Religious, Spiritual, or a Follower of Christ?

I had a person say to me, “I’m spiritual, but not religious”. I think they thought I’d argue with them about that statement, but I agreed with them, “Yep, me too.” They looked at me so funny. They meant, “I don’t attend church, am frustrated with church, etc”. I meant, “Jesus hated structured religion that was empty of spiritual power, and so do I.”

It’s not about being religious or spiritual; it’s about actually following Christ. Being deeply religious or deeply spiritual without the life transforming work of the Holy Spirit in your life will give you the same results. Hell will be full of deeply religious and deeply spiritual people. Satan himself is spiritual and believes in God. He has just made a decision to not surrender to God. Many religious or spiritual people are in the exact same boat today; they believe, but are not willing to surrender.

Surrender is the single biggest issue we face as followers of Christ. If we can get the surrender issue resolved, everything else falls into place. Jesus revealed the primary way we prove our love in John 14 when He “If you love me, you will obey me”. But I would say that our biggest issue with consistent obedience is surrender.

So, obedience is the primary way we prove our love for Jesus to Jesus. If Jesus was with you right now (and He is in the person of the Holy Spirit) and He asked you, “Do you love me?” Now, before we are too quick to say a resounding “YES!” let me ask you another question. Is there something He is asking you to do or to not do that you have not surrendered to yet?

If God is asking you to respond to Him in some area of obedience, your dialogue with Him would be much like that Peter had with Him in John 21 when He said, “Peter, do you truly love me?” After Peter said “Yes, you know I do Lord”. Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep.” In other words, do what I am asking you to do…prove your love for me through your willingness to obey me.

If Jesus asked me, “Tim, do you love me?” Of course I would say “Yes!”, but I must also be prepared for Him to say, “Then obey me in this specific area of your life”. That is the moment when we really find out whether I truly love Jesus or not. Any answer other than, “Absolutely” only proves that I love myself more than I love Christ.

I am convinced that many folks who claim to love Christ may truly want to love Him, but when it comes down to proving their love through their obedience they fail to make a compelling case. What about you? Does your level of surrender and obedience give evidence of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in your life or not?

I have Bad News for the Alt-Right Crowd

I have bad news for alt-right racists.

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar. For whoever does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” — 1 John 4:20.

And if they do make it to heaven based on God's grace (we ALL need that, none of us are worthy), then based on scripture's description below, they will absolutely HATE it. Haahhahaa

“After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb! ” Revelation 7:9-10

God is not a racist. Torch-wielding white nationalists and white supremacists marching through Charlottesville, Virginia, Friday night and rallying again Saturday are clearly in conflict with scripture, as well as the nature & character of God.

As followers of Christ our number one responsibility is to be an ever increasing better reflection of Jesus.

Don't get sucked into stupid controversies and arguments, but don't be afraid to reflect Jesus either. The darkness around you simply cannot put out the light within you that shines through you. Be light in the darkness!

Six Observations about Loving God

I would like to make six observations about loving God using the story of the “sinful” woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with very expensive perfume in Luke 7:36-50.

  1. Being deeply in love with God is a choice (v.37-38). This “sinful” woman made an extravagant choice to pour perfume costing perhaps one year’s wages on Jesus’ feet. When was the last time we made a choice to follow-through with an extravagant act of obedience and sacrifice as a demonstration of our love for Christ?
  2. Loving God can be costly (v.37-38). To God, it isn’t about the “cost” it is about the heart. God does not need our “stuff”; He wants us. All that we are; our personhood, our hopes, our dreams, our victories, and our defeats. God’s bottom line is that He wants “no other God’s before Him”.
  3. There will always be a Pharisee around to judge (v.39). The religious leaders of the day were always at odds with Jesus. Religious folks today still and always will find themselves at odds with Jesus; especially when it comes to the application of biblical Christ-following and change. Remember, it is about a personal relationship with God through Jesus enabled by the work of the Holy Spirit, which is proven and demonstrated through consistent, willful obedience, not a religious belief system or checklist. In the story the Pharisee was too caught up in his judgmental attitude to recognize the bigger picture of God’s grace, mercy, and power to change a person’s life.
  4. Your level of gratitude determines your level of love (v.40-48). The “sinful” woman’s weeping as she publicly used her hair to humbly wipe and then kiss Jesus’ feet reveals her brokenness over her sin and her gratitude for Jesus’ willingness to forgive and restore her. What a perfect picture of repentance and gratitude!
  5. Focus enables love (v.38). What we focus on is what captures our attention. Outside of a church service, how much time to we spend focused on God? Focus on Him. Let Him capture your attention, then He will capture your heart. Then you will never be the same!
  6. Loving God will change your life (v.47-48, 50). “Loving” implies action. Our love is proven through our obedience. God hears what you say; but also knows what you do, your choices, your thoughts, your motives, etc, and “God will not be mocked” (Gal. 6:7).

Three Foundational Truths about Prayer

Let’s review a post I made a few weeks ago; First, prayer unleashes the power of God into a given circumstance. Second, prayer is an invitation to experience the boundlessness of God. Third, prayer takes the battle out of our hands and places it into God’s hands. Fourth, prayer can be launched in an instant, at the speed of thought.

In this post I will address three foundational truths of prayer and the repercussions of those truths. First, no Christ-follower’s spiritual life will rise to stay above the level of their personal prayer life. Second, no church’s corporate prayer life will rise to stay above its members’ personal prayer lives. Third, no church’s effectiveness will rise to stay above its corporate prayer life.

Effective prayer is different that merely praying at meals, praying for the sick, praying for God’s blessings, or praying for our needs and wants. Effective prayer is really spiritual warfare. Prayer makes the difference in the battle. In Exodus 17:8-16 there is a story of Joshua fighting the Amalekite army while Moses was praying with Aaron and Hur at the top of a hill over-looking the battle. When Moses held up his hands in prayer Joshua and the Israelites were winning. When Moses grew tired and dropped his hands the Amalekites were winning. So Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ arms so He could pray with his hands lifted.

In verse 13 it says, “So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword”. The word translated “sword: is the Hebrew word “peh”. It is can be translated “testimony, mouth, speech, command, edge (as in edge of a sword)”. Of the five ways “peh” can be translated, four of them have to do with speaking. Joshua did not win because of his men’s skill with their sword. He won because of the prayer of an old man standing on the hillside over-looking the battle. In Revelation 12:11, it says, “They overcame him (the enemy) by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and by the word of their testimony.”

I believe prayer changes things. Every documented revival or spiritual awakening in history had its origin in prayer. Satan uses laziness, complacency, apathy, a lack of discipline, etc to cause the church to lay aside as a weapon. Prayer is a gift from God without substitute. It is the key to the unlimited resources of God. Satan does mind what we do as long as leave the power of Almighty God out of it. Prayer in the hand of faith is the key to the immeasurable, unimaginable resources of God. Like Judson Cornwall stated, “Empty hearts, prayer-less spirits, tired bodies, undisciplined minds, unopened Bibles, and careless attitudes have ruined more worship services then all the demonic activity of Hell.

Five Foundational Truths of Surrender

In this article I want to write about the five foundational truths of surrender. Though surrender may not be a very popular topic, when it comes to Christ-following it is an absolute necessity. Jesus is the perfect example of surrender. In Philippians 2:5-8 Paul challenged us to make our “attitudes the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in the appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death….even death on a cross.”

The phrase that stands out to me is “did not see equality with God as something to be grasped”. That pretty much sums up surrender. Willful disobedience is our way of saying that we have a right to disagree, debate, and disobey God. Surrender is how we rightly align our heart, mind, attitudes, and behaviors with God. Even the most compliant of us have a tendency to struggle with complete surrender to God. Though surrender is never easy, it does become easier once we understand some basic principles of surrender.

There are five foundational truths of surrender;

  1. God is good. God is always good. Sure bad things happen. Life is tough. Some days even seem impossible to survive. Yet God promises to never leave us of forsake us. He doesn’t promise there will not be those impossible days, but He does promise to walk through them with us.
  2. God is in control. Life happens. When it is bad we want to blame God. But God loved you so much He gave us the ability to choose. We can choose disobedience, etc…and reap the consequences of our choices. Some times things that are completely out of our control happen….but don’t be confused, God was not caught by surprise. God is in your tomorrow already.
  3. God knows more than we know. Don’t feel bad…..He is God for heaven sakes! The wisest, most highly educated person has a limit to their knowledge. But God’s wisdom and understanding is without measure or limitation.
  4. God can do more with what we have that we can. God doesn’t need your stuff, He wants you. He wants all of you, and He realizes that many times our stuff come between Him and us. We have a tendency to seek our stuff first….but as we seek God first He will manage all of our details (Matt 6:33).
  5. Everybody surrenders to something. Even the most independent, rebellious people in the world surrenders to something….why not make it God? Everything God does is to provide for you and protect you.

Really, when you get down to the bottom line…. Surrender, as it relates to Christ-following is simply an issue of love. In John 14:15 Jesus said it this way, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

Do You Take God at His Word?

Every word from God contains the power to accomplish what He said.  The bible is not just a book to be read, it is a living, active, power-filled document. When the logos of God becomes rhema from Him transformational power is released.

When God makes His written word come alive in you it is filled with the power to deliver what it was meant to deliver. The question is; “Do you take God at His word?”

You Have to Know It to Use It

One of Satan’s master strokes against a follower of Christ is to get them to believe they don’t need to read the bible, or that it is boring, or that it doesn’t apply, or that they can’t understand it, etc.  Because don’t know it, we struggle being able to use it when it is needed most.

Satan is not afraid of you repeating the words of someone like me, but he is terrified of the Word of God that you choose to believe.

Scripture is alive and active! (Heb 4:12)  Reading it, knowing it, and understanding how to apply it, WILL transform your life!

What Are You Chasing?

God is the magnificent One of heaven! He is the One who spoke everything into existence. The One who knows the number of hairs on your head, the number of grains of sand on the beach, the number of days remaining in your life. He is the God… always has been, is, and always will be! Yet why, throughout time, has mankind sought to somehow lower God to some level that we could control, manipulate, or somehow manage?

The past couple of articles I have written about a simple four-step process that I believe best describes the “intentional” effort required to walk in a vital relationship with God. Christians talk about “loving” God, but “loving” God is actually the third step in this process. I believe the problem is that we neglect the first two steps in the process. Step #1 – Seek God; Step #2 – Know God; Step #3 – Love God; Step #4 – Enjoy God;

Picture a clock in your mind. 12:00 is seek God, 3:00 is know God, 6:00 is love God, and 9:00 is enjoy God. Then as we continue repeating the cycle we find that the more we seek Him, the more we will know Him…. The more we know Him, the more we will love Him…. The more we love Him, the more we will enjoy Him. Enjoying Him makes us want to seek Him more, so you can know Him better, so you can love Him deeper, so you can enjoy Him more.

Graphic - Seek:Know:Love:Enjoy God

To say it a different way, the process works this way: We should first seek God with all our heart (Jer. 29:13; Matt 6:33). Then, as we diligently seek Him we will get to know Him. Then, as we get to know Him we will naturally find ourselves falling deeper and deeper in love with Him. Then, it really gets exciting when we realize that we actually enjoy God (not just the stuff He does, but Him).

Remember, Christ-following really is an issue of love. The only way to get to the point that we actually love God is to seek Him. There is no shortcut. Relationships built on shortcuts fail. Relationships built on a foundation of trust succeed. It takes time to earn trust in a relationship, and it requires mutual seeking of one another. I believe that the struggle many people have with following Christ, obedience, surrender, life-change, etc is that relationship with God is built around shortcuts, not actually seeking and knowing Him.

What are you chasing? Titles? Free time? Money? Well-behaved kids? Position? Power? Retirement? Control of others? Control of an organization? Control of your own life? A good reputation? Respect? Rest? Security?… on and on the list can go. Maybe it is time to stop “chasing” stuff and a shortcut to a relationship with God, and start actually seeking God.

Learning to Love & Enjoy God (Part 2)

As a review from last week’s article; there is a simple process that I believe best describes the “intentional” effort required to walk in a vital relationship with God. Christians talk about “loving” God, but “loving” God is actually the third step in this process. I believe the problem is that we neglect the first two steps in the process.

This simple, easy to remember process has four steps; Step #1 – Seek God; Step #2 – Know God; Step #3 – Love God; Step #4 – Enjoy God; Then continue repeating the cycle. The more you seek Him, the more you will know Him…. The more you know Him, the more you will love Him…. The more you love Him, the more you will enjoy Him. Enjoying Him makes you want to seek Him more, so you can know Him better, so you can love Him deeper, so you can enjoy Him more.

Graphic - Seek:Know:Love:Enjoy God

The process works this way: We should first seek God with all our heart (Jer. 29:13; Matt 6:33). Then, as we diligently seek Him we will get to know Him. Then, as we get to know Him we will naturally find ourselves falling deeper and deeper in love with Him. Then, it really gets exciting when we realize that we actually enjoy God.

Jesus said, ”Seek first God, His kingdom, and His righteousness, and all these other things will be added as well.” (Matt. 6:33) Then He would follow a statement like that with a question like “Why do you call me Lord, and not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

Foolishly, the average person has the tendency to do it backwards by chasing first after so many other things before a personal relationship with Christ. So many folks claim to know Christ, but the way we live and the choices we make seem to place question marks around the subject. We seem to skip over bible verses like 1 John 2:6, which says “Whoever claims to know Christ must walk as Christ did.”

What we chase is evidence of where our heart actually is, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) God desires that we “seek Him with all of our heart” (Jer. 29:13). “All”, as in completely undivided, with singleness of purpose. Then God’s promise back to those who will seek Him first, with all their heart is, “all of these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).

God can handle the details of life. What He wants is us. He does not want to compete for our love and obedience…He won’t “compete”… He is the one and only real God who desires that we have a real life changing relationship with Him through His real Son, Jesus….He doesn’t “complete” with the thousands of false “gods” we establish in our lives….there is no competition.

Scripture God pleads with us to seek Him first and foremost. As we seek Him, we get to know Him better. The better we know Him and His ways, the more we will fall in love with Him. As we find ourselves falling in love with Him we will realize we truly enjoy Him. Seeking first God is the path to freedom and peace. God offers each of us a personal relationship, forgiveness, hope, and restoration. Begin truly seeking God first today, and see what you have been missing. He will handle all the details.

Learning to Love & Enjoy God

Do you love Jesus? Do you enjoy God? Most people who call themselves followers of Christ do not actually love Jesus. They will say they of course, but Jesus would say that our struggle with obedience is actually an issue of love. Jesus said it this way; “If you love me, obey my commandments. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them. All who love me will do what I say.” (John 14:15-27)

Graphic - Seek:Know:Love:Enjoy God

There is a simple process that I believe best describes the “intentional” effort required to walk in a vital relationship with God. Christians talk about “loving” God while choosing disobedience and apathy over and over again (I think Jesus would take issue with them…John 14:15-21), but “loving” God is actually the third step in this process. We talk about loving God in the same sentence with loving our homes, trucks, and various kinds of food. I believe the problem is that we neglect the first two steps in the process.

This simple, easy to remember process has four steps; Step #1 – Seek God; Step #2 – Know God; Step #3 – Love God; Step #4 – Enjoy God; Then continue repeating the cycle. The more you seek Him, the more you will know Him…. The more you know Him, the more you will love Him…. The more you love Him, the more you will enjoy Him. Enjoying Him makes you want to seek Him more, so you can know Him better, so you can love Him deeper, so you can enjoy Him more.

The process works this way: We should first seek God with all our heart (Jer. 29:13; Matt 6:33). Then, as we diligently seek Him we will get to know Him (not merely his deeds, but His ways… not simply facts about Him, but Him!). Then, as we get to know Him we will naturally find ourselves falling deeper and deeper in love with Him based on our knowledge of who He is. Then, it really gets exciting when we realize that we are not only “in love” with God, but that we actually enjoy Him (not just the stuff He does, but Him)!

I use a clock graphic (seen above) to help me understand how the cycle works. So many people want to say the love Christ, yet they don’t actually know him because they never seek him.

Most people love short cuts! Ever got lost trying that new “shortcut”? We do the same thing with our spiritual development process. We have a tendency to want to “love” God without really “knowing” Him. How can we truly love someone we do not know? How can we “know” God without first “seeking” Him? Though they may want to deny it, the average church go-er talks about loving God, but honestly has little concept of what it means to truly love Him…which is why we struggle so much with issues of obedience, surrender, and life change.

Christ-following really is an issue of love. It is about loving God enough to surrender everything to Him. We should “make ourselves nothing,” and “take on the very nature of a servant”…. Because that is what we are! Press in to know God! Walking with God in vital relationship is not an accident. It is the product of intentional effort. Is it worth the effort to you?