The Ground You Stand On

How Temptation Works and the Ground We Lose

I think the reason temptation is so powerful is that it blinds us to how we maybe getting deceived.  What you see is typically not what you get.  The hook looks really good until you swallow it.  We all have the potential to succumb to temptation over and over again.  We do have the ability to say, “NO!”  And what is the best news of all, our past choices never have to be the story on our future.

Hand-Trap

Temptations come in all shapes and sizes.  Since our enemy can’t defeat God he will do all he can to defeat us and get us into small thinking and selfish living.

1. Casual Contact (the small, seemingly insignificant things the enemy uses to get a foothold in our lives).  This is the daily barrage of small gnats that irritate the joy out of you.  Financial investors know that small amounts over long periods of time can make great wealth.  In the same way, great ground is lost by small erosion on a daily basis.

The best defense to Casual Contact temptation is to have solid accountability.  True friendships are a great way to keep your footing.  A friend that consistently asks how things are going in your life.  A true friend will wound you where it matters but the wound is exactly what you need.

2. Corrosive Conflict (the “misunderstandings” that happen with people in your workplace, church, neighborhood, and family that end up creating division).  Families and teams are the basic building blocks of our society.  When they crumble ground is lost.  The Bible encourages us to do everything we can to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18, Hebrews 12:14).

The best defense against losing ground to Corrosive Conflict is to take God at His word.  Proverbs 15:1 is a great place to start; gentle answers turn away wrath.

3. Crippling Emotions (the fear, insecurity, and jealousy that we all battle at one time or another).  It maybe true that everyone has some form of psychosis in them.  Every family and team is made up of differing personalities.  When we forget to enjoy the differences we lose ground.  If we believe the negative stuff and forget the truth, we lose ground.

The best defense to our Crippling Emotions is to remind ourselves of the truth.  Our enemy is a liar, that is the language he uses.  Instead of believing lies believe the truth.  The truth will set you free from the negative thinking.  In order to believe the truth, one must know the truth, get a Bible and begin reading it and then get with other believers who are talking about the Bible and applying it to their lives.

4. Confused Identity (basing who we are on external accomplishments rather than what Christ has already accomplished for us through His death and resurrection).  Have you ever over inflated your achievements in order to make yourself look better than you really are?  If we do this we are losing ground inside of us.  Instead of getting bigger we get smaller.  We should remember who we are and who God is and have sober judgement about our abilities and giftedness.  Romans 12:3 is spot on, “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”

The best defense against Confused Identity is to remember who God is.  The Bible has hundreds of passages that declare how great God is (Exod 15:7; Jer 32:17, 19; 1 Chron 16:25, 29:11; 2 Chron 6:32; Psalms 47:2, 7, 48:2, 96:4, 136:4; Neh 1:5; Is 12:6, 40:26, 55:9; Ezek 36:23; Josh 7:9; Mal 1:14; Matt 5:35, Luke 1:49; Eph 3:20; 1 Tim 6:15).

The Insanity of God

Every Now and Then a Book comes Along that is Truly Inspirational.

These stories must be shared. I have long thought that America would face persecution only when American Christians begin to say that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. The persecution will not be physical but emotional and relational. This book reminded me of my longing to love Jesus, live with Jesus and tell others about Him. It seems to me the Church in America has forgotten this and replaced this goal of life with a gentler and more comfortable pursuit of community with other Christians. There is nothing wrong with this pursuit of community, it is actually wonderful but the community we long for comes from a shared mission of facing fears, overcoming comforts and throwing caution to the wind. I want everyone in my church to read this book- young and old, new Christian and older Christian alike.

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Quotable:

Suffering is one of God’s ordained means for the growth of his church. He brought salvation to the world through Christ, our suffering Savior, and he now spreads salvation in the world through Christians as suffering saints. In the words of Paul, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3: 12). Clearly, there is a sense in which the danger of our lives increases in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ (loc. 182 Kindle).

Serving God is not a matter of location, but a matter of obedience (p. 75).

If Jesus is not the answer to the human condition, there is no answer (p. 141).

“Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution! That is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!” (p. 196).

“Do you know what prison is for us? It is how we get our theological education. Prison in China is for us like seminary is for training church leaders in your country” (p. 231). 

Before we can grasp the full meaning of the Resurrection, we first have to witness or experience crucifixion. If we spend our lives so afraid of suffering, so averse to sacrifice, that we avoid even the risk of persecution or crucifixion, then we might never discover the true wonder, joy and power of a resurrection faith. Ironically, avoiding suffering could be the very thing that prevents us from partnering deeply with the Risen Jesus (pp. 308-309).

The Insanity of God (Nashville: B&H Books, 2013)

Every now and then a book comes along that truly inspires.  The Insanity of God has truly inspired me and  challenged me.  I read it on my phone and my iPad with the Kindle app.  It is 384 pages but it read like a novel and I simply could not put it down.  Every Christian who is serious about living for God should take a look at this book.  The stories alone will be enough to refresh, re-ignite or continue to feed the fire in your heart.

I wasn’t sure what the content of the book would be from the Title.  You really can’t judge a book by the cover.  I do get the idea of playing off the idea of Insanity.  God is not insane in any way but it sure seems like it sometimes.  The Insanity of God is from our perspective not His.  He is fully in control, sitting on His throne and is not nervous about anything.

I am deeply concerned but hopeful with/for the North American Church.  There has never been a time when it was easy to identify oneself as a committed follower of Jesus.  All over the world, whenever a follower of Jesus makes Jesus out to be the same as God and the only way to salvation, there will be persecution.  If we simply leave Jesus be and receive all of the blessings of knowing Him the pain from being identified with Jesus can be averted.  But it is the crucified life that rejoices mostly with the power of resurrection and knowing Jesus personally.

Memorable Quotes Underlined:

Suffering is one of God’s ordained means for the growth of his church. He brought salvation to the world through Christ, our suffering Savior, and he now spreads salvation in the world through Christians as suffering saints. In the words of Paul, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3: 12). Clearly, there is a sense in which the danger of our lives increases in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ (loc. 182 Kindle).

Serving God is not a matter of location, but a matter of obedience (p. 75).

If Jesus is not the answer to the human condition, there is no answer (p. 141).

“Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution! That is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!” (p. 196).

“Do you know what prison is for us? It is how we get our theological education. Prison in China is for us like seminary is for training church leaders in your country” (p. 231). 

Before we can grasp the full meaning of the Resurrection, we first have to witness or experience crucifixion. If we spend our lives so afraid of suffering, so averse to sacrifice, that we avoid even the risk of persecution or crucifixion, then we might never discover the true wonder, joy and power of a resurrection faith. Ironically, avoiding suffering could be the very thing that prevents us from partnering deeply with the Risen Jesus (pp. 308-309).

 

How Do You Enter an Empty Field?

How do you enter a NYC Park, a mall, or neighborhood?

What is an empty field?  There are empty fields all over this globe.  The largest concentration of empty fields are found in countries where there is no gospel witness at all, these stretch across North Africa and into Asia.  It is commonly called the 10-40 window; start at 10 degrees north latitude and go up to 40 degrees north latitude.  An empty field is defined as a field that does not have seed being sown in it.  Houston is hardly an empty field.  There are plenty of opportunities for someone to go to a church that shares the word of God if they want to.  However, if everyone in Houston, along the 290 corridor through the Cypress area, went to church on a given Sunday it would make up about 12% – 14% of the population.  Although it may not be able to be classified an empty field, there is still great need for gospel sowing.  Is there any insight into entering an empty field?

vision

Jesus tells us at least 4 ways in Luke 10:1-11:

  • Go 2×2-  There is power in accountability.  Two are better than one almost every time.  If one is struggling the other one is there to pick them up.  There are many who are convinced that reaching out like this requires actually going 2×2, that is, don’t go unless you can go with another person.  I am not convinced that Jesus requires this but will not diminish the blessing of 2×2.  I think it could be done 2×2 but I also believe there might be a sense of accountability that you know that the other person is living on mission simultaneously.  There is nothing more empowering than to know you have a partner in the outreach.  When we visit NYC, we go 2×2, that is mandatory.  But sometimes it is a logistical barrier to do this (i.e. work, neighborhoods, out to eat, etc.).  Question: Do you think it would empower you more or less to go 2×2?
  • Pray- Prayer is the Work of the ministry.  Jesus makes it clear to Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers to the harvest field (Lk. 10:2).  Prayer is powerful because it forces us to stop and depend on God’s enabling, direction, empowerment, and mind.  Outreach is the last activity we want to do in our own strength.  It would be like having a brand new Ferrari that has not gas.  It looks nice in the driveway but a Volkswagen Beetle would be able to get you to work better.  Prayer is the power behind the work.  It is powerful. The power of prayer should not be underestimated.  James declares, “…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (James 5:17-18).  God most definitely listens to prayers, answers prayers, and moves in response to prayers.

  • Go-  The Great Commission does not focus on going but on Making Disciples, however, we make disciples by going and not staying.  Discipleship will never happen if we stay.  In the Bible the word Go means Go.  It is the opposite of Stay.  It is the present tense of Went or Gone.  Just sitting around and not getting involved is like a group of firemen at a five alarm fire washing the truck instead of fighting the fire.  Paul says we have a spiritual resource of feet that are ready to share the gospel (Eph. 6:15).  Somehow, these beautiful feet of ours, have been given a compulsion, a readiness to share the gospel of peace.  It is a noun.  We have them.  Not to go is more work than going that is when one actually goes it seems like all is right in their world.  Make no mistake, GOING or NOT GOING is an act of obedience or disobedience.  Imagine a fully armed soldier. He has his sword, his shield, his helmet, his breastplate and his belt…but his feet are completely bare.  All of the other armor would be worthless without shoes. A shoeless soldier could run into real trouble in the heat of battle. Unless he is fighting on a well manicured battle field, he is going to encounter some rocks, sticks, and rough terrain that will compromise his ability to keep his footing.  In short, shoes allow us to step freely and without fear while we turn our full attention to the battle at hand.  Until we see living and reaching out for God as a battle, not against people, but against our own selves and powerful spiritual forces, we won’t quite know why to really pray or the true motivation for Going.
  • Look for the Person of Peace-  Who is this Person of Peace?  When we unlock the meaning behind the Person of Peace it will completely change the way we live on a mission of outreach with God.  Many have written on this lately.  In summary the Person of Peace is someone that receives you and you receive them.  One writer says, “They like you and you like them.”  Wow!  Here are some ways to consider who a Person of Peace is:  They Welcome and Receive You (they are really in the process of receiving the LORD that shines through you).  They Serve You.  You Intentionally Invest in them (the best idea here is pre-evangelism or showing they belong before they believe).  They are a Gatekeeper to a Network of other Relationships where the Gospel can Go.  Consider these questions in determining if a Person of Peace is around you right now.  Who are you called to love intentionally?  Who comes to mind in response to, “They like you and you like them”?  Who is your heart best shaped to reach for Jesus?  Who is already responding positively to you?  What is Jesus saying to you as you pray about this?

How Does the Kingdom of God Grow?

A Lesson from the World of Agriculture

Before I tackle that question, let me ask, “Did Jesus talk more about the Kingdom or about the Church?”  If you said, “Kingdom,” you would be absolutely right.  In fact, Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven over 100 times and about the Church about 3 times.  The most famous is Peter’s confession of Christ and Jesus’ response saying, “I will build  my church (Matthew 16:18).”  Just a simple look and one will conclude that Jesus wanted to build a Kingdom that would cover the entire globe.  The Church is not bigger than the Kingdom.  The church is a vehicle to build the Kingdom.

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The first command Jesus gives His followers is to “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15).  One of the goals of His followers is to set up God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10).  Jesus even tells His followers to Seek first the Kingdom (Matthew 6:33).  What does that look like?  How does the Kingdom of God grow on earth?

Typical thinking would say we build the Kingdom of God with a preacher, a church building, a stunning worship band, lights, and a haze machine.  The preacher should be able to communicate to a large crowd so people would listen.  The problem with that thinking is it cannot be found anywhere in the Bible.  Kingdom growth is much more simple than that.  It is simple and transferable.  Kingdom DNA has the power of reproduction in it from beginning to end.  Jesus tells us clearly how the Kingdom of God grows through a lesson from agriculture.

The simple and reproducible lesson is found in Mark 4:26-29.  This parable of Jesus is ONLY found in Mark.

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

I am amazed every time I think about how Jesus says the Kingdom grows.  Only 5 things are necessary for the KINGDOM OF GOD TO GROW (maybe 6).

  1. A Sower
  2. Seed
  3. Soil
  4. A Season of growth
  5. A Sickle (harvest tool)

Sowersare the beginning of God’s plan. They are men and women who are willing to cast the seed. God has chosen to use US, his people to be catalysts for HIS KINGDOM growth.

  • What does a Sower do?
  • Who is qualified to be a Sower?

READ- 2 Corinthians 9:6

Seed The Word of God from the hand of the sower. God has provided us a picture of Kingdom growth to be like a seed planted in the ground. In another place, Jesus talks about SEED as being the word of God (Mark 4:14).

READ- Romans 10:17

Faith comes by hearing. Yet not everyone who hears believes (Matt 13:14). Some people’s hearts are just not ready, but that is not our job to distinguish between the two.

The sower sows the seed. The sower also tries to remove any obstacle from growth to happen. We want to do our best at being able to be hearable, loving, and full of grace and respect.

  • What is the best way to sow seed?
  • What barriers exist from keeping people from receiving the seed?

SoilThe hearts of the lost in which seed is cast. Everywhere we look we can see spiritually lost people whose hearts are far from God.

  • How many lost people do I know personally?
  • Do I know the condition of their soil?

SeasonCommitment to the sowing of seed and harvest. No seed grows over night. NO farmer sows one day and expects to reap the next day. The wise farmer returns to the field where the seed is sown regularly.

  • Are you committed to bringing the harvest in?
  • How much priority do you give to checking on the growth of the seed you cast?
  • Are you patient to wait for the harvest?

SickleWorkers in the harvest force intentionally seeking to bring the harvest in. It only takes one to sow but it takes the entire community to bring in the harvest.

READ- Luke 10:1-2

  • What resources do we have for bringing in the Harvest?
  • Is your sickle sharp?

I said there might be a sixth necessary thing…

Spiritread Mark 4:27…there is a worker that is working behind the scenes. Seeking to live on mission or go on mission without the power of the Holy Spirit is like planning a trip to the moon without a rocket ship. God calls and God empowers us through the HOLY SPIRIT.

  • How often do you spend learning about God and listening to God?
  • How would you describe your relationship with God?

How Should a Christian Respond to Racism?

What is the core of Racism?

Here are 7 Bible verses that deal directly or indirectly with Racism.  Anyone can read these verses and make some initial conclusions about race and showing partiality.  It seems like every day we are met with a fresh round of news based on a racially motivated action.  The latest shooting in Charleston, SC has truly sickened me.  After you read these verses below, you can bet that it makes God sick also.

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Proverbs 22:2The rich and the poor have a common bond, The LORD is the maker of them all.
Proverbs 24:2- These also are sayings of the wise: To show partiality in judgment is not good.
Acts 10:28- And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.
Acts 10:34-35Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.
Romans 10:12-13- For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
James 2:9- But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
1 John 2:11- But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
It is absolutely clear that racism is not at all in the mind,  heart, or will of God.  He sees and loves all people equally.  Every race matters to God.  As Christians, we should love and see all people as equal.  The billionaire who lives on their own island is not more accepted in God’s eyes than the poor mooch on the street corner in New York City.  Money does not make us more acceptable to God.  Our skin color does not make us more acceptable to God either.  In fact, all of history will culminate in an amazing worship service of multi-culturalism.  The book of Revelation paints the picture vividly:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev 7:9-10)!
Yet we still have racism.  It abounds.  It is a label and a platform.  Where does racism come from?
Racism was first uttered as a word actually in 1902 according to the Oxford English Dictionary by Richard Henry Pratt in a NPR article.  Pratt said, “Segregating any class or race of people apart from the rest of the people kills the progress of the segregated people or makes their growth very slow. Association of races and classes is necessary to destroy racism and classism.”  Unfortunately Pratt was known more for this vastly different phrase about destroying the American Indian, “Kill the Indian…save the man!”  What he meant by the idea of Killing the Indian was Kill the Indian in a person and the person would be saved.  He believed the only good Indian is a dead Indian.  Racism has been alive for thousands of years.  Isaac and Ishmael were sons of Abraham, one from Sarah and one from Hagar, two races were formed.  Moses led a race of people out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery.  Can you imagine the challenge a Jewish man had in believing that God was the creator and was powerful to save?  Imagine the fear that must have been in the heart of Ishmael or the people of God.  Or recently among the Indians, the African American slaves, and the Jews. 

Acts 17:26 is clear, God made all races and determined where they should live but why?  Check out a broader context:

 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,  that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.
 Yes God is close to each one of us.  Pray that many will seek God and find their way back to God.
Racism comes from fear of people who are different.  Although Evolutionists want to push the correlation of racism and evolutionary thought aside, the truth is it may have its roots here.  The subtitle of Darwin’s Origin of Species reads, “The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” Whether Darwin was meaning human race or different animal species means little when the disciples of Darwin espoused his thinking.  One of Darwin’s bulldogs, Thomas Huxley wrote:
No rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the white man. And if this be true, it is simply incredible that, when all his disabilities are removed, and our prognathous relative has a fair field and no favour, as well as no oppressor, he will be able to compete successfully with his bigger-brained and smaller-jawed rival, in a contest which is to be carried out by thoughts and not by bites.
How should a Christian respond?
  1. Understand that fear lives in the heart of all people.  Pray for love to cast that fear out.
  2. Understand that God does not love you more than those who are different than you.
  3. Repent of your own racism in your heart.
  4. Pray that God receives the greatest glory due to Him by receiving worship from every race of people.
  5. Intentionally seek out friendships with folks that don’t look like you.
  6. Understand that when we all put down our cultural similarities and worship God as one it shows that God is the most amazing object of all.

NYFLO here we GO!

290 Community Church exists to exalt Christ by making disciples that make disciples.

Can you imagine if we knew all there was to know about Jesus’ commands but never really did anything about them?  Craziness!  Yet the number 2 reason why people don’t make disciples is because they don’t think they know how to do it.  What if you could be trained to not only understand how God’s Kingdom works, how to share your story and God’s story, immediately assist a new believer, give long-term assistance to any believer, and finally to teach believers how to multiply their faith…would you sign up?

The vision at 290 Community Church is to Drink Deep of Christ, Flow to Others from Neighborhood to Nations.

The closer we get to knowing God the more readily we will be to make disciples.  People who are empty can’t give much but if one is full from Drinking in knowing God more and His word, the Flowing will be there.  But it won’t happen without intentionally meeting your fears and figuring out a plan.

Check out these two videos: