Friday, September 27, 2013

Crossroads Values - Joy

Following Jesus is a joyful adventure.

The Holy Spirit produces joy in the believer’s life.  The freedom we have in Jesus releases us from the bondage of religious drudgery.  We do have responsibilities, but heartfelt obedience brings joy, not resentment.  We choose to follow Jesus, not because of guilt, but because of love.  He tells us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.  When we live in Christ, we live with joy. 

Following Jesus is difficult, challenging, frustrating, inconvenient, costly, dangerous.  But if that’s all we experience in walking with the Lord, we are missing his heart.  Following Jesus should also be fun.  It’s an adventure to follow him where we’ve never been before.  We take risks as we follow, knowing that he walks with us.  Joyful trust in our hearts overflows in the adventures of faith.  We won’t always be happy.  But we can always be joyful.

Through the joy of his people, Jesus is honored and glorified.  The joy of the Lord is our strength.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Crossroads Values -- Action

Jesus was a man of action.  After working as a carpenter, he began his three-and-a-half years of ministry.  He healed, taught, preached, traveled, fished, prayed, encouraged, rebuked.  He changed the world by investing in his disciples.  He followed the Father’s plan obediently, giving his life on the cross.

As the Spirit moved Jesus to action, he calls us to action as well.  Sometimes the action is prayer.  Sometimes listening, teaching, confronting, turning over tables.  It is all guided by the Spirit and motivated by love.

At Crossroads, we want to be involved in life, like Jesus.  We step up to fight injustice, feed the hungry, and fight disease.  We step up to reach out to people who need friends.  We step up to show our community the love of Jesus.  We step up to help a friend make a decision.  We challenge each other to stick with our marriages.  We call each other to turn from sin.  We volunteer.  We invite to dinner.  We donate.  We pack shoeboxes with fun stuff for poor children.  We sponsor kids around the globe.  We send missionaries.

Faith means action.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Crossroads Values - Community

Life is all about relationships.  Everything else is secondary.  For us at Crossroads, community is not a zip code.  It is having real friends who know the good and the bad, and still care about you.  It is sharing the joys and frustrations, the celebrations and heartaches of life with people who understand your strengths and flaws.

God shows us the importance of community even before there was a creation.  The Holy Trinity exists in three Persons, living in community with each other.  As we were made in God’s image, we are created to live in relationship with others—with God and people.

Christian community becomes the place of healing and discovery.  We find emotional and spiritual healing in a place of acceptance and grace.  We experience self-discovery as we learn about our unique qualities and find our God-given calling in life.

Real community is messy.  But it is worth it.  We see the flaws in others, and they see ours.  We encourage, rebuke and forgive.  We grow and become more like Jesus.  We really need each other.   And we need to belong.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mental Freedom

Charlie Brown never kicked a football held by Lucy Van Pelt.  Somehow he fell for her deception every time.  She made a fool of him.  I feel sorry for Charlie and I comfort myself in knowing that I could never be so effectively and repeatedly deceived.  At least I used to think so.  In July I preached a sermon called “Freedom from Sin” and began noticing how I fall prey to deception in my thought life.  In a blog post, “Lies that I Believe,” I catalog a series of my erroneous, recurring thoughts.  I charge daily for the football, believing what is not true.  Hurry up.  It’s too late.  You need to be nervous.   God will leave you hanging.  You don’t deserve joy.  You can’t get all your work done.   Only by God’s grace can I break the cycle.

Jesus knows the power of truth.  He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 NIV84).  When we persist in thought patterns based on lies, we fall into Satan’s trap.  Even believers fall for these tricks.  He lies so cleverly, we do not recognize the deceptio  Since the Garden of Eden, Satan has spread lies.  He asked Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1 NIV84).  Jesus declared that Satan speaks his “native language” when he lies (John 8:44 NIV84).  The devil uses every device he can to drive a wedge between people and their Creator.  But ultimately, Satan has only one trick.  Author Neil T. Anderson, in his book, The Bondage Breaker, notes that deception is Satan’s only weapon.  All his activity is rooted in lies. 

Lies can be powerful.  Pillars of untruth uphold totalitarian regimes and dysfunctional families. Satan’s lies bring untold misery to humanity.  Paul calls him, “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Eph. 2:2 NIV84).   His lies set the tone for this world.  In every culture, on every continent, we find murder, hatred, corruption, selfishness, oppression, materialism.  The pursuit of self-interest always carries with it the taint of disregard for others.  (Thus, pioneer economist Adam Smith believed that free-market economies must be based on a system of morality.)  The way of the world rests on pillars of self-centered thinking.  Even the Christian world buys into this.  People shop for churches with a consumer mindset, looking for what they can receive rather than what they can contribute.  Christian authors plug their books, striving for recognition on best sellers’ lists.  If I had a book, I would be plugging it—with entirely pure motives, of course.  Church leaders crave power and influence.  We work so hard to hear Jesus say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” that we forget to love him.  Many in the Christian world believe that the one with the biggest church, most books sold, most Twitter followers wins.

Paul warns us to live above the deception.  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:20 NIV84).  The patterns of this world are evil and constantly pull us away from God.  And we fall for it.  At least I do.  For a long time, I failed to realize how deceived I was. 

We escape from the evil pattern of the world by renewing our minds.  Our patterns of thought must change.  We must expose the lies and embrace the truth.  Our negative self-talk serves as exhibit A of the enemy’s deception.  We talk to ourselves as we would never talk to a friend:  Boy, that was stupid.  You can’t do anything right.  That was just luck.  It’s all your fault.  These thought patterns find their roots in our childhoods.  They color the way we see life.  And they are not based on truth.  Paul urged the Philippians (4:8) to keep thinking about the things that are true.  When I find myself spiraling downward in negative thoughts, I check to see if my thoughts are true.  They never are.  My mind must be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  “[T]he mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6 NIV84).

For years I have given lip-service to Paul’s claim that our battle is not against flesh and blood, without really noticing any spiritual battle.  After all, in my daily life, I fight schedules, deadlines, projects; I wrestle with writer’s block, lead Bible studies, work to be creative, craft sermon series, and hammer out strategic plans.  These activities do not normally feel like wrestling demons.  Then I began examining my thought life.  I saw how my thought patterns follow the world.  I worry, fret, procrastinate, blame.  Now I see that much of the spiritual battle takes place on the battlefield of my mind.  I cannot be whole and healthy until I base my thinking on truth.  In his love, God provides us the armor we need for battle:  the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the (spoken) word of God (Eph. 6:10-18).  The armor begins with truth.

God is renewing my mind.  It is a daily battle.  On the cross, Jesus won the victory.  He shows me the truth, and the truth sets me free.