Wednesday, January 27, 2010


“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

-Josh Billings

'...the solution isn't to try harder, fail, and then make bigger promises, only to fail again. It does no good to muster up more love for God, to will yourself to love him more. When loving God become an obligation, one of many things we have to do, we end up focusing more on ourselves. No wonder so few people want to hear from us about what we ourselves feel is a boring, guilt-ridden chore!' 

-Francis Chan

'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'...'Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'
-Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 15:8-9 & 17-18)

Holly and I have started reading again as a couple every night. And since the youth group is using Francis Chan's 'Crazy Love' book as the main resource, we decided to read it together. Through reading again, I have come to realize how important it is to have time with each other and our creator. While I have the luxury of working for a church, I can honestly say that I still struggle with my relationship with God. I know I read scripture everyday, but the question becomes do I really let His word clothe me and run through me-changing me for the day or have I become so numb it doesn't matter because I've heard it before?
I chose the above quotes and scripture because I've been struck by God's Word! I mean Josh's quote get right to the heart of the we love God or our neighbors more than we do ourselves? If the answer is no, then we both have a serious problem. In Francis Chan's book he talks about how true love makes you do some silly things. I mean for those of us who have been in a relationship before...we know we have spent a small fortune on that special someone-but if we love God, why don't we give more money in the offering plate (why does He get the buck or two we really don't care about)? We also know that we would do anything for the person we truly take time off of work to prepare for a surprise (getting them something or doing something they'd really enjoy)-but if we love God why aren't we willing to give Him more of our time? Why aren't we volunteering more of our time and energy to something we know would really please Him? 
I think we have become too desensitized  and too complacent in our lives and have become unwilling to give God more-let alone entertain taking on more. There are too many things in our daily lives that we give more time to-that we think are more important, but what can be more important than living as Christ and God has commanded? It's too bad that loving God and living as a Christians has become a chore for us...and that our failed attempts have left us broken and lost as we try to fill the void with things we know won't last. 
I know that I have honored Him with my lips and that there have been times where my heart was far from Him-I was too busy thinking about my own issues and duties. We all have those days...when life demands more than we can give, but God doesn't demand more than we can handle. In fact he offers us relief. 
When I read: 'the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart,' I couldn't help but go back and read the whole chapter for some context. And what I realized is that the nuts and bolts of this whole chapter wasn't about being psychically unclean (what the Pharisees were arguing about), but about an unclean or untrue heart. I think it has something to do with faith and works
My challenge to you is to slow down-we are so quick to answer, and really listen to God's calling on your life. I know I asked you to ask this earlier, but are you living for Him or yourself? I know it can get complicated at time, but who do you turn to? While friends and family are good to have as a support system...people can and will let you down, but have you given God a chance? And when I say a chance, I don't mean a half-hearted plea during a prayer, but having faith and being changed by the power and renewal only he can bring. I dare you to truly be transformed and more false words and 'honoring' lips that only reflect emptiness or half-heartedness.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


"You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give."
-Kahil Gbran (novelist and poet)

As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."
-Jesus of Nazareth (Luke 21:1-4)

I know what you're thinking (as your eyes roll)...Jeff is about to write concerning money, but you would be wrong (not completely though). The truth is, I'd like to write more about love. More specifically, our love for God. While the quote and scripture provided above could easily point towards money, I think it points to the heart of the matter, something we struggle with as Christians...our heart and how we live out our lives as Christians. In Matthew 22:34-40 we hear Jesus talk about the 'greatest commandment'-that is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. He goes on further and says the 'second is just like it, Love your neighbor as yourself' and that the laws and prophets hang on these two commandments.
Wow! So how does one go about living with a loving heart that is meant for God and for others? I mean we live in a selfish world. We are taught to look out for ourselves, not others. I mean we've grown so desensitized to the afflictions of others that very little moves us anymore. Poverty, hunger, homelessness, and the loss of jobs aren't new to fact, they're so old that we haven't any room for them in our lives. I mean, we go to church, hear about such sadness, but we do nothing ourselves...we always assume or even say 'wow, that's horrible, someone should do something about that'-not thinking that God might be calling us to do something-to step up.
When I think about this, I can't help but remember something else Jesus said: 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'. Sometimes is really angers me when God's church doesn't do as it should. It's upsetting to know that psychology plays more of a role in our lives than theology. Think about it, we can rationalize anything in our mind to make us feel less guilty or to pass off the guilt onto someone else. I mean being a 'good Christian' is too commonly passed off on those who work in the church, but that's not true. Throughout the Bible God chose mere mortals to do extraordinary things-it's just that it took some convincing on their end. What will it take for you?
Getting back to Jesus talking about the poor woman who gave all she had...did you noticed anything? He was pointing out that she was being faithful...even when she had nothing left. I mean when you truly love God you don't rationalize your next steps, you just do it. You don't come up with excuses as to why you can't do just do it. I know it's easier said than done because I too am a sinner who struggles everyday. But I think we really need to take a step back and ask ourselves...are we living for 'me' or or living for Jesus? I think we have a nasty tendency of planning ahead, planning for a future, but keep God out of the loop. The interesting thing here is that He continues to bless us in-spite of our shortcomings (and most of the time) when things don't work out...then we seek Him-asking out of our God the left overs.
Again, if God blesses us, why do we only give out of our wealth rather than out of what we have been given? Truthfully, God has given us more than money, he has given us family, friends, and our health. Sure, the money helps pay the bills, but doesn't God have missions that need to be carried out (like the Great Commission from Matt. 28)? After all, we are His 'hands and feet'.
My point is...if you can honestly look yourself in the mirror and say that you're content-then you need to dig deeper and search Him out with all your heart, soul, and mind. God loves us too much to leave us where we are and how we are. We are meant to be molded and shaped by the potters hands, but we have to make a choice to let Him take the lead. To truly have faith that our problems aren't bigger than Him. I think that when we don't give as we should (or what we can) we show our true colors-just how greedy and selfish we truly are. The love of God is meant to be shared-not hoarded and that extends to what we give God (not just concerning money). I think it's too easy to be boastful and compare ourselves to others, but in God's eyes none of us are good, saintly, or just. Jesus even corrected someone for calling Him 'good'. Even today, I think most of us have this 'following Christ' thing all wrong-just like the Pharisee from Matthew who compared himself to the Tax Collector on the street did.
My challenge to you is to refocus yourself. And this might mean taking sometime off from work and really having a spiritual retreat-just you and God. Search your heart and the scriptures for His Him in prayer and be open to the truth for pride doesn't leave room for anyone else let alone God. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010


'In prayer it is better to have a heart without words and words without a heart.' -Mahatma Gandhi
Jesus Promises Living Water
On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.) -John 7:37-39

You know, I think Gandhi had it right. Especially when we look at the scripture that follows. Jesus talked about what it might look like to be spirit filled and spirit led. He describes it as 'rivers of living water' that will 'flow from his heart'. Amazing! However, when you take a step back and examine your own you see that your life, your daily words and actions flow with this abundance?
If not, I think we need to look at some more scripture and peel away the many layers that protect the 'real' us from others, ourselves, and God. By now, we should all know that we're not fooling anyone-especially not God. The texts I'd like us to really read and marinate on are from Matthew and John. While the scripture from John brings this all together (and we've already read it-in the above), we need two more pieces to this puzzle/pie. In Matt. 6:19:34 we find Jesus talking about money and possessions and in Matt. 13:44-46 He talks about hidden treasure.
After reading the two pieces in Matthew a word should jump out at you. Do you know what it is? The word is treasure. Now, we're not pirates, but we do have a tendency to seek out that which isn't ours or that which isn't even needed in our everyday life. In fact, the majority of the time, once we've attained it, the thrill or excitement is gone and we end up never using whatever it is for very long or end up forgetting about it. *Very fitting since we just got done opening Christmas presents huh?
I think this 'treasure' we seek at times isn't of the spiritual nature-it isn't something that will bring us peace or true happiness. Rather, I think what we seek to often leaves us feeling empty inside. So think about that 'treasure' you seek-fill in the blank: I seek _______
It could be love, it could be money, it could be a restored relationship, or it could be healing from brokenness (both from our own doing and others causing us pain). But I think we all, as Christians need a restored relationship with our creator. A portion from Matt. 6 that always gets me is 'Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.' Whenever I read it, I get this feeling that I'm unworthy and sometimes I even feel ashamed. While many would be shocked I feel that way, it's the truth and I think too many of us are in denial about our true needs in life. I know that I treasure things here on this earth more than I do God and it saddens me. I know we all struggle with it, but how sad is it that God doesn't get enough of our time and our hearts?
My challenge for you is to dig deep and to take a serious look at your life. I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this...we all do. I just hope that one day I will once again be as eager as that man in the parable from Matt. 13-he was so excited at what he found/had, he gave everything up just to keep it. What do you wish to keep?

Sunday, January 10, 2010


While I know I'm a little late on my first blog of the New Year, trust was worth the wait. So let us begin! Did you make a 'New Year's Resolution'? Did you make one last year? If so, how many did you make and did you achieve all of your goals?
Did you know that nearly 97% of New Year's Resolutions fail each year? Do you know why there's such a high failure rate concerning New Year's Resolutions? Is it because we have commitment issues...yeah, I can see that, but I think it's much more than that. I think it's something more basic, a value or discipline we all struggle with and it doesn't have to do with the goals themselves, but how we go about making the 'change' for the better.
When you think of New Years Resolutions you think of a list. And when you think about that list you don't really get into specifics concerning how you plan to achieve it. According to Psychology Today  we fail because of 'unclear and vague goals'. For instance, one of the top 5 resolutions is concerning eating habits or weight, but it's usually written down or considered more of a 'wish' list rather than an actual goal that can be achieved. So when we slip up, we throw in the towel! Our mindset and goals aren't on the same page. Too often the bar is set so high that when we screw up we beat ourselves up over the failure and give up instead of pressing on and not focusing on the negative and saying things like 'I can't do it' or 'I'm a failure'. No one likes to fail, but when there's no plan for our can we hope to achieve it?
Again, Psychology Today offers us an example:

Three reasons for failing to achieve one's stated goal-
(1) Unclear and vague goals. It is better to state "I plan on losing 20 lbs by June 1st" rather than "I plan on being more healthy."
(2) Failure to gauge one's progress toward the stated goals. It is better to weigh yourself every Friday morning as a means of gauging your weight loss rather than leaving it to how "well you feel in your pants."
(3) Weak self-control and self-regulation when facing challenges that impede one's ability to achieve the stated goals. It is better to state that once you go on vacation, you will only have a single plate at any meal at the all-you can eat buffet (irrespective of the offerings) rather than having to respond to the temptations at each meal void of a self-regulatory action plan.

Now, the thing that jumped out at me was 'rather than having to respond to the temptations' and 'self-regulatory action plan'. Concerning our spiritual lives we often miss the boat completely because we have only well intentioned goals and no plans to help us reach the goals. And some of us often end up praying to God empty prayers and go through the motions, yet still expect Him to be faithful and give us what we want...when really- what have we done for Him lately? And then, for some, it becomes a bargain or 'offer' that we throw out there: 'please God, I promise to do this if you will do this,' yet more often than not...we never follow through on our end. I mean we might for a while, but not long enough to make it a life-style or life-altering change.
Now, lets take a look the word and definitions of resolution: a formal expression of opinion or intention made, the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.
Did anything jump out at you? How about 'determining upon an action or course of action' or 'the mental state or being resolved' and my favorite: firmness of purpose. My challenge for you, especially if you've made a commitment to God in your life-not as a New Year's Resolution, but rather to be a Christ-led follower, is to stay focused and firm concerning the goal of becoming more Christ-like.