Tuesday, July 26, 2011


This may be one of the most important questions you ask yourself. It is one I have been wrestling with for a while now. Why do you follow Jesus? Go ahead, take some time to think about it and see if you can come up with an answer. And since we are being honest, let's go ahead and throw those Sunday School answers out the window. Have you given it some thought? Do you have your answer? If so, feel free to read on.

We can all find our reasons for following in one (or more) of the reasons that follow.

A big one for the healthy and wealthy of the United States (which includes just about all of us in comparison to the rest of the world) is for the perks. I believe there is an overwhelming majority of us who follow God for the blessings He bestows upon us. Since we are being honest and all, I think I can tell you this has been my reason on more than one occasion. Sadly, I have bargained with God before. Perhaps you can relate to this prayer, "If only you will __________ (feel free to fill in this blank with any number of things you want God to do), I will __________ (this blank is usually filled in with some sort of "obedient" behavior)."

It's pretty easy to get caught up in this. And it's even easier to follow when the blessings are flowing. But what happens when they dry up? When the foundations we have built our lives upon begin to crumble and erode? Will we still follow?

Maybe you are in it for the less temporal things. There is a good chance you follow him for the salvation he has offered. This seems like a pretty legitimate reason to most of the church, but it doesn't fool God. We can likely chalk this up to following him for our "Get Out of Hell Free" card. But, if this is the motivating factor, I might argue that the force driving our faith is fear.

Has anyone ever asked you "Where would you go if you were to die tonight?" That's a pretty intimidating question. While it may be a legitimate question, I don't feel it breeds true discipleship (just my opinion, feel free to disagree). Or perhaps, like me, you grew up in the church and were taught to fear God (yes, we are called to fear him--Proverbs 9:10--but we may have an unhealthy fear). To many of us, he is this cosmic killjoy waiting to punish us or damn us to hell for the wrongs we have committed. And I can understand how we fall into this pattern of thought when we are told to fear God, fear punishment, fear the world, etc. Let me assure you, this is not a proper view of God (or salvation).

Then again, there are some of us who follow to keep up an appearance. We believe that by doing or not doing certain things, we appear to have our life together. I guess we think it makes us appear more holy to others, ourselves, and to God. However, that is not the case. To God, appearances really don’t amount to much. Look back to the life of David. When Samuel came looking to anoint the next king, David’s father looked over him because of his appearance. Samuel worked his way through each of David’s brothers without anointing a king. It is there, in the midst of that story Scripture tells us: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height (being 5'4", I really love that part...hooray for us short guys!), for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Sometimes we have a leniency to treat church and faith like a night club. If you don't adhere to the dress code, you aren't getting in. That was never the case with Christ. He made no distinction based upon appearances. As a matter of fact, He was more against “spiritual” appearances as a means of righteousness than He was for them.

Perhaps, it could be that you follow because he has finally given you worth, significance and purpose. This too seems like a great reason to follow him; but unfortunately this misses the point as well. And this is a tough pill to swallow for all of us. Our worth, significance and purpose won't come until we follow, but they are not the reason to follow.

I have a feeling an overwhelming majority of us have ulterior motives most of the time. And, I can't really say I blame us. But the conclusion I have come to is these reasons will all disintegrate at some point with the ebb and flow of life. The realization I have come to is that the only way to follow is with a reckless abandonment, out of love. Any other reason is to miss the point! And to follow this way will lead to a full and abundant life.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I know you're supposed to start writing with an attention getter. I also know that a dead guy few people know of isn't really an attention getter. But, I'm just going to go with it. Matthew Henry, one of the great Biblical commentators says this, “The first affections of men towards Christ are usually lively and warm.  These lively affections will abate and cool if great care be not taken.” This very statement has made me take inventory of my faith. Over the years, I have done a lot to convince myself my affections toward Christ have not taken a back seat. And I can't help but think I'm not the only one in this boat.

Too often we get so caught up in Christianity and Religion that we remove God from the picture altogether. In their song Received, Shane and Shane make this statement, "...heard a rumor I guess, but I wanna know who told me so. Told me serving you replaced me knowing you." Being in full-time ministry, it got easy for me to fall into that mindset. After a while, my relationship with the God of the universe turned into something of a habit. I came to a point where I was no longer doing things out of love for Him, but out of service to him. And let me tell you, there is a vast difference. I fear, more often than we care to admit, that becomes the case for many of us. We have replaced the relationship we once had with him, for a religious encounter a few times a week.

The love we once had slowly dissipates and something else creeps in and takes its place. Something much less significant. Something much less fulfilling. We have traded the uncontainable, uncontrollable God who created us for a mere idol. Busyness is a big one in our society (thus the "need" for a smart phone where everything is at our fingertips). Along with social status (the house we live in, the car we drive, the clothes we wear). I could spend a while compiling this list with idols I have personally made, but I will spare you. But I feel the most dangerous idol of all is perhaps the "fulfillment" of just playing Church or doing Christianity. The reason this is so dangerous is because more often than not we don't even notice it has taken place. At least, not until someone else points it out. The good news is that none of us really does this intentionally; it just kind of happens. I can't be certain, but I would like to think this was the case for the Pharisees as well.

Take a few minutes and read Jeremiah 2:1-13 and 23-25. That's right, I want you to grab your Bible, open the pages and see what it says for yourself. I can almost guarantee that if you are reading this, you have a Bible laying around somewhere.

Marriage is a great analogy to these verses.

Taking a look at newly-weds may make some of you want to throw up in your mouth a bit; but it is apparent they love one another. All of those constant displays of affection. Let's not forget the sappy notes and letters they write to one another. Of course, there are the sweet nothings they whisper into each others ears. By observing newly-weds for any period of time, it would be downright impossible to think they didn't love each other. 

Now take a look at some couples that have been married for quite some time; say 10, 20, or 30+ years.  Some people might wonder if these people truly love one another. They seem to be content being apart from each other for extended periods of time. They rarely tell each other how much they love one another, whether through words or other displays of affection. Perhaps they constantly fight or even discuss divorce openly. Maybe it isn’t even this extreme. Maybe they just don’t have that spark that newlyweds have—you’ve all heard that saying: “Oh, to be young and in love.” Or another one you have heard: "Love is blind."

The contrast of these two examples is exactly what this passage is referring to. What happened between the honeymoon and now? Why do they not love each other as they once did?

Now for the spiritual side—what is the difference between someone new in their faith and someone who has been a Christian for a long period of time? The newly converted (I really hate that word, but that's a tangent I will not go off on now) Christian is infatuated with God—everything they do is filtered through him. They can’t wait to get in the Word, spend time in prayer, or hear Sunday’s message. They are simply looking forward to spending some time, alone, with the one they love--God. The individual that’s been a Christian their whole lives may still read their Bible and pray, but often times the love has diminished. All of these disciplines have the tendency to become a thing of ritual or habit. Simply put, they have gotten bored with God and turned away from their first love. The awe for God is no longer there.

Back to the marriage analogy, what happened between the honeymoon of our salvation experience and now? Why do we not love Him as we once did? Why are we not as eager to uninhibitedly follow Him? I think the answer to these questions is that some of us have lost our awe of God.

We all, at some time or another, have become familiar with things. We have become familiar with our family and friends and think we know all there is to know about them. We have become familiar with the songs played on the radio—we even have all of the words memorized. We have become familiar with our home, our job, our schedule, even our life. Many of us have even become familiar with worship, the Bible, and God. We think we know all there is to know. There can’t be any other way to worship; we just repeat the words as if they have no meaning. God will not give us another revelation from a certain passage of Scripture. After a while all these things become routine. They all lose their luster and begin to seem dull.  Here’s the good news—if this is you, you aren’t alone. Many in the church and even the church itself struggle with this. However, this isn’t a new problem—big surprise. Read the Bible and you will see that from cover to cover, the Bible is filled with similar stories of people that have become familiar with their environment and with their God.

But, let me show you what it looks like to live in love and in awe of God. In Exodus 3:6 we see Moses by the burning bush afraid to look at the face of God. In Acts 7:56 we see Stephen, proclaiming he sees the Son of Man standing at God’s right hand, right before he is stoned to death. In John 8 we see the woman caught in adultery experience forgiveness when Christ tells her to “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t ask her if she was sorry for what she had done; He didn’t seem too concerned that she might do this same thing again. All He did was showed her love, even when she hadn’t asked for it. Now I can’t even begin to imagine what was going through her mind at that moment, but I guarantee you that she was in complete awe of God and had a new found love for Him. These are examples of people that at that moment were living in awe of their God and loving Him for who He is. They were sinners just like you and me, but they truly found what it means to be loved by God and to love Him in return. I don’t know about you, but that’s where I want to be.  I want to, once again, experience the love I had for Christ when we first met.