Reckless Father

Have you ever thought to describe God’s love as reckless? The Parable of the Prodigal Son tells a story of a father’s reckless love for his lost son. The father appears reckless when his younger son returns home after demanding his inheritance while his father is still alive, and blowing it on “wild living”. The son eventually comes to his senses and returns home in hopes of becoming merely a servant to his father. Instead of demanding repayment from his son, the father sees him coming in the distance, runs to him, embraces him, and throws a party in his honor (Luke 15:11-32).

 

This is a picture of God’s reckless love for us, and it takes us to the heart of the gospel. Just like the father in this story, God relentlessly pursues the lost, embraces us with His grace and then brings us back in His fold without us having to earn our way back. I’ve experienced this grace in my own life; the grace that asks nothing of me but a repentant heart.

 

In the parable, we also read about the older brother, who’s offended by his father’s response towards his younger brother. He is so angry that he refuses to go inside and celebrate his brother. His offense showcases his self-righteousness. He believes he’s entitled to something because, while the younger brother was away squandering his inheritance, the older brother was at home faithfully serving his father. He failed to recognize that he too was an heir only by grace.

 

Two brothers; two different approaches to life: self-discovery and moral conformity (self-righteousness). Which one are you? We’ve all been one or the other at some point, maybe even both. The most amazing part is that God has grace for both types of people. There’s room for everyone and we’re all invited to the table. We don’t earn God’s grace and we certainly don’t deserve it; it’s a gift.

 

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is one part of a trio of parables in Luke 15 of which the Prodigal Son is the third. The first two parables highlight something that is lost and the people who took action to find that which was lost: the shepherd goes after the lost sheep and the woman sweeps the house looking for the lost coin. In the third parable, however, no one went after the lost son. As the older brother, it was his responsibility to look after his younger brother, but instead he was drowning in his self-righteousness. The good news is that Jesus, in His grace and mercy, stepped in as the older brother on behalf of all mankind by giving up His life on a mission of mercy to rescue us and bring us home.

 

So let’s remember that grace is free but it was not cheap. Jesus had to suffer and give His life for it, for us.  He understood how serious sin is, and sacrificed His blood as the only currency that could pay for it. Let us follow the teachings of the gospel, shift our hearts and embrace the grace of God and His reckless love for us. Younger brothers, come home! Older brothers, remember why you are home!

Go For The One

Imagine a mom with three young children in the middle of a busy store. She’s going through the aisles, picking out what her family needs when all of a sudden, she no longer has three children in tow. She only has two.

What does she do next?

Start calling out her lost child’s name hoping the sound of her voice gives the child a trail to follow? Retrace her steps? Think of where her child would most likely wander to and start the search there?

Or…

does she stay in one place, look to the left and the right, shrug her shoulders, and continue on with her shopping trip minus one child? She does still have two other children. Would it really be a big deal to go home without all of them?

Why is it so easy to be assured of a mother searching for her lost child until he’s found, but we cannot rest as confidently in our God relentlessly searching for us until we too are safe at home?

God doesn’t put restrictions on who He searches for, recklessly loves, and brings home to Him. He came for whosoever. The scum of the earth, the undesirables, the people you try to stay as far away from as possible, the rigidly religious.

It’s not difficult to get caught up in the roles and rules of religion. The Pharisees knew all of the rules, but religion is different from relationship and they totally missed the heart of God. They knew religion, but not Jesus. How amazing! He was right there! But how many times have we too dropped the mission because we were so focused on religion?

Experiencing God, and being impacted by His very reckless love compels us to action and to go for the one with the heart of Jesus in mind. The people put in our paths are not projects, but instead are people we get to build relationships with, letting the crazy love of God in our lives blindingly shine through.

God is for people. Are we for people just as much?

Experiencing God | Lose To Win

The cross was meant to look like the greatest defeat. It was used to crucify Jesus; a way for the Romans to say, “you lose.”  His suffering and trials were an attempt by the enemy to push people away from God and His will to redeem us through His Son. The cross, however, became the greatest victory: the triumph of our Lord, and the antidote to the sting of death.

 

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9: 23-24 NLT).

Society will tell you that you need to “go find yourself” or “be you.” God is calling you to lose yourself and instead to put your trust in Him. We need less of us and more of Him. God calls to all of us, and in order to heed that call, we must go. It is an active process where walking with and experiencing God requires us to get out of the way and let God lead. We need to walk away from things in this world that are dead if we are to expect life. Major adjustments need to be made in our thinking, relationships, commitments, circumstances, actions and beliefs if we are to let go of the things that are not God. We can’t just put them away in a closet or on the shelf, because we will be tempted to return to them for comfort. Rather, we need to permanently destroy them, let them burn, and continue forward, so we are unable to go back.

 

Jesus will place a calling on you to follow Him, and then He will walk away. He wants you to make that decision to follow. It must be a willing surrender and obedience to His ways. He will not force you. He is looking for you to give up “self” and the ways of this fallen world, replacing them with Him, as a full time Christian. He wants what you do, not only what you say you believe, for the action will reveal what you really believe about God. “Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works” (James 2:26 NLT). God calls you to join Him in His work; He will empower you to get the task completed. He wants you to know that it was done through His strength, and not your own. That is why it will look impossible if God is not in it. Let how you live your daily life be a testimony of what you believe about God.

 

Christianity in a nutshell:

  1. Deny yourself and your old life

  2. Take up your cross and own your purpose

  3. Follow Jesus to live out the new normal

 

Lose To Win:

Lose Selfishness; Win Purpose                                             

Lose Pride; Win Humility

Lose Entitlement: Win Gratitude                                     

Lose Comfort: Win Experience

Lose Friends; Win Family                                            

Lose Religion; Win Relationship

Experiencing God | Q&A

There are over 7.5 billion people living in the world right now. 7.5 billion different personalities, thumbprints, beating hearts; 7.5 billion unique experiences. It is almost too great to imagine God creating completely separate and personal situations where we can each experience Him. Sometimes we experience together, sometimes individually, but always to reveal a deeper layer of who He is.

In Celtic Irish tradition, they’re called thin places, where the space between Heaven and earth is barely visible and the two worlds beautifully collide. Either way, it’s these moments, and these experiences leading us to become deeply in love with our very good God.

But how do we not let our experiences with God become stale?

If my marriage becomes kind of boring and we get stuck in a routine, we purposefully shake up our routine. We go out on a date, we shut the television off and talk, cell phones are left alone. We solely focus on one another! Solely focus on God. Shake things up and dive deeper past your normal routine with Him. Read a different book, block out a space where it’s just you and Him and no distractions. Make some tea, get outside and just sit and listen for Him.

How do we best go about sharing our experiences with others?

Be normal! You don’t have to really church up your language. Talk like a real person. People will not care about what we say until they know how much we care about them. So, build relationships with people. Once we build relationships, conversations will open and flow naturally making space where we can share our experiences.

How do we inspire our spouses, kids, or family members to experience God without becoming overbearing?

Lead by example. The radical love of Jesus is appealing enough. He certainly did not force Himself on us, so we don’t have to force anything either. Rather, He invites us to a wildly adventurous life. How we live our lives openly and freely in Jesus will create sparks and inspiration in our families.

How do we position ourselves for even more of God?

Clear your mind and make space in your heart for more of God. Put yourself in a position where you are ready and can take on the unique experience He has for you.

We are the sum total of all the things we’ve experienced.

So, what has been your experience? Tell us by commenting below to spark the conversation!

Experiencing God | God Speaks Through The Church

The church is the body of Christ, where Jesus is the head of that body, and we can all come together as a community of believers. It does not belong to a denomination, nor a service or mass.  It is so much more than merely a building, structure or place of worship. The Church is the people of God with the goal to establish His Kingdom here on Earth. It is meant to be shared and contributed to by its members.

Often denominations will claim their beliefs are where the truth can be found. They will try to apply their man made rules, regulations and interpretations into faith. There are no denominations in the Bible and preferences are brought forth by humanity.  We can find the real source of truth in scripture, in the teaching of the Holy Bible and through the words of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

God brings people together to accomplish things collectively that we cannot perform on our own. We are God’s people, moved by His Holy Spirit. In listening to His Spirit, we are led to specific churches for God’s glory, so we can be a part of something that is so much greater than ourselves. We are meant to work together as a body, submitting to the head which is Christ. “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12 NLT)  

Without submission, the health of the church will diminish and lead to division, with each part wanting to do its own thing and go its own way. A healthy body functions when all systems are working in harmony with each other, and performing the tasks they were designed for to the best of their ability.

Let us work to build and maintain a healthy church together. One where we can be God centered and led by God and His will. Our individual walk with God is personal, but it is not meant to be private. We are meant to be a community of believers, interdependent on each other, with one mutual mission: to love others and to evangelize and make disciples. We cannot force each other to submit, but must be willing to provide that permission in order to allow others to speak into our lives. A healthy church will provide a spiritual covering, wise & Godly counsel, deep friendships and a purpose in life that is bigger than the individual.

“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.  He makes the whole body fit together perfectly.  As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16, NLT).

Experiencing God | God Speaks Through Prayer

Prayer is so much more than the mere act of reciting religious edicts to our Heavenly Father. It is not a mechanical practice. Prayer is a powerful form of communication, in which a dialogue is opened with God. It is about a relationship, where we can both talk to our Father, and then listen for His response to us. He will speak back to us when we are in tune with the Holy Spirit and seek Him in scripture. The experience becomes evident when we know who God is, and have a relationship with Him, rather than just knowing about God. It is a healthy, two way communication with a living God.

Before establishing a relationship with God, my prayers were used solely in times of need, and when I wanted the scales tipped in my favor. It was more of a wish list than it was a conversation, and the only relationship was the one I had with myself, not with God. The expectation was that God was there to perform when I asked Him to. As my walk with God grew deeper, I realized that through prayer, I can have and maintain an intimate relationship with my Heavenly Father. Prayer is not something God needs from us, but He wants us to have that loving relationship with Him. We are the ones who need to pray, so that God has the room to move in and through our lives.

When we pray, we need to call out to our Father with praise and worship. We need to bypass any worldly emotions attached to the term father, and speak into the relationship with our Holy, Divine Father. He is constant, dependable and filled with integrity; always faithful, even when we are not. He is there for us at all times, ready for us to cry out to Him. God seeks to establish His Kingdom here on Earth through us, His representatives, allowing Heaven and earth to collide, by obeying His laws and reflecting God in our own lifestyle. 

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”  Jesus said, “This is how you should pray: Father, may your name be kept holy. May your kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.” (Luke 11: 1-4)
Key Ingredients to Prayer: 
-        Establish a relationship with the Father.
-        Know that He has dominion and ask for His kingdom here and now.
-        Allow God to provide for you; He will make a way.
-        Confess when you miss the mark through sin, restoring harmony in the relationship.
-        Forgive others and also forgive yourself.
-        Be filled with things of God, releasing everything to Him and seeking Him during times of temptation from this world; submit and surrender to the Lord.
-        Listen for God’s response in your life and in scripture.

 

Experiencing God | God Speaks Through Circumstances

God Speaks Through Circumstances

 

How often, in our human nature, do we look at a situation we’re going through and only see the negative, or expect the worst? God will use circumstances in our lives to mold us and shape us into who we’re meant to be. Many times, it’s in the deserts and storms of life that we truly experience God, but with the wrong perspective, we’ll miss it. Our faith needs to be solid on the fact that God is in complete control at all times and He has a plan and a purpose for our pain. We know that because of Jesus, we have victory over sin, but the Bible also tells us we have victory over our circumstances.

 

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Romans 8:28

 

This verse ranks as one of the most comforting verses in all of scripture. Every single detail, every circumstance we face, the good, the bad and the ugly - all things work together for our good. Once we’ve had a real encounter with God, we’re able to trust that He will not only get us through whatever circumstances we’re dealing with, but He’ll use them for our good. Knowing that God is behind the scenes working things out, shifts our perspective from self-centered to God-centered because God’s purposes are so much bigger than us.

 

When difficult circumstances arise and confront us, take a moment and pause. Ask God for clarity about the situation you’re in and what it is He’s trying to show you through it. Our view is so limited; He sees the bigger picture. Our perceptions shift when we begin to look at trials as tests. Pain is our greatest teacher and perseverance is developed through tests.

 

Think of all the terrible things that happened to Joseph. His own brothers, motivated by jealousy and hatred, turned against him, threw him in a pit and then sold him as a slave. He was lied about, accused of rape and then cast into prison. But through the series of circumstances he faced, Joseph’s trust in God never wavered and eventually God elevated him to the second highest position in all of Egypt. In a moment, God reversed his circumstances. Joseph went from waking up in a prison cell one morning to going to bed in a palace and God used him to save his people. Joseph went on to tell his brothers, “God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you!” Like a good novel, the big picture slowly emerges, but it takes patience and trust.

 

God doesn’t always cause challenging circumstances to happen in our lives, but He’s a master of taking our pain and transforming it into something beautiful. God never wastes a hurt! He always uses it to accomplish His purposes for His glory and our good. May we be so filled with God’s Spirit and love that it pours out of us even in the worst situations. Embrace whatever life brings your way. If we prayerfully focus all of our thoughts on God’s goodness and faithfulness, we’ll be able to see the blessing in all circumstances.

Experiencing God | God Speaks Through The Bible

God Speaks Through the Bible

 

Abundant life flows from a personal relationship with God. However, this wasn’t always my truth. Sure, I believed in God, but believing is much different than experiencing. So, I lived a dead life. Worship was just songs. Sunday’s sermon went in one ear and out the other. I never understood what I was reading in the Bible, so it would stay closed.

 

I couldn’t understand why I still felt empty if I was “doing” everything right. I was going to church, trying to read my Bible, yet something was missing. I believed in God, so why were things still the same? My chaotic soul desperately needed an anchor. I had been tossed around by the voices of the world long enough; I was starving for something more. I longed for God to speak to me.

 

When belief becomes experience...

 

All it took was a moment in time for God to completely wreck my world. At my lowest, God breathed His best into me. And in that moment my belief gave birth to a God-experience. Trust me when I say, I have never been the same since. I previously couldn’t understand the things of the Spirit until I personally experienced the love of God for myself. I was trying to measure my way to God when all He wanted was surrender.

 

When your belief becomes experience, the Bible comes to life.

 

In Henry Blackaby’s book Experiencing God he said, “Unaided by the Holy Spirit, the ways of God will appear foolish to us. Aided by the Spirit, we can understand all things.” The Bible is inspired by God, to teach us what is true and help us realize what is wrong; to correct, prepare, and equip us (2 Tim 3:16-17). The Bible is meant to grow with us in every season of life: a lamp for our feet lighting our path.

 

In our longing for an audible word from God, we often forsake what is already written. The answers to all of our problems are found within the Word of God. As we take the time to sit and meditate on what He has already said, we deepen our relationship with Him and learn to recognize His voice.

 

“The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for the living. Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.”

–Psalm 19:7-11

 

May the word of God be like honey on your tongue.

May the word of God be the most pleasurable thing you can enjoy.

May the word of God get deep into your soul.

 

But don’t just listen to God’s word, do what it says. For obedience is what unlocks the blessing.

 

Practical tools:

YouTube – The Bible Project

Book – The Bible From 30,000 Feet by Skip Heitzig

Experiencing God | Being God's Servant

Being God’s Servant

Jesus, you took on the full range of human emotions: grief, sadness, joy, betrayal, love. You limited yourself to the boundary of human skin to know what it feels like to be grounded to the earth.

Creator joining the created. Heaven on earth.

I wonder…could He feel the alarming difference between His holiness and His humanness? Did He live in that tension knowing He is the king of all with a rightful place next to God while He was sitting with us sinners?

Entirely human, He submitted himself to the law of the day, to the guidance of His parents, to work, to eat, sleep and breathe all that it meant to be a human. Because who could relate to a God who has never been hurt? Who has never grieved? Who has never felt the warm sun on His face, the cool of the ocean, or what it means to love another? Yes, the disciples and people around Him got to experience who He was as a human, but He also came to experience us as well.

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.” -Philippians 2:1-11 {MSG}

If Jesus became a human, and took on the status of a servant, then what does that say about how we should live now? God isn’t going to force you to serve others, but when we willingly submit to the same status of Jesus, the pressure is off. The heavy lifting is done. We can stop trying so hard and just start being. We yield to the spirit and flow in the spirit; a wild, adventurous ride!

We are ordinary people who can do extraordinary things, because we’ve been with Jesus.

Experiencing God | God Is At Work All Around Us

God Is At Work All Around Us

 

“My Father is always working, and so am I . . . I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man.”

John 5:17, 19-20

 

Jesus came to earth, emptied Himself of His privileges as God and became human with the sole purpose of reconciling us to the Father through His death. But even while passing through Jerusalem on His way towards His ultimate mission and purpose, He still lived His life on mission. Jesus not only redeemed us through His death but also showed us, through His life, a perfect example of how to live our lives in complete obedience to God, in all situations and at all times.

 

When Jesus walked the earth, He did not just go around doing whatever He thought was good. Even though His mind was perfectly pure, He never acted on just any bright idea that came to mind. He was strategic and made His mind a servant of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t travel around the whole world, He never wrote a book, His followers were few and there were many needs He never met, but He stayed in His lane and finished the work that God assigned Him. There were many good things Jesus could have done, but He didn’t just come to do good things but rather to do the will of His Father who sent Him.

 

Jesus accepted the limitations of our flesh and gave us an example to follow. When it comes to doing the will of God, less is more. A focused ministry leaves a greater impact. It’s possible to be so busy doing what appears to be good and still be outside of God’s will. We should start everyday with, “Ok, God. What is your assignment for me today? How can I join what You are already doing?” You could be a teacher, a doctor or a shoe maker. It doesn’t matter because we all have the same job – to glorify God in all we do and reach others for Him.

 

Once we’ve experienced a love relationship with God, He begins to reveal to us what He’s doing all around us – in our families, our jobs, our schools, our churches, and in us. He gives us a new identity and a new mission as people sent into our city armed with the message of Jesus Christ. Our job isn’t to do the Spirit’s work, but to recognize where He is working and join Him in that work. This means we don’t have to come up with plans for God; the pressure is off. God is already at work and when we join Him in His activity, we’re in perfect alignment. To be on mission is to live out the message of the gospel everywhere we go in simple, loving, every day ways. A mission to respect and love non-believers for the sake of the gospel and the people we encounter every day just like Jesus did.

 

God is at work:

Create time and space to hear God.

Put yourself in situations to be used by God.

Just be available and pay attention.