January 18, 2015

A Love Like This

Let me first say that if you haven’t read my previous post, To Be Loved, then I suggest you take a few minutes, scroll down, and read that before you continue on here. 

With that being said, this message has been on my heart for a while now. 

In my last post, I talked about how God created each one of us to be loved. His purpose for our lives is that we would recognize and experience just how great His affections are for each one of us. He says to you and me, “You, (fill in your name here), are my delight!” 

We have to make that statement personal. We have to sit still long enough for God to communicate that into our hearts in a way that only He can. Without ever truly experiencing His love, we will find ourselves in danger of falling into a religious life based upon our own deeds. And we know that our deeds do not save us. His love does!

I am aware that the rest of this message is hard to live out without experiencing this love. To love fully, we must be loved fully. With this in mind, I make my plea. 

We, the church, have a problem. We have missed the central message that Jesus Christ came to teach. We have forgotten how to love. Somehow, we have shifted the teachings of Christ a bit. Rather than accepting all people, we welcome in those who look like us, speak like us, and believe what we believe. We say we love, but we are actually only loving those whom Jesus said were easy to love.

I have seen Facebook posts and articles regarding the homosexual agenda, the middle east crisis, and our rival political party and their "idiotic candidates" to name a few. We comment on others’ posts and get into lengthy debates about who is right and wrong in this world. We blaspheme those people whose values and beliefs don't line up with ours. And, yes, I have been found guilty of this as well. But…

For the sake and the advancement of the Kingdom of God, can you and I stop this?
Can we learn to love?
Can we begin acting towards acceptance and unity with others?

First of all, let’s begin by showing love to believers from all backgrounds. I think it hardly matters, if at all, which denomination you and I come from or what our “end times” theology states? We are all brothers and sisters. We are the church. We preach that Christ came, died, and resurrected. He is establishing His Kingdom here— and now. Let’s go back to the basics. Let’s start by embracing others in the freedom that we have. Christ has made us all unique. Let’s celebrate that! It’s Beautiful!

Second, let’s learn how to truly show God’s love to those who are in the world and have not yet been introduced to their heavenly Father. There are a lot of lonely, hurting people around us: in our workplaces, schools, and communities. They are screaming out for someone to love them, and they don't know that God loves them. Could you and I possibly be the ones who will break the silence and BE the love of Christ to that individual? Is God waiting on you and me to make a move of love towards someone so that He can break through and bring revelation in their hearts? 

We spend a lot of time posting and commenting on what we are against. I propose that we do something different. Most people don't need to be reminded about what sin is and how they are “missing the mark.” They already know this. Let’s blow their minds and show them how much they are accepted, as they are. Let’s take a step in that direction. Isn’t that what Christ did for us? He didn't tell us what to do in order to be accepted. And neither did He tell us what sinful habits to drop in order to be loved by him. He found us in our messy state and loved us. Thats it. And it is that simple.

And that love, if I am honest, has completely transformed my life. Can we not all say the same?

Before we post on Facebook, lets filter our thoughts through the lens of this thought: “Is there someone on my Facebook friend list who might see what I wrote or an article I tagged and be pushed away from God? 

If only one person has the potential to see your agenda as hatred of any kind, then I propose that you just don't post. The time is now for the church to rise up and be the hands and feet of Christ…to show love when it seems nonexistent. Lets embrace others with open arms, regardless of their background.

December 26, 2014

To Be Loved

Why would a complete and perfect God create you and me? 

We have all probably asked this question at some point in our life. It’s likely to have come in those crucial, malleable times when we were searching for something true. The answer will define the way we live and what course we take. It will cause us to form our opinions and make decisions that will affect the rest of our life, as well as the others around us. 

What if I told you that you and I were created, by God, to be loved. That’s it! You weren’t created so that you would love God. You and I were placed on earth so that we would know the overwhelming love of a perfect Father. 

At first, this statement may seem too simple. It may even come across as cheap. But, if you follow this out and look at what Scripture says about the nature of God, who is love, then it may begin to make more sense to you. 

God, who embodies a perfect love, would have to mirror this love, right? And, if the test for whether someone is actually loving another in this way is displayed by Scripture, then we need to know what characterizes this love. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) reminds us that perfect love is displayed by an attitude of giving, rather than receiving. Love gives away. It doesn’t expect or take.

If love gives away, then God gives away, because God is love. 

Anyone who spends any amount of time in church, will hear that God is love. And many of us can accept that God loves the world, in a collective sense. But, do we know that God loves us? Do you know that God loves YOU?

Satan has a way of planting subtle lies in our minds at strategic times. They sound something like this:

“God will love you when you get your act together.”

“God really only loves the potential that you can become.”

…or even…

“God doesn't, and couldn’t ever, love you. You’re a mess.”

God created you to be loved, in order to love you. That is the Good News of the Kingdom. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” or, paraphrased, “before we ever took a step towards him, he took a step towards us.” That is love!

Jesus found the marginalized people in his society. The woman at the well. The tax collector. The paralyzed man at Bethesda. In all of these, he did not say, “Get your act together and follow me.” He showed them how much he loved them, and their lives were completely changed. 

Before your quiet time, God loves you.

In your weakness, He loves you. 

In your sin, He loves you. 

You don't have to do a thing. He loves you!

And if you have identified with this simple truth, then you can testify that your life is not the same. When we have experienced this love in our heart, it creates a thankfulness and humility that allows us to offer up everything we are to help further His Kingdom. It’s the greatest gift that the creator could ever give—himself. His Love.

Do you know? 

You were created to be loved.

September 29, 2013

The Song Sessions: "Great Reward" TIM TIMMONS

September 5, 2013

Tim Tebow and the Gospel

   Recently, I read an article regarding Tim Tebow’s departure this past week from the New England Patriots as the third-string quarterback and how it relates to his “faith” journey.  This is my response to said article, which you can find here if you are interested.  

   As a passionate Arkansas Razorback fan and an SEC rival to the University of Florida, I did not care for Tim Tebow from the beginning.  I respected his freakish ability as a rare and skilled NCAA football player, and one of the best at that, but nothing more.  Around the time He won the Heisman (and Darren McFadden placed second as a record-setting Razorback RB), I learned of the “real” Tim Tebow involving his life off the field and his identity in something (Someone; Jesus Christ) bigger than football.  I begin to hear this passion in his speech.  It was then that I personally became more supportive and wanted to see him lead his team to victory and receive national attention in order to give him the opportunity to represent Jesus Christ and give the glory to God in front of a culture that so desperately needed to hear the Gospel.  And for this reason, I still root for Tim Tebow.  
   Last week, unsurprisingly to many, Tebow was cut from the New England Patriot’s roster.  Having just fulfilled roughly three years in the NFL, he was let go.  As it stands, he is yet to be picked up by another team, which could come about in the days to follow, even though many see his NFL career as nearly finished. 
   To say that Tim Tebow is a polarizing figure in the sports world is a huge understatement.  Ask anyone who knows a thing or two about the NFL and they will have an opinion about Tim Tebow—good or bad.  However, you gotta give it to him, the man is a class act.  He represents principles, sportsmanship, and a desire to model Christ wherever he goes.  And for that, I am encouraged by his example.
   In response to the article, “Thinking Evangelically About Tim Tebow” by Jared C. Wilson, which I alluded to before, I can agree that if an NFL team decides not to take a chance on the likes of Mr. Tebow, then Tim will ultimately portray Christ in another environment to a different people.  He has given his life and been outspoken regarding his faith in God, and to my knowledge, has shown the world that so eagerly watches what a man of God looks like in the flesh.
   Through the media, Tim has expressed his desire to remain in the NFL as a quarterback, which I take to be genuine and real, and not necessarily in conflict with his first love, Jesus.  However, this desire is mainly out of his control.  Who knows where he will land?...if even in a roster spot at all… One thing is for certain, God is glorified!  And maybe God is saying to Tim and the world that awaits, “I used you as a college and professional athlete, for a time, to point others to Me and now I have a different plan than you do, a part of the larger picture that you don’t see, Tim.  I’m going to use you to reach more people for my Kingdom in a different role than if you had stayed an NFL quarterback.”  And if this be the case, and time will tell which path God has for him, then we can look at Tim’s obedience to God first, not football, as the mark of true character, which he already seems to display. 
   Lets bring this home a bit!  I think its safe to say that we do a good job of making plans for our lives based on our temporal, shallow understanding (I am not saying that Tebow is doing this).  Making it even more personal now, I am great at “playing God” and manipulating what I think is best for me according to my desires and needs.  Ultimately, what I need is to pull back from my narrow perspective and ask the daring question, “God, what do you want from me?  What can I do and where can I go to display your Son as best I can to those around me?”  This mindset, this heart cry is what God wants from us, from me.  And I find myself in a time where personal direction is desired and necessary.  And now that my attitude is becoming more aligned with His Glory and Plan, not mine, I am totally free and I am willing to follow.  And at this conjunction, the place where my desires and priorities begin to take a backseat to His, I find peace and rest.  Realignment with God’s Plan is not a one-time decision, but a frequent surrendering to His wisdom and will.    
   Assuming that Tim Tebow never plays another NFL game, would you consider this a loss for the Kingdom of God, considering the sheer influence and attention that he generates as an NFL player, or do you think this devoted follower of Christ can be used in greater ways by God who so desperately wants the world to know of His Love?

   Do you agree or disagree with these thoughts?  Please leave me a comment below if you have an opinion regarding Tim Tebow’s future and God’s plans.

August 24, 2013

Living in Healthy Community

     Recently, Angela and I had the pleasure of meeting up with some friends for dinner at a local restaurant.  Our married friends moved away over a year ago to work for a church in a surrounding state.  We were eager to hear how things had been going for them over the past year since we too had moved away and had not caught up with them in a almost a year.  
     Our friends began talking about their experiences in a new church environment with different staff and a somewhat different method of ministry.  Don't get me wrong, there is not one right way when it comes to church ministry.  There are many types of churches all over the world that have different styles of worship (and I'm not just talking about praise and worship-music).  And as one who has traveled to a few different cultures myself, I know and remember often the common phrase that I've heard and recited a thousand times before, "it's not wrong; it's just different."  However, there seems to me to be one thing that I have noticed that many churches (especially in the US) are without-community.  As our friends sat across the table and spoke about their recent hardships, a lack of community was the common theme that contributed to their feeling discouraged.  Their church did not have healthy community.  The people in this particular congregation aren't living life together, rubbing shoulders with one another.  They work and then go home, alone.  They meet on Sunday mornings and that's about it.  Its challenging to drastically deepen relationships solely on Sunday mornings.  They are missing something huge!  And it is extremely sad to think about the masses of church attenders who do not experience true community as it was designed to be experienced.  
      One thing that characterizes our church, as well as many other churches in the area, are its community groups.  A small group of 12-15 people who come together once a week  to share a meal, prayer, worship, the Word, and their lives is a powerful thing.  I have experienced first hand how beneficial a community can be for me personally, as well as for the body in general.  Some of my lowest times have fallen in the seasons where my sense of community was lacking, when I felt isolated and alone. And, on the other hand, God has grown me and strengthened me greatly in the times when I found myself deep in rich community.  
      We were made to live in community, experiencing life uniquely with others, sharing in the joys and hardships.  Scripture tells us that God is three (father, son, spirit) dwelling together in fellowship.  God also gave us a beautiful picture of community in the book of Acts when the new church body met together to encourage one another and work to advance the Kingdom.  God has shown us-we were meant to live similarly.  
      What about you?  Do you find yourself lacking community, the deep, rich, live-giving relationships that God uses to equip us, His Church?  Begin praying that He would connect you with others around you in purpose and intention.  If your church offers community groups, then just sign up.  You won't regret it, and you will quickly see just how God intends for us to live as you begin to open up to others and experience the same in return.  If your church doesn't offer community groups as an option, then consider being the first to start a group.  Pray for opportunities and just start talking to others who may be desiring the same.  We were meant to know and be known! 

"And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the Day drawing near." 

What about you?  Have you experienced healthy community that you would like to share about? Feel free to leave a comment or a story...