Making Change

A few years ago, a friend and I were talking about our seminary days and sharing ideas about our preaching and teaching styles. At one point in the conversation, he put down his coffee cup and leaned on his elbows as he turned his full attention to me. It was one of those times when you know he is about to lay something heavy on you. And he did.

“You know what you do? You make change.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked.

“Here’s what you do.  We understand all of these big concepts we talked about in seminary. You get the million dollar idea, and you know how to break it down into fives and tens so everyone else can get it… and then tell them what they can do with it in their own lives.”

I liked that description. I make change.  I can study the Scriptures and then help my congregation find a way to understand what the Scriptures are saying and how they can apply them to our lives.

I’m bringing up this story to tell you about a conversation I had the other day with a friend about my new book, The Gospel of Yes, which will be released on June 5 by WaterBrook/Multnomah Publishing.  My friend looked at me and said, “You’re the minister of Yes.”

The Minister of Yes. I like that.

It’s the message I try to preach. We serve a God who is always looking for a way to say “Yes” to you and me.  Through His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness, His love — all spoken and lived in Jesus Christ — God always finds a way to say “Yes”.

It doesn’t matter where you are. Wherever it is, it’s a good place to start.

It doesn’t matter about your past. God’s future can overcome it.

It doesn’t matter how many times the world has said “No”. God will find a way to say “Yes”.

And that’s my ministry. Helping the people God brings into my life to find the Yes God has designed just for them. There is really nothing more gratifying than seeing the Yes of Christ being born in a person’s life.

“The Minister of Yes.” If that’s what they put on my tombstone, I’ll be good with that.

Electing a President

Most of the time, Labor Day marks the beginning of the political season during an election year. The political conventions are in August and then, after Labor Day, everyone starts paying attention to the presidential campaign. I understand that. After all, who wants to ruin their summer arguing about presidential politics?

But the powers that be have decided to start early. Both Republicans and Democrats have unleashed powerful attack ads on each other.  An obscene amount of money will be raised and spent in this presidential election.

This will be an interesting race for most evangelicals. For most of us, the candidate’s faith is an important issue. It is for me anyway.  I want to know what values and foundational beliefs will guide his (both candidates are men) decisions as president. What are those bedrocks of truth on which the candidate will not compromise? What are the great teachings that form his morality and vision for life? I think these are valid things to know about the person who wants to be president.

With that said, in this election, most conservative evangelicals are faced with a dilemma.  Most of the time, we would default to voting for the conservative Christian candidate.  In this election, we don’t have one.  President Obama, while a Christian, is very liberal (at least for me) in his understanding of how his faith applies to his decisions. Mitt Romney is a Mormon.  Mormons are not Christian. They have very different teachings on God, Jesus, humanity, salvation… well, you get the point.  I’m not saying this to be judgmental, but simply stating the facts.

So, what are we to do? What we always do. We search the Scriptures and we pray. The Bible has a handful of standards for leaders. They include integrity, honesty, care for the poor and a passion for justice. So, who in your mind, best fits those criteria? Well, that’s who you vote for.  (No, I don’t endorse candidates).

We must remember two things. First, Jesus refused the crown of this world. He wouldn’t be crowned king. Jesus did not establish a political movement.  In fact, one of the geniuses of Christianity is, that because we aren’t a political party, we have been able to survive under any type of government from the free market capitalism of the United States to the atheistic communist governments of China and the Soviet Union.

Second, God has already chosen His leader and He didn’t elect Him president. He crowned Him King. “At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!”  Our hope now, as it always has been, is the Risen Lord Jesus.

I think we have a Christian duty to be involved in the political process. It’s the way our nation gets things done. Support your candidates. Get involved in the campaigns. Vote. But in the end remember, neither Obama or Romney is the Messiah. Neither man can save our nation.

Please don’t expect them (Obama or Romney) to do what only Jesus can do.

Backing Into the Future

Some of my friends have been described as watching the past and backing into the future.

Sadly, most of the disciples I know are like this.  They are watching their past lives, ever vigilant to guard against sin sneaking up on them—backing up after Jesus.

This is a funny picture—someone trying to follow Jesus by backing up after Him. But when you think about it, a lot of people actually live this way… facing the world while they step backwards toward Jesus.

But repentance means “to turn.”  The first part is turning away from the world and the second part is turning to Jesus.  As you turn to Jesus, His life and majesty fill your life, pushing out everything that is not Him.

This is what we do in worship—we behold the Risen Christ.  And as we consider Christ, we take out those things in our lives that aren’t Him and add to our lives those things we see in Him but lack in ours.  We call this discipleship.

You can’t live backwards.  We’re called to walk to. To Christ and the life He promises.

Unintentional Arrivals

Have you ever wound up at the wrong place?

Have you ever been traveling somewhere, and at the time you were supposed to arrive, found out you were at a totally different place?

One thing that makes the wrong road the wrong road is that it takes you to the wrong place.

It’s funny when you’re traveling. It’s devastating when it’s your life.

And a lot of us are going to arrive at the wrong place in our lives because we have thoughtlessly, unintentionally, or carelessly ended up on the wrong road.

Here’s the brutal truth.  All of us are going somewhere. All of us are in the constant process of “becoming “– either intentionally or unintentionally. We are constantly changing, for the better or worse, but we are always changing.

What makes the difference is our intention, the disciplined focus of our free will.

So, here are today’s questions:

  • Who are you becoming?
  • Is it the person you want to be?
  • Who do you want to be?

And then:

  • What steps must you take to become the person you want to be?

Now, here’s the hard one:

  • Are you willing to do them?