Archive for July, 2015

Faith In Action

What would the world look like if each self-professed follower of Jesus truly lived out their faith daily with passion?

I believe the world would look differently.  I believe our churches would be full of tired Jesus followers every Sunday – there to recuperate from living to the fullest the week before and regrouping to go out and do it again the next week.

It is easy to say, “I am a believer.  I have put my faith and trust in Jesus.”  But the test of those words comes in how we live.

James 2:14-26 forces a reality check.  The author of the book refuses to take our statement of faith at face value.  He pushes the issue and says that we cannot expect others to believe that our faith is real if it is not backed up by our actions.

Go out and live your faith today.  Words are hollow and meaningless if we don’t live them.

Be a blessing today.

If you are anywhere near First Baptist Corpus at 6:00 PM tonight, come and join the discussion about this text.

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Beach Baptism 2015I learned a valuable lesson yesterday.  Our church scheduled a beautiful service at the beach out on Padre Island.  We had nine people ready to be baptized in the surf of the Gulf of Mexico.  A large gathering of our family was there, standing ankle deep in the water to observe this sacred moment.

We walked those who were to be baptized out into waste deep water and one by one, baptized each of them.  As each person stepped up to be baptized I was able to address each one individually and privately.  I asked each one of their belief in Jesus and then baptized them based on their statement of belief.

This was a bit different due to the conditions that having the service at the beach dictates.  In a setting indoors, I would have had a microphone so that the rest of the gathering could hear what was going on.  But due to the noise of the surf and the distance to the crowd, there was no way to include them in what was being said.

Honestly, I had not given it much thought until I was saying goodbye to Laura, one of the observers who had witnessed it all.  She made a keen observation.  She said something to the effect, “This was so special.  Watching you have conversations with each person just seemed so intimate.”

As I have reflected on her observation, I have been reminded that baptism is so much more than a corporate act.  I tend to see this act of worship largely for the benefit of the family – the body of believers gathered – to outwardly illustrate the transformation that has already begun in the person’s heart.

That is certainly a part of the worship act.  But I was reminded just how intimate this sacred moment should be as well.  Being able to have a brief, quiet conversation with each person as part of the baptism made the experience much more intimate and blessed.  It is a public act but it should also always be intimate and sacred for the individual as well.

Thanks Laura for the reminder!

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Flyleaf – the Christian rock group – has a song titled “Fully Alive.”  As I listened to that song this morning, I thought about my devotional reading for the day.  The lyrics of the song describe a girl who has experienced suffering but through that suffering she has learned to believe in something more – something beyond.  And because of that belief she is ready to smile and love life.  She is fully alive because she knows how to believe in something more.

This morning, I read a prayer that Jesus offered, recorded in John 17.  This text was something I had read time and time again but it took on fresh meaning this morning (that is how scripture is – new and fresh everyday).  Jesus makes a concise statement of what real life, eternal life is.  In verse 3 he says: “Now this is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Jesus gives us a beautifully simple definition of a fulfilled, sustaining and lasting life – to know the one true God.  When we know God – when we believe with our entire being that he is the only true God – then we are fully alive.

Are you fully alive today?

If you know the Father – then you are fully alive.

Now go live it!

Be a blessing today!

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Stay Connected

This Sunday we will wrap up our teaching series on the “I Am” sayings of Jesus found in the Gospel of John.  These sayings help us have a better understanding of who Jesus is and who he should be to us.  He tells us throughout the book that he is life and truth; he is bread and light; and he is the true way to a relationship with God.

His final “I Am” saying comes in chapter 15 where he says, “I am the vine and you are the branches.”  He goes on to say that if we stay connected to him, if we remain, if we abide, then we will be able to produce the kind of fruit that will let others know we are his disciples – which pleases God.  But if we try and go it alone, apart from Jesus, we will dry up to nothing and become of no use.

As I read his words, I am confronted with the inescapable truth that this relationship is a daily endeavor.  Yes, there is a distinct point in time when we each reach a point in our lives that we make a heart commitment to submitting to Jesus and his leadership of our lives.  But the actual “abiding” is a daily choice.

Are you making it a point to abide – to remain – to be at home – to stay connected with Jesus on a daily basis?

Focus some attention on Jesus today.

Be blessed.

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Followers In the Way

Jesus is the Way.  We see references throughout the New Testament to the way.  In John 14, Jesus makes an emphatic statement that he is the way, the truth and the life.  His believers are often called followers in the way.

As I think back on my journey, I think I have mostly interpreted this concept of the way as a doorway or opening.  In John 10, Jesus referred to himself as the gate.  The idea is that no one gets to God except through him and his sacrifice.  This concept is reinforced in John 14:6 when Jesus makes his statement about being the way, the truth and the life by his following statement, “no one comes to the Father except through me.”  So understanding Jesus as the portal or entry point to the Father is certainly part of what he is telling us.

But I have come to see more.  Not only is Jesus the portal through which we must pass to get to God, he is also the path we must follow.  It is one thing to stand in a parking lot and tell a person how to get to a particular location across town – go down that way three blocks and turn right at the light; then go through two more lights and turn right at the water tower and go straight for 1/2 a mile and you will be there.

God didn’t just give us directions, he sent his son to escort us and show us the way.  Jesus’ teachings are the path we are to follow – the true way to the Father.

God, help me to grow in my passion and desire to be a follower in the Way today!

May that be your prayer too!

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This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to preach from John 11 where Jesus stated that he is the resurrection and the life.  The scene was the raising of his friend Lazarus from the dead, but Jesus used this miracle as an illustration of a universal truth about himself.  The physical resurrection he offered to Lazarus, he also offers to all who will believe.

But before we can be resurrected, we must first die.  While Jesus was teaching that we would all be resurrected at some point from a physical death, he was teaching a deeper truth.  He was teaching us that the life he offers is a new life – a resurrected life.  But in order to receive that life, we must first die to ourselves.

in order to live a resurrected life, we have to first die to our own desires, our own drives, our own egos.  We must fully submit our lives to Jesus and his will for us.  And then through that submission, live for him each and every day – following his teaching and plan for us.  This is a daily commitment.  It is not a one time decision and then go and live the way we want.  

The bigger issue at work here is the distinction between seeing Jesus as Savior and Jesus as Lord.  The truth is, he is unequivocally both.  But we have a real tendency to focus on Jesus as Savior and put less emphasis on Jesus as Lord.  Yes he saves us, but he must also be the Lord of our lives.  If our faith in the risen savior does not result in a resurrected, transformed lifestyle, then James 2 would call into question whether or not it is legitimate faith.

Jesus offers a new life.

Are you living that resurrected life today?

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We like to think we are independent.  We are taught, particularly in this country, that if we set our mind to something and we commit our entire existence to it, we will achieve it.  It is ingrained in us that we need to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.  We take pride in being able to say, “I am a self-made man.”

While the optimist in me would like to believe that there is truth in all of that, last week, I was reminded that we need one another.  I had the amazing gift of getting to spend 3 days with 20 total, yet amazing, strangers.  When we converged on the Rapport offices in Las Vegas, Nevada, not one of us had ever met.  Nor did we really understand what we were about to experience.  But within 24 hours we would be a team – team 2664.  At the end of it all, my hope in mankind was renewed by the way we came together.

I watched as 21 people let their guards down and learned to trust one another.  We realized that we would not make it through the week without each other.  All the conditioning that “I can do this on my own,” was stripped away and we became completely dependent on one another.  it was a scary but cathartic undertaking – the result of which was a group of friends who were total strangers just hours before.

There will be many posts in days to come of the lessons learned in the desert of Nevada, but that will take time for me to process.  For today, the lesson is community.  We need one another.  No one is self-made.  We might puff up and try to make people think we don’t need anyone.  But the cold hard fact of life is that we can’t do this alone – not well anyway.

But here is what could be a revolutionary thought for you – or at least a liberating concept – we were never meant to do this alone.  God created us for relationships.  Genesis starts out in the very first chapter telling us that the first man needed someone else to be complete.  We were created for community.  That is how we are wired.  We need to know and be known.  WE NEED EACH OTHER.  This is not an admission of weakness.  In fact, it takes more grit and strength to admit we need another than it does to deny the truth and try and go it alone.

This truth is why the church is so important.  Church is never to be a place where people put on masks and act as if they are self-sufficient.  Church is the place we come for encouragement, support, instruction and relationships that help us make it through our days.  If that is not a description of any church that you have ever attended, keep looking – they exist – I happen to belong to one.

Be blessed today!

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As I opened my browser this morning, I focused in on the verse of the day on Bible Gateway.  The verse was Romans 12:3 which says, “For 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.”

I read the verse over several times and the words that kept jumping out at me were “sober judgement.”  Paul reminds us that we should have a healthy self-view.  We should not think too highly of ourselves.  Of course, scripture is clear that when we come to an authentic relationship with Jesus, we are a new creation – we are worth something.  So scripture does not suggest that we are pitiful, worthless individuals.  But we also have to be cautious not to begin to think too much of ourselves.

The reason these words “sober judgement” spoke to me this morning is because the key to healthy self-worth is not in telling yourself you are something you are not, nor is it beating yourself up over your faults.  The key to healthy self-worth is being completely honest and real with yourself and the Father.  God already knows everything about us – in fact, God knows us better than we know ourselves.  Sober judgement is having a view of ourselves that is not influenced by what others might think or what we want them to think.

Sober judgement is being real, transparent and open with ourselves and knowing that regardless of where we find ourselves on this day, God loves us!

You are loved today!

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