Boring but good.

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Sunday’s sermon was probably one of the most unsexy presentations ever… We talked about Prayer, and we talked about A-C-T-S, as a guideline we can use.  For people who’ve been around church both of these are so common-sounding that they might be phenomenally boring to you… But don’t let that trick you into missing the point!!!  If you had some hard-to-treat disease and someone came up with a magic pill that would gradually make you completely well – chances are, that when you first took the pill you would not feel any different.  It’s anticlimactic taking the pill.  You are exactly the same after taking the pill as you were right before.  And yet, if the pill does its job then gradually the disease will be done away with and you will become healthier.  The doctors and researchers did the hard work of coming up with a pill that could cure your disease, but it’s up to YOU to take the right amount and the right time, and to do so faithfully to give the pill the chance to do its work.  It’s the same with Jesus-prayer. Continue reading

Taking up your Cross…and other things we down play.

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“So if you follow Jesus today…then what do you DO exactly?”  For the longest time I didn’t know how to answer this question.  My best answer was: It depends.  Because it does depend on who you are, what you’re doing, and what God wants for you…  After all God placed you where you are for a reason.  But the Bible has a really straightforward answer to the question that we like to ignore.  Jesus said, “if ANYONE would come after me…” (meaning this particular bit of advice applies to EVERYONE who wants to follow Jesus, past present and future…) “…let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).  So what does that mean?  If you’re like me, there’s a part of you that probably doesn’t really want to know… so read on if you dare! Continue reading

Getting out of a spiritual rut…

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The way you know your MARRIAGE is in trouble is if you honestly think, “I’m not that close with my spouse these days, but otherwise life is really good, work is good, money is good, social life is good!”  If your marriage is not good, and you’re okay with that, then your marriage is in DEEP trouble.  The same applies to having your own business…if you were to say, “we’re not making money and we’re losing customers and our organization needs work…BUT I’m really enjoying work and everything else is going great!”  Then your business would be in deep trouble.  In the same way the mark of a spiritual life in trouble is when you think to yourself, “Me and God aren’t really that close…but otherwise things are going good!”  On Sunday we mentioned that no one can help you out of that rut: if someone were to try to convince you “this is a HUGE problem”, you’d just fight back and get annoyed.  The first step to getting out of a spiritual rut is admitting you’re in it, and that it’s a huge problem; but the only person who can get you to that first step is YOU.  No one can inspire you out of the rut, or teach you out of the rut, it has to be YOU who says “I’m in trouble, I need help Lord!”  And that’s the hardest step. Continue reading

What to do when you’re spiritually stuck…

When there is air traffic coming into an airport, planes are put in holding patterns around airports; they have it fly in circles and get in line until they can land.  The worst is when you’re on a half hour flight and they put you in a holding pattern for TWO HOURS.  It just didn’t have to take that long.  All that time spent in the air…getting nowhere.  Now there’s such a thing as a spiritual holding pattern: Paul talks about people who are “always learning but never arriving at the truth.”  The early church had them; every church has them.    Sometimes it was me!  When it’s you, you tend to think, “Oh I just need to learn even MORE.”  But if you’re in a holding pattern, going faster, flying higher, won’t actually get you anywhere.  What you need is a different flight plan.  You need to repent and do something different by actually following Him.  Probably, if you let another Jesus-follower peek into your life, they could tell you in 2-minutes some things that you need to change: he might say you’re proud, you curse people and are angry, you’re not loving, you don’t wrestle in prayer, you live for pleasure instead of living for God… or something.  But if you’re stuck in a holding pattern, you probably don’t let people really see (the real) you and you don’t trust anyone’s opinion but your own.  But there’s hope!  All this could change.  You can repent.  It doesn’t have to take long.  Actually the sign that you’re OUT of the holding pattern will be that you will see progress quickly.  Here’s what you do… Continue reading

How you answer this question tells me EVERYTHING about you…

The question is…”what is your biggest need or lack or problem?”  What is it that you’re trying to get more of?  What is it that’s holding you back?  Whatever you think it is will shape what you do, how you do it, where you go, what you’ll enjoy…everything.  Most people think they just need more money or more time or more power or something like that…which is why everyone’s life gets changed when they actually meet God – because God says that your biggest problem is NOT what you think…but your biggest problem is pride, and your biggest need is real genuine heartfelt humility. Continue reading

God thinks you have a pagan (polytheistic) heart…

Something doesn’t have to have temples and priests in order to be a “god.”  Paul said about some people: “their stomach is their god.” He was saying that what really controls them and what they really obey (and never say “no” to) is their appetites and desires.  A “god” is something we delight in seek our reward from.  A god is something we can’t (easily) say “no” to, it controls us and we obey it.  And we have MANY MANY of these gods demanding our time and attention every day.  So the great problem in the Church is not that people don’t believe or follow God – it’s that we believe and are trying to follow too many gods at the same time!  That’s what “you shall have no other gods before me” is getting at.  Christians can wholeheartedly follow Jesus, and at the same time be wholeheartedly conservative or liberal, throw everything they have into Medical school or Law school, feel weak or strong based on their bank account and stock portfolio, and secretly believe that their culture and worldview makes them superior to those of other worldviews and cultures.  If you want to understand what’s wrong with the church today, all you have to do is go back to the first commandment.  There’s an old Korean saying: “get the first button wrong, and all the buttons are wrong (even if you buttoned all the rest right).” Continue reading

Feeling discouraged?

Feel like giving up?  Like nothing you do is working?  Like you’re incapable, incompetent, hopeless?  Whether it’s because of your work, or your personal life, your marriage, your relationships or lack of, your money, or some secret personal struggle…  First, my wife (Grace) would want me to tell you that God loves you; because only when you believe that can you be open to what I’m going to say next.  This feeling of wanting to give up may not be a bad thing.  It could be that God wants you to feel that way, and it’s taken a long time to get you to that place.  In the Bible God spent a lot of time with people like Moses and Pharaoh and the Israelites, (prophets like Jonah and Isaiah, and later people like Peter and Paul) to get them to THAT place so that they could finally give up needing to have control, and trust God instead.  It could be that God has brought you to that place before, but you went out a side door and restarted your old life with a slightly different strategy.  If so, God is bringing you to it again in hopes that you’ll do the thing that God wants you to do: give up your plans, give up control, and do what He wants instead. Continue reading

God wants to make you weak…in order to bless you

Here’s something that most young optimistic people with a bright future will not easily understand… God wants to bring you to a place where you are weak: Where you see you are unable to go on, not wise enough, not good enough, where your best efforts will be futile…because THAT is when you can really learn to REALLY rely on Him, and know that it was Him all along (bringing the good), and not you.  As long as you’re in a position of strength, a position of optimism based on your ability, every blessing of God pushes you further from Him.  But when you are weak, then you can be strong because God wants to fill your life with His power, His wisdom, His grace, His mercy, and His presence… but in order for God to be able to do that you need weakness.   Continue reading

Deeply flawed people becoming whole…

We said on Sunday that part of what God wants you to see about yourself is, that like Abraham (your “father” in faith who led the way) you may be a deeply flawed person.  Maybe even tragically flawed… in such a way that what you perceive as your strengths are your greatest weaknesses.  Now lots of you don’t like that idea.  You grew up in an environment in which everyone told you how great you were…and helped foster a high view of yourself.  I believe in that too.  You CAN change the world.  But in order to do that you’re going to have to deal with what the Bible says is your worst enemy (sometimes)…which is you.  Put it this way: which person is more likely to be – - – Continue reading

flaws in hot water…

So I have this coffee mug that I glued together (not pictured above).  It has a crack in it, but I say it’s hardly cracked at all, you wouldn’t even notice it…  You wouldn’t notice it was cracked…unless you looked too closely – which is rude, or unless you put some boiling hot water in it – which would be trouble.    You and I are like that coffee mug.  We’re fine…until we get some hot water, then we fall apart.  When that happens we inevitably blame the water, “Why did you have to be so hot?  And so viscous?  If you were thick and cool this would never have happened.”   Continue reading