Get off the Fence!

This past Sunday in our Contending series (the letter of Jude), I talked about “Contending for Lordship.” What does it really mean that Jesus is not only the Savior but also Lord and Master. Jesus’ lordship confronts those who sit on the fence… people who are trying to live in two worlds with two values systems led by two masters.

Jesus has some harsh words to say to fence sitters in Revelation 3:15-16: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

Bottom line: Get off the fence!

I’ve lived on the fence. After college, Jesus convicted me that I had been riding the fence for far too long. And it was a process of asking myself (and others asking me) some hard questions about why I attempted to live in two worlds. Here are a couple of questions that I processed through, and I hope you’ll take the time to do this as well:

1) What are the values, actions, or patterns of sin that “compete” with Jesus’ lordship in my life? Why?

2) Are they ultimately satisfying? Do they ultimately satisfy the deepest longings of my heart? Why or why not?

3) If I continue to live with these values, actions, and patterns of sin, what’s the result? What do I lose?

4) What’s the result of being “lukewarm” (I.e., living on the fence)?

5) What do I gain from surrendering full control and lordship to Jesus? (see Luke 9:24)

For further exploration of contending for and following through on Jesus’ lordship, read “Cross Bearing: Choice, Vision & Follow-through”

If you’re on the fence, here’s my heartfelt prayer for you: “Lord, help my friend climb off the fence. Give them the grace and courage to say ‘no’ to sin and the values of this world. Help them to see that You truly are their greatest good… that as they delight in you above all else, the deepest longings of their heart will be satisfied.”

I’m praying for you as you contend for Jesus’ lordship in your life!


Ranger Reflections

I always get nostalgic around Veteran’s Day. Every year I seem to go through my old military stuff (uniforms, gear, awards, books, etc.). This year has been no different. My family and I watched Discovery Channel’s Surviving the Cut: Ranger School (Episode 1) two times this week. I completed Ranger School in the summer of 1994. It was a life-changing experience. I learned perseverance, endurance, and steadfastness. It grew my faith and dependence upon Jesus. It increased my witness as fellow Ranger students were often desperate for something (or Someone) to cling to.

One of the most amazing things about Rangers is their vigilant adherence to the Ranger Creed:

Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of my Ranger Regiment.

Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other soldier.

Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one-hundred-percent and then some.

Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.

Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.

What if followers of Jesus lived with the intensity of Army Rangers? What if we took seriously the spiritual war? What if we realized the calling and potential we have as followers of Jesus? What if we took care of our brothers and sisters the way Rangers take care of each other? What if we believed in the mission of Jesus so much that we’d do whatever it took to fulfill His mission?

You know what would happen? Our lives, our families, our church, our local communities, and our global world would never be the same. And the gates of Hell would not be able to withstand the revolution of Jesus and the kingdom of God.

Fight the good fight my friends. Contend for the faith. Be steadfast and immovable by Jesus’ great power and grace.

Contender or Pretender?

On Sunday, we began a new series called Contending. We’re spending the month of November in the letter of Jude. My big question from Sunday’s message (“Contending for Jesus”) was: What does it mean and what does it look like for us to contend for Jesus and the gospel in our lives?

Ultimately, you have two choices… being a Contender or a Pretender. I want to help you think through these two choices in your relationship with Jesus, in your family and friendships, and in our church.

1. JESUS: When you think about your relationship with Jesus there are two directions to go—Identity & Freedom or Idolatry & Fear.

Contender: Identity & Freedom. When you contend in your relationship with Jesus (not against Jesus), as you allow Jesus and the gospel to press further into your life… further into who you are, it becomes about identity and freedom. Contenders find their identity in Jesus and that brings freedom… increasing freedom from the power of sin… increasing freedom to be who we really and authentically are because we know that we’re loved and secure in our relationship with Jesus.

Pretender: Idolatry & Fear. But pretenders go to idolatry and fear. Idolatry is anything that becomes more important to us, anything where we find our meaning, purpose and identity other than Jesus. We “pretend” that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. But if we’re really honest, we often look to other things and other people for our identity. That’s idolatry, and it generates fear. If you give the key to your identity, meaning, and purpose to something or someone else, you will live in fear, praying and hoping that it isn’t taken away from you. You name it… money, sex, power, success, relationships… if you are looking to those for identity and purpose, at some point they will let you down. You know it. And so you live in fear, dreading the moment that it’ll actually happen.

2. FAMILY & FRIENDSHIPS: When we talk about the relationships within our family or with our friends, we’re either Proactive or Passive.

Contender: Proactive. Contenders are proactive in their family. Contenders are constantly thinking about and actively pursuing how Jesus makes a difference in their relationships in their marriage and with their kids. When we contend for our marriages, we’re vigilant about relational health. We keep short accounts with each other. We seek to become students of our spouse and kids. We pursue selflessness and a sacrificial spirit. We ask for forgiveness when we act out of selfishness. When we contend in our home, we pray for our spouse and our kids. We are constantly, proactively asking Jesus to give us wisdom and grace with each other. The same thing goes for our friendships. We pray for grace, for understanding, for the humility to be like Jesus and love our family and friends like He loves them.

Pretender: Passive. Pretenders are passive. They shift life into neutral. When marriage begins to struggle, they run from the problems. They’re so consumed with themselves and don’t care or notice when apathy and isolation sets in. Or there is a fear of causing waves and change that is needed to grow healthy. Pretenders are passive with their kids. Sure, they want their kids to be good, moral kids… but there’s a passivity about it. Almost an “I sure hope they turn out okay. I sure hope the Children’s and Student Ministry is teaching my kids about Jesus.” In that passivity, there’s not a proactive desire to help our kids really see the how Jesus and the gospel affects and impacts their lives, their decisions, and their relationships. In friendships, pretenders have no desire to take relationships deeper… to initiate and model vulnerability and transparency. Let’s just keep it superficial because I’m not willing to risk going deeper. Let’s just pretend.

3. CHURCH: When it comes to our church, our attitude is one of two things—Service or Serve Us.

Contender: Service. As contenders focus on Jesus and the gospel, we realize that the call to follow Him means the call to serve like Him. Contenders fight against that inward, selfish focus. Contenders pray for a love that manifest itself in sacrificial generosity as we use our time, talent, touch, and treasure for the good of other people. Contenders give of themselves and take care of people within the body of Christ. And contenders also have compassion and are focused on those that don’t yet know Jesus. In the church, contenders ask how they can give of themselves to impact and change their world, locally and globally because it’s all about the heart of Jesus and the heart of service.

Pretender: Serve Us. Pretenders on the other hand are all about “Serve Us.” With pretenders, it’s all about “What do I get out of it? How are my needs being met?” Pretenders give of their time, talent, touch, or treasure when it’s convenient and when there’s a surplus. But they usually don’t because it’s rarely convenient, and there’s rarely a surplus. But pretending doesn’t happen all at once. Churches start off being contenders… all about serving each other… all about mission and evangelism. But that focus slowly turns inward, and we begin to take care of ourselves more than the world around us. We stop contending for Jesus in our world, and it becomes about us. Service becomes serve us.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a contender, not a pretender. I want to learn to fight the good fight and surrender more and more of my heart to Jesus. I want to understand the good news of identity and freedom in Jesus more and more every day. I want my family and my friendships to be fueled by the radical, sacrificial love of Jesus. And in our church, I want to contend for Jesus’ mission. I want to contend for boldness and courage to serve the people in our world, locally and globally, for the cause of Christ. I want us to be contenders, not pretenders. Fight the good fight. Contend earnestly for the faith in your relationship with Jesus, in your family and friendships, and in our church. “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you” (Jude 2).

NEW SERIES: Contending

“Nothing is more important for mature Christian discipleship than a fresh, clear, true vision of the authentic Jesus.” ~ John Stott

Our vision of Jesus and the gospel is absolutely central to everything we believe, everything we are, and everything we hope to become. We know this to be true, but there are so many other worldviews, ideas and idols vying for our attention. Relativism, materialism, hedonism, syncretism. You name the “ism” and you can hear their siren songs woo our heart away from Jesus and the gospel. So we live in the midst of tension: how to stay true to Jesus while engaging our world with His life-transforming message of hope. The ancient letter of Jude helps guide us through this tension and challenge as we learn to contend for the faith and mission of Jesus in a messy, broken world. Here’s the line-up for the series:

November 6 – “Contending for Jesus”

November 13 – “Contending for Lordship”

November 20 – “Contending for Growth”

November 27 – “Contending for Impact”

Join us through the month of November at Northshore as we learn to contend. And invite a friend to join you at 9 am, 11 am, or 5 pm.