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Blog: Lee Younger

Delight

CCC Oak Ridge

Here’s a quick thought for your day:

Sometimes, when people say, “God loves you,” it doesn’t seem to mean what it should way down in your heart. In other words, we all kind of ‘know’ that God loves us. I mean, that’s His job, right? So what. It can kind of feel like when uncle Ned or Aunt Alberta tell you that they love you when you see them at Thanksgiving. I mean, I’m sure they mean it. I’m sure that those types of relatives really do love us, but it’s not like we are actually in each other’s lives at all. They love us as family without really knowing us or having to put up with us day in and day out. In other words, they love us without really having to like us.

When someone says that God loves you, it’s not like Uncle Ned or Aunt Alberta. He doesn’t love you in a formal, obligatory, detached kind-of way. God loves you passionately! He loves you deeply and fervently! God loves you with the entirety of His matchless heart! Psalm 18 says that when God saved us, it wasn’t because saving us is His job. It’s not as though the rescue mission for your heart was ‘business-as-usual’ for Him. Psalm 18:19 says, “He rescued me because He delighted in me.”

Delight! What a beautiful word. That word has nothing to do with job description. That word isn’t stuffy or formal. That little word, ‘delight’ is packed to the gills with sunshine and electricity! God saved you, not because it was His job, but because of His great affection for you! He doesn’t just love you. He likes you!

The Worst Ever

CCC Oak Ridge

I’m going to ask you a question and I don’t want you to think about it. I just want you to answer it as quickly as possible with your gut response. Ready? Okay, here we go: If Jesus came to your town today and you knew you were going to get to meet Him face to face, what would you do an hour before that?

Be honest, now. 

Would you pick out your best clothes? Would you fast and pray? Would you confess every sin you could think of that you had done that day? Would you have 14 quiet times and try to memorize a bunch of Scripture real quick?

We naturally think that if we are going to hang out with Jesus, we need to be at our best. We need to be trying as hard as possible to be awesome for Him before we go to meet Him. It’s natural to think that way, but it’s totally mistaken. You see, you don’t even really go to meet with Him. It’s actually the other way around. One day Jesus did show up in a town and people crowded the streets to get a glimpse of Him or perhaps hear His voice. I’m sure some folks pulled out all the stops to impress him with their piety and pricey outfits, but Jesus isn’t impressed by that sort of thing. He passed by all the religious folks. He passed by all the important folks. He passed by all the impressive folks and went straight up to the worst person in the whole town. The worst ever. This guy was so unimpressive, he was hiding in a tree to avoid being noticed. But Jesus saw Him anyway. He always sees us. He called Zacchaues by name and said, “Come on down from there. Let’s be friends!”

You don’t have to clean up your act to go meet with Jesus. In fact, He’s coming to find you -- even if you think you’re the worst ever. 

New Instincts

CCC Oak Ridge

Every person has natural reactions to certain situations. They’re called instincts. You were born with them and they totally make sense. When something doesn’t go your way, you get frustrated. When someone hurts you, you get angry and you might get even. When problems strike your life, you become afraid and sometimes you even panic. The things you care most about are the things that are good for you and help you. The stuff you work hardest at is the stuff that benefits you

And hey, if I’m describing you, don’t worry. It’s totally natural. We are all born like this: Wanting our way, our kind of justice and our kind of comfort. Our instincts are bent toward selfishness.

Here’s the great thing though: That’s not where this story ends. When you come to know Jesus, He makes a home down inside your heart and begins re-decorating the place so that He feels at home there. The remodeling process can be painful and slow, but He is changing things around. All of a sudden, when someone hurts you, you’ll feel the desire to hurt them back, but you’ll also feel this tug towards forgiveness and love. All of a sudden, when problems roll into your life, you’ll want to freak out, and yet this still, small voice will be saying, “Shhh... it’s okay. Trust me and be at peace.” You’ll feel the pull of selfishness all the time, but you’ll also feel a burden for the pain of others and when you answer that call, it will change everything.  

Jesus is going to change you. If you want to speed up the process, start asking Him to speak up. Invite Him into the remodel with open arms. It will be hard and sometimes it will hurt; but soon, you’ll start to have new desires, new affections and even new instincts. Go for it. After all, the only you’ve got to lose is selfishness.

Unlimited Patience. Seriously?

CCC Oak Ridge

Have you ever had a teacher or a coach or a parent lose their cool because you screwed something up? Of course you have. When I played football in high school, I dropped a pass in a game that was so easy, everyone in the bleachers gasped and said, “Awww Nooo!” together as the ball tumbled out of my hands and onto the grass. Hundreds of people were frustrated with me at the same time and my coach was about to lose his mind. That dropped pass was so bad that the Biology teacher who took the team stats made fun of me the next day at school.  

We all know how it feels to screw up, let someone down and then listen to them lose their patience and chew us out for our mistake. In fact, we know that feeling so well that it holds us back from drawing near to Jesus when we sin again. We think Jesus will be like that coach or like our parents, but He’s not like them. In 1 Timothy 1, Paul said this: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and have eternal life.” 

Whoa! Jesus showed mercy to the worst of sinners so that for the rest of time, all the sinners would know that Jesus has unlimited patience and is ready to forgive them and take them in! Wow. Unlimited patience. He’s not frustrated with you. He’s not wringing His hands or pounding His desk in frustration. He’s not losing His cool. He’s patient. He has unlimited patience and is willing to walk through this with you. He loves you. He knows who you’ll be in the end and He’s willing to wait. That doesn't make me want to hang back or hold out on Jesus. That kind of love makes me want to draw near.

Enjoy This Thing More

CCC Oak Ridge

If you ask most people how their walk with the Lord is going, they’ll probably tell you that they’re not praying enough, not reading their Bible enough and not where they want to be when it comes to overcoming temptation. In short, most people will express feelings of guilt. Most folks are ready at the drop of a hat to apologize for the state of their relationship with the Lord. Is that good?

Well, let me ask you this: What if you were dating somebody and I asked you how it’s going and you instantly hung your head and just started rattling off all the reasons your relationship isn’t as good as it could be? What if you were basically apologizing in shame for this relationship? Not cool. (especially to the one you’re dating)

Here’s the thing: Jesus said in John 15:16 that you didn’t choose Him. He chose you. Paul says in Philippians 1:6 that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion. In other words, Jesus started this thing and He’s going to take it to the finish line. He wanted this relationship in the first place and He’s going to make sure it goes the distance. Jesus doesn’t want you to feel guilty about the state of your relationship with Him. You know what I think He wants? I think He wants you to enjoy it more! I think He wants you to have more fun! Stop feeling guilty about what it could be or what it should be and start enjoying what it is! Relax! Laugh more! Pick your chin up off of your chest, lift up your eyes and love Jesus right now. He loves you right now. He chose you. He’s going to finish what He started. Our job is simply to believe and enjoy the ride. 

Confession: Go For It

CCC Oak Ridge

Okay, you know how it feels at the end of a really long day when your feet are tired and sore and you finally sit down and pull your shoes off? Ahhh... It’s awesome, right? It’s such a relief to just let your feet rest. For the Christian, confession ought to be like that. 

I think most Christians are afraid of confession. We’re afraid of looking at ourselves squarely and dealing with all that’s really there in our minds and hearts, but why? Why are we afraid? Jesus knows the truth about us and still loves us. Jesus is the one who said to the paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven.” He’s the One who said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you.” He’s the One who said to His disciples, “This is my blood, poured out for the forgiveness of sins.”

I think we’re scared of confession because we still think our sin is going to cause Jesus to reject us, but it never will. In fact, if you have accepted Jesus’ gift, you are already forgiven for everything you’ve ever done or ever will do for the rest of your life. The reason we confess is that we’re in a real love relationship with Jesus, and it feels good to go to Him, admit our stuff, tell Him we love Him and ask for strength and wisdom going forward. Confession ought to be routine. It ought to be a sweet time where you draw close to the Lord and He draws close to you. In fact, it ought to feel good and right. Confession should to be like pulling off your shoes at the end of a long, hard day. Go ahead, get alone with Jesus and give it a try. Ahhh... that’s better. 

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” - 1 John 1:9

Give Him The Keys

CCC Oak Ridge

Here’s a quick thought:

A lot of times young Christians come to me really confused about so many things in their life. They have massively complicated issues and Scripture seems like a mystery in a foreign language. When we start to really talk and get into the details of what’s going on, I gradually uncover one or two areas of their life where they are just slamming the door in Jesus’ face. In other words, once they open up and are honest, there’s this huge thing they’re into that Jesus wants to get rid of but they won’t budge on it. They’re holding on to it with clenched fists and white knuckles.

Let me tell you a secret from a dude that’s been making stupid mistakes for a long, long time: The sooner you surrender and hand the keys of your life over to Jesus, the more sense everything will make. The faster you decide to let Him call the shots, the faster a lot of this confusion will evaporate. You see, Jesus bought us. He paid for us with His own blood and we belong to Him. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) The way that should translate is this: When I wake up in the morning, I should take a look in the mirror and say to myself, “I do not own this. This is not mine. Jesus is the boss. He loves me. He does everything for my best. He’s good to me and I want to give Him the keys all day long today.”

I promise you, the more you let Him run the show, the simpler and more sweet your life will be. Give it a try today.

What is Love? It's A Day-Dreamer

CCC Oak Ridge

What Is Love?

In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul says that there is only one stat that ultimately matters in your walk with God - one thing that that truly tells the world who you are, and that is your love (or lack thereof). The real question is, how do I grow in love? What does love look like? What does love do, and what does it not do? What is love?

12. Love Is A Day-Dreamer 

Have you ever seriously thought about what you’d do with all the money if you won the lottery? Come on... you’ve done it. We all have. I remember a few years ago, Pepsi had a contest where they would supposedly give away a billion dollars. A billion dollars, people. Dang. Shamefully, I admit that I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about what I would do with that billion bucks. I mean, I had some amazing plans! Spoiler alert: I didn’t win. 

Or how about this: Have you ever been watching your favorite team losing a game where a win is completely hopeless, and yet you keep wishing and dreaming and mentally inventing scenarios where they scrape out the victory? You’re envisioning a big interception for a touchdown, an on-sides kick and a hail Mary that goes down in history, right?

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says love “always hopes.”  I love this word because it might be the most fun of all the things Paul describes. It’s certainly the most light-hearted and maybe even the most stubborn. In fact, when I think about love always hoping, it helps me to understand it if I just personify hope. Let’s go ahead and do that. Let’s make hope into a person...

What kind of a person is Hope? Well, Hope is fun. She’s an optimist. Hope doesn’t get down easily and she sings all the time. Hope is part inventor, part engineer, part story-teller and part magician. She solves problems. She finds a way to work things out. She sees a path forward when no one else does. She sees the bigger picture. Hope knows how to brain-storm. She’s the ultimate day-dreamer. When everyone else is bored because they are maddeningly stuck in traffic, Hope just made up the funnest game you could ever play in a car that isn’t moving. 

When you look up the Greek word that Paul uses for hope, it’s used all over the New Testament and it always has to do with not only wanting something, but really desiring that something and actually expecting it to happen. You see, Hope doesn’t just conjure up a fictional best-case-scenario, but Hope thinks of the most awesome possibility and then anticipates that it’s really going to happen; and there’s a very good reason for that: Hope is a Christian.

Here’s what I mean by that - If you’re a Christian, (if you believe in Jesus) you believe that He is the King of this Universe and completely and totally in control of everything in this world. If you believe in Jesus, you believe that God is always working everything together for the absolute best of those who love Him. That means that when other folks look at the people in your life and see someone annoying, impossible or even totally ridiculous, you see that same person with eyes of hope. You look at that person as if they were your favorite team losing the big game: Sure, it doesn’t look good right now, but the game ain’t over! Any minute now, we’re gonna be giving high-fives after a huge interception and TD! When you look at hard-to-love people with hope, it’s like you’re looking at a winning lottery ticket. You start day-dreaming about what Jesus is going to do with His winnings - in other words, all the awesome stuff that this person is gonna do for the Kingdom. Sure, other folks don’t see much in them, but you don’t care about that because you love them, which means that you are infected with an irresistible desire for their best, and since you know Jesus, you fully expect the best is exactly what’s going to happen.

For Those Feeling Insecure Today

CCC Oak Ridge

Say this prayer with me:

 

“Jesus, You made me this way. You like me like this. I don’t feel it, I don’t really believe it. To be honest, most of the time I don’t really like me all that much, but You like me. You love me. You came here for me. You lived a perfect life for me. You laid that beautiful life down in suffering, abandonment and death. You didn’t have to do all that, but you did. You did it to rescue me. You think I’m worth rescuing! You call me a treasure. You call me the pearl of great price. You call me Your very own. You call me Your child. You saw me, You wanted me, You gave up everything just to make me Yours. I may not always understand it, but it feels good to be loved by You. Come to think of it, if You think that highly of me, I don’t really need anyone else’s approval. Jesus, if You have accepted me, I’m really accepted! Lord, if You love me, I’m really loved. If I have Your smile, I don’t need anyone else’s! Help me to believe what you say about me. Comfort my heart and strengthen me to trust You way down in my bones. I love you, Lord. Thank you. Amen.”

It Takes Time

CCC Oak Ridge

I talk to a lot of young Christians who are really frustrated with themselves. They’re surprised that they aren’t farther along in their walk. They expect to have the majority of their issues figured out by now and when they stumble, struggle or wind up massively confused or overwhelmed, they don’t get it. They wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Why am I still here in this same place?” This frustration can even lead to depression or a crisis of faith.

The funny thing is, they’re not in the same place at all. I can see them growing and changing. I can see the indelible marks of permanent change all over their life, but they can’t recognize that yet and it drives them crazy. They look at older Christians and wonder, “Why am I not just like him?” (And of course, they’re looking at a dude who has been laying his life down on the altar of devotion and front-lines ministry for four decades)

Here’s the deal: It takes time. You’re not going to get where you want to go over night. That dude you’re looking up to was just like you once. It took him or her years and years of stumbles and problems to get where they are now. If you’re not where you want to be spiritually, that’s great. You’re supposed to hunger and thirst for it! But look, in the midst of your longing for more, don’t beat yourself up. Your walk is a process. Jesus is the Carpenter, and a Master Carpenter always works slowly and carefully with meticulous precision. As Paul said, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

What is Love? - It Sees God At Work

CCC Oak Ridge

In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul says that there is only one stat that ultimately matters in your walk with God - one thing that that truly tells the world who you are, and that is your love (or lack thereof). The real question is, how do I grow in love? What does love look like? What does love do, and what does it not do? What is love?

11. Love Sees God At Work

We’ve all seen people at their worst. We’ve all watched folks unravel on a bad day or snap at someone when they’re over the edge. Everyone loses their cool form time to time and the hard thing about being in a relationship with someone is that you have to watch this happen repeatedly. You see, when you really know someone, you see them when they don’t really want to be seen. The closer you are to a person, the more mess you have to see.

This is basically where the rubber meets the road when it comes to love - that is to say, how do you love people when they are hard to love? How do you love someone when they are at their worst?

In verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says that love “always trusts.” What does that mean? Why is love about trusting? Well, that word “trust” is the same Greek word that is translated “believe” in some places and “faith” in others. In other words, when you love someone, you believe stuff about them. You have faith about them. The real question is, what do you believe about them? What faith do you have?

You know, when you’re at your worst, you probably don’t give up on yourself. When you lose your temper or yell at someone or fall into some sin, you probably cut yourself some slack because you know that God lives in you and that He’s at work in your life. You know that Jesus died for you and that He’s not going to stop working in your life until you’re all finished and complete. That is your faith. That right there is what you believe about yourself because of what God has done in your life. You trust that God loves you, is at work in you and isn’t finished with you yet.

That same trust and faith and belief is what love gives everyone else. In other words, Love believes God is at work in that person who is so hard to love. Love has faith that God hasn’t finished with that person that drives you crazy. Love trusts that God will bring them to completion.

Every week I go to the local jail with two of my best friends to reach out to the guys behind bars with the love of Jesus. Recently we have found out that we aren’t the only church group that goes to that jail to do ministry. Thing is, some of the other groups go in there and tell guys how bad they are. They tell the guys that God hates their sin and that if they don’t turn things around, they are going to wind up in hell. You and I both know that this is not the way to do jail ministry. Those guys know they’ve been a mess already. They’re in there paying for their messes. They don’t need yet another person telling them they suck, so when we go in to do our ministry, we take a totally different approach: We tell guys how much God loves them. We tell them that God has a plan for them and wants a life for them that is sweet, filled with joy and totally fulfilling. We tell them that we respect them and we are encouraged by their walk with God and that we believe God is at work in their hearts, making them something new. In short, we love them.

Last week, as we got up leave the jail, one of the guys shook my hand, pulled me into a hug and then said, “I love you, brother. Thank you for coming to see us.” That dude is on fire for the Lord. He’s changing. He’s growing in Christ. In other words, when you decide to look at a person and always trust, you see God at work in them - and that’s because He really is at work.

Get Back Up, It's Okay

CCC Oak Ridge

You may not have done this day quite like you wanted to. When you were falling asleep last night, maybe you thought today would be a day filled with the joy of the Lord. Maybe you thought you would wake up ready to go, have an awesome quiet time and then spend the whole day just loving people like Jesus would. But then you actually woke up (later than you wanted to) and everything went downhill from there. Maybe this has turned out to be a downright awful day and you just can’t wait to be done with it. Maybe you’ve made such a huge mess of this day that you can’t possibly imagine facing yet another one when this day’s done!

If that’s you, I want to encourage you with something:

“His mercies never fail. They are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) You see, tomorrow is a new day, filled with new chances, new opportunities and new mercies! So what if you fell or failed today... it’s okay! It’s not the end of the world. If you fell, get back up! God loves you, He has made up His mind that you are His and He is full of patience and love for you! He has promised you will never be condemned. He has promised that He’ll never leave you nor forsake you. He has promised He will never let go of you. He promised that will carry on His work until the very end. You belong to God - the patient, compassionate, tender heart who made you and is remaking you. Every day is new, so don’t hang your head. Instead, get back up.

Ambush

CCC Oak Ridge

There is a phrase that people trained to fight will often say that goes like this: “Don’t start none, won’t be none.” In other words, if you don’t want a fight, don’t be foolish, don’t misbehave and everything will be just fine. If you don’t pick a fight, there won’t be a fight. Here’s the thing: This is not true when it comes to the devil.

That dude is gonna be in your face, messing with you and fighting you until you are done with this life. You will never get a day off or a vacation from his unkind and ruthless schemes. 1 Peter 5 says Satan is roaming around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. In other words, that dude is on the offensive. You woke up today in a war-zone. This day will not be easy. It will not be a cake walk. It is going to be a fight until you are dead, but that’s okay. That’s not terrible news.

You see, you have everything you need to fight and win. In fact, all you basically have to do is remember who you are and what you have in Jesus and then just stand there and the devil runs away. Fighting that dude is about remembering the truth. Say this with me: “Jesus loves me. Jesus died for me. I am a child of God. I am completely forgiven. Jesus is in control of everything and this is all gonna be ancient history soon, as I fly away to paradise forever.”

Remember who you are. Remember what you have. Remember what’s true and dismiss the lies. You have to do it everyday, but when you do it, you get free.

Holy Mime

CCC Oak Ridge

When Ephesians 5 starts out with, “Follow God’s example” Paul uses a word that means to imitate or mimic. In fact, the Greek word is “mimetai” which is exactly where we get our word, ‘mime.’ Paul is saying we should mime God. We should pretend to be Him. Our lives should consist in us doing a God impression.

The weird thing about this idea is that miming God, or doing a God impression sounds a bit fake, right? As Christians, we’re supposed to be all authentic, and yet the Bible is telling us to imitate someone we are not. Is that strange? Does it seem a bit off?

Here’s the deal: Miming God is awesome, because God is love. Paul says, “Imitate God, live a life of love.” Another translation would put it, “Mimic God and walk in love.” Doing your best God impression simply means to love people. It means seeing them with a heart of compassion and tenderness. It means wanting better stuff for them than they even want for themselves. It means sacrificing your own self for them. Love. That’s what it looks like.

Mimic God: Love.

While You're Sleeping

CCC Oak Ridge

A quick thought for your day:

Sometimes your life doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes you’re so exhausted you just wanna quit. Sometimes your emotions are so ragged, you just want to stop feeling. Sometimes you just wanna cry your eyes out and sometimes you just want everyone to go away. Sometimes you simply feel completely misunderstood.

One question you may have is, what does God think of all these raving feelings and thoughts? How does God see you when you’re struggling, faint, sick of life and ready to lose it?

He loves you. God looks at you and loves you. He sees you as His very own kid and His heart is filled with compassion for you.

My family and I just got back from a long road trip. The kids were tired. They melted down and had a crazy night. Tears were shed. There was massive pouting all over the place. They had a hard time, but now they’re sleeping in their little beds. I can hear them breathing through their doors. I just went into Jack’s bedroom, rubbed the little guy’s head and kissed his curly hair. I love that dude. Sure he had a hard night, but I understand, and I love him with my whole heart.

That’s how God sees you, and tonight, as you curl up in your covers and drift off to sleep, know that the God of the universe looks down on you with His heart bursting in love, so glad you’re His very own. In fact, check out Zephaniah 3:17 -

“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Love Is The Point

CCC Oak Ridge

The most important thing for you to focus on in your walk with God is not your ministry. It’s not what you’re doing for God or who you’re reaching for God or even how you are growing or changing. The most important thing for you to focus on is simply your love for Jesus.

Your relationship with the Lord is the keystone of the whole thing. The rest of your life flows from that love. Maintain your devotion for Jesus and your affection for Jesus. Nurture your trust in and reliance on Jesus and everything else will happen automatically. Focus on the other stuff, and nothing will happen as it should.

Remember Mary and Martha at the end of Luke 10? Martha was laser-focused on everything she was doing for Jesus and Mary was simply focused on Jesus and being with Him. Martha was upset, frustrated and starving for attention and recognition of her ministry that she didn’t even get. Mary just sat at Jesus’ feet and was filled.

When you wake up in the morning, don’t get out your to-do list and ask, “What do I need to do for God today?” Instead, go to Jesus. Open up His word. Ask Him to show you how He loves you. Ask Him to draw your heart to His. Ask Him to help you to love Him more deeply all day long. The relationship is the whole point. Nurture and care for your love for Jesus early and often.

What Really Happens When You Pray?

CCC Oak Ridge

Do you ever pray and feel like absolutely nothing happens? Do you ever feel like your prayer comes out of your face, floats up in the air for a second and then smashes into a giant iron-plated ceiling and then disappears?

Where is God? Why didn’t He show up? What happened to your prayer?

Let me tell you what happened... (And look, I know it doesn’t feel like this, but life is full of things that feel different than they truly are) This is what happened when you prayed:

You were hurting. You were struggling. You were desperate, so you cried out to God. Your cry floated out of your heart and went straight into the heart of God. He heard you. God saw you hurting and became angry. The earth quaked. The foundations trembled! God was exploding with anger like a fire-breathing dragon because you were having a hard time! The Almighty Maker of heaven and earth ripped open heaven itself. He tore back the sky and thundered from on high! He called angels to Himself and rode them like flying, flaming waterskis out of heaven! He covered Himself with darkness and zoomed toward your distress. There was a wake of burning coals, peals of lightening and thunder as He rode forth with terror in His wings. He screamed and out came arrows of destruction and hailstorms! He was scattering your enemies! He flew straight to you and took hold of you, rescuing you bringing you into a spacious place. He rescued you because He delights in you. You see, God doesn’t just love you. He also likes you.

I know that sometimes when you pray it feels like nothing happens, but there’s more going on behind the scenes that you could ever guess. Wanna know how I know that’s true? It’s right there in Psalm 18. Go check it out for yourself. He loves you. He likes you. He hears you and He acts.

The Super-Encouraging Stuff About Satan

CCC Oak Ridge

You wanna be encouraged? Okay, then let's think about Satan.

I know, that doesn’t seem like the most encouraging topic, right? Well, hang in there, because when you really think about the devil, there’s actually a whole lot to be encouraged about:

I mean, sure. He seems like a really scary dude. He and his cronies have caused a whole lot of problems for us normal folks trying to make it through our lives day-to-day. He’s mean and ruthless. He hates our Lord but he doesn’t even care about you enough to hate you. He is a liar, a murderer and completely fueled and motivated by pure evil. He is invisible, bitter and crafty.

But there’s positive stuff too!

For one thing, he’s got a dooms day coming his way and you don’t! The devil is is like that carton of milk in your fridge - it seems perfectly stout today, but it’s going down and soon.

For another thing, (as Charles Spurgeon said) “Satan is a chimp on a chain” - in other words, that diabolical creep can’t move a muscle in your life without the express consent of our Lord. He has to ask permission to stick his mitts in my life - which is good because it means we’re operating according to God’s plan, not Satan’s.

But, there’s something else about our enemy that you should be really encouraged about today, and it is this: That old rascal is actually going to help you in your relationship with the Lord. That pitiful, defeated hoodlum is going to do you a favor all day long today - that is, he is going to show you exactly where you need to grow.

You see, today you are going to be tempted in certain ways. You may be bombarded by fears. You may be overwhelmed with dark clouds of doubt or worry. You may feel the fires of lust knocking on your door or you may be outrunning anger all day long. Whatever it is that is tempting you, scaring you or getting you down and confused, you can be sure that the devil is behind it.

It’s actually a beautiful little arrangement - If Satan goes after something in your life, you stop what you’re doing, take that thing to the Lord as honestly as you know how and unload it on Jesus. Beg Him to help you and praise Him for His strength and love for you. Maybe tell a friend you’re struggling and that you need some prayer. Before you know it, you are closer to Jesus and closer to your friend, all because that old devil tried to mess with you. It’s as if Satan’s attacks show you exactly where you need to grow and then gives you just the opportunity you needed to come to Jesus in a time of weakness and lean on Him for help!

Wow! Satan is not only totally defeated and subservient to our Lord’s plan with a quickly-approaching expiration date, but he shows me exactly where I need to grow and gives me excuses to get help and get closer to Jesus! That works out rather nicely...

So be encouraged - even the devil provides a true man or woman of God with a reason to smile.

The Myth Of Sticks And Stones And A Remedy For The Hurt

CCC Oak Ridge

When we were little kids, all the grown-ups taught us to say this thing which they told us would protect us against the wiles of bullies and sharp-tongued kids on the playground. We memorized it so that we’d be ready to defend ourselves: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

What a load of crap.

It wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now. I bet that if you wanted to, you could name every single truly hurtful thing your dad ever said to you. I bet you can remember every burn by a good friend or criticism by a powerful coach or teacher. Words hurt. They hurt big-time, and it’s stupid to pretend that they don’t. In fact, I’d rather you hit me with a stick than tell me I’m annoying or fat or just a loser. I mean, broken bones heal, but words hang around.

So, what are you supposed to do with all the accumulated hurt built up after harboring years of unkind words? I’ll tell you what I did: I found something more urgent to live for. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out. The reason other people’s words hurt me so much is because I’m so personally invested in myself. There’s no two ways about it. I have a tendency to care a whole lot about what people think of me. Truth be told, I want people to think I’m awesome. I want them to think I’m the bomb. That’s just the truth of it. But something strange started to happen when I began to really live for what Jesus was calling me to do in His Kingdom. Namely, I didn’t have time to be so self-focussed.

Here’s a quick example: If I’m writing a song because I want people to think I’m the best songwriter around, then I’m going to be obsessed on how it’s received and I’ll see every negative comment or criticism as a personal attack. However, if I’m writing a worship song for brothers at the local jailhouse, I don’t have time to care about how cool this song makes me seem as a songwriter. The only thing that matters is, “Did the song help them connect with Jesus more?” Then, I can receive comments and criticism as a chance to make it better, and not a personal attack - and all that is because I’m not the point - the guys in the jail are the point.

Words hurt, and some of you have been taken down by meanness. I know it’s hard, but as soon as you get out and get into the life Jesus has for you, you will find a new obsession. You will love living for Him and His people so much that it won’t matter what people think of you. All you’ll care about is Him and His work.

Campaign Posters

CCC Oak Ridge

I was on a run earlier this morning when a pick-up truck drove by me covered in campaign posters. There’s a local election coming up for our city government and one candidate’s logo was plastered all over this truck. There was even a massive, wooden billboard in the back of the truck that I’m pretty sure you could see from space. “Vote for so and so” was written in 3-foot tall letters. And then it hit me... wait, I know that guy driving that truck... that’s the candidate himself! It was his name on the billboard and posters that were plastered on his own truck! I kinda laughed to myself. I mean, I guess if you’re running for office, you have to put your sign in your own yard and all that, but this just felt a little excessive. It was like walking around shouting at the top of your voice, “There’s no one better than ME! The problem with our town is that there’s not enough of ME at the top! Let’s change all that by voting for ME!”

Maybe I’m being too hard on the guy. I don’t know. But as the truck drove on past me and I kept running, I realized that I’m prone to do the same thing, only in more subtle ways. I want to be recognized. I find myself talking about my achievements. I want to make sure everyone knows how much I’ve done and how cool I am.

Lately, the most beautiful thing to me about the message of Jesus has been the part about how I don’t have anything to prove anymore. Oh wow... what a relief! Jesus paid for all my wrong. He gave me His righteousness as a free gift. God accepts me - not because I’ve been so awesome, but because Jesus took my place and declared me acceptable forever, no matter what. So, I don’t have to be awesome. I don’t have to achieve anything. I don’t have to compete. I don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t have to win. I don’t have anything to be proud of because there’s no room for boasting. I don’t have to prove anything... i just get to be me and I’m totally accepted and loved. Ahhh. I don’t need a campaign poster. All I need is a thank you card to Jesus.

Thanks, Lord. You rock.