I Want Friends of Many Colors

“Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers? Malachi 2:10

“I’ve never hugged a white man in my church before.” The sweet lady had been a member of her church for decades and she had the biggest smile as she released me after a vigorous hug. She was physically feeble but her spirit was overflowing with passion and wisdom. She had tears in her eyes and I was immediately confronted with the potential impact of this night.

As I prepared to go up and speak I looked around at the crowd of black and white faces intermixed. It was packed and it was a beautiful picture of diversity and unity. It made my heart smile.

It was a start. A start of something much greater than a movement, more like a transformation. For way too long whites and blacks have segregated in their churches to worship the same Jesus. We have segregated to worship the one who calls all men and women equal. It’s not as ironic as it is sad. How can we ever feel ok with this? It’s nothing like what our Savior would do.

To make things more shameful, there is deep seated prejudice among many white “Christians” and bitterness and hatred among many black “Christians.” This cannot be the will of the Lord. This has to be called out and eradicated. There is no room for it among those of faith.

It infuriates me to see the prejudices until I look at myself more closely. Am I really much different in my actions? How many friends hat don’t look like me? Do my children hang out with kids not their color? Do I make any effort to get to know those of a different race? How can I claim Jesus as Lord over all His church and I only make effort to associate with one color of it?

It is a great thing when events like the other night happened, when two churches of different races come together to demonstrate unity. I preached my guts out that night. I proclaimed how it must go past the walls of that church or it was only smoke and mirrors. I preached it with great passion and intensity. Many made comment to me about my fervency that night. They assumed I got caught up in the moment and understandably so as it was pretty exciting. But that was not the reason behind my earnestness. No, that was because I was preaching to someone in particular who really needed to hear what God had given me… myself. I needed to be reminded that until I really cared enough to befriend those who were black in that service then I was just another part of the problem I preached against.

Christians will you take up this challenge with me? Will you make the first move and connect with believers of another color not to make a stand or statement but because you find them worthy of your friendship? I want friends of many colors. I think I am missing out on good friends who I can love and who can love me. I think my kids are missing out on good friends too.

I am sick of the divide and want to be part of the solution. I am sick of talking about it and doing little to remedy it. Join me. Jesus desires it. The church needs it. We need it.

Special thanks to my church and churches like Washington Street Baptist who have the courage to walk across the unseen line of separation and join together.

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.

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh God Rescue Me

 

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Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.    James 1:2-4

Sometimes God does not change your circumstance because He is trying to change your heart. When things are tough you cry out to God. You beg Him to remove the pain, the sorrow, the difficulty. You been there? You don’t want to hurt anymore and so you cry out. And often… God seems silent. He doesn’t remove the thing that is causing you such pain. The cancer is still there. The broken relationship is still broken. The bank account is still empty. The loss of a loved one is still permanent. Others tell you to find hope in it all and you wonder what good could ever come out of such pain.

But what if God, in fact, is not being silent. What if he is speaking a different way than you would have thought? What if God is thinking much bigger than your circumstance? God knows if He were to just remove the circumstance you would most likely fall back into business as usual. You are slow to remember and would go back into living life as you choose, oblivious of His working in and around you. What if God wanted to get your attention in a much more transformative way? What if He wants to change your heart? Draw you closer to Himself by getting you to recognizing your desperate need for Him. Is the pain worth that, to be loved and cared for by our Creator? To see your need for him and to be filled up by Him? So you lose things you loved and valued, but gain more of God. Is there any greater prize than eternity with Him?

It’s not easy. Life was never meant to be. God does not promise health and wealth (1 Peter 4:13). Run from those who teach that. Those who truly follow God will most definitely find hardship and suffering on this earth but the life to come is well worth the suffering.

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.