Shoot The Ball

If you’ve ever played basketball, you know how tense the last moments of a game can be. Your team needs one more point to win, there are two seconds left on the clock—and you’re holding the ball. What should you do?

If you’re in that position, there are a couple of things you might do. You might hold on to the ball so that it stays in your hands while the clock runs out. Or you could shoot the ball to the basket; the ball may not make it in the basket, but it could go in and score your team the winning point.

In life, we’ve all been given a clock that is running out. We all only have one life to live on Earth before eternity. And during our time here, we have the choice to either hold onto the ball, or shoot it to try and get a point. Instead of holding onto the ball, take advantage of the opportunities that are before you in life to try and score. Focus less on the clock, and more on the opportunity.

Mark 12:41-44—Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.

 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

This widow was all in. She threw the ball. Even though she only had a tiny, tiny portion, she invested all that she had. Jesus cared more that her heart was in the right place than about the physical amount of money she had given. He knew this widow wasn’t about to open a church for thousands of people with just her two coins. But that was fine with Jesus, because He knew that her heart was completely invested in the Kingdom, and that she was taking full advantage of the opportunities and abilities she had been given.

Look at your own life for a moment. What is in your hands? What opportunities, gifts, talents, and abilities has God given you to use to grow His Kingdom? Are you doing what you can with what you have? It can be easy to say you’ll give more for the Kingdom when you get a better job, or when the kids get older, or when your business takes off, or when you finish school. But for all of us, the time is now—if you won’t invest with the small things God has already placed in your hands, you won’t be entrusted with even greater things.

Life Is A Vapor: Make It Count

Acts 20:24—But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

The writer of Acts was named Luke. Luke knew what his assignment was. He knew that if what he did each and every day was going to mean anything in the long run, it was all going to need to be for the purpose of finishing well.

Life is a vapor. It’s here one moment and gone the next. Compared to eternity, the time we have here on Earth is like a snap of your fingers. We have to make the most of every opportunity that God presents us with, because the clock is ticking.

The way to finish well is to get planted somewhere. A plant’s roots are important; they keep the plant connected to the soil so it can get water and nutrients. So find a local church to plant your roots, and stay there. God does call people away sometimes, but don’t go from here to there, uprooting yourself over and over and over. God moves people around a lot less than we think He does. (And it’s usually over things bigger than whether you didn’t like that one worship song last weekend!)

Let God rule and reign over your life so that you can finish well in everything He calls you to do. Live your life on purpose, planted firmly in a local church, both so that you can grow, and so that you can help it grow.

What’s Your Motive?

The first recorded words from Jesus in the Gospels was in John 1:38. Here’s what John 1:36-38 says: “As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, ‘Look! There is the Lamb of God!’ When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. Jesus looked around and saw them following. ‘What do you want?’ he asked them.” After this, they asked Jesus were He was staying, and Jesus replied with, “Come and see.”

If you’re a follower of Jesus, you should ask yourself this question: what do you want out of following Jesus? What is your motive? Sometimes it’s easy for us to get caught up in doing something for Jesus so much that we forget what our ultimate purpose is as His followers.

Look at your own life and your own heart, and be honest with yourself! For example, when you pray, is it only because you want something from God, or do you truly want just to be with Him? When you serve, is it out of a desire to be seen by God or people, or maybe to prove something to them? Or do you serve in your ministry because that is how God designed you to grow His Kingdom?

When we really understand that our God-given purpose in life is to be a conduit for getting people to a place where they can meet God, our motives will begin to change. Your ultimate goal isn’t for people to like you, but to invite people to experience the same change that you experienced when the Holy Spirit came into your life.

Be the Help

1 Corinthians 12:7—A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.

One of the main purposes of the Church is to help each other. We’re supposed to help each other! When you hear that, what do you think of first—the way that you can be helped, or the way that you can be the help? It’s great to be on the receiving end of help, but if that’s the only thing you’re looking for, you’re missing the point.

Work on seeing yourself as a person who can be the help. What do you bring to the table? What spiritual gifts has God given you that you could be using right now? God doesn’t bring us into His Kingdom so that we can act like victims. There are spiritual gifts in each of us that we can use to be the help.

If you want to receive the help you need, you’ve got to be the help you can be. Discover your own spiritual gifts and use them where God has placed already placed you. Be a person who builds others up. Elevate the rooms you walk into. Be the help!

Celebrate!

Joshua 1:5b-9—…I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

There is a connection between being a strong and courageous person and seeing your life produce an abundance of good fruit. People who develop godly strength and courage are people who move forward and keep their focus on the things of God.

There are many ways we can stay strong and courageous in life, but I want to talk to you about one specific way: celebrating the victories.

God is a God of victories. All throughout the Bible, we see God’s people celebrating the victories God helped them achieve—the times that through Him, they were overcomers. They would sing songs, give each other gifts—even dance in the streets!

No matter who we are, we all experience negative things in our lives. But if our focus is always on the negative instead of the positive—instead of the victories—you’ll get discouraged. I can tell you that as a pastor, it’s easy for me to become discouraged when I see some of our numbers drop. Maybe one year we had 100 people baptized by a certain time, when the next year it was only 20. When you’re looking at things only from a negative perspective, that could seem bad. But each of those numbers—all 100 and all 20—represents a person whose life was forever changed. And that is worth celebrating! Every person who comes to Christ, every next step that is taken, is a victory in God’s eyes, and it should be in ours, too.

Celebrate the victories. Celebrate that God has brought you out of the darkness, and celebrate the light that you’re in now. Celebration helps you build your confidence in God so that you can go to the next level, so do whatever it takes to remind yourself every day of the victories God has given you.

God Wins

Psalm 73:3-5— For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.

Asaph, the one who wrote this psalm, was struggling here. He watched people who were doing evil end up prospering. Sometimes it can feel like living a godly life isn’t worth it. Why run your business with integrity when those who don’t are the only ones getting ahead? Why work so hard to earn good grades when everyone around you is cheating?

A few verses down in Psalm 73:16-17, Asaph wrote this: “So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is! Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.”

In Jesus’ time, there was a veil in the temple that separated humans from a room called the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence dwelled on Earth. One of the last things Jesus said before He died on the cross was the Greek word tetelestai. And tetelestai means “it is finished.” Through His death, Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice. At that moment, the veil was torn in two. Man was no longer separated from God, because through Jesus we can have complete access to Him.

Jesus covered all of my sin and yours—past, present, and future. It is finished! You don’t have to work to earn favor with God. The temple veil is gone. We can have complete, divine access to our Creator through faith in Jesus.

When Asaph went to God’s sanctuary, he realized the mistake he’d been making. God showed Asaph that he needed to look at more than just what he could see with his eyes. In the future, God wins; all evil will be purged. And if you’re a Christ follower, you have a real eternity with the Creator of the universe to look forward to. Hang on to that with all of your heart so that whenever it seems like evil is winning, you can remember that in the end, God will win the game.

Pizzazz for the Prize

In His Word, God likes to call our journey through life a race. And throughout Scripture, He tells us to run this race with pizzazz—pizzazz to win the prize at the end of the race. In Philippians 3:14, the apostle Paul says, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” And in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 Paul says this: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. “

According to the Bible, there is a prize to be won at the end of the race. It’s an inheritance that’s accessible to all believers. To get that prize, you’ve got to have pizzazz.

First, let me be clear. If you believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ, your salvation is 100% secure. There are two different judgments that will take place in the future—one is called the Great White Throne judgment, where believers and nonbelievers will be separated. But the second judgment, which is the Bema Seat or the Judgment Seat of Christ, is where we as believers will all be judged for how we ran the race of life. While all believers will live in heaven with God for all of eternity, not everyone will receive the heavenly prizes that are available. (That doesn’t go well with the picture a lot of us have in our heads of heaven, that we all are going to get angel wings and spend our time flying around playing harps, does it?)

So how do we run with pizzazz in order to win the race? In order to do that we have to develop our endurance. Endurance means having “the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.” In our culture, everything is about being comfortable. But our faith will rise up when our endurance is being developed, and our endurance will never develop when we stay holed up in our comfort zones.

The Christian life requires faith. When you let your faith in Jesus determine everything you do in your life, you will develop endurance, because that means that even in the worst moments, you aren’t going to throw in the towel. You aren’t going to give up. Endurance doesn’t develop at the finish line, but during the race itself. Run with pizzazz and run with eternal endurance.

Watch my full teaching on having Pizzazz for the Prize.

I Believe I Can Fly

Did you ever try to fly when you were young? Maybe you were pretending to be a superhero like Superman or Wonder Woman. I liked to imagine I could fly like Superman, and so I’d climb up trees and jump. I believed I could fly! But then what would always happen? Gravity would pull me right back down to the ground.

In life, most people want to fly; they want to make progress, have forward motion, have joy, and make a difference. But many never experience that. Where there is progress, there is gravitational pull in the process. What I mean by that is that when you try to fly, to make progress in your life, there is going to be something that tries to pull you down the same way gravity pulled you down when you tried to fly as a kid.

There are many things that pull against us. And the gravitational pull on you might look different than it does for me. Sometimes, it’s the opinions of those around us that keeps us from making progress in our lives. For others of us, it’s memories of our past that we just can’t seem to move on from. Maybe you’re experiencing physical, mental, or spiritual pain in your life right now that has stagnated you.

Philippians 3:12-14 says, “…I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” No matter what the circumstances are for you right now, press on, look forward to the future prize that we have in Jesus, and keep your focus on what is ahead of you. Safeguard the faith you have in Jesus by keeping Him as the foundation of your life and always at the forefront of everything that you do. When you do that, you will defy the gravitational pull, and you will fly.

Can Women Preach?

At our last Sunday night service, we had a couch Q & A session where you asked me and my wife Kim questions. Y’all asked some great questions, and some of those could have several whole messages to answer them, so here I’m going to expand on one which asked, “Can women preach and lead in the church?”

There are a lot of different points of view when it comes to women teaching in the church. The belief that women shouldn’t preach comes from a couple of verses, one in 1 Timothy and one in 1 Corinthians:

1 Timothy 2:12—I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.

1 Corinthians 14:34—Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says.

When you’re building up your theology, your beliefs about God and what He says, it’s important to remember several things. One is that the Bible was not written in verses, so we shouldn’t base our entire theology off of one or two verses. And another thing we need to remember is to take verses in their contexts. For example, the context of the Church in the city of Corinth, who Paul was writing to when he wrote the letter 1 Corinthians, was that Corinth was really a wild and crazy place. The female believers in Corinth weren’t living in the redeemed nature that they had been given by Christ, but rather in their fallen nature—in other words, they weren’t living the way God intended for them to live.

Paul was addressing the women in Corinth because they weren’t operating in their God-given purpose. In other parts of Scripture, he commends the leadership of women in the Church—Philippians 4 and Romans 16 both have examples of this.

I encourage you to read John 4. In this passage of Scripture, Jesus talked with a woman—and not just any woman. She was a Samaritan, and the Jews considered Samaritans to be half-breeds because they were half Gentile and half Jewish. Jews would go out of their way to travel around Samaria instead of through it. But the woman in the story becomes someone who I would consider the first evangelist—clearly, Jesus believed that women are important to permeating the world with the Good News!

The Church can’t be a reflection of God without women. When God created Adam in Genesis 1, He said that it was not good for man to be alone. Men and women are complementary—women aren’t meant to rule over men, and men aren’t meant to domineer and lord over women. God uses both male and female in His plan. Men and women both were created to be image bearers of God in the earth.

The Owner

If you’ve ever been to Chick-fil-a, you might have noticed that whenever customers say, “Thank you,” the employees will always say, “My pleasure!” in return. They all have the same DNA because the owners knew early on that they want to serve their customers in a certain way. All Chick-fil-a employees are trained to respond with “My pleasure!” so that they represent the establishment in the way the owners want them to.

It’s the same with our God. Just like owners train their employees to be representatives of their establishment, God will train us to be His representatives on Earth. In order for you, as a follower of Christ, to be an amazing server, you have to spend some time with the owner.

Matthew 20:28 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In order to serve, we first have to be served by making a connection with the Lord. He is the one who first served us. God is our provider, and we are the recipients.

Some of us are already serving like crazy—maybe you already volunteer, invite, tithe, or show up every time the church building is open. But what is your heart like when you are serving? Examine yourself to see if the things you are doing are building up the Kingdom of God. You might be a server, but make sure you are serving under the right owner.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are one of God’s representatives. While you’re going about your daily life, remember that God is your provider and that you are representing Him in everything that you do. That’s not just for Sundays when you’re sitting in a church service! When you’re at work, you’re God’s representative. When you’re with your family, you’re God’s representative. When you’re stuck behind a slow driver, you’re God’s representative. And God is a God of provision, mercy, grace, and love.

God created you to bear His image throughout the world. He will provide everything you need to do what He’s made you responsible to do. If your life is going to be what God designed it to be, you have to make a connection with Him, the one who first serves you.

Watch part one and part two of “At Your Service” for the fullest impact of this teaching.