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.

Ten Things Every Church Member Likes To Hear From His or Her Pastor

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I am super blessed to serve at Heartland Worship Center. Like all churches, it is made up of infected saints, but it truly is a family. They love their pastors well and trust them to lead. Not only that, they are a joy to lead.

Most pastors feel like I do, but are they saying it? Here are ten things every church member would like to hear from his or her pastor:

  1. “I love you.” Whether the budget is in excess or deficit, attendance is high or low, or whatever good or challenging times are about, the church needs to hear their pastor say the words. It cannot be assumed. It needs to be said and said often. The people need to know pastors care for them.
  2. “I want to be here for a long time.” It is so common today for pastors to have a short tenure. The average is less than five years. With such a short stay, it is hard for churches to fully follow their pastors as they wonder when they will leave. Churches need to hear from pastors that they desire to stay long-term. If you cannot say this as a pastor, then you need to find somewhere you can for the good of the church.
  3. “I will provide a vision that is biblical and obtainable.” People without vision perish, the Scriptures tell us. The people of God need to know what they are called to do. They need a compelling vision to unite them. A pastor needs to inspire them to follow a vision that makes the name of Christ famous and glorifies the Father.
  4. “I will say the hard things even if it offends you.” Pastors should not set out to offend their people as some kind of spiritual marker, but there are things that need to be said that will not always sit well with sinners. Pastors have to stand against abortion, abuse, sexual sin, immodesty, immorality, homosexuality, and anything else that is offensive to God. It matters not if it is popular to say or not. A pastor’s standard is not the will of the people but the will of God.
  5. “I will put my heart and soul into my preaching and teaching.” The people of God are desperate to hear God’s Word. Every week, they need to be confronted by its truth in their lives. The pastor must use every opportunity to bring it with passion and clarity, depending on the Holy Spirit to take the Word and penetrate the hearts of the people.
  6. “I will not cater to a few.” Pastors cannot give preference to their buddies in church. They serve all the people, even the ones they disagree with or whom annoy them. It hinders the church if pastors cater to the powerful, wealthy, or popular of the church.
  7. “I will pray for you daily.” How can a pastor be effective for his people if he does not pray for them daily? They need to hear often that he is interceding for them. A praying pastor is an effective one.
  8. “I will share my faith with the lost.” Pastors must lead in evangelism. It is crucial we share the faith outside the walls of the church. Pastors must be on the front lines of this. This means developing relationships with lost people and not just Christians.
  9. “I fail often in my walk with Christ.” Pastors need to be vulnerable with their people about their failures. We are all infected saints. It is crucial the people don’t feel preached down to but preached in to. This will only happen when the pastor shares his own convictions brought on by the Word of God. Good shepherds are honest about their struggles with their people.
  10. “I will communicate with you what is going on in the church.” Church members desire to know what is going on in the church. This means clear and consistent communication. There is no way to get the word out on everything perfectly, but the people should feel the pastors take the time to let them know what is going on.

Pastors are called to people, and those people need to hear the above from their pastors. It is an honor to serve the Lord and our people. Let them hear it.

Control Freak

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There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  1 John 4:18

Infected saints tend to be control freaks. I try so hard to keep my life in order in a way that makes sense and is comfortable to me. I work really hard to make things happen like I think they should go. I struggle in situations where I do not feel like I am in control. I have a hard time trusting others who are handling things on my behalf. I have been told by people who speak hard truth to me that I am a Control Freak. Jesus associates with trying to control things as being a slave to worry (Matthew 6:25). We need to learn that we are not able to bear the burden that comes with worry.

I am learning that when I allow God to work through me He carries the load. When I put my energy into trusting God and not worrying and scrambling,  I enter a state of rest and peace. When I try and make people do the right thing or get a certain outcome I want, I have to stress over it and exhaust alot of energy to make it happen. If it works out the way I want, I feel relief from the stress momentarily until the next situation I feel is “out of control” arises. This approach too life weighs us down and exhausts us.

Stress is heavy. When we look to God we release stress because it is simply to heavy. It weighs us down spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and emotionally. When we run ahead of God we get lost and frustrated.  We doubt God’s ability to lead. We question his competency.  Reality is He is sovereign over all things and we have little to no control over anything. Control freaks do not want to give in to that fact but it is both futile and sinful to try and jerk the reigns out of the Lord’s hands.

God is the one who controls the wind. I heard it said recently that we cannot direct the wind but we can control the sails. It is crucial for a believer to set sail towards the will of God and ride His wave of promise. His promise to us is that He will never forsake us; that He will work all things for our good; that he will provide for us. If we could control things we would mess it all up. We don’t know what is best for us. Only God has our best interest in mind. Only He will work in us for His glory.

We waste a lot of energy on things we cannot control. When we get worked up over traffic, weather, or people who annoy us, we are wasting energy on things we cannot change and allowing that to bother us. The one thing we can control is our attitude. Instead of choosing to be frustrated over our lack of control over situations and people, we need to focus on what God is doing in and around us. Maybe He wants to teach you patience or how to be more merciful.  Try praying for the people in those cars at a stand still around you in busy traffic. Our go to should be prayer. Is prayer our steering wheel or spare tire? Do we look to prayer only when we are at our wit’s end or do we go to it immediately as our source of strength and comfort?

We need to see our attempt to control things as a faith issue. God demands and deserves our trust. We are not in control nor were we created to be so. We don’t have what it takes to be God. Let Him do His work in you and trust in His will.

Interview with a Kia pt2: Turn about is Fair Play

KIA and I have been in a dialogue over the last several months about the faith. I am firmly planted in the faith and he has left the faith. I interviewed him and to keep it fair, he has now interviewed me. While he only gave me three questions I do see them as set up questions for he and his entourage to “catch” me in what they will deem fallacious arguments. Nevertheless, I answered them honestly. I am not using these answers to try and prove my faith. There are times when I will defend and argue the faith. Maybe through discussion from here I will do that. BUT, my answers to his questions were not that. They were my honest reflections.

God, Where is My Burning Bush So I Can Believe?

I am truly an infected saint. I doubt that God exists more than I care to admit. I have preached through much of the Scriptures. I have been through more schooling than should be allowed. I have dedicated my life to following Christ. Yet, I have times of doubt. Times where I wonder if it is real. “Is there anything beyond this life?,” is a question that whispers to me sometimes.

Honestly, I don’t like living by faith. I can see your face right now. It’s a look of disappointment. A pastor that doesn’t want to live by faith?! Shame on you, Dax. Yet, I really would like to know by visible signs. Not just trust and hope. I’d like for the Spirit to descend like a dove from the clouds and talk to me.Or a burning bush to start speaking to me in a divine voice and tell me to remove my Nikes because I am on holy ground. I want to know God is really there, that Jesus really walked on water and was raised from the dead.

I have staked my life on a God I cannot see, touch, hear, or prove. The skeptics laugh and ridicule.  They are willing to bet their entire existence on the idea that He does not exist. As John Ortberg said in his book, Faith and Doubt, “If God is there, why doesn’t He make more noise?”

Most people in our world believe in God. The minority who doesn’t believe in a higher power might dismiss the majority view as a logical fallacy known as argumentum ad populum, or “appeal to the people” —  simply because many people believe something to be true doesn’t make it true. But my faith is not based on the masses’ belief. It doesn’t hurt or help my faith that many believe.

I have faith because His word has been tested in my life. I cannot deny my own experiences. My salvation experience was supernatural. In that moment in 1992, I became acutely aware of my frailty and smallness in this universe. God revealed His glory and grace. It was beyond compelling… it was transformative. God is always there as I have faith to look. I see His hand working. I recognize His intervention in my life. Faith has been my rock and refuge in an unpredictable and often cruel world.

I even praise Him for the times of doubt because God has used it to strengthen my faith. These moments of doubt remind me why my faith is so powerful in my life.

What about you? Do you feel shame when you doubt? You shouldn’t. Doubt is part of being human. God is bigger than our doubt. Some of the greatest spiritual moments in my life occurred when I came out of a valley of doubt. Doubt makes my faith stronger. It causes me to question things and to seek Truth more. I don’t need a sign to be strong in my belief. Didn’t work for Israel. Wouldn’t work for me.

God is not easily found by our senses because He wants us to come to Him in the right way. Like Israel of old, miraculous signs and wonders would just leave us feeling entitled and wanting more and more sensational showings by God. We wouldn’t be satisfied enough to be fully devoted to  Him. It is in faith that we find our strength and resolve. For “blessed are those who have not yet seen but still believe.” John 20:29.

Sometimes They Will Hate Us


“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”  Romans 1:21-23

Over the past few months, I have engaged in dialogue with those who deem themselves atheists. Consider there are two types of atheists you will encounter if you share your faith. There are atheists who don’t give any credence to faith but are not necessarily looking to proselytize Christians to their side. They do not believe in Jesus but can recognize benefits Christianity has in the world. There are also atheists who see it as their mission to attack Christianity.

This is the group I have encountered lately. They cannot stand the idea that Christians would “judge” them as someone needing to hear the Gospel. Filled with much pride, they despise being seen as a target of our evangelism. They get very defensive and spit out vile attacks. Why? Because they have to constantly defend their view. There can be no possibility they might be wrong. The very idea the Gospel is true is condemning, so they attack it vigorously. I have been called every name imaginable in trying to dialogue with them. They get personal quickly.  They hate easily.

But it’s not me they hate. It’s Jesus. Like Romans 1 predicted, they claim to be wise but are fools in their thinking. They are deceived.

Here are some things to consider if you find yourself speaking to those who attack your faith:

1) Don’t Get Defensive– As Christians, attacking back is not the answer. We have to give a solid defense of what we believe and not back down from the truth, but our conversation must be seasoned with grace and respect. I have failed in this often. It is hard to stay kind when being attacked.

2) God Will Have the Final Word- They will blaspheme God and insult Him with poisonous vile. God doesn’t need us to be His defender, though. When they attack God, don’t feel pressured to change their minds. I know all too well I cannot. I am confident God will have the final word. He will call all men to account. “‘Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

3) Your Calling is to Love– It’s easy to love someone who responds well to us. Not so easy when they attack us. Yet, God tells us to love those who persecute us. Our kindness reaps hot coals on their heads with hope it will lead to repentance. Love is the only  way. First Corinthians tells us love is patient and kind. They need to see that from us. When they do, we are a living display of the Gospel to them. One of the most loving acts you can do is pray for them by name. Lift them up to the Lord, and ask Him to move in their hearts. He alone can transform them.

When we share the faith, there are going to be those who attack us. We should not be surprised. Jesus was attacked and killed for speaking the truth. So were the apostles. We should expect no different when we are faithful to share. Let’s not hate those who speak against us but love them. Nor let fear or anything else shut our mouths from proclaiming the Gospel.  ~Dax

Happy Funerals

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He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

Being an Infected Saint means facing the reality that we are all going to die. Infected saints are positionally perfect in Christ but still battle with sin. Unless Christ returns first, death is inevitable. Rarely does anyone look forward to dying. As Christians we get much more excited about the thought of resurrecting with a perfect body. I can’t imagine me with a perfect body. That is Heaven! But seriously, you cannot know the joy of the resurrection without first knowing the pain of death.  It is only out of death that something beautiful resurrects.

I read an article in Christianity Today (March 2016) recently on Christian trend towards “happy funerals.” Christian funerals are encouraged to have a positive spin: they are in a better place;  they feel no more pain; you need to move on while cherishing the memories.  More upbeat songs are being played at funerals. There has even been a change in clothing. Dark suits have been replaced with something more upbeat and casual. The goal is more celebration, more moments of joy. I get that.  Jesus brings victory over death. Death is not the final word for a believer. That is cause for celebration. Yet, joy should not replace our grief. It is not only ok to hurt; it is necessary.

If not careful, we could be in danger of brushing over the truth about death. Death is loss. It is a time for grieving. Shortest verse of the Bible shows Jesus weeping over the loss of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). Was Jesus showing a lack of faith? Did Jesus not know death was not the final word for Lazarus? Why didn’t Jesus celebrate? Jesus knew that Lazarus would walk again in a few moments from then, yet He still wept tears of grief. Jesus felt great sorrow. His tears were not just for His friend but for the necessity of pain and death because of sin. Death is a constant reminder of the destructive nature of sin. Jesus wept for it.

Hope should be apparent in a Christian funeral. As the word says, we “grieve but not as those without hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Yet, we are no different than any lost person who loses someone they care about. In fact being Christian means we understand better how to love and so our pain might be felt even deeper than the nonbeliever. That pain should not be ignored. Not letting yourself feel or express the pain is not a mark of spiritual achievement but a denial of the reality of loss. We need to deal honestly with our pain. We hurt because we cared. We need to feel that, experience it, and let it come through in whatever way it wants. Grieving is not a sign of doubt, but serves as evidence that you loved deeply.

Death reminds us of the tension between living in this age and the age to come. Infected saints know that this world is not home. We look forward to the afterlife but face the reality that we have to pass through death to get there. Death is necessary for resurrection. Resurrection is our hope. Death might be imminent but it is not the final word!

We should celebrate our hope in Christ at a funeral but not to the dismissal of our pain. So if you lose someone you love, grieve deeply. It’s ok. Don’t lose hope while you grieve, but do not feel guilty for hurting deeply. Jesus did and so should we.

Divine Appointments Happen Everyday

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20

When I worked at the bank, every day brought a divine appointment. What do I mean by divine appointment? Glad you asked. It is an opportunity to share the gospel with someone who has crossed your path. Might be a stranger or a coworker or a family member. Regardless, it is someone that you encounter where opportunity arises to share your faith.

For me, I helped people with their finances. That afforded me many counseling sessions as people looked to build homes or manage their money. Personal stuff always came up. Daily I was set up for a great opportunity to share Christ. Problem is… I rarely took it. I would hear people share their struggles or fears, creating a great launching pad for me to share the gospel. I would discuss with them concerns over their marriage and children. Fears about investments and retirement.  I always offered advice but never mentioned Jesus. A little bit of advice is one thing but Jesus takes it to a whole new level.

I always wanted to share Jesus. I had it in mind but I always talked myself out of it. They are not here to be preached at… this is a bank not a church… they will feel awkward… I will feel awkward! I rarely went through the  door God opened for me.

I would hint at things like church or the Bible or prayer. I saw this as seed planting but honestly it was just me being scared to speak the gospel. They were sharing with me their hurts and pains. I had the answer for that! I just needed to share it. Whether they received it or not was not my mission. I was to share Jesus with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). I was not to be ashamed of the gospel because it was the only thing that had the power to save them (Romans 1:16).  

Then I had a client die. She had bought a motorcycle and I did the financing for her. She had told me she was struggling with some things and wanted to ride to spend more time away with her husband. I listened and offered some quick wisdom but no Jesus. On her first trip on her bike she lost control and hit s guard rail. She passed on the scene. To this day it haunts me that I didn’t seize the opportunity to share Christ with her. I pray she knew Him.

The issue is getting started. Where do we begin? Here are some good conversation starters to sharing the gospel with those you encounter during the week:

  • What is your view of God and His role in your life?
  • Have you ever thought that God wants to help you deal with that issue?
  • How specifically can I pray for you?
  • May I tell you how God helps me with my issues?

Once you have started the conversation you what to share with them the gospel. Sharing the gospel means leading them to an understanding of sin, Christ’s sacrifice, and their need for Him. The Bible needs to be shared here to lead them to Christ. Here is a suggested plan:

  • Romans 3:23– all of us sin. Sin means missing the mark. We don’t meet the standard God demands for us to be acceptable. His standard is perfection. None of us are perfect.
  • Romans 6:23– Sin has a consequence. It is eternal death. Because of our sin we fail to meet God’s standard and therefore we will be found unworthy. You are not right with God on your own merit.
  • Romans 5:8– While we were unworthy, Jesus did something for us that we couldn’t do for ourself. He took on our penalty and died in our place. Because of  his sacrifice, we can have forgiveness of sins (John 3:16).
  • Romans 10:9-10,13– How do you receive the benefits of all Jesus has done and get right with God? You have to believe. You respond with faith, believing that your sins are covered by Jesus. You submit your life to Him and your sins are no longer held over you.
  • Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17– You are now a new creation. You have been transformed by the gospel. You need to now live by faith and trust in Christ.

We are given divine appointments every day to share the faith. Don’t pass on them hoping someone else will share. God wants you to share your faith with them.

Dax

 

Last Week of Jesus- Tuesday

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36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

It is Tuesday of the last week of Jesus life on this earth. Jesus is departing Bethany and heading into the inner part of the city of Jerusalem for Passover. While He is starting the two mile journey from Bethany, Jesus engages in discussion with those on the road. At one point He encounters the Scribes. The Scribes, lawyers of the Pharisees, pose a question to Jesus. Their intent is not pure. They are not seeking to learn from Jesus’ wisdom nor are they just inquisitive. Rather, they want to trip Him up so that they can “catch” Him in a contradiction or blasphemy.

They ask him which is the greatest commandment. Instead of choosing one, Jesus brilliantly encapsulates all ten commandments by alluding to Deuteronomy 6:5 (Shema). By telling them to love God with their whole being, He captures the essence of the first five commandments. He then refers to loving your neighbor, which undergirds the second five commandments. These two commandments sum them all up. The scribes couldn’t disagree with His logic. They were unable to trip Jesus up and in turn He made a profound statement summing up what two pursuits are the most important for us in life… to love God and to love your neighbor.

We make our faith much more complicated than it should be. We make it about a list of do’s and do nots; about rules and regulations; traditions and rituals. It transcends that.

Here is how I suggest you should live.You might be shocked on my prescription but I think God would back me on it:  I have two things for you to do and from there do whatever you want. I mean it, no boundaries. Live like you want with no pressure. Don’t try and live in accordance with a bunch of rules and regulations. Do whatever you want to do. I am serious. I just want you to simply follow two principles. Just two. After that you are completely free to do what you want. Two things: Love God with all you are and love your neighbor as yourself. If you do these two things you don’t have to wonder if you are living right. You don’t have to wonder if you are doing enough. You don’t have to measure up to any other standard. Just love God with all you are and love others as much as you love yourself and from there do whatever you want.

Church if we take Jesus seriously and begin to live out these two principles it will transform not only us but the world around us. Your biggest obstacle here is yourself. The biggest threat to our obedience to these two greatest commandments is that we love self too much. I don’t want you to hate yourself. As Keller said, “humility is not thinking less of yourself but rather thinking about yourself less.” Jesus is not asking you to not enjoy life or to do nothing for yourself. He is asking us to think of self less so that we make room for what should be priority in our life as Christians, to love God and to love our neighbor.

If we don’t love , then who out there is going to take us seriously? If we live the same way they do then how can we say we have anything different worth taking notice of? They need to see our love for God and love for them as consistent and genuine. If not then we are guilty of being what they call us, hypocrites.  We show our faith to be ingenue and not worth considering. Love is the key.

We need to put more effort into responding to our God in love. We do this by praying to Him, worshipping Him, and obeying Him. Those three acts speak love to our God. Find time to do those outside of Sunday. As you love God more you will begin to care more and more about others. What could you do this week as an anonymous act for someone else that shows them love and care? There are hurting people all around you. Plenty of people need your care today. Take time to do an act of kindness for them in the name of Christ. Don’t do this on display so that you get the glory. Let your actions and words point them to Christ.