Daily Practicing the Fundamentals

Slow down when you move too fast.
My favorite baseball team is currently setting historic winning records. Yet despite all this winning, the team’s manager threw out what seemed to be a classic cliché as to why they were winning, “It all comes down to fundamentals.”
For this team, though, it wasn’t a cliché, but a daily action step. A player who was interviewed said, “Other teams I’ve played for have like nine-tenths of everything covered. There’s just so much more emphasis on this team on that last little piece.” After the interview, he went off to practice drills that most teams stop doing once they leave spring training.
This team learned what believers must learn. It’s the little “no big deal” compromises of today that bite you tomorrow. You stop doing what you got you free from and experiencing victory over your drug of choice, a repeated sinful habit; and, you will eventually lose or start doing it again.
The information you feed your brain leads to your choices. If you’re telling your brain it’s no biggie today, it will eventually believe it’s no biggie tomorrow when faced with an even bigger choice – the choice to lose or go backward.
When life seems like a blur, slow down. Examine your thinking over the past few weeks and months. Ask, “Do my thoughts line up with the truth of God’s Word?” If not, you’ve probably stopped practicing the biblical life-change fundamentals – the FREEdom process.
Keep making the little choices Jesus’ way through the FREEdom process and you’ll keep going forward and experiencing victory/freedom in Christ.

Peace Reigns with Truth

We had plenty of potential peace robbing situations on our recent vacation to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
To start off, we had to arrive a day late due to scheduling conflicts with our cabin. Peace reigned as we focused on the truth that God knew how many days we needed to relax and to hear from Him.
Next up, due to the heavy snow the Eastern Sierra’s got this year, the creek running at the entrance to our cabin was a river! We tested it out and thought we could cross. Wrong. We got stuck. We laughed about it, though, and asked God to get us out of it. After trying a few things, He sent an “angel” in a Jeep with a tow rope to pull us out! Peace wins.
This, however, meant that we had to leave our van on the opposite side of this river, where God saw fit to guard it with a head of cattle! Pretty cool, huh? Yet, this raised another potential peace robber. We now had to walk across this ice cold river every time we wanted to do things we had planned. Victory came as we simply focused on Jesus, put on our water shoes (had them for kayaking – who knew we’d need them to cross a river!) and walked with our God, literally.
I’ll finish with one last story, though I literally could go on. We had three straight days of rain; so, we got the weather report before kayaking on Gull Lake. There was a 40% chance of afternoon rain, which meant a 60% chance of sunshine, right? So we got out early and hit the lake. It was a beautiful day. We kayaked around Gull and were about to take another spin, when both my wife and daughter said we should call it day. It sounded and felt to them like rain was coming. If you know me, you know what I wanted to do. The truth is, however, God is changing my life in this area. I don’t have to conquer anymore, which is a definite peace robbing feeling. It was okay to have only kayaked a couple of hours. It was okay to head back, which is exactly what we did.
Praise God He’s changing me. The moment we got our kayaks out of the water, the afternoon showers showed up early! And it rained hard. So we hung out in the van and waited patiently on God to let up on the rain so we could load the kayaks to travel home. He did. We did. And not one minute later did it hail…hard!!
There’s a saying in the Sierras, “Give the weather ten minutes and it’ll change.” Yes it does, but your peace doesn’t. This vacation constantly changed from what we had expected to the crazy unexpected, which could have led to great internal stress and a bummer vacation. Yet, we focused on the truths Jesus gave us and let Him keep us in perfect peace just as He said He would.
Life changes come from all directions. Your peace doesn’t, however, as it comes from knowing and being in relationship with the Truth, Jesus, throughout those crazy unexpected changes.

Jesus Peace

Peace and safety are not the same.
I’m talking about the kind of peace that can be experienced no matter how unsafe or stressful the situation you might be encountering.
Jesus said He didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword (Matt. 10:34ff). He wasn’t talking about religious wars as some have interpreted this verse. He was referring to the kind of conflict that occurs between people when one chooses to follow Jesus and others don’t like it.
Jesus also said blessed are those who are persecuted for following Him (Matt. 5:10). This at times can mean physical harm where the believer can still experience peace despite being put in an unsafe situation.
If you want a healthy Jesus faith, don’t seek safety and comfort. Instead, seek peace with God through what Jesus did on the cross. If we choose to listen to and follow Jesus, not Christianity or traditions, others may not like it and become the very “haters” they claim Christians to be.
Safety and comfort may feel good in the short term, but never over time. Compromises here and there ultimately bring peace robbing guilt. The internal peace, the kind that says, “It is well with my soul” only comes from making the hard choices that can land you in unsafe places.
Loving Jesus isn’t always easy, but it sure is the best way to live.

It’s Good to Be King

Someone or something will be your King.
2 Chronicles 35 and 36 tell an interesting story. One king is replaced by another who is ruled by another, all foretold by the one and only true King, God Himself.
The story begins with Judah’s King Josiah going to war with Egypt’s King Neco without getting instructions from God, Israel’s true King. Why? He wanted to be his own king. This resulted in his death by Neco, who put Judah under tribute. This effectively made Neco king of Judah, who then made Jehoiakim “king” of Judah. Will Jehoiakim surrender and make God his king?
Nope. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, defeats Neco at the Battle of Carchemish (predicted in Jer. 46:1-12) who now becomes Judah’s king. Jehoiakim, like his dad, wants to be his own king and rebels against Nebuchadnezzar. This resulted in his being hauled off to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar, who also guts the temple and installs Jehoiachin as “king.”
“King” Jehoiachin eventually wants to be his own king so he also makes the decision to rebel against King Nebuchadnezzar with the same results: he takes more stuff from the Temple and installs Zedekiah as “king.” What does Zedekiah do? He repeats this losing cycle of trying to be his own king. This led to Nebuchadnezzar getting rid of all “kings” in Judah by destroying Jerusalem and the Temple.
God, Israel’s true King, sent message after message to the Israelites – make me King and all this losing ends. They refused to listen.
Someone or something will be king of your life. The question is, who or what will that be – God, yourself, or your drug of choice? You can stop the losing cycle and experience victory by stop trying to be your own king! Choose to listen to and follow Jesus, not yourself or your drug, to victory through Spirit empowered faith choices.

Fill ‘er Up!

To be full of Jesus means to know emptiness without Him.
We sing a song in our Sunday service that says “I want more of you, Jesus.” Well, we must first experience emptiness or we wouldn’t even know to make such a request.
And what does it take to experience emptiness? The Spirit to show us that we have bricks taking up valuable space in our lives. I grew up in the days before the latest water saving toilet technologies. We’d put bricks in the water tank in order to conserve water. This way the tank would be “full”, even though it wasn’t, in order to shut off the water.
We are just like that toilet bowl tank. We have bricks taking up space where water should be. As finite beings we can only hold so much water; and yet, our drugs of choice/our ways of living take up space making us feel full, when we’re not.
If you want more of Jesus, the living water, it will mean giving the Spirit permission to remove those bricks – your pet sins – so you can experience emptiness in order to start asking for more of Jesus, the only source of true living.
Remember, Jesus didn’t come to add Himself or new behaviors to us. In the tank illustration, it would lead to wasting water as it overflowed the bowl spilling onto the floor. No, Jesus came to replace us, those bricks, with Himself.
More of Jesus and less of you is a sign of a healthy Jesus disciple, one who loves and becomes like Jesus.