Live Fully in the Present and Relax about the Future

Day-tight compartments. That's a modern phrase for what Jesus spoke of 2000 years ago. We don't need to worry about tomorrow because today has enough challenges and God has us covered anyhow (Matt. 6:25-34). One of the most staggeringly profound truths of our God is that as his kids we have access to his comfort and provision – Daily! God is our provider. Period. Full stop.

Yes, we can live fully in the present and relax about the future. Now here's a good one. The University of Cincinnati did a study on worry and their finding are awesome. Here's just a piece of what they found:

It turns out that 85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened, and with the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions.

So how much more should we as God's kids be assured of God's provision? Add God's love to any equation and what we have is something extraordinary. Live fully in the present today! Because we can.

I want to extend an invitation to you. We are building a strong core at a new church in the west loop – 180Chicago.church. God is doing something truly amazing and I'd like for you to pray about visiting us and maybe joining this new ministry. Just click here for directions. See you Sunday!

Hate Helps

Hate is not commonly seen as a virtue, but it is. Proverbs 6:16-19 outlines six things God hates. Romans 12:9 tells us to abhor or "hate what is evil".

Hate actually helps us "cling to what is good" (v.9). Without the hating of evil and sin we diminish our ability to love. Love without a sharp contrast of what we need to hate just dulls the definition of love and our passion to love. To "let love be genuine" (v.9) we need to hate some things deeply.

I've been searching the scriptures and find that our love for righteousness can be stoked by hating anything that flys in the face of truth. Hate in the hands of people who don't know and trust God turns into self loathing or taking vengeance into our own hands. But hate turned over to God is a breeding ground for love.

Hate helps us deal a blow to sin in our own lives. Think about that sin that keeps creeping up on you. Instead of winking at it or dumbing it down - hate it. We don't like holding onto what we hate so give it a go. Hate helps and love conquers all!

What Do You Want, God? (x2)

Trials are coming and we need to know what to look for when asking God for wisdom. Here's three questions and I believe they're biblically prioritized.

What do you want to change in me? This is the first and most courageous question we can ask. It's not natural and quite honestly it the most painful. Could it be that the pain of looking at ourselves is the most rewarded by God? The most natural thing to do is to be so fixated on the person behind the trial that we actually get stuck in a blame game. But the richest among us say with David, "Search me Oh Lord, try me and see if there is any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting way". 

What do you want to take from me? Here's the tough news that we all know intuitively but it's tough to see it clearly when in a trial...God uses trials to pry things from our lives that we actually love. Not everything we fall head over heals for is good for us and God knows best. The only question is, will we trust him. That person we're dating, the job we're hanging onto, just fill in the blank...it may be that God is trying to take it from you. Please note: God does some of his best addition through subtraction.

What do you want to give to me? Yes, every good and perfect gift comes from God and this wisdom is a promise. When we ask the first two questions we'll have eyes to see number three! Hang on, because the prayer offered in faith will be rewarded.

Trials will come our way. We can't avoid them but we can deal with them in a way that will "make us mature and complete, lacking nothing".

James 1:2-8, Psalm 139

We Gotta Die

Dying to self is the most brutal but beneficial death a person can ever know. When the lights go out on self-will, self-focus, self-worship, and self-reliance, a fire is born inside you that can never be put out. The fire burns more brightly the more we discover any vestiges of self. Like fields of dead grass that are lit aflame, the new growth after death makes that place and makes any person almost indistinguishable–totally changed and now fully alive.
 

Focusing on what we have or don’t have stunts our growth. It is debilitating—leaving us on this side of the river settling for ordinary. It’s time to go. You need a little bit of Abraham in you. He encountered God at a time when “self” was the only God in town. Abraham’s story proves that abundant life is not an exclusive right of the young, the rich, the talented, the beautiful, or the well-connected. Life is not a “right” for anyone. Real life is for those of us who dare to believe God, die to self, and let Him fill us with the stuff to take big steps of faith. Abundant life is for the “poor in spirit” who will place their complete faith in a God who has promised things unimaginable and humanly unattainable.
 

Yes, It’s totally reasonable to question whether you have the chops to go with God—to step from mediocre into extraordinary. Since the beginning up to this day, each faith walker has stood on the threshold of breakthrough. Many were stuck just like you. Momentary spiritual paralysis is a human thing. Fear that you’ll look like a fool—or worse, that God won’t deliver—is a sign you’re leaving everything that is familiar and joining God on an adventure. Yes, faith can be terrifying, but the other option is too small, too empty, too deadly—ordinary. It’s time to go over.
 

Mark 8:34–35; Genesis 15:1–6; Matthew 5:3

Somebody Has To Go First

When God says to "arise" we're being shown a way out from the ordinary and into the extraordinary. It's an invitation to something beyond us. Yes, it can be scary, but we're being waved forward into a dream we've only imagined or slightly tasted. And these aren't empty man-contrived fantasies. These are the God given dreams that we've not yet dared to pursue or have failed to take hold of in the past. There will be plenty of challenges ahead, but inactivity is too high a price to pay. The investment we make to get up and get after God's promises is minuscule compared to the pain and price of staying put. There is a cost to unrealized dreams, but no longer can we live in regret of missed opportunities. This is a new day with new mercy. It's time to risk again and believe God for what is truly extraordinary. 

Now, the road out of what's familiar can strike fear into the core of our being. Many have set out to follow God's greater plan for their life, only to return to what is familiar. This is a painful reality for anyone who desires to walk with God and get on with life: It will be scary and it will be lonely for long stretches of the journey. Some have "turned back" and God won't demand we leave what's familiar, he simply says, "follow me". It's our choice to "turn back as well".  

Leaving everything that is familiar requires courage, because some do turn back and the majority just won't move. The promised life that God offers us can almost seem to be fake. We wonder why more people aren't getting up and getting after their God-given dreams. We can begin to think that we're radical, rare, or sometimes we wonder if we're wrong. But this fear must be fought with every ounce of our being. When God gives us a dream we must move on it. And when that God sized vision for a better, richer and fuller life is dropped in our heart, we can be sure of this: God never goes back on his promises, so we must leave everything that is familiar. Put a deposit on it, sacrifice for it, and do whatever it takes to get after it. And when it feels like you're alone on this quest, when family and friends seem content to stay put, don't let fear hold you back. Somebody has to go first, it might as well be you.  

John 6:66-67

Die To Live

Die...because whoever loses His life will find it! It's not the usual invitation to greatness...but it's the only one that works. There is nothing so hopeful as the future with God...but there is nothing so painful as putting ourselves to death. Old ways of thinking...of relating...of surviving...of working...of striving...they all have to be held with an open hand. God will justly cull through the life we've made for ourselves. He'll save the pieces that mirror His image...He'll sever the massive chunks of sin. And just when you wonder if He has anything to work with...God rescues the forgotten...redeems the broken...renews the beaten...and plants seeds of transformation.

Die...so that your deepest desires have a chance to live. All wrestling in our own strength must come to a crashing end...so we can see God for who He truly is...and what He alone can truly do! Desires of our heart are met and exceeded when we find God to be our delight. And delighting ourselves in God...begins when we're finally done depending on ourselves. The death of self and sin may well alter or adjust our desires...but the desires born out of our death will never disappoint...God loves to deliver good gifts to His kids! 

Die...it's the delivery system to another world. The ways of God run counter to the crowds. Dying is all about swimming against the current of commonness. It opens us up to a new view...new people...new life...the new you. There is no goal worth pursuing...no dream worth chasing...without first dying. Great turnarounds require steep descent. Blue sky is appreciated most...when we've corkscrewed into the darkness of self-will...only to be pulled out by the awesome grace of God. So the goal is not to live to see tomorrow...it's to catch a glimpse of new-world living ...and it just so happens...that requires dying!

Matt. 16:25, I Peter 2:24, Gen. 1:27, Ps. 37:4, II Cor. 1:20, Rom. 12:1-2, Phil. 2:1-11

Break Free (part 3): Walk Away

We can only follow Jesus when we cut ties with those things that suck the life out of us and hold us back from the abundant life. Becoming a Christ follower implies that we're going to have to walk away from something, and it's for our own good. In order to move ahead toward God's bigger yes for our life, we have to learn to say no.

How do we break away from anything that’s destructive and stealing life from us–Walk Away! The real genius and power of Jesus’ call to “follow me” is that it implies we need to leave something. Jesus knew that if we’re going to get victory, we have to break free. And to break free, we have to walk away. The things that hold us back almost always hold us down. 

The wisest counsel I ever received was to walk away from destructive systems I had set up for myself. To break away from Cocaine, Crown Royal, reckless carousing a huge shift had to happen. Now, God would never ask us to leave a spouse or kids to follow Jesus, but he will ask us to walk away from deadly patterns and obvious sources of temptation. For me to follow Jesus meant I had to fly away, literally. Thirty years ago I boarded a plane. I left a good job, from a monetary perspective, but it was filled with coworkers who lived for the weekend and the next gram of coke. I left a small circle of friends who didn't understand, but as I soon found out, didn't really care. I walked away from the only city I knew to go to a town I'd never seen. And at this new town I was met by a man and a woman who I barely knew but I was certain they loved me and wanted to help me follow Jesus. I doubted at times, got hammered with shame often, but I soon discovered that living as a disciple is worth any earthly price we might have to pay–even to look at the life we’ve made and walk away.

Too many new born Christian's become derailed disciples of Jesus, because we fail to follow Jesus no matter how crazy we may seem. When Jesus said “follow me”, he essentially gave us a clear plan to break free. What’s holding you back and holding you down? By faith we need to take a big first step. Walk away from that group of friends who suck you back into destructive systems. Walk away from that job that keeps stealing life from you in ways you’ve never told a soul. Walk away from that emotional affair, possibly that physical affair. Not another thing has to be listed, God has already placed on your heart what is holding you back and holding you down. So by faith, walk away, and watch what God has just around the bend. 

Matt. 16:24

In my next blog, I’ll share one of my deepest failures and the resulting pain that came just after I followed Jesus. Many of our greatest battles happen just after salvation. Maybe me sharing my failure will encourage you to keep moving.

Starving Sin...

Life in Christ is, by nature, a whole new deal. The new birth miracle is real and supernatural. If we've surrendered complete control of our life to God, he's done two profound things: 1. Set us free from sin slavery. 2. Locked us into the righteousness of Christ. So what we must do is walk in agreement with God and the miracle of new birth. We're neither bystander nor initiator. We're spiritual partners in our own life-change. God initiates and we walk in agreement with him. And God's given us all the power we need to make the moves that are necessary to win this spiritual foot race. We can do this!

There's one big thing we must agree on from the get go. We can't afford to give sin any real estate in our soul. We can make zero "provision for the flesh". We can't give destructive secrets a way to survive. Gossip can't be given a place to hang out. We need to evict jealousy and tell envy it has no home with us. We must put all the empty spiritual carbs on notice. All addictions must be seen for what they are - life thieves. There can be no provision for sin to live. It's a battle that must be fought and in Christ it can be won.

We can all identify something in our life that needs to die. So let's get real and raw with sin. When God reveals to us any sin that is stealing life from us, give it no food. Let it eat nothing because it won't stop until it consumes us. Withhold any nourishment whatsoever. And when sin screams for mercy offer it none. There is no quick death with sin. It must be starved to its death and sin will never go without a fight. Just when a sin is about to lose its foothold in our life and breath its last breath, it will call out for just a scrap. But give it nothing. One morsel in the mouth of sin is like giving new life to a monster. Starve sin to the very end. There's a mercy killing that God smiles on - Putting sin to death.

New sin will always crop it's head but one victory produces more victory. Get a win today and we'll have a track record tomorrow. We can live in Christ...when we starve sin to death.

Romans 13:14