6 Reasons Why You Should Fast

A few days ago, I began a 40 day fast along with my church family. I’m so proud of my two older kids who have also joined in the fast!

I wanted to give a few reasons why I believe fasting is helpful for those who do it. Fasting helps us to…

1. Create healthy habits. Over time, it is easy to fall into habits that are unhealthy in multiple areas of our lives. Emerging into a fast causes us to reevaluate those very habits and gives us the opportunity to bring order where disorder has existed.

2. Deepen our dependency on God. A true fast removes things from our lives that are impossible to live (at least for long) without. This is why fasting food is so important. When we fast something that we not only desire, but need, our only choice is to depend on God for strength.

3. Reorder our priorities. On occasion, we lose sight of the things that are truly important. When we spend time to fast and pray, we get a renewed understanding of those things that are important in our lives.

4. Create sensitivity to God. When we are stressed, tired, lonely, or angry, we tend to be more sensitive. While many times this sensitivity leads us to do negative things, the opposite can be said about fasting. When we fast and go without, we are definitely sensitive. But, this sensitivity leads us to Jesus, rather than further away.

5. Transform our hearts. When we are sensitive to God and depend more on him, we create space in our lives for God to work inside of us. Have you been dealing with major hurts or pain? Addictions? Negative thoughts? Doubts or fears? Fasting is a powerful way to let God transform us from the inside out.

6. Disconnect from distractions. In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded with things that compete for our attention. There is not enough time each day to pay attention to all the information and stimuli that is available to us. When we fast, we have the opportunity to disconnect from those distractions and to connect to that which is most important.

Do you have other reasons why you believe it’s good to fast? Feel free to share!

Talent or Trust?

There are lots of talented people in the world.

Then, there are others who are not as talented.

I don’t know in which category you consider yourself to be in.

Some people believe that those who are talented don’t need much from God, since God has apparently given them enough already. Some people who are extremely talented even believe that!

The rest of humanity who is not as talented believes they have to trust God to help them. After all, what other choice do they have?

I came across an interesting story found in the Bible. It’s about three tribes of Israel who went to war.

1 Chronicles 5:18-20

18 There were 44,760 capable warriors in the armies of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. They were all skilled in combat and armed with shields, swords, and bows. 19 They waged war against the Hagrites, the Jeturites, the Naphishites, and the Nodabites. 20 They cried out to God during the battle, and he answered their prayer because they trusted in him. So the Hagrites and all their allies were defeated.

I love what this short story tells us. It is completely possible to be immensely talented, yet still put our full trust in God.

The truth is that God will take us where our talents cannot. It is good to be skilled. It is better to trust in God.

Let’s choose today to use our talents and to trust in God.

That is what leads to success. That makes all the difference.

Justin Bieber Arrested!

There are plenty of people who love Justin Bieber.

And plenty who hate him.

Just look at the Twitter feeds surrounding his arrest, or any comments at the end of various articles and you will realize there are many who fall into both categories.

I don’t know where you stand. I don’t know whether you’re a Belieber or not. And I don’t care.

With his recent arrest, opinions have been out in full force!

And here’s the truth: most all of those who love him will continue to love him. Those who hate him will simply hate him more.

So, not much has changed in the grand cosmic sense of everything.

Justin Bieber may have wide influence, yet he still remains as only one person, with a heart and soul, on a journey, finding his way day by day.

Being in the spotlight, especially at his age, is a completely different level of pressure than most any of us have experienced. I wouldn’t have wished that on myself and I definitely don’t wish it on my children. So, what do we do as believers (not Beliebers) in Jesus?

I simply recommend one thing: PRAY.

Pray for God to lead him clearly. Pray for God to put the right people around him. Pray for God’s abundant grace to meet him exactly where he is at.

What do you think?

6 Reasons Why I Liked the Movie FROZEN

Yes, the movie has been out awhile.  But, I saw it with the family for the first time yesterday.

I don’t typically do movie reviews.  But, I have to write this one.

Let me first start with what Frozen is missing: God.  There is no mention of him and he IS the source of all that is good, right, and lovely.

Barring that, the movie was amazing.  Here are my reasons why:

1. I loved the graphics.  Sure, it may not be as “amazing” as some other animated films out there, but there were definitely some beautiful scenes.

2. I loved the message.  It was all about the power of love to heal a frozen heart.  And that is true!  It was about how the enemy of our lives (and of love) is fear.  I think I remember a Bible verse about that…you can read it here.

3. I loved HOW they used magic.  I’ve got small kids, so I’m concerned when magic gets too weird and too dark.  It has been that way in other Disney movies.  It was NOT like that in this movie.  For that I am thankful.  In fact, the magic could be taken as a “physical” expression of the emotional reality of the queen.  So, the magic was not the focus…it actually pushed the viewer to focus on what the message of the movie was really about: love.

4. Who doesn’t love happy trolls?

5.  I was pleasantly surprised (spoiler alert) that the love that was required to heal a frozen heart was not the romantic love (the kiss of the prince/man/etc.) that is found in many other Disney movies, but the sacrificial love of one person giving their life for another.  Unexpected and very good.

6. I liked that the storyline did not follow the typical trajectory of an evil person vs a good person.  While there were “bad” people in the movie, the main battle was a battle of the heart.  In life, that is so important.  Our main battle is not other people, but the one that takes place in our hearts.

I’m sure there are others…but this is what I’ve thought of up until now!

If you haven’t watched it yet…see it!

Enjoy.

Calling: Receiving and Completing

There is a time difference between receiving a call and completing a call.

If someone invites me today to a Dodger’s baseball game for the 2014 season, I am well aware  that the time difference between receiving that invitation to completing that invitation will be a few months.

In our microwave culture, we tend to believe that everything is NOW.  Waiting is no longer a part of our culture.  Patience, one of the fruit of the Spirit found in the book of Galatians, is no longer much of a virtue.

I have met many people who have received a “call” from God upon their lives.  God has told them they are called to do something specific…maybe be a pastor, or a missionary, or something else of the sort.

Then, in a tragic moment, they decide that everything must change instantly.  They believe the call is for right now.  They pack everything up, throw caution to the wind, leave people hanging, and run off, proclaiming that they are somehow being obedient to God.

Now, while there are moments when God calls us to do something immediately, I believe there are many more moments when the time period between receiving the call and completing the call is quite large.

Take the life of King David, found in 1st and 2nd Samuel, as an example.  The difference in time between being called (anointed) as a king and actually becoming king was many years.  During that time, God continued to mold his character, give him influence, teach him many things, and bring the right people into his life.

My advice?  Slow down.  Wait on God.  Submit to authority in your life.  Then GO, when the time is right.

Empty Glasses

In my regular Bible reading, I came across a great comparison in a story about King Josiah and the people of Israel.

King Josiah reigned after a period of time when Israel had fallen away from relationship with God.  He eventually found the “Book of the Covenant”, which was the agreement that God had made with the people of Israel about how they were to live.

When King Josiah read it, he renewed the agreement, then he went all out in making sure that everything that had to do with false religion was destroyed.  He even put people to death over it!

This is all found in 2 Kings 23:1-20.

But, he realized that “emptying the glass” was not enough.  It was not simply enough to get rid of false religion, to get rid of sin, or to get rid of the people responsible for all the evil that was committed.

When glasses are left empty, they are simply waiting to be filled up with something.  And Josiah knew that if the people of Israel were not filled up with something new and better, they would revert back to how they were.

So, in verses 21-22 of the same chapter, we read this: “21 King Josiah then issued this order to all the people: “You must celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, as required in this Book of the Covenant.” 22 There had not been a Passover celebration like that since the time when the judges ruled in Israel, nor throughout all the years of the kings of Israel and Judah.”

Interesting.

Could it be that since no celebrations were happening regularly, the people of Israel lost their way and started honoring the wrong things?

Josiah made sure to “fill the glass” with the honor of God and the remembrance of all that he had done for them.

I believe the main reason negativity, sin, anger, etc. exist in our lives is because we have not filled the cup with thanksgiving, honor, love, celebration, etc.

Would you consider celebrating more today?  If so, I believe it will make all the difference in your life!

Let’s party!

 

Peace

The last two weeks at CityLife (the church I pastor), we have started off the year talking about God’s peace.  There is so much that could be said about his peace, but I will simply share a few thoughts:

1. External peace does not guarantee internal peace.  Much of what we spend our time looking for is peace in our external circumstances.  We hope that everything at work will get better, we hope that our finances will improve, we hope that our relationships will be stable, and much more.  But reality is this: peace in any of those (or other) external circumstances does not guarantee internal peace.  I recently refinanced my house.  I’m happy about saving money.  It’s better for my finances!  But, I don’t wake up every morning celebrating it.  We still need interior peace.

2. The peace that Jesus offers is better in quantity and quality than anything else. The truth is that there are different places and things that will offer elements of peace.  And, there will always be a certain amount of peace that can be changed from things going well in our lives.  But, if you want lots of peace, and have it be lasting peace, you need someone inherently good and eternal to give it to you.  Only Jesus fits in that category.

3. We must push through our own issues to experience the peace of Jesus. I am NOT saying that we need to solve our issues in order to experience the peace of Jesus.  On the contrary!  Only Jesus can solve all of our issues.  But, we must not allow our issues (whether they be addictions, shame, worries, fears, lack of faith, etc.) to be the determining factors in our look for peace.  We must be willing to release them so we can grab ahold of the peace that Jesus has for us.  We can’t grasp the peace of Jesus if we are still holding other things clutched tightly in our hands.

Look for Jesus today and you will experience a true and lasting peace.  It will be completely different from anything you have experienced before.

Enjoy the journey!

Moving Forward

Many times in the leading of an organization, we come to points where we realize that things need to change.

Maybe we lost what we originally had.  Maybe we went down a wrong path.  Or, maybe things changed over time and there was a need to get back on track.

Regardless of the reasons surrounding the need for change, we know that change must happen.

The difficult thing about change is that people will be affected.  People will get hurt.  People will not like everything that happens.

And that’s okay!

In the Bible, there’s a story found in the book of 2 Kings, chapter 23.  King Josiah realized that the nation of Israel had strayed far from God and came to the understanding that some huge changes needed to be made.

Here are some select verses from that chapter:

Then the king instructed Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second rank and the Temple gatekeepers to remove from the Lord ’s Temple all the articles that were used to worship Baal, Asherah, and all the powers of the heavens. The king had all these things burned outside Jerusalem on the terraces of the Kidron Valley, and he carried the ashes away to Bethel. He did away with the idolatrous priests, who had been appointed by the previous kings of Judah, for they had offered sacrifices at the pagan shrines throughout Judah and even in the vicinity of Jerusalem. They had also offered sacrifices to Baal, and to the sun, the moon, the constellations, and to all the powers of the heavens. He also tore down the living quarters of the male and female shrine prostitutes that were inside the Temple of the Lord , where the women wove coverings for the Asherah pole.

A whole bunch of woodworkers, prostitutes, and priests were put out of business.  Now, I’m sure many of you would agree that some of that was a good thing!

The reality remains.  When change happens, there are difficult decisions to be made that will lead to dissatisfaction among certain people.

That is simply the reality of the situation.   We must change, or we will die.

But, even in the midst of change, there is at least one more thing we must take into consideration.  In that same chapter, but in verse nine, the author states this:

The priests who had served at the pagan shrines were not allowed to serve at the Lord ’s altar in Jerusalem, but they were allowed to eat unleavened bread with the other priests.

Compassion.  Help.  Care.  Love.

Josiah was fully within his rights to kick out all the priests (who worshipped other gods), but he brought them to Jerusalem and made sure that their most basic needs were taken care of.  After all, priests could not work other jobs, so they had no other way to make money legitimately.

Must change continue in our organizations?  Yes!  Will change be difficult?  Absolutely!  Should we show compassion and care for those who are affected by change?  Totally!

Have you navigated change in the past?  What other lessons have you learned in the process?

Is Christianity the “Right” Religion? Part II

In Part I, I dealt with the idea that it is completely possible to have only one way for something. This can definitely apply to religion. The reality is that almost all religions declare exclusivity, including atheism! Now you might be thinking, “Wait a minute, atheism is science…it’s not a religion!” Since when does no belief in a god mean something is NOT a religion (think about Buddhism)?

So, let’s continue with Part II. I want to deal with the question itself. I believe that Christianity is NOT the right religion. Say what? No…I have not turned away from the Christian faith. In fact, it is my belief in this faith that makes the concept of religion so wrong!

Christianity was never designed to be a RELIGIONAt the central core of our beliefs is a Person with whom we have a RELATIONSHIP.

To declare a right religion with the name of Christianity is a hideous mischaracterization of who we are. The moment that the word “religion” is used, it diminishes the whole concept of what we believe.

You might be wondering, “Doesn’t Christianity have many of the same practices that other religions have?” Yes! Things like prayer, memorization of our Holy Book (the Bible), communities of faith, songs that are sung, and much more are found as traditional parts of Christianity, which mirror other religious preferences.

What makes Christianity different is not simply the practices themselves, but the reason BEHIND those practices.

The reason for these practices is not to simply “practice” religion…they are meant to “practice” relationship.

This difference is important. So let’s change the question! How about this: Is Jesus Christ truly God and is belief in Him and relationship with Him absolutely necessary?

In the next few parts, I will examine the differences that truly set apart Christianity (and more importantly, Jesus), from the other religions of the world. My hope is that these differences will help bring to light the need for relationship with Christ. Stay tuned!

The Dangers of Tug of War

In the news today comes a story of how some kids lost some fingers playing tug of war at a school event.

You can read about it here.

First, let me say that my prayers go out to the students and their families. I am praying for a full and complete recovery.

That being said, while I was driving today, I heard some news reports that mentioned the incident. While listening, I had this thought: “They’re probably going to ban tug of war”!

Sure enough, as I was thinking about it, they said it!

In that article, Eric Spillman (the author) states, “The school district is reviewing its policies to see if tug of war will be allowed in the future.”

What?

Why is it that every accident that happens leads to us creating more rules or outright banning something?

Should we ban beaches because of shark bites?
Should we ban cars because of accidents?
Should we ban sports because of injuries?
Should we ban marriages because of infidelity?
Should we ban airplanes because of terrorists?
Should we ban banks because of robbers?
Should we ban hospitals because of sickness and death?

While it is true that we can always be more safe and cautious, I fear that we are becoming a risk averse society.

Life is made up of risks. Once risks are removed, we are no longer living life as it was meant to be lived.

In becoming a risk averse society, we don’t just protect ourselves from negative outcomes…we also eliminate the enjoyment of positive outcomes.

If marriages are removed, the fullest expression of love is put to death.
If sports are removed, the enjoyment of leisure and play is also removed (and discipline too)!
Etc.

When we create rules to avoid risk, we are basically admitting to the fact that we are a fearful society. We are afraid that something might go wrong or someone will get hurt. We allow an isolated incident to tell us that it might happen to all of us. This is simply not true.

Why don’t we simply accept the fact that these things will happen? Then, we can support each other when things go wrong.

So, for the love of all things enjoyable, please don’t ban tug of war!