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All posts for the month January, 2012

20120131-082603.jpg I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. (Philippians 3:14, 16 NLT)

What do you pursue? Some live in a fatalistic mindset (whatever will happen, will happen) and don’t pursue anything. Others pursue wealth, happiness, relationships, and any number of other endeavors.

When I used to run competitively, I would always have three goals in mind: 1) to beat my best time; 2) to catch up to the runner in front of me that I could see (there was always another runner) and 3) to not get passed.

There is an interesting parallel in Philippians 3:14 and 16. On one hand Paul writes, “press on” and just a moment later writes “hold on”. So, which is it?

Whatever progress you have made in your spiritual journey towards knowing God (your pursuit of Him), hold onto that; don’t go backwards. But don’t stop there – keep pursuing (pressing on) God until you find Him, until you have become all that He wants you to become.

Paul had one primary goal in mind: to become more like Jesus. He pursued this endeavor until his final breath. He pressed forward through persecution and held onto the truths that gave him freedom once before. He never stopped moving in the direction of God.

20120122-101429.jpgHere I am laying in bed at 10:00 a.m Sunday morning, wondering if the devil brough sickness into my house. You know how weird that sounds? The devil brought sickness into my house…what did the tooth fairy bring? Our society has pretty much taken Satan out of our vocabularly. I remember 30 years ago, he was too much a part of our vocabularly, but now we don’t even recognize that he exists.

Rather than writing a blog on proving the devil exists (maybe another time), here are a couple thoughts about his activity in this world and how we can respond:

The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:7: “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me…”

Paul seems to be blaming the devil for a physical affliction of some kind. He goes on:

“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT)

Here’s the deal: Satan does torment us. He comes to steal, kill and destroy. But his battle plan is faulty. Because people who follow hard after Jesus, find strength in their weakness. Not their own strength, but God’s power working in us the ability to persevere, to take pleasure, to be strong.

So, today, as I am afflicted by a messenger from Satan, I choose to allow Christ’s power to encourage me, to strengthen me, and ultimately to heal me.

Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. (Philippians 1:28 NLT)

As Christians, who are our enemies? Enemy is a very strong word isn’t it? Jesus told us to love our enemies, but even him asking us to do this acknowledges that we have enemies. So, who are they?

Are they people who persecute us? Ridicule us? Don’t agree with us? Who are smarter than us? Who think we are out to lunch?

Maybe this isn’t the right question. Maybe it doesn’t matter who is against us. There are people who are against us or disagree with us, but don’t let them dictate how you live and who you love. Don’t be intimidated by anyone who tries to put you down, segregate you, hold you in contempt. Be bigger than that. Be confident without being prideful. Love first.

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This past weekend we started a series called “The Story” and our pastor, Ken Johnson, shared the idea that every good story usually has to do with life and death situations. That really stuck with me and made me rethink my message in the series called “Step into the Pages.”

I felt God wanted me to paint a picture of the world we were born into, the story which was happening long before we were ever born and will continue long after we pass away. It’s the epic story of the ages. It’s all about life and death, heaven and hell, God and Satan. We were born into a world at war. Even before adam and eve were created there was a heavenly power struggle and an angel thought he could be god, and so he rebelled against his maker, God Himself, and took a third of all the other angels. This angel made it his purpose to ruin God’s creations.

That’s where we enter their story. We would like to remain neutral, not get involved, be switzerland. But no matter how much we want to stay out of it, we can’t. Satan is going to make sure that you never know the truth of why you were created. He’s going to do everything in his power to ruin your story and to make your story about you.

Recently I watched Brian Welch, the former lead singer of Korn, talk about his conversion experience. It clearly showed these two worlds. He used to live in the one all of us are born into. The one that drives us to be self-focused. He benefited from it through sex, drugs, and money. Just looking at him you realize there are certainly two different worlds at work. But he finally came to the end. He had a daughter that needed a dad. A Christian talked with him one day and something inside of him drew him to God. He gave his story over to God and was set free from this world and began living in the other world.

There is a gap between the two worlds. And there is only one way to cross the chasm that lies between. It is through the person of Jesus Christ and His great love for humanity. He laid his life down, spanning the chasm between the worlds, and invited us to cross over Him to find His father and to find life, abundant life. We were made to live our stories on the other side. I hope you will.

“…HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” (Romans 9:33 NASB)

We love guarantees, especially money-back ones. As I was reading the Bible this morning the above verse jumped out at me.

God gives you a guarantee. He tells us that if you believe in Jesus, if you put your hope in Him, you will not be disappointed. It’s a guarantee. I love that!

I would love to hear from people who were Christians, and are not any longer. I imagine the great majority of them were disappointed, not in God, but in His other followers. I would love to hear from those who found God and were not disappointed. There are millions of Christ followers who found this verse to be true.

Not Disappointed,

Steve

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One of the most exciting things happening at Westside is the number of people who respond to receive Jesus (327 in 2011). What is interesting about this, is that we can be talking about anything, not necessarily a salvation message, and people will still respond.

In Romans 1, it says “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:20 NLT)

I think one of the reasons that we see so many people respond is that there is already a work happening in these people towards God. As Romans says, “they can clearly see God’s invisible qualities…” Sometimes it is as simple as providing people an opportunity to take their next step in embracing God’s revelation about Himself. We simply open the door that they have been looking for and traveling towards. It’s pretty cool.

Have you ever worked for someone or lived with someone that would always win an argument? No matter how good your argument was; no matter how well thought out; you were no match?

Do you know that you live with someone like that every day? You wake up with him or her? You go to work or school or the market with him or her. No, it’s not your spouse or your parent, it’s you. There is a part of every one of us that doesn’t want to lose. It’s the part that wants to control everything, that wants everything to go his or her own way. Some call it our sinful nature. I call it the dark side. Regardless of what you call it, it does exist and it is trying to win every argument.

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I once thought that when I became a Christian my sinful nature went away. But life has taught me otherwise. What I read in the Bible is that there is a war going on between my true self (the one that Jesus redeemed) and my sinful self. I also read that Jesus won every argument with sin, by what he did on the cross.

So, if I still live with the dark side, but I know someone that beats the dark side 10 out of 10 times, then it makes sense that to beat the dark side I need to hang out with Jesus. I need to be consumed by him.

Think of it like this: say you have that boss that always wins the argument. But you have this friend that is a master debater and he never loses a debate. So you decide to take your friend to work with you one day. As always happens, an argument with your boss ensues, but this time your friend jumps in for you and wins the argument so decisively that your boss is less apt to argue next time. This is how it is with our Christian walk. If you try to conquer sin in your life, you will lose, but if you bring your friend Jesus along with you, he will win every time.

Yesterday, several of Westside’s pastors and leaders served communion and prayed with families of our church. It was a sweet time of connection and the presence of God was definitely present.

The first family we got to pray with, came so their neice could receive Jesus. She was 8 years old and was obviously ready to make that decision. She was so excited and talked quite a lot :).

As I explained to her what Jesus did for us in taking our sins, I realized that most little children have no concept of guilt. They may do bad things (disobey their parents, get angry at their brother, etc), but the sense of guilt isn’t present. For me, I can live under the weight of guilt for a lifetime. It comes so easy for adults to hold onto our guilt and shame. Why the difference?

Jesus told us to come to His father as little children. Maybe this is one of the reasons why he told us to do that. We can come to God without guilt. His son, Jesus, covered it by His blood. Just like the children of Israel were covered by the blood on the doorposts (Exodus 12), Jesus covers our sin by the blood on a cross.

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I guess you can choose to hold onto your guilt and let it go unclaimed. But why? Is that your punishment? Jesus was punished for you and me. There is now no need for any kind of punishment for our sins. Let Jesus take your guilt, just like He has taken your sin. You don’t have to live under either.