Are We Making Jesus Mad?

Everybody loves Jesus, right? I've never ever had a conversation with anyone who thought he was a jerk. He healed people, loved people, and cared for the outcast. He died a horrible death because he believed that he could save our souls. Even if someone doesn't believe the story at all, you can't not like Jesus. So what's the problem? The problem is a lot of people love Jesus, they just don't want to follow Him, and they're not interested in Him. Why is that? It's because they're not getting Jesus represented to them well. Jesus loves us and He died for us, but for a few weeks, I'd like to look at the side of Jesus that should make the church pause and pay attention, ANGRY JESUS Just to be clear, anger is not a sin. Paul said, “In your anger do not sin.” And Jesus, that everybody loves, one time made a whip, went into the temple, and drove out the money changers and overturned tables. This Jesus told people it would be better for them to have a rope tied around their neck with a two-ton rock attached and thrown into the sea. This Jesus called people names like “brood of vipers”, “unmarked graves”, and “sons of hell”.

Jesus definitely said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” He said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. I am gentle and humble in heart." I think the world's idea that Jesus was nice is correct, so what do you do with “you snakes”, “you brood of vipers” and “how will you escape being condemned to hell”? This is Jesus too. Sometimes Jesus' words were sharp and biting.When the son of God gets mad, we should pay attention because we can learn a lot about a person from the things they don't like. So, who was He mad at? Well, that's the kicker. I always knew Jesus was mad at the Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the law. Then one day I realized the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the teachers of the law were the church leaders of their day, and Jesus was a part of that church. As a matter of fact, this was the church that God set up. They were the people appointed by God for the purpose of enacting God's system of religion. When that realization hit me like a ton of bricks, I began to wonder if there was anything that caused Jesus to be mad at His church back in the day, that might be my issue as a current church leader. I discovered four basic attitudes that were the problem: legalism, judgmentalism, hypocrisy, and indifference to suffering. Those were the four things that flipped Jesus’ switch. In fact, we still have problems with those things today. 

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It's Time To Wake Up!

I’ve been abused but you won’t see any scars, used but you won’t see the wear and tear, lonely when surrounded by my closest friends and blackmailed but I will not negotiate with terrorists. We must wake up to the fact that the enemy is at war with us. Everything that happens in the natural is impacted by things in the spiritual. It is time to wake up in the spirit. In Revelation 3, the Apostle John wrote to the church of Sardis. His words are sobering. He told them they had a reputation of being alive but that they were dead. He told them their deeds were not complete in the sight of God.Sardis was a huge city. It was highly advanced. It was near a river that brought life to the city and it was protected on all sides. It was a destination city. On the outside the city of Sardis looked really good but their insides were dying. The city of Sardis influenced the church of Sardis, they looked good but were almost dead.

This is the church we’re talking about today. Have you ever seen the movie, “Princess Bride”? There is a line in the movie regarding the lead character “He’s only mostly dead.” Are we mostly dead or are we spiritually awake? I hope we are full of the life Jesus paid for us to have. The church of Sardis was mostly dead. The Church is God's plan for redemption. We are the hope of the world to bring the gospel of Jesus to people who need to hear and we have got to wake up! We do not want to miss it. We do not want to miss the voice of God and we do not want to miss the opportunity to partner with Him in the plan for people. We need to go back to what we heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to Jesus again. Jesus told the church of Sardis, “If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.”There are a couple of instances in Scripture when Jesus “wakes” someone up, meaning actually that He raised them from the dead. Jesus is Resurrection and Life. In the case of Lazarus, Lazarus’ sister, Martha, even though she believed,  almost got in the way of what Jesus was about to do. Don’t allow your misunderstanding to get in the way of another person's miracle. She needed to step aside so Jesus could move. Wake up Martha! Don’t think naturally. Think spiritually! It was as if Jesus said to Martha, “Are you kidding me right now! Your brother is going to be alive and you’re worried about how much his body stinks!” Jesus not only came to wake up Lazarus (raising him from death) but He woke up everyone else that day who was there to witness the event and would believe.

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Spiritual Warfare

There is a war going on and a lot of Christians are just simply not engaged in the fight. The Bible has a lot to say about this. Ephesians 6:10 teaches us, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” Picture this, the devil is at the drawing board trying to come up with a way to trip you up, or mess you up, or destroy your life (John 10:10). Sometimes I think the devil is working harder to destroy us than we are working to keep it from happening. 

What are we to do? How do we face this? “Put on every piece of God’s armor (you are in a battle and you need to dress for it)  so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. (This is not “if “ the day or the time comes but “when” it comes) Then after the battle you will still be standing firm” (Ephesians 6:10-13 NLT). Today. I'm going to expose the devil for who he is.  

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This Is The Day

Palm Sunday occurs every year on the Sunday before Easter. Today, we remember Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The account is  in all four of the gospels. Jesus entered the city, knowing that he was going to be tried, and then crucified. But, he also knew he would be raised from the grave to save us from sin. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week or Passion Week, which is the remembrance of the last days of Jesus..One third of the Gospel writings concern this last week of Jesus’ life on earth. This week, Jesus visited friends in Bethany on Saturday. Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, held a dinner to honor the One who performed this miracle. During the event, Lazarus’ sister Mary worshiped Jesus, anointing his feet. She worshiped, not caring who was watching or what people thought about what she was doing. This woman was so thrilled with what Jesus had done in her life and for her family, that she took her most prized possession, perfume that was worth a fortune, and poured it all out for him.

The following day was Sunday. This was Palm Sunday, March 30 in the year 33 AD. This date was prophesied in Zechariah 9 and in Daniel 9. The crowd shouted “Hosanna!” which is a phrase directly from Psalm 118. They were crying “Lord save us!” in verse 25. In the previous verse, we find that THIS WAS THE DAY that the Lord has made. This phrase specifically speaks of this day and prophecy is precise, 173,880 days from March 5, 444 BC when the king gave the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. Palm Sunday was not just another day, but was prophesied hundreds of years before to bear witness to King Jesus.Most thought Jesus came to deliver them from the oppressions of Rome. But according to Daniel 9, he was going to come on this appointed day and there would be a celebration, but after that the Messiah  would be cut off. In 33 AD, inattentive of the prophecies of old but fulfilling them nonetheless, the Pharisees saw the popularity he had gained and resolved to destroy him. God’s word reveals such great truths in every part of the story. As we spend time considering these scriptures, they draw us closer toward Christ and remind us that he indeed is King.Many biblical prophecies were fulfilled during this week. Jesus came to earth to save humanity by dying on the cross on Good Friday (Passover) and resurrecting on Easter Sunday. By doing what he did, he swung the gates of heaven open, allowing our sins to be forgiven and ushering in the presence of God. Until then it was impossible for humans to be good enough to be in the presence of God, and be forgiven for our sins. Old Testament sacrifices were used to cover sin by the Jewish people, but Jesus was the perfect sacrifice once and for all, including Gentiles. He went to the cross out of his great love for you and for me so that we could stand in the presence of God.

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Talk About Trust

Today, I want to talk to you about trusting the process. Do you have kids? Things change rapidly with kids. Sometimes it feels like you are in a place where nothing will ever change. You have a two year old that throws a fit about everything. But give it two weeks. Things will change. Maybe you have an eight year old who is so enjoyably pleasant and cooperative. But…give it two weeks! Things WILL change. Life can be crazy. Sometimes we fight the process. We kick against the goads I’ve heard it said. But we need to trust the process.Trust is being able to have a sense of security and confidence when dealing with someone. For instance, I trust the team I work with. We’ve built trust together. We’ve supported each other and helped each other; we’ve prayed for each other and celebrated together. We’ve learned together and we are growing together. Trust is built by having the ability to predict that someone will act in a specific way and be dependable. When you have walked through life together, you learn what to expect from those you are walking through life with. 

As a young father, I have seen my two year old take a flying leap off his changing table, fully confident I will catch him. However, my eight year old has more experience. She is not as trusting. She wants to fly with all abandon like her little brother, but she will ask me to get closer and closer until she can touch my shoulder and then gently shifts her weight into my arms. Do you believe God is aware enough and strong enough to catch you when you leap? Maybe you hesitate to jump. It takes guts. Are you an entrepreneur? I admire you! Do you believe God will catch you? Maybe you will jump when you can feel God’s hand on you, when you feel God is closer. God will catch you, every time. There is a story in Judges 6 about a man named Gideon who began to trust God and then became trustworthy of God. It is a story of Gideon vs the vast army of the Ammonites. Gideon was desperate. The Israelites were on a downward spiral of sin. They would turn their backs on God, begin to sin and would lose the blessings and covering of God. Then they would repent, begin walking again with God, get comfortable in His protection, and then get lax and begin sinning again. In this passage, we find Gideon in this pit, desperate and poverty stricken. An angel shows up and calls him a mighty warrior. He tells Gideon that the Lord is with him! Gideon wasn’t sure he could trust this word because his people were in such dire need. Gideon had to learn to trust the process and do things God’s way. 

You know in your own heart if you trust God. There was a battle in Gideon’s life in addition to the battle with the armies of the Ammonites. Gideon had a battle within. He had to learn to trust God. He tested God but then, God tested him. Gideon amassed an army of 32,000 but God told him to send 22,000 home. God tested Gideon again until Gideon was left with 300. Have you ever had a fight, been right, but oh sooooo wrong in the “process”? When we do things on our own, we’re not under the protection of the process. I always have to ask myself two questions when I'm in a fight. Is this worth it? And who will I be at the end of this fight? Gideon’s army won the battle because they did it God’s way. If they had done it in their own strength, they likely would have died, we would not be telling this story, and God would have gotten none of the glory. When you trust the process, God’s power moves. God will take you step by step. The first step is to take the first step. A good friend of mine says, “Just start.” As we step out, God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Ask the Lord. He will speak to you. His word is alive and active, working on your behalf. The Word, for those who will work the Word. He will direct you. Confirm things through God and His Word. Trust the process. You know where you are supposed to go. Go to God first. A process is a series of actions or changes and if you want your tomorrow to look different from your today, you are going to have to do something today to make your tomorrow different. Take a step in the process. It’s not easy but it’s fruitful. Enjoy the process and endure the process.  Romans 5:3-5 describes how it will go, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

I believe many people in the church are here to learn, work on themselves and move past the hurdles that once stopped them from accomplishing all that God has for them. But if you quit the process, you won’t see the end results. Don’t run when things get hard, press in for your future, press in for your breakthrough. Who do you want to be on the other side? God will create you into something new if you trust the process. God is working, speaking and moving. Let His Word work in you. 

Have you ever known someone who transformed themselves physically, began working out and bulked up so they looked like a different person? They have trusted the process. It’s not easy. And it won’t impact everyone the same way. But people who follow the process will get stronger and see their body be able to do things it has not been able to do before. The goal is to be a better version of yourself. The same goes for spiritual growth and strength. As you commit to discipline, to the Word and to relationships with others who can challenge you in your faith, you will become a better version of your spiritual self. In fact, we can use this process of growth and discipline in all we do - marriage, work, parenting, etc.  Gideon would have lost the battle even with 32,000 men. But God said to trust the process. He said to do it His way. Blow the horn. Crack the pots. Watch the flame, the fire of God. The enemy was so distraught that they killed themselves. Start with worship each day. Incorporate prayer & praise. Read, study and meditate on God’s Word. Get in the Presence of God. Life needs God. It’s never going to be easy. But choose to grow in an upward spiral. Take steps toward God. 

You may not be where you want to be, but if you look back, you’re not the same person that you once were. Take a deep breath and smile, God’s not done with you! It was a process for you to read this today. Maybe someone showed you this blog or told you about Motor City Church. Maybe they prayed for you. Trust the process. Are you stuck? Pray for breakthrough and vision. Dreams are Free! Get full of God. Trust the process.

Excellence Now

Today, I will continue my series about habits. I am introducing habits that we don’t often think of and this week I wanted to talk about the habit of excellence. Excellence is doing the best you can with what you’ve got. The key is to treat what you own and live your life with excellence - make it a lifestyle.

You may have noticed, it is very easy to be a mediocre person. All you have to do is make no extra effort of any kind and drift through life making no difference in the world. But if you will dare to form the habit of being excellent in all that you do, you will be a bright light in the darkness, which is exactly what God has called you to be. God is excellent and we were created in His image. So if we are to reach our full potential in Him, then we also must choose to be excellent. 

Excellence is not perfection. I read somewhere that the pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy, but the pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a waste of time. There’s a big difference. Striving for perfection can make you feel like a failure and actually, procrastination can result from being a perfectionist. Fear of falling below the expectations of people paralyzes progress. Do your best and trust God to do the rest. God wants us to always grow and make progress, but He is never angry with us because we have not yet arrived. 

To be excellent means to do a little more than you might have to do to get by. When we compromise, it means that we do less than we know is right or proper. Go the extra mile, but don’t take on more than you should in order to properly do what you’ve committed to. Making the commitment to be habitually excellent and following through on your commitments will be very rewarding. Pursuing excellence won’t be easy at first, but eventually it will become a habit.

Develop a system to pursue excellence. I suggest making five signs that simply say “excellence” and put them in places where you’ll see them several times a day. I also believe strongly in the power of verbal confession to help you form a new image of yourself. Try saying these things out loud daily, even multiple times a day. “I do what I do with excellence.” Then expand your confession. “I am an excellent person. I do my work with excellence. I take excellent care of myself and all that I own. I treat people excellently. I think excellent thoughts and I speak excellent words.”

The confessions that you make, which may be totally by faith in the beginning, will help you to remember to do things with excellence and also change how you see yourself. Once you see yourself as being excellent, it will not be a struggle to do what you do with excellence. Remember, habits are developed through repetition, so when you form the habit of excellence it will help you break the habit of mediocrity.

We know in our hearts if we are truly doing the best that we can do, if we are giving it our all. If we are not, then we should make a decision to adjust and move toward excellence. Let’s always do our best not just for significance or praise from others or for worldly promotion, but let’s do all that we can do to glorify God and live an excellent life for Him. I believe He will reward us for our excellence.

The excellence lifestyle starts small, right where you are. Put things back where you got them. Return the grocery cart to its spot in the parking lot. Pick up the trash on the floor. Excellence is a lifestyle… and I believe it’s part of a godly lifestyle.

Ask yourself…

  • How often do you compromise and take the easy way out?
  • Do you keep your commitments?
  • Do you drift along in life or are you pressing toward the best?
  • Do you always tell the truth?

I could keep adding to that list but I think you get the point that I’m trying to make. We will never get where we want to be unless we truthfully admit where we are right now. Start making the choices and facing the truth and the truth will set you free.

When we are excellent we feel better about ourselves. I found the reward of excellence is peace, peace I receive when I make an effort to do things the way they should be done and don’t compromise to do less than I know is right. 

Actions follow what we think, so we must first become excellent in our thoughts. “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8 NLT). “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 AMPC). What kind of thoughts do you entertain? When you recognize that your thoughts are not good, do you take action to cast them out of your mind or do you just lazily let them remain? It is impossible to become an excellent person without first developing an excellent mind. Thoughts are the first line of defense and we must deal with them. Our mind and thoughts belong to us and we should not allow the devil to use them as a garbage dump.

Just as we can direct our thoughts, we can also direct our words with God‘s help. The power of life and death are in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Our words affect us and the people around us. They also affect what God is able to do for us. We cannot have a negative mouth and end up with a positive life. The apostle Peter teaches us in I Peter 3:10, that if we want to enjoy life and see good days even in the midst of trials we must keep our tongue free from evil. Change your words and you can change your life.

It’s also important that we treat all people excellently. God loves all people and does not take it kindly when we mistreat them. Be polite, respectful, and appreciative. Be encouraging. Everyone in the world wants to feel valuable and many are struggling with feelings of low self-esteem. We are in a position to be used by God to help them by treating each one with excellence. Be an oasis of love. “But earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces (the higher gifts and the choicest graces). And yet I will show you a still more excellent way [one that is better by far and the highest of them all–love]” (1 Corinthians 12:31 AMPC).

Love is the most excellent way of all.

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The Happy Habit

The Happy Habit

We have been in our series called “Make That Break That” talking about habits that we need to develop and habits that we need to get rid of in order to live a year of unlimited possibilities. I would like to consider a habit today that I call “The Happy Habit”. Proverbs 3:13 AMPC says, “Happy (blessed, fortunate, enviable) is the man who finds skillful and godlyWisdom, and the man who gets understanding [drawing it forth fromGod's Word and life's experiences].”

I believe the desire to be happy is the main thing that motivates us in most of what we do. But do we truly know what makes us genuinely happy? And is happiness just a feeling or is it just an emotion that we search for? I think it’s much deeper than that.

Abraham Lincoln said, “People are as happy as they make up their mind to be.” I like that and I would agree. I am convinced that happiness is a choice and a habit that we can develop. When we make the choice, the feelings will then begin to follow.

The Psalmist David said, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it”(Psalms 118:24 NLT). Did you notice it said we will. That is the deciding factor in the enjoyment of our day. If I don’t choose to rejoice, there will always be something to steal my joy and poison my happiness.

It has been said that focusing on good things is the first law of happiness, because what we focus on or what we think about determines our feelings. I’ve said it many times, what you look at the longest becomes the strongest. I am not suggesting that we ignore our problems, but there is a big difference between focusing on them and working on them to solve and resolve them.

Our number one goal, the number one habit we need to develop, is a close, intimate, personal relationship with God through Jesus. Put God first. Being in fellowship with God and learning to obey Him in all things will make you happier than you could ever imagine. Since God is life, how can we hope to enjoy life apart from Him.

I’ve discovered in my search for happiness that my joy is fed by doing things for other people. This is a great secondary goal and a commandment! Love God. Love people. No matter what kind of problems I have, if I focus on what I can do to put a smile on someone else’s face, I find it that makes me happy.

Our personal beliefs can greatly affect our level of joy and happiness. Purposeless people are frequently unhappy as well as people who feel unloved. God loves you and He is for you. He has a plan for your life and a purpose.

I have also found that hopeful people are some of the happiest people in the world. Hope is powerful. Trials test us and refine us. As character is developed within us, we gain the joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. And this hope never disappoints, deludes or shames (Romans 5:3-5 AMPC). People who can remain happy in hope, no matter what their circumstances, are powerful people. 

Are you trusting God in all the areas of your life? Romans 15:13 (AMPC) says, “May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.” Joy and peace are found in believing. What do you believe about yourself? If you believe you are a failure, unloved, worthless, that it is too late for you to have a good life, then you’ve got to change what you believe about you. Believe what God says about you in His word, not what others have told you, or even how you feel. 

Are you putting off happiness until some other time? I’m personally trying to avoid saying, “I will be happy when…” We fall into the trap of thinking we will be happy when… There can be a million “when’s” that keep us from enjoying now. We have got to learn how to enjoy today. Make a decision not to base your happiness on some future event, but choose happiness today. Today is all you have.

Are you waiting for some other person in your life to change his or her behavior so you can be happy? That is a huge mistake. Why should you let someone else determine your level of joy? Nobody else can make you happy at least not permanently. And people can be rude or hurtful. Take responsibility for your own joy and happiness and make a decision today to never again base it on what someone else does

I would encourage you to develop the habit of laughing more. When we laugh, we momentarily forget all of our concerns and struggles. It energizes us and it’s one of the healthiest things we can do. Sometimes we think too much and try to figure everything out. We become so intense that we forget to laugh at ourselves as well, as well as many other things in life. Laughter can pull a person out of depression and despair, and it can turn an ordinary day into a memorable day. I urge you to find people who make you laugh and spend more time with them. Laughter is more important than you know. Even the Bible tells us it is like a medicine.

I think the root cause of a lot of our unhappiness is simply that we are not happy with ourselves. We’re not happy with the way we look, or our talents or our level of perfection. We may compare ourselves with others, instead of happily being the person that God created us to be. We all make mistakes and yes, we want to be serious about the changes we need to make in our lives, but it’s also good to learn to laugh at ourselves, and not be so intense about every little mistake we make. We all have faults and are likely to have some as long as we’re alive, so lighten up. Don’t take yourself, so seriously. Learn to enjoy yourself.

Trust God to show you what needs to be changed and then work with the Holy Spirit toward those changes. Being unhappy with yourself, won’t make you change any faster. I highly encourage you to enjoy every step of your journey.

Someday your life is going to come to an end so I just want you to be sure to live this one life that you have to the fullest. Your life is a gift, a precious gift from God and it would be tragic if you lived it unhappily. Put the happy habit on your list of good habits to make, and the sad habit or the mad habit on your list of habits to break. Having a life worth living does not happen by accident. It’s something that you have to choose on purpose… It’s your choice to rejoice.

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