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All posts for the month May, 2013

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Do you know someone or are you someone who has done some really noble things in life? Maybe you’ve helped a homeless person get on their feet. Maybe you’ve cared for a needy family during the holidays. Maybe you’ve given your life to find a cure for a disease in the third world.

Jesus made a really strong statement in John 15:5: “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 NLT)

Apart from Him you can do nothing. Is that really true? What about the people you thought of a moment ago? Does everyone who does good come at it as an outflow of their relationship with Jesus? Of course not. There are millions of people who help others because they are kind and compassionate and concerned about their world. So, what is Jesus talking about?

Think about all the good things a person can do in this life and then think about those same things in light of eternity. Meaning, that if our life goes beyond the physical and lasts for eternity, what meaning do the good things have eternally? If I find a cure for a disease in this life, does it automatically mean that the person who was cured of that disease will have a good eternity?

Jesus has a way of stating things so that at the end of the day (or of this life) you have to deal with Him. You have to come to grips with what you believe about Him. He said that He is the way, the truth and life and that no one can come to God except through Him. That’s bold. Do you believe that? If not, think about it. If so, does it change how you do what you do? How you bear fruit in this life?

Jesus wants us to do good. No doubt about it. He loves fruitful living (just read John 15 and you will see this). But our fruit should be an outflow of our internal relationship with Jesus and a planting of seeds for others to connect with Him. That’s why he tells us to do everything in the name of Jesus. Today, will you connect what you do with who He is? Think about everything you will do today and ask The Lord to inspire it, empower it, anoint it. Whether it’s a meeting with your boss or taking your son to the doctor or buying groceries for the family or watching a ball game with friends. Think about it in light of being connected to the vine. How does that change the way you do life?

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Several years ago, while Suzanne and I were living in Croatia, I was driving up to Germany with a good friend, Brandon Duncan. He was young, energetic and very adventurous. He convinced me to go paragliding off a mountain in Slovenia.

I was scared to death. First, I don’t like heights. Second, I have a tendency to get motion sickness. Third, Suzanne would never allow it with our four children still at home. So, I decided to wait until I landed to tell Suzanne:).

Even though my wife and I had planted a church and sold everything we had to go to the mission field, when it came to potential physical harm we would always play it safe. Brandon helped me see that life could be so much richer if I would risk a little.

When I strapped on that paraglide my heart started beating super fast. The guide that went with me told me that you have to lean into the wind and run as hard as you can towards the edge and keep running even after you leave the mountain (most people have a tendency to stop running just shy of the cliff – go figure). So that’s what I did.

As soon as my feet left the safety of the mountain, the wind took over. It was incredible. We soared up, not down by the thermals. The guide said that paragliders can stay up for hours by just catching the thermals. As we started to make our descent the guide asked me how crazy I was – I figured he knew based on what we had just done. But there was one more thing I needed to experience. A free fall dive. The guide took us on a looping dive that dropped us 1,000 feet in seconds (yes, I screamed like a girl). It was a rush and I would do it all over again.

Jesus offered us a gift – the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the wind that gives us assurance, power and helps us to be productive in this life. Don’t live a doldrums life. Invite the Holy Spirit into your life, jump off the mountain, and let an adventurous life begin in Him.

This Sunday, Pastor Ken is speaking a message on the Holy Spirit at our West Campus and I’m speaking the same message at our South Campus (9:00 and 10:30). I hope that you can make it. You can also watch the services online – westsidelive.org.

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I’ve been threatened. This whole week. And then this morning I wake up feeling this heaviness that something tragic could happen to my children.

Years ago I went through a similar season of testing. I felt threatened by Satan. I backed away from the ministry that God had asked me to fulfill – I kept doing my “job” but it lacked the passion and commitment needed to go the next level. I was scared. It sounds strange to be threatened by the devil, almost too spiritual. I don’t know where else it would come from. It happened in my sleep, without any stimulus the prior day that would cause me to think those kinds of thoughts. There was a distinct and very real feeling that if I pressed on and gave everything to the ministry, the life of my family was in danger.

Now, here I am again. About to take leadership of a large and very influential church. Thousands of people looking to me and my team to provide some kind of spiritual direction and help; to create a culture of joy and family; to keep us on mission and on the track God has for us as a community.

There are little threats that we all experience. At work you get a sense that if you make a certain decision, it could go bad for you. “Don’t do it or else…” may be unspoken, but you still feel the threatening reality that your actions may cause something bad to happen to your career. What I’ve experienced this week is that but at a another level because it involves my family’s safety. So what should I do?

Job 1:11-12 – But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord ’s presence.

Ok, at first glance this verse doesn’t help me. It literally shows Satan getting what he wants and receiving permission from God to test Job. But there’s a couple really important things to notice here: 1) Satan had to ask permission; 2) God gave him limits to his testing.

In John 19:11 it says – Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” Jesus reiterates the reality that Satan has no real power. It’s delegated authority that can be given and then taken away.

Now you start questioning God, right? God, why did you allow Satan to do that to Job? Why did you allow Satan to do that to your Son? Why do you allow him to do that to me? (PAUSE) Let that last question sink in.

So, why trust a God that has been known to let bad things happen to good people? Let me ask another question – what are the other options? Trust yourself? Tried that and I live a half-alive life and my kids see it and then they don’t want any part of my Christianity and so they live even less then half-alive lives. What about trusting others to get you through? Tried that too. They let you down more than God does. Ok, then what?

It comes down to this: do I believe God loves me more than anyone could ever love me? Do I believe that He wants the best for me? I have to answer those two questions before I can put my trust fully in God. A powerful scripture in the Bible says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness because of his faith.” (Romans 4:3).

Do you believe God?

Father, I trust you. I trust that you want the best for my life and the life of my family. I believe that you love my family more than I could ever love them. I believe that you want the best for them more than I could ever provide for them. I believe that you can protect them more than I could ever protect them. I have nothing to fear. I trust you. And I can say that you are a good God, whether bad things happen to me or not, you are a good God. Nothing will sway me from that. I know you have a great purpose for every one of my kids and I do pray that you would not test me by allowing the enemy to have his way with them. Look at their future and be reminded that they will do greater things than I will ever do for your kingdom. I pray that your purpose would happen in their lives.

And Satan, I’ll give you a just a moment of my thoughts: GET THE HELL OUT OF MY LIFE!!! You don’t have a right to play games with me. I’m covered by the cross of Jesus and His blood bought my freedom and gave me authority over you. You have no right over my life. You can’t do anything to me or my family that God doesn’t allow. So stop your childish threats and go talk to Him because He is my Lord and I’m submitted to Him alone. Jesus is Lord of all. He defeated you and I’m sure you hate that, but get over it. And get away from me and my family, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth!!!