May 29, 2009

The Difference Faith Makes

Mark 5:24-34 records the story of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She touches the cloak of Jesus and is immediately healed. Jesus knows that power has gone out from him and that something has happened.

This is an incredibly interesting account. There are several surprises.

First, Jesus heals inadvertantly. Jesus didn't know who or what happened. All he knew was that power had gone out from him.

And the question that begs to be asked is what caused this healing? And the answer that the Gospel suggests to us is the faith of the woman. And this goes with the emphasis of faith in the rest of the chapter. Jesus himself tells us, "Daughter, your faith has healed you" (v.34).

The second surprise is that there were hundreds of people who came in contact with Jesus. Jesus was walking in the midst of a crowd who was pressing in on him. When Jesus asks, "Who touched my clothes?" his disciples respond, "You see the people crowding against you, and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?'"

In essence they are saying, "What, you crazy? Look at all these people. Hundreds of people touched you.

Although hundreds of people touched Jesus only one was healed.

How come only one person was healed when hundreds of other people touched him?

And the most important question is how can we be touched by Jesus in such a way where healing and transformation can take place?

This coming Sunday, millions of Americans will go to church. While Jesus is present and many people will be in close proximity with Jesus, only those who come in faith, expecting Jesus to work a miracle will experience a miracle.

As you prepare to worship this Sunday, go expecting Jesus to touch your life and to transform you. And see what he does. I'd love to hear from you how God blessed your life this weekend.

Be blessed and be a blessing on the Lord's Day!

May 27, 2009

Half Right Discipleship

Christians love getting together. We get together for fellowship, for meals, and for worship. Gatherings are fun. But I think that only tells half the discipleship story.

Look at the pattern of discipleship in the gospels

Mark 3:13-14 says, "Jesus...called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve - designating them apostles - that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach."

You see, there's nothing wrong with the gathering. Jesus does call disciples to himself. Gathering is good. But there's a purpose for the gathering. The purpose for the gathering is so that we might be with him in order to be sent out to preach.

And that's the part that's missing in too many Christ-followers. Where's the sending part? Where's the going out into the world to preach Jesus part?

And until Christ-followers take both the gathering and the sending seriously, the church will continue to limp along as we become totally inwardly focused.

Plea for Christ-followers to Live a Life Worthy of Imitating

Research by the Barna group and others tell us a hard blunt truth - when it comes to our habits and our world view, evangelical Christians are not much different than those who don't know Christ.

Church going evangelicals are not much different when it comes to taking illegal drugs, visiting pornographic web sites, stealing, cheating, gossiping, getting drunk, lying, committing adultery and fornication.

Church going evangelicals are just as likely to consult a fortune teller and check their horoscope as those who don't know Christ.

That should shock us and sadden us.

However, when you also take into consideration that most church going evangelicals are almost as ignorant of basic theology and what the Bible actually says, it's no wonder that the only significant difference Barna and other researchers were able to find was that evangelicals are more likely to own a Bible and have attended a church service.

I am making a plea to anyone who reads this - let us live a life worthy of our risen Lord and Savior. Let us put away our sinful ways.

Let us confess of our sins, repent of our sinful ways, and turn to Jesus.

Let us live like Christians. Let's live in such a way that the Lordship of Jesus Christ is undeniable in our lives.

I will do my part. Will you do yours?
James <><
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May 26, 2009

Called Christians

The disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26).

What I find interesting is that for the modern day church, Christian is a self designation.

"Why, yes, I am a Christian."

But it was not so in the first century church. Look at the wording carefully - it says that they were first "called" Christians in Antioch.

You see, the followers of Jesus Christ lived a life that was so different than that of others, that the people called them Christians - followers of Christ.

Perhaps the reason so much of Christianity is totally irrelevant and invisible in America's culture is because Christians no longer act, dream, hope, aspire, and live differently than anyone else. We just blend in such that the only way anyone would ever know that we are Christians is if we told them.

If Jesus is Lord, and if Jesus really is the only way, the truth, and the life, shouldn't those who follow this absolutely unique Savior be visibly distinct in a world that doesn't know this Jesus?

Oh, I long to be a part of a movement of people where our lives clearly demonstrates Christ.
James <><
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May 23, 2009


I have probably read through the gospel according to Mark hundreds of times. And there are still passages that confuses me.

Jesus says in Mark 13:30-31, "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."

I don't know what to do with that. Because that literally did not happen. I don't know what Jesus was talking about.
Mark 14:51-52 says, "A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind."

I don't knw why that's in the Bible. I don't know how that information helps me to get a better understanding of God or Jesus.

Mark is one of the most tightly woven gospels. I don't know why that's there.

So today, there are some questions and not much in terms of answers.

But that's okay because that's the way life is - more questions than answers, but we're still going to have to trust and obey. So that's what I will do.

James <><
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May 22, 2009

Unsure Christians

American Christianity loves the idea of Jesus. We love how nice Jesus is, how gentle and meek, how gracious and kind. We love that Jesus died for our sins and descended into hell for us. We love Jesus who's our friend and who's always by our side.

American Christianity loves the idea of Jesus.

But that's the problem. Most Americans understanding of Jesus doesn't come from knowing the Biblical testimony of Jesus but primarily from heresay. Granted, most church going folk here from preachers, but it's still heresay.

And here's the problem with heresay Christianity - heresay Christianity doesn't have what it takes to undergird persons through the trials and storms of life.

Heresay Chrisitianity is fine for the good times, the mundane times, and even some of the hard times. But when life throws down its gauntlet and the storms of life come crashing down, the sand castle of faith has no chance against the oncoming tide.

Jesus diagnosed the problem when He said, "Are you not in error because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God?" (Mark 2:24).

When we don't know the scriptures and what the Bible says, we have no assurance, we have no power.

The children's song says, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

Jesus loves me - this I know - how? How do we know without a shadow of doubt, regardless of the circumstances we find in life that Jesus loves us?

For the Bible tells me so.

But what happens if you don't know what the Bible says? And that's the problem. There is no assurance and no power with heresay Christianity.

With heresay Christianity, you have unsure Chrsitians. And until Americans get back in the discipline of reading the Bible for ourselves on a daily basis, that's what we're going to end up with - unsure, powerless, heresay Christians.

James <><
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May 21, 2009

Torturing a Demon

There is a very interesting passage in Mark 5:7. Here Jesus comes across a demon named Legion. When Legion sees Jesus, the demon pleads with Jesus not to torture him. And instead asks if the demon can enter into the swine on the hillside. And as you know, the demons enter the swine and all the swine run into the lake and kill themselves.

When the people find out what happened to their pigs, they ask Jesus to leave.

The thing I find intriguing is the question - does Jesus torture? How do you torture a demon?

I think the answer to these two questions are one and the same.

No, Jesus does not torture.

What would be torture for the demons? Well, I think it would be in a place where there is constant praise as the glory of the risen Christ fills the place. I think what would be torture for a demon is what Isaiah and the scriptures tell us about heaven.

and here's the rub of it all - I think there are way too many people today who would equate worship of the living God as a tormenting experience. And I think the reason why so many people would find worship to be tormenting is because God is not their primary influence in their lives.

Now, I am not speaking about the way many churches and Christians worship on Sundays as genuine worship. I have been in too many "worship" services where I had no clue who or what we were worshiping that day.

But genuine worship because of an authentic encounter with the living God worship - that's what I'm talking about.

If people find that kind of worship tormenting, it is because of demonic influence.
James <><
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May 17, 2009

The Result of Over-estimation of our Savedness

God of Israel pursued after His people throughout the history of Israel with the clarion call - confess your sins, repent and turn from your wicked ways, and turn to God, and He will hear from heaven and heal our lands.

And the chosen people, one generation after another, rejected God's invitation.

The people of Israel had over-estimated their chosen-ness and underestimated their responsibility and calling to live as chosen people.

And because they took so lightly their responsibility to live like the chosen people of God, because they rejected God and followed after other gods, the chosen people were judged.

When that happens, even chose people become unsuable for Kingdom work. And the result of such unsuitableness for kimgdom work is their judgment.

Their beloved Temple lie in ruins.

The holy city of God was destroyed.

And the chosen people were held captive as exiles in a foreign land.

Could it be possible that today's American Christianity has over-estimated our saved-ness while underestimating our responsibility to live as saved people of God?

And could it be that the deadness and the malaise we are experiencing in the life of American Christianity is because we have refused to repent of our sinful ways, and turn from sin, and turn to God with our whole lives? Could it be that the deadness and the malaise of American Christianity is our judgment?

But this can turn around if God's people repent, turn from our wickedness and start living as people who have been graced by Savior God.

God is not done with the church in America.

Renewal and revival will happen when we as a people repent and turn from our wicked ways and turn to God. For there is no program, no sermon series, no Bible Study under heaven that can bring renewal and revival. Renewal and revival will take place when we confess our corporate sin, repent and turn from our ways, and return to God with our whole heart.

James <><
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May 13, 2009

The Problem with WWJD

As I read the good news of Jesus Christ, the message is not so much "what would Jesus do?" But "what has Jesus done?".

And it is precisely because of what Jesus has done on the cross and because the tomb is empty, that the church is birthed, that regeneration and transformation is the reality.

Asking the question, "what would Jesus do?" presupposes that somehow if I can figure out what Jesus would do that I would then have the power and ability to do that which Jesus would do. When in reality, Jesus says, "apart from me you can do nothing."

Could it be that the impotence of so many of our Christian lives and journeys is as a result of Christians who have over emphasized the importance of ourselves at the expense of the genuine radical revolution of the Jesus Christ? And that the key to the journey out of the malaise called modern day American Christianity is a recovery of the good news that we are wretched sinners who have been saved and redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ? And because of what Jesus has already done, we are sent into the world to bear witness to the risen one.

That, perhaps, when we begin focusing more on what Jesus has already done and less on what we are going to do for Jesus that actual genuine transformation would be a reality?

Maybe we ought to stop asking "what would Jesus do? and start declaring what Jesus has aleady done.

James <><

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May 11, 2009

Prayer for Ministry

God, You are a great and awesome God. You have a plan and a purpose for Trinity. You placed us in our community so that You can be a blessing through the local church to the community.

You've also promised that You will provide everything necessary to accomplish Your will.

God we need You. We need your presence in our midst. We need partners in ministry who can provide their resources of time and finances. God, there is not a thing You cannot do. I ask for Your presence and Your provision.

God, more than ever, help me to lead by faith. Help me to hear Your voice.
James <><
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May 10, 2009

We all experience down turns in life. That's just life. A loved one dies. You may lose your job. The economy faces one of the greatest meltdowns ever.

That's life.

The question is not why do bad things happen? The question that ultimately matters is how are we going to respond and look at the downturns in life. Because it's how we respond to the adversities in life that ultimately determines the kind of future we will live into.

And if you are a Christ-follower, ther's good news. Regardless of where we might find ourselves, God is a master builder of futures. And as we stay the course and trusting God even in the downturns in life, you can be sure that God will take care of us.

James <><
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May 9, 2009

The Real Question

The question we ask ourselves multiple times a day is, "What time is it?" We probably get asked this question several times a day.

And no matter who you are, the time will always be the same for everybody. The time is whatever time it is. There's nothing shockingly remarkable about this.

While it may be good to know what time it is, the real question that has the potential to impact our lives is "What am I doing with my time?"

Am I spending my time wisely?

Am I investing my time into the future?

Am I investing my time into things that really matter.

And if we don't ask this question, time will just keep ticking away. And it really won't matter one way or the other what time it is because it's all wasted time when we are not intentional with our time.

So, let me ask you. "What are you doing with your time?"
James <><
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May 8, 2009

What Changes Hearts?

No amount of planning, structuring, re-structuring, organizing, re-organizing, prioritizing, etc. changes hearts.

And after all, that's the core problem. Hearts need to get changed.
- cold hearts need to get hot and passionate for Jesus and for His glory
- hopeless hearts need to experience what it's like to have the light of hope shine on it once again
- hearts that have lost faith over the drudgery of the Christian religion need to discover once again the amazing joy that comes from seeing God moving and acting for His glory.

This is a heart problem.

So the question is, "What changes hearts?"

The better question is, "Who changes hearts?"

And of course, only God can. Only Jesus can. Only the Holy Spirit changes hearts.

And the Bible is clear on how hearts can be changed.
- confess. Confess our failures. Confess our sins. Confess our wounds. Confess our wrongs.
- repent. Repent of our sinful ways. Repent for the ways we've wounded others. Repent for the ways we've wounded God.
- cry out for forgiveness.

Whenever people confess, repent, and cry out for forgiveness, God hears their cries and answers their prayers.

I know that I have been wounded. I know that I have wounded others. And I think pretty much any person can say the same thing.

Then it makes sense that we need to confess, repent, and cry out to God for forgiveness. And when we do that, God changes hearts.

May 7, 2009

Restless and Yearning

Restless and yearning.

Restless because I know this is not it.

There has to be more to the Christian life than this.

There has to be more to the community life called the church of Jesus Christ than what I am experiencing.

Restless because I know that God desires more from me than what I've been giving.

Restless because I know that where I am spiritually is not where I'm supposed to be.

Yearning and longing for more - more of God, more of Jesus, more of the Holy Spirit.

Longing for transformation.

Longing for renewal.

Yearning for hot, passionate, full-on devotion to Jesus.

I know I am not alone in this yearning and longing. There are many others who desire this same thing. Then what is keeping us from experiencing more of God?

One thing I know is that every revival and renewal has started when God's people repent and begin crying out for God, God hears and answers their cry.

God hear my cry!

Hear our cry!

We want revival! We want you!
james <><
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May 6, 2009

How Long? O Lord

How long, O Lord? How long must I wait to see your glorious presence?

God you know how I long for you and your presence. I long to see your glory. I thirst for your transforming power.

God, how long must I wait?

God, I trust in you, and in you I will wait. I will continue to be faithful in the things you have called me. I will continue because you are faithful. You are Lord and God and nothing will ever change that.

God, as the dry parched earth thirsts for rain, I thirst and hunger for your holy presence.

Do not be far off. Be near.