God Doesn’t Need You To Try So Hard


Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1

If I got a B on a paper I would sulk and pout and lose sleep for days over it. I couldn’t take anything but perfection when it came to grades, which I had to constantly fight to try and achieve. I stressed myself out in school, constantly worrying about my grades and my future. When I would make the grade, I could not enjoy the moment because another paper or test was pending. It was exhausting.

Any overachievers relate to me? Anyone plagued by perfectionism? Do you ever feel guilty if you don’t work yourself to death on something? Are you what some might call a control freak?  Here is a news alert… God doesn’t need you to try so hard. In fact it could be detrimental to your soul.

The Christian life is a paradox in many ways. We gain our life only when we lose it. The least will actually be first. Giving is better than receiving. When it comes to how we are to live, God is not interested in how much we can achieve for Him. That might shock you but you won’t find verses in the Bible that says, Thou shalt achieve great things for God.

He doesn’t want our efforts as much as He wants our surrender. He put His Holy Spirit in us and gave us the authority of Jesus to accomplish life altering, earth-shattering, transformative things for Him. That doesn’t come  via talent, hard work, ingenuity, or anything else we could accomplish on our own. That comes through the power of God, the Holy Spirit, in us.

It doesn’t mean God doesn’t want our best effort or to use our talents but His word is full of stories of uneducated, unqualified, unprepared participants who didn’t have any influence or position yet changed the world around them. When we read the stories of these men and women, we are not noticing what a great person they were but rather, what a great God they served!

Reality check… you are not capable or equipped to do this life your own strength in a way that will honor God. You need help. You need Jesus. Your greatest efforts will fall short of the eternal, kingdom advancing work God wants to do through you.

Some of you have worn yourself out trying to change your spouse, train your kids, make a business successful, maintain a family on the verge of falling apart, all by your will power and effort. It leaves you weary and on edge. You are frustrated on how little control you have to make things happen. Truth is God doesn’t call us to juggle all of this. He isn’t testing us to see how much we can achieve. This stuff is too big for us!

You want to be a great parent to your children? You want to be an influential grandparent on your grandchildren? You want to live for something greater than a paycheck and two garage house? Then you will have to surrender your talents, your wisdom, your control, your effort to the Lord and allow Him to inspire you, empower you, and lead you into His purposes.

That’s great Dax but what if it doesn’t work?  What if I do that and my kids, grandchildren, or job do not cooperate? Instead of getting frustrated you rest in the knowledge that you are trusting them to God and that He will work in The best way and at the right moment. You find peace in a God who sympathizes with you when those you love make horrible mistakes and refuse to change. You rest in the fact that God is doing things you can’t always see and will always prove Himself faithful.

Whatever you are going through right now, which one of these questions best speak to your approach: Am I putting more effort into trying to fix what I perceive as the problem OR more effort into submitting to the Holy Spirit to receive whatever He would have me to learn and do in this situation? There is a Grand Canyon difference between these two perspectives. One is a futile attempt to do things you cannot do. The other is a place of rest and peace as you surrender to His will. Which one you choose will make all the difference in what kind of person you are.

 Top 10 Topics Christians Are Not Learning About

As infected saints, we would do well to not avoid topics because they are convicting. If we desire to be like Jesus, we should want to know and experience the deeper things of the faith. Here are the topics I believe are being neglected by most Christians today.

1. Fasting– Fasting is found throughout Scripture as a way of mourning and refocusing. Even Jesus fasted before He started His ministry. Fasting is a spiritual act of creating space by abstaining for a period of time from something good in order to draw nearer to God. I can say from my own experience with fasting that it is a megaphone to God’s voice in my life. I gain clarity of purpose and perspective from the Lord. It is a neglected discipline that would be powerful in our lives if we practiced it.

2. Repentance– Who wants to talk about turning away from the pleasures of sin? Repentance is out of style with churches that have gone easier on sin. Yet, repentance is a way of life for a Christian trying to be like Jesus. Confessing and turning away from sin must be part of the Christian life.

3. Holiness– We are called to be holy as God is holy. We don’t talk often enough about being “set apart” as a holy people. Holiness is what makes us different than the world. If we look like the world, then our message loses its relevance and power to a lost world. How we live matters.

4. Accountability– In our rebellion towards God, we resist accountability. We don’t want to be told we are wrong, especially when we like doing what we are doing. We find all kinds of ways to excuse accountability and rationalize our sin. Many Christians neglect this practice in their lives and are hindered spiritually because of it.

5. Singleness– The church often lacks a strong message about being single. Most messages and programs are centered around the married. Singleness is not addressed as it should be. The Bible celebrates singleness as an opportunity to be more devoted, without distraction, to the Lord (1 Cor 7).

6. The Holy Spirit– We often celebrate two members of the triune Godhead. We magnify the Father in worship and prayer. We highlight the Son as our hope of salvation. So often, the Holy Spirit is, at best, insinuated in our churches. There is the assumption the Spirit is real and moving. We non-charismatics just don’t speak about Him often enough. He was so vital to the church that Jesus told His disciples to be glad He was leaving because He was sending the Spirit!

7. Sex– This is often a taboo topic in church, though it is a major topic in the minds of young people and adults. Its distortion is plastered on billboards, magazines, Internet, and television. Yet, God created it as good. The church needs to speak boldly and clearly on the topic.

8. Old Testament– It is easy to focus on the New Testament as a Christian; it is the story of Jesus and His church.  On the other hand, the Old Testament offers strange stories, the constant failure of Israel, several gruesome battles, and prophets preaching naked in the streets and talking about dry bones. It feels more appropriate for a Jerry Springer show than our reading list. Yet, the Old Testament is raw because life is hard and cruel—it gets real about sin and consequence. It tells the story of man’s restoration to God and the promise of the coming Savior.  Therefore, it is vital to our understanding of the Gospel.

9. Heaven/Hell– We refer to Heaven and Hell a lot, but do we talk about them as a future reality in our lives? We need to talk about Hell because it creates urgency within us to share the Gospel with those who are without Jesus. We need to talk more about Heaven because it spurs us on to endure and finish well.

10. Parents as Spiritual Leaders– Parenthood is the toughest thing I do! It is difficult to parent well. Our kids need to see their parents are not Christian in name only. Kids should not get all of their spiritual knowledge and training just from the church. Parents need to be challenged to be spiritual leaders at home. This is an epidemic in churches today. The church is given the task of raising students spiritually. That robs children of the guidance they need from their parents spiritually. It robs parents of playing a role in the most important area of their child’s life!

I pray we give more and more attention to these topics. They are vital to our spiritual life.  ~Dax

Simon Says…

I used to love to play “Simon says” as a kid. The leader would ask you to do something and you would do it only if he said “Simon Says” first. If you hopped on one foot because you were told too and Simon didn’t say first then you were out. I loved this game!

Unfortunately there are a lot of Christians doing what “Simon says,” Simon being the loud voice of the world. The scriptures tell us to not conform to this world… to not love this world… to not store our treasures on earth. So many professing Christians look exactly like the world in almost every way. They are spitting images of well mannered, civilized, respectable, non Christians.

When it comes to how they talk, what they watch, what they wear, what music they listen to, what jokes they tell, what they do with their money, what they teach their kids… when it comes to these things and more many, Christians can live exactly like the atheist down the street. If  a reality show of one week of each of their lives aired, you wouldn’t see much difference in their approach to life. Maybe a church service sprinkled in or possibly a prayer before a meal but when it comes to how they live life, pretty much the same.

We are told to not conform to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Here are several practical things you could do each week to live out your faith and not look just like this world.

1) Start your Day Right– When you wake up each morning before you roll out of bed, speak to God and ask Him to keep you humble and needy today. Humble so that you don’t become hard of hearing to His voice and needy so that you recognize your need to depend on him for the day. Start your day with prayer so you remind yourself that you can’t be what you need to be as a worker, friend, spouse, parent, or whatever calling you have for the day.

2) Be Aware of What You Are– Evaluate your thoughts, speech, and actions during the day. Ask this question: Is God being glorified by what I think, say, listen to, and do? How are you being seen by others? If they found out you were Christian would they be surprised? Do they know you love Christ and want to please Him.

3) Lift Them Up– Be a source of encouragement to those you are around. Tell them what you admire about them. When they doing something worthwhile be the first to compliment them. Don’t talk about your accomplishments but be a listening ear to theirs. Let your actions put them first. This even goes for those who annoy you or anger you. Anyone can be nice to those who are nice to you. Jesus loved his enemies and calls us to do the same.

4) Stay Alert– Guard your heart against sin. Do this by hiding the word in your heart so that you might not sin against him (Psalm 119:11). Don’t just give in to any temptation you face. Put up a fight against sin. Train your mind to hate sin like God hates it. So many times Christians don’t even give a thought to their sin during the day. They just give into it so that it is as natural to them as breathing. Resist the devil and he will flee but we have to resist!

5)  Keep the right Perspective–  Fight against duty driven Christianity. Duty driven Christianity is when we do things out of guilt or this misconception that we have to do certain things or God will not be pleased. Instead we need to live as Grace Motivated Christians. His love and mercy and unmerited favor that Jesus gives to me is my inspiration; it motivates me, compels me to live for him, to be like him, to tell others about him. I long to do things that honor God because I love him not because I feel obligated or that I am bargaining with him. I’ll do good things and then maybe he will bless me.

This list is not exhaustive. You could add others but if you took these Big 5 and began to apply them to your life you would be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you will no longer be like this world. Let’s dare to be different, let’s dare to be like Christ.

WHAT DAVID BLAINE AND GOD DONT HAVE IN COMMON

David Blaine is a famous street magician who does some insane tricks you might have seen on TV. One minute he is levitating on the sidewalk (or at least it seems), the next he is apparently bringing a dead housefly back to life. Mind boggling!

Later we find out Blaine has tricked us. It is revealed that the fly was coated in dry ice. Flies hibernate in cold temperature, which creates the illusion they are dead. The dry ice caused the fly to enter that hibernation state. Blaine picks up the fly that his cameraman subtly placed on a windowsill while Blaine engages his audience. He brings the fly out of hibernation by blowing in his hands and thus warming the fly and thus, back to life. So it seems to his observers.

A lot of Blaine’s tricks amaze us but raising even an insect from the dead would take powers no mortal possesses. His illusions are cool tricks but nothing more than slight of hand or other explainable phenomena we are not privy too at the moment of the trick.

How powerful, on the other hand, is God? That he can take a body exhausted of any sign of life— a body dead not for minutes or even hours, but three days— a body already in initial stages of decomposing— a body long time dead and decaying and breathe new life into it. Now that is mind boggling power! No illusions at work here.

Ponder this. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in our lives. This is no magic trick. This is the real thing. And it is God’s power working in us to completely remove the sinful nature and empower us to live in victory. This same power will one day raise our body from the grave and transform it into a body that is both incorruptible and immortal.

Let’s not find ourselves so easily amazed by the illusion of a dead fly coming back to life and not be in absolute awe by a God who handles resurrecting power.

Believer, I hope you get a chance this Easter Sunday to sing about the power of the resurrection. Sing it unashamedly. I hope you hear about how God’s power raised Christ from the dead and is at work in your life. Embrace it. I hope you are challenged to walk in resurrection power. Live it.

Make Easter more than new neckties and cute dresses topped with a Sunday feast. Make it about the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is worthy of your worship. Exalt His holy name!

All our hope, our future, our very faith, centers around the truth that Jesus has been resurrected by the power of his Heavenly Father. Christ is risen! And that is our hope.

Here are three things I will consider this Easter. Use them if they are helpful to you:

1) I will make the day more about worship than traditions. Nothing wrong with new clothes and family traditions but lifting up name if Christ is your calling as a Christian.

2) I will pray asking God to help me walk in the victory that is mine because of His great power. I can’t walk like Christ on my own.

3) I will ask God to reveal things in my life that hinder me from walking in the joy of The Lord. This takes courage but I want to throw off things that hinder me.

The words of this blog were inspired by several verses of Scripture:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:10-12

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
Revelation 5:11-12

WHAT MY VISIT TO GRACELAND TAUGHT ME

Being from the Memphis area I knew about Graceland, but never really had a desire to go visit it. I knew Elvis to be a legend and have always respected the influence he had on music. I even like some of his songs. Graceland was just not something that I desired to go and see.

My wife, on the other hand, loves historical places and really wanted to see Elvis’ home. I surprised her with a trip into Memphis and tickets to Graceland, I knew I earned major points with the wife for taking her there but I was unprepared for what God had waiting to show me through the experience.

First, a little about Graceland. Elvis bought the property when he was only 22 years old for 100,000 dollars in the 1950’s. He later added everything from a horse ranch to a racquetball court. The style of the décor was extreme even for the 60s and 70s. Bright color, shag carpet, and a variety of strange wall and ceiling décor abound.

His house represented his persona, he was original, perhaps more than any artist before or after him. And because of his extreme musical talent and good looks, almost everyone caught the King fever. He was a legend before he was 30. To put it in perspective, Elvis had 114 songs make the Top 40 billboard charts. The Beatles had 50. This will probably floor you but the artist closest to Elvis is Lil Wayne with 64. That absolutely shocked me. Elvis is arguably the most successful musician ever to live. It is estimated that Elvis has sold more than 1 billion records worldwide, no one even comes close to that. No doubt a Legend among Legends.

What smacked me in the face from my time at Graceland was the absolute fact that money and fame will not buy you happiness. The tour could have been called “Elvis’ Journey to Find Happiness.” Throughout the progressions and brief digression of his career, you see a man who came to have everything. He was nearly untouchable. Elvis would take his golf cart and drive down the street in front of his house, holding up traffic in the busy heart of Memphis and never be pulled over. Who gets away with a stunt like that! He had mayors eating out of his hand for who he wanted in key positions. He wanted it, he got it. Hundreds of people followed him around ready to serve him.

Yet, it became easier and easier for me to read between the lines of his life as the tour advanced. Elvis was seeking something more, something greater to fulfill him. It alluded him in the money, cars, women, music, fame, houses, family, and power. He turned later to prescription meds to dull the disillusionment. None of this fulfilled his restlessness.

He had everything but seemed a pauper in spirit. I do not claim to know the heart of Elvis or where he stood with God. What I do know is he won only two Oscars and both were for gospel songs. He loved to sing gospel music and people loved to hear him do it. Gospel music was in his blood, put there by his parents. Yet, his life seemed to be lived in a way that missed the messages of what he loved to sing.  He was looking for something greater and it was in his favorite songs the whole time. His first Oscar was for his rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” They were playing it in the room during the tour, where his hundreds of gold records were plastered on the wall. I heard Elvis’ voice crooning these words:

And when I think of God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

We are a lot like Elvis. We sing the songs and hear the messages but do we listen to them? We sing about the power of sin being destroyed in our life by the sacrifice of Christ, but do we still live in a way that looks for happiness in the world?  Does it affect one iota of how we live?

At the end Elvis died of a heart attach due to a drug overdose. I don’t judge him as much as fear I might be like him. Oh it won’t be drugs that I use to cope but it very well might be something else. Something else to help me endure the fact that my pursuit of the things of this world rather than Christ will only lead to heartache and sadness. I will never be a legend like Elvis, except in my own mind.  But I can be on the same vain pursuit of worldly happiness. Like Elvis I will never find  what my soul seeks on this earth… and neither will you, my friend.

Philippians 3:8-11

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

TOP 10 BIBLE VERSES YOU SHOULD PUT TO MEMORY

These verses cover several different facets of our faith as you can see by the themes listed below. Obviously the Scriptures are full of thousands of verses that all speak profoundly to our heart. I have chosen a select list that I think would be a great place to start.

Please feel free to comment on them or share a verse you would add if you came up with a list.

1) All About Grace  Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

2) Pleasing God     Hebrews 11:6  

6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

3) Our New Identity   2 Corinthians 5:17  

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[a] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

4) Key to Christian Living  John 15:1-5

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is thatbears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

5) Longing of Our Souls  Revelation 22:20

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

 6) Finding Rest in Midst of Struggle   Matthew 11:28-30

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 Formy yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

7) Our Calling on this Earth     Matthew 28:18-20

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

8) Heart of Worship  Psalm 100:1-5

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2     Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

9) Scripture is Our Victory   Psalm 119:11

11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.

10) God’s Faithfulness to us  Number 23:19

19 God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?