In order to fight against our fear God has given us three weapons: Love; Power; and a Sound Mind. But how do we leverage them? The scriptures say that those who have genuine faith in God have been given the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit then gives us a new attitude to appropriate the gifts He has granted us.
First we are given a spirit or attitude of power, which is the Greek word δύναμις. This is a power given to us from the nature of God Himself. It is a power that can only be gifted from God because He is its source. And it is by this power that we can overcome all our fears.
We have the power to refuse fear’s domination. We have the power to speak the truths of God’s character, and God’s promises, and our identity in Him over ourselves when fear creeps in. We have the power not to fall into fear, but rather stand in faith!
In addition to being gifted power, we are granted love. The word “love” here is only used for a divine, committed, God given, no-cost love. And it is through the Spirit that God pours out this love, His love, into our hearts.
It is this same love, that the church father John speaks of when he writes in 1 John 4 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear….” Where there is love, fear cannot exist. And where God is present, love has been perfected. If you are in Christ, you have experienced love perfectly and freely.
The last gift God grants us to combat fear is self-discipline/sound mind. In Jesus, you have been gifted the ability to control your feelings and overcome your weaknesses.
Throughout his writing, when Paul desires that the Christian ascertain properly what the Spirit has given him and live and act accordingly, he uses this same word which means “to have sound judgment,” a combination of the characteristics of prudence and self-discipline.
God has gifted us the ability to overcome fear by weighing the cost of submitting to its power, and through sound judgment, decide that fear is inferior to our faith, to our power, and to His love, which has been poured into our hearts.
We are not helpless when it comes to feelings of fear. According to the Scriptures we can control how we feel, overcome our weakness, and overcome our fear by reminding ourselves of the gifts we’ve been given by faith.
My hope is that you’d walk away from this knowing that you no longer have to live out of fear, but that in Jesus you have been given everything you need to fight!
Dr. Albrecht’s five basic fears are great subplots to the fear narrative some of us live, because they describe how fear expresses itself in and through our lives by defining for us what we are reacting to. Those who suffer under the weight of fear experience it in varying ways along these lines, living in, and therefore living out of a constant state of fear.
Because this is our base state, fear then informs nearly every decision we make, every opportunity we embrace or subsequently avoid, and is the underlying motivation for how we function in the world. We cannot, should not, and will not live this way. We must overcome! But how? WE FIGHT!
We fight with faith first as the undergirding of our lives. If you want to overcome fear, you must first have faith that God is bigger than your fear. And in faith we then employ the weapons God gives us for the fight. Paul instructs his “son” Timothy (2 Timothy 1:7) and encourages him to consider three weapons that God has gifted him with to combat fear.
3. Sound Mind/Self-Discipline
How are these weapons? How do we leverage them? Find out in “Fear” part 3….
This past spring we did a powerful three-week series called “My Emote-Control.” The premise was that all of us have emotions that, to one degree or another, infrequently or often, control us. In the end, either we master our emotions, or they control us. The question then is, how? How do we master our emotions? Every emotion is based on what we believe, and the loyalties of our hearts. So, in order to master them, we need new beliefs and new loyalties.
Every emotion we experience can be traced back to one of three root emotions: 1) Control, 2) Fear, and 3) Guilt/Shame.
Today let’s consider fear. Fear is a driving force in our society. It is the main subject of the evening news and the underlying premise of advertising and marketing. Fear is both a commodity and a controlling mechanism in our culture.
Psychologist Dr. Karl Albrecht defines fear as, “an anxious feeling, caused by our anticipation of some imagined event or experience.” Webster’s dictionary adds to his definition, describing fear as “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger” even “a state of being marked by the emotion of fear.”
Dr. Albrecht believes there to be five basic fears, out of which almost all of our other fears arise. (Please Know that my quoting him is not an endorsement of the breadth of his work.) Those five basic fears are:
1. Extinction – fear of annihilation, of ceasing to exist. This is a more fundamental way to express it than just calling it the “fear of death”. The idea of no longer being arouses a primary existential anxiety in all normal humans. Consider that panicky feeling you get when you look over the edge of a high building.
2. Mutilation – the fear of having our body’s boundaries invaded, or of losing the integrity of any organ, body part, or natural function. For example, anxiety about animals, such as bugs, spiders, snakes, and other creepy things arises from fear of mutilation.
3. Loss of Autonomy – fear of being immobilized, paralyzed, restricted, enveloped, overwhelmed, entrapped, imprisoned, smothered, or controlled by circumstances. This extends to social interactions and relationships.
4. Separation – fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of connectedness; not wanted, respected, or valued by anyone else.
5. Ego-death – fear of humiliation, shame, or any other mechanism of profound self-disapproval that threatens the loss of integrity of the Self. Fear of the shattering of one’s sense of worth.
Hey, control freaks (LIKE ME), do you really want to be free from needing control over every aspect of your life? Start here: mediate on the fact that God is in control of everything, so you don’t have to be in control of anything. Here are 30 (out of many more) verses as a starting place. Meditate on one of these all day for the next 30 days, and each time, ask God to help you believe what it says about Him. I promise, your need to control everything will change.
- Proverbs 19:21: Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
- Romans 8:28: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
- Isaiah 45:6-7: God says, “That people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides Me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.”
- Matthew 19:26: But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
- Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
- Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
- Psalm 22:28: For kingship belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations.
- Joshua 1:9: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
- Ephesians 1:11: In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of His will…
- Psalm 115:3: Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
- 1 Chronicles 29:11: Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.
- Isaiah 55:8-11: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
- Job 12:10: In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.
- Jeremiah 10:6-10: There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you. They are both stupid and foolish; the instruction of idols is but wood! Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz. They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith; their clothing is violet and purple; they are all the work of skilled men. But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.
- Psalm 24:1: A Psalm of David. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein…
- Matthew 10:29: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
- Revelation 4:11: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
- Proverbs 16:9: The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
- Psalm 99:1-9: The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he! The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool!
- Genesis 50:20: As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
- Hebrews 2:8: Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.
- 1 Corinthians 14:33: For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
- Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
- Isaiah 41:10: Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
- Hebrews 1:3: He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…
- Proverbs 21:1: The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
- Psalm 3:1-8: O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. …
- Isaiah 14:27: For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?
- Isaiah 14:24: The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand…
- Revelation 21:22-24: And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.
Sunday we launched our new series “My Emote-Control.” Here is the premise, all of us have emotions that, to one degree or another, infrequently or often, control us. Emotions, whether good or bad, are the product of the mind, will, and heart. Oftentimes they are expressed because of a lack of control over ourselves or our circumstances. In the end, either we master our emotions, or they control us. The question then is, how? How do we master our emotions? Every emotion is based on what we believe, and the loyalties of our hearts, so in order to master them we need new beliefs and new loyalties.
Every emotion we experience can be traced back to one of three root emotions, either Control, Fear, or Guilt/Shame. Sunday’s message was geared toward those of us whose greatest struggle is with the root emotion of control.
If you struggle with needing control, the question is, what do we actually believe. It would seem that we believe we are the ultimate definer of our destiny. And what do we actually value? It would seem that we value having authority and control over, and in, every aspect of our lives. And guess what will change that? Submitting to the reality that God is the ultimate definer of our destiny. And God is the only true authority, and He has all control over and in every aspect of every single human being’s life. Ultimately it’s God’s control gives His people comfort.
That’s a brief recap of what turned out to be a very impactful Sunday. I want to encourage you to do two things. First, check out the entire message from Sunday. There is even some cool live stories in the middle. Here is a great pic of that time. Second, check out our gathering time and join us for part 2 of My Emote-Control, as we discuss the root emotion of fear.
Here is a quick run down:
- Sunday we had our highest attendance to date! We used every chair in our building (650+) and it was packed!
- In addition to worship in song, we had an incredible spoken word piece. It was so dope someone filmed it with their phone and sent it to me. Check it out on my Facebook Page. https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10101353928453417
- Most importantly people heard the good news of who God is, what He’s done, and how deeply He cares for them. Care; concern; affection; being valued—that is the deepest human need. Even Jay Z says, “Love, I can’t get enough of it!” This need is what causes us to hide our hopes for affection in temporary relationships with the first person that shows us an inkling of attention. Human beings need know that we are loved, and feel that we are valued. It is an unstoppable impulse.
God, the Creator of everything, wired you with that impulse: to need love; to feel valued; to want care. He wired you with that need so that He could fulfill it with His overwhelming, unearned, and magnanimous love. And though God is often painted as distant dictator, or looming judge, or the absentee and uninterested winder of the clock that set creation’s course and then backed off—He is NONE of those things! God has great love, immeasurable love for humanity; even for you, individually. Sunday people heard this message and several responded by receiving Jesus, and some were baptized. It was incredible!
Tomorrow morning is the most incredible day of our year! Tomorrow we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus! It’s not that we don’t live for and celebrate His resurrection each day, but tomorrow is our corporate remembrance of this glorious event, and it is significant.
Easter is also a time when those whom we know and love, who do not know or love God, are most responsive to our inviting them to gather with the church and hear the gospel.
Here is my challenge Renovation; as I said last Sunday, we must first pray, and then move from prayer to proclamation.
It is not too late to invite those you know and love to worship with us in the morning. It is not too late to be the reason that they hear the gospel, and meet Jesus tomorrow. It is not too late to be a part of someone’s life changing forever…literally.
So I want to plead with you to do three things, for God’s glory, your good, and the good of those we know and love who don’t know or love God:
- Pray tonight that God do the incredible tomorrow. We want to see 1000 people worship with us, and many more baptized as new Christians. Pray for the sound, for the worship team, for hospitality, and for me. Pray the gospel is preached with compassion and clarity.
- Be Bold! Invite your friends to worship with us. It is NOT too late.
- Be early tomorrow, and fill in the front so that those who will be there for the first time don’t feel pressured to sit a few feet away from the preacher.
I love you all so much, and I know you will be faithful in this.
- Pastor L
As I watched this video, and I watched it several times, there were three things Penn said that stood out to me. He said, “how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much to do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible, and not tell them that?” And, “this guy cared enough about me to proselytize.”
These three phrases struck me, because of course in our society it has become taboo, or lacking tolerance to do just what he is describing as a caring act. Sometimes Christians are hesitant, even afraid to tell those they know and love who don’t know or love God, the great news of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done. Yet Penn describes it as hate if we do not tell people about Jesus if we genuinely believe that God is real, that Jesus died for the self-worshipping posture of humanity, and that Jesus longs for people to turn from worshiping themselves to worshipping God—and he is an atheist.
This should be a challenge to anyone who says they follow Jesus. Our friends, family, co-workers who don’t know and love God need to hear from us that their self-made systems of righteousness are not the answer. They need to hear from us that though they don’t know or love God, He knows and loves them. Last week I challenged @RenovationATL to pray. Pray for those they love who do not know God. But, after we pray, we must proclaim. We must open our mouths.
God has limited Himself to use humans in His mission, and we must proclaim to those we love what God has accomplished on their behalf, so that THEY CAN CALL ON HIM and cease trying to save themselves. And the good news, the great news is that God has promised that “everyone, who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The Lord WILL save them!
It blows my mind when I think about it. God has chosen the least likely people to take His message of good news to those far from Him! But for various reasons, mostly fear, we resist His sending.
- We fear reaction or loss of friendship. We think to ourselves, “what if they won’t be my friend anymore?” My challenge to that, are you really their friend if you are withholding the good news of eternal life from them?
- We fear fumbling; let me assure you, you will not get it perfect, but this is where we trust God’s sovereignty to work through our imperfection.
- We fear challenge; yes, they may challenge what you believe, but your job is to share the good news, not necessarily always defend it.
- We fear not knowing what to say, but we have the content of the good news. We have the very words to say in Romans 10 . Our job is to tell them, …if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. And if they believe, God will take hold of them, the whole of their person, and they will experience salvation.
Everyone…EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, but not without being invited to know God by those who already do. Knowing this, believing this, I challenge you to share Jesus with someone you love who doesn’t know or love God. And then, invite them to worship this Easter so that they can experience the gospel with the family of God.
Sunday’s gathering with Renovation Church was intense, so I was told repeatedly by several of our Renovation family. It was one of those gatherings where God’s presence was very tangible. I imagine the topic contributed to the feeling.
Here was the big idea:
It is very easy for us to fall into falsely thinking that the world will continue as it always has. But what if scripture is clear that this world will cease and that God will intervene, renewing this world into what He intended it to always be and beyond. What if there are people we love who will left out of that renewal unless we shake our apathy, and act on our faith?
This is a troubling, but very real assertion. If you are a Christian you believe certain truths. You believe that God created the world. You believe that Jesus is God, and that He came and walked this planet perfectly, and then died at the hands of His creation. You believe that Jesus literally came back from death; and you believe the truth that says God is going to return to this world, and when He does, it will turn no longer, not as it has, and when that happens, all the people we love who do not know and love Him will have no more opportunity to do so.
This is heavy, and our tendency to get wrapped up in our routine, forgetting the grand story that we’ve been woven in to, causes us to very often forget or not care about that truth. We lose sight of the end game as we cast all our energy into the monotony of our lives. We forget that just as God intervened once, He will intervene again, His justice will be enacted and the godless will not enter the new creation.
The godless will not go into the coming Kingdom. And the godless are not some far off dictator that we feel deserves to face God’s justice. Among the godless are the people we love the most. We typically conceptualize the godless as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Murderers, Rapists, and Molesters. We never think of the godless as “good people” that we know and love, who are either indifferent or even hostile toward God. We never think of the godless as our mother, father, brother, grandparent, best friend from college, coworker, boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse. Yet, all of us have someone we love who doesn’t know or love God.
God loves humanity. He created, and He loves; and He has been patiently withholding His return so that as many as possible will turn to Him. But at some point His waiting will cease, and so will this world. Knowing this, what do we do? THERE ARE TWO THINGS WE MUST DO. First we pray. We start with asking God to draw people to Himself. We start with asking that God invade the lives of those we love with His grace and mercy. We pray for them #ByName! Next week I’ll cover the second thing we must do.
If you want to hear the sermon that this post is based on click here.
Sunday was incredible! As I listened to my dude Ralph (@RMG015) speak I came to the quick realization that more often than not I try to solve problems before I pray about them. Ralph emphasized that the greatest work we can do is to ask God what to do. Before we come up with creative solutions, and before we spend our time problem solving, if we are Christians, we should spend our time praying.
Imagine that, asking the Creator of the entire universe for advice! I think He might have the answer you need.
Where does this apply? Everywhere. Marital struggle, with those you love and those you wish you could love, relationship friction, job stress…the list could go for miles.
So join me in putting away your MacGyver tool bag, at least for the next 7 days, and spend the time you would solving problems in fervent prayer instead.
As I thought through our new series, “By Name,” which launches next weekend and concludes on #EasterSunday, I wrestled with one truth in particular; as a Christian I celebrate the return of Jesus with intense excitement, as I should. I am His. But should I, to some small degree, mourn it as well? Allow me to explain.
In 2 Peter, Peter writes to Jesus’ followers,  This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient on your account, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:1;9-10)
For years I have missed an essential point of these words—read them closely again. Who is Peter writing to? He is writing to Christians, that is apparent from the first sentence. Now follow his thought through to the next two sentences. God is waiting in patience to fulfill His promise of return, not because He is slow; not because He has forgotten; not because He is unfaithful. He is slow in returning because He is patiently waiting; grieved at the thought of losing one single person; hoping that all would turn to Him—and that we would participate in their doing so.
For years I somehow read this as God being patient on behalf of those far from Him, but no, God is patient on MY account, YOUR account if you are a Christian. He is patiently withholding His return in hopes that we would be so active in seeing His wayward children return to Him, that maybe all He calls will reach repentance. Why? Because if they don’t before His return, they will never have the opportunity again. Here. Now. This is the last chance for those far from God to return to Him. Because when He comes, time ends as we know it, and their chances will be no more.
This is why we must either simultaneously celebrate and mourn Jesus’ return, or we must with diligence and joy do the work of seeing many turn to Him. But where do we start? Do we start with outreach events, and awkward conversations? No. We start with prayer. We start with asking God to draw them to Himself, and we pray for them BY NAME!
The scriptures assure us that God is intricately involved in the workings of this world, that He has numbered the hairs on the head of His children, and that He knows each by name. We then, with great love and urgency should begin now praying for them in just that way, by name. This makes them more than a checklist, more than fulfillment of an obligation, more than a task to be completed. This turns our hearts to theirs as we seek to see their hearts turned to God.
Oswald Chambers writes, “prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” Will you join me, join @RenovationATL for this greater work, as we believe God for 1000 of His wandering children to return home to Him this Easter. If you will, tweet with the hashtag #byname, let’s show God together that His patience will not be wasted.
This feels almost foreign to me, as I have been so long without blogging. Restarting has to begin somewhere, does it not? So…a recap of the incredible day we had with Renovation Church. What made today so incredible?
- Hearing my man Ethan (@Fidesquaerens) wrap up our series, “Jesus Loves Whores and Hypocrites,” with John 4:43 – 53. The heart of his talk was that we tend to use God like a genie in a bottle. We call on Him only when we think we need Him. Ethan used an incredible quote by C.S. Lewis that will undoubtedly stick with me forever—” We regard God as an airman regards his parachute. It’s there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never have to use it.” How powerful! How true…I pray God never allow our hearts to be overrun with such hypocrisy. You can get all podcasts either on #iTunes or our New Website. I will be doing short recaps on here of each message, as well as posting video’s of folks sharing their story of being either a Whore or a Hypocrite.
- Worship in song was RIDICULOUS! Transcultural in style and leaders. Thank you @Sdcrowl @crowley_Dawn @CarmenRodgers @MathaiMusic you guys were murderous!
- I had the chance to continue interviewing the nearly 40 new Covenant Missionaries (read members…but I hate the word membership) that have jumped in with us on this crazy mission in downtown ATL.
- I was able to go to worship with my entire family, and not have to do ANYTHING! Incredible to see my leaders taking care of business. I cannot explain my joy. Two years ago there were 12 of us, now there are hundreds. God is so good!
- Tonight we had our first volunteer appreciation dinner. Again, still can’t believe God’s favor on Renovation. Great group of volunteers were able to share life, and stories of the last couple years serving together. Serving together builds the best community! Never forget that.
There was more incredible stuff today, most of it I never even find out about. God is doing something amazing among the @RenovationATL crew, and I get the privilege of being a part of it.
Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary. A serious moral effort is the only thing that will bring you to the point where you throw up the sponge. Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair at that point: and out of that Faith in Him good action must inevitably come.
There are two parodies of the truth which different sets of Christians have, in the past, been accused by other Christians of believing: perhaps they may make the truth clearer. One set were accused of saying, “Good actions are all that matters. The best good action is charity. The best kind of charity is giving money. The best thing to give money to is the Church. So hand us over 10,000 pounds and we will see you through.”
The answer to that nonsense, of course, would be that good actions done for that motive, done with the idea that Heaven can be bought, would not be good actions at all, but only commercial speculations. The other set were accused of saying, “Faith is all that matters. Consequently, if you have faith, it doesn’t matter what you do. Sin away, my lad, and have a good time and Christ will see that it makes no difference in the end.” The answer to that nonsense is that, if what you call your “faith” in Christ does not involve taking the slightest notice of what He says, then it is not Faith at all–not faith or trust in Him, but only intellectual acceptance of some theory about Him.
The Bible really seems to clinch the matter when it puts the two things together into one amazing sentence. The first half is, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”–which looks as if everything depended on us and our good actions: but the second half goes on, “For it is God who worketh in you”–which looks as if God did everything and we nothing. I am afraid that is the sort of thing we come up against in Christianity.
I am puzzled, but I am not surprised. You see, we are now trying to understand, and to separate into watertight compartments, what exactly God does and what man does when God and man are working together. And, of course, we begin by thinking it is like two men working together, so that you could say, “He did this bit and I did that.” But this way of thinking breaks down. God is not like that. He is inside you as well as outside: even if we could understand who did what, I do not think human language could properly express it. In the attempt to express it different Churches say different things. But you will find that even those who insist most strongly on the importance of good actions tell you you need Faith; and even those who insist most strongly on Faith tell you to do good actions. At any rate that is as far as I can go.
My church planting resident, Copper, wrote this yesterday after we had a large meeting of several lead pastor’s from around the state of Georgia. I think his words are wise and timely, and I am proud to say that he has loved and served me well in these two years. If you feel called to plant, or is you are a lead pastor and considering taking on a planting intern/resident, please read and consider…
As I was listening to the lead pastors of the various churches in Georgia speak about wanting to multiply churches; I was genuinely excited for what the Holy Spirit is doing in our midst. One common concern I heard among the pastors who where aspiring to multiply was not knowing what the process should look like. As a man who is a planting resident currently, I wanted to encourage you.
When a young man approaches you about planting and wants your assistance the very first thing he needs to do is serve. As a person who will soon be planting a church, I can tell you that I am quite head strong, bordering on narcissism. I have found that tends to be the norm for mass majority of young planters that I have met. We think that we have the keys to the city, or that we are special in some way. Where others have failed, we will succeed. The truth or fallacy of that thought is completely irrelevant. Before God calls any man to lead, he calls him to serve, probably in obscurity. I tell you this because I don’t want you men to be scared to take on a potential planter without having the proper infrastructure. If you have places where a man could serve, you have the infrastructure. MAKE THEM SERVE.
Make them serve in ways that they perceive and in fact are beneath their leadership capacity. Make them serve when they disagree with you. Make them preach 30 minutes when they want and could preach 50. I want to be specific in this, they need to be serving you the lead pastor, as well as, the body at large. Scripture never allows for the distinction of serving the masses, without serving the one. They need to serve you well. I say this, because if they are in fact called to be a pastor, people will follow them, and they need to know what its like to be under authority. They need to know what its like to put forth your entire effort to make someone else’s vision happen. They need the sanctification of waiting and patience. It is my personal opinion that they should do it while having a job somewhere else. If you pay people to serve they are employed. They are not serving. I needed this more than I knew when I started at Renovation. The Ghost was kind enough to use these extremely frustrating times to work out long-standing idols that where inside of me.
If I had planted when I wanted to, I would have run it into the ground. For their own sanctification, they need to serve you. Whether you are established or two months old you have the systems necessary to train a future planter. I hope you find this helpful and encouraging. I am excited what the Holy Spirit is doing among us. I expect and pray for nothing less than total revival in our people, our cities, our state, and our region.
Here is a prayer that Renovation prayed together at our gathering last Sunday at the end of the sermon “When God Changes a City,” preached from Acts 19:1 – 35…
God I pray too safe, and believe too little. Would you help me to pray dangerously? Would you help me to pray foolishly? Help me God to pray in such a way that when that which I have prayed for is accomplished, there will be no doubts that God and God alone has answered. And that God has visited us in a unique and significant way.
With that Lord, I pray for a city wide renewal, so powerful that it rivals the great awakening! I will not be satisfied with less. I pray that those confused about what they believe would receive Jesus, and be filled with the Spirit.
I pray that racial, social, economic, and educational barriers be broken down, and that from Atlanta, all the nation would hear the good news of the gospel. I pray that You would do miracles God, and I’d see people healed holistically. I pray that Jesus name would be made so great that people would come in off the street, confessing their idolatry, and destroying their idols.
I pray that the economic systems that support trafficking, pornography, strip clubs, drug abuse, and all the idols that plague Atlanta would be shut down and irrevocably altered. And I pray that the places that house and host them would close forever. I pray that places of false worship would cease, and that those who oppose the gospel would be riotous because they don’t know what else to do to stop the change it’s causing.
God, I pray that you completely and thoroughly change my city…I will not be satisfied with less. Let it be here, let it be now, let it be us. In Jesus name, amen.
In the last couple years of launching and leading Renovation I’ve learned one lesson the hard way that I wish someone had shared with me at the start…financially it’s often feast or famine. There has been very little in between.
So here’s something to consider if you’re early in your plant, or just dreaming of starting this ridiculous and painful yet glorious, God honoring process. SAVE! If you have any “extra,” save more than you normally would consider, because lean times are always crouching in the early years.
Where I’ve failed, and where you might as well is when the famine is on you live meager, budget strong, and make cautious monetary decisions in order to make ends meet.
But, when the feast is on, YOU FEAST. You buy the things you wish you’d bought when you were making ends meet. You do the things you wished you could do and go places you wished you could go when the famine was in full swing. And none of that is necessarily wrong, but it is considerably unwise.
So here’s a thought. Try and save, during the feast, the numerical amount you sometimes lack for necessities and small treats during the famine. If you do this consistently for some time, then the famine will cease to be as severe. This has been invaluable for my family over this last year. And this little bit of discipline has allowed for a much less tense, much more fun filled time as a family, even during the famine.
Now facts are, if you’re honest, and you’re in an entrepreneurial endeavor, this is you. So from one risk taking individual to another…at least consider this a means of not learning or re-learning this the hard way.
And so do I… I have grown weary with myself and the meager prayers I pray. “Give me health,” “keep my family safe,” “fill this room.” Those are all fine prayers, but they lack the desperation of a man longing to see a city change…a culture shifted toward Christ.
But what if….what if we asked God to give us bold prayers, ridiculous city and people changing prayers? Prayers that move God’s hands with both power and compassion. Prayers that can only be accomplished by the hand of an almighty God, and not by the ingenuity of even the most clever and gifted individual. So here is the prayer that I will be praying as I ask God to help me-
God I pray too safe. Would you help me to pray dangerously? Would you help me to pray foolishly? Help me God to pray in such a way that when that which I have prayed for is accomplished, there will be no doubts that God and God alone has answered. That God has visited us in a unique and significant way.
If you long to see the impossible happen, will you pray this prayer with me?
Scripture Reading and Prayer for today
Romans 5:5 – 15 5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Read these words today as we prepare for Easter. Be reminded of the Gospel you have received. Pray God give you beautiful feet that carry the good news of the gospel to your friends and family members who do not know Him. Pray the Holy Spirit give you wisdom and boldness in inviting them to worship with us for one of our Easter services.
Several days ago I was sitting on a plane waiting to take off. We were heading home, back to Atlanta, and I was ecstatic. I’d gotten the exit row, the one right by the entrance door, so there was lots of legroom for the 6’ 5’’ guy. I couldn’t wait to see my wife and my daughters. This flight couldn’t have started any better than this. Then, as I’m sitting there the pilot approaches the cabin door to begin greeting people. Immediately an older lady jovially asks, “What are you doing back here; who’s going to fly the plane?” And the pilot’s response unexpectedly unnerved me. “I’m going to let my young first mate fly us home today. I can’t take ‘em all. That would be selfish.”
Now, the reason why this unnerved me a little is because I have flown a lot, and every bad experience I’ve ever had flying I can attribute to a “young first mate” taking the wheel. Bumpy flights, sudden cabin pressure drops, and pancake landings have been my experience with these young guys. So, my first response was to bristle up. Then I began to think, “If I am uncomfortable at best, completely unraveled at worst, about the idea of a young guy flying this plane and his care of my physical life, because I so value my life and the lives of the people on this plane, then why are we not equally unnerved about so quickly turning over high levels of influence and leadership to young leaders who are essentially in the care of the spiritual life and souls of people?”
It all culminated quickly in my mind as I thought of the myriad young leaders, including myself, who are thrust onto national and international platforms, given a voice to speak into the spiritual lives of people, but have logged very few hours in the “pilot’s seat” of anything. It is a fascinating and dangerous reality that I see running rampant in church and conference culture. Before you lead anything, you need to have proven that you’ve been faithful in something over time…and that you’re capable of handling some success.
You see, there are lessons learned in time served that cannot be gained through reading books, going to seminary, or even having an incredible mentor. Some leadership skills require a “you just have to have been there” sentiment, or the chance for irrevocable damage to the lives of the people these young men and women are leading is imminent. Instead of thrusting the young, trained, and talented into immediate influence, there needs to be a period of waiting and watching. Careful dissection of quiet idols, character leaks, and pressure points, all of which, unchecked, are the cause of the meteorite-like like falls of so many “talented and influential” young leaders. Young leaders need to wait for their time, and only God knows precisely when that is.
Now, am I saying there is no place of influence for a young leader? Of course not. But we need to lead low before we dream of leading high. We need to log some hours in the trenches before we sit in the general’s chair. We need to spend some time sitting under the leadership of a seasoned pilot before we dream of flying the plane. After all, if the young guy flying my plane makes one crucial mistake, I might lose my body. If a young leader in the church is thrust too soon into a position of influence and power and makes a crucial mistake, something much more costly could be lost.
I don’t know a statement more true than the one on the picture above. After 6 years with my wife, 5 of them married, I’d actually say it’s an understatement, but it is definitely true. When something is stagnant it is no longer fresh or life giving. That is what all relationships, but especially marriages, become if they are not growing in and toward something.
This Sunday we begin an 11-week journey through the scriptures on what marriage is supposed to look like. If we can faithfully live out God’s intentions for this relationship, we can almost certainly do it in any other. Please don’t miss this opportunity to be challenged, affirmed, and encouraged by what God has to say about all human relationships, but especially about marriage.
If you haven’t laughed yet today…you’re welcome!
Christianity started as a movement of men and women who were so compelled by the words of Jesus that their lives were overtaken by them. They DWELLED on LIVED, SPOKE, and DIRECTED every nuance of their existence by those words, and do you know what happened? Inside of a century Christianity grew from 12, to 120, to 3,000, to millions throughout the Roman empire. In fact Historians like Wayne Meeks say that by 300 A.D. nearly half of the people living in major Roman cities were followers of Jesus! How does this happen? Did it happen because they had incredible programs, beautiful facilities, or incredibly talented staff teams? Did it happen because they had full funding, dynamic music, and creative environments? No, it happened because they believed so strongly in who Jesus was, and His word, “Make disciples of all people,” that it permeated every facet of their lives. When the “visionary” left, His vision, a world reconciled to the God that created it, did not. That’s a movement! The question I’m left asking myself as I lead Renovation Church is this, “what would it look like to catalyze a movement rather than maintain an organization?” My hope is that you would ask yourself the same.
But, with that said, I do want to offer you the only answer to killing sin that has served me in these last several years, and that answer is a question. Do you, moment by moment, in the midst of the sin that you are about to commit, avail yourself of the power you have been given to ask Jesus—right then and there—to show you the way out? One of my mentors, Jeff Dunbar, brought that weapon to mind for me freshly in the course of thinking through this.
That’s the difference I think between managing and killing sin. When we manage it, we wait until after what is done has been done. Then we pray, we cry, we repent…but it’s done. What I have rarely heard in a decade of ministry, from myself or anyone else for that matter, is that when I prayed to Jesus, in that very moment of sin or when I was about to sin, I still sinned. Because generally, if your heart and mind are turned to Him, the very urge for the false savior that this sin is posing as begins to fade away. I hope this is bringing clarity and not further confusion.
You see, if you have been raised with Christ (which I believe you have or you wouldn’t be concerned with killing your sin), then He is truly the power that dwells in you. And if He is that power, then you must call on Him in the very moment that you feel powerless against the sin that is crouching at your door, not after it has already won the fight. From what I see in scripture, and what I’ve learned about people over these years, that is the only way we can truly kill sin: to attack it, minute by minute, moment by moment, with the power of Jesus, by calling on Him in every moment to not only show us how to kill it, but in that very moment, to give us the strength to do so.
I was asked after the sermon a few weeks ago from Colossians 3:5-10, “How Do I Kill My Sin?” The inquirer said, “You gave me the ‘what’ and the ‘why,’ but how pastor, do I begin to put it to death, rather than simply manage it?”
To answer this question, I’ll start with why I didn’t give a “how.” The danger in telling people what to do after they are confronted with the gospel and all of its implications on their lives is that we—all of us—have a tendency to take those things and make them into law. Then they turn into a means to modify our behavior, but never really deal with what is at the heart of why we are sinning. The reason we sin is because some part of us has ceased to trust Jesus, not only as Savior, but also as Lord. But, if I say at the end of a message, “Now here is how you kill sin,” it doesn’t build our trust in Him, it just gives us a way to not do something that displeases Him.
Courage Is Not Always Measured by the Ability to Win; It Is More Often Measured by the Ability to Sacrifice
The gospel writer John says, “They took Jesus and flogged him (19:1)…And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head (v.2)… They…struck him with their hands and plucked the hair from His beard]….Then Jesus went out, bearing his own cross (v.17)…[And] they crucified him (v.18)…When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them (v.23)…After this they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth (vv.28-9). When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (v.30). And after all of this “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (v.34).
At any moment, during any part of this ordeal, Jesus could have destroyed all those who were attacking and oppressing Him. He’s God! He has ultimate power and authority! He is preeminent in all things, and in all things He is supreme! And yet, He did nothing to defend Himself, nothing to fight back, nothing to win. Was He afraid to fight back? No, He said, “No one takes My life, I give it away.” Was He unable? No, He could have at any moment combated their attack with all the power of heaven in His hands. But, He chose the path of sacrifice, and in this He showed what is truly courageous.
Do you always have to win? With your employees or employer? With your kids or your spouse? Do you always feel it necessary to win because you can, and if you don’t, then you wouldn’t be showing courage? Next time you encounter conflict, remind yourself of the most courageous man to ever walk the earth. He didn’t have to win, because in sacrificing Himself, He’d already won. True courage is, more often than not, measured by the ability to sacrifice.
Courage Is Not Always Measured by the Ability to Win; It Is More Often Measured by the Ability to Sacrifice
I was recently invited to participate in an event as the guest speaker, and I said these words to a group of young men there. The event was called Camp Grace, a camp specifically for under-resourced inner-city children. Many of the kids were from right around my neighborhood here in Atlanta, so it was a privilege to get to speak to them because who they become will not only affect their lives, but it may affect mine as well.
For them, these words have meaning because in their neighborhoods it is the strong or most violent that is counted as courageous. The one who “Don’t take not $#!@ off of nobody.” But, if I could just get them to see that true courage is not always being able to win the fight, the argument, or the conflict by force, then it could fundamentally change how they interact with each other, and the other kids in their neighborhoods.
Jesus is the perfect example of this type of courage and strength.
When is the last time you read the gospel account of Jesus’ death and crucifixion? When is the last time, if you are a Christian, that you have taken in and meditated on all that Jesus suffered, not only in the actual crucifixion, but also in everything leading up to it?
Gentrification presents a unique dynamic to urban ministry, but what is it exactly. In this short clip Bob Lupton, founder of FCS urban ministries, explains.
God has created us, all of us, to worship Him, love Him, glorify Him, have Him as our deepest affection and live for His glory. We are meant to glorify God in every conceivable way because it’s what we were made for, and it’s how we express our love and devotion to Him, and the world, though arbitrarily defined, is anything that tries to prevent our doing that.
This isn’t just about watching porn or telling lies; it’s not that simple. Just because you don’t do certain things that are considered taboo or sinful, doesn’t mean that the world and the ruler of it is not fighting against you or influencing you. Your pride for not doing certain things is just as venomous and destructive to glorifying God as the one who can’t stop giving in to lust.
But the follower of Jesus has been given the power to overcome, to master the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t mean for us to just survive the onslaught, nor does He mean for us to take pride in our ability to religiously abstain from certain things while worshipping our ability to do so. No, we have been given victory, and that victory is our faith in the One who paid the price for the win.
As a follower of Jesus we have a promise in verse  of 1 John 5 that everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. Everyone who has God’s seed, God’s breath of life, has received the gospel, acknowledged their adoption and been filled with the Holy Ghost overcomes the world!
This means that we are not bound by lust! We are not bound by perversion! We are not bound by low self-worth! We are not bound by a need to achieve! We are not a slave to our past! We are not a slave to our sin! We are not a slave to pride! We are not weighed down by guilt! We are not weighed down by the lies of the enemy! We are not a slave to what they say about us or what somebody did to us! And we have nothing to fear from the powers of hell, death or the grave because we have the seed of God, the breath of life, the Holy Ghost and we are free! By faith we overcome the world and receive the victory that ends in the promise of eternal life.
This is the declaration of the Lord, that the victory that has overcome the world— [is] our faith. God has deposited something of Himself in you, and you have victory by faith! You are an overcomer by the power of God and your trust in Him! He that is in you is greater than he that rules over this world or the ones he uses!
In the gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus says
“44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 it is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me….47Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life….and 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Following Jesus’ saying
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
And Jesus responded
53 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.
And what follows Jesus final statement is at the heart of so much of post-modern faith that it is daily exchanging the truth for the lie about God, who He is, and how He has revealed Himself.
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
It is a HARD saying…who can listen to it? Apparently not many. How do we know this, because they killed Jesus for this and many hard sayings, and it seems that many today are covertly and overtly killing Him over again by misinterpreting, misrepresenting, and misappropriating scripture to make it say what they wish, because the saying is hard, so they refuse to believe it…even though they purport to be Christians.
I recently read this article. You will have to go and read to understand the nature of the remainder of this post.
As I read it I was saddened and confused at this blatant abuse of the scriptures, and their twisting it to be interpreted the way the author wished because the author can’t or won’t reconcile God’s grace and benevolence with the hard sayings regarding how those outside of Jesus will spend eternity. Below is my response which I felt made a fitting blog post.
Though I see the point he is attempting to make, it is derived from a blatant isolation of this particular text apart from those that precede it as well as those that follow it. With that said, even looking at it in the isolated manner by which you present it, it still does not say what you are attempting to make it say. Sorry to be so direct, but the “truth,” which is absolute and not to be placed on the sliding scale of post-modernity, is that you have misappropriated scripture to make your point thus making it say what you wish.
To the point–this scripture is delineating between Jews and Gentiles, not “non-believers and believers” this is not only a biblical interpretation of the text, but a historical one as well.
This is, as was often the case in many of Paul’s arguments, an argument for the salvation of the Gentiles [Romans, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Ethiopians etc.] over and against any adherence to the law, which the Jewish Christians were at the time trying to force on them. Issues such as but not limited to: dietary restrictions, circumcision, celebrating the Jewish feasts, etc.
Paul’s argument was clear…they have the law on their hearts, and a conscience given them by God, by which they will be judged. In that way, you were correct, but in that way only. You see the point Paul is making is that they don’t need to adhere to the law [of God given by Moses] to be saved in Jesus, why? Because their conscience, and the law God has “written on their hearts,” have compelled them to Jesus, so following [as explained above] the law is immaterial to their salvation.
The lynch pin in this text? “By Jesus Christ” that’s how God is going to judge. Don’t quote this verse for your purposes and forget to dissect that little phrase, for without it you lose everything, and without Jesus you lose everything. This leaves no room, no way, but One. And rationalizing around it brings us no closer to understanding the truth or who God is.
Regarding the closing, “Everyone must take this journey of faith for themselves, however they conceive God to be.” We must conceive God in the manner in which He has revealed Himself or we will as Romans 1:25, which precedes the verse you manipulated, “exchange the truth about God for a lie.” I write this in love, but with truth, as a brother, and I hope you receive it as such.
I end this post as I did the comment that has made up the bulk of it. I write this in love, and in hope that we will stop seeking wiggle room for the hard sayings of the bible, and reconcile them in the character, nature, and love of our good and gracious Father, and what He has done for us, His rebellious creation, in Jesus.
This is the lynch pin, because He chose us before the foundation of the world, and in love, He predestined us for adoption. So we are predestined, chosen, and adopted.
Before time itself existed, before the Evil one turned in pride from God to his own works, before this world was even created, before Adam and Eve were ever created, before the unveiling of creation itself…God chose His children. Now, I want to slow down, and pause, so that you absorb the great, cosmic, joy laden words of Paul here…so that you can soak in what is being communicated here. As far back as imagination will allow, further, deeper into time, before the dawn of time, it was there that God chooses us. Are you feeling the very tangible weight of such a statement? Do you understand all of the implications of this; that the Father chose us before He even created us? What a glorious realization!
What a wonderful, good, loving, merciful, gracious Father! We don’t have to earn, or merit, or work for His choosing, but He is simply pleased to choose us in Him. God’s choosing to save, choosing to die in the Person of Jesus, choosing His children from among humanity was not an arbitrary or whimsical decision. He planned for Jesus to die before Adam ever rejected Him. This is huge! This is the tension between His great transcendence and His accessibility, as He flexes His eternal authority and unstoppable love in the dimensions of time! This marks the security of our adoption, and though we are difficult children, He will never give us back.
During one of my pastorate before moving to Atlanta to plant Renovation I met a family in our church who had two adopted son’s, and two biological daughters. Their son’s were from New Orleans, and when they found out that I grew up in Baton Rouge, and had family in New Orleans, they were very excited to introduce me to their son’s. These two boy’s suffered horror’s as children that no person, let alone a child should ever have to experience. They suffered through sexual abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, and forced incestuous behavior with each other. Needless to say they were extremely broken…which made them extremely difficult children.
Growing up with their adopted parents the boy’s had done everything you could imagine, in fact when I met them the youngest had just finished a short stint in a juvenile detention center for drug and battery charges. At one point things got so bad that the father removed the family’s two daughters from their own home to a grandparents, because they feared what the boy’s might do to the two girls, but didn’t want to give up on the boy’s.
Rather than sending the boy’s away, or giving them back to the state, their father gave up his and his wifes biological children for a time, so that they, through the power of the gospel, could rescue these boy’s. They never gave up, they never gave them back, though these were difficult, no, more than difficult children to parent. They made extraordinary sacrifices to keep these children, to show them gospel love…and grace…and mercy. They pursued, and kept these boy’s despite the many complications it came with!
The truth is, that all of us who are in christ, are “difficult children”. We are resistant often, “prone to wander…prone to leave the God we love”—-And yet, God will not give us back. He will not give up on us. His commitment to us is unbreakable. An imperfect God…and imperfect Father would give us back. A God with weak commitments would be done with us….but not “The God” of the bible…the God who exists (in reality),creates, and saves.
Some of you have experienced a father’s failed commitments to you, time and time again…and yet, our paternal God demonstrates his unshakeable commitment to us. That he would break into time, to keep his promises to us in Christ. God orphaned His Son Jesus on the cross, to make us orphans no longer. This is the power of His “other-worldly” love, and the wonder of His mercy and grace in securing our adoption.
So some of you are thinking, what do I do with this truth? I implore you to consider not what to do, but who to be. God wants His children to be all of these things described. Secure in Him. Secure in His promises. And consumed by His love. Once you figure out who you are in Jesus, what to do flows out of that identity…and in Jesus you are the child of the living God.
In 1 John chapter 3 verse 1, the apostle John writes,
“see what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.“
This phrase, what kind of love, literally translates “unearthly, foreign, other-worldly.” This love the Father gives us is so unparalleled, and John so astonished that he wonders aloud “where did this come from?”
So how great a Father is God? How wonderful the nature, character, and goodness of the Father of Lights? How otherworldly this love? Not only did He willingly give Jesus as a sacrifice to rescue us from sin, hell, and death; and not only did He sacrifice Jesus as a wrath-consuming propitiation, turning His wrath to favor and saving us; not only did He place Jesus as an Advocate between Him and us, pleading our case before the righteous Judge, God went far beyond that. Far beyond kindness and clemency to His rebellious creation and invited us into His family.
Please don’t take this lightly, because God could have not saved us at all. He could have left us in our rebellion, and brokenness. Even still He could have saved us, pardoned us from sin, given us an Advocate in Jesus, and then cast us aside, out of His presence, recued from hell, but distant from Him. He could have denied access to Him, maintained an element of disconnected rule, rather than intimate love, and even of that we are not deserving; but God, rich in mercy and full of grace, went far beyond even that, far beyond simply saving.
I like how John Piper puts it, he says, “Nothing in us, or in the nature of the world required that God would go beyond all redeeming, forgiving, rescuing, healing love to this extreme—namely, to an adopting love; a love that will not settle for a truce, or a formal gratitude…but will press all the way in to make you a child of God.”
In Ephesians 1:3-5 the apostle Paul writes “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…and in love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…”
Reading this we know those who are followers of Jesus are blessed by God the Father with His salvific blessing in Christ and the inheritance we receive in Him by the power of the Spirit…but why? Why would God give so wonderfully of Himself?
Last weekend at Renovation I preached a message called “spirituality” from Psalm 119, in which we concluded that true spirituality is a delight in God, his will, and His word. But, we determined, this is difficult. The religious among us will get the will and word part. They will obey, and tell everyone how good they are at obeying; and look down their nose on those who have difficulty doing so; but they will lack all joy and delight in who God is. They follow from fear, or out of duty, but never delight.
The irreligious, they get the delight part. They love the idea of God loving them, but to follow His every word; to find identity in Him and him alone; to trust and obey; this is something that rubs them the wrong way. Because they don’t feel free when told to obey; they don’t feel self-actualized when told that there are rules in this life, and instruction given by God to govern the world.
Though they seem different, they really aren’t. You see they are both means of self-justification; the first by joyless obedience to the law of God, and the second joyful delight in being a law unto themselves. Both are methods of self-developed and self-defined spirituality. Both are a longing to rule, purify, and be defined by who you are and not who God is.
The beauty of the scriptures is that it is one story, one promise from the Old Testament to the New, and the beauty we find in the words of the psalmist in Psalm 119 is that God doesn’t want either of those positions. God longs for a joyful delight in knowing and serving Him, and He gives us the means to do so in Jesus. Jesus justifies us so that we not only have the ability to obey God, but the delight of knowing Him intimately.
Spirituality is found in union with Jesus, and how we express that spirituality is not by emptying but filling; not by looking in but looking up; not by trusting in my higher self, but trusting in the resurrected Savior and His reconciling work in the world; not by focusing on the energy of the universe but focusing on the word of God, the One who created the universe. In this way we are truly spiritual beings, and our source is the only Eternal and Divine, most Wise and Wonderful God of the universe!
With that in mind I thought it would be helpful to provide a tool that can help us be more “spiritual” by drawing us into the scriptures. Here are a few different reading plans that were constructed by North Point Church, that could be helpful in applying the message.
When God first called me to Himself and subsequently filled me with His Spirit it was all very experiential, passionate, and life-giving; but I lacked knowledge. Being wired the way I am I began to seek knowledge and came to grasp many of the beautiful truth’s of our faith. I delved into the writing of men like Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Edwards etc., and my mind was filled with wonderful truth of the power of the gospel. But as my mind grew my heart seemed to shrink. Not in a manner that displayed a lack of love or appreciation for Christ and His gospel, but in the ability to joyfully experience the gift of grace I’d been given and the knowledge of the same.
There is generally a great divide between the intellect and the Spirit in Christianity. There are those who delve deep into doctrine, desiring to understand every nuance of the text and those great truth’s that we believe, but they have lost the capacity to feel the unquenchable joy associated with understanding the revelation of Truth. On the other side of the coin are those who are completely experiential. They seek to feel God’s Spirit and move comfortably within the ambiguity of being “led by the Spirit,” but they often lack knowledge, order, or control and act out of ignorance, forgetting that though our faith should be experiential it is also deeply intellectual.
In recent month’s I’ve come firmly to the conclusion that you can be led by the Spirit while maintaining the full use of the mind. There is a third way and had I been paying close attention to the men I admired for their knowledge I would have seen the passion that burn in them as well. They were Spirit filled men who lived lives that exuded that aromatic distinctness of one who had encountered and been filled with the Holy Spirit. They knew more than I could ever hope to and yet were able to experience Truth, via God’s Spirit, with deep and resonating joy. Here is an excerpt to consider, I pray it compel you toward the same…
From “Great Doctrines of the Bible” by Lloyd-Jones
“. . . Now Jonathan Edwards was probably one of the greatest minds—I say it advisedly—that the world has ever known. He is certainly the greatest brain America has ever produced, a brilliant, outstanding philosopher, the last man in the world to be carried away by false emotionalism. Indeed, he wrote a great treatise on the subject, called The Religious Affections, to teach people how to differentiate between the work of the Spirit and the carnality that often simulates the work of the Spirit. So Jonathan Edwards was the last man who was likely to go astray at this point. This is what he says:
As I rode out into the woods for my health, in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view, that was for me extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God as mediator between God and man and His wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love, and meek and gentle condescension. The grace that appeared so calm and sweet appeared also great above the heavens, the person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent and an excellency great enough to swallow up all thoughts and conceptions, which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour, which kept me a greater part of the time in a flood of tears and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul to be what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated, to lie in the dust and to be full of Christ alone, to love Him with a holy and a pure love, to trust in Him, to live upon Him, to serve Him, and to be perfectly sanctified and made pure with a divine and heavenly purity.”
I spent the first half of the day on Christmas Eve in the scriptures reading through Paul’s letters. And although they are full with theology, history, doctrine and instruction, there is something common to them that struck me more deeply than anything else: Paul seemed to live in light of what was to come—the return of Jesus in glory and power. It seems he was simply immersed in this reality, and it saturates his letters. At some point in the letters I read, whether introduction, midpoint or close, he made sure that the recipients were aware that all he was doing, enduring, and writing about was cast in the context of the return of Jesus. This is simply powerful!
To Timothy he says:
[K]eep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:14-15).
To Titus he says that we are
waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).
These are just two examples of Paul’s perspective, a perspective he longed for the fledgling church, and for us, to have…we are to live our lives in constant hope and expectation of the coming of the Lord! This is the joy that binds us as children of God. So go today and live in expectation of the return of the King.
What if there Were a Church That…
….was willing to admit they don’t have all the answers
….believed you can know God
….had the same questions about faith and life that you have
….existed to serve and love our city
….met real needs in our communities
….valued diversity and equality of all people
Would you Come?
What to Expect on Sunday
- Passionate worship in song
- Practical Jesus-centered preaching
On Sunday mornings you can expect Jesus-centered, age-specific ministry environments for your children, as well as nursery care for those 2 and under.
Children are important to us and they will be served well through Renovation Kids ministry.
The Preview Series
In one week, October 31, 2010 at 11:00 A.M. Renovation Church will gather for the first of three monthly preview services…and you’re invited! Come and share in the grace of Jesus, in whom all hope is found. For these three monthly gatherings we will do a short series entitled “In the City, for the City.” This series will present the heart of Renovation’s reason for existence, which is to love, live, and serve in the city for Jesus’ glory and Atlanta’s good.
We will gather at Martin Luther King Jr Middle School located at 545 Hill St. SE, Atlanta GA 30312.
Traveling from South of Downtown on I-75/85
Take Exit 246, Fulton St.
Turn left at Fulton St. SW
Continue onto Glenwood Ave. SE
Turn Right at Hill St. SE
King Middle will be on Your Right
Traveling from North of Downtown on I-75/85
Take Exit 246, Fulton St.
Keep Right at the Fork
Turn Right at Fulton St. SW
Continue onto Glenwood Ave. SE
Turn Right at Hill St. SE
King Middle will be on Your Right
Traveling from East of Downtown on I-20
Take Exit 56B, Windsor St.
Turn Right at Windsor St. SW
Take 2nd Left onto Fulton St. SW
Continue onto Glenwood Ave. SE
Turn Right at Hill St. SE
King Middle will be on Your Right
Traveling From West of Downtown on I-20
Take Exit 58B, Hill St.
Turn Left at Hill St. SE
King Middle will be on Your Right
Lecrae’s long-awaited fourth album, REHAB, is now in stores!
The album features Tedashii, Trip Lee, Sho Baraka, Sonny Sandoval, Anthony Evans and many more. You can check in by picking up a copy of Rehab now on iTunes or at Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Mardels, LifeWay, Berean and Family Christian. For more information on where to find Rehab in-store click here.
For more information about the album and to listen to the three singles click here.
1. Check In
3. Divine Intervention ft. J.R.
4. Just Like You ft. J. Paul
5. Gotta Know ft. Benjah
6. Used To Do It Too ft. KB
7. Children of the Light ft. Sonny Sandoval & Dillavou
8. High ft. Sho Baraka & Suzy Rock
9. New Shalom ft. PRo
10. 40 Deep ft. Tedashii & Trip Lee
11. Walking On Water
12. God Is Enough ft. Flame & Jai
13. Boasting ft. Anthony Evans
14. Background ft. C-Lite
15. New Reality ft. Chinua Hawk
16. Release Date ft. Chris Lee
17. Bonus Track I Love You ft. Chris Lee
Check into REHAB today!
This summer Audrey Jones spent several weeks in Haiti, working toward the rebuilding and revitalization of the country….but more importantly, its people. In the camp where Audrey worked there were some 55,000 people, 13,000 of those being children. These families gripped her heart deeply, so deeply in fact that she will return to Haiti soon to continue to love and serve this camp community with creativity and beauty through art. Tonight she is hosting a show here in downtown Atlanta that will bring to life her experiences in Haiti, and the love she has for the people there. If you are in the “A”, I encourage you to attend, and be gripped by this look into the human soul and it’s ability to persevere through tragedy. Friday, September 24 from 7-10p.m in the Mattress Factory Lofts[300 M.L. King Jr DR SE]
This is the latest post at the Renovation Church Blog by our exec. dude based on what I taught/we discussed last night as a launch team. Please Read
by Matt Burlew on September 20, 2010
Last night at our launch team gathering we discussed Renovation Church’s identity as a city church of Missionaries Like Jesus- a church in the city that offers the grace of God in Jesus Christ to all comers. Who can come to Renovation Church and who belongs at Renovation Church? We always look to scripture for our answers and in scripture we see that the grace of God is offered to the Weak, to the Ungodly, to Sinners, and to Enemies of God.
Romans 5: 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
It is a great lie that only “good people” go to church, that only “good people” should be in church, that one must be “good” first to come to God, or to a church. It is a lie.
The passage above lays out how God worked and is working today. God sent Jesus to die for the weak, for the ungodly, for sinners and for His enemies. In a bad relationship, God made, and makes, the first move.
Matthew 9:10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
There are no “good people” in any church anywhere.
At Renovation Church, we strive to be Missionaries like Jesus in the city of Atlanta. We strive to befriend, love, care for, and welcome those who recognize their need for a savior because we recognize this need in ourselves. Renovation Church is made up of the weak, the ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God. That’s our default as human beings. And we cannot reconcile our lives to God without Jesus. Jesus made that reconciliation possible and He invites the weak, the ungodly, sinners, and enemies to himself. Jesus always does the work and his work is always effective. Our work to make ourselves “good” is always ineffective.
So who belongs at Renovation Church? Who is welcome and invited? Abusers, and the abused, liars and the lied to, cheaters and the cheated, thieves and victims, skeptics and religious bigots of every color, class and age. The very same kinds of people that Christ spent time with, healed, changed, died and was resurrected for: the weak, sinners, the ungodly, his enemies. If you are one of these (and who isn’t?) you belong and are welcome. Christ has done and will do the change in our lives and reconciliation with God that we cannot- and that without the merciful of grace of God we would not.
Christ makes the weak, strong, the ungodly, Godly, the sinner, clean, the enemy, his friend.
Phillipians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Lately I have been convicted of a reality that I am still unsure of my willingness to address…my life is not one of rich, intentional, and thoughtful prayer…at least not as much or as often as it should be. With the workload of leading and launching Renovation I have lost focus and lost sight of the fact that all of my effort, all of our ingenuity, and all of our plans mean nothing if we are not actively seeking the power and presence of God in prayer. It is all vain glory if we are not being led by God for God and His purposes for His church.
Because of this reality I have been seeking, in prayer and devotion, to have my heart stirred again, and have found the thoughts, wrestling, and struggles of others regarding prayer very helpful.
Over the next several weeks I will be sharing some of these ideas and ideals on prayer in hopes that they will be helpful to you also. These are not prescriptive in nature so much as they are descriptive of the praying lives of many who have come before us and served the Lord Jesus faithfully.