The dangers of becoming a "professional" Christian

Yesterday was my sabbath, the day I chose this week to rest from everything that feels like work and to refocus on the LORD.  Because I have the privilege of serving full-time with our church, I work on Sundays.  Though it’s usually a blessed day, it’s far from a rest day.  So this week, I chose Saturday to sabbath.

As I drove to the grocery store on my chosen day of rest, I saw two young men on the sidewalk, dancing as they walked to the beat booming from a cell phone that one held (their version of a “boom box on your shoulder,” I suppose).

I heard a whisper, “Tell them about the destiny I have for their lives. Call out the treasure I’ve deposited in them. Invite them to use the gifts I’ve given them for Me.”

I smiled and waved as I drove by.  I did this so quickly, I didn’t see if they even noticed.

“Hmm… not exactly what I had in mind,” Holy Spirit whispered.  I drove on.

Down a busy road, I saw a minivan parked in an industrial lot with kids peeking out the open doors.

Two adults stood outside with a sign: “Help us get home. God bless”

The whisper: “Stop. Hear about their need. Bring a taste of My Kingdom.”

Wonderings of a calloused heart: “Scammers who go from city to city? A family truly in need? I’ll stop to find out, if they’re still there when I get back from grocery shopping. After all, it’s my sabbath.”

I never found out, as they were gone by the time I drove home.  I even excused myself, thinking: I would’ve stopped if I’d had a friend with me.  I sensed a sadness in my heart but shook it off to continue on with my sabbath observance.

Today, as I drove from the church building to the beach for our student event, I passed a worn-down house with a woman standing outside in the sun wearing a thick hoody and jeans.  The temp was in the high 80s.  Her face looked, in a word: “hopeless.”  I didn’t have a full word of encouragement to deliver to her, but I was prompted to stop and had one word: “HOPE.”

Was that her name?  Was that what she needed to hear?

I slowed down as I drove by.  While I stalled like a child delaying bedtime, she began walking toward a side door and entered the house.  I deliberated turning around to knock and share some “hope.”  I didn’t.

At our beach event, the sister who shared an anointed message spoke on stepping out in faith and listening to the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to work through us to speak to and touch others.  Ouch… “I’m listening, LORD.”

I returned to that house after the beach.  When I knocked, I learned firsthand the importance of timely, immediate obedience.

A man gruffly asked, “What do you want?”

“This might seem out of the ordinary, but I felt God…”

“Not interested.”

I didn’t get to see the lady who needed hope.

Holy Spirit, draw her nearer to Jesus and bring other Christ followers into her life who will share Your hope!

Jesus worked miracles on the sabbath, and it triggered the religious crowd (Matthew 12:9-14).  He didn’t stop to touch everyone or fix every problem.  But He did stop every time His Father asked Him to (John 5:19).  No matter what day it was.

Followers of Jesus do need regular rest (Mark 2:27-28).  But, we take no break from obeying Abba, from following the promptings of His Spirit.

Following Jesus is not my “job.”  I refuse to become a “professional” Christian.  If you minister to others for your livelihood, you might be tempted to think of your service as your source and yourself as a professional.

I am not a “professional” Christian, however.  It is not my day job to follow Jesus.  It is not even my duty.  It is my honor and privilege.  He died for me.  I live for Him.

“Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe.”

I willingly choose, in response to His love, to live for Him.

I need to repent.

I am not a 9-to-5, punch-in/punch-out “Christian.”  I live on mission.

I am not part of the religious crowd.  I live in relationship with Holy Spirit.

I am not a duty and obligation, “have to” kind of guy.  I get to serve the most wonderful Master!  Living for His glory is my joy!

I’ve learned recently from a friend that repentance is much more than feeling sorrow over my sin or even just asking for forgiveness.

In Acts 26:18, Paul retells the mission that Jesus gave him:
“…to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”

Paul says he obeyed this calling by preaching “that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds” (v. 20).

All the facets of verse 18 fulfilled in preaching repentance!

Peter shared that repentance brings times of refreshing from the Presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19).

I’ve discovered: repentance is turning from sin to face Abba, declaring, “This old pattern is not who I am. I embrace You! I believe what You say about me is true!”

We are called to live lives of repentance.  We are ambassadors of His Kingdom, ministers of reconciliation, those who run with the good news of His love!

Lord Jesus, tenderize my heart.  You died and rose again, so we can live in relationship with You, be filled with Your Spirit, and demonstrate the reality of Your resurrection.  You rose from the dead and so nothing is impossible for You!

I am a student, a learner, an obedient follower, walking in the footsteps of my Master, led by His Spirit.  I rest: daily and weekly.  I can’t fix everything.  I’m not the savior or messiah.  But I do know Him.  And I follow Him.  What He says goes.  As a disciple of Jesus, I will obey Him without question or hesitation.  I love Him, and I trust His heart that much.

I am not a “professional” Christian.  I am following Jesus.  How about you?

 

Daniel 9 – A prayer on behalf of our nation

Daniel 9:3-19,

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking Him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from Your commandments and rules. We have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To You, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which You have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against You. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, refusing to obey Your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against Him. 12 He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by Your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that He has done, and we have not obeyed His voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for Yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteous acts, let Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for Your own sake, O Lord, make Your face to shine upon Your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear. Open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by Your name. For we do not present our pleas before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for Your own sake, O my God, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name” (ESV).

The Prophet Daniel turned his face toward the LORD, seeking Him in prayer and pleading for mercy on behalf of his nation of Israel. 

He prayed to the LORD and made confession for Israel’s sins.  Israel is a nation that is special to the LORD like none other, because through it He has sent the Messiah Jesus to suffer, die, and rise again to life to redeem sinners back to Himself.  Whatever your home country, you can pray a similar prayer of confession, repentance, and contrition as Daniel did on behalf of your nation.  In like manner, we also turn our faces toward the Lord Jesus Christ, seeking Him in prayer and pleading for mercy on behalf of our nation the United States of America.  We stand in the gap.  We make intercession.  Now, I pray to the Lord and make this confession for the sins of our nation.

O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from Your commandments and rules. We have not listened to Your servants the prophets and apostles, who speak in Your name to our leaders, our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To You, O Lord Jesus, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of America, to the inhabitants of Washington D.C., and to all of the United States, those who are near and those who are far away from sea to shining sea.

I confess that we have broken Your Ten Commandments, disregarding these vows of the covenant that You first proposed to Your beloved people at Mount Sinai.  I confess we have had other gods before You, worshiping false gods and making gods in our own image that better suit us; blasphemy, taking Your Name in vain; dishonoring and disregarding the Sabbath day of rest; disrespecting and speaking maliciously against our parents and those in authority; murder, hatred; adultery, looking with lust, fornication, pornography; theft, failure to give, hoarding; lying; and coveting our neighbor’s possessions and relationships.

I confess our deeds of the flesh: evil thoughts, sexual immorality, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly; impurity, degrading our bodies, shameful lusts, unnatural relations, indecent acts, perversion, depravity of mind, wickedness, strife, gossip, hatred for God, insolence, boasting, disobedience, inventing ways of doing evil, being senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless; prostitution, drunkenness, and swindling; debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and orgies; evil desires, anger, and filthy language; being lawbreakers, rebels, ungodly, sinful, unholy, irreligious, killing our fathers or mothers, human trafficking, perjury, and false doctrine; being cowardly, unbelieving, vile, immoral, and practicing magic arts.

I confess abortion, removing the Bible from the education of children, debt, dishonesty, poor stewardship, materialism, humanism, atheism, false religion, racism, and disregard for marriage.  I confess among professing believers hypocrisy, selfishness, pride, persecution, backbiting, divisions among and within congregations, focus on buildings and programs to the neglect of biblical values, favoritism of the rich, neglecting the poor, orphans, and widows, failing to visit believers imprisoned for their stand for Christ and ignoring the persecuted church, failing to preach the Gospel and take a stand for the truth; failing to fulfill the Great Commission around the world, trivializing Hell and the judgment of God; sloppiness and lack of precision in our study and teaching of the Word; loving politics and sports more than the Gospel of Jesus; loving arguments and debates more than the truth.

To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our leaders and to our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets and apostles. Our whole nation has transgressed Your law and turned aside, refusing to obey Your voice. And the consequences of our disobedience have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against Him. He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us great calamity.

O Lord, according to all Your righteous acts, let Your anger and Your wrath turn away from America, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, the USA has become a byword among many peoples around the world. Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for Your own sake, O Lord, make Your face to shine upon this land. O my God, incline Your ear and hear. Open Your eyes and see our desolations. For we do not present our pleas before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for Your own sake, O my God, because of the believers in this nation, Your people who are called by Your name.

In the Mighty Name of Jesus, our Lord and Messiah, AMEN!

 

(November 6th, A.D. 2012)

 

an old book with pages curved into a heart and flowers in the binding
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Jesus & Marriage

The Bible teaches that marriage was designed by God to be a picture of the relationship Jesus has with His Church.  The Church is a living body made up of people — men, women, and children — in right relationship with their Heavenly Father, who have trusted in the Lord Jesus and surrendered their lives to His saving grace. 

Each of us has broken God’s Law, the Ten Commandments, by lying, stealing, hating, and lusting.  Our relationships with others so clearly reveal our need for forgiveness.  Jesus taught that if you’ve been angry with your brother or called him a name, you’ll be held accountable for it when you stand before God on Judgment Day (Matthew 5:21-22).  When you hate someone, you’ve murdered him in your heart (1 John 3:15).  Human anger is often tainted by selfishness and ill motives.  “…Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:20). 
Jesus knows every secret thought and attitude of our hearts.  He views all lustful thoughts and actions as adultery (Matthew 5:27-28).  If we come to God expecting to earn a place in Heaven because of our good works, we are in for a terrible surprise.  We deserve only God’s judgment in Hell.  However, He wants us to experience His love and a union with Jesus that marriage was designed to reflect.  He offers it to you today.
The good news is that God came to earth as Jesus.  He lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose to life again.  Like a Groom coming to claim His bride, Jesus will return again for all those who have turned from sin and put their full trust in Him.  Jesus gave His lifeblood because of His desire to become united with those He loves.  He paid the bride price with His own life.  Husbands likewise are called to serve their wives by dying to themselves and making personal sacrifices that their wives might draw closer to Jesus Christ. Wives are called to respond in self-giving love by serving their husbands — that together the couple might be a ministry team for the Master.
Jesus is calling you today to join His Bride, the Church. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that He may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus” (Acts 3:19-20). Jesus has promised to return to bring His Bride home to be with Him forever.  Have you trusted Jesus?  Have you surrendered your heart and life to Him?  He’s calling you today.
Together, Bridget and I desire to create a home and marriage that reveals to all who encounter us, the beautiful heart of Jesus for His Bride. Would you join His Bride, the Church, today by turning from sin and trusting fully in Jesus to save and heal you?
For more beautiful truth about coming into a growing relationship with Jesus, please visit: www.needGod.com
www.areyouagoodperson.org and www.saveyourselfsomepain.com.
Scripture to consider:
On Marriage & the Gospel: 
Hosea 2:16 & 19; Isaiah 62:5; Matthew 9:15; 22:1-14; Revelation 19:7
On the Powerful, Redeeming Love of Jesus:Titus 3:4; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:1; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; John 10:10-11; Luke 15; Isaiah 53; Genesis 3:15; Colossians 2:15
On the Reality of God’s Judgment and Hell:Hebrews 4:13; 9:27; Matthew 25:46; Mark 9:47-48; Luke 3:17; Revelation 14:10-11; 20:10 & 14-15; 21:8

man and woman s hands on top of ball bouquet
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Five reasons we’re committed to purity

We wait for acceptance letters, job postings, and a baby’s first word. I’ve been waiting and trusting Jesus for a life partner. It was when I learned to rest that He brought me my Eve (Gn. 2:21-22). 


As we prepare for marriage, she and I have established physical boundaries for our purity. We want to share five reasons that we’re committed to upholding these. No matter where you find yourself in this journey of life and love, we pray these underpinning principles will help you.

First, the marriage covenant is the divinely designed context for sexual intimacy. The Lord Jesus created sex to deeply unite husband and wife and to produce children (Jn. 1:3). Children are a reward from the LORD (Ps. 127:3). The lifelong commitment of marriage liberates a couple to be utterly intimate and to make babies. Wedding vows promise future offspring the protection of a father and mother. Jesus commands we wait. His way is the best way.

Second, we are here on this earth to minister the Gospel to unbelievers. The Lord Jesus left His followers with a clear commission to make Him known. His pure Gospel flows most freely from a clean vessel. We preach in the open air that Jesus considers lust adultery in the heart (Mt. 5:28). We share in witnessing conversations that we must repent and trust Christ. Hence, we must also live unadulterated lives of repentance.

Third, our lifestyle sets an example for believers (1 Tim. 4:12). Over the course of our life together, we will influence multitudes. Some look up to us. I’m the oldest sibling of four. My sisters and brother expect me to model Biblical dating for them. Others just notice in passing. We want our example of pure love to point onlookers to Jesus.

Fourth, we refuse to show disdain for God’s grace and mercy. When we least expected it, Jesus graciously bound our hearts together. He’s mercifully protected us thus far. He has poured boundless favor on us through our relationship. He’s revealed to me afresh the passion He has for His Bride—His sacrificial love for the Church. Refusing to wait for intimacy would spit in the face of what He is doing.

Fifth, we honor one another’s convictions. We prayed and fasted together. We drafted physical boundaries separately. When we met to share, whoever had the higher standard set the bar. Guarding each other’s hearts and consciences is an utmost priority. We must be unhindered as we run this race (Heb. 12:1).

Before you enlist to hold us accountable, allow me to issue a challenge. As you wait upon the LORD, consider your personal standards. Have you defined what you will and won’t do? Do you know what foundation your convictions rest upon? Remember it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Gal. 5:1). If we’ve been freed from sin, we live in it no longer (Rom. 6). I pray our reasons will embolden you in your pursuit of purity. Holiness is His way. As we surrender to Jesus, His Spirit empowers us to walk as He did.

Head & Heart – Soulmates

“Would you quit your whimpering?!? I’m trying to think,” Mind growled with an intellectual indifference.

“I can’t help it. This is just so moving!” His companion, Heart, emotionally retorted, sniffling and wiping away tears.
 
I promise, my head and heart don’t have audible conversations within my soul; however, I’ve learned there must be peaceful balance between them. As a follower of Christ, I’m called to think and feel as the Lord Jesus does.
 
I remember learning in a worship music class in Bible college, about the balance between head and heart. Our music professor taught that the arts diverge into two branches: classic, which is orderly and logical, and romantic, which is free and more emotional. Head and heart have arm-wrestled throughout music history. Isn’t this the balance we seek in worship ministry today too?
 
In a preaching class, our professor taught that ministering the Word is both a science, involving mental discipline, and an art, requiring the Holy Spirit’s influence on the speaker’s heart. Head and heart must cooperate under the unction of the Holy Spirit to deliver an effective message.
 
John 1:12 speaks of both receiving Jesus and believing in His Name. The Lord, through John, explains there’s an experiential and an intellectual component to becoming born again as a child of God through Jesus Christ (Jn. 3). We believe the truth of the Gospel and turn from lawbreaking to follow Christ.
 
I was baptized as an infant and grew up in a church where I learned about the Bible. My head was full of knowledge, but I hadn’t encountered the Risen Christ. My heart hadn’t yet been pricked with a godly sorrow that brings repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). When I heard the Gospel call to repent and be saved, the Holy Spirit brought conviction of sin and my need for Jesus. I received and believed.
 
I heard Apologist Josh McDowell explain on the radio once that it was not just intellectual doubt that kept him from faith. Deep emotional wounds from his earthly father hindered his heart from believing in the Heavenly Father. He was convinced an Almighty Father would only cause him more pain. The Holy Spirit used both the love and the intellectual evidence of those who witnessed to McDowell to draw him to Jesus.
 
Everything done well in this life must involve a redeemed head and heart. When we act only from the head, we cause pain. When we’re simply moved by the heart, we cause trouble.
Everything done well in this life must involve a redeemed head and heart. When we act only from the head, we cause pain. When we’re simply moved by the heart, we cause trouble. The unregenerate “heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” and the mind must be renewed (Jer. 17:9; Rom. 12:2).
 
Neither emotion nor reason is inherently evil. They are gifts of God, evidence that people are handcrafted in His Image. There’s an element of reason and emotion required for every wise decision, drawing from Scriptural principles and listening for the Holy Spirit’s still, small voice.
 
This balance between head and heart isn’t something I usually dwell on or am overly introspective about. Instead, we listen to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to convict us of any unconfessed sin. When we act unwisely or uncaringly, He graciously convicts. He wants us to be free (2 Cor. 3:17). When He puts His gentle finger on a specific sin, we turn from the sin toward Jesus and move forward in the freedom of His Spirit.
 
Will Head and Heart ever get along? Through the cleansing Blood of Jesus, they sure can. Let’s eagerly desire both Christ-like thinking and feeling. The head and the heart are, after all, soulmates.

What does this balancing act between intellect and emotion look like in your life and work?