Saturday, March 31, 2012

April 1, 2012

"Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:36-40

One thing is undeniably true about love - it always shows! I can't imagine that you would have a real true love for someone and not have it show.

So, if you have a real love for God others will see it. If they don't, maybe you don't. Francis Chan asks a probing and defining question in Chapter 6, where he quotes John Piper’s challenge from God is the Gospel”:

"The critical question for our generation—and for every generation— is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?"

That IS the question isn't it?

How will you answer?

What will you change?

Friday, March 30, 2012

March 31, 2012

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing  associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:9-21

Here is what AMAZING LOVE looks like:

Sincere Love - "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good", V. 9

Selfless Love - "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves", V. 10     "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." V. 16 

Serving Love - "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." V. 11

Spiritual Love - "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." V. 12

Sharing Love - "Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality." V. 13

Suffering Love -  "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." V. 14

Sympathetic Love - "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." V. 15

Strategic Love - "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. "  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord.  On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. ”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Vv. 17-21

Does this description match the way you love God and others? Do you have sincere, selfless love that serves others? Do you have a spiritual love that leads you to share with those in need and to bless others even when you are suffering? Are you able to celebrate the successes of others as though they are you own? Do you share the grief of others?

AMAZING LOVE does! And this sort of love overcomes evil with good.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March 30, 2012

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." James 4:8

If I need to fill the tank on my Toyota I don't pull up to a garden hose, I go to the Sheetz. When I need a hair cut I don't go to the butcher shop. And, if I need Chinese carry-out I don't go to Colonel Sanders.

In life, we have to learn where to go to get what we want.

For the past 40 days we have been reminded that when you want love you had better go to God. No one loves like Him and no one gives love as freely as Him.

Our verse from James promises that when you draw near to Him He will come and bring His love. No where is that illustrated more clearly than in another one of His parables, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Especially in this portion, watch,  “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." Luke 15:17-20

Just like the young son in this story, most of us have gone to the wrong places in search of love and come up empty - or worse. But then, when we came back toward Him HE RAN TO US!

How great is THAT picture? What do you think about a God Who comes running to you? I mean REALLY! A God Who loves you so much He runs to you when you take a few small steps toward Him. You can trust a God like that! You can cling to a God like that! You can love a God like that and let Him love you!

Will you?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 29, 2012

"While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. " Luke 8:4-15

God's love is amazing! You have been reminded of that in powerful new ways during this study. And God's love is available. That, too, has become evident during the reading of CRAZY LOVE!

Now all that is left is to understand how to receive it and Jesus provides a powerful insight through His parable of the sower and the seed. To receive God's love and have it take root in you spirit you must cultivate good soil in your spirit.

For the longest time I saw this parable as representing four different people with four different spiritual conditions. I guess that can be one of the interpretations, but more helpful to this study is the understanding that in order to produce good soil you must deal with the thorns and the hard places and the shallow spots in your spirit.

Hard soil will not allow the seeds of God's love to take root unless you break it up. Hard soil is the result of disobedience. When you hear God's Word but refuse to heed it your heart gets hardened. Be careful when you go to church Sunday after Sunday and hear the messages but fail to mind the Holy Spirit's promptings. Obedience cultivates good soil, disobedience does the opposite.

Shallow soil allows seeds to sprout but not to put down roots. Without roots there can be no lasting growth and never any fruit produced. The purpose of seeds is to produce fruit not roots. What does shallow soil signify? It represents a disinterested approach to faith - a religious observance rather and a relationship. To cultivate good soil you have to engage your heart, not just your head.

Thorny soil is overgrown with weeds that compete with the seeds for moisture, sunlight, and nutrients. If you have healthy weeds you will have struggling seeds that will eventually be choked out. Thorny soil repesents the distractions of life that keep you from focusing on things that produce growth. The only way to get a fruitful harvest is to pull the thorns out by their roots. Weed grow quickly and require constant attention, attention that should be given to spiritual growth.

Good soil requires great effort! If you don't obey God you won't have good soil. And if you don't pray you will have shallow soil not good soil. And if you don't stay focused you will be choked by the thorns of stress and distracted living.

So, the better your soil, the better God's love will take root in your soul!

How is your soil?

Which soil best represents the condition of your soul?

What do you intend to do about it?

March 28, 2012

"When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”  John 21:15-19

How many times do you get a second chance at love? When it comes to people, there are no guarantees. With God, there are ALWAYS second chances (and third and fourth and fifth....)! That is the big amazing truth you are wrapping your heart and mind around over these past five weeks. Even though it will take all of eternity to fully understand His CRAZY LOVE, the more you know about it the better it looks.

God's love is unchanging and unconditional. It is not about who you are but Who He is! His love is rooted in His Character, therefore it is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow! He will not love you more when you act like Mother Teresa nor will He love you less when you act like Charlie Manson. HE JUST LOVES WITH A CRAZY LOVE!

You don't have to earn this love you just need to receive it! Over the past two weeks we have been learning how to clear obstacles from your life to create more space for His CRAZY LOVE to occupy.

In this Scripture text above you see one of the more poignant moments recorded in the Bible. The resurrected Jesus has come seeking some quality time with His closest followers and hoping to restore Peter after his monumental denial of His Savior. In this revealing encounter between The Master and Peter, you can gain some insight into how love grows and develops within a believer's heart.

After they had enjoyed a breakfast on the beach, Jesus found some alone time with Peter and immediately questioned him three times about his love for Him. It is probably significant that he asked Peter three times because Peter had denied Jesus three times.

This encounter is rich in great truths about the love of God but I want to zero in on the three answers Peter gave to Jesus' three-fold questioning of his love. The significance is in the different words used for love in the original language of the New Testament.

Each time, Jesus asked Peter if he loved (agape) Him but each time Peter answered, "You know I love (phileo) you."

"Agape" love is CRAZY LOVE - it is unconditional supernatural love like God has for you, while "phileo" is a fondness like the love you would have for a friend or a family member.

So, Jesus was asking Peter to commit to a CRAZY LOVE commitment but all he could get was a casual love. For purposes of this lesson I want to trace the process of learning to love Jesus like this:

Loving God begins with a fondness for Jesus when you receive Him as Savior. That is how Peter responds - "I like this feeling!"

From that beginning love grows to a friendship with Jesus as you learn to walk with Him and talk with Him. That is essentially how Peter responds - "I love this fellowship!"

Love should grow to the next level when Jesus asked Him the third time hoping that Peter would confess to a full and holy love - "agape". But Peter's response was more like this - "I love this faith and I will try to live it".

Peter, still smarting from the pain of having denied Jesus and disappointing himself was very hesitant to over-promise to Christ and fail again. But I believe he answered as sincerely as he could and I think he did love Christ as much as humanly possible. And I think that traces the progression of love for Christ: from a feeling level to a friendship level to a faith level.

There was a day that Peter was finally able to confess "agape" love! But it wasn't because of anything he did or anything he stopped doing, it was on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit of God fell upon him and filled him with "agape" (CRAZY LOVE)! That changed Peter forever and empowered Peter to change the world!

What is most crazy about CRAZY LOVE is that you cannot love God as He desires to be loved and deserves to be loved - at any level unless you receive His love. And you can only receive it to the level that you have prepared your heart through denying self and dying to selfishness.

Are you ready to stop trying to earn His love and just let Him love you?

Have you prepared your heart to receive His love at a deeper level?

Are you ready to move from "phileo" love to "agape" love? Will you renounce your shallow love and receive His supernatural love?

Monday, March 26, 2012

March 27, 2012

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone."  Romans 12:9-17

Watch the video clip below which demonstrates how powerful CRAZY LOVE can be when it is expressed sincerely and humbly.

Wow! That man showed Penn Gillette some CRAZY LOVE!

Here are a couple of questions:

Would you have offered the Bible?

When was the last time you showed some CRAZY LOVE to an atheist?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 26, 2012

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?"  Matthew 16:24-26

Back when education was about educating we used to promote the three "R's" - Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmatic. It is hard to get more basic than that! If you can read well, and write well and do the necessary math you will do just fine in life.

When it comes to being a follower of Christ, Jesus calls out His disciples to the three "R's" of discipleship. What are those three "R's"?

Rights - lay 'em down

Responsibilities - lift them up

Relationship - live it out

Your Rights - “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves......."

In an age when people are protesting for their rights, and suing for their rights and occupying for their rights, Jesus says, "Give them up to me!" 

This sounds foolish to people who don't understand faith and counter-intuitive for many who think they do. But if you want to follow Christ and know His power and love you must surrender your rights to Him. You must commit to do what He says is right above what you think you want to do - every time!
Your Responsibilities "and take up their cross"

Imagine how much better our world would be if people took their responsibilites as seriously are they take their rights.

When Jesus challenges His followers to "take up their cross" He is saying, "Forget about your rights and pick up your responsibilities as a Christ follower!"

Taking up your cross means you choose what honors God and what serves other above what you desire. Surrender to God and serve others!

Your Relationship - "and follow me."

Disciples have two basic responsibilities: to live in a love relationship with Jesus and help encourage others to know that relationship and grow in it.

Relationships require time - quality time getting to know God or God's people. Do you take time to spend with Him in prayer and quiet moments in His Word?

Following Christ requires a desire, a decision, denying and a devotion live in a daily love relationship with Him. Does that describe you?

The good news is you don't have to do any of these things in your own strength. Confess to God that you need help and He will give you His Spirit to help you deny yourself and die to yourself and daily follow.

Christ, Who did these very things during His earthly life, will dwell in your and enable you to follow Him and know His love!

That's CRAZY love!


Saturday, March 24, 2012

March 25, 2012

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it."  Matthew 16:24-25

Jesus is calling out His disciples.

Do you know what it means to be "called out"?

I think I first heard the phrase back in the days of the old Western movies when the hero would ride into town to get some supplies or for some other benign reason the local gunslinger would feel the need to challenge this stranger to a gunfight by "calling him out".

Of course, the hero would decline, so the villain would have to up the ante by calling him "yellow" or "coward" or would through a drink in his face.

At some point it would become intolerable for the hero, usually John Wayne or Gary Cooper or Clint Eastwood, so he would reluctantly agree to being "called out" and promptly proceed to step out into the middle of main street and beat the foolish gunslinger to the draw and fill him with hot lead.

When I had watched dozens of these "horse operas" with a similar plot line I got to where I would yell at the TV screen to the foolish gunslinger, "Don't do it! Don't call him out!" But they never would listen. I guess that is how bad guys get to be bad guys - and how they end up as dead bad guys.

Obviously, that is not the same context in which Jesus is calling out His disciples but He is saying, "Show me what you truly believe" or "Show me what you are made of". The challenge is to their authenticity as followers of the Son of God. Will they demonstrate with their lives the things they have claimed with their lips?

History records that with one exception, all of these disciples did answer the call to live out (and die for) their faith!

Actually, it is entirely for Jesus to call them out. They were to be the founders and foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ and the word for "church" is "ekklesia", which means "the called out ones"! So, He was calling out the called out ones!

If you are a Believer and a church member did you know you are called out? God has called you out of your sinful past, out of your self-centeredness, out of your willful disobedience, out of your foolish pride, and into His life of holiness. You are called out to live as His Word instructs you to live and to follow in the ways of Christ.

You are being called out!

Are you answering the call? 

Friday, March 23, 2012

March 24, 2012

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24

So, what does it cost to have CRAZY LOVE?

Are you sure you want the answer?

Jesus says that if you want to receive His freely given love, it will cost you everything!

You say, "That sounds like a heavy price! How can He ask that much?"

Jesus could ask that much because He was about to give that much to make God's love available to you! He was about to face a cruel and excruciating death on a cross to atone for your sins. You don't think that was costly?

When Jesus made this challenge to His disciples they were standing in an area called Caesarea Philippi. All of them were well aware of what happened in that dark and evil area. This is where the Romans had put down several attempted rebellions by Jewish zealots and over the past three decades and estimated 30,000 rebels had been publicly crucified in a blatant attempt to discourage any further uprisings. There very well may have been some crosses on the horizon as Jesus spoke.

So, Jesus picked the most challenging place on the planet to call out His followers on their commitment. "Do you love me enough to suffer as these have suffered?" or "Do you want my love badly enough to give up all for it?"

History records their answers. What is yours?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March 23, 2012

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24

Love is interesting because it can be given but unless it is received it loses its effect.

Trust and respect are the same. They must be given but also must be received to have an impact. Since love is built upon trust and respect, I guess it makes sense that they would operate the same way.

If you learn just one thing about God's CRAZY LOVE during this 40 Day Focus, I hope you will understand how to receive that love into your life. While His love is freely given there IS a cost to receiving it and here Jesus points to the price tag.

The cost of receiving God's CRAZY LOVE according to Jesus in this passage is three-fold:

1) You have to lay something down - "If anyone would come after me he must deny himself"

2) You have to lift something up - "and take up his cross"

3) You have to live something out - "and follow me."

Wow! That is a high price to pay in order to receive something that is supposed to be free! You have to deny and you have to die and you have to devote to that lifestyle for the rest of your life!

Does God REALLY expect you to do that? How can He ask that?

Oh, maybe because THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT JESUS DID to prove God's CRAZY LOVE and to purchase that CRAZY LOVE for you!

He denied Himself of all His Heavenly privileges and humbled Himself to become a baby born in a feed trough in a barn.

And He died a painful humiliating death on a Roman cross to pay the penalty for your sins.

Both of those things He did because He loved the Father and was committed to following His will.

So, God can demand that we pay the price to receive His CRAZY LOVE because Jesus paid the price to make that love available!

What do you have that could be more valuable or more rewarding than receiving His CRAZY LOVE? Why would you not deny yourself of that so you could get THAT?

What needs to die in you so that you can live in His CRAZY LOVE? The truth is if you don't die to that sin in your life it will kill you.

And what could you devote yourself to that would give you more joy than following Christ? If you can think of something then devote yourself to it, but if not then become a devoted follower of Christ!

Will you pay the price to receive this great gift freely given?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 22, 2012

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24

Isn't love amazing? No One captures it or communicates it better than Christ.

In this one verse He shows the inclusive nature of love when He says, "Whoever" but then He also demonstrates the exclusive aspect of love when He used the word "must".

To me, this is an incredible insight about the love of God. It is a key to experiencing His CRAZY LOVE.

God's love is unconditional love because it flows out of His nature. He gives it freely to everyone. You are loved fully and completely regardless of who you are or what you have done. Tomorrow as you drive to work, everyone you pass or everyone who passes is loved unconditionally by God. As the children's song goes, "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world".

So, love is given to all 7 billion souls on planet Earth! Love is given to whoever draws a breath everywhere all the time! His love is all-inclusive!

But having said that, there are conditions to receiving His love and to growing in that love. In this verse Jesus clearly articulates those conditions. They are:

Decision - "Whoever wants to be my disciple"

Anyone can receive His love but must decide to receive it and enter into a personal faith relationship with Him. That is an exclusive decision.

Denial - ".....must deny themselves...."

To receive His CRAZY LOVE you must deny your selfish self-centered love. You must surrender any competing loves to allow His love to be supreme in your heart. It is that exclusive.

Dying - ".....take up their cross...."
For Jesus to make it possible to receive God's love, He had to die on the cross. The exclusive nature of receiving His love requires you to die to desires that compete with His love.

Devotion - ".....and follow me!"

Once again, if you are to enjoy the fullness of His CRAZY LOVE you must follow Him exclusively. Since love is received in relationship with Jesus, being a follower of Jesus is absolutely required. And unless you are devoted to Him you are not a follower you are just a fan.

Love is given unconditionally but there are conditions to receiving it.

Have you received it?

March 21, 2012

"Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:1-9

Almost everyone loves a good story so it is not a surprise that Jesus, knowing how effective stories can be, told parables to illustrate kingdom truths.

One of the best known parables of Jesus was the parable of the sower. In a rural setting with some farmers in the crowd, Jesus launched into a story that they could easily relate to - a sower sowing seed. It was a common scene in those parts during certain times of the year.

First the farmer would plow and prepare the soil to receive the seed that would be sown by the farmer. When those seeds landed on the soft, moist, well prepared soil it would take root and grow into a large stalk of corn or wheat. Each of those stalks of grain was ladened with considerable amount of additional seeds.

Of course, not all seed would land in the well prepared soil. Depending on the accuracy of the sower and the direction or velocity of the wind, some seed would land on the hard-packed path, some would land on the rocky ground, and others would land among the thorns. The four various soil conditions resulted in four quite different results. Only one would bring the harvest they depended upon to secure their future as a family.

A bountiful harvest would provide the food they needed for the year, plus it would allow them to set aside the seed for the next crop and then sell what was above that to provide money for their needs. There was a lot riding on the harvest and they knew they had sown good seed so it all depended on the condition of the soil.

The sower of course, represents God and the seed represent the truth and grace that He sows into your life and mine. It is good seed capable of producing a bountiful harvest in His kingdom. For purposes of our current CRAZY LOVE study, this parable illustrates how you are to receive the love of God into your life. Your responsibility is to make sure you are good soil so your life will produce fruit for His kingdom.

In this parable, Jesus identifies three common obstacles you will have to overcome to produce good soil. One is hardness. One is shallowness. One is stress. Those three realities of daily life in the 21st century will rob you of the joy of experiencing God's love unless you are detemined to produce good soil in your life.

Hardness typically comes from disobedience. When you hear the truth and become aware of what God desires from you but you willfully refuse to obey, that hardens your heart. God's love cannot take root in a disobedient spirit. Do you have an area of disobedience in your life this morning?

Shallowness represents a lack of discipline in your spiritual life. When you don't apply yourself to regular study and prayer you will not develop any spiritual depth. When you deprive yourself of fellowship with other believers you will have trouble developing spiritual depth. If you are not regularly involved in serving God you will stay shallow in your spiritual development. When you limit your spiritual experience to feelings and emotions, you will struggle with shallowness. What are you doing to develop spiritual depth today? Are you giving God's love a fair chance to take root in your heart?

Life has always involved stress but in 2012 America it is getting increasingly more difficult to make ends meet. Financial worries and job security issues and demands of balancing work schedules with time for family or faith and fun can generate stress. Stress drains energy and focus and diverts you from concentrating on God's love. God's Word calls you to pull Him into the center of your stress reminding you to "cast your cares upon Him for He cares about you". Will you do that today? Will you decide that you will share your stress with God and turn your worries into a place of worship?

Receiving God's CRAZY LOVE is the result of being good soil. His seeds are good and can produce and abundant harvest of love and grace within your heart! Will you cultivate good soil today?

Monday, March 19, 2012

March 20, 2012

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Galatians 6:9-10

Just a few minutes ago I checked the meter on our website that tracks the number of hits we get and where they originate.

Here is what it showed for the last several days:

United States - 48   Russia - 11   India - 2   Slovenia - 2   Brazil -1   Germany - 1   Poland - 1   Venezuela - 1

Our little church on a corner in Spotsylvania County touches people around the world! Think about this, between the witness of our website on the world-wide web and the several missionaries we help support it is correct to say that the sun never sets on the ministry of Fredericksburg Wesleyan Church!

That is pretty amazing but what does it have to do with CRAZY LOVE?

Here's the point. We tend to overlook or underestimate the power of small things done well, done consistently, and done in love.

Just the time taken to load our sermons (English Church and Spanish Church) on the website makes those messages available to literally billions of people over the world-wide web. It is the digital equivalent of sending a missionary overseas except we get to go everywhere the internet goes!

Writing daily devotionals requires some time but once it is posted on the website it is there for millions of English-speaking people to pull up and read.

It is very easy for us to get intrigued and infatuated with the big things, the spectacular things, the high budget and high tech productions and become discouraged by our inability to do ministry like that.

There are certainly some amazing and ingenius new ways to present the gospel and some very creative people designing them. I say, "Thank God for them!" Big things done well can get some big results!

But just because we can't do those things on that large scale, don't fall into the trap of believing you can't make a difference! You can by doing small deeds well and consistently over time motivated by God's love!

Only Heaven will reveal this for sure, but I bet there have been more people reached by small acts of love than by big events. CRAZY LOVE is communicated most powerfully face to face, person by person! And since there are more people doing small things than there who do big things, it makes sense that more people would be reached by small acts of love lived out consistently!

Don't get weary doing the small stuff! Keep doing it as well as you can and often as you can with as much love as you are able! And don't forget, there are a bunch of small things that are done well to make those big productions work!

CRAZY LOVE expressed consistently is crazy powerful!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

March 19, 2012

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."  I John 4:9-11

How do you know that God loves you? What indication do you have? What evidence can you point to? What proof can be offered?

You know because He showed His love.

He showed His love by giving the best that He had.
Think about it! God has a lot of good things! In fact, EVERYTHING God has is good! He could have chosen His second or third best option and it still would have been amazingly good! BUT God is love and love doesn't give second best!

So, God proved how much He loved us by giving us the one thing He loved the most - His Son!

And Jesus came from the Father to prove how much He loves us by giving up the glory and security of Heaven to come to earth as a man to die for our sins. Why would He do that? Why would he subject Himself to so much shame and suffering and offer Himself up to die on a cross? Only one reason - LOVE - CRAZY LOVE!

So, we know we can be confident about the love God has for us because we know that He gave His best in order to give you and me a chance to become our best! In willingly offering His Son for you He is saying, "I love you as much as I live Him!" Wow!

And Jesus demonstrated how real and vast His love is for you by willfully leaving heaven and coming to earth for one reason - to die a sacrifical substitutionary death on the cross for you and for me!

For any honest and clear-thinking person there can be no doubt as to the love of God for you! God gave His best to demonstrate His Crazy Love! And Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth as a man and dwelt among us to show us what love looks like and died on the cross to make that love available to us!

So, in light of these powerful demonstrations of God's love and of Christ's love how do you think God would expect you to show your love for Him? What should you be prepared to do in order to show your love for Him?

Can you do that with left-overs? Can you do that with second-best? Will God accept that from you? Should He?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March 18, 2012

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." Mt. 13:44

It was 25 years ago that I first walked into a Starbucks. I had heard of them but they were new to the area so when we went to downtown Chicago for the day after Thanksgiving, we got our chance to try it out. It was love at first sip!

Everything about the place appealed to me. The smell of coffee brewing, the ambiance of coffee lovers congregating and the piping hot fresh cup of their coffee of the day!

A quarter of a century later, I still love it! Millions of others do too and the Starbucks brand is still going strong despite many competitors trying to imitate their success.

The reason for their success is rather obvious to me, in hundreds of visits over 25 years I have never had a bad cup of coffee from Starbucks. It is always piping hot and very smooth. The barristas there are always pleasant, well trained and professional. They love making their products as much as their customer's love getting them. I know that each time I walk into a Starbucks I will get a perfectly prepared cup of coffee.

Despite their amazing record of consistency and excellence it would only take one lukewarm cup of coffee to put a dent in their reputation. But I doubt that will ever happen because not only do I know that, they know it too!

Would to God that we could say the same thing about Christians and about our churches! Would to God that everyone who met a Christian or walked into a church would not find one that is lukewarm. If only followers of Christ would be as committed to excellence as the managers and employees of Starbucks! Oh, if only every Christian and every church service could leave people with a good taste in their mouths! How it would please God if His people had as much crazy love for God as Starbucks has for it's coffee products!

For any employee of any Starbucks in the country, the perfect cup of coffee is their "hidden treasure" or their "pearl of great price" and they are completely committed to making it happen!

That is precisely the point of this parable Jesus tells to His disciples. If you are going to be a part of God's kingdom you must be totally committed to it, just like Jesus was totally committed to us! He gave His all for us! He had crazy love for His Father's Kingdom. And when He gave His all for the Kingdom He got crazy love back from God.

God measures love in terms of commitment! Commitment is expressed in sacrifice. You can't be casual about His kingdom and have crazy love. You can't value comfort above commitment and have crazy love! Starbucks is never casual about their coffee and they are never comfortable until it happens. Lukewarm is unacceptable to them.

Crazy love means all or nothing for the kingdom of God. Lukewarm is unacceptable!

Friday, March 16, 2012

March 17, 2012

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." Matthew 13:44

Perhaps you have seen this bumper sticker somewhere.

I doubt if you believe that, but the reason it gets a laugh is because there IS an element of truth in it. There are quite a few people who believe that happiness and contentment in life is the result of having lots of possessions.

This raises a legitmate question, "How much stuff does it take to make you happy?" I'll bet at some point in your life you have wondered about that.

I think the main point of this parable speaks to this very issue. Jesus is telling His disciples that real satisfaction comes not from having many things but commiting to the one main thing. That one main thing is the kingdom of God and the kingdom of God is God's reign and rule in your life.

Do you believe that? It runs counter to our materialistic consumer driven cultural norm and if you are not careful you can easily get sucked into that mindset. It happens almost unconsciously especially if you are not consciously guarding against it.
Jesus once encountered a young man who was confused at this point. He had a good education and everything that money could and money leftover besides. But he felt that something was missing so he came to Jesus to find out. Here's how it played out:
"As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’" “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." Mark 10:17-22

This young man had many things but his love of those many things kept him from the main thing and suspect there are people like that in this room this morning. You have lost your first love because you have lost your focus on that one main thing and become concerned over many things. And the cares and concerns of those many things keep you from receiving God's CRAZY LOVE. Am I close?

According to Jesus, here is what it looks like:

Comfort = having many things
Commitment = having the one main thing

If you are not experiencing God's CRAZY LOVE could it be that you have been trying to find comfort in many things rather than committing to kingdom of God and allowing Him to reign in your heart and soul?

Are you willing to sell the many things in order to take possession of the main thing?

There are three groups of people in relationship to God's kingdom:

1) The Cop Outs - They are unbelievers. They refuse to seek God or acknowledge him at all.

2) The Hold Outs - They are believers who want to please God but are not committed to putting Him first. Like the young man who came to Jesus, they want Jesus but they want to love all their stuff too.

3) The Sold Outs - They are believers who possess the CRAZY LOVE of God because they are surendered to Him and have given up many things to possess the main thing!

Which group are you in today?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 16, 2012

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."  Matthew 13:44

Central to the teaching ministry of Jesus was the kingdom of God.

Why do you think that is so?

Could it be that until you acknowledge God as your king you can't actually acknowledge Him as your God?

You can't "kind of have Him for a God"! At least not as a capital "g" God.

So, for God to be your King you must commit to putting Him first in your life and make serving Him your chief passion! If He isn't your King then you aren't committed to His kingdom.

Being "kind of committed" is an oxymoron. It is like being "kind of pregnant" or "kind of dead" or "kind of married". You can't do it!

We have done a disservice to the kingdom and to Christians by implying that it is possible to be a Christian and not surrender to Christ. We have been negligent to allow believers to think that they can occupy the kingdom of God and not acknowledge God as King!

Jesus makes it quite clear with this story that those who wish to possess the kingdom must decide to make the kingdom their most treasured possession. The cost to enter the kingdom is exactly what this man did in the parable - sell out and buy in.

This man in the parable made a clear decision to treasure God's kingdom above all else. That is commitment! It cost him everything to cross the line into the kingdom.

There is no comfortable way to enter the kingdom and there is no comfort zone within. There is only a cross! There is only His cause!

You cannot comfortably arrange His kingdom around your preferences or your priorities. Do you think you could walk into the palace of a king and hand him your schedule and agenda and expect him to accept it? I don't think so!

So, how do you think you can presume on God to conform HIS kingdom to your comfort level? You cannot!

What part of kingdom do you not understand? What part of commitment do you not understand? What part of sell out do you not understand?

Could there be a connection between His CRAZY LOVE and His kingdom? Could there be a connection between your lack of commitment and your lack of CRAZY LOVE?

Is it possible that trading your comfort for commit to His kingdom is the price of CRAZY LOVE?

It was for Jesus! The cross was not comfortable! But it was the price of purchasing access to the kingdom for you and me.

Are you ready to sell out and buy in?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March 15, 2012

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."  Matthew 13:44

As much as I read and study I come across quotes all the time. But recently I heard one that really stuck. Maybe it is because to related to the topic I have been focusing on for several months - "CRAZY LOVE". Please let me share the quote and see it I can apply it in a practical way:

"The opposite of love is not hatred but indifference"

May I ask you a question?

How can you study about the "CRAZY LOVE" of God and remain indifferent? For Pete's sake, not even the devil is indifferent about the love of God!

Perhaps indifference is the result of knowing about God's love but no really knowing it. Believing it is one thing but receiving it is quite another.

What Jesus is advocating in this parable in the need for commitment rather than comfort. If you settle for comfort you are not in possession of "CRAZY LOVE". In fact, I believe the number enemy of "CRAZY LOVE" is comfort.

Let's examine some of the things that distinguish comfort from commitment:

Comfortable Christians are "hit and miss" about commitment to church.
Committed Christians commit to membership, ministry and give money.

Comfortable Christians give God a "tip".
Committed Christians give God a tithe off the top.

Comfortable Christians want to please people more that please God.
Committed Christians please God even when it displeases others.

Comfortable Christians don't hate sin they just don't want to be punished for it.
Committed Christians hate sin and set their heart and mind against it.

Comfortable Christians like hearing testimonies and stories about committed people and think it is amazing.
Committed Christians do what Jesus did and consider it normal.

Comfortable Christians claim to love Christ but are comfortable giving Him second best.
Committed Christians prove their love for God by giving their best.

Comfortable Christians love the people who love them back and add value to their lives.
Committed Christians love everyone who God calls them to love.

Comfortable Christians choose personal comfort above Christian commitment.
Committed Christians obey God above personal comfort.

Comfortable Christians choose safety and security rather than sacrifice.
Committed Christians are willing to sacrifice safety and security in order to serve Him.

Comfortable Christians would rather feel good for a few moments than do good continually.
Committed Christians are willing to do good even when it is painful.

The difference between committed Christians who know God's "CRAZY LOVE" and those comfortable Christians who don't is - indifference.

Are you committed or are you comfortable?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 14, 2012

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." Matthew 13:44

Have you ever found a $10 bill or a $20 lying on the ground or in the grass. Maybe it was a breezy and it had blown out of someone's hand and you happened upon it. How does that feel?

That might give you an idea of the excitement this man felt in Jesus' parable when he happened to stumble on this treasure.

In those days there weren't banks or credit unions readily available like we have today and safes had not yet been invented. So, if you had a large amount of money or jewels or other valuables you had to find a safe place to hide your valuables. Sometimes that meant digging a hole somewhere on your property and burying them in the ground. Apparently that happened here and the person who buried the treasure probably died without telling anyone where he hid the valuables. So, whoever bought the land from Him or his heirs was not told about the buried treasure and this man was lucky enough to discover it. Realizing His good fortune he hurried home to have a huge garage sale to raise the money to buy the land and take legal possession of the treasure, too.

What a lucky day!

It is an equally lucky day for you or me when we discover the kingdom of heaven!

In my last post I described why the kingdom of heaven is such a valuable treasure. Today I want to give you another perspective on the treasure that is worth giving all to possess.

How is it that God can demand that we sell out in order to possess His kingdom?

Because He loves us and He wants the best for us and He knows what is best for us is HIM!

But even better, He loves us and regards US as a pearl of great price! How much was He willing to pay to purchase you and me? HE WAS WILLING TO OFFER HIS SON on a cross to pay the price for our sins and redeem us to Himself!


The kingdom of heaven is such a valuable possession because it is a place filled with crazy love! Love designed it! Love purchased it! Love permeates it! Love makes it available to those who will receive His love!

Do you belong to the kingdom of heaven?

How do I know for sure, Brad?

Have you sold all to follow Him?

Have you made given Him first place in your life?

Have you received His love? Are you living in His love? Do you love what He loves?

Have you noticed powerful and positive changes in you attitudes and your behavior?

Those are characteristics of sold out kingdom people!

So, are you a "sold out" or a "hold out"?

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 13, 2012

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." Matthew 13:44

What is the kingdom of heaven and why did this man in the parable consider it worth selling everything to obtain it?

Let's take some time to think about that important question.

First, the kingdom of heaven is where ever God reigns in the hearts of believers. God reigns in those who place their faith in Him, love Him with all their heart and live in obedience to His Word.

Where God reigns there is peace and joy and justice! When God reigns there is safety and security!

So, the kingdom is where God reigns AND where there is spiritual relationship with Him through Christ. Those who live in His kingdom live according to His will in order to please Him and become like Him. Living to please God allows you to receive His love.

What you be willing to give up to live under God's reign and in relationship with Him? Tell me what could be more valuable than that?

But there is more!

In the kingdom of heaven there is righteousness! Righteousness is being right with God and trying to be right with others while making right decisions according to the Word of God.

What is the alternative to being right? It is being "not right" or wrong. When you are right you get to go to the right place when you die.

Would you rather be right or wrong? What price would you place on being right?

Why would you sell everything to purchase the kingdom of God? What is there in this kingdom that is worthy of such a high price tag?

In the kingdom there is the reign of God and there is a relationship with God and the righteousness of God!

But there is still more!

There is a reward in the kingdom of heaven! What IS that reward?

The reward is God! The reward is heaven! Heaven is being in the presence of God forever! The reward is spending forever in a righteous place with other righteous people!

Jesus told this parable to illustrate the primacy and the urgency of making sure to be in a personal saving spiritual realtionship with God! The man in this story saw the value of this "pearl of great price" and considered it more valuable than everything else that he possessed.

What do you value in life? What do you hold most dear? Is it more valuable than the kingdom of heaven? What else can you obtain that when you have it you will have all that you will ever need?

March 12, 2012

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." Matthew 13:44 

What determines the value of an object?

Is it what you think it is worth?

Is it what it's worth to you?

Is it what you wish someone would give you for it?

Is it what Consumer's Report says you should get for it?

Ultimately, the value of an item is determined by what someone is willing to pay you for it.

You know that from going to yard sales or from buying and selling on eBay. The market drives the value.

That is the point of this parable Jesus is telling.

What determines the value of God's kingdom?

Jesus did!

That's right! When Jesus offered Himself up as a sacrifice on the cross to redeem it and to redeem us, He attached the price tag to the kingdom.

If you want to enter the kingdom of God it will cost you everything! You must commit to loving God more than anything else in your life to take possession of His kingdom.

There are no discounts or mark downs or clearance sales in the kingdom of God. It is either sell out or miss out.

In sharing this parable Jesus is posting a sign that says, "Casual Christians need not apply!"

God gave His Son to purchase the kingdom and the Son gave His life.

Are you willing to sell out in order to get in?