Category Archives: Jesus

Why worry?

Scripture is full of great questions. Jesus knew how to ask some real zingers. This is one of the hardest for me to grapple with in my everyday life.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? (Luke 12:25)

Honestly, I tend to worry too much. Prayer should be my default response, but sometimes, I find it so easy to worry instead. I am getting better. I am taking so much more to my Heavenly Father in prayer than  I did in the past. But it is a struggle.

In Jesus’ question, we see the futility of worry. It accomplishes nothing. It tends to hurt ourselves and the situation we care so much about. Worrying can’t even give us an extra hour in our day — actually it robs us of precious time to actually act and pray.

I am resolving to worry less and pray more. Who’s with me?

 

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Can a Christian Be a Libertarian?

It seems that the core of the Libertarian worldview is both very Biblical and also anti-Christian at the same time. I am not talking about particular political positions as much as its  focus on individual liberty and what it means to be free.

Christianity is full of apparent paradoxes. One of the hardest to cope with is the fact that to be free from sin we have to submit and give over our liberty to Christ.

The official Libertarian party platform preamble states, “As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.” It goes on to further state, “We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”

Scripture in many places suggest that God has given man free will to make decisions, and that we will indeed be held accountable for our actions. Instead of stamping out robots, God created humanity with the ability to reason and make choices. Although God does intervene in many cases, He also takes a very hands off approach at times allowing us to discover for ourselves the folly of our ways. The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is a perfect example of this situation. Just like that father who allows his son to squander away his inheritance, God doesn’t micromanage our lives, and indeed in many cases He seems to hide so that we have to really search to find Him. God could blind us with His glory at any given moment and create a situation where we would have little choice to acquiesce to His demands. But God doesn’t want that. He wants us to truly love Him and become like Him in character. And that is more caught than forced upon us by an edict.

So in many ways, God seems like a classic Libertarian. But then again, He is far from it when you see the values that He demonstrates and calls His people to follow. The perfect symbol for Jesus is the cross. And that is the ultimate example of Him setting aside his rights and making sacrifices. It was direct divine intervention to solve humanity’s biggest problems. Instead of running the show, Jesus submitted to the will of His Father. Jesus demonstrated complete humility and selfless love. True, it was His own decision. But he set aside His rights for a greater glory and purpose. For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. And that joy was you and me coming to salvation and true freedom. Jesus knew that freedom comes at a cost. And many times it requires us to set aside our rights.

One of the pitfalls I see for Christians when it comes to Libertarian political philosophy is the emphasis on individual liberty can easily turn the focus to self and our own desires. But that is not what Jesus promoted. He said that whoever would follow Him, must take up a cross, deny himself and follow Christ’s example (Luke 9:23). This is symbolic language with a real world application. We are to put aside our desires for actions that achieve God’s purposes in the world. And that is exactly what Jesus did. He is our example.

Libertarians came make their arguments so much about freedom that they don’t realize the things they fight for actually cause addiction, depression, bondage, self loathing, or possibly even death. While God calls us to be His sons, we are also His slaves. And that means true Christians lay down their rights knowing that they can trust God and His ways to be best.

I am reminded of what Michael Card wrote in his book, A Better Freedom, “The New Testament does not offer the choice between slavery or freedom, but only whose slave we will be — the world’s or Christ’s. Jesus does not offer freedom from slavery but instead a a new kind of slavery that provides the only true freedom. I cannot buy my own freedom. Only Jesus can.”

This is difficult if not impossible to do without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. So it isn’t that liberty and personal choice are bad. The problem for a Christian is when we elevate personal choice over the Word of God.

These are tough words, and nobody really wants to hear them – certainly not Americans. What the Christian Gospel offers is a radical reversal to the values of humanity. The cross is freedom. Death leads to life. And renouncing our rights to God’s direction leads to true freedom. Our pursuits are our undoing when they lead us away from God’s best. It isn’t that desire is bad. It is that our desires take pleasure in lesser things  that lead to less and less freedom.

Can you be a Libertarian and be a Christian? Yes. Just like you can be a Democrat, a Republican or a third-party voter and be a Christian. We are not saved by our politics. But our spiritual beliefs should guide our political stances and positions. The problem with some Libertarians that I have met is that they value their freedom above all else. And in that they will find it difficult to let go and truly trust God who offers the greatest freedom imaginable.

Choosing Among Evils

With that headline, you already know what I am going to write about – the 2016 presidential election. For the record, there is no candidate that I can enthusiastically support. I have severe problems with all of the four candidates who are on enough ballots to theoretically be able to win – Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.

In the primaries, the candidate I liked the most was Rand Paul followed by Marco Rubio and then Ted Cruz. If I had to describe my party affiliation it would a Tea Party Libertarian. I know such a thing doesn’t exist. I like the Tea Party because it wants less taxation, smaller government, more local control and less interference from federal regulators. I like the Libertarians because they are the only major party left that agrees with small government and individual freedom. I don’t like the Libertarian party’s stance on abortion, but I do know that there are many Libertarians who are pro-life.

There are a number of much smaller third parties that do have some quality candidates. But these are on so few state ballots and would require such a massive write-in effort to achieve any substantial vote totals that I believe voting for them is pretty much a wasted vote. At least a vote for the Libertarian or Green party will register some protest on the national political radar.

When it comes to voting for a president, you have to analyze the platform, character, experience and leadership qualities of the candidates. Some people don’t care as much about the person as the party affiliation or platform. Others focus more on the personality of the individual. Some will talk about the Supreme Court and who the various candidates would appoint. I believe that you can love Jesus and vote for practically any candidate running. I do not stand in judgment of any person who votes his or her conscious before God.

It is important to keep this election in perspective. Anyone who is a Christian must remember that his or her ultimate trust is in God not earthly leaders. In Scripture you can see that God even works through pagan, evil kings to work His purposes. Sure, we need to make our votes count and use wisdom when we enter the voting booth. But ultimately, I lose in this election if I allow the current media circus to destroy my public witness and ability to be an ambassador for the Kingdom of God. No matter how mad I get. I have to remember that my trust is in God alone. Whoever becomes our next president, I will pray for him or her to lead with sound judgment.

The issues that matter most to me are controlling the national debt, turning more control over to state and local authorities, preserving individual liberties, protecting the unborn, creating sane immigration policies, the safety and welfare of the American democracy and increasing economic opportunities for all. My problem is that I feel no candidate reflects my views in all of these areas. I tend to side with Donald Trump on tax law changes, environmental reforms, gun rights and pro-life policies. I sort of side with Hillary Clinton on immigration policy. I don’t really find agreement with Jill Stein on much except for reining in the NSA and the surveillance state.

Generally, I believe that liberal policies are not best for the economy nor for fixing social problems. In many cases though, I do care deeply about the concerns that liberals raise – racial inequalities, high college debt, prison and sentencing reform, fixing the illegal immigration problem in a humane way and improving health care for all, etc. For far too long the media has painted conservatives as people who don’t care about those issues, and that is not true.

When I took a test to analyze my stances on major issues, I found that I agreed most with Gary Johnson, and that was only 80% of the time. I definitely do not like Johnson’s stance on a number of core issues. These most notably are his opinions on abortion, religious freedom and environmental policy. But when it comes to the other major issues, I tend to side with him. And I do believe both Johnson and Bill Weld have experience in doing what matters most – improving and cutting the size of government.

Yes, I know about the recent foreign policy gaffes made by Johnson. But I think that is why Bill Weld is there to help make up the difference. It seems clear that Johnson would defer a lot to Weld’s political experience and background.

Many people will say, “You are voting for Hillary. You are throwing away your vote.” But those are bad arguments for pulling the lever for a man you wouldn’t let watch your pet cat much less run the country. I hope that enough people are like me that they will vote for Gary Johnson too as a protest against the current two-party system that does not reflect how many of us believe today. Some will say, “That is only going to play into the Democrat’s hands.” And I believe they are right for a time. I believe the GOP will crack first. But eventually (probably in only a few elections), three parties will lead to four or more. And then we will start to see our views more widely represented. Collaboration will become even more important.

When we demonize the other people in the process, we are making it more difficult to fix the problems that we claim to care about. Honestly, we will need to work with everyone to create meaningful change in this country. I happen to have some strong political and even philosophical differences with many liberals, but I still respect them as people who mean well. Unfortunately, I feel that many times those on the left can’t say the same thing about those on the right. And my biggest problem with Donald Trump is that he is the embodiment of every false lie that the media says about conservatives. I don’t think Trump is truly conservative. And he certainly is not a Constitutionalist. I haven’t seen him say much about the Constitution in his rallies or TV interviews.

Just when you think the revelations about Donald Trump couldn’t get any worse, out pops tapes that may have just shipwrecked Trump’s candidacy. Long before the latest revelations I had severe reservations about Trump and was leaning strongly against not voting for him. Now, I know that I have no choice. And I really feel that voting for a respectful atheist who will defend the Constitution and work to bring common-sense solutions is better than a die-hard liberal or a fake conservative, business mogul who is the biggest narcissist to ever seek the presidency.

The only way I could change my vote is if Trump drops out and the Republicans nominate Pence in his place. Otherwise, I will be voting for Gary Johnson in November. And I urge others to do the same. You can find out more about Gary Johnson and Bill Weld at https://www.johnsonweld.com/.

LA Infusion 2013 Top Ten

(Ok, it was just too good for only 10, so top 15)

1.) Getting to know my small group. Seven incredible young men of God who are ready to rock the world for Jesus!

2.) Honest conversations with the Infusion staff about life and God, especially Matt Perez, Daniel Chae, Hannah Prothero, John Ribeiro, Johnny Gillespie, Nick Mason, Chip Messick and others.   

3.) Showing the love of Jesus to people on the streets of Hollywood. Meeting Logan and Jon on the street and praying with them. Logan and I are still in conversation via text message.

4.) Let’s Go Down to the Water – inspiring song by Jake Mason about the complete forgiveness of God for ALL of my sin.

5.) Feast at Bronnie Lee’s house with Infusion staff. The Lee family rocks!

6.) Hearing from God as He opened up 1 John 2:3-6 to me following the first teaching by Joy Dawson. Knowing Jesus changes everything. See my blog post.

7.) Watching  Jake and Katherine lead the Infusion team.

8.) Seeing at least more than 80 young people realize that God loves them and does speak to them. That’s priceless.  

9.) Brian Brennt’s Love Revolution teaching on Wednesday in Hollywood. We are family!

10.) Talking with Infusioners about their future and identity in Christ.

11.) Powerful prayer encounters with various Infusion students and staff.

12.) Working in the kitchen with Teresa Kwon, Nicole Kwon, Matt Perez and John Romaine.

13.) Korean style prayer with the student leaders from GMI. These young people know how to pray with passion and love.

14.) Playing RAVE! Ball and getting three outs in the T-ball game during game night.

15.) Conversation with Johnny Gillespie about modeling Jesus’ radical love in marriage.

Knowing Jesus Changes Everything

I just got joy bombed, or at least that is what I call it after listening to Joy Dawson speak on the subject of following Jesus and the glory of God. Dawson is an internationally known speaker and evangelist. But the real important thing is that she listens to the Holy Spirit and seeks to promote Jesus as the model for how we should live.

Dawson said, “We don’t know Jesus yet. We don’t understand what we are asking when we ask to see God’s glory.” This hit me like a ton of bricks. The apostle John spent years walking and living with Jesus during His earthly ministry. But when he received a revelation of the glory of Christ while exiled on the island of Patmos, he fell down as dead before the One he had known so well. This was Jesus in holiness and in fire. This was God in just part of His glory, and John was undone.

Have I ever experienced God like this? The answer is no. Few of us have. The apostle John received a great revelation that day. We still study it today in the book of Revelation – the unveiling of the glory of God. John received this great revelation while on a prison island – a dark place meant to isolate John could not keep him from what God wanted to reveal. This gives me hope.

Dawson said, “We can go through anything if we focus on Jesus, but it is a choice.” That is so true. The apostle John could have let his circumstances cloud out his heart for Christ. But that didn’t happen, because he chose to seek God even in the midst of darkness and isolation. Do you really want to have a deep, loving relationship with God? It is possible. But it does come at a great price. Jesus paid that price on the cross. And we have to pay a price to follow Him, but it is worth the cost.

Dawson said that Jesus came down to the earth for five basic reasons. These were to 1.) Show us what the Father is like, 2.) Die on a cross to atone for the sins of the world, 3.) Defeat satan and demonic powers, 4.) Show us how to live, and 5.) To be our life.
And Dawson asked what does the Lord require of His followers. She said, “Obedience is all that Jesus wants at any one time.”

The message of Jesus was simple. He put little children in front of the disciples as an example of the kind of faith they should have. Dawson added that Jesus called His followers to repent from sin, believe in Jesus and to obey Him, and to go do and tell what was commanded. It really is quite simple as long as you stay close to God and listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This brought to mind a question that I have struggled with for most of my adult life. Can Jesus be your savior if He is not your Lord? Dawson suggested that obedience is a prerequisite to be a disciple of Christ. We spend too much time playing church and not enough of our lives being the Church. She said, “Satan doesn’t care how much that you sing to God in a church building if you do not get radical and go out and what Jesus did.”

Jesus preached the Gospel. Why don’t we? Jesus fed the poor? Why don’t we? Jesus comforted the broken hearted. Why don’t we? Jesus healed the sick. Why don’t we? Jesus challenged dead religion. Why don’t we? Jesus spoke in power and under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Why don’t we?

Sure, some Christians do some of these things. But many of us don’t follow Christ’s example as much as we should in our daily lives.

As Dawson finished speaking this morning, the Holy Spirit prompted me to read I John 2:1-6. I particularly noticed a connection with what Dawson said and verses 3-6. The apostle John wrote, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

The apostle John clearly stated that those who know Christ should live as He did and obey His commands. Jesus gave a commission to His followers to spread His message and make disciples. Jesus has called us to preach to the lost and pray for the sick. Jesus declared that those who come after Him would do greater things than He did because He was leaving the work of the Church to us. While we will never be God nor ransom the world from sin and death, we do have the awesome privilege of caring the influence of Christ around the globe.

So do you really know Jesus? One true encounter with Him changes everything.

Closer

There is a big difference between knowing about God and knowing God. And there is also a big difference between God with us and God in us. And that difference is closeness. In John’s Gospel, Jesus told the disciples that as great as it was for Him to walk and live among the people, there is something greater than the physical proximity of Jesus standing right next to us. And that is the Lord putting the Holy Spirit within His people. But too often I don’t recognize how glorious this really is. And I know that I am not alone. While the hearts cry of many Christians is closeness to God, we don’t understand how close we already are if we simply take hold of the reality by faith and silence distractions and other pursuits in our lives.

Prayer for Intimacy
Holy Spirit, forgive me for seeking after everything else but Your voice.
Open my eyes to see the wonder of what angels longed to see — God’s Spirit dwelling in His people.
Cause me to burn with passion for the things that move Your heart and bring You glory.
Keep me from distractions and unbelief that would rob me of Your best realized by faith.
May I be a vessel for Your fire so that I can be pure and holy.
May my prayers be an incense coming up to Your throne, moving against the realms of darkness.
For the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective. And Jesus, You have made me righteous.
Refine my desires to be what matter most, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.
For God, You are a consuming fire.
Amen!

I Know God’s Will for Your Life … Do You?

The following is a speech I made at a high school graduation for one of the students  from my youth group. He graduated from a small home school co-op.

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Graduates, you are about to enter the biggest roller coaster ride of your life. It will be full of transition for both you and your parents. Over the next 5-10 years, you will meet new people, go to new places, and face new challenges. You will make decisions that could have ripple effects throughout your entire life. And you will likely be making these decisions with a lot less oversight and a lot more freedom than you have been accustomed to in the past. You are growing up, and it is time to wrestle with the joys and the challenges of freedom.

The good news is that even when you make a mistake or even outright commit sin, God can forgive you and turn around things for good. But you don’t want to make too many bad decisions and dig yourself into a big hole — right?

So, when I was in your shoes and faced the challenge of making decisions for myself with minimal parental involvement, I struggled with the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” As I have wrestled with that question through the years, I have learned a few things.

First, we tend to focus on the who, what, when and where of any situation. We want to know which career to pursue, what girl to date and eventually marry, or which place we should live. While those are all good questions, they alone won’t answer God’s will for our lives. God is more concerned with the how of our decisions. He focuses on primarily how we go down whatever path we choose. And more importantly, God cares about the kind of person we are becoming. God’s will is about more than just what we do — the focus should be on who we are — our identity in Christ.

A good question to ask ourselves is, “Do we have the heart and the mind of God about whatever we do?

Let me make a radical statement. You might find this hard to believe. I know what the will of God is for everyone in this room! You might think, “How could this guy know that? He hasn’t even met me. Is he a mind reader? How could he possibly know God’s will for all of these people?”

Those are good questions. But the reason I am so confident in my statement is that I can read. And while Scripture shows many instances of God’s will being done and revealed, only a few times does it make broad statements about God’s will. And the more I studied this issue I discovered how critical is this one thing to accomplishing God’s will for my life.

So, are you ready for the secret? It can be found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” While this statement was written to a specific group of people at a specific time. I believe it has relevance to every believer. Because no matter what we face in life, if we develop a thankful heart, we will be able to overcome any obstacle and move on toward God’s goal for us.

Being thankful can be hard because most people face some challenges in life. How can we be thankful in all circumstances? What about the boring, life-draining droll of adulthood? What about the time you spend waiting in line at the grocery store when the checker is moving beyond slow, and a child is screaming behind you? To make this worse, all you can think about is how your wife is waiting at home with a long honey-do list after your tiring day at work, and you just want is to be left alone.

Or, what about when your hard-to-please boss yells at you for not doing what he said should seem like common sense, but you had no idea he wanted it done that way? How can you rejoice when a difficult family situations arises, such as a rebellious child or an aging parent?

Or what about when God “doesn’t come through” as you expected? You thought God had promised something, but He delayed in fulfilling your expectation. Or, just like Job in the Bible, maybe God never answers the question you want answered most? Or how about when you are sick and don’t feel like moving? There are many tough situations that are difficult to rejoice about.

Do we need to deny how we feel or dismiss the pain that we encounter in this life? I believe the answer to that question is a big fat NO. That attitude would not be real nor would it lead to a truly thankful heart. It would merely be putting on a fake mask before God and acting religious. That might work if all God cared about was the outward appearance at any one moment. But God’s heart is not just that we would do the right things; He is more focused on us becoming the right kind of people. Jesus want us to have His heart and mind about our lives, the world and others. We must become who we are already in Christ.

So how do we develop a thankful heart?

Well, for starters, a thankful heart is born long before the moment of challenge. Most of the time I simply react out of the storehouse of experience, personality and perspective that I have obtained over my life. I don’t usually stop and carefully thing through every incident that arises. Honestly, neither do you. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. If you develop a thankful heart — realizing how much God has already done for you even if He never answers another prayer, then you are more likely to default to a more godly response. If you realize that God is sovereign and ultimately does care about you, that can bring hope in even the darkest hour.

A thankful heart is not overcome by hardship even though it is free to mourn loss. Just as Jesus cried in the Garden of Gethsemane, we are free to express our true emotions to God. But we can’t let those feelings be all there is to our internal process. We have to realize that truth is bigger than our perspective or even our challenges in life.

A thankful heart has a godly perspective and sees beyond the moment. But this is hard — even impossible to accomplish on our own. This faith response is rooted in God’ work. We just have to believe it and submit to it.

I believe the answer to how we develop a thankful heart comes from a very familiar passage. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable and perfect.”

The Apostle Paul called early Christians to think differently from the world. Instead of being conformed to the world’s perspective, we are to have the mind of Christ. We are to be less like water that conforms to the shape of whatever cup it is in, and we are to be more like ice that is molded under cold temperatures into a solid block and will retain its shape in different types of containers. While it will melt over time, the ice takes its shape from the mold it is formed in, and for Christians, that mold is our new lives in Christ.

Also, this passage doesn’t just say our actions are transformed. The Lord wants to renew our minds and our hearts. Remember, this transformation is not just about what we do. Our actions should flow from who we are, and our identity in Christ. We are a thankful people because we are aware of how much God loves and has done for us. We are thankful because we realize the truth that he who has been forgiven much loves much.

So how do we have the mind of Christ? We take on the mind of God by reading Scripture and letting it challenge us. Through prayer, including listening prayer, we give our heart to God and position ourselves to hear directly from the Holy Spirit. By allowing God’s truth to change how we look at our situation, we find that He fashions our heart anew to rejoice despite whatever we face.

We praise God in the midst of the storm because He is worthy regardless of what is going on around us. This requires faith as well as reliance on God’s ability to transform and change the things we can’t do anything about.

So, God’s will for your life is to give thanks and rejoice in who He is. The Lord wants all of us to find our hope in Him and not in our situation. If you allow God to build this heart attitude in you, you will be able to realize the fullness of God’s plan. Until then, you may get frustrated, disillusioned or confused when things don’t work out like you had hoped or expected.

There are too many so-called Christians who have found that their faith wavers when God’s will turns out to be something far different than what they expected. There are many situations and decisions where the Lord may give you lots of freedom to make whatever choice you want. There may not just be one perfect person for you to marry. Nor is there one ideal place to live. Your career and work may change a lot through your life. But I can guarantee you that if you allow the Lord to create a thankful heart in you — you always will be able to navigate whatever comes up, and at least in one way you will be living out with certainty God’s will for your life.