FMBS 031 John 14 The One Thing God Demands From You

No matter how long you’ve been walking with God, or how sophisticated your knowledge, or how complete your experience, you’ll never get beyond one single demand.

What demand is that? It’s not moral perfection, or doctrinal sophistication.  It’s not faithful church attendance, or the willingness to be nice to each other.  It’s the one thing without which your life without God is not possible.  It’s simply this.  Jesus demanded that we trust Him.  Of all the beautiful things that are promised in this chapter – Heaven, the Holy Spirit, fruitfulness, blessing, peace of mind, the purposeful life – none of it can be accessed through effort, through family, or through business achievement.  All of it hinges on your ability to trust God, to test God and take Him at His word.  This is what He demands.  And on this, He will not compromise.

But if you can trust Him, all things open up. The world gets bigger.  His promises drop into place.  Listen to them as we study together in our Friday Morning Bible Study.

RG2G 048 Why Are There So Many Mean Christians?

Everywhere I go I meet people who have been wounded by other Christians. The landscape all across America is littered with broken hearts and shattered dreams of those who have been turned away and turned off by churches.

I believe there is a big difference between Christianity and what it means to be a Christian.  The ianity part added onto Christ is about religious rules: moralism, legalism, fundamentalism, and all those other kinds of isms that obscure the fact that Jesus loves people, not rules, not denominations, and not empty buildings with big steeples on top.

I think over these years I’ve discovered some reasons why so many people who call themselves Christians are really mean.  I don’t think it’s because they’re crude and cruel.  I happen to think it’s because they are wounded and afraid.  So in this week’s episode of Renegade, I talk about the one reason why I think so many Christians find it hard to be gracious, loving, humble, and filled with joy.  See what you think.  Let me know if you think I’m onto something.

Dave Rave -The 4 Ways of Rest

daveraveWell, it’s Christmas season and, like it or not, we’re in a mad dash for Christmas Eve.

Often we get overwhelmed with activities and responsibilities and trying to make everything just perfect for the ones we love.  And as good as all that is, you need not give up your sense of peace and being at rest.  As a matter of fact, rest is a big deal in the Scriptures.  It’s such a big deal that it’s, more times than not, how God describes the death of His children.  They enter into His rest.

So here are four ways that I am resting this holiday season.

  1. I am relaxed and at peace.  I’m at peace with God now and forever.  This is my Father’s world.  I’m going to relax and let Him run it and be at peace knowing that all things are right between me and my God.
  2. I am enjoying the now.  In Psalm 37, it’s amazing how many verbs are imperatives about the now: trust, delight, dwell, do good, do not fret, wait patiently.  All of these are insights on how to live in the now.  Living just for the now is stupid.  But living in the now is daring to believe that God has you exactly where He wants you to be, and doing exactly what His love knows should be done.
  3. I’m savoring this season.  Few of us know how to savor. We eat fast, we drive fast, we microwave our meals, and we use texts and email instead of face-to-face conversations. Savoring is slowing down to taste, to breathe in, to enjoy, to notice, to see, to be aware of this beautiful world with all of its colors, and all of its beauty.
  4. I’m trusting God’s timing. In Galations the Bible says, “It was just the right time, God sent forth His Son.”  God’s timing is impeccable, not only on the world’s stage, but in my life and yours.  If you need something, if a deadline is looming, remember God knows, and His timing can always be trusted.

The “Perp Walk” at Walmart

I was in our local Walmart the other day shopping for stuff I needed to decorate for Christmas.  Now think about it.  This is the Christmas season, the season of joy, right?  The season of it’s better to give than receive.

We had just come off of Black Friday. The news was good.  Spending was up 16% over this time last year.  Those who keep such statistics told us that we spent 52.4 billion dollars during Black Friday.  That’s good for the economy.  It tells us that people are not doing as badly as we thought.  Things are getting better.  The economy is reviving.  Where I live at least, the price of gas is even coming down.  So we should be filled with joy, right?  Well, we’re not.  When I watch people going up and down the aisles at Walmart they look like they’re doing a “perp walk” at the local prison.

Why is it that we look so serious, so bent over, so weighed down?  Why is it that we have it so well and at the same time feel that something is missing?  The truth of the matter is that it is.  It’s God.  I know.  That sounds religious and you would expect me to say that.  But it’s true. Everything that God has made is good.  The benefits, the blessings, the luxuries, the lifestyle that we enjoy has certainly come at the hands of God. But remember this:  things will never take the place of God.  Loving things ends in emptiness and disappointment.  Loving God may be frustrating because He doesn’t do what you want Him to do.  He often gives you not what you want but what you need.  But in spite of the mystery, the bigness, the scary nature of God, He does love you right where you are today. 

All the things that we see are mere reflections of His true essence, personality, and greatness.  I dare you to love Him – to fall in love with Jesus; not polyester Jesus, not wrinkle-free Jesus, not live-at-the-church Jesus, but the kind of Jesus who came down to be with us, was rejected, crucified, and came victoriously out of the grave.  This Jesus who put a smile on your face, a song in your heart, and a thrill in your soul.

God Loves You More When You’re Good; So be Good for Goodness Sake

You’ve all heard the little song, “You better watch out, you better not cry. You better not pout, I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town. He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.  He knows when you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.”  I think a lot of us treat God like Santa Claus.  He loves us more when we’re good.  So we better be really, really good if we want God to love us more.

I’m amazed at the number of people who call themselves Christians who have absolutely no inner conviction or confidence that God loves them as they are, not as they ought to be.  That’s why we can’t rest.  That’s why we’re working constantly to prove ourselves and earn our way in life.  We’re trying to earn God’s love.  But you can’t do that.  Good works do not bridge the gap between you and God.  Only grace can do that.  Only Christ can offer grace.

So we started out in this talk by talking about why people are so serious, why people have such frowns on their faces, and we dealt with that with four reasons for our inner restlessness.  And then we talked about what rest really means.  We used the word rest and gave four points each based on a letter: R-E-S-T.  Listen to the talk and see if you find yourself reflected in the story about the tube of toothpaste.

Why Aren’t You More Prosperous?

This past Sunday we continued our series, Polyester Jesus, distinguishing the difference between artificial religion and authentic faith.

Each weekend we’ve been talking about one of the benefits that real Jesus offers.  We’ve been talking about things like assurance, contentment, peace, and this week we focused on prosperity.  One of the most difficult things, it seems, for Christians to understand is that God intends for there to be a harmony between our spiritual and our physical well-being.

Being raised in a conservative, protestant church, I never heard 3 John where John says, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”

I’ve heard about prosperity.  I’ve heard preachers on TV talk about it.  I’ve even heard about a thing called prosperity gospel which means if you do enough things, you can obligate God to be really, really, really good to you.  As a matter of fact, whatever you’re experiencing right now is in direct correlation to how well you’re doing spiritually.  But is that really what the Scriptures teach?

In this talk we talk about life math: the difference between addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in the real world. We also talk about the three ingredients of prosperity.  Actually there are 4, but we only had time to talk about 3. And then we give a practical four-step process on how you actually go about doing this and realizing true prosperity in your everyday life.

If prosperity isn’t just more, or more than you; if prosperity isn’t power and the ability to control and manipulate, then what is it? It was Victor Hugo who said, “Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.”  How is it that we can prosper in all the dimensions of our lives, and that be a good thing and a God thing?  You’ll find out in this talk.

FMBS 030 John 13: You Will be Humbled Eventually

The fear of being humiliated is one of the strongest fears we have to defeat if we’re going to live well.

Jesus introduces this idea of humility through the practice of feet-washing.  You probably know this is a cultural thing; that feet were washed by servants when people entered the house after a long journey.  But what the disciples could never have expected was that Jesus, their God, Lord, and Messiah, the One they had left everything for, would humble Himself to wash their feet. He taught them that humility was the bedrock of our faith, that we are servants, not task masters, not Lords, not those who demand their own way.

One of the great contributions of this chapter is Jesus giving us a very clear, focused understanding of how we are to express our faith in the real world.  And that’s simply this, that if we love other people, particularly other Christians, that becomes one of the first evidences of our faith.

You can’t say that you love God and not love people, period.  That rules out hate, prejudice, any of the stuff that we see people using to excuse their behavior in God’s name.

Humility is a beautiful thing.  Humiliation can become a beautiful thing as God applies His grace to it.  It’s His love that grows strong in us that allows us to be strong in the world, even as we take up the towel as our Savior did, and serve others.



RG2G 047 Taking Christianity Back From the Fans

I love being a Christian.  By that I mean I love following Jesus.  By that I mean I love trying to follow Jesus, attempting to follow Jesus, aspiring to live the life for which I was created.

When I was converted, I just assumed that everyone who named the name of Christian took their faith seriously, that it was a core issue; not just a cosmetic confession. I learned all too early that there is a big difference between Christ-followers and the fans of Christ. 

You’ve seen fans, right?  Those are the people who wear the shirt, identify with the team, make bold proclamations as long as everything is going well, when it costs them little to nothing to be a fan.  Then there are other fans who buy the tickets, attend the games, and yet there’s a big difference between fans and players.

One of my driving passions for my whole life has been to take Christianity back from the fans – those people who somehow feel like they own Jesus, own His church, and can manipulate it for their own benefit; those who take their confessions lightly and oftentimes send mixed messages to those who are trying to find their way to God.

This week on Renegade we’ll be talking about how to distinguish between fans and followers, between posers and players.  This is a huge distinction and you need to know how to make it.

Don’t Make Samsung’s Mistake

If you’re involved in Twitter or online searching the internet, you’ve probably come across the YouTube version of Samsung’s new commercial bashing iPhone. It’s incredibly well done if the aim is to make fun of people.  And I’m not sure that should be the aim of any business, product or marketing.

Look at it for yourself and see if you don’t come away with that conclusion; that if you use an iPhone, you’re stupid.  You’re an idiot.   Well, studies have shown that people who use Mac products are highly educated.  And that’s not really even the point, is it?  You don’t sell your product by making your competitor’s buyers look stupid.  Apple has never done that.  No one has ever done it and won long-term, and I predict Samsung won’t either.

But you might say, “What about the ‘switcher’ ads that Apple ran against PC?”  Yes, and the very point of those ads is to compare the products.  John Hodgeman was the PC, not the PC user.  Remember that.  You can make fun of a product.  You can tell how yours is far superior.  But when you start making fun of people, even your competitor’s customers, to make your customers feel ok about buying your product, one day it’s going to come around and bite you hard.  You don’t sell and succeed by shaming, ridiculing, or making fun of people, period.

Paula’s Home, and I’ve Still Got Peace

As many of you know, my wife Paula gave us a scare this past weekend when she became ill, and we rushed her to the hospital.  The good news is, she passed all of her tests, and she’s perfectly fine. We’re giving God all the praise and thanks, which makes us especially thankful this Thanksgiving season.

As some of you also know, even while she was in the hospital undergoing tests, we decided that it was best that I go ahead and speak at The Gathering in both services.  Since the subject of the day was about peace, (and our peace was certainly tested during this time) we’re glad to say that we’re still in one peace.

I think this is an important talk for you to listen to, if for no other reason than, it was given under duress.  I have to be honest, I was more than a little worried, more than a little concerned. I was trying to focus on the task at hand because I think sometimes you have to live what you preach, as you’re preaching it; which means you should never try to traffic in truths that you’re not living.  So in this talk I am telling not just what I think, what I learn as a teacher, or what I aspire to as a pastor, but what I am walking through every single day.

Each Sunday morning I ask The Gathering family how they are doing.  And we all respond, “Still in one peace.”  That is never more a real statement, for me at least, than it has been this weekend.  I hope you know of the peace that Jesus gives, real Jesus.  Because it’s a gift unlike any other you will ever receive.

Two Kinds of People Who Could’ve Saved Joe Paterno

Like you, I’ve “OD’d ” over the news of the fall of Joe Paterno and the scandal of Penn State. I’ve been thinking of how this can happen in a place celebrated for its commitment to character, honor, and pride.

So I wondered if there are two kinds of people missing among the leadership; not only in the athletic department (football), but the University itself.  These people I call the dissenters and the disrupters.

Anyone in leadership knows that the longer you lead at one place, the more success you have, the more your organization and movement drifts into group-think which is basically the phenomenon where the leader is protected from all dissension or those who won’t get in lock-step.

Where are the dissenters and the disrupters at Penn State?  Where are those who have the courage to stand up and say “No, we can’t hide the truth to protect the greater good of the football program.”?  Or the disrupters who say, “While what we’ve done in the past has worked, maybe we need an overhaul for the future.”?

I do know this.  Group-think and the “good ol’ boy” system, protect-your-back-at-all-costs, doesn’t serve anyone in the long run.  The truth is, what we need is transparency.  And the only way to have that in every movement is to have those who have the courage to speak up and tell the truth, and are willing to interject new ideas that can replace the old ones.

As you think about the tragedy of sexual child abuse at such a highly-esteemed university as Penn State, ask yourself this question:  “Do I have people around me who can tell me the truth, who can say ‘no’ and make it stick?” If not, all of us could end up falling big-time.

When Discontentment is a Good Thing

One of the most elusive things, it seems, we pursue in life is contentment.  Even when we pursue it, we really wonder what it is.

For a lot of people contentment is not wanting anything, being satisfied with mediocre, and really just another word for being lazy.  But is that really what contentment is?

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be filled (or contented).”  Contentment isn’t the lack of desire.  It’s putting the proper desire at the core of your life.

The way to contentment is not through the lack of passion and ambition, but having the right core.  The Scriptures teach us that our lives reflect what we worship.  In other words whatever is at the core is what will give us contentment, or not.  To worship your job means discontentment.  To worship a football coach is discontentment.  To worship a thing, to worship power, all lead to discontentment.  But to worship God your Creator, and Jesus your Redeemer, leads to the kind of contentment that truly satisfies.

I talked about the four steps to contentment in this talk.  You might be surprised to know the first three are “must stops” and the last one is a “must start.”  Let me know what you think and how you think this all fits together in a life lived with contentment.

All Successful People Are Jerks

I just finished reading Steve Jobs’ biography, and I’ve been listening to the different reviews and responses that people have to its content.  One thing I’ve heard more than any other is that Jobs was not a very nice person.  He treated people really badly over the course of his life.  So the conclusion by many people is that to be a creative genius and to do really important stuff you have to be a little bit of a jerk.

It is true that creative-focused people have a challenge when it comes to relationships.  There’s no question that driven men and women can very easily drive over other people on the way to their goals.  But just because it does happen does it mean it has to happen?

As a follower of Jesus and a guy who’s driven, do I have to trade one for the other? Does following Christ mean that I have no ambition, no drive, no dream, no desire to make a difference and do really great work?  And even if it doesn’t, if it’s ok to be a Christian and really driven to excellence, it doesn’t give me a license to mistreat, abuse, and use people for my own  purposes.

If you study the entire Scripture, what you’ll find is a lot of wealthy men and women who had great influence and who used it sometimes badly, and sometimes well.  And the truth is, living the life for which God made us can be done with harmonic tension.  No one said it would be easy, just worth it.

As a follower of Christ, allow the spirit of Christ and the teachings of Christ be the guiding principles along which you move into the future.  Processes change.  Styles change.  Methods change.  But principles abide forever.  When you know what is ever-changing and never changing, then you have the best chance to love people and do great things.

Do You Have a Polyester Jesus?

I’m reading Rodney Stark’s newest book, “The Triumph of Christianity.”  I’ve enjoyed his point of view on history; none better than in his brand new book.

In it, Stark tells that an over 40% of people on the planet today pledge some allegiance to Jesus; that Christianity is the most vital, vibrant, and growing faith on the planet.  I stand amazed at that, particularly when you think about 2,000 years after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, with all the hate, anguish, misunderstanding, and abuse that Jesus has suffered, He is still relevant, still here, and still changing lives.

As a ramp-up to the Christmas season, I decided to do a 7-part series entitled, “Polyester Jesus.”  The idea that like polyester, we try to make Jesus into some synthetic religion; something that’s easy to clean and care for.  And yet Jesus is anything but easy, nice, sweet, and simple.  He is alive, here, and dangerous.

So in these weeks we’re going to be talking about the contrast between synthetic religion and authentic faith.  Today we talked about that the real Jesus gives assurance.  That’s the fundamental foundation.  That’s where we start.  We have assurance of His love, assurance of His acceptance, and assurance of a place in His new future.  Yet all of life takes on a different view.

Listen to the talk today.  Sit down with your family or your group of friends and ask, “Just how relevant is Jesus?”  Do you understand the difference between synthetic faith and authentic faith?  Identify the four absolute essentials of an authentic faith in Christ and make application in your own life.

FMBS 029 John 12: A Death That Leads to Life

We’re getting to the section of John where Jesus is now beginning to taper down His activity and focus on moving to Jerusalem.  This is the direction he has been going, with purpose and intentionality, all along.  He is beginning to enter the phase of His ministry when He suffers and dies as a sacrifice for our sins.

As you go through the study of John 12, think about how important Jesus’ statement is when He says, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single seed.” Reflect on that as you’ve seen what has happened since the death and resurrection and the growth in the movement of this faith that has resulted in the fact that 2,000 years after His death 40% of the billions of people on this planet claim to follow Jesus.  Is it any accident that the fastest growing faith on the planet is Christianity?  This just leads you to believe that Jesus was and is real, that He did and does live, and that what He did in a moment of history remains done and continues to happen.