.  Jesus stated, “I am the vine, you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, but apart from me you can do nothing”.  We must stay connected to the source of our lives, Jesus Christ!

So, what happens next?  We bear fruit in its season.  Wait just one second!  If we are followers of Jesus shouldn’t we bear fruit all the time?   Yes, our inward and outward lives should always bear the fruit of the Spirit as we are deeply rooted in Christ.  Then what about the phrase, “that yields its fruit in its season”?  Fruit is seasonal and isn’t produced by the plant continuously.  This is true of the outward fruit.  As a follower of Christ my first and only goal is to remain rooted in Christ.  The inward and outward fruit produced comes naturally as a result.  I should never focus my life on the fruit of the Spirit or the outward fruit of evangelism/missions.  These “fruits” are a natural byproduct of being deeply rooted in Christ.  My aim, my goal, my mission, my everything must be Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

The next thing I noticed yesterday was the next result listed in verse 3.  The tree planted by the stream has leaves that never whither.  Have you ever felt burnout?  I have.  The reason I have experienced burnout in the past is due to one thing:  Depending on my own strength.  When I take matters into my own hands and pull my roots out of the ground, I am in serious danger of burnout.  When I remain rooted in Christ, I am strengthened by His strength.  Another way of saying this was coined by my former mentor, Bob Warren.  He said, “As I know Christ, He works through me as I rest in Him”.

Psalm 1:3 teaches me that my life, my work, my everything must not be focused on the very things the world (and sometimes those in the church) tell me to focus on.  My life goal isn’t winning the world for Christ.  It isn’t reading the Bible every day.  It isn’t doing my best to display the fruit of the Spirit. It isn’t…

The goal of life is only knowing and loving Jesus Christ.  The rest is fruit, which comes naturally as I am deeply rooted in Jesus.

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The Passing of my Spiritual Mentor

Today I received some incredibly sad and happy news that has caused me to reflect, remember, cry, laugh and hope. My spiritual father/mentor in the faith has passed on to Jesus leaving his wife and son behind. Bob Warren began his adult life “putting a round piece of leather through a round piece of iron”. He was a professional basketball player. During his time as a pro athlete Bob encountered Jesus and retired from basketball to spend his remaining years as a pig farmer and bible teacher on his farm in Hardin, KY. I met Bob for the first time in the fall of 1992 as a freshman at Murray State University. For the next 5 1/2 years I sat under Bob’s teaching. During my last year of school I had the unique opportunity to live on the Hill (the name of his farm) and work with Bob daily. This was the most formative year of my spiritual life and the reason I refer to Bob as my spiritual father in the faith.

There has been no other man in the world who has influenced my foundational beliefs in Christ more than Bob Warren. Almost every aspect of my faith and ministry is still profoundly impacted by Bob’s teachings. I am thankful that Bob has left his teachings in the form of books that can be purchased through Amazon.com or through Logos Bible Software. I highly recommend Bob’s Romans 1-8 commentary and Hebrews Study. These are some the best commentaries on these two books available anywhere.

My family and I have spent the last 13 years living and serving in East Asia and my own teachings and mentoring style is an overflow of what Bob poured into me. I have had the opportunity to sit under some of the world’s most well-known and famous theologians, but none hold a candle to Bob. He stayed in relative obscurity and humility writing out of Hardin, KY, but in my estimation was one of history’s spiritual giants of the faith. He is now rejoicing in the presence of the One whom he loved completely while on this earth, and for this I rejoice as well. Thank you, Father, for Bob who so clearly and faithfully represented Your Son, Jesus, in the years you gave him.

Turning 40

Today I turned 40, which statistically means I’ve lived half my life already. This is a sobering thought. For the past several weeks I’ve been thinking and wondering if my first 40 years made any difference at all. I’m not saying I’m wondering if my life has been worth it. Anyone who knows me well knows I love life, but has my life been all it could have been so far. I’ll admit, turning 40 has caused more emotion in me than any other birthday has up to this point. I’m not sad. I don’t feel older. I’m not having a mid-life crisis…yet. I’m simply asking myself if I’ve given Christ my all for the first 40 years. I’ve failed Him more times than I can count or even remember. I’ve spent nights wondering if His blood really is enough to cover all my sins. I’ve found myself doubting, stumbling, questioning, fighting and falling. I’ve often wondered if I’m really cut out to be doing what I’m doing.
But then the Spirit reminds me that I was never cut out for anything worthy of His grace and glory. I was His enemy. Destitute. Poor. Frail. Unlovable. Wretched. Sinful. Hopeless. Until one day Jesus reached out and pulled me to safety by way of His cross. He made me new by way of His resurrection. He sought me. Loved me. Restored me. Pierced through my transgressions with His blood and washed me clean. Now I’m alive. I see clearly. I am new. I have hope, forgiveness, joy everlasting, riches beyond imagination, love immeasurable and friendship with God.
40 years are gone and I’ll never get them back. How many years I have left I don’t know, but I know I’m a child of the King and He is working in me constantly to make me more like Christ. I want to make the most of every opportunity to make Jesus known. He is worth it. He is everything. Thank you Jesus for rescuing me from the pit and placing me in Your presence. Thank you for 40 years of life. Thank you!

The Listening aspect of Evangelism

Evangelism is supposed to be us sharing with them, right? I mean seriously, how can a person who doesn’t know Christ contribute in a conversation about knowing Christ? Evangelism is essentially a one-sided conversation, isn’t it?

I’ve been employed in a job that requires me to share my faith for the past 13 years, and I can honestly say that my experiences in evangelism have been awesome. I am actually very thankful for the expectation as it keeps me sharing. In my earlier days of sharing my attitude was very much what I wrote in the first paragraph. I had the Good News and you’d better just sit there and receive it!!

Unfortunately, this approach most often times fails to demonstrate God’s love and patience. So, now as I’m sharing with folks I make every effort to listen to their questions and their stories for a couple of reasons. One, knowing their questions better enables me to answer them. Two, hearing their stories enables me to see God’s work in their lives to bring them to the point of sitting and hearing the Gospel. Being able to listen to a person and then put some perspective on their stories in light of God’s pursuit of them always make an impact. Here’s what I mean. God pursues people, but most people just don’t know it. They see the circumstances of their lives from a purely secular perspective. Being able to listen to them and share with them how God has been pursuing them is critical. As I’ve shared God’s pursuit in someone’s life it is incredible to watch their response.

Everyone wants to be loved and pursued, and sharing how God has been loving and pursuing someone always brings him/her one step closer to knowing the love and acceptance of Jesus, but we need to listen.

Evangelism is likened unto Matchmaking

Have you ever noticed most matchmakers are married couples? In fact, the matchmakers who ended up succeeding at bringing my wife and me together were a married couple. Why do married couples like meddling in the business of single people? It reminds them of when they were younger and falling in love! Matchmakers live vicariously through the lives of single people all over the world. Evangelists do the same thing. How?

Why is evangelism one of the most exhilarating activities for believers? Because we are matching a lost person with his/her Creator and it reminds us of the grace given to us when we were younger. Evangelism also provides us an opportunity to grow deeper in our faith and reliance on Jesus. As people ask us questions we can’t answer it drives us to the Word and to our knees. We draw closer to The Lord as we share His love with others.

So, if you need a shot of Jesus’ love in your heart the answer is found in sharing His love with others. Be a matchmaker today!!

Evangelisitic Patience

In the parable of the sower, Jesus describes 4 differing soils seed falls onto and then tells the listener the outcome. We all know the story well, but for some reason today the final description of the good soil caught my eye. As Jesus is explaining the result of the seed falling on the good soil, the last thing He says is that the result is fruit bearing for those who are patient. I’ve never seen or considered these words before due to much of what I’ve been taught since living overseas centers around “rapid” evangelism.

Rapid evangelism is the idea that if we are faithful to share, God will send us a harvest which will multiply rapidly if we only believe. If we don’t see this rapid multiplication of disciples and churches, then we are simply not doing something right and not exercising the proper amount of faith and prayer.

Jesus puts this idea to rest in His discussion of the good soil. Patience in evangelism is the model He teaches. I don’t want to ever become the type of Christ follower who feels like it is my duty to rapidly evangelize the lost. When we fall into this type of thinking people suddenly become projects and numbers. Jesus loves people and so should we. Especially when it comes to evangelism.

Knowing where and who to serve

As believers in Christ, we often ask ourselves questions like, “Where can I serve?”, or, “Who can I serve?”. These questions are valid and the intentions of those asking them are indeed good, but what are the answers? Is there some mystery we must uncover to find the answers?

I’ve been thinking about these questions since last evening after hearing my pastor preach on service and, through his instruction, have understood this differently than I have in the past. I used to think in order to serve others I needed to provide some type of ministry to them. I needed to think of creative projects or outreaches in order to engage them and while my intentions were good I have realized my method was erroneous.

We don’t need to come up with catchy logos to serve people and we don’t need to invent ways to serve them. All we need to do is watch. People need to be served in different ways and if we only serve through our own efforts and programs we will miss serving them. Look at people as people and not projects. See their needs and meet them. Stop wondering how to serve and who to serve and get to know people. They will tell you what they need if you only pay attention.

So, forget about creating service opportunities and programs. Just get to know people and meet their needs. This is how Jesus served. He never went into a village with an agenda to dig a well. He saw needs and met them. We would do well to imitate His example.