Archives For Live

“Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that the things that have happened to me have actually advanced the gospel. The whole Praetorian Guard and everyone else knows that I’m in prison for Christ. Most of the brothers and sisters have had more confidence through the Lord to speak the word boldly and bravely because of my jail time.”‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:12-14‬ ‭CEB‬‬

Sometimes our suffering has significance that places us in opportunities to share Jesus. 

When you share the same pain as others they will listen to your story of hope.

When they hear the story of your hope in Jesus and the reason of your hope you’re advancing the good news about Jesus. 

That opportunity would not present itself unless you shared the same pain. 

“I put all my hope in the Lord. He leaned down to me; he listened to my cry for help.

Those who put their trust in the Lord, who pay no attention to the proud or to those who follow lies, are truly happy!” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭40:1, 4‬ ‭CEB‬‬

Those who are hurt but fully hope in Jesus are truly happy. 

When we see we are helpless we can be happy because our hope is in Jesus fully being our help. 

“He said to his disciples, “Where is your faith?” Filled with awe and wonder, they said to each other, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him!””‭‭Luke‬ ‭8:25‬ ‭CEB‬‬

Our faith is tested in storms. 

The storm reveals where your trust is. 

God will use the storm to redirect our trust back to Him. 

“The Lord saw that humanity had become thoroughly evil on the earth and that every idea their minds thought up was always completely evil. The Lord regretted making human beings on the earth, and he was heartbroken. So the Lord said, “I will wipe off of the land the human race that I’ve created: from human beings to livestock to the crawling things to the birds in the skies, because I regret I ever made them.” But as for Noah, the Lord approved of him.”‭‭
Genesis‬ ‭6:5-8‬ ‭CEB‬‬

We are not evil because we do evil things. 

We are evil because we think evil thoughts. 

We think evil thoughts because we have evil hearts. 

Evil hearts break God’s heart. 

That’s why He wanted to start over. 

But He started over in a different way. 

He started over by giving us a second chance and to exchange our evil heart for a new heart fueled by what Jesus did for us in living the perfect life we should have lived; dying the death we deserved to die; and allowing us to share in His resurrected life. 

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭13:15-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

A sacrifice of praise is one that makes Jesus famous. 
We make Jesus famous by doing what Jesus did: Doing good. Serving those in need. Those things done in Jesus name are the sacrifices God is most pleased. 

Dear Pastor and Church Leader,
I know Sunday didn’t go as planned. 

I know it wasn’t planned to go that way and you worked your tail off so people could connect with our Creator and find their way back to God. 

But that microphone didn’t work. 

That musician didn’t come as prepared. 

Your notes wouldn’t load on your iPad or you ran out of paper and couldn’t print. 

Your board meeting after church wasn’t what you wanted. 

You may have wanted it to go a different way but take heart this morning. Because amidst that awful song intro and in spite of not executing your closing the way you planned…

Jesus was in control and He had His way. 

Now do it all again this week.  Work like it depends on you and pray because you know it depends on God

And trust.

Trust God this Sunday and trust your people. 

Trust that God will build His church and not you or your creative genius. 

Trust that people don’t intentionally want to sabotage the kingdom work and that Jesus—who is a master of redeeming things—can redeem a bad board meeting or a poorly executed song. 

Jesus will build His church in spite of how Yesterday went. 

Jesus will build His church even though your giving wasn’t great. 

Why? Because He is in control. And he promised it. 

“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.” Proverbs‬ ‭21:30-31‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew‬ ‭16:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Leaders worth following empower others instead of protecting themselves.

Leaders who protect themselves:

  • See others as a means to an end
  • Value their own position more than the people they lead
  • Do only enough to get by
  • Are interested only in how it reflects on their own image
  • See good work from others as a threat
  • Don’t trust others

Leaders who empower others

  • Value their people over their own position
  • Trust in the potential of including others
  • See teamwork as necessary and not a threat
  • Sees the benefits of individual improvement
  • Sees the good work of others adds value to the team
  • Enable others by trusting them. 

What would you add to the lists?

Why is God allowing this to happen to me?

I’ve been asked this question by at least three people this week. I’ll admit, it’s a question I’ve asked before and one that I’m not confident in responding with an answer.

The longer I live and the more I read and study scripture the more I do see an answer to this question emerging.

I wish it were a magic formula that I’ve discovered. Like if I prayed the prayer of Jabez six times a day my situation would change. Or if I gave in faith as a seed offering of what I want God to do. Or, if I just start doing good things then good would come in return.

I would love for those to be the case. I wish it were like a algebra equation where we could work the formula and get a solution.

Unfortunately, it’s not. What it is can be frustrating, painful, heartbreaking, and sometimes leave you feeling hopeless.

The answer I see emerging is this:

God wants us to realize our how much we need Jesus and only Jesus.

He wants you and me to see that a pursuit after any other thing leads to nothing as fulfilling as having Jesus. .

A pursuit after temporary happiness that will eventually disappear can’t replace what you can have in Jesus.

A life of comfort and riches is nothing compared to who Jesus is and what He is to us.

A relationship with another person will never fulfill what we can have in Jesus.

No achievement, award, job title, certificate, diploma, trophy, sale, skill, or reputation can equal what we can have in Jesus.

To which my argument is “Can’t I cave both?”

No. If I have to have anything else with what I have in Jesus, I have no clue what I have in Jesus.

God wants us to have an earth shattering, world colliding confrontation with anything that attempts to do for us only what Jesus can do for us.

What are you pursuing that is you feel you have to have in order to be happy?

What is it that drives you to work harder at being accepted?

Why are you not content with anything you have?

Why do you need that extra degree? Is it really to provide for your family or is that argument a mask to cover your insecurity and lack of confidence?

When we discover who Jesus is to us and we begin to live the life Holy Spirit wants to lead us to live, we will discover that if we have Jesus, we have everything we need.

There will be times you don’t want to be around another Christian. I get it. I also know the reasons we don’t want to be involved in community are signs of our need for community.

I’m too busy. Am I the only one who has thought that? Think about being too busy… It isolates you. It takes you away from focussing on following Jesus. It removes you from others who are following Jesus and who can inspire you to follow Jesus too.

I don’t have it together yet. or maybe you have thought you need to get some personal habits under control before you show up. After all, everyone at a church seems to have it together. Let me tell you… It’s an act. No one has it together. We are all broken. When we don’t see ourselves fitting in we naturally remove ourselves.

I don’t have anything in common with them. If we lived life this way we would struggle to find any meaningful relationships. As soon as you would find something different in a person you would pull away. Any conflict of opinion, personality, pursuit, or passion drives you to pull away.

When we remove ourselves from community with other Christ followers our hearts begin to grow cold toward God.

We are like coals.
When you take us out of community we grow cold. Like a piece of coal goes cold when it’s away from the group we go cold when we stop gathering with other believers.

Our excuses that keep us from church or that small group that meets during the week becomes the very thing that cripples our spiritual walk.

Too busy for Sunday and the next thing you know you look at yourself and see yourself farther from God than you used to be.

Then we withdraw from our community of friends who are Christ followers. Sometime we impose the thought they are judging us because we feel guilty for letting our hearts grow cold. We then keep ourselves from the antidote for our spiritual seasonal cold—community.

So you feel a little guilty for letting your heart grow cold—we all have been guilty of that same thing. Maybe you should let your guilt push you to community not away from it.

Maybe you have been too busy. What should you drop so you can engage in that time with those two to three friends who help your heart grow closer to God.

Maybe they aren’t like you. Don’t forget the people who most unlike Jesus, like Jesus. Let Jesus be your common denominator and grow with them learning from their perspective in life.

What is your excuse from regularly being in a community of at least two other people who are following Jesus?

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It was a moment for me to be proud of what God is doing.

Let me set up why…

Several months ago I met a young man who was from Johannesburg. I was talking with Larry, who was at McDonald’s with me for our Life Group. After our morning group we walked outside and there was this young man. He asked if we had some change to spare so he could get some bread. I had R20 on me and gave it to him and Larry gave him some money too. The young man then went inside bought a meal and then apologized to Larry and I for leaving. He walked over to a family, who spent the night next to an abandoned restaurant. He gave the family the remainder of his change. This was so unlike anything I expected. I expected him to pocket the change. But, he didn’t. He was without but gave his excess to someone who was in need. So generous of him. So humbling for me.

Little did I know I would run into this young man every couple of weeks. I didn’t give him money, but he knew I cared for him. I would always invite him to our church. I knew our people would accept him. I wasn’t afraid of what our people would think. He gave me the same answer I get a lot “I’ll be there.”

I invite dozens of people to church every week. I guess I am calloused now as I don’t expect them to be telling me the truth. I spin it thinking to myself that they want to come in the moment but forget on Sunday.

I invited the young man to come hang with us guys at 6am on Wednesday mornings and I’ll buy his breakfast. He never came.

Time went by. I saw him on the road and I’d wave and he’d wave back.

Four weeks ago the young man came and as I expected, our people welcomed him, served him, and treated him with respect—not as someone off the street.

We were in the last part of a series talking about living out what it means to love as Jesus loved us. We were having baptisms that day, and this young man said he needed to get his life straight and he needed to begin with his relationship with Jesus. He talked to Steve—our other pastor here—asking Steve if he could get baptized. Steve made sure he understood what salvation and baptism were. We wanted to make sure he didn’t think a prayer and dunk were a formula to getting his life straight, but it was about our full trust and faith in Jesus by receiving what He’s already done for us.

We baptized this young man that day. He even bought a friend who had been giving him a place to sleep. The friend wasn’t a Jesus follower but cheered the young man along as he, Steve, and I walked into the extremely cold Indian Ocean in the beginning of winter.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical. Sad isn’t it!? But I thought he might be doing this to get the church to help him get back on his feet as others have attempted with us.

However, against my skepticism and in line with Holy Spirit enabled life change, this young man has been following Jesus. He took our “Get Started” scripture reading sheets and has been reading the text on them and writing down how he will apply the truth. He has been coming to our life group and weekend services consistently. He’s following Jesus and even working hard to find a job.

Today, he invited three men who had lost their jobs and were in transit to a town a couple hours away. He told them they need to come to Westside Family Church because it’s a church who accepts you wherever you are in life.

That is what Westside did for him. That is what Jesus did for him. You might think I got the order wrong and Jesus should been mentioned first there, and maybe I did.

But, I think the church is the first experience most people have with Jesus. If the church doesn’t accept them, then why would Jesus. Sad, but it’s true with a lot of people who visit churches on the weekend hoping to find the good news for their life. First starting with the thought that someone accepts me.

That is the first good news I see in the gospel of Jesus. I am accepted. But that isn’t always what our message is by the actions we show. This young man experienced it and he knew if he invited others in the same place of life he was in, the church would accept them too.

That was the gospel and the good news being declared today. It wasn’t in the teaching or song but in the love of one young man who was accepted inviting three other men to come to a community where he knew they would be accepted.

After church, one of our ladies went to the grocery store down the road to buy bread, milk, and a lunch for these three men. Her gift is hospitality. She’s in charge of our first impressions and today she made a lasting impression when she saw their need and met it.

That is our church! That is the Church!

The church should be a place of acceptance. Why? Because Jesus accepted us. It doesn’t matter your class, race, gender, or age, we all need to be accepted and it’s the body of Christ’s charge to accept others.

The church sees a need and, in love, meets the need.

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a church who accepts you as you are? Who encourages you by loving you sometimes by meeting your need? Who challenges you not to stay the same but to follow Jesus and let His grace, love, and life bring you life? A church like this would be irresistible. I believe we all want this type of church.

I’m privileged to be a part of a church like this.

Thank you Westside Family Church for joining Jesus in His mission of saving people by first accepting them!