July 23, 2021
July 19, 2021
The local believers that shared stories look a lot like those who lived as Christians in the 1st Century. This happens wherever people are doing God’s work, and it should be normative for those of us who call ourselves by Jesus' name.
God is clearly on the move in our world! COVID-19 and everything the world has experienced in the last couple of years serve to remind us that we are not in control. But God is! Even in the most difficult places!
According to The London-based “Economist” newspaper/magazine, September 2020- China has 38 million followers of Jesus, up from 22 million a decade ago- and as many as 30-50 million underground believers who know it is not safe to live their faith openly. Bibles are banned; churches are destroyed; religious documents are being hunted down with citizens mandated to turn them in (read here) and more. Christians are severely persecuted!
YET- GOD IS ON THE MOVE IN THEIR WORLD!
If you're still reading, chances are you identify as a follower of Jesus. Does this make you think twice about why we in America and Western Europe are so ineffective in sharing our faith and yet these persecuted believers are so successful? I mean, they serve in a difficult part of the world where Jesus is the foreign god.
These kind of questions lead me to an even bigger one- What can we do to see another great move of God in our own countries? Looking at the Bible, I can easily see it starts here with what I call the Rules of Engagement.
#1 KNOW WHO YOU BELONG TO
The great Apostle Paul wrote an incredible letter to the church in Colossae, a part of Turkey. The Colossian church was essentially a church plant from Apostle Paul’s 3 years in Ephesus. Written while he was in prison, Paul's purpose was to establish that Jesus is God in the flesh and to inspire believers to live as God desires. I think these verses get incrementally harder to live out. Tell me what you think as you read them.
Colossians 2:6-8: Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Notice verse 6- Walk in Him, Rooted in Him? Does this remind you of Jesus' words in John 15? Here Jesus is saying He is the vine and we are the branches. IF we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit.
The fruit of our lives, what comes out of it, displays who we are, what we believe, and what our values and priorities really are. It's not just what we say. What kind of fruit is your life producing? Mine is currently a mixed basket, if I'm being totally honest. But I aspire for different results. Don't you? I'm tired, I'm frustrated, and I'm even a bit stressed, but I am determined to persevere.
Next comes a more difficult challenge. Be established in the faith. Read the Bible, know it and understand it, but most importantly, live it out. Stay intimate with Jesus! Knowing the Bible is not the same as living the out God's Word. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for this exact thing. They thought mental ascent was enough. In living like this, they missed the point, and the missed out on a joyous life that God desires for each who follow Him.
Then comes verse 7, another challenge. A big one for me- Abound in thanksgiving! We should be thankful. Very thankful. We should be joyful. As Christians who believe God's Word to be fully true, we should be thankful for the new life we have in Christ and for the eternal life we have in the future. But for most of us, unfortunately, we live in a world that is constantly telling us we do not have enough. I fall prey to this all too often. For me, my eyes can be on this next trip, the next project, the next "fill-in-the blank". And I miss what God is doing and wanting because my eyes are not looking at Him. Then, I forget who I am and what I'm really made for. But it's a downhill slide.
I say it is time we remember who we were before we knew Jesus and what we turned away from. Why? It fires up thankfulness- and it fuels our desire to share with others our good and faithful and loving God who gave his life in exchange for ours, dying for our sin and brokenness and a destiny in Hell separated from God.
Remembering who we were is good, but walking in who we are in Christ is very important! We're no longer bound by our failures as we've been forgiven. We are victoriously Jesus' and His priorities are ours, setting out true values into place.
In the book of Galatians, chapter 2:20- Paul says-
“ I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.””
This is God's view of who we are! When we as believers are baptised, we are publicly proclaiming our own death but also our new life in Jesus alone. Our persecuted family living in places where they pay a high price for their faith already understand this. In their world, choosing to follow Jesus Christ means believing differently than their family and friends, but it also means losing their community. They are rejected for worshiping a different god. What is the result of you living out your faith? For me, it meant losing all of my friends as each one rejected me and my new life. It was painful, but I couldn't go back. Jesus has encountered me, and I was no longer the same. Ask yourself- Is the cross of Christ my foundation for living?
Now this next verse, verse 8 is a huge challenge! This one is at once so subtle and yet now so overt. Let's reread it:
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
How can we avoid deceitful human philosophies? I'd say that it's almost impossible! We are bombarded with ads, news stories, the rhetoric of our political parties, humanism, and the simple philosophy of being an American that permeates our life.
Here's a quote from the American Humanist Association - listen to these taglines:
“Good Without God” and “ADVOCATING PROGRESSIVE VALUES AND EQUALITY FOR HUMANISTS, ATHEISTS, AND FREETHINKERS” and a further explanation- “Humanism is an approach to life based on reason and our common humanity, recognizing that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone.”
I don’t know about you, but my human nature and experience before Christ was broken, sinful, and hopeless! And I can still fall into that trap. We’re humanists at heart- this goes back to the Garden and being deceived when the man and woman trusted their own thoughts instead of what God said.
Humanism – relying on mans power and his logic is in fact its own religion. Isn't humanism then syncretism- a fusion of religious thoughts with others that result in beliefs that are unbiblical? Yes. And it's everywhere, including communities of faith.
Humanism is infecting the church! We look more and more like the world. And because of that, we are ineffective in reaching it. There's no contrast to be seen, so why would anyone adapt a new way of living? We no longer can identify sin (other than the current "sin" of political incorrectness), so there's no need of a savior. Swimming in this mire, we're lost, and we don't know it.
Make no mistake, God alone defines goodness. He is the standard by which all else is measured. Jesus himself says no one is good but God alone. (See Luke 18:19.)
Here's a quick little quiz that can tell you if humanism has infected your life and youth faith. Ready?
• Do I rely on my own wisdom and strength to direct my life?
• Do I “identify”? By my work, my status, my sexuality, my nationality, my political party, or my denomination?
• Has comfort become my idol?
• Are my hobbies extreme and time consuming- but my faith low risk?
• Do I fit in more easily with the world and its philosophy than with those who make up the church?
• Lastly- Do I live my life in a way that no longer requires the empowering of God?
In other words, am I becoming lukewarm in my faith?
We’re not sold out to our nation! We’re not sold out to a political party! We are not even sold out to a denomination! We are sold out to Jesus Christ! We belong to Him! We were bought with a price (I Cor. 6:20)!
You belong to God or you do not! There's no middle ground. So, the first Rule of Engagement is KNOW WHO YOU BELONG TO.
# 2- UNDERSTAND GOD’S MISSION, AND ALIGN YOUR PRIORITIES
We are made for His Purposes and for His Glory. Our works will be judged by his guidelines for us. Period.
We know God desires none would perish- but will we be His voice on the earth and do His work?
The Bible tells us these truths :
• God wins- and so do His People (Rev. 20:10) BUT
• The Days are Evil (Ephesians 5:16)
• The World is Under Satan’s Temporary Control until Jesus Returns (1 John 5:19)
• Our enemy seeks to devour and destroy believers (1 Peter 5:8)
• People that don’t know God are captives of the enemy- (2 Tim 2:24-26)
• Satan uses all kinds of tactics to blind people to the message of the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4, Galatians 4:8)
• Hell is real, not a fantasy and not something to be mocked or ignored. People are at risk of spending eternity in Hell! (Rev. 21)
• We are called to be faithful and proclaim Him and do the works of God (Matthew 28, Acts 1, John 14:12)
We can forget that God has saved us, and we forget our main mission. However, our enemy the devil does not! Lives are at stake! This is war- and we are living in enemy occupied territory.
Let's read in the next chapter Colossians 3:1-4 :
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
THINK BIGGER! THINK BEYOND YOURSELF! THINK ETERNALLY!
Let’s be honest, here. Life is hard at times, and we all suffer! Yet, if we wait long enough to see things play out, we eventually know our struggles are stories that display God’s faithfulness. We may not know until eternity, but that's God's call not ours. In the midst of life, we can get stuck in our hardships and failures and forget our true calling, our mission from God.
Who doesn't have events in their lives that we wish we could change? We're broken by our choices that disappoint us (and God!) and hurt by the wounds others inflict upon us. In other words, we're all alike in this area. I want to try to hide this from people. Do you?
When we are wanting to look perfect, we lose the opportunities to meet people where they live so we can be encouraging and share about the work Jesus has done and is doing in us. Our hard stories are God's successes. Taking one step back, we can even see that God's character and his truths are made real as we work out faith and walk out our lives. Don't miss the chance to show God's heart by being real.
Next question- and it's a big one:
HAVE YOU NOTICED THE TEMPORARY THINGS OF LIFE ONLY BRING TEMPORARY SATISFACTION?
(Why do I have to keep learning this lesson over and over and over again?) When we are focused on things other than God, we are living out of an identity that is not ours. God makes us dissatisfied with the temporary so we would learn to focus on the truly important things. The things that will last; the things that will bring us joy that lasts.
Our life is Hidden with Christ, and our priorities should reflect His priorities- Eternal Ones! Know what you're made for- and stay focused. To recap so far-
# 1- KNOW WHO YOU BELONG TO.
# 2- UNDERSTAND YOUR MISSION, AND ALIGN YOUR PRIORITIES
# 3- PUT YOUR FAITH IN ACTION, AND PREPARE FOR BATTLE
We know that we are not saved because of what we do (Ephesians 2:9), but we also know that faith without works is dead (James 2). So what does putting our faith into action look like?
(A little side note here- this is why social justice alone won't save us or fully change the world. Human nature has to be dealt with, and only in turning our lives over to Jesus can we really be free and given a new life. This is what "born again" is referring to. But social justice is a part of what God requires and is an extension of what we as Christians believe.)
Think of Jesus' words to his followers. These same words apply to us today:
• If you love me you’ll obey what I command. (John 14:15)
• Streams of living water will flow from our lives (John 7)
• Bear much fruit, showing ourselves to be his disciples. John 15:7
When I came to put my faith in Jesus Christ, I knew I was being called into battle. Thankfully, Pastor Greg Laurie (look him up) preached a message that explained my life would no longer be my own. This meant that my life would be different than those who belonged to the world; that I would be exchanging a life of ease for a life of difficulty but of great reward- just like Jesus and the Twelve. I've never forgotten that. What does this all mean?
We can't be victorious without engaging an enemy! By choosing God's ways, we are rejecting the ways of man. From this very definition of faith, we have to be in a battle to be victorious; you have to participate to be declared a winner; you have to engage in order to make a difference. There's no way around it.
All this means you must take a risk.
Let me ask you: WHEN DID CHRISTIANITY BECOME SAFE?
• When the work of ministry became a profession for a select few
• When faith mingled with politics and was watered down
• When we quit advancing faith and just intellectualized it
WHEN THE CHURCH DOESN’T TAKE RISKS, IT RISKS LOOKING JUST LIKE THE WORLD!
AND THEN IT BEGINS TAKING ITS CUES AND COMMANDS FROM IT!
The same truths apply to individual believers in Jesus Christ. Ouch.
The early church (and the persecuted church of today) grew rapidly and powerfully because they stepped out in faith and trusted God with the results. When they didn't, God made sure they moved on to obedience. (Check out what happened immediately after the execution of Stephen in the New Testament- Acts 7:54- 8:1-3.) God wants a vibrant and sacrificial church that carries His DNA and looks just like Him. The following quote just kills me:
“The risk-free life is a victory-free life.
It means life-long surrender to the mediocre
and that is the worst of all possible defeats.”
Jamie Buckingham, pastor and author, 1932-1992
If you haven't thought about your faith this way, please know it's never too late to change your course. When you do, please realize you will have a target on your back. When brings us to the next point:
EXPECT OPPOSITION. I cannot stress this enough! Choosing to serve Jesus passionately is to invite warfare. Our enemy will hate it, and even our friends who profess faith may not understand it when you decide to go against the culture of our day. Why? Our faithfulness challenges them to have to encounter God and then make their own choices. Oh, the stories I could tell of folks I know who are risking it all to make a difference. But here's the truth:
PASSIVE FAITH IS JUST PHILOSOPHY UNDER THE DISGUISE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS!
Take a look at Ephesians 6:10-11
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
The devil is real and demonic activity is not limited to less advanced places or foreign lands. Our enemy will not give up the battle until he is forced to and the end of all things happens.
The state of our own country should prove that to be a fact. Division, pride, strife, a focus on sex and pleasure, greed, rampant hatred for the things of God. All these things speak to the reality of a spiritual battle for our souls.
OK, I'm winding it down now, but bear with me...
# 1- KNOW WHO YOU BELONG TO
# 2- UNDERSTAND YOUR MISSION AND DEFINE WHAT YOU’RE MADE FOR
# 3- PUT YOUR FAITH IN ACTION AND PREPARE FOR BATTLE
Here's the last one, the last Rule of Engagement:
#4 - USE GOD’S WEAPONS TO DO GOD’S WORK
This one gets a bit controversial because we know not everyone who calls themselves by the namer of Jesus believes His Spiritual Gifts are still available to us today.
The good news for those of us in the battle is that we do not have to fight this battle in our own strength. Wouldn't that just be another form of humanism? Can you imagine how that grieves God when we refuse to go to Him?
We have the Bible, prayer, the Armor of God and all the Gifts of the Holy Spirit- the natural ones as well as the supernatural ones. (See Ephesians 6; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12.) When Jesus returns to judge the earth, these gifts will disappear- and not a moment before.
Let me say this as emphatically as possible: A PHYSICAL WAR REQUIRES PHYSICAL WEAPONS. BUT THIS ISN’T A WAR AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD. SO- A SPIRITUAL WAR REQUIRES SPIRITUAL WEAPONS.
And God provides them. We serve a good Father, a loving God, who prepares us well for battle. He provides spiritual weapons for a spiritual battle. As we use them for His purposes, He gets the glory for the work that is done. (And that is an important question to ask as you see people do what they claim is God's work- "Who is this bringing glory to?")
I love the Marvel movies, but the reality is that these Avengers have nothing on the people of God, the men, women, and children (yes, children!) who love God and are called to His Purposes. We have each other. This battle is not a solo event. It's a team effort.
We can also learn from the past- our mistakes, our victories, and the lessons others have learned as they have stepped out in faith. Both Biblical heroes of old and those who live in our modern world.
We have the gifts of time, money, and talent. And God has given us places in which we live and work to serve others and a position in which to do so. Nothing goes to waste in His Kingdom. Nothing is left to chance. And nothing and no one is overlooked. That includes YOU.
GOD HAS PUT MORE IN YOU THAN YOU REALIZE, BUT YOU WON’T KNOW IT UNTIL YOU STEP OUT.
If you hold onto the past- good and bad- you will miss out on what God is doing now and what He wants to do. You have to take those steps that require God's power.
“I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit.
I want people to look at my life
and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power.”
Let me close with some words from Jesus, words that challenge and inspire us to take action:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
NUMBER 1- KNOW WHO YOU BELONG TO
NUMBER 2- UNDERSTAND YOUR MISSION, AND ADJUST YOUR PRIORITIES
NUMBER 3- PUT YOUR FAITH IN ACTION, AND PREPARE FOR BATTLE
NUMBER 4- USE GOD’S WEAPONS TO DO GOD’S WORK
July 16, 2021
July 15, 2021
July 14, 2021
July 10, 2021
July 9, 2021
July 8, 2021
July 6, 2021
July 5, 2021
神は世界を愛し、彼は彼を信じる人は誰でも滅びるのではなく、永遠の命を持つべきである、彼の一人息子を与えました。 神は、世界を非難するために、世界に彼の息子を送ったのではなく、世界が彼を通して救われるように。ヨハネ3:16-17 - それはイエスのすべてです。
July 4, 2021
July 3, 2021
From a group called "Sequoia Gang" comes these images shared by WDWMagic boards user "montydysquith-navarro". The top image shows the queue for the attraction and what looks like an actual Audio-Animatronic. The image below reveals the 3D rendering of the same area.
July 2, 2021
July 1, 2021
June 30, 2021
June 28, 2021
June 27, 2021
June 26, 2021
June 21, 2021
June 20, 2021
June 19, 2021
June 18, 2021
June 17, 2021
I think I'm "ok". Grief is such a difficult thing to overcome completely, but I am finally moving into the acceptance stage of this process after hitting a short season of denial, a long season of anger, and a brief season of depression. Yet, acceptance does not mean a plan is in place! That's the next part for me. And my wife and I are in the midst of discussing what that should be.