Because we rarely release ownership of our lives on our own (even if we want to), God organizes a crisis to “assist” us in making a full surrender to the lordship of Jesus. Now, this is certainly not the pathway for every man, but in my experience it is for most of us. Suffering compels us to seek the God that success makes us think we don’t need.
It could be a marriage crisis, a crisis with our children, a health crisis, a money crisis or any one of dozens of other problems that drive that last bit of willfulness out of us.
For me, it was a business crisis. When I was a real-estate developer, I took big gambles. When a major recession hit, I was overleveraged and my world started to crumble. One day, while sitting in the rubble of my collapsing business, I was struck by an idea that I believe is the greatest lesson I’ve ever learned:
There is a God we want, and there is a God who is. They are not the same God. The turning point of our lives is when we stop seeking the God we want and start seeking the God who is.
I had received Christ, but it dawned on me: Morley, what were you thinking? Did you really think any amount of reinventing God in your imagination to be the God you wanted Him to be would have one iota of impact on His unchanging nature and character?
It finally sank in. I had wanted to change God, but God wanted to change me. He wanted me to follow Jesus with my whole heart: wherever, whenever, whatever. That’s what He wants for all of us—a full, total, complete surrender to the lordship of Jesus.
So as we do our year-end/new-year reflections, let’s each ask God for His grace to lead this fully surrendered life in 2014. To Him and for His glory. Amen!
Note: The preceding is an excerpt from Patrick Morley’s book How God Makes Men.
CLICK IMAGE TO LISTEN LIVE TO THIS PROGRAM AT 9:00 PM EST ON DECEMBER 22, 2013
Today, on the 114th anniversary of the home-going of this great man of God, we open up both the history books as well as the biblical record to see the source of Moody’s power and preaching. No one since, not even Billy Graham, has had as much an impact on the world as Moody had. He never wavered, there was not even a whiff of scandal of any kind, even with millions of dollars that passed through his hands. He kept the faith, he finished his course, and has much to teach us still 114 years after he passed off the scene.
“Are you drunk?” I asked him over the phone. “No,” he replied.
Thank God! It was my neighbor, Andy, and he had finally called me back. I had gone over to his house and banged on the door, but he didn’t answer. I called his landline and even texted him that I was going to the beach to see if he wanted to go along. Nothing. I didn’t get an answer until I was at the bank, a few miles from home.
His first reply came in the form of a text. It was in two parts. His first text read, “I.have problt.” The second text simply said, “Lrmd.” What the heck did that mean? Then it hit me! “I have problems.” So he had missed a few keys, which had propagated my question about his level of sobriety.
So, why the urgency, you ask? First, you need a little background on Andy. He’s that guy who always loans me his trimmer when I have to attack our hedges. My wife has frequently delivered baked goods to his home to build a neighborly bridge. He’s the watchdog who always blows the whistle on anything suspect at our house while we are out of town. He’s quiet, unassuming and a genuinely nice man.
Andy grew up in church. However, once he married his second wife, a woman from Thailand, he abandoned Christianity for Buddhism. He followed the god of his wife and even had a Buddhist shrine in their third bedroom. They have been married for four years, and on this particular day, she had packed up and left.
The day before, Andy’s wife had called the sheriff’s office, citing that her husband was suicidal. After 20 hours, he was released. My wife had noticed the police cars, and after briefly polling the women in the neighborhood (these ladies know everything), she found out what had happened. She was concerned. I was not.
As my wife left our house that day, she called my cell from the end of our driveway. “Honey,” she said, “I don’t mean to be Mrs. Kravitz, but can you spy on Andy?” You old guys remember Gladys Kravitz, right? You young guys can Google her. Obediently, I went to check the mailbox and saw Andy’s wife packing her car.
An hour later, my wife returned home and alerted me that Andy was now mowing the grass. “Go talk to him,” she urged. But by the time I managed to get out the door, Andy was back inside. He had mowed half the yard. Now I was beginning to get worried, since he had just mowed three days ago.
Altering my plans for the day, I decided to stay close to home, in case Andy returned my call. And he did. After he denied being drunk, I asked him if everything was OK.
“No, not really,” he slurred, “I have problems. My wife left.”
Fearing that the suicidal tendencies were legit, and knowing that his wife was gone, I asked if I could come over.
I let my family know the plan. Earlier, my wife had wanted to knock on his door herself. I said, “No way,” recalling that suicidal people frequently take others out with them. “Andy would never hurt me,” she said, “I bring them cinnamon rolls.” Fortunately, he had called, and I was on my way over.
I stopped at home to grab our daughter’s friend, Justin, to tag along (mostly for my safety). When Andy answered the door, I knew that he was a) heartbroken and b) hammered. So much for not being drunk.
Once inside, the old sales guy in me took over. I always had one more question. The topics were all over the map, including his wife, his ex-wife, his kids, employment and his drinking. Justin just hung out behind me on the floor while I assessed Andy’s condition.
Then the topic of God came up.
In less than three minutes, Andy went from “Why would God care about me?” to “How do I get God in me RIGHT NOW?” We prayed the prayer of salvation together, and the party in heaven commenced. In one day, Andy went from a suicidal Buddhist whose wife left to a forgiven son of the Most High God.
Time is short. Intentionally build relationships with your neighbors and co-workers. Your mission field is right next door. It’s not a question of if, but when God will call them. Their eternities hang in the balance.
Remember, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15).
David Dusek is founder and director of Rough Cut Men Ministries and author of Rough Cut Men: A Man‘s Battle Guide to Building Real Relationships With Each Other and With Jesus. Rough Cut Men has been presented to NASCAR teams, at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy, at military bases around the world and at hundreds of churches and men’s conferences of every denomination. To find out more about the Rough Cut Men, or to book David for an upcoming men’s event, please check out roughcutmen.org.
Who doesn’t want to hear when they get to heaven, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant”? What better reason is there to revel in spreading the Good News?
Here are seven reasons to love sharing the gospel:
1. It’s like sharing with a person who is broke that they just won the Lotto (only better!).
2. You enter a struggle with the forces of darkness in a battle over a soul’s eternal destination (epic!).
3. When you share the gospel, you are put in a position of being forced to rely on the Holy Spirit for wisdom (James 1:5-6), courage (Eph. 6:19-20), and clarity (Col. 4:4).
4. It’s like sharing with a cancer victim that you just discovered the cure for cancer (only better!).
5. Evangelism is the communication of the greatest love story in the history of the world (sorry, Romeo!).
6. It’s like telling an orphan they’ve been adopted into the family of the richest person in the universe (well, that’s exactly what it is).
7. The pressure is not on you to convert them but to share the gospel clearly, wisely and lovingly. The Holy Spirit does the rest!
By the way, if you don’t know how to share the gospel, download the amazing Dare 2 Share app, watch the videos, and be equipped! Or get yourself to the Dare 2 Share “Reverse” tour kicking off in late January and finishing in April.
Greg Stier is a husband, a father, a preacher, an author, a twitchy revolutionary and a fanatic for Jesus. He’s the president of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which has led thousands of students to Jesus and equipped thousands more to reach their world with the gospel. He blogs at GregStier.org.
Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. —Matthew 4:17
God’s demand on us to become standard bearers requires us to leave the night and look forth to the morning. “Who is she who looketh forth as the morning?” She is a church filled with standard bearers who refuse to return to the night as soon as they leave the church parking lot or the mission trip. “Fair as the moon and clear as the sun” is not just for the altar or the service or the times with other Christians. Repentance, conversion, and becoming fair and clear are not for a moment but for a lifetime.
Leave sin behind at the altar once and for all! Get real about repentance. Sorrow may accompany repentance but sorrow is not repentance.
Repentance is change! Repentance involves a total change of life.
Jesus came preaching repentance. To the religious He says repent. In other words change your minds, get a new concept of God’s kingdom in your hearts. To those with wealth and power He says repent. Change where you deposit your treasures. Instead of putting treasures where moth and rust corrupt, lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20). Instead of seeking things, seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
Jesus, change me. Make me today more like You.
Transform me into Your glory. Use my
repentance as the tool to break
and remake me. Amen.
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20
After I accepted the Lord when I was 17, I got this fire in my heart to reach the kids in the school around me. So, I would go up to the most unwanted, the most violent, or the biggest sinners. I wouldn’t say, “Turn or burn” or “You’re going to go to hell.” I would just go up, put my arm around them, and say, “God loves you and I love you. I think you’re great, and I want to invite you to my church.'” I started inviting people to my house before youth group on Wednesday nights. Eventually, I had enough kids coming to my house that it took two busses to get them all to youth group.
During that chapter of my life, I realized that those kids just needed someone to love them, someone they didn’t need to prove anything to, someone that would just say, “I believe in you” or “I love you.” I was the only Jesus that those kids in my school might ever see. I began to feel a burden that, if I don’t love these people and care for them, they may never really know what Jesus is like. If I’ve learned anything as a pastor, it’s that Jesus does not typically part the sky to reveal himself to people. Since the beginning, since day one, Jesus has always used people, many of which are unlikely people like teenagers.
Christmas is the perfect time to be the only Jesus that some people might ever see. You and I are God’s plan to bring Jesus to the world. And I don’t mean to convert the world. I mean to bring life, hope, love, and encouragement. You might be the only Jesus in your circle of influence that people will ever see or ever experience. And that is wonderful because God sees something in you that you probably don’t see in yourself. He wants to raise you up, train you, and make you into a person that is just like him.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to be you with everyone I meet. Help me to love and encourage hope everywhere I go. Amen.
Reflection: How do you live as Christ in relation to others?
Even with the best of intentions, things have a way of going south. When we launched our outreachministry at Mariners Church in Orange County, Calif., the first thing we thought to do was meet the basic needs of the people we were serving. Sounds reasonable, right? They need groceries; we’ll give them a bag of food. They need winter coats? Got it. School supplies? Check. Then we’ll teach them about Jesus, and they’ll pray the prayer and bam! We’re all good.
But wait. If we really believe in an irresistible Savior whose love is the most powerful force on Earth, why do we cling to manipulative tools and gimmicks to all but bribe someone into the kingdom of heaven?
Let’s say you’re handing out mosquito nets in an African village. The long line of people waiting is a clear sign they really need what you’ve brought. It’s a captive audience. As you pass the nets across the folding table, do you say, “This is a free gift to you and all your neighbors from God-loving people who care about you”? Or do you start asking them about their relationship with Christ?
There’s a subtlety here I don’t want you to miss because I have missed it many times. If you’re still holding on to the gift as you ask them about Jesus, there’s a very good chance the two will be connected in their minds—and not in the way you may have intended. Just for a moment, they may think something such as, “Do I need to say yes to Jesus to get this net?”
Most of the time, we’re unaware that we’re still hanging on to the gift, but sometimes we are. At these times, the way we present the gospel can feel like a business transaction: “If you give me this or respond to what I’m asking, then Jesus will do this for you. He’ll save you from hell if you say these words. He’ll provide a meal for you if you raise your hand.”
Certainly there are people who recognize the business aspect and work the system to their advantage. But the people we minister to have taught us that receiving the gospel is more than just a simple transaction.
We often assume we need material resources to motivate people. But more often, despite the apparent material needs they have, the resources aren’t what they really want. More than anything, what they want and need is relationship.
This transactional method—offering people a reward for the right behavior or response—is very effective at motivating people. Intentionally or not, we manipulate people using the power of stuff. But when we achieve success this way, though our numbers may look great, the success we achieve isn’t consistent with the heart of the gospel message.
Transactional ministry is often done with good motives, but I wonder if deep down we embrace it because we like the immediate, visible results and how they make us feel. The people we are serving need what we offer them, even if they have to jump through a hoop to get it. Yet true spiritual fruit isn’t always produced immediately. And when we minister in this way, we focus on the short-term results and lack faith in God’s work over the long haul.
So is there a way for us to be authentically generous with people without trying to get something in return? Yes. It’s generosity that overflows from a heart that is satisfied in God, a heart that’s willing and ready to sacrifice for others—not to get something in return but as the natural fruit of God’s love for us. And this requires a deeper commitment to knowing and loving people.
Our conversations about Jesus shouldn’t be the only ones we have with the people we serve. We have to earn the right to be heard and to share the gospel with people. And we do this to sacrificially love and serve them—not because we have to but because we want to. When it comes to the work of Jesus, we need to show up with a loving heart and open arms, letting the Holy Spirit do the work of bringing people closer to God.
Laurie Beshore is the founding pastor of Mariners Outreach Ministries in Orange County, Calif. She has been married for 34 years to Kenton Beshore, the senior pastor of Mariners Church (marinerschurch.org). Adapted with permission from Love Without Walls: Learning to Be a Church in the World for the World by Laurie Beshore (Zondervan).