Archives For priorities

I am hesitant to write this because I am paranoid and convinced (is that possible?) people will take this in a manner I do not intend. Still, the message is heavy on my heart, so I’ll ask you to please read this in the spirit it is intended, which is to further the Kingdom of Christ. It is not my intention to demean the laudable actions of others or to criticize any particular ministry. With the disclaimers out of the way, let’s begin.

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This past weekend I had the thrill and sorrow of attending a concert with about 10,000 other Christians. The love and ministry of the band were evident throughout the couple hours they played. It was an uplifting experience that encouraged and challenged me, and from which I took several action items. One of them was to write this article.

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If you’ve been around church for awhile, you are probably familiar with the terms “sins of commission” and “sins of omission”. In case you aren’t, sins of commission are those we knowingly commit, things we do on purpose. Sins of omission, on the other hand, are those things we know we should do but don’t. I recently was introduced to a third type, “sins of addition”. The term was coined by Alicia Britt Chole, a new author to me, but one who I am immensely enjoying. Alicia wrote, “We all guard against sins of commission and we are vigilant toward sins of omission.

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But achievements—even in small doses—can make us vulnerable to sins of addition: adding niceties and luxuries to our list of basic needs, adding imaginations onto the strong back of vision, adding self-satisfaction to the purity of peace.”

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In her wonderful Lenten devotional, “40 Days of Decrease”, author Alicia Britt Chole writes, “We are duly thankful, challenged, and inspired by Jesus’ forty-day fast from food in the Judean wilderness. Perhaps we should likewise be grateful, awed, and humbled by His thirty-year fast from praise, power, and potential in Nazareth.” We don’t often consider everything Jesus gave up during the thirty years before we read much of Him in the Bible. We know a little about His first two years of life, and then get another brief glimpse when he was around twelve years of age.

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After that, it’s pretty much silent until He steps onto the scene eighteen years later. Through it all, this man was at the same time the almighty Creator of the Universe. He chose to set aside all His power, all His potential, all His right to be praised and lived in the poor and dusty town of Nazareth. This was the ultimate fast. He gave up everything, and He did it for you and me.

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David Platt said, “You and I both have a choice. We can stand with the starving or with the overfed. We can embrace Jesus while we give away our wealth, or we can walk away from Jesus while we hoard our wealth.” No one wants to admit they are a hoarder. I suspect most followers of Jesus want to consider themselves generous. But we can’t deny the fact those of us in the West live in incredible comfort while nearly half the world is starving and lacks access to clean drinking water.

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Half of the people groups in the world have never heard the name of Jesus. Half the world has never been given a cup of cool water or a piece of bread in the name of Jesus. This is devastating.

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America has long been called the land of opportunity. Perhaps nowhere is this truer than when it comes to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are free from restrictions when it comes to sharing our faith. There is no consequence to be feared for gathering together for fellowship and church gatherings. Our prisons are not filled with those incarcerated for sharing literature or resources about Jesus. In short, Americans are free to discuss, teach, evangelize, and even sell materials and programs to help deepen your faith and devotion to God.

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This is indeed the land of opportunity. What scares me is I’m afraid we are squandering the very opportunity with which we are blessed. With so much freedom, we must be at the forefront of spreading the hope and love of Christ to every people-group on the planet. How do you think we’re doing?

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I read a great quote from Louis Giglio: “Jesus doesn’t give you what you need; Jesus is what you need.” I think we often miss this point in our self-sufficient society. We don’t necessarily tend to think about the help we need, we only think of the stuff we need. There’s always something more we think we need to make us happy. We’re always one step away from being fulfilled.

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The common thread is we have this seemingly insatiable hole inside. We can’t seem to ever figure out what will fill it. Nothing makes the ache go away for good, so we settle for temporary substitutes hoping someday one of them will last. If you are tired of chasing after what you think you need and want, you can relax. The answer is simple and immediately available: you need Jesus.

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Passion is a popular topic in the personal development space (otherwise known as self-help). There are shelves of books promising to help you ignite your passion, find your passion, fuel your passion, or simply follow your passion. Essentially the message always boils down to the point of doing what you love. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether this is good advice.

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I’m more interested in seeing how it relates to our pursuit of God. After all, He’s the One who put such passions inside of us all. The question for me isn’t so much one of whether you should follow your passion, but rather, how can you use your passions to glorify God and further the mission of Christ?

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Reading the incredibly inspirational story of Kyle Maynard, I was blown away. Kyle was born without arms or legs, yet he has lived an incredible life. He has climbed mountains unassisted, won wrestling championships, and competed as a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter. How does one do such amazing things? Where do they find the discipline and resolve to hone the abilities to do so?

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Someone like Kyle silences all our complaining and whining. He makes our biggest frustration look minuscule by comparison. I don’t know if Kyle is a follower of Jesus or not. But if he isn’t, sadly, none of his accomplishments count for anything. Without Jesus, no matter what we do, it doesn’t matter anyway.

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In a recent sermon, Pastor Craig Groeschel made the comment, “Easy never changed the world.” The life of a disciple has not ever been, nor will it ever be, easy. Following Jesus is difficult. It’s unpopular and brings little glory. But eleven men, disciples of Jesus, changed the entire world. Their impact is still being felt 2,000 years later. Their life wasn’t easy.

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They were mocked and seen as insurgents and fools. They were constantly pursued, jailed, beaten, and in almost every case, they were killed. It wasn’t easy to follow Jesus in the first century, and it isn’t easy to follow Him now. But easy never changed the world.

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Lent is a season of (roughly) 40 days leading up to Easter and celebrated by various denominations within the Christian faith. I am never interested in having a debate over whether a particular style of worship, liturgy, ritual, or tradition is pleasing to God. I’m happy to talk about Jesus all day long, but outside of Him, I’d say if it brings you closer to God, then do it. If it doesn’t, don’t. The differences in our traditions don’t offend me.

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I heard Bob Hartman, the guitarist and main songwriter for the legendary Christian band Petra, once say, “Don’t criticize the way someone else worships God because God might like it!” I grew up in a Protestant household where Lent was not celebrated. As I’ve grown older and developed my own relationship with Christ, I have slowly come to embrace Lent and the beauty of the season.

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