Don’t Fake It

When I was 4 or 5, I was awarded a shopping spree at Kmart after winning one of those kid’s-coloring contests. I only remember getting a wheelbarrow and what I thought was an awesome green chainsaw. I had big plans for the backyard.
Later on, as I stood at the edge of the yard with my big bad chainsaw, swiping it back and forth across the weeds, making sound my own sound effects, the bubble was suddenly burst as I realized the weeds were unaffected, no matter what my imagination told me. My big, disappointing chainsaw couldn’t even cut grass! I can still remember the moment when it occurred to me that it wasn’t really any fun to fake it. What a waste of time!

For many years of my life I practiced a very strict form of what I thought was Christianity. I obeyed all the ‘rules’, at least as best I could, following all sorts of outward dos and don’ts. I guess you could say I considered myself to be religious.
But you know what? No matter how hard I tried to put up a good front on the outside, I couldn’t tame the appetite for sin that burned in my heart and my mind. I was filled with anger, pride, lust, covetousness.
One day it occurred to me that it was pointless to fake it, since God wasn’t fooled anyway. Surely, there had to be a spiritual reality and depth of change that I hadn’t yet experienced.

The people who Jesus rebuked the most vehemently were the religious Pharisees who appeared clean on the outside, but inside were full of cursing and bitterness. It’s not only fruitless to pretend to be righteous, it’s actually an offense to God.
Paul explained it to the Colossians this way, “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Colossians‬ ‭2:21-23‬ ‭NIV‬‬)
In fact, when you read Philippians, Paul lists all of his outward qualifications of why he of all people should have reason to brag about his own righteousness, and then says he counts them all like dung! It’s useless! (Phil 3) You can do and say all the right things, but if that’s all you have is your own hard work and outward show of righteousness, it’s literally like a big pile of crap.

So what are we to do? How do we experience a genuine change of heart?
It’s easier than you might think. The answer is so simple, Jesus said a child could get it.
True transformation doesn’t come through hard work, ambition, or determination, but through surrender.
You don’t have to work so hard to find favor with God. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)
When we come humbly to him, God says he will do this, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ez 36:26)

Changing the heart is the work of God, friend. You can try all you want to do it on your own, and end up in frustration and disappointment. Or, you can quit faking it, cast yourself on the mercy of God, and take all the faith you once had in those works and place your faith in Christ.
You won’t be disappointed in Him!

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Think Before You Act

Sometimes I try to do things that don’t work out as intended. When we licensed our car in Hawaii, I wanted to personalize the plates to say “Fired up.” Unfortunately, that was already taken. So I asked a local how one would say “fired up” in Hawaiian, and then had the plates made.
After driving around acting all cool with a license plate that reads “Luna Ahi” for over a year, I finally got my first comment from a local. “Ah, we got ourselves a fisherman,” she exclaimed.
“What? I don’t fish in the ocean,” I replied.
“Well, your car says you’re the big boss of the fish!”
After some discussion, it turns out I’ve been driving around for the last year proclaiming myself as the “Big boss of the fish.”
Fail.

Another fail was the time I downloaded what I thought was a cool ringtone for my phone. I had seen all these Facebook memes with this song playing right after someone does something super cool, so I got the ringtone for “The Next Episode” without ever listening to the entire song or reading the lyrics.
When people laughed at it, I assumed they were laughing along with me that I have a cool ringtone, but one day someone told me that the song was all about smoking weed.
I looked up the lyrics, and I was shocked and more than a little embarrassed to find that I had been walking around with a ringtone that suggests I love to smoke pot.

My mother always tried to teach me to “think before you act.” The principle is that impulsive decisions can get you into trouble. It pays off to be diligent about things.
If I had simply asked around a bit more, my license plate would probably say something different. If I would have looked a little deeper into that song, I would have saved myself some embarrassment.

Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Proverbs 22:1 “A good name is more to be desired than great wealth.”
Your reputation is a big deal. Don’t be like me and blow it by unwittingly misrepresenting who you are!

Intimidation

Whenever I take my kids out snorkeling, there is one peculiar fish I’m always on the lookout for. The pufferfish is one of the strangest little guys out there. When threatened, the pufferfish inflates to up to 3 times it’s normal size. However, other than this odd ability, he doesn’t have any real defenses. It’s just a facade of size and strength. His only weapon is intimidation.

The devil plays the same game against the church. He doesn’t have a lot of defenses against a blood-bought, Spirit-filled believer commissioned by God to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” But he plays a great game of intimidation.
He makes certain areas look too dangerous, or certain people seem too intellectual. He’ll tell you they wouldn’t be interested or that they will attack you. He’ll make you feel inferior or not well enough equipped. He will question your authority and your ability. Whatever the situation, he will use fear and intimidation to make the task seem impossible. He’s been using the same tactics for thousands of years to suppress the spread of the good news, and we are not ignorant of his devices.

How do we overcome? Simple! Like a pin-prick deflates a balloon full of air, we use the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God) to expose those fears for what they really are, and expose the devil for what he really is, a defeated foe.
Jesus gave his authority to us when he commissioned us to take the message of the gospel into the world. After telling them that he was sending them out as lambs among wolves, and giving them authority, he sent out his disciples to preach. This is what happened next: “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)

Jesus gave that same authority to you and me when he gave the Great Commission. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

Have you been shrinking back from God’s call to reach people in your life because of intimidation? Don’t be fooled by those scare tactics! You have all the power of the Holy Spirit within you.
Here are some more scriptures to know and believe, that will release you from fear and embolden you to GO!

He will give us utterance (Matt 10:19-20; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12)
He will go ahead and convict the world (John 16:8)
He gives illumination that men might know the Lord (Matt 22:43;Mark 12:36, John 16:8)
He gives us power to do the works of the Lord (John 14:12)
Makes us clean through the Word and set apart for service (John 15:3; 17:17; Eph 5:26)
He will guide us into all truth (John 16:13)
He will show us things to come (John 16:13)
He will teach us what we need to know (John 14:26)
He helps us pray (John 14:12,13; 16:23,24)
He glorifies the Son by taking the things of Christ and making them real to us (John 16:14,15)
He will be with us forever (John 14:17)

True Obedience

I was counseling a friend once who had just become a Christian. This guy had no Christian background whatsoever, so everything was completely new to him. He wanted to know what God has to say about his sexual relationships. “What am I allowed to do?” was his question. Basically, he was asking how far he was allowed to go with his girlfriend before he crossed the line of sin.
You should have seen the look of shock on his face when I told him it was “hands off”. We went through a bunch of scripture together, which helped him understand what God desires from him. 

You know what? This guy was absolutely genuine. Once he knew that behavior was sinful and destructive, and that it displeased God, he cut it off. He broke up with his girlfriend to remove the temptation. I have to admit I was impressed with his decision.
His actions demonstrated that his motives were pure in asking the question. Some people ask such questions with the wrong attitude. The question isn’t , “What pleases God?” The real question they’re asking is, “What can I get away with?” How far can I go before God is angry? Kind of like how my kids figure out just how much sass they can give their parents before they cross the line and face punishment.

Are we the kind of people who are genuine in seeking to walk in holiness, or looking to find out how much we can get away with before we get into trouble? The sincere person is one who has made up his mind ahead of time that whatever God says, they will do.

“Teach me, LORD, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.”
(Psalm 119:33,34)
The psalmist was prepared in advance to commit to obedience to God. He wanted knowledge and understanding of the Lord’s decrees so that he could honor Him. He was prepared to be a doer and not just a hearer of the word.

If you examine your own heart, are there areas in your life where you are more concerned with pushing the boundaries of what you can get away with than you are with genuinely walking in holiness?
When you seek the Lord in prayer or the Word, have you made up your mind ahead of time that you are willing to align your life with whatever He says?

Evangelistic Motivation

Holidays are coming up in a couple of months. I think that all of us (at least most of us) look forward to the holiday season because we get to see family. When I think of thanksgiving, I don’t think of the food, I think of reuniting with family I haven’t seen for a while. Same goes for Christmas. In my mind I literally envision handshakes and hugs with those I love.

When I think of heaven, I seriously think the same things. I’m not thinking of wearing white clothes, eating heavenly food, or of having lots of goodies. I envision seeing the Lord face to face, and reuniting with loved ones that have gone on before. I also think of those that will come after me. I literally imagine this great heavenly reunion with people that I’ve known. Because of that, it is my aim in life to win as many people as possible to the family of God. This is the driving force that keeps me passionate about sharing Jesus with the world, whether that’s on the streets, in church, or even on Facebook. I want to see everyone there! 

There are some who don’t want to hear. There are some who sneer and mock. I endure a little criticism here and there. There were some sacrifices that were made to enter the mission field full time. Jesus taught that there are costs to be counted to follow him. But I say with Paul in Acts 20:24, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

I’m not just killing time on earth. I’m not just getting by as a believer. I’m not just going through the motions with no end goal in mind. Tragically, too many people are doing just that.
I know the main purpose of my life.
What’s yours?

Rearranged Dirt

My kids and I were talking recently about how everything we see around us has all come from dirt. Throw in different amounts of oxygen or hydrogen and you get everything from water to flesh to wood, to steel, and everything in between. As we drove through the city, we talked about how everything, from the buildings we saw to the road we drove on, to the car we were driving, were nothing more thanrearranged dirt! Man has made some pretty incredible things, but we are only using the resources that are already here, and all of those resources have their origin in the soil.
Even the trees take all of their nutrients and minerals from the soil, so they too are just rearranged dirt. Every human and animal on the face of the earth, and all of the things we eat, ultimately come from the ground.
Did you know that the 59 elements that make up the human body are all found on the earth’s crust? So we can believe Genesis 2:7, which tells us that, “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Then we talked about how everything we see deteriorates over time and becomes dust once again, including us! This is also what God said from the beginning in Genesis 3:1, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Solomon says again in Ecclesiastes 12:7 “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
At some point, every one of us will face the death of this mortal body we live in, and the real us, the person who lives inside this fleshy tent, will return to the God who gave us life.
In light of this knowledge, what sort of lives ought we to be living?
I have a friend named Chuck. He lives in heaven now, but before he went home, he used to have a great response to the question, “How are you?” He would smile and say, “Not bad, for dirt!” He had the right perspective on life.
Don’t try too keep too tight a grip on your beauty, your health, your possessions. They’re just dirt. Invest your life, your talents, your resources in the kingdom of God. Store up treasures that will never rust or corrupt. Live for Christ!

The Sleeping Church

Can you sleep with the lights on? Do you sleep during the day? Whenever my brother-in-law used to visit, he would ask for the thickest blankets we had, not because he was cold, but to cover up the windows in the bedroom. He can’t sleep unless it’s pitch black. He’s also a go-getting, type-A personality. I think that his brain starts firing as soon as the lights come on.
Some people wake up with the sunrise, while others wear out the snooze button.
There’s an old saying, “The early bird catches the worm.” I know from long experience that the people who get up early are generally the same people who have a habit of getting things done. People with ambition, drive, and purpose are motivated to get to it and are catalysts for making things happen.

The apostle Paul had a word for those Christians who had “fallen asleep”, so-to-speak. Even in his day, it seems that there were those who were content to lazily kill time while waiting for the Lord to return.
Know any Christians like that?
Here’s what he had to say. “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”(Romans 13:11-12 NIV)
Wake up guys! You are closer today than you were last year! Every beat of your heart, and every minute that passes, is one minute closer to the day of the Lord.
It’s time to get rid of sin, in whatever form it may be in your life, and get close to Jesus. Put on the armor of light, and go do what God has called you to do!
Right now, your friends and neighbors who don’t know the Lord NEED YOU MORE THAN EVER to be the witness for Christ in their lives.
Wake up, cast of the silly sins you’re playing around with, and BE the church. BE the light of the world. BE the salt of the earth. BE an ambassador for Christ.

We don’t do it by protesting. We don’t do it with violence or by force. We don’t do it with finger-pointing, by hurling insults, or with ridicule.
We certainly don’t do it by isolating ourselves, or withdrawing from the world into our protective Christian bubble.
Love doesn’t sit passively by and let the world go to hell.
Love is the source of ambition, drive, and purpose in ministry. All ministry is sacrificed life. It’s intentional. You get to choose, in every situation, if you are going to love and reach people as Jesus did.
Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost.” (Luke19:10) He said this right after he went to the most notorious sinner in town, had a meal in his house, and led him to repentance.

How are you influencing your world for Christ? If you were to evaluate yourself today, which category would you fall under? Asleep and totally unengaged? In that slumber where you hear the alarm from time to time, but you just hit the snooze button rather than get up? Or are you wide awake?
These are not days when the church should be sleeping. In these turbulent times, the world needs you to shine the light of Christ.
Will you?

Procrastination

I had a guy tell me that he knew he had to become a Christian and get right with God, but he wanted to have fun first, so he was going to put it off until just before the end of the world.
“You could die tomorrow,” I told him, “that would be the end of the world for you!”
His smile fell as it dawned on him what a bad plan that was. Then we talked about the urgency of doing something about it today rather than tomorrow or someday in the future when he finished sowing his wild oats.

Hebrews 9:27 “It is appointed to man once to die, and after that to face judgment.”
Are you talking to your friends and family about eternity? Are you making sure they aren’t putting it off for too long?

Heros

Many Christians look at their lives or their gifts and wonder how they can be used by God. Lots of us dont even know what our gifts are. It’s not a good feeling to think that you are being ineffective or useless as a child of God. People often think that in order to be used by God, there must be lots of flair or some sort of visible results. But that is just not the case. We are not involved in a physical, outward battle. Our battle is in spiritual realms.

We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, agaisnt spiritual wickedness in high places. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds.

We look at people like Billy Graham or Greg Laurie and think that men like that are wielding huge spiritual swords. Or think of anyone else who is a ‘big name’ in contemporary Christianity. The landscape of Christian history is decorated with the names of men and women who have dared to do great things for God, and we dont take anything away from their courage to step out in faith and attempt mighty things to publish the name of Jesus to the world. But most of those people could never have done those great things without the power of prayer behind them.

The people out front in these efforts receive a lot of respect or admiration. We look up to them and aspire to be like them, and rightly so. They are giants in our eyes for their obedience to God’s call on their lives. But there are other giants behind the scenes who cry out to God in fervent prayer for the hearts of the lost and the empowerment of those who reach them. The honor roll of heroes of the faith in Christian history will look a lot different once we look back from eternity and see who was standing behind great men and women of God in intercessory prayer. Names we have never heard of will be synonymous with the names of Charles Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor, Billy Graham, and others like them.

Think of Queen Esther. What did she really do? She went humbly before the king and petitioned him on behalf of her people. We look at her story and honor her for her bravery. Her uncle told her that God, in His sovereignty, would save the Jews no matter what, but that perhaps she had been born for such a time as this, in order to be used by God for a mighty deliverance. She heroically obeyed, and is forever recorded in the pages of God’s word.

Jesus has a similar task for you and I. Didn’t he tell us, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Jesus wants us to pray for laborers. The laborers are indeed few. Will you take up the noble cause of interceding on behalf of those who will carry the message of the gospel to this lost and dying world?

Will you, like Esther, go before the King and petition Him to send out laborers? You may not know what kind of gifts you possess for building up the body of Christ, but you nave the incredible power of prayer in every breath you take. You may not realize it, but you, as a child of God, are so powerful and so mighty in spiritual realms. You were born for such a time as this!

When you think of prayer, do you think, “Ugh, what a drag,” or do you think, “Wow, this is the amazing privilege that every saint of God has to boldly go before the throne of Almighty God, ask what he will, and govern the destiny of nations.” Ok, maybe you are somewhere in the middle. It was the great missionary, Hudson Taylor, who said, “The prayer power has never been tried to its full capacity. If we want to see Divine power wrought in the place of weakness, failure, and disappointment, let us answer God’s standing challenge, ‘Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things of which thou knowest not of.'”

Maybe you feel ineffective or useless as a Christian. Let me encourage you today. Be empowered and emboldened. Let the knowledge of God’s listening ear release you to boldly open your mouth and join the noble cause of fighting spiritual battles for the souls of men.

Do you want to be involved in world evangelism? Then please, dont neglect the immeasurable power of intercessory prayer that you can unleash at any time you choose. Pray for the salvation of the lost. Pray for more laborers, and for those of us already in the fields. We need you!

God bless you today

Team Spirit

I have a friend who is the most avid sports fan that I know. He fearlessly represents his team even in an unfriendly environment. He’s so bold, when he went to watch his hockey team in Canada, he took a 6′ American flag, and every time his team scored a goal, he vigorously waved it around while menacingly blowing his horn in the direction of the crowd.
I think a part of his reckless enthusiasm is due to the fact that he knows he has the right to do it and that it is illegal for anyone to hit him. All he has to do us call for security or the police to protect him.
One time in the States we had to be escorted from the arena because there was a mob of infuriated fans waiting to beat us up.
Another time, at the same arena, an angry fan literally tried to run us over in the parking lot, then threatened to get out of his car and fight. My friend pulled out his phone and dialed 911 and began shouting the guy’s license plate # to the operator. That made him disappear.
On one occasion, after his team scored to go-ahead goal, he began his typical horn blowing and bell ringing routine, smugly rubbing it in to an increasingly irritated crowd. Finally one guy couldn’t handle it anymore and unloaded a string of cuss words and physical threats. Immediately security was called over to diffuse the situation.
I would sit in amazement and laugh at the nerve this guy had.

I wish Christians would share the same enthusiasm and dedication when it comes to representing Jesus in the midst of this present world.
The Bible says we should be “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
The trouble is, most of us are so concerned with getting along, not offending anyone, being seeker friendly, or just fitting in, that we don’t say or do much at all. We are paralyzed by our fear of how the world will react to our devotion to Jesus Christ.
Does that mean that it’s okay to be intentionally antagonistic or abrasive? Of course not! We don’t want to push away the very people we intend to reach.
But let us not be so over zealous in trying not to offend anyone that we swing the pendulum completely in the other direction and don’t do anything at all.

The enemy is throwing all sorts of messages at the world, trying to keep them from pursuing God. Won’t you take up the cause of Christ and try to influence them towards godliness? God has got your back, and believe me, He’s infinitely more to be trusted in than security or policemen.
Jesus said we are to be his witnesses. He said we are the salt of the earth. He also said we are the light of the world.
Get on your knees and ask for boldness, then go out and do it in the power of God!