Deny Yourself or Deny Jesus

Our society is backwards. We are told constantly that we need to look after ourselves. We need “me” time. We need to “find ourself.” You have to focus on you, because nobody else will, the saying goes. But this is all backwards to kingdom thinking.

In the kingdom, Jesus is asking us to deny ourselves. He is commanding us to take our focus off of ourself and put it on the cross. While others are feeding into what your flesh wants to hear, Jesus tells us that our flesh has to be crucified.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Matthew 16:24

Jesus didn’t cut corners with his disciples. He told them exactly what they needed to hear and that message was simple, if you don’t deny yourself, you can’t follow me. Jesus knew that the denial of one’s own interests, hopes and dreams was a difficult ask. He knew that our flesh would fight against that line of thought. After all if you don’t look after you, who will?

Denying yourself is more than just saying no to yourself, it really is a death sentence as Jesus describes it. We deny ourselves and then we join him in his crucifixion by taking up our cross and following Him up the hill to Calvary. Denying yourself means you have to die to everything. And if you don’t deny yourself, you will most certainly deny Jesus.

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The Bridegroom Is Calling…

Have you ever been slow to respond to the Lord? Have you ever delayed in your response to His calling? Today I was reading from Song of Songs 5. Listen to what it says.

I slept but my heart was awake.
Listen! My beloved is knocking:
“Open to me, my sister, my darling,
my dove, my flawless one.
My head is drenched with dew,
my hair with the dampness of the night.”
3 I have taken off my robe—
must I put it on again?
I have washed my feet—
must I soil them again?
4 My beloved thrust his hand through the latch-opening;
my heart began to pound for him.
5 I arose to open for my beloved,
and my hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with flowing myrrh,
on the handles of the bolt.
6 I opened for my beloved,
but my beloved had left; he was gone.
My heart sank at his departure.
I looked for him but did not find him.
I called him but he did not answer.

Song of Songs 5:2-6

This morning as I was reading this, I was struck by the fact that the bride hears the voice of her bridegroom, who is calling for her and waiting for her to open the door for him, and she doesn’t immediately respond.

How often do we hear God calling for us and we delay in opening the door for Him? I can think of several times in my life where I have heard His voice and not immediately obeyed or I have been slow to respond.

When we are slow to respond to the Lord, we can actually miss Him. This is what happens to the bride in this song, she delays in her response to him and by the time she gets up to answer, he is gone.

What slows our response to our bridegroom?

  • Lack of patience – Look at the first verse, she says she was sleeping, but her heart was awake. She had stopped waiting for her bridegroom to return and had fallen asleep. We sometimes sleep on the promises of God. We think that He will never come for us. That He has forgotten about us.
  • Comfort – The bride had gotten comfortable. She says that she’s already taken off her robe. She had gotten into the bed and gotten comfortable. There was a bit of laziness about her. We sometimes get comfortable with God and don’t respond quickly to His calling because we have grown apathetic towards His voice.
  • Excuses – The bride begins making excuses. She says she has already washed her feet. Sometimes when God calls for us, we begin to make excuses as to why we can’t do what He is calling us to do. We are too busy. We don’t have everything we need financially. We makes excuses even though He is standing at the door.

When God calls for us, we should be quick to respond. We should be waiting on Him, but too many times, He is the one waiting on us. We aren’t where we are supposed to be. We are asleep at the wheel. And yet, He continues to call out to us.

In this song, the bridegroom even puts his Hand on the latch of the door. Notice he doesn’t bust the door down. He doesn’t try to break in. He is a gentleman. He is so close, but yet still waiting for his bride to respond. As the bride of Christ, we need to realize that He is waiting for us to open the door. He won’t open the door himself. He is waiting on you. He will stand at the door and knock. Will you open for Him? (Revelation 3)

So many times when we hear that familiar verse from Revelation, we immediately think of salvation. We’ve heard many preachers use that verse out of context. But the the verse was in a letter to a CHURCH! Jesus is waiting outside of the church and he is knocking, but no one has let Him in! That’s crazy! This isn’t about salvation, it’s about apathy in the church, because earlier in the letter, Jesus says the church is lukewarm.

“I know your works: you are neither cold, nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Revelation 3:15-16

When we are slow to respond, when we are apathetic, when we become lukewarm, we miss God. Our complacency is what kills us. We must wake ourselves. We can’t sleep and miss Him! Arise O sleeper! We don’t want to be like the bride in this song. Look at the result of her slow responses to her bridegroom’s calling:

I opened for my beloved,
but my beloved had left; he was gone.
My heart sank at his departure.
I looked for him but did not find him.
I called him but he did not answer.

Song of Songs 5:6

The bridegroom had left. He had called for her. He placed his hand of the door. He had praised her. But she did not open to him until it was too late. Then she calls for him and he doesn’t answer. I never want to be in that position. I want Him to answer when I call for Him. I want Him to still be at the door. I don’t want to be slow to respond. Lord, help me. I hope that is your prayer too. We are encouraged by the Scriptures to seek Him while he may be found. You should not delay…

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.”

Isaiah 55:6

Two Things You Need To Know

There are two things that can derail you in your walk through this life. Think of it like taking a trip. You have to know where you are and you have to know where you are going. You would be surprised how many people are going through life and can’t tell you where they are or where they are headed. It seems simple and it most certainly is, but most of us spend little time thinking on these two subjects. Instead we are simply positioned and lead by external forces. Wherever the wind is blowing is where you will find me type of thing.

Where you are matters. If you don’t know where you are, how will you ever get to where you are going? If you go on to any gps device, it has to have a starting point. It’s got to know where you are starting from. Where exactly are you? Because of you think you are in one place, but you are actually in another, guess what? You won’t get to where you want to be. You have to know where you are starting from. Some people are scared to know where they are starting from. Why is that? Because you have to admit that you aren’t where you want to be.

There is a confession in the fact that you haven’t “arrived.” And for some of us, this is a hard confession to make. We’ve spent most of our lives trying to prove to others that we have arrived, that we know what we are doing. We spend most of our lives not being honest with ourselves that we haven’t arrived. Confession is good for the soul. You need to be honest with the fact that you aren’t where you want to be. If you can admit that, then you can start to be honest about discovering where you are.

In discovering where you are, you need to have clarity of thought. If your thoughts are clouded and lost in the fog, you won’t be able to see the markers telling you where you are. I see this a lot with people who think they are farther down the road than they actually are. They know which road they are on, but they are simply confused with how far they have to go. When looking honestly at ourselves, we have to come to the realization that we may actually have a long ways to go in improving ourselves or in our walk with God. We need to be able to read those road signs.

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Leadership 101: Partial Obedience Is Not Obedience

Several weeks ago, my daughter and I were having a conversation. Earlier in the day, I had asked her to clean her room. She disappeared for a while and when she came back out of her room later on, I asked her if she had cleaned it. She said she had. When I went to her room to check it out, I found that while she picked up a couple of her toys out of the floor, the room was largely still a mess. I expressed my disappointment that she did not obey me.

“But I did obey you Daddy,” she said, “I cleaned most of my room.” It was at this point, I knew that I needed to sit her down and talk more. I kindly explained to her that partial obedience is not obedience. Obedience means that you have to listen and complete every command to the fullest extent. If you only partially obey, that means you are also partially disobeying.

Following God is no different. We cannot partially obey God’s commands. We either obey him or we don’t. There is no middle ground there. God expects our full and complete obedience. This is one of the reasons why we need a savior. We are a disobedient bunch and we need His Spirit to give us the ability to obey fully.

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Christians Were Created to Thrive

Check out the new episode of the podcast where I talk about how Christians were created to thrive, not just survive!

You Are Called Everyday Jesus

In this episode we look at whether everyone has a distinct calling and purpose with God or if that's just something for pastors.  http://www.everydayjesus.net http://www.facebook.com/everydayjesuspodcast Music from http://www.hooksounds.com  
  1. You Are Called
  2. Pregnant With The Wind
  3. Having a Revival Mindset
  4. Seek And You Will Find…
  5. Three Ways To Halt Spiritual Growth

Contentment Versus Complacency

A few weeks ago, I was giving a lot of thought to stagnant water. Perhaps all of the rain we have had over the past few months was finally getting to me, but I found myself staring at a little ponding of water near the end of my driveway. It had no where to go. The hole was created when someone drove off the road and into my yard as they came into our neighborhood.

This hole had filled with water, but because of it’s shape, it had nowhere to go. No groove existed for the water to escape out. It just sat there. Some leaves leftover from the fall had found their way to this hole and dirt had colored the water a dark brown. It looked gross.

It’s easy for us to picture how unhealthy it would be to drink out of a puddle like this. Most of us would instinctively know that you wouldn’t look at that dirty puddle and go grab a straw. But how many of us drink from stagnant waters in our spiritual lives?

Many of us have what I am going to term, “Complacency of the Soul.” To define that, Complacency of the Soul is when our spiritual life has become stagnant and we have become satisfied with things that are less than God’s ideal for our lives.

Now, this is different that being content. God wants us content. The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Philippi and tells them that he has learned to be content in whatever situation he has found himself in.

Continue reading “Contentment Versus Complacency”

Leadership 101: Leaders Are Tested

One of the things I’ve said before is that all of us are leaders. Some are leaders in the family, others leaders in their employment. Even if you don’t have a “title” or “position”, you can still be a leader.

Leaders are those that take initiative and keep going when everyone else stops. Godly leaders know that it’s not good enough to simply know the truth, you have to put the truth into action. You have to be a doer of the word, not just a hearer only, as James writes.

What I have found in my life is that when I put a biblical truth into action, I am tested. It seems like it’s almost immediately in most instances. I grab a hold of a new truth that God has given me and suddenly, there I am in the furnace of testing. God wants us content with his truth, but not complacent with it.

So we are tested.

When we enter into a time of testing, most of us think that we have done something wrong. For myself, I immediately start taking inventory of my life. “Where have I sinned?” But God doesn’t need us to sin to test us. He tests us for our own good. He already knows how we will respond when the furnace is turned on; it’s for our good that he flips the switch on us.

I am reminded of God’s servant Job. Job had it all, but it was all taken from him. You want to talk about being tested? Job was tested. His family, his friends, all that he owned…Job was being tested in every area of life. Most of us would not survive a testing like Job went through. But Job went through it, so we could learn from it.

“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth like gold.”

Job 23:10

Job understood testing better than anyone and I love his bold statement here… “I shall come forth like gold.” Job understood the purpose of testing. He understood that God wants to refine us in the testing. He wants to get the impurities out. These impurities are thoughts and actions that only bubble to the surface in the refiner’s fire, in the testing. Job understood this.

Where are you today? Are you being tested? Do you feel like God has abandoned you? Take heart. God has not abandoned you, even if you feel like it. Job knows how you feel. In the midst of the trial it can feel like you are alone, but you are not alone. God is with you.

This is the life of all of His leaders. If you desire to lead others, you will be tested. You will have times where things don’t go the way you want them to, but it’s only a test.

I recently came out of a time of testing and I wasn’t sure I would make it through it. My emotions were all over the map, one minute I could sense a victory over the situation and a few minutes later, I felt nothing but defeat. When you are in the fire, you cannot trust your feelings. Lean into His word. God assures us that He doesn’t leave us. Hold on to His promises. True leadership is forged in fires like these.

The best analogy that I can come up with is that of an airplane flying into a storm. When the pilot flies into the storm, he can’t trust his gut. He can’t trust his feelings. He has to trust his instruments. Those are his guides. He can’t see where he is going. The storm is all around him. It’s easy to get turned upside down if you don’t follow your guides. The instrument cluster on the plane tells you where you are going and how far off the ground you are. As the pilot you have to trust those gauges. As a godly leader, your instrument panel is the Word of God. When the storm rages, check your instrument cluster and make sure you stay the course. God gave us these tools. Use them!

Leadership 101: Empowering Others

Too often leadership becomes about the leader. Leaders are put up on pedestals in our society. Look no further than our politicians. This is the opposite of what leadership looks like in the kingdom. God expects his leaders to serve others and empower them, not the other way around.

Leading through empowerment is one of the most effective tools a leader has in his toolbox. When you empower others, you multiply your influence. John Maxwell says, “leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”

In the kingdom, influence is with a purpose. Influence isn’t to make people adore the leader more, influence is to get people to be more like Christ. When we are granted influence over the lives of other people, it is a solemn responsibility.

Typically you find at least two ways leaders will use influence – empowerment or authoritatively. Some leaders simply wish to lord over those under them. They don’t want to see others succeed, they want to see themselves succeed. Those who use influence to garner more authority do not realize they are actually limiting their influence, not increasing it. Godly leaders increase their influence by giving their authority to others.

“And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.”

Luke 9:1-2

Jesus models leadership to us in this passage. Jesus was the one with authority. He was the one with power. But, He didn’t lord that power over his disciples. He gave them his authority and power. This is the very definition of empowerment. Jesus empowered his disciples to do the work of the ministry.

This is an important principle for church ministry as well. Paul echoes this when he is describing the function of church leadership in Ephesians chapter 4, “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry”.

Church leadership really has one goal – to equip others. As leaders, we have to be willing to empower our people to do what God has assigned them to do. The point is not to get a large church so that we can say, “look at how good of a leader I am!” That’s not leadership.

I think a lot of people avoid church for this reason. They do not like to be lorded over. They want to be empowered. They have a lot to offer and they have typically been devalued by others. This simply should not be the case. I want you to know, that no matter where you are or what you are doing, you are valuable. You are valuable to God. You have a lot to offer.

Don’t think that you are unworthy. Jesus empowered Judas even though he was going to betray Him. Leader, sometimes the people you empower will hurt you, but you can’t let that stop you from doing what God expects from all of his leaders. Empower others. It will multiply your ministry.

Podcast: Living as Sons Part 2

You Are Called Everyday Jesus

In this episode we look at whether everyone has a distinct calling and purpose with God or if that's just something for pastors.  http://www.everydayjesus.net http://www.facebook.com/everydayjesuspodcast Music from http://www.hooksounds.com  
  1. You Are Called
  2. Pregnant With The Wind
  3. Having a Revival Mindset
  4. Seek And You Will Find…
  5. Three Ways To Halt Spiritual Growth

How Do I Become Friends With God?

“What a friend I have in Jesus,” starts the old song, but did you know that God isn’t friends with everyone? It’s true. God reserves his friendship for a certain group of people and this thought was something I had never considered. I have always thought that God was simply a friend to all.

We know that God was friends with Moses. In Exodus 33, it says that Moses built a tent of meeting outside of the camp in order to spend time with God. Moses and his servant Joshua would go out to this tent and it says in Exodus 33:11 that Moses met with God “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”

One obvious conclusion here is that God is a friend to those who want to meet with Him. He is a friend to those that will remove all distractions and spend time with Him. Moses was that kind of guy. He knew the importance of spending time with God. But I think there is more to friendship with God than just that.

Jesus tells us of those that aren’t his friends in Matthew 7 at the tail end of the Sermon on the Mount, even though they know all of the religious lingo and they do good works.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to the, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Matthew 7:21-23

Jesus says that just because you may say the right things and do some good works, does not mean that He knows you. What a sobering statement. Many who go to church may fall into this category — they know how to walk the way and they know how to talk the talk, but they don’t know Him. What a scary thought!

The key to knowing Him is found in the first sentence, “not everyone…will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father…” Jesus here is saying that if you want to be known by Him, if you want to be a friend of God, then you must do His will. We must seek to accomplish His desires. In one sense friendship is all about what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. And friendship with God is very much like this. Jesus is saying our friendship with God is dependent upon us doing the will of the Father. And doing for Him requires a relationship with Him.

One of the problems we have is that we have watered down that word “relationship” so much, that it’s almost void of any meaning at this point. “It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship,” we hear people saying. But this isn’t just about a self-identifying verbal acknowledgement from us, it’s deeper than that. Paying God some lip service or simply “showing up” on Sunday mornings doesn’t constitute a true relationship.

So how do we become friends with God? The Bible gives us the answer.

“The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.”

Psalm 25:14

The fear of the Lord truly is the beginning of wisdom and it’s also the beginning of friendship with Him. If we truly see Him for who He is and we honor and respect Him, guess what? We are His friends! God reserves His friendship for those who revere Him!

Just as Moses feared the Lord, we too should fear the Lord. Just as Abraham feared and honored the Lord, we should do the same. When we become friends with the Lord, he allows us to enter into a place of special knowledge. He makes known to his friends, his covenant. In other words he enters into a special relationship with His friends. Do you want that today? Then the answer is to fear Him.