Is My Faith a Joke?

IMG_1992The other night I was watching The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, a rerun from back in May, when he told this joke in his monologue:

“The St. Louis Rams made history on Saturday by drafting Michael Sam, making him the first openly gay player in the NFL. Yep, an NFL player who’s never been with a woman — or as Tim Tebow put it, ‘Eh, it’s been done.’”

After the first part of the joke, Fallon and the audience applauded at decision of the St. Louis Rams, and then laughed at reference to Tebow’s faith and belief.

I was fairly fired up, mainly because in a world today that raises the banner for “equality,” this joke was a microcosm of what reality is really like. I know, it’s just a joke on a tv show, but it got my gears turning. And then I got even more fired up, but this time it was directed at me.

This whole instance made me ask myself, “Is my faith a joke?” What does it say about me, other Christians, and the Church, when what we believe and so many have given so much for is the punchline in a joke?

What do others say about God because of me? Is my faith a joke?

Paul dealt with this very issue when he wrote the letter to the Romans. Actually, he was bringing up an issue that was a constant in Israel’s history. Their lives and actions did not match up with the God and faith they professed. Take a look at what Paul wrote in Romans 2:17-14:

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself area guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Verse 24 is a reference to Isaiah 52:5, when the prophet deals with the same problem. No one took God seriously because the Jews were no better than anyone else. Their lives reflected no difference, no desirable qualities.

Jim Putnam wrote about this idea regarding today’s Christians. In his book DiscipleShift, he looks at the fact that Christian marriages are just as likely to end in divorce, Christians are not healthier, in as much debt, are not more generous, and so on. Basically, overall, our faith really is a joke to those that look on. Many of us are trying to hold to the days when being a “Christian” was something that was respected or admired, but those days are quickly crumbling away.

Even though Christians are divided on issues in our culture today, the Bible is very clear on many things. It is also equally clear on how much the world rejects God and all that He stands for. We can never expect to tell the world that such and such is a sin and expect anyone to listen if our lives do not show that following Jesus is better than anything else in life.

Ask yourself, are people laughing at God because of my life? Is my faith a joke?

As long as there is sin in the world, people will always reject God – even if we lived incredible lives full of faith. But we must ask ourselves about the reality of our faith.

If we really want to change the world, we have to live in such a way that shows people that Jesus really DOES make a difference. Our lives at church and at home must be the same. We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Our marriages have to be better. Our business dealings have to be better. Everything should be better – because Jesus is better!

I Hate Giving Blood, But…

I hate giving blood.blood

Don’t get me wrong, donating blood is an incredible thing that we can do to help others that really need it. I think it’s wonderful, our church supports it, and I have no beliefs or opinions against it.

My body, however, does not agree.

I am not exactly sure why my body freaks out when I give blood, but it is rather embarrassing. The first time I ever donated was in high school. I was sitting there, chatting along, and all of a sudden I got really dizzy and even more pale than I already am. Everyone started putting ice packs on me and buzzing about.

That’s pretty much how it goes every time. So when a blood drive rolls around every few months, I don’t get too excited. I really hate it, because I want to do it, but it’s hard.

However, there have been a few times when certain people I personally know have had urgent needs for blood or platelet donations, and my donation could really help them. In spite of my physiological aversions, I sign up and give. It’s never easy, and it usually ends up the same way every time. Still, there is an urgent need, and urgency demands action.

I’m not writing any of this to boast, because there anything for me to brag about really. But in the past several weeks our church family has been studying through Dr. Jeff Iorg’s book, Live Like a Missionary, which is challenging us to share the Gospel in our everyday lives. There are many reasons why we do not share Christ with those around us, but one that is huge is a lack of urgency.

Matthew 25:1-13 contains a parable told by Jesus of the Ten Virgins before a wedding. Five were prepared, and five were not. When the bridegroom came, the five who weren’t ready missed out. Jesus told this story because He wanted His disciples (and us) to always live with urgency and be ready. Verse 13 says, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

One way or the other, our time is short. Time is short for the people around us. We must have urgency when sharing the Gospel. It may not always be easy, but people NEED Jesus – they need what we know!

I hate giving blood, but I do it because there is an urgent need. Now, don’t read too much into the analogy, I DO NOT hate sharing the Gospel, but it hard for us sometimes. The Gospel is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. The main point is that there needs to be a sense of urgency in our lives.

Maybe sharing your faith is hard for you, for whatever reason. But please do not let that stop you from sharing the life that Jesus has given you with others. Without Christ, people are dying, and we can share with them what gives life.

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – Matthew 17:14-21

This past week, I was in Colorado on a mission trip with my church. One day we took off and went to the top of Mt. Evans, which was 14,270 feet. We drove most of the way and hiked the rest to the top. Let me tell you, mountains are big. IMG_6831

In Oklahoma, we don’t really have mountains. There are a few really tall hills, and one even stops short of a mountain by just a few feet. But they are nothing like a 14,000 foot pile of rock.

At the top of Mt. Evans, my friend Aaron asked me, “Man, what do you think it would have been like back in the day trying to cross all this with a horse and wagon?” I just couldn’t imagine what it would have been like as a traveler to get that first glimpse of the mountains and think, “I have to the cross THAT?”

In your life, have things come your way that feel like crossing mountains? Sometimes the task just seems way too big for us. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just pick up the mountain and move it out of the way?

There’s an interesting story in the Bible where Jesus talks about that very idea: Matthew 17:14-21:

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon,[b] and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” [21 However, this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.]”

Jesus spent a great deal of time and ministry addressing several different crowds looking for him. This was no exception, as a father is desperately looking for Jesus, because his son suffers from seizures, possibly a form of epilepsy. However, from the passage, we see that this was brought on by a demonic spirit in the boy; it was not just a physical ailment. Evidently, he has already tried to ask the disciples to heal the boy, but to no avail.

The man still has faith in what Jesus can do though. He goes right to the source. But Jesus makes an interesting statement first. He seems to be troubled at the lack of faith of the disciples and people around Him. However, Jesus does not quit here or give up on these men. As we know, He continues on with them and patiently teaches them. He knows one day these disciples will change the world.

However, right now the disciples have a problem, and Jesus tells them in verse 20: their faith is too small. And evidently, it is VERY small. Jesus says that all they need is faith the size of a mustard seed, and they can move mountains. MOUNTAINS? And that’s not a lot of faith either.

mustard_seed1At the time, the mustard seed was the smallest seed people knew of, and that is why Jesus used that picture. If you have a second, go check your spice cabinet for a small container of mustard seeds and pick one up. It’s tiny!!!

But the dynamic we can miss here is where the faith really resides. Too often we place the emphasis on the disciples and what they can accomplish. If they only had a little faith, they could have healed that boy!

However, the problem was really where their faith was. They probably had faith, but faith in their own strength and power. But what we miss is that faith the size of a mustard seed is not about what we can do – it’s about what GOD can do!

And mountains are a peculiar picture. Is Jesus talking about moving actual mountains? What do you think it might look like if we could actually move a mountain. Maybe, something like this?

The theologian William Barclay says that Jesus was not talking about actual mountains, but rather difficult situations. This was a common metaphor to the Jews and used by Jewish teachers. A great Jewish teacher would be known for “moving mountains” by how well he taught. So, perhaps Jesus was really saying, “There is no situation too difficult for God to see you through. Through His power, you can overcome anything.”

Maybe Jesus was actually talking about mountains and trying to use that incredible picture? Probably a little of both. What is certain is that mountains are impossible for us to move, and many things in life are just too much for us to handle. However, when we trust in God and His power, ANYTHING is possible.

What does this mean for us today? There are several implications from this part of Jesus’ ministry that is relevant for us even today.

First, we are not perfect, but Jesus always is. These disciples failed the father, but He never lost faith in what Jesus could do. There are so many that turn their backs on God because of how the church or pastors have failed them. When we put our faith in what men can do, we will be let down some how, some way. But Jesus never fails. Never has, never will. Do you have faith in that?

Secondly, Jesus is so patient! How often did the disciples fall short, and yet He never gave up on them. How often do we fall short? Do you ever feel like He has given up on you? Having faith in Christ means knowing that even when we fall, He always picks us up.

Finally, how much do we really trust in God? I’m not saying that we have to always have a smile on our face and say with a southern accent, “Everythin’s gonna be alright!” Jesus did not say our faith had to be the size of a watermelon, although, maybe some people have that! We can think that things are impossible, but that’s God’s m.o. He loves the impossible! We just have to trust Him more than ourselves.

So what would it look like if we trusted in Jesus more? How would your life be different?

Maybe you are wondering, “How can I even do that?” There’s a verse that may show up in your Bible in this passage, verse 21, that does not appear in every translation. The reason for this is because it does not appear in every copy of the old Scriptures that we have, so it may have been added later, or maybe not. A similar phrase appears in Mark 9, so there has been some acceptance of it, although fasting is not mentioned there. But prayer is!

With or without the verse, prayer remains a vital part to our faith in God. Just look at how much Jesus, the Son of God, prayed! Prayer focuses our heart and trust on God. It draws us closer to Him.

I don’t want to minimize what mountains may be in your life, because if a struggle is hard enough, it’s like a mountain for sure! But I would like for you to take a moment and just write down what struggles or situations in your life may be like a mountain – something you can’t lift on your own.

Maybe there is also just a part of your life you know you need to trust God more in. Write that down too. Then we are going to spend some time in prayer, asking God to give us more faith. Just tell God you want to trust in Him and His power.

Put whatever you wrote down somewhere you can see it regularly. When you see it, just stop and pray. Ask God for a mustard seed. Trust in Him and let Him do the heavy lifting.

Fair Weather Fans? // Psalm 20:7-8, 23:4, 27:1

IMG_3952We all know that guy. Maybe you ARE that guy. When his team is playing, watch out. And if his team loses, don’t even try talking to him for a few days.

Do you know what I’m talking about? We all know someone who gets waaaay wrapped up in sports, and the balance of his or her life depends on wins and losses. And before you think I’m pointing a finger, I get right there too. When the OU Sooners or OKC Thunder lose, I’m not happy. When the Green Bay Packers got beat out of the playoffs this year, I was grumpy bear for a little bit. I was certainly bummed to see one of my favourite Packers, Greg Jennings, go to the Minnesota Vikings.

Many of us get tied to those things. And it’s not always sports either. It could be video games, our own performance in sports, work, or school, even fictional characters on TV shows and movies.

And I’m not saying it’s wrong to be a committed fan. No way! I’m going to be committed and root for my teams. My friend John and I were talking, and we both agreed it was good to not be a “fair weather fan.” Now, there are issues to be addressed if we get TOO tied to these things and then our behavior becomes destructive to others or ourselves. However, the point of this blog is not to address our commitment to sports teams or whatever, but rather, how is our commitment to being fans of God. Are we “fair weather fans” of Him?

How emotionally tied do we get to these people that ultimately we have no control of? We can’t do anything to help people win or lose. And even if the team is incredible, everybody loses eventually. And we put SO MUCH hope in things like these!

But then, there’s God. How much hope do we put in Him? It ought to be easy to “root” for God and be a huge fan, because HE ALWAYS WINS.

Psalm 20:7-8, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.”

Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

Job 42:2, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

Isaiah 40:28, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”

We could go on and on throughout the Bible to see just how powerful God is, and how He never loses. Even Jesus, who was crucified, rose again! And you can’t even call that a “loss,” because He won the victory over sin! You can’t call it a comeback because it was always there!

What do we do for these teams, people, or whatever it is that we support? We get all hyped up, put on clothes and colours, drive miles away, stand for hours on end, pay tons of money, and so on and so on. And there is always a 50/50 chance of the team winning or losing!

As followers of Christ, what kind of fans are we of Him? Are we just the fair weather fans who will “watch the game if it’s on,” or go to church if we feel like it? Do we serve others if it’s convenient? Do we give our offerings as long as it doesn’t take any faith? Do we share the Gospel only if it’s safe?

Again, I’m railing on sports fans or any other fans (as long as it’s healthy). I just want us to consider what kind of followers of Christ we really are. Do we get as excited and go to the ends of the earth for a God who never loses?

If we put as much hope in His victory, would our lives look different?

Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!

In a world full of lies, we need to speak the truth into other’s lives.

Story of Barnabas: Acts 4:36-37; 9:26-28; 11:19-26; 13:15-16; 16:1-5IMG_3391

Have you ever had someone who believed you and really encouraged you? Doesn’t it just make all the difference in the world? Over the past week, I’ve had some conversations with some folks in our church who have a heart for encouraging and praying for young families who are just starting out.

Then, in Church Planting Apprenticeship class on Monday, we talked about Barnabas, and how his life of encouragement was an incredible way of discipling others. And then today! A friend of mine posted a video on Twitter called “Street Compliments” that just blew me away. You can watch it here:

So it seems apparent to me that God is really trying to show me something about encouragement and building one another up. And don’t we all need it? This world is full of lies that are given to us. Facebook, TV, magazines, people we know, and so many other places fill our heads with lies.

And in a world full of lies, we need to hear and speak the truth in lives.

In Acts, the life of Barnabas paints a clear picture of how living this way can change lives. Acts 4:36-37 shows us that encouragement is selfless! Barnabas’ real name was Joseph! The apostles saw what kind of man he was, an encourager, and nicknamed him Barnabas, which means, “Son of Encouragement!”

He was a selfless, generous man, which is what encouraging is all about: giving and investing into others (vs. 37). When we don’t encourage others, we are generally focused on ourselves – we are selfish. Even if we don’t think we are overtly selfish people, keeping the truth to ourselves is being selfish! Barnabas was generous and selfless with more resources than just words. His whole life reflected encouragement.

Encouragement is speaking the truth, even when it is difficult (Acts 9:26-28). Paul (or Saul) was not at all popular with the apostles, because he had been ferocious in trying to hunt them down! Even though Christ changed His life, these men were still wary.

Barnabas was able to see the potential in Paul and see the truth in His life. Christ had really changed him. That was the Holy Spirit working in Barnabas’ life to see what Paul could be. It’s hard for us to have that vision sometimes, but when we live life by the Holy Spirit, He speaks to us the truth to give to others. We live that kind of life through time in the Word and prayer. THAT is where our real truth comes from! Sometimes the truth is tough to speak.
In this part of Acts, Barnabas had Saul who had a rough past. But other times, the truth means confronting the past, or even the present. Paul did this with Peter (Galatians 2:11-14). Peter was living in the wrong, and Paul gave him a hard truth. The way Paul did it is not the model for us always to do that, but it shows all of us that we must speak the truth, even when it is difficult.

Encouragement is also contagious (Acts 11:19-26; 13:15-16; 16:1-5). In Acts 11, Barnabas’ encouragement of believers led to even more disciples being made! He then takes Paul with him and they begin to minister together.

In Acts 13, Paul, who Barnabas had taken under his wing, steps out into the lead and begins sharing the word of the Lord!

In Acts 16, even though Paul and Barnabas are not together anymore, Timothy joins Paul and the cycle begins again!

When we encourage others, we cannot think in a linear progression. Encouragement and discipleship are EXPONENTIAL!

You know what I think is amazing about the life of Barnabas? It’s simple. He didn’t have discipleship books or classes. He shared the truth of God and invested in a few others, and that changed the world!

Encouragement is not fleeting or meaningless. Real, truthful encouragement changes lives.

And don’t sell yourself short either. You may think that you don’t know enough to disciple someone or be that Barnabas to someone else, but you can! We call can! In fact, that’s our calling from the Lord – to make disciples!

I hope this encourages you as it has encouraged me. My heart is full of joy when I think of those in our church who want to be like Barnabas to other believers. Because without Barnabas, what would have become of Paul?

If I can encourage you, or help you in being that person for others, I would love to! And what are some ways that you have been encouraged? Who is God calling you to encourage? the right heart.

One Voice is Not Enough // Acts 19:8-10

When you think of the greatest voice of the Gospel of our day, who do you think of? Most of us would probably consider Billy Graham to be the most influential Christian voice in the past 100 years. There are so many others that preceded him – Edwards, Luther, Augustine, and many others.Spot lit microphone and stand on an empty stage

Now, what about closer to home? Who is the voice of the Gospel in your life? Does your pastor come to mind? Maybe a Sunday School or small group leader?

Is sharing the Gospel only for the experts?

Even Billy Graham, whose message has been shared with millions, has only reached a percentage of the billions in the world. Your pastor will never be able to share the Gospel with all the people in your city or community.

Even Paul, THE missionary, did not do it all himself. Take a look at a glimpse of Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts 19:8-10.

8And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

This all started when Paul went to Ephesus and shared the Gospel with 12 men there. They became Christ followers, and he stayed in that area for two years sharing and working with the people in that area.

And yet, in verse 10, we see that in those two years, “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”

Paul didn’t travel to do that. Even if he did, could he have reached all those people? No way? Even more, did all those people come to see him?? Not at all!

People heard the Gospel not because they came to a church service and not because a preacher when out to find them. People heard the Gospel because those who were saved by Christ went out and shared that good news with others!

Paul, Billy Graham, your pastor – they are not some Gospel experts who are the only ones who have the responsibility to share with non-Christians. WE ALL have that call in our lives.

And why wouldn’t we want to share such life-changing, incredible news? We will tell people about a great movie or song or restaurant all day long, but when it comes to sharing Christ, we check out.

Maybe you think you don’t know what to say. Maybe you are scared that you’ll mess up. Maybe you are scared you’ll get told no or something worse.

But let me tell you, the same God that saved Paul saved you and works within you! HE is the One who be with you. He is actually the One who does the real work anyway!

One voice is not enough. We cannot rely on the Billy Grahams or our pastors to share the incredible Good News of Jesus with everyone we know. And we cannot count on the whole world coming to the church to hear the Gospel message.

Let your voice be heard to those you know who need Jesus. If you know the difference He has made in your life, then tell others what He has done!

“But if every believer reached just three people in a lifetime by effective witnessing, the lost in America would be reached within a generation.” -Bruce Dreisbach

What are some things that hold you back from sharing the Gospel? Also, what are some stories that you have of when you shared Jesus with someone? Leave a comment below!

What Made David So Special? // 1 Sam. 13:14, 16:7, Acts 13:22

Lately I’ve been asking myself this question, what made David so special? He is described as a “man after God’s own heart,” and yet there were so many things David did wrong. He committed adultery, murder, lied, and even battled some pride issues. He even writes in Psalm 51 that “surely I was sinful since birth” and asked for a new heart to be created in him by God.IMG_4481

So how was he a man after God’s own heart? Despite all his faults, God never left him, and David was always a huge figure in the history of Israel. The answer lies in what really set David apart from so many others.

When it came to the Greatest Commandment, David nailed it. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 has written the “Greatest Commandment” which is also quoted by Christ in the Gospels, “4″Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

If you look through the history of all the Kings of Israel, David clearly sets himself apart by his worship. He truly loves the Lord with everything. He never worships a foreign god, consults a medium, or tries to be God. He had no other gods before him.

There are only a few other kings that come along – Asa, Hezekiah, Josiah, and a few others – that display this some type of attitude and behavior, but David is the shining example of it. And what set the other kings apart was their actions concerning the worship of other gods in the land. Asa was even described in 2 Chronicles 14 & 15 as serving the Lord “wholeheartedly.” He had an amazing prayer in 2 Chr. 14:11,

“Then Asa cried out to the LORD his God: ‘LORD, there is no one besides You to help the mighty and those without strength. Help us, LORD our God, for we depend on You, and in Your name we have come against this large army. Yahweh, You are our God. Do not let a mere mortal hinder You.’”

So what’s the point of all this? What amazes me about David is the dynamic of his relationship with God. In spite of his moral shortcomings, God never leaves Him. Times got tough and David even underwent discipline, but God never left Him. What David did was a lower priority to the condition of his heart.

God looks at the heart first. He does not ignore what people do or don’t do, but those things come second. Notice what Isaiah 29:13 says, “And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…” God is not upset with what His people are doing; He cannot stand the difference between their hearts and lives.

What does this mean for us today: What or who is number one in your heart? What drives your life?

We are not going to be perfect. We are going to mess up, and God knows that. God knew David would mess up, and boy did he! But he still sought the Lord first, and that is what drove his life. When David did mess up, he turned back to the Lord and not something else to make things right.

Our hearts need to be our number one concern before we try to “live better.” God wants us to live for Him, but He wants our hearts first.

That is what made David so special: God had his heart. That is why he was a man “after God’s own heart.”

Who has your heart?

The Real Heart of a King – The Real Heart of a Leader // Deuteronomy 17:14-20

I read a great book not long ago entitled Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership, written by a man named John Dickson. It was a leadership book with the main idea that the greatest leaders are those who are humble and servants. Those are the types of leaders we look up to and admire. In the past few days a photo has been going around the internet of a NYC police officer kneeling down to give a homeless man some boots for his naked feet.

NYC Police Officer giving a pair of boots he bought for a homeless man with no shoes.

Conversely, we tend to think negatively of those who are arrogant and full of themselves. Celebrities, athletes, and other leaders who lack humility are the ones that we tend to not be a fan of. When he left Cleveland to go to Miami, Lebron James experienced quite of bit of backlash when he held a press conference and had a one-hour special just to announce his move. Brett Favre could have been a legend in Green Bay and football but tarnished his legacy when he chose to not gracefully bow out of the game, along with some moral issues that came later. Political leaders like John Edwards who misused money to meet own needs or men like Castro who live in wealth while his country is in poverty are vilified.

However, long ago the world was different from today in this respect. Ancient leaders were qualified by their status, wealth, and displayed greatness. The Caesars of Rome put up giant statues of themselves and put their faces on the currency.

What is interesting about this time is how God defined the type of leader He wanted to see for His people. In the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord is laying out how life is to be lived in His Kingdom for His people. The main theme of the whole book is to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength – with one’s everything! But in chapter 17, God describes the type of leader in His Kingdom; He gives the description of a king:

14″When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, “I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,” 15you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, “You shall never return that way again.” 17And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.

18″And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.19And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

A king by the Lord’s standards is a man who does not build himself up by an army, wealth, or wives – He is a man who follows and depends on the Lord. He is also a man who is not above His people but serves His people. The king is not above the law but embodies and enacts the law. He is a true servant, humble leader.

If you read forward from this point, you will not find any kings of Israel that really fit this description. Even David, a man after God’s own heart, falls short of many of these standards. Josiah is a bright spot in the kings that follow, but still none seem to come even close to this…until the real King arrives.

Then Jesus Christ came into the world in a manger, in a barn, in a small, unimportant town. Wise men and shepherds bow down before Him in the midst of animals, hay, and the smells. He grows up poor, lives without a home, and has 12 men that follow Him.

Jesus says things like, “The greatest of these will be your servant,” and “greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends.” But He also says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

And there it is. Jesus is the King that Israel has always needed, but never really wanted. Even the disciples, after Jesus had died and risen from the grave, were asking when Jesus was going to restore the kingdom. No one could quite get it then, but soon they surely did. Jesus displayed what a true king was like – what a true leader should be, 1400 years (or so) in the making.

John Dickson writes in his book about how Jesus totally revolutionized our view of leaders. It was only after Christ that humility was a quality desired in leaders. He was the one who changed it all! Now we really can’t stand those that don’t follow His example. Even most people who do not believe in Jesus feel this way!

But it all started back in Deuteronomy 17, and it tells us so much about God. With Him, it’s not about status, accomplishments, or all the things we think make people great. Greatness comes from a heart that loves God with everything and a heart that loves to serve people.

May we all, especially those of us that lead, have the heart of a true leader, the heart of a true king.

The Nose Knows // 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Grilled PB&Js – Absolutely Delicious

The olfactory senses are absolutely brilliant. Our minds connect to so many things through the senses, but a certain fragrance can bring up so much imagery in the mind.

Not long ago, we had a small cabinet built and painted to put over the washing machine. The first several days it was there, I could smell that fresh paint smell. That exact smell took me back to when my family moved into the house I grew up in many years ago. As soon as we moved in we painted most of the walls in the house, and it had that same smell for days. Specific memories and impressions came to my mind the instant I smelled that paint.

Counselors and other therapists will often not wear cologne or perfume because of this same concept. However, their reason is to avoid bringing up certain memories. Someone who had been abused, for instance, can be taken back to the horrible time when it all happened by smelling a similar fragrance. Those who work with rape victims are never supposed to wear any kind of cologne or even lotion that smells.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians about the “fragrance of Christ.” The apostle was writing about the previous confrontation that we can read about in 1 Corinthians 5, and by the end of chapter 2 in this letter, he takes a different direction.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 “14 But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. And who is competent for this?”

As Christians live their lives out, we leave an aroma of Christ to the world. People see and experience Christ through us, whether we know it or not. And just like the olfactory senses in our noses, the aroma of Christ can have a powerful effect on others.

For some we are going to be a sweet smelling, life-giving fragrance that people are longing for. Paul’s imagery is most likely centered on incense, a powerful thing in the ancient world. And our goal should be to bring that “smell” that helps to bring people to a positive image of Christ.

Some folks won’t like how we smell at all. One reason is some people just don’t like the smell of good things, or the fragrance of God. To these people we can’t really do anything at all. God must work on their hearts. Still, we can be a stench in other ways that we can control. We can be “burnt toast” Christians that cause people to wrinkle their noses and not have anything to do with Christ or the church.

Paul asks a great question though, and it may be one that you are asking too: “Who is competent for this?” In other words, “Who can possibly achieve this kind of life?” Being a pleasing aroma is often difficult. We sweat. We stink. And sometimes, we just don’t care about how we smell. Sin does that to us.

Our only hope is to let the Holy Spirit guide us and make us the fragrance of God. The transforming power of His leadership is what makes us smell sweet. Doing it on our own may produce some results, but ultimately we will fall short. Have you ever had that one friend who put on way TOO much cologne? Or maybe you knew someone who felt like deodorant was a conspiracy and no one really needed to wear it? That’s how we get when we try to do it ourselves.

Today, just pray that you would be a sweet smell to the world. May we lead people to Christ in a way that their minds are eternally etched with the aroma of life.

Leaders Who Love Success Use Others, but Leaders Who Love Jesus Serve Others.

Reality TV is somewhat of a paradox. It really isn’t as real as it appears to be. Clips are cut, manipulated. Characters are directed and plots are produced. Still, its unscripted nature is supposed to validate the “reality.”

I remember when the term “Reality TV” was starting to be coined. The first Survivor show was paving the way into a new realm of television. There had been other shows before it, but it was one of the trailblazers. Many people watched and became engrossed in the storylines of the show, and there was an interesting dynamic that rose from the interactions of the members of the cast: alliances to win.

You were “voted off the island” in Survivor. That’s how someone left the show. The idea was the weakest link of everyone would be the one voted off, but over time people started to form alliances with one another to assure votes would be stacked up again others and not themselves. These people did what they had to serve their own needs and stay in the game.

And that’s all it really was – a game. Donald Trump introduced us to “The Apprentice” and we saw an even more interesting dynamic as people were put in “real life” leadership positions. Still, it was a game where you had to whatever you had to do to win. Ultimately, success was about taking care of you first.

As Christians, we can get pulled in to this paradigm very easily. We want to see our churches, ministries, Sunday School classes, small groups, and whatever else grow and “succeed.” Some of us (mainly in the ministry) want to climb the ladder and get to bigger churches or be known as a Christian leader.

When we have this mindset, the people around us become tools to our success. They become numbers that we need to increase. They become strategies to develop and enact. They become the target of marketing and the validation of what we do.

But did Jesus operate this way? The time Jesus spent with people was not focused on building a ministry. He spent time loving the unloved, the sick, and the “unimportant.” And so often, He loved others that would not love back or give anything in return. These people were not beneficial in the way we might think.

Because of this, the “important” people sought Jesus out. They wanted to find Him. Nicodemus sought Jesus out in John chapter 3. A rich young ruler came to Jesus. The centurion came for healing for his servant. Christ did not neglect them either, but he was not focused on those who would help Him promote what He was doing. But when He lived His life the way He did, people came to find Him.

What was the motivation for this type of life and love? Humility. Jesus was so humble, even when He really did not have to be. But time and time again, He pointed to His Father and the Kingdom of God. Real success for Jesus that He showed to us was loving others and letting others see God through Him.

When we love others, people see Jesus through us. As Christians and ministers of the Gospel, we must lead people to love Jesus more than us. His love is what they (and we) really need.

Don’t love with an agenda to build yourself or your ministry. Love with the pure motivation to be Jesus to others. As Paul wrote in Romans 12, “Let love be genuine.”

We live in a world where we often do things because they will benefit us in some way. The alliances on Survivor were made because they would use people to get what they want. May it never even be close to that in why we minister and love people. Real Christ-like love is humble and expects nothing in return.

You know what is amazing though? There is SO much we get in return for loving that way. Loving others because we love Jesus, being the picture of Jesus to the world, is such a deep communion with the Holy Spirit. There is no greater place to be, no greater life than that.

If you love success, then you will use others to succeed no matter what it takes. And if you are leading people, they will live their lives in the same way. And some very big and “important” things may be built, but without love, they are meaningless.

If you love Christ, then love others because that is who we are and that is how He loved us.

Philippians 2:5-11, “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.