Monday, May 25, 2020
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One Hat To Rule Them All

We all wear many different “hats.” Some of mine are: husband, dad, son, brother, friend, pastor, counselor, speaker, writer, and Chicago Bear fan. There are other hats that I put on from time-to-time as well. Sometimes I have to put on the Mr. Fix-it hat to take on a repair or the referee hat to take on my kids’ disagreements. The point is, we each have different hats that we wear in different situations. The question then becomes, what is the common thread that weaves through all of those different identities? Some of you may have noticed that I did not include a Christian hat. That was not an oversight. My identity as a follower of Jesus Christ is not a hat that I put on to come to church on Sunday and Wednesday. My identity as a follower of Jesus Christ is that which defines how I will live as I wear any of these other hats. To borrow from J.R.R. Tolkien, it is one hat to rule them all.

We are a resurrection people.

Everything else we do and are hinges on the fact that we are a resurrection people. This is not about celebrating the holiday of Easter, but about being a resurrection people every day of the year. We are transformed and renewed by the resurrection power of our Lord Jesus Christ! We are given new life and we are empowered to live as a part of the Kingdom of God! We are called to carry forth this resurrection hope-a message of new life-no matter which hat we might be wearing at the moment.
My identity as a part of the resurrection people, informs how I will be a husband, dad, son, brother, friend, pastor, counselor, speaker, writer, and even a Chicago Bear fan. There is no part of my life that is left unaffected. There is nothing that I hold in reserve. I am a resurrection person through-and-through.

Resurrection Hope

During this time of pandemic, as we pray, we know that we are calling upon the One who has defeated sin, death, and the gates of Hell itself through the power of the resurrection and now that power is at work in us. As we look at the pain and suffering that is all around us—fear, illness, grief over lost loved ones, and economic loss—we know that we follow the risen Jesus who is the answer to all the hurt. He is the one we are calling on and we are therefore confident in his ability to answer and bring healing. As long as we have our eyes on Jesus and remember our identity as a resurrection people, there is hope even in these seemingly hopeless times.

Change Your Life By Changing Your Mind

We have a choice to make. What are we going to think about? What are we going to focus on? This choice affects whether we experience peace and joy or chaos and fear. Paul says that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. He also tells us that when we focus our minds on the Spirit and allow him to control our minds, we will experience life and peace. We can change our lives by changing our minds.

EXPOSED!!! Pulling Back the Curtain on Fear

In L. Frank Baum’s classic story, The Wizard of Oz, we discover that the Great and Powerful Oz is merely an old, wrinkled man behind a curtain. All of the smoke and mirrors and booming voice are only a show. Once the curtain has been pulled back, Dorothy and her companions discover the Wizard isn’t so great and powerful after all.

Fear works in much the same way. It blusters and blows and puts on a big show, but in reality, it has no power at all other than what we give it. As Zach Williams writes in his song—“Fear, he is a liar”.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul writes, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Through the Holy Spirit we have a spirit of power and not fear; a spirit of love and not timidity; we have a spirit of self-discipline so that we need not be controlled by fear.

Remember the chorus to Zach Williams song:
Fear…He is a Liar.
He will take your breath,
Stop you in your steps.
Fear…He is a Liar.
He will rob your rest,
Steal your happiness.
Cast your fear
In the Fire,
‘Cause Fear, He is a Liar.

Here is the video version of the podcast.

Get a Gratitude Vaccination

In today’s podcast, you will learn how to get your “gratitude vaccination”.

Studies have found not only a correlation but an actual causal link showing that increased social media use brings an increase to feelings of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and envy. According to Dr. Frank J. Ninivaggi, “Unconscious envy prompts one to feel inadequate, incomplete, impotent and missing out.”

Gratitude reduces our tendencies to compare ourselves to others. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” as Theodore Roosevelt once said. When we practice gratitude, we are better able to celebrate the accomplishments of others in place of feeling bitterness and resentment towards them because of what they have or what they have accomplished.

Proverbs 14:30 says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Do you have a heart that is at peace? Gratitude is the antidote—or vaccine— to envy and a whole host of other negative emotions. Paul encourages us in Philippians 4:4-7 with these words: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

Here is the link to the video version of the podcast.

What Will You Do With These Days?

Set a fire down in my soul
That I can’t contain
That I can’t control.
I want more of You God.
I want more of You God.

These are the lyrics to a song sung by Jesus Culture. I ran across the song in a worship set that Michael W. Smith did as a live stream on Sunday. The song is simple–these are the only lyrics–and I am making them my prayer for this time we find ourselves in.

During this “shelter in place” order, folks seem more open to hearing the hope of the Gospel. I was amazed at the number of live feeds and the amount of content that was uploaded yesterday as the Church left the building and invaded social media. I believe that God can and will do something amazing with this time. I want revival to break forth and I want it to begin with me.

So, these song lyrics are my prayer for myself, my family, my friends, and my congregation. We have had so many distractions removed from our lives due to the limitations of this season we are in and that gives us a unique opportunity to refocus our lives on Jesus.

You see, usually, when you begin to focus more of your attention and energy on God, it means that you have to make some choices to give up other things and rearrange how you spend your time. But, it just so happens that God has already made those arrangements for you. The question is: what will you do with the time you have been given?

There is this conversation in JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” between Frodo and Gandalf:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

All you have to decide is how to spend the time that you have been given. What will you do with these days? Will you make this your prayer as well? Do you dare? I believe that God is going to do something great with this time. One day we will look back at this season and we will say, “That is when the great revival of 2020 began!”

The Best Of All Is–God Is With Us

We had our first Live Feed worship service on Sunday due to the restrictions in place to attempt to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic. Today’s podcast is the message that I shared during that Live Feed. In this time of crisis, we are invited to remember that God is with us, therefore, we can be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:1-9). The title of this podcast is actually the final words of John Wesley before his death. I hope you find some encouragement with these words. As always, Keep on Living Unleashed.

Here is the video version of the podcast.

How To Take A Real Rest

Has life made you tired and exhausted? Especially during this time of crisis with the coronavirus pandemic, you may feel overwhelmed and beat. Jesus offers us a real rest–one that we can’t find anywhere else. With him, we can live freely and lightly even in the midst of a crisis and tough times. Listen to today’s episode to find out how to take a real rest.

Here is the video version of the podcast.

One Thing That Never Changes

How quickly everything has changed. Ten days ago, the coronavirus seemed to be something that was still affecting “them” (with “them” referring to someone else but us). The major headline in the news cycle was the primary elections that had been dubbed Super Tuesday II. Yet, as each 24-hour cycle passed, the news continued to get worse, until large portions of our communities were shut down in an effort to “flatten the curve” of the progression of this virus. To look back and review all of the changes that have happened in a little more than a week can make one’s head spin. And to attempt to look forward can seem to be an overwhelmingly scary and hopeless task. How much more will everything change? 

I have good news for you today. No matter how much or how quickly the world around us changes, one thing holds true—“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. (Hebrews 13:8) Nothing on earth can change that and that is good news. The Psalmist says, “I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:1-2) Jesus promises to be with us always. (Matthew 28:20) He even tells us we can find peace in him even though in this world we will find trouble, but we are to take heart because he has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Here is the video version of the podcast.

How Love and Roller Coasters Inspired Me to Overcome Fear

Roller Coaster
Fear can turn your life upside-down, but love overcomes fear.

I did not ride my first roller coaster until I was 18 years old. I had managed to make it through most of my teenage years without having to face my fear of those big steel monsters. No one in my family rode roller coasters and neither did many of my friends in high school, so I was able to escape with little damage to my ego caused by the taunts of those who found the drops and twists and turns exhilarating. That is, I was able to escape until I met my wife, Christie. You see, Christie loved roller coasters. So when we planned a trip to Six Flags with some friends after we had been dating for a few months, I knew I was in trouble. Before we even left, she was trying to convince me to ride with her. Now, being young and in love, I told her I would, but I secretly hoped that there would be something that would keep us from getting to ride. However, the day we went was sunny (no storms), the lines were short (I couldn’t stall), and all the roller coasters in the park were fully operational (no technical difficulties).

roller coaster loop
Fear can turn your life upside-down, but love conquers fear.

I was able to put off the inevitable for a little while. Every time Christie would bring up riding a roller coaster, I would suggest seeing a show or riding some other less threatening ride. However, resistance was futile. Eventually, I had to face the inevitable—ride the monsters or admit my fear to the woman I loved. I got on. My first roller coaster was the Ninja. A 120-second ride that begins with a gut-wrenchingly slow climb to its 110-foot peak before dropping you 69 feet and hurling you through 4 inversions at a top speed of 65 miles per hour. It was awesome! We rode 5 times in a row. Now, these great steel monsters are not something to be feared, but something to be conquered—relishing in the exhilaration.

Eventually, I had to face the inevitable—ride the monsters or admit my fear to the woman I loved.

Life is a roller coaster ride. It is full of ups and downs; hills and valleys; twists and turns; and sometimes, it even turns you upside down—threatening to spill you out into a great void of nothingness. Like we would a roller coaster, we often face life with anxiety, timidity, and fear. When we find life in Jesus, he does not take us off of the roller coaster, but he rides it with us. He brings peace, joy, power, and contentment in the midst of all the twists and turns—the ups and downs.

Gratitude & Joy

Paul has a recipe for dealing with the roller coaster of life. In Philippians 4:4-7, he writes: “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

With Jesus, the roller coaster ride of life becomes exciting and adventurous because we know that he is with us. How amazing!