Time to Wake Up and Grow Up!

For the past week and a half the Lord has kept talking about complacency in the Church. This is a hearty topic, at least in my mind it is, so I have given it quite a bit of prayer. What is complacency? According to Websters, it is self satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies; smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc. The word that really jumps out at me is ‘smug’ – smug people are usually arrogant or prideful people. Individual believer’s make up the Church so for a church body to become complacent, it first begins in the lives of the individual believers. If as believer’s we have become satisfied in our spiritual journey, or with the way programs are working in our “churches” than we are becoming comfortable in our faith in Christ. We might be becoming stagnant in our individual walk with the Lord, this is a dangerous place to be as the Church. Complacency implies a lack of spiritual growth, a lack of growth means a lack of maturing believers, a lack of maturing believers means a lack in multiplying more mature believers. This can open the church up to deception and deception is alive and well.

When I think of the complacency of the Church, a scene from a movie my boys used to watch keeps coming to mind. In the scene, three teenagers are on the hunt for a pearl and they end up in a casino where there should be a third pearl, while they look around for it they are constantly offered a cookie, so as they eat these cookies they become more and more comfortable in the environment of the casino, and they begin to forget what their mission was, the whole purpose as to why they were there in the first place. Their enemy used tainted cookies to deceive them, they had to wake up. We have to wake up! Church, complacency is a sin. If we have forgotten who we are and what our purpose is we are in TROUBLE. Look what Christ has to say to the church in Laodicea regarding their complacency. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other.” (Rev. 3:15) I hope that stings a little! We can not be lukewarm. We can not straddle the fence. We are either all in with Him or we are not! They were more satisfied with their material well being to the point they were completely unaware of how great their spiritual need had become. We cannot grow in spiritual maturity if we are only living for worldly things and are lazy in our pursuit of knowing Jesus deeply and intimately. Hebrews 5:12 “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again about the basic things of God’s word.” We have to wake up. We have to start growing up. Today is the day of salvation! Today is the day to repent! (2 Cor. 6:2, Mark 6:12, Luke 24:47) If you have been living your walk with the Lord in a stagnant, self-satisfied state, you are complacent, and you need to repent. That’s it. StraightUp!

“Jesus calls us to his rest, and meekness is His method. The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort. “ A. W. Tozer

All In

All In- those are two words the Lord highlighted to me almost two years ago and I have been thinking and praying on them ever since! When the Lord brought them to mind, He did so in the context of what it means to follow Him. Being a Christian isn’t just about praying a prayer and being baptized, it means so much more! The problem is that when the Church evangelizes or when Christians share the gospel with others we don’t really tell people that saying yes to Jesus as Lord and Savior is going to cost them. Instead, we let people believe that now their lives are going to be nice and happy. We should be giving people a disclaimer that says, “If you chose to put your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you need to understand that it may very well cost you everything!” But we don’t. Why? Well, I believe because most Christians don’t really know, understand or believe that themselves. Just look around at the Church. Do you see a Church that lives as though they believe following Jesus means costing us everything? I don’t. Is our relationship with Jesus costing us anything? Reputation? Loss of clients in business because we live the gospel out loud? Family or friends? It should be. The cross would be a heavy, 200 lbs. to be carrying on a daily bases, it would certainly make our lives stand out from everyone else, we would definitely be abnormal in today’s society. Living All In every day should be costing us something.

‘All’ means ALL (the whole amount, every individual) I have never looked up the definition for ‘in’ so I thought, let’s do it.There are a couple different definitions, but I want to focus on this one – on the inside; within. It makes so much sense! If you look at it in the context of following Jesus, we are suppose to be ALL IN, no half way, it’s all or nothing. How can I say that? I can say that because Jesus put out a simple call to those who would choose to follow Him, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” Those words ‘Take Up Your Cross’ those are words of being ALL in, there is NO half way. (Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:22). If we look at the definitions of All and In, Jesus calls the Believer to follow, to be “in” with Him that means our whole life, every area, every detail, each one of us. If we are not willing to be All In with Jesus as His followers, as His Church, then we most likely are not living as followers who have heard His call to “deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me.” Living ‘All In’ requires us to surrender our lives, our plans, our schedules, our comfort, maybe some relationships etc. for the sake of Jesus. The Church today has become about people who go to a place once or twice a week, sing songs, listen to a sermon, do some activities. We as followers of Jesus, we are the CHURCH – it’s time for us to start living it and it begins with taking up our crosses and being ALL IN. That’s it. StraightUp!

“The cross not only brings Christ’s life to an end, it also ends the first life, the old life, of every one of His true followers.”– A.W. Tozer

Believing God or Believing in God

Is there a difference when it comes to believing God and believing in Him? I think yes! There is a BIG difference! There are a lot of people that will tell you that they believe in God, but if you watch how they live, act, speak etc. it becomes easy to see that just because a person believes in God doesn’t mean they BELIEVE Him. Just look at today’s Church – the people who claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Christians or Believers, obviously they believe in God, but do we really believe God? Do we believe He is who He says he is? Like “I AM who I AM” (Exodus 3:14) Do we really believe Him when He tells us that anger towards another is considered murder? (Matt. 5:21-22) Do we believe Him when He tells us that the sexually immoral, the adulterous, the idolaters etc. will not inherit the kingdom of God? (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Do we believe Him when He tells us that love for the world is hatred towards Him? (James 4:4). Do we believe Him when He tells us that He loved us (mankind) so much that He gave His Son for us? (John 3:16). Do we believe Him when He tells us that salvation comes only through a personal faith in Jesus Christ that it isn’t found in our goodness or our works? (Eph. 2:8-9). Do we believe Him when He tells us that we can do ALL things through Him? (Phil. 4:13). Do we believe Him when He tells us that we are His sons and daughters? (2 Cor. 6:18). Do we believe Him when He tells us that we are chosen and set apart? (1 Peter 2:9) actually, read through the rest of that passage as well! (Col. 3:12). Do we believe Him when He tells us that we are to love one another as He loved us? (John 13:34-35)

So, what’s my point? If we actually believe God and not just in Him, than we should live differently. Our lives should look different from those who just believe in the existence of God. Look at the verses the Lord brought to my mind – there is a whole tapestry of imagery that comes just from a few verses of what our lives should look like as people who believe God. Yet, most often we live as those who are content to believe in Him, but don’t really give weight to all that He says. We need to wake up and listen! We need to hear His words and BELIEVE them! In Exodus He tells Moses, ” I AM WHO I AM” The I AM is the ultimate statement of self sufficiency, self existence, and immediate presence. In Revelation 1:8 he says, ” I am the Alpha and the Omega – who is, and who was, and who is to come.” Do we believe Him?! He is it! He is coming again and it is time to live as those who BELIEVE HIM! That’s it. Straight Up!

What’s Missing?

I love the book of Acts, especially Acts 2. I read the account of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and it leaves me just mind blown! As you read through this chapter, you see the call to repentance and baptism, and then you see the belonging of the Church, the way they drew together to learn from the apostle’s, to fellowship (the new believer’s desired to be with the people of God), breaking bread together (most likely this speaks to both sharing in communion with each other as well as common meals), and they prayed (this was a regular practice of the early Church and it expressed their total dependence on the Lord) together. They did these things daily! Could you imagine if the Church today still desired all of these things? So what is missing in the Church today? Well, I believe it is the presence of the Holy Spirit. Before anything else, before Peter preached this amazing sermon that essentially began the Church as 3,000 people repented and were baptized in faith in Jesus Christ, before gathering together, before breaking bread together, before praying together – It ALL began with the presence of the Holy Spirit! We have to get back to a place of desiring the Presence of God through the Holy Spirit in our lives, so that His presence is alive in the Church. We have to stop being afraid of the Holy Spirit and invite Him in!

“One of the most telling blows which the enemy ever struck at the life of the Church was to create in her a fear of the Holy Spirit.”– A.W. Tozer

As believers in Jesus Christ we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit the moment we profess saving faith in Jesus – we are sealed. Being sealed by the Holy Spirit is God’s way of marking us as His, but it is also His way of equipping us and empowering us to live the life He calls us to live in Christ. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit continually. How do we do this? We must be in God’s Word, studying it, applying it, meditating on it. We need to be people of prayer, seeking and listening to God. We must be people who are living in obedience to the Lord. This doesn’t just happen. It takes intention. The apostle Paul encourages the Church to be filled with the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” “Flesh” everything in us that opposes God and His will. Why does Paul encourage walking in the Spirit? Because the flesh and the spirit are always contending with each other and the only way for us to overcome the desires or lusts of the flesh in our lives is to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. Today’s Church is more reflective of a church that wants ‘saving’, but not transformation. Today’s Church wants the benefits of the Holy Spirit in ways such as healing people of sickness, but it doesn’t want the fullness of His presence because it might be weird or uncomfortable. Here is the thing- we either want the Holy Spirit or we don’t. There is no half way. We have to have Him continually filling us, equipping us, empowering us, or we will never accomplish what He has called us to do. We also need His conviction when we are living in ways that the Lord does not desire for us. Have you ever considered that walking in the Spirit and experiencing His presence is only weird and uncomfortable because we don’t do it?

Maybe you take vitamins every day. Why? Most likely you want to be healthy, strong, and be able to function the best you can day to day. For the believer who is filled daily with the Holy Spirit, it’s the same concept. He enables us to live and accomplish the things that God has put before us to do and He helps us to be spiritually strong. Jesus needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so how much more do we? That’s it. StraightUp!

What’s On Your Mind?

About three weeks ago we had a guest speaker at our church and he said something about the need to renew our minds. Well, it was actually a confirmation for me to write this post! What’s On Your Mind? Because what’s on your mind has a huge impact on everything else in your life.

Every now and then I hear women say that they don’t have time to spend in the Word (Bible) on a regular basis, but yet they are struggling, stressed, full of anxiety etc. Other times I hear “Christians” swear like it is no big deal – this was the case about two months ago as I was talking to a believer and they kept using cuss words. It might be one thing to let a word fly because we stub our toe on the foot of a table or something, but to use swear words like every day normal language, that is not what the Lord desires for His people. What we think tends to impact what we say. We are told in the Word that our speech should be good and it should build up and encourage others. So why is this? Well, some of it is because a large part of the Church still prefers to be influenced by the culture we live rather than by the Holy Spirit and some of it is because of a lack of spiritual growth in the Church. We see in scripture that we are not to conform to the world (culture) we live in, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Why? Because, if we don’t allow the Word of God which is a living, active word transform our minds we are going to have a difficult time knowing and understanding what pleases Him, what He desires of us and for us, and we are going to have a hard time thinking the way He thinks. This transformation comes through spending time in His Word on a daily basis. How do you get to know someone if you never spend time with them? We can’t know God without spending time with Him, talking with Him, listening to Him – an important part of that process is reading what He has said to us in His Word.

In 2018 only 15% of surveyed Christians spent time reading their Bible on a daily basis. Yikes! 26% spent 15 – 30 minutes in their Bible when they did read it, and only 7% spent 45- 59 minutes in their Bible when they read it. Yet, on average people spend 3.5 hours on their phone or device daily and spend on average about 5 hours watching TV (it’s more if they are watching things that are on DVR). Maybe you are thinking, “I spend 5 minutes a day reading Jesus Calling” or something like it – Here is the thing. Even if we read a few minutes of scripture a couple days a week, even daily, the Word is still the least of what is being taken in and processed by our minds. We only think that we are ‘renewing’ our minds. In order for the Word of God to transform our minds it has to be what is taking up the most space in our minds! If I spend 20 minutes reading scripture then turn on secular radio for the next 3 hours of my day, what do you think is having more impact on my mind? Not the Word of God that I just read.  Ephesians 4:23-24 Paul talks again about our old nature being gone and being renewed in the way we think! It’s not that we don’t have time to spend with God in His Word, it’s that we are NOT willing to make time to be in His Word. The believer’s relationship with the Lord is just like any relationship they have with a spouse or friend…to develop them takes intentional time. If we want our minds to experience the transformational power of God’s Word, we MUST be intentional in making that time! If we do this we will be amazed to find that we are less stressed and have more peace rather than anxiety. So, what’s on your mind? That’s it. StraightUp!

“Finally brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest (noble), whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are praise-worthy, THINK on these things.” Philippines 4:8

Everything is Permissible

Everything is permissible, but not everything is good for us! Galatians 5:13 says, “For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.” We have liberty as believers, but that liberty doesn’t mean that we can sin. As Believers we are called to love and build up others (John 13:34), especially believer’s! So, here is another problem with alcohol and our being follower’s of Jesus- who are we causing to stumble? Ever think about that? Maybe you have and don’t take it all that seriously. The freedom we have in Christ is not meant to be self focused, it is meant to teach us how to love the Body the way Christ loves the Body. Here is some interesting statistics – more than 15 million people in America last year were classified as alcohol abusers. That means that at least 1 out of every 14 adults has an issue with alcohol. Then take into account how many of these people have relatives who have drinking problems. So, 1 out of every 14 adults struggle with alcohol, ever think about the fact that one of them might just be sitting next to you in church? You might be thinking, “big deal” – it is a big deal! If we are called to love and build up our brothers and sisters in Christ, there is no place for alcohol use in the Church.

What if I am hosting a day at the lake and I invite a few Christian friends, some I know choose not to drink because they feel it is not appropriate for them as believer’s and I invite a couple of friends who are recovering alcoholics, but I still choose to drink and have alcohol available to everyone- I am NOT loving my friends! I am not building up my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am setting them up to face peer pressure to drink so they feel like they fit in or I am placing a huge bowl of temptation in front of them. I don’t know about you, but that is not the friend I want to be! If I am going to invite them knowing where they are in the lives and walk with the Lord, I should not have alcohol any where around. Then, as an adult in the church, what am setting as my witness to the younger generation about living set apart for the Lord, living in a manner worthy of the calling we have been given in Christ? Romans 14:13 – “So let’s stop condemning each other (we should be judging ourselves, checking our actions so that we are not placing a stumbling block before those we are suppose to be loving and building up). Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble or fall.” Church, if we are causing others to stumble (whether by alcohol or any other thing) we are sinning! Church it is time to wake up! We can NOT serve the Lord and serve our flesh. We have to pick one or the other!

We should always be desiring to choose what is right and pleasing to God simply out of our love for Jesus and for others. Again, it goes back to living in our new nature in Christ and leaving behind everything of our old nature. If we are growing, changing, maturing in our walk with Jesus, why are we still desiring to live in the old flesh that He died to set us free from?

I believe one reason we have areas where God gives us freedom to choose is to expose our growth, our maturity in Christ. Will we choose our flesh and what it desires or will we choose what reflects His Presence in our lives and do the most good for Him? Maturity comes from daily becoming more like Him, time in His Word, time in His Presence, letting Him change our thinking and our desires so that they line up with His. Maturity comes in the shape of obedience. Obedience requires surrender. What are you willing to surrender? That’s it. StraightUp!

1 Peter 2:2-3 “Like newborn babies desire the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

What’s Your Motivation

We live in a time when EVERYTHING goes (except faith, morals, good character, Truth etc.) and we are constantly hearing how we are in control of our happiness and making the kind of life that we desire. We are free to do whatever makes us feel good and feel accepted by others. If you believe that, you are living in deception! And deception is alive and well, even in the Church. The Church has become a place to entertain people and maybe slip a loose bit of truth in there somewhere. The Church is more and more reflecting the ideals of the world, rather than being the powerful image of Jesus Christ that it should be. Twenty years ago there was hardly a believer that drank alcohol regularly. Today probably the majority of those who profess to be believers drink regularly – that is a slight progression of deception.

In Biblical times, a main issue for the Church was eating food that was presented to idols as a sacrifice. We don’t really have much of that going on in today’s culture, but if we were to take an honest look at what would be the comparable issue in today’s culture and the Church – it’s alcohol. Drinking. Go ahead and roll your eyes! Say I am being judgmental etc. – nope not in the least! I don’t need to judge. God is well able to handle that all on His own. I will tell you that He laid this issue before me a few years ago, even though I have never really been much of a drinker, there it was laid out on the table for me to choose what was more important to me – Him or something like drinking, which is actually a desire of the flesh. I chose Him of course! He is my motivation in everything. So, He is my motivation not to drink alcohol. His Word is my motivation to not drink alcohol. We don’t need alcohol in the times we live, we have tons of other choices of things to drink in place of alcoholic beverages. In the day and culture of the Bible, they didn’t have the choices we do and wine made from different fruits was common. Alcohol for us really comes down to preference. Most people who drink as believers also drank alcohol before coming to Christ or they grew up in a Christian home and when they had the opportunity to drink they did. Ephesians 5:18 – “Don’t be drunk with wine (alcohol), because it will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Other versions of scripture use words like ‘debauchery’ or ‘dissipation’ or ‘rebellion’…I obviously chose a translation that just says it plain and simple! I’m not sure who said this, but it is right on! All human behavior has motivation behind it… as followers of Jesus Christ, what is motivating us to drink alcohol? It isn’t Jesus. I will tell you. It’s our FLESH! In the scripture I posted above, the Apostle Paul wasn’t trying to prove that Christians shouldn’t drink, but more to point out that when a person says ‘Yes’ to Jesus their life of drinking, the ‘partying’ lifestyle no longer has a place in the NEW life of that person. Yep! I can hear you saying back to the screen, “The Bible doesn’t say that drinking is a sin.” You’re right. Have you ever considered that why you (personal for the ones talking back to the screen) chose to drink alcohol might actually be where the sin issue lies? I didn’t think so. Let’s look at some of the most common reasons people, Christians and non-Christians alike, choose to drink-

Stress, Worry, Anxiety are reasons people choose to drink, but as believers we are told in God’s Word what to do when we are worried, weighed down by stress or anxious. Philippians 4:6-7 we are told not to worry about anything, not to be anxious, but to PRAY about everything. To tell God what we need and to thank Him for all He has done. Why, to experience His peace. His peace guards our hearts and minds as we live for Him. Another scripture – 1 Peter 5:7 we are told to give ALL our worries to God. (Matthew 6:25-34) Drinking to deal with worry, stress, anxiety might just be sin!

Fitting In/ Friendship are other reasons people drink alcohol, even if they don’t typically drink they will drink to feel as though they fit in, to be accepted. (just so you know, this is peer pressure so if we are the ones causing the pressure to drink, we are definitely in the wrong!) If we as Christians are drinking so that we will be liked, to feel accepted or anything else along those lines…ouch. We are not suppose to fit in with the world. If drinking with non-believers is the only way you fit in with them guess what YOU are not suppose to fit in. Romans 12:2 tells us straight up, do not conform to this world. If you study on the usage of ‘conform’ it is saying, “Do not let the world squeeze you into its form.” or 1 Corinthians 15:33 tells us that bad company corrupts good character. We are also told that friendship with the world makes us an enemy of God. That should motivate us to choose wisely! Galatians 2:20 tells us that our old self has been crucified with Christ, it is no longer us who live, but Christ lives in us. We can not live for the flesh and walk in the Spirit – we have to choose! Again, this may be where drinking is causing us to sin.

So, drinking may not be pointed out as sin in the Bible, but the reasons we are drinking just might be the sin issue. So, what is your motivation in drinking? That’s it. StraightUp!

What’s In a Name? Part 2

Our identity as believers is in Christ. His name is the name we bear, we are marked by God with the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 1:13). So when we label ourselves as a ‘hypocrite’ we are really speaking against our identity in Christ. We are sinners, everyone is. Everyone falls short of the glory of God. Even in Christ we are going to sin at times, that is our struggle as long as we are here. However, there is a difference between continuing to sin and living in sin. If we are truly walking with the Lord, we are growing to become more and more like Christ (the daily goal in the Christian life) we will still sin, but as we are growing and maturing in Christ it should be less and less not as someone who is still a slave to their sin nature. Just because we sin that doesn’t mean we are a hypocrite, because when we sin a true believer is going to go before the Lord with a repentant heart; we confess our sin with a sincere and contrite heart. (1 John 1:9) we don’t sin and stay there. Now, those who say they are believers, but knowingly and willingly walk in sin, they are however hypocrites (by definition) – they have no sorrow for their sin and live to satisfy their flesh. Their ultimate desire is not to become more like Christ, it is to satisfy their own desires. So, it could be that they don’t truly walk with the Lord. Unfortunately, there are these believers in the Church. That is why it is so important that as true believers we consider what our lives are reflecting – our social activities, our hobbies, the movies we watch, our speech, our attitudes etc. Have you ever met someone and noticed that there is a certain standard of character that they seem to live by just because of who they are? Who or what their family represents? You see it a lot in California. As sons/daughters of God, are we living in a way that reflects the standard of God’s character? Are we living in such away that reflects whose we are? Are we living in such a way that we know that hypocrite is not our name? Your entire identity is in a name. As a believer, it’s in the name of Jesus. That’s it. StraightUp!

What’s In a Name? Part 1

Today I was in a phone conversation with a friend who was telling me about some people who don’t want to attend their church any more because it’s full of hypocrites. That statement made my mind flash back to a conversation the Lord and I had back in 2017. I remembered hearing someone, a believer, say, “I’m a hypocrite.” This wasn’t the first time I heard a believer label themselves a hypocrite, but it frustrated me! So, as is normal for me, I went to the Lord with a “why” – Lord, why are Christians referring to themselves as hypocrites? Hypocrite is a label that the world sticks on Christians. Why are they sticking it on themselves?

What is a hypocrite? A person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs. principles etc. that he or she does not actually possess. Especially a person whose actions be lie (fail to give true notion or impression of something) stated beliefs. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ you can not identify yourself as a hypocrite, your identity is in Christ. You are a son/daughter of God. (2 Corinthians 6:18) So if you are in Christ, the only way you can say you are a hypocrite is He would have to be a hypocrite. (Yes, a person who only says they believe in Jesus and really doesn’t could label themselves this way, but I’m talking about true believers.) – Jesus is no hypocrite. He is holy. We are the righteousness of God in Christ! (2 Corinthians 5:21) – So what’s in a name? A lot! Because we identify with who we say we are. –