Mulligan

If you play or watch golf, you are probably familiar with a mulligan. It’s a action in golf that brings restoration from a bad swing. Often at fundraiser tournaments you can even buy a few – a mulligan gives a player a chance to re-do one play, to be restored.

icallmulligan

Our journey as disciples of Christ is full of mulligans. One of the disciples, Peter, he is a great example of this process. 

In Mark 8:27-33, Peter gets the identity of Jesus right, but he got the mission of Jesus wrong. He goes from one extreme to the next. He needed a mulligan. In Mark 10:17-31, with this shot, Peter made it back to rough for he understood that a sacrifice on his part was needed to follow Jesus. And yet, the rich young man that approached Jesus was not able to give up what he values on earth in order to be fully surrendered to Christ. In Mark 14:27-41, at first Peter nails it again, claiming his devotion to God at any cost but in the next few verses, Peter is with Jesus in the garden and he and a few other disciples, they could not keep watch like Jesus asked and they fell asleep. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Peter is about to slice it into the woods in Mark 14:66-72 when he does, in fact, disown Jesus, just like he had been told.

Peter was ready to give up on the mission and return to fishing. He was in a desperate need of a mulligan. Yet, a mulligan is not something he can give to himself. And despite what people say, it is not something we can buy either. Peter needed a mulligan, big time. Do you?

Do you constantly replay your failures? Or maybeyour problem is re-committing the same sin over and over again? While others around you are experiencing spiritual victory, you feel plagued with the same problem, the same temptation, the same sin. And after awhile, you give up on asking for a mulligan. You give up on becoming the Rock that Jesus said we would be.

We cannot give ourselves a mulligan. Mark 16:7 says: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Why was Peter singled out? For restoration, for a spiritual mulligan-experience He probably did not feel like he was worthy of and yet, just like that, Peter receives it when in Mark 16:15 when Jesus says: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

We cannot give ourselves a mulligan, only God can do that. And some of you reading this article right now are in desperate need of a mulligan. You need something only God can give you. This is more important that Christmas shopping or holiday parties. You have looked for that restoration, that re-do, from so many other things and other people. You may have even thought you got one through some other route, but no, that was nota true spiritual mulligan because it did not last. When you really receive a true spiritual mulligan, it keeps you out of the woods.

Will you seek restoration with God now? Will you receive the mulligan He wants to offer you? Will you humble yourself and let God restore you into a right relationship with Him? Right now is the time to receive that much needed mulligan, just stop and go to our gracious Lord in prayer and seek His heart of forgiveness for your life. He will restore you, you are His prized possession, His beloved.

(Originally written for the “Faith & Insight” column of the “Nevada Appeal” in December 2014)

advocacy

One dictionary defines “advocacy” as “active help, especially of a cause.” And, in my opinion, one of the best advocacy efforts happens every October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month – an annual campaign aimed to increase the awareness of this cancer. Pink is the color and we see it everywhere. My favorite football team has tones of pink this month in their uniform. You see pink and you think…well, we know what you think.

In late August 2014, many were blown away at how quickly the cause of ALS had spread. In such a short period of time, people from all over and from every walk of life were participating in the “ice bucket challenge” and donating to the cause. The ALS Association reported that they had “received $88.5 million in donations compared to $2.6 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 26). These donations have come from existing donors and 1.9 million new donors to the association.” This was a powerful advocacy effort – one that surprised everyone.

Breast cancer awareness month is very intentional. Events and activities are planned out. The ice bucket challenge grew faster and went farther than anyone could have planned for. Both have made a huge impact for their respective causes.

eggpictureRecently I went to the grocery store. I went to buy some fresh eggs. My favorite eggs right now are Egg-land’s Best. As I reached for my beloved egg and was a bit shocked, but then, I actually wasn’t. Why? Well, the labeling looked different. It was all shades of pink. And instead of their own company initials stamped on each egg, there was also a pink ribbon.

Apparently this company places a high value on advocating for the disease of breast cancer. I wonder why? I wonder what happened at HQ that caused them to say: “this is a cause worth promoting.” Perhaps it isn’t anything deep. Perhaps it has less to do with good intentions and more to do with corporate partnership and shared publicity. Regardless, they have joined in the promotion of this cause.

As I went to crack those eggs for a meal, I was reminded of something very valuable. As a disciple of Christ, advocating the mission of Jesus should be our chief aim. It should saturate every aspect of our lives – our thoughts, our actions, our schedules, and our choices. His cause, should be something that is marked by all that we do. And what is the mission, the cause of Christ? 1 John 2:1-3 says:I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the ]propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments…” His cause was to advocate on our behalf so that we would be able to experience eternal life. When this happens, it forever changes our future. And this change should produce within us a strong desire to see others experience the forgiveness of our loving and gracious God. His advocacy for us, is to be duplicated in our lives – as we too are to advocate for this cause in others.

Romans 1:16 says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Has His advocacy impacted your life? Have you taken on the cause of Christ to live out and proclaim His desire to restore and redeem a lost and broken world? What are the “causes” that you have been committing your time and energy to? Is being His disciple and making more disciples of Jesus Christ the greatest cause in your life? If not, then what is keeping you from being a fully devoted, fully committed advocate for the cause of Christ in your community?

In his book, “The Dangers of Shallow Faith,” A.W. Tower said: “Either God is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.” Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and to show you were there needs to be less of yourself, and more of Him. May your advocacy of the cause of Christ represent your radical personal pursuit of true intimacy with our Heavenly Father. May you seek to grow daily in God’s grace and truth, while sharing with the world around you His plan for restoration. And may you be unashamed of your advocacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all that you say and in all that you do.

More

“Can I have more? Please daddy?!” These words came from my middle child, and they surprised me. She had already had two serving at dinner and she wanted more. The kid doesn’t even weigh 30 pounds herself and she had almost eaten her weight in food!

Okay, she didn’t eat that much but she consistently wanted more food! She knew who to ask and she kept asking! Her plea for “more” made me think about my own relationship with the Lord.

Psalm 42:2 says: “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?”

Seeking more of God can mean many different things – the statement itself may even seem too vague. For me, seeking more of the Lord means to purposefully and daily connect with God in my prayer time, my time in the Word, practicing other spiritual disciples like meditation or solitude, staying focused during times of musical worship and participating in quality small groups or Bible studies.

What does seeking more of the Lord look like in your life?

And, what are you going to do in order to seek more from God?

It has to begin with child-like faith. The kind of faith that truly believes and fully trusts. Then, you are in a fully surrendered position to seek more. God wants to develop our faith in Him and He desires that we become His disciples – fully surrendered and fully devoted to Him.

Seeking more of the Lord, it happens when we have child-like faith that positions us in a place of trust and growth, but it also happens when we follow that up with with a longing, a hunger, a thirst for more of God that leaves us crying out for more!

Psalm 42:2 spoke of position and longing. It’s a great reminder of two basic elements we must have in our daily pursuit of God. Daily we must strive to grow closer to God. This means growing in His grace and in His Word, in His truth for our lives. We have to place ourselves in a constant place before the Father where we can ask and seek out a deeper relationship with the Lord! Some of us are starving and cheating ourselves out of a full meal on God. We’ve bought into the spiritual diet plans offered by others, things that will never truly satisfy.

Because of this choice that we’ve made for ourselves, we feel like we won’t be able to do anything to seek more of God. That is a lie. There is room at the table for you. God has provided a way for you to encounter Him and to daily grow in His grace and truth for your life. You have to make a choice. Will you choose to thirst for the living God, the creator of life and the savior of your soul? He longs for you to make this choice and to live in daily surrender to Him, seeking His presence, His healing, His love, and His truth!

Position yourself to encounter God. Choose this above all else. Pray. Serve. Get into the Word. Look for ways to display more of Gods power and grace in your life. Connect with others who are committed to growing spiritually. Do let yourself be distracted from making this the greatest pursuit of your life. Your future and legacy depend on the choice you make today.

faith & easter

How would you define faith? Now, how would you define Easter?

For me, both words are connected to my relationship with the Lord. Yet I recognize that people can have faith in many things, even in people and still not define the word “faith” from a spiritual standpoint like I would. The same is true for Easter. Even though most churches see more people on Easter Sunday than any other time of year – there is large cluster of people who would define Easter in terms like: Easter Bunny, Easter Egg, Easter Egg Hunt, Easter Basket, Easter Dinner, etc. – things that don’t even imply the Christian celebration of Easter, the remembrance of Christ resurrection and victory over sin and death.

Now for some that may not seem like a big distinction. And perhaps for others their definition of Easter would contain elements for both. People may debate the correctness of that – I won’t, probably ever. My kids will probably know both perspectives of Easter – the Easter bunny and the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet just like my definition of “faith” and “easter” tend to center on my relationship with Christ, so should the way I live out my faith and the hope I have because of that first Easter.

I have encounter many people who struggle with believing God, with having a saving faith in Him. They have their lists. And those list are long. And the validity of their lists are scary. And I have encountered people who struggle with Easter. They struggle with all the ways the Easter story of Jesus Christ blows holes in their common logic or personal experiences. Both the lists of “why I am not a Christian” and the statements regarding the resurrection of Jesus being illogical, etc. are for many, very valid.

Yet tolerance can be a scary thing, can’t it? Tolerance keeps us from action. And with issues regarding our faith in God and with the true meaning of Easter, tolerance, in my opinion, cannot be afforded. Yet we often allow tolerance to creep into our relationship with God. And tolerance begins to destroy our faith. Some of you reading right now, may be shaking your heads in disagreement with this idea. Yet if you’re pro-tolerance, then why can you shake your head at what I am saying now? Doesn’t that speak against the very spirit of tolerance?

Faith has to be defined in a very specific way, not just tolerated or even put into our schedule or calendar. We have come to tolerate too many definitions of a saving faith in God. We have allowed to many others things to define faith and use the word faith as their describer – and the same is very true with Easter.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything. All of history pointed to a Messiah that would come and save us all from sin. And all of history has pointed back to that moment when Jesus conquered sin and death. Faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything for us as followers of the Lord. Every aspect of our lives, every day, should reflect the promise and power of the resurrection.

This Easter I have been reminded how to define faith and how to live in the promise and the power of the resurrection. We make believing in God and in the story of the resurrection so very complicated. Many have been hurt by the church or appalled by hypocritical Christians. And although I feel like I understand why this happens, but they let those things keep them living a life of faith, fueled by the promise of the resurrection.

Yet this Easter I was reminded of what simple, yet powerful faith is all about. I preached today about the promise we have from God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I wanted to give those in church who had never accepted Christ as their Savior, a chance to confess their faith in the Lord and in their desire to live out the power of the resurrection. Two of those who raised their hands were mentally handicapped adults. I don’t even normally ask people to raise their hands, but I did today. I told them I wanted to see their faces and to pray for them specifically.

A simple, yet powerful faith is one that is trusting. It looks past those who might be watching and goes straight to the core of the issue. Without hesitation, those adults raised their hands. Their hearts and minds, I am convinced, have the freedom of a child. Nothing holds them back. They want to claim a saving faith in God. They don’t question it. They don’t limit it because of the other things they’ve faced in life. The just do it. The raise their hands and they are all in. And they want others to know.

From the very start, they stop and proclaim what God has done for them. Perhaps that is what has happened to us as tolerance has crept into our lives? We stopped proclaiming the promises of Easter daily, and we settle for a once a year remembrance on Easter alone and regardless of how you define it, faith should change us.

The promise of the resurrection begs us to understand this and to live it out everyday. Throw that tolerance to the wind – let that go – and embrace this year as a chance to live each day in power of the resurrection. Let yourself redefine faith like a child would. Don’t hold back. If you belong to God, then display that to your world. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be fearful. Don’t let the value this world places on faith, be your guide for living a life of true faith in God.

Everyday is an opportunity to live out the promise of the resurrection. We just have to choose to live a life of faith like this. Allow the first Easter to define for you how to live a life of dynamic faith and true hope. We serve a living God who didn’t sacrifice His life for lie. Everyday we live should be a celebration of our faith in the Lord and in the promise of the resurrection of Jesus.

easterverse copy

demands of the faith

“John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16)

Do your actions and the way you demonstrate your faith in the Lord, beg from others – demand from others,  an explanation from you to them about your faith?

Radicalism is all around us. Some would argue that it doesn’t work. That being too radical can take away from the truth that you are trying to represent. However, what about balanced radicalism for Christ and for the Good News that Jesus saves?

Luke 3:16 calls to attention our demonstration of our faith in the Lord and how in which we are proclaiming the good news that Jesus saves. So what in your life – whether it is what you say or from the things that you do – radically demonstrates and displays your love for God and for others need to repent and believe?

Now for John the Baptist, he had to make sure those listening to him and those watching his actions knew he wasn’t Jesus. His lifestyle and his teaching did bring conviction – yet He wanted people to know of the greatness of God.

Jesus came so that we might experience God’s glory and His passion – that we might be redeemed and set free. It went beyond theory or philosophy as well. Jesus came so that people could have a real relationship with God – one that kills our old desires and motivates us to live a holy life.

May you live a life then that helps others see God and His glorious power more clearly. May you live in such in a way that your actions demand an explanation that will lead you to a place to point others to the power and grace of our loving Savior.

Simpleton

“The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.” (Proverbs 14:15)

In the New Living Translation, “simple believer” is changed to “only simpletons.” In the New American Standard Bible, “simple believer” changes to “naive believer.”

Simple. Simpleton. Naive. Probably not words one wants to describe themselves, right? Yet – do they describe you and your pursuit of the Lord? For when we start to believe anything and everything, then it shows us to be true simpletons, naive, without conviction about anything.

We live in a world of tolerance and more and more the church is being called to show its tolerance to many things that God’s standard, His conviction for Holy living opposes. Tolerance of such things is really only spiritual ignorance.

Having faith in God like a child does not mean we have to ignore or give up on living practical, holy lives. If we are consumed with a true faith in the Lord it will actually cause us to be more more careful as we seek out His will for each step we take in life.

Living a life of vibrant faith then is not an excuse to avoid planning, or preparing, etc. Rather, a life of vibrant faith should cause us to pray through things even more, with a clear focus on God and hearing from Him about His sovereign plan for your life.

We must guard our hearts from a lack of ability to distinguish between truth and error. We live in a world and at a time when each believer must live out a vibrant life of faith. And that my friends, is anything but simple or naive.

May you give much prayer and thought to each step, each conversation, each meeting you have this day.