Exchanging The Lie

I finished this mornings reading in Ecclesiastes and was a little bummed out. Here was Solomon … a king who was blessed by God, powerful, wise and wealthy beyond all imagination … and he concludes that everything is meaningless. A chasing after the wind.

It got me to wondering what on earth happened? What was he thinking! In the beginning of his story Solomon was all in for God. He sought to honor Him and give Him the glory and honor that He is due. Solomon was awesome!

Over time it seems to me that Solomon’s hope migrated. In his old age he began worshipping false gods, and leading Israel to do the same. His lifestyle and perspective deteriorated. There were definitely consequences for Solomon’s disobedience. It’s all written down.

It was a slow fade for Solomon. In scripture it doesn’t look like this happened all at once. Through the years he lost sight of the truth and started believing a lie.

“This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

I think this is a warning to us as we get older. Along the way life gets harder. We can get cynical. We lose loved ones. Our bodies begin wearing out. We make exceptions for ourselves because we’re tired. We wrongly believe that what little we have, what we are able to do doesn’t really matter to the kingdom of God. Before we know it we’ve slowly slipped from being on top of our game to sitting on the sideline bench of the kingdom.

Christ follower, remember who you are and whose you are. Remember how much Jesus loves you. Remember our lives are all for His glory. The mission hasn’t changed just because we got older. If we’re still breathing there’s work to be done.

Read this and soak it up, grab your bible and go refresh yourself with the truth. That’s the only way to refute lies.

Inside of you who are in Christ Jesus are the riches and wisdom of Solomon, through the holy spirit of God. You have so much to offer in service to the kingdom. Your story is one that others need to hear. It’s a story unique to you and only you … who you were before meeting Jesus, how He rescued you and your journey with Him since.

Friend, exchange the lie for the truth.

You have great worth.

You have purpose.

Your life experience has value.

You have been spiritually gifted to reach those around you who need the hope we have.

You have influence.

Your little bit that you think doesn’t amount to much is useful and needed in the body of Christ.

Your prayers matter.

The gospel matters.

You matter.

Go exchange the lie for truth. I have confident hope that if you’ll do that, you’ll get back in the game.

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Response

It’s a safe assumption that all of us see life through the lens of our own experiences. Our family of origin, childhood, work life, belief systems, friendships, struggles, successes, failures and so much more all shape the way we view the world around us, and because of this, our individual response.

As I grow in relationship with The Lord, my view expands. Little by little, He uses new experiences to continue shaping and molding my mind and heart.

Today I’m simply in awe of the greatness of our God, and how He works things together. How amazingly connected it all is to His kingdom.

He is God over the past, the God of the future, the One reigning over all eternity. He is Lord in the Carolinas, King of church plants in Connecticut, Ruler of Missionaries in Africa, Shepherd over the Quad Cities. Who are we, that He would be mindful of us?

It’s such a privilege to see little glimpses of God working through His people, through His church, locally and around the world. There can be no greater purpose than to be a part of what He is doing, living out our individual giftedness for the glory of God and the good of others.

You and I may not be the ones called to dig wells, or plant churches, or move our families to the the far reaches of the world for the sake of the gospel. But those of us in Christ have received gifts and talents useful for kingdom expansion.

What other response can there be but to join in the mission, serving God wherever He has planted us, in the way we’ve been gifted?

3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with youra faith; 7if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:3-8

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Discerning His Heart

Have you read these words and been flooded with fear and trepidation? I think even a casual believer in God pauses at the following verses. Every time I encounter them, discomfort definitely rises. I’m quick to want to skip over them. But maybe that’s exactly why Jesus said them …. to create tension and discomfort.

When confronted with these verses, do you ever worry that you may fall into the goat category? Or, maybe you think you got it right, thumbs up, good to go, firmly in the sheep pen? And then that day comes when we all stand before the throne and give an account of our lives. Gulp.

Lord, Lord.

God really cares about how we spend our time, the condition of our hearts, how we engage the world around us. And certainly while these verses serve as a warning, I think the heart behind them is to encourage us to live a life of abundance and blessing that can only come from seeking to please our Heavenly Father.

I think by the time Jesus spoke these warnings He was pretty fed up with the hard hearts and stiff necks of the religious leaders and teachers of the day. Maybe they needed some harsher imagery to get them to go back and remember …. what pleases our God?

Have faith (Hebrews 11:6) (Mark 11:22)

Be spiritually minded (Colossians 3:2) (Romans 8:6-8)

Revere Him (Psalm 147:11) Psalm 115:3)

Follow Jesus (Matthew 17:5) (Matthew 28:18-20)

Be obedient (1 Samuel 15:22)

Do His Will (Hebrews 13:21) (Luke 9:23)

Live sacrificially (Hebrews 13:15-16) (John 15:13) (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Love God, love others (Mark 12: 30-31)

Live in unity (Romans 12:16)

Be just, merciful and humble, kind, compassionate and forgiving (Micah 6:8) (Ephesians 4:32)

The more we know God, the easier it is to discern the heart of the father.

Lord, Lord. Thank you that when we seek you, we find you. Equip us with your Holy Spirit that enables us to live lives that glorify and honor You completely. Soften our hard hearts and stiff necks. Make us more like your son Jesus each day. May our thoughts and actions reflect Him and be ever pleasing to You.

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In His Footsteps

This morning I remembered a conversation with a coworker that took place not long before surrendering my life to Christ. It was in CA, late 2009. Through a series of life events and the work of the Holy Spirit, I was seeking to know more and I was questioning EveryThing. I did believe in God and I said I believed that the Bible was true, but I wasn’t 100% sold. I hadn’t yet made the choice to do things God’s way. There were some hard things in God’s Word that I was still wrestling with. There were lots of whys, hows and what ifs. At that time I was only beginning to ask the right questions that would finally reveal the answers I sought.

So back to that conversation. Needless to say, because of my stage of spiritual development it was not more than a very brief, painful exchange. Let’s just say I was way in over my head. My coworker was a smart guy, a good likeable guy, but an intellectual agnostic and he’d had conversations like this before. He asked me why I believed the Bible was true, and exactly on what I based my faith claims. He was prepared for whatever I might wield as a defense. I was about as effective as a cardboard tube against his sword.

Boy oh boy, and ouch. I was seriously ill equipped.

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

So much has happened in my walk with the lord since that day. I finally yielded my will to His, late in life, in February 2010. I’ve been a faithful follower of Jesus ever since. And yet, as much spiritual and personal growth as I’ve already experienced in 8 years, as much as I’ve grown deeper in love with Him and His church, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. I still hunger for more.

Over the years, I’ve learned about spiritual gifts and have embraced serving others. I went on a few short term mission trips and God used each one to further shape and teach me. And now I find myself in a different season of preparation and service. The Who and Why is eternal, never changing … but the what and how IS and DOES, as my capacity for understanding grows.

We humans are pretty good at identifying and labeling things. We inspect, poke and prod, give it a name, come up with conclusions, defining things a certain way. For example, the word “evangelism” can create a strong response in us. Some folks would be all in with the preaching, teaching and apologetics aspect of their faith, others prefer to leave that stuff to the pastors, because they’re better (and are more comfortable) demonstrating Gods love through acts of service and compassion. Do I see raised hands? Truth be told, the word “evangelism” makes me tremble and squirm . Likewise, the word “mission” can conjure up images of beautiful children in less advantaged countries, and hearts begin to thump in anticipation of GOing! But mission, or good works, without sharing the good news of Jesus is so incomplete. How is simply serving sharing the hope that I have? That one is on me for sure, and the conviction stings.

The word “disciple” simply means follower, a learner. Discipleship, simply put, a process of learning and following, and beyond that helping others learn to follow. Even that word though can seem intimidating, when it’s simply following in His footsteps.

Lord, we complicate it all so much and raise objections when it’s really simple. Lord, you showed us what that looks like. Not EASY, but simple.

Our friend and former Pastor, Jeff Hickman likes to put it this way “live like Jesus lived, love how Jesus loved, leave what Jesus left behind”. Guess what Jesus left behind. Disciples (learners and followers) who discipled others, who discipled others, and so on.

In my own life I can see how God used others to help me grow spiritually, to disciple me, to help me become the person that I was created to be. He’s not done with me yet! It’s a lifelong pursuit.

Discipleship the way I see it : Jesus started out with a willing group of men and women who He took time to personally invest in. He trained, equipped, encouraged and challenged them. He spent time with them, they did life together. He modeled a life of service. He showed them what a healthy prayer life looks like. He prayed for them. He was a leader. He taught them corporately and privately. He proclaimed the gospel and kingdom of God everywhere. He went outside the temple, where the people were and ministered to them. He fed. He healed. He comforted. He sent His followers, His disciples, His learners out to do the same. The disciples obeyed and applied all they had learned. Multiplication happened. More people believed and began to follow Jesus.

It doesn’t end there. That’s us, you and me, right here and now. Disciples. Missionaries. Evangelists. Worshippers. Loving people towards new life in Christ. Loving enough to serve and to teach, model, train and equip. We can’t let these words or concepts be so big and scary that each of us aren’t striving to become better learners and followers every day of our lives.

I am convinced that mission and evangelism for the Christ follower must go hand in hand. Good works without the good news is a just a humanitarian effort. I know this, Lord help me live it. Likewise, learning and the pursuit of knowledge as it’s own end without applying what we’ve been taught reaches no one.

Praying that any barriers holding us back from becoming effective disciples be removed, and praying that we always stay hungry for the things of God and His kingdom.

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The Davis’ Are Coming!

Aside from the crazy few days that my friend Angie flew in to help me get unpacked and settled (praise God, I’m so thankful He sent her at just the right time) we have yet to entertain anyone in our new home. Finally, we have company coming and I’m excited!

A la Allison, I started prepping early. Tonight it’s just home-style cooking, nothing fancy. We will gather around the table for fellowship and share a meal with friends. One of my very favorite things.

Our table has a special place in my heart. A generous and gracious gift from one of our elders and his sweet wife. The BIG table, that will seat 6-8. It’s beautiful and perfect and truly an answered prayer.

Here’s a little peek inside La Casita de Marcos y Elena. It’s decorated with love and lots of fond memories.

Here’s to making a few new ones!

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OneEighty

1My son, do not forget my teaching,

but keep my commands in your heart,

2for they will prolong your life many years

and bring you peace and prosperity.

3Let love and faithfulness never leave you;

bind them around your neck,

write them on the tablet of your heart.

4Then you will win favor and a good name

in the sight of God and man.

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

6in all your ways submit to him,

and he will make your paths straight.a

Last night we had the pleasure of attending the annual OneEighty fundraiser for the first time. On our first visit to the Quad Cities back in January, I heard bits and pieces about Rusty and how the ministry got started. I knew a little bit about what they do. Many of our new friends at Calvary are involved at some level. When they tell the stories, they get tears in their eyes.

Last night felt much like my first international mission trip. I went with an idea of what it was all about, and returned completely blown away by God.

There’s undeniable fruit that comes from faithfulness, and real life change happening in people and the community here. God’s favor, raining down.

I wish you could all have been there to hear the testimonies. And the numbers don’t lie. This ministry is exploding and people get it. It was a packed house last night, nearly 1400 in attendance with only a few empty seats scattered about.

I’d like to think that other ministries could take the OneEighty model and effect the same kind of impact in their cities. With love and faithfulness bound around their necks, and written on their hearts.

Click HERE to learn more about OneEighty.

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Evidence

So much has happened in the past 9 weeks. For my own benefit I tried listing events, thinking it would promote healing, but the exercise felt a little overwhelming. Looking at life in a string of black and white bulletpoints evoked some emotions that I’m not interested in dealing with right now. Another day perhaps, but not today. Besides, sharing specific details of hardship and blessing here could be misperceived as bragging. That’s not what this blog is about.

I will say this …. despite any circumstance, sadness, missing, difficulty, loss, expense, burden or hardship, there is astounding and undeniable evidence of Gods goodness, grace, mercy, presence, providence, purpose and peace all up in our story.

If there’s anything I want to share about this new season, it’s a profound sense of gratitude, deeper trust, greater dependence, joy and love.

Over and over God has done what only He can do. Some might call the things that have happened luck or coincidence. That would be false. It is unmerited favor and blessing by our good good Father, plain and simple. No doubt in my heart and mind, there’s clear evidence of His care and attention to the even the smallest of details of our lives. Neither Mark nor I have done anything to deserve it.

There was a time before I gave my heart to The Lord. How did I ever get by before I decided to do things His way? Knowing what I know now, having experienced both the absence and presence of God in my life, it’s hard to comprehend how anyone could face the choice and not choose Jesus.

Telling you about His goodness to us isn’t bragging. It’s glorifying to Him.

Whatever you’re going through, I want you to know that God’s promises are true and trustworthy and they can be yours. The reasonable and logical response is repentance, surrender, trust, dependence, gratitude and a love for Him that keeps growing daily.

It’s not some “name it and claim it” kind of religiosity. As if anything we could do could earn favor and blessing. If you’ll examine Gods word though, in both the Old and New Testament, you’ll discover that He makes promises to those who choose to put Him at the top and center of their lives. Evidence is in the book, every bit as real as the evidence in our lives.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but a great start if you’re curious about God’s promises for those who seek and choose Him : https://www.gotquestions.org/promises-of-God.html

🙏

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