The Gospel in Five Minutes

This is the 5-minute version.

Scripture is clear, we are saved by faith in Christ, through grace, not of our works or good deeds. (Eph 2:8-9) We are not saved by believing in our mind, but when we believe in our heart. (Rom 10:9-10, 13)

Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

If not, is the Holy Spirit stirring you to place you faith in Him right now? IF he is, simply pray a simple prayer. Doesn’t have to be fancy. IF God is drawing you to Himself He already knows what He is stirring in your heart. But if you want a guide of what to pray, you can pray something like this;

Lord, I know I am broken. I know I have sinned. I know I need you as my Savior. I believe you died for me and was raised from the dead for me.

Jesus, today I choose to believe in you as the Forgiver and Leader of my life. I choose to repent of my sin and accept your free gift of salvation. Thank you for becoming my sin and dying for me on the Cross. Today, right now, in this moment, I declare; Jesus, you are my Lord. I will follow you. No turning back. I WILL follow you.

Holy Spirit, I invite you to live in & through me, to transform me and restore my brokenness according to God’s will for my life. Amen.

IF you just placed your faith in Jesus as your Savior, PLEASE email me to let me know so I can celebrate with you. tim@thecrossmatters.org

This is the 17-minute version for those interested in more explanation.

Be Light in the Darkness

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; so that it gives light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven.” (Matt 5:14-16)

Summertime in Illinois is sure to bring with it little creatures we call lightning bugs. During those few weeks a year, some fields are literally full of little, blinking bugs that intermittently flash with fluorescent light. Small children have captured them and put them in glass jars for generations. The children hope that placing enough bugs in the jar will provide a natural flashlight.

Most of us have tried to catch lightning bugs. It seems so easy when they are lit, but then their light goes out they are hard to see. Recently, it came to me that many Christians are like those bugs. Instead of giving off enough light that our works become evident to those who look on, we blink off and on without providing adequate illumination.

We live in a dark world! Darkness is crowding out most everything that believers hold sacred. The success of darkness is NOT due to its strength. Light will always displace the dark. Darkness succeeds due to the lack to consistent light. We are like those little bugs, going through life blinking on and off without ever shining brightly.

We need a true spiritual awakening! Just because someone attends a church and calls himself or herself a Christian, does not make them an actual follower of Christ. Many people consider themselves to be a Christian but demonstrate little evidence of a life-transforming personal relationship with Jesus. The point is that being a “Christ-follower” is much more than merely calling yourself a “Christian” or attending church or adhering to some religious code. Being a true Christ-follower implies you are actually following Christ, embracing His attitude, and committed to carrying out His mission. The problem is people calling themselves Christians but not evidencing their faith by walking out what they say they believe.

Our Lord has told us to shine so bright that our good works become evident. If we keep blinking every so often, the darkness will continue displacing us. If ever we needed to shine, it is now. As Paul said in Philippians 2:14-16; “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life….”

Conversations with Tim: Racism (June 9, 2020)

Conversations with Tim is exactly what it sounds like; I sit down with a friend or two and have a conversation and you are invited to eavesdrop in on our conversation. I think about it like we are at a restaurant having a conversation and you are at the next table over-hearing our conversation.

My guests in this episode are two of my friends from Chicago, Pastor Adron Robinson, Hillcrest Baptist Church, and Pastor Bryan Price, Love Fellowship Baptist Church.

Do You Understand What is Meant by “Systemic Racism”

Sometimes, maybe most times, what we need to diagnose, resolve, and overcome a problem is better understanding of the problem. One of the reasons I am engaging such a divisive topic as racism, is to help people understand the struggle black Americans face as a normal everyday part of their culture.

I can no longer sit by and just watch my black friends (and others) fight this battle alone. I am a nobody. I have a very limited sphere of influence, but I do have some influence. Sometimes my words will be misunderstood and twisted by others, but I do have a platform to use my words to shine a little light into the darkness of racism.

I choose to be a part of the solution by striving to be a difference-maker in my context by being an agent of peace, hope, and restoration. I choose to be light in the darkness around me. I choose to be thermostat (who changes the temperature of my culture), not merely a thermometer (who only reflects the temperature of the culture). I choose to give the rest of my life making a difference by doing good, being generous, and being kind.

What will you choose?

For today, will you choose to spend 4:23 watching this video that does a pretty good job of explaining what is meant when someone uses the term “systemic racism”.

How Well Do You Understand “Privilege”?

You have probably heard the term “white privilege” but you may not have a good understanding of “privilege” means (white or otherwise).

I am “privileged” in countless ways. I am more privileged than many, and not as privileged as some. I had a leg up or a head start or an advantage over people born into less circumstances than me. I am grateful for the life I was born into and the opportunities it has afforded me, some by chance, some my God’s grace, and other opportunities through work ethic and perseverance.

The video below gives a very clear understanding of the basic concept of “privilege”. The video is only 4:12 long. I hope you make time to watch it if you haven’t seen it already.

The world we live in needs to change. I see things through a biblical worldview. My theology colors every topic. I think its time we recognize the systems of the powerful elites in government and the business world are a part of the problem. Government is not going to fix racism and the real systemic inequalities that exist.

I believe the change we need across our nation begins in the local church. I believe the transformation we need to see will require the power of God and the humility and obedience of people who claim to follow Him. Our love for God needs to also be evidence in our love for others, especially those who are less fortunate than us, those who are marginalized, and those who have been dealt a tough hand in life.

We need to stand up any injustice in all its forms. I’m not going to apologize for the privilege I was born into, but I/we can choose to use the opportunities given us to help others.

This video explains the concept of privilege better than anything I have ever seen or heard. Please invest the 4:12 minutes to watch it.

Divisive Topics Stir Up Emotions

Yes, I know full-well that when I communicate on divisive topics it stirs up various emotions and responses in people, then they make assumptions about me and feel a need to express their displeasure, most times, without understanding what I am really trying to say or without trying open a dialogue with me to seek understanding and to be understood. Others will applaud and thank me for whatever I said they happened to agree with.

All of which just proves my underlying point; the root level issue is theological and spiritual. “Our battle is not with flesh & blood, but with powers, principalities, and rulers in spiritual realms.” (Eph 6:12). We need to stop listening to those who try to divide us or create fear in us or seek to leverage our differences for their personal gain or their agenda so we can begin productive dialogues that lead to reconciliation and healing. If we resolve the root level issue, the surface level issues (systemic issues, inequality, etc) we will be much more likely to be address and resolved.

The path forward requires harmonic unity and enough maturity and love to work the problem together. Someone wanting to bang the drum of their pet agenda will never be open to listen, understand, and even repent of their own hypocrisy. Just stop. Let’s stop being too arrogant to listen and seek understanding before we seek to be understood. Let’s stop allowing unkind, divisive, or accusatory words to come from our mouths. What we say reveals our heart; “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34).

Division, divisive rhetoric, and divisive narratives are clever tricks of the enemy mean to make wreak havoc, deepen the wounds, keep us from solving the real issues. I call it the “Divide Conquer Strategy”. I’ll explain more about that in a future article. But it works at every level of life.

We need to stop being unkind, stop personal attacks, stop allowing differences or even disagreements to make others the target of our judgement and wrath. When we allow ourselves to be unkind, to personally attack a person who we disagree with, etc, we are also allowing ourselves to unwittingly become a part of the problem. We become a feeder of the divisive culture that is tearing our nation a part.

I am going to talk about issues creating division in our nation whether it be the political climate, religious culture, community culture, or as in the current moment, racism. I have already had people thank me, and others seek to bully me into silence. Honestly, I’m not stepping up to communicate on this divisive topic for pads on the back from some people nor to create drama for other people. I am going to communicate only because I believe that is what the Holy Spirit is stirring in me. I have sat silent for too long.

I have sat by as long as I can without engaging in the dialogue in an effort to move the conversation toward a better place. I’m not going to say/write everything perfectly, but neither I am willing to continue being silent. I can’t just ignore what I see happening in our nation any longer without wondering if my silence is a form of compliance or even agreement.

We have to reject the divisive narrative so we can engage in productive conversation that leads to real reform of the real systemic and culture issues that oppress others. We have to talk about race, privilege, apathy, and complacency if we hope to build a bridge to a better future for all Americans. The equality we seek will never be attained through silence or silent bystanders. We have to get to know each other so we can talk to each other, so we understand each other if we ever want to see real progress.

So, no, I won’t say or write everything perfectly for every person. Sometimes communication is like two people standing on opposite ends on an elephant trying to describe their perspective. We have to realize there are other equally true perspectives and it is only when we put them together that we can truly understand what is in front of us.

But I will do my best to help us find a path through the chaos, to be light in the darkness, and to point all of us to the hope & peace that can only be found in Christ. I hope I can inspire you to have your own conversations with your friends and family. We each have a responsibility to stand up in the face of injustice. Wrong is wrong, even when it doesn’t happen to you or me. Someone has to stand up to defend against injustice or it will continue to go unchecked.

America is NOT Racist. Don’t Feed into the Divisive Narrative.

I haven’t made a blog post in a while. But I just feel I need to speak out to clarify what I consider to be a position balance, challenge, and hope. This will likely be long so bear with me.

America is NOT racist. Yes, there is racism IN America, but that is not the same as “America IS racist”. The vast majority of people in America are not racist. A racist America did not elect its first African American President a few years ago. America did that. If America was actually racist, that would have never happened.

The vast majority of Americans absolutely hate racism. Stop listening to those who try to divide us or create fear in us or seek to leverage our differences for their personal gain or their agenda. Even saying “Black Lives Matter” sounds like a good supportive thing to say, BUT it is also divisive. It is a clever trick of the enemy. If you say “Black Lives Matter” you are allowing yourself to unwittingly become a part of the problem. YOU become a feeder of the divisive language.

You say “Black Lives Matter”, someone else responds “Blue Lives Matter”, someone else responds “White Lives Matter”, someone responds, “Red Headed Lives Matter”. Where does that line of divisive reasoning end? It doesn’t. It only continues to create divisive rhetoric that never ends.

A white person should believe “Black Lives Matter”. Absolutely. But please hear me; there is an organized effort in both the natural (people, politics, etc.) and the supernatural (spiritual realms) that are seeking to push their agenda to magnify and exaggerate our differences to create and leverage unnecessary division in America so it can destroy America from the inside out.

We should all stand up against injustice (racism or otherwise), even more so the kind that happened to George Floyd, but riots and destroying property is also inexcusable. Busing people in, having outside organizations organize destruction under the ruse of a “protest” is also absolutely wrong. There are some people, organizations, and the demonic, pushing emotional buttons and leveraging the anger caused by injustice to create even more injustice and destruction. And those people, organizations, and the demonic, love it when American’s lose their minds and act like criminals.

Even if the technique used by the police officer to subdue Mr. Floyd is an acceptable technique (and I’m guessing it is), how the situation was applied in that specific situation was some version of murder in my personal opinion. There is no excuse for what I saw on video. However, I’m highly confident the 99% of good police officers, would agree and they are angry too. They despise what they saw and how that makes them all look to some people. I feel that way when a member of the clergy is caught in a sexual abuse scandal. I’m guessing educators feel that way when a teacher is caught in an inappropriate relationship with a student.

Police should be able to maintain peace and safety, and when that peace and safety is destroyed, they should be able to go back in an restore it for the good over the entire community, which means they will have to match and overwhelm the intensity of the mob. They can’t just say “pretty please” to someone intent on hurting them and destroying property.

Thinking police should just sit by and watch needless, pointless, destruction and crime occur is also wrong. That is not America either. They are there to protect those people, businesses, and neighborhoods. Let me encourage you to choose a position of balance instead of allowing yourself to be manipulated by the self-serving dividers among us.

I will stand by members of law enforcement every single time. We all should. I am grateful for their service, protection, and all they manage so I don’t have to worry about “it”. But when they are wrong, they should also face consequences to match their crime. I have no issue with that either.

I talk a lot about ‘harmonic unity”. My best illustration is asking my church family during a Sunday service to raise their hands based on their favorite choice in toothpaste. Then I talk about how we could split in multiple ways over what toothpaste to use. Obviously, the Crest users can’t stand those Colgate people! Hahahahahaha But even within the Crest camp there is division between those who want to use “extra whitening” and those who want to use “the original Crest”. Hahahahaahhahahaha

Harmonic unity would be; we will never all agree on what brand of toothpaste to use, but we can 100% agree that we should all brush our teeth. And we can also agree that if a person thinks we should not brush our teeth, they are absolutely wrong.

Americans are going to disagree on countless things, but we can all agree that all lives matter. And we can that also agree that if anyone thinks some section of our population’s lives don’t matter, they are absolutely wrong.

ALL LIVES MATTER. As the old children’s song says “red, yellow, black, and white, they are all precious in His sight”. Saying “All Lives Matter” is not racist, nor does it lessen the value or importance of black lives. ALL lives matter equally. “All lives matter” raises the value on all lives to equality. “All lives matter” pushes back against the darkness of disunity and division.

Racism does exist. There is no doubt about it, but it is also wrong 100% of the time. Racism is sin. It is an issue of the heart. It should never happen, but it does because people choose against God’s way of doing things (sin). Satan has been trying cause disunity and division from the very beginning. He did it in heaven even by being able to get one-third of the angels to side with him against God. Just let that sink in. His tricks have never changed. He is still doing the exact some things, using the exact same tactics. Satan’s lie from the very beginning has been “just do what is right in your own eyes, do what feels good to you right now, be your own God”.

Satan has been a liar and manipulator from the beginning. He stirs up racism. Racism is a spiritual problem. More laws, more trainings, more diversity programing, etc. does not fix issues of the sin and heart. We, America, needs to experience the transformational power of the Cross.

We need to stop “doing what is right in our own eyes” and start loving God with all our hearts and loving other people as a reflection of our love for God. We need to start treating others as we would want them to treat us.

So please, stop debating who’s lives matters or matters most. ALL lives matter, equally. Instead, as an example of harmonic unity, let’s choose to agree that racism in all its forms is always wrong, it is evil, and it is unacceptable. Let’s choose to also agree that those who use racism to create division and manipulate people is also always wrong. Stirring up people to destroy property, break-in to stores, burn cars, buildings, and commit other crimes is also always wrong in America. Let’s agree that if someone thinks racism is acceptable, that burning and looting is an acceptable form of protest, they are also wrong 100% of the time.

Lets choose harmonic unity to bind us together over divisive, evil people, creating division to destroy us. This is our home. Blowing up our country hurts all of us, especially those living in the communities where the destruction takes place. Wrong is wrong. Regardless of the motivation, it is still wrong.

I choose to be a part of the solution by striving to be a difference-maker in my context by being an agent of peace, hope, and restoration. I choose to be light in the darkness around me. I choose to be thermostat (who changes the temperature of my culture), not merely a thermometer (who only reflects the temperature of the culture). I choose to give the rest of my life making a difference by doing good, being generous, and being kind.

What will you choose?

Are You a Modern Day Obadiah?

One of the little known characters in Scripture is Obadiah. Obadiah was in charge of King Ahab’ palace. He was a devout follower of God. He even risked his life by hiding one hundred of the Lord’s prophets from Jezebel as she scoured the land for prophets to kill.

Coming out of a three year drought that was caused by God and prophesied by Elijah, 1 Kings 18:1-19 tells the story of Elijah asking Obadiah to connect him with King Ahab. Even though he believed in God, and knew Elijah to be a true prophet of God, Obadiah’s response was “What have I done wrong that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death?”

In this article I will use this story to reveal six characteristics of today’s modern “Obadiahs”.

1. Modern day Obadiahs love Christ, but do not want to take a strong stand (v.3,7-12). Many people want to claim Christ, but not to be identified with Christ. They want to lay low or fly under the radar instead of being a clear ambassador of Christ.

2. Modern day Obadiahs try to straddle the fence of lordship (v.7-9). You have heard it said that “Jesus is either Lord of all or He is not Lord at all”. In reality it is impossible to straddle the lordship fence because straddling the lordship fence actually is not accepting the Lordship of Christ. Jesus said it this way, “You are either for me or you are against me.” Straddling the lordship fence makes one willing to debate with God.

3. Modern day Obadiahs want to be secret about their commitment (v.7-19). Secret Christians have destroyed the mission of the church for generations. Christianity was never meant to be a candle hidden under a basket, but rather it was meant to set up on a hill to provide light to the world.

4. Modern day Obadiahs consider the cost versus the personal benefits before choosing to obey (v.7-19). Jesus would say “Those who love me, obey me”. Obedience is always an issue of love and trust. Before committing they want a guarantee that all will work out comfortably.

5. Modern day Obadiahs are struggling to survive (v.7-19). Survival is the natural mindset of people who do not completely trust God with their future. They also want to remind you about the times in the past when them did something risky (v.13) as if that is a free pass to not obey God today.

6. Modern day Obadiahs are inconsistent in their commitment to God (v.7-19). Wishy-washy obedience is not true Christ-following. Competing mindsets and priorities lead to inconsistencies and create inner conflict (v.7-19).

The moral of the story: Don’t be an Obadiah. Choose to proudly follow Christ wherever He leads.

Learning to Love & Enjoy God (Part 2)

As a review from the previous article; “Learning to 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, 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 backward 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 clear evidence of where our heart/affection/commitment 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.

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 do 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 shortcuts! Ever get 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 a vital relationship is not an accident. It is the product of intentional effort. Is it worth the effort to you?