Good Guys and Jerks

“Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” John 5:23
Have you met him?  You know, the guy that everyone seems to love.  He is winsome, intelligent, articulate and just plain fun to be around.  Most people would say, “Man, he is just a really good guy.”

Then there is the “other” guy.  The guy is a jerk.  He treats everyone like dirt and because of it, his life is out of control.  Substance abuse, trouble with the law, and fights are just a normal part of his life.

So my question is: Which of these guys needs God more in their life?

Yes, as you probably guessed already, this is a trick question.  They both need God.

From a human perspective, if we line up these two guys and judge their behavior, there is no doubt that most would say that the jerk needs God and greater change in his life. However, God does not just look at the behavior…the outward life, He looks at the heart…the inward life (1 Samuel 16:7).

The greatest sin in our life is not based off one certain behavior. The greater sin is how we fail to acknowledge or honor God. This is how even the “good guy” can miss it.  John Piper says it like this:

“The true measure of the greatness of sin is not the way it ruins human life, but the way it dishonors God.”

Think about it. Don’t we as guys hate it most when other people show us disrespect?  That is why we would prefer to fight guys face to face rather than have people turn their backs on us or ignore us.

So the questions for us are:
  • Does my life honor God?
  • Have I been ignoring God?  Have I turned my back on Him?

Okay, so what do we do?

Talk to God now.  Tell Him how you are sorry for ignoring Him without really meaning to. Tell Him your sorry for turning your back on Him when you knew better. Find comfort that through the ages many guys ignored or flat out disrespected Him or people, but because they humbled themselves and turned back to God, He restored them and even used them in great ways. If this is you, He is not mad at you. He is happy to forgive you and glad to have you back home.  God welcomes all…good guys and jerks.


Don’t Fail the Growth Test

So have you ever bombed a test?

Well your not alone.  I did it just the other day.

Now the test I’m talking about isn’t a school test…God knows I have struggled a lot with those in the past.  No, the test I am referring to is the kind that helps us grow in character and our calling.

The other night, a few of my friends and I were in the kitchen talking. One of my friends saw that he had not shut the door fully behind him as we came in earlier. He, with a rather direct tone said, “Todd shut that door will ya?” Now I know that seems like a simple request, and honestly as I write this I feel like even more of a dork, but guess what I did?  Instead of fully shutting the door, I closed it only half way to where it was not fully latched.  Needless to say, he noticed as he stared me down with a look that urged obedience while at the same time wondered why I did the job only half way in the first place.

So what was I thinking?  And why did I behave like a jerk you ask?  Well, in only one second, I thought three things:  1) “I don’t like his direct tone toward me”  2) “I prefer the door partly unlatched anyway so that when you come in from the garage it is easier to just push open than turn the handle too.”  3) “I will just close it half way like I like it.”

Do you see why I know I failed my test? To state the obvious, it was about ME and what “I wanted.”  It was a test to help me overcome my own pride and selfishness.  You see that same morning in my devotion time I read the verses in Philippians chapter 2 where it talks about imitating Jesus’ humility, valuing others above yourself and not looking to your own interests but the interests of others.  God trained me up with this scripture and got me ready for the test, but I bombed it.

Retakes for Growth

The good news is that God allows you to retake the test if you want too. The bad news though is that if we don’t want to retake the test, you and I will remain where we are….in the same grade.  It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love us, it just means He can’t advance us.

You see God doesn’t want us to just know something; He wants us to become something. And by allowing challenges to come our way, He desires that those circumstances help define and build our character. And when our character grows guess what happens?  Our life grows.

When our life grows it means we have moved to another level in our journey to become all that we were created to be.
Ephesians 2:10 states that we are God’s handiwork:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We were created “to do”.  So that means it has to be more than just knowing some scripture. It is there for us to know so that we become it.

Plants just like people have stages of growth, we can’t skip any stages. We can’t fool ourselves to think that God’s spiritual growth design can be bypassed. We must be mature at each stage of growth before we can move onto the next.

What area in your life have you sensed you have failed to pass the test? Will you allow God to show you what you need to do to move forward to your next growth level?

Jesus is hanging out with “those people” again!

Have you ever felt like an outcast or maybe left out by a group of guys or girls you thought were your friends?  If so, do you remember how you felt?
 
Most likely you didn’t feel a bunch of hugs and kisses.  Neither did a guy named Levi. He knew most people didn’t like him.  So when he met Jesus, he was blown away by what Jesus asked him.  Take a look!
 
 
THINK:
  • What do you think Levi was thinking when Jesus asked him to “follow me and be my disciple”?   (Why me?…amazed…but thankful…sensing love?)
  • Who are you most like in this interaction? (Crowd, Levi, other disciples, religious person, other sinners). Why?

A Life Changing Invitation

Did you notice the reaction Levi had?  He did not just say “thanks Jesus for choosing me”.  Instead he threw a dinner party and invited a bunch of people over to celebrate.   
GUT CHECK!…. Are you that excited about Jesus wanting to be in a relationship with you?

I think if we are honest, all of us can loose sight of the incredible reality that the God of the universe wants to be with us.  He is that crazy about you and me!  As amazing as this is, we must understand something though:

When Jesus calls you it is not just so you can break free of the disease of sin in your life and enjoy the love of God in your life.  It is ALSO an invitation into the Rescue Mission.  

 
Jesus wants us to join Him on mission in a purpose driven way that is empowered by His Spirit.

Are you living like that?
 
ACTION: Who might you reach out to today with the spirit of Jesus’ love that others may wonder about you: “why is he talking/hanging around him?”

PRAY:  Jesus forgive me for not celebrating your love for me like I should.  I’m amazed that you continually choose me and want to be with me.  I want my life to look like yours.  Help me.  Empower me by your Spirit so that I can join you in the Great Rescue Mission to help others know Your love.

Breaking Free of What Controls You

What is controlling your life?

If you are like me you may think at first, “Nothing!  I’m good.  No worries here.”


Certainly we can look at other people around us and see all the countless ways THEY are controlled by certain habits or people… but not US…right?

I am sure though that if we ask a trusted friend or take a “more than skin deep” examination ourself, we will quickly uncover some areas that have some negative influence over us.  It maybe that area of our life that we would be embarrassed to admit we still struggle to overcome.

Are you controlled by a:
  • Relationship with the opposite sex?
  • Outburst of anger or selfishness?
  • Habit that you know is wrong or not healthy?
  • Friendship or peer group that is steering you down a wrong life path?

If so, the questions is “Do you want to break free from it?”


Just like the man who was controlled by an impure spirit, by faith in the power of Jesus, we can get free from those impure spirits controlling our lives.

If you want to get free, then…
  • Cry out to Jesus (v.23 “the man cried out”). Believe Jesus has the power to overcome what is holding you.
  • Submit to God (James 4:7)  “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
  • Resist the attack– How?

My prayer is that you do this everyday…with bold belief!  Jesus will change you and what controls you.  One last encouragement though:  DON’T FIGHT ALONE!   God made us relational beings for a reason.  Let those who are stronger and who are seeking the same things as you encourage and fight with you.  Let someone you trust know so they can pray for you.

PRAY:  Jesus I need your help right now with ______________.  I’m tired of the control it has had in my life.  I submit and humble myself before you that I can’t take it anymore but I know You can.   I speak against __________ that has been tormenting me.  In Jesus name it is gone from my life.  God by your power I will run from any temptation that is trying to pull me down and I will resist my own fleshly desires that are not honoring to You.   Grant me the faith to know, love, obey and pursue You, Jesus as my greatest treasure!   

What is Controlling Your Life?

READ: Mark 1: 21-28


Can you imagine what would you have been thinking and feeling if you saw this scene just go down? When you think about it, this encounter could have been taken directly out of the latest paranormal movie today.   Honestly if I was there when this happened, I would be out the door in five seconds.


So this got me thinking…  Why is this recorded in the bible?  Could this or does this really happen today?  How does knowing this happened help me with anything in my life today?
 

Jesus Has Authority

God the Father wanted everyone to know that Jesus is ultimately in control. He spoke boldly with authority (v.22) and told a spirit “be quiet…come out of him!”  Now that is bold.  The Bible is huge on talking about Jesus’ boldness and authority.  Check this out..
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 1: 15-17
 

We Have Authority 

Jesus offers us His authority as believers. Luke tells about it:
“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases,” Luke 9:1
So if you and I have been given that same kind of authority and power through our faith in Jesus, then you maybe wondering, “Then why don’t I sense that or see that in my own life?”.  What could be the disconnect?

Could it be that something is controlling your life and your not even aware of it?

It may not be something demonic, but could it be something you have allowed to creep in slowly that now has control over you?  Ask yourself:

  • Did I used to have a desire for the God that has slowly declined?
  • What do I now think about most of the time?  Is it all about me and what I want most of the time?
  • Is there something “impure” or that doesn’t honor God or others that you know you shouldn’t be doing, but you keep doing it anyway?
Is there something that has authority in your life above God?  Be honest about it then.  That’s the first step.

I will outline in the next devotion some ways God gives us to break free from those things in our life.  Until then, tell God about it and if your willing to post what has been controlling you, share it below or at least send me a message and I would love to encourage you as you begin to break free from it.


PRAY:  Jesus thank you that you have power and authority over everything that may come against us in life.  May I not continue to hid or be bound up inside with what is really going on in my life.  Help me to be bold enough to share what’s going on in my life with You God and with others I trust who will help me break free and fight.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit,
but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…
God who is in you is greater
than the [evil] one who is in the world.”

~ 1 John 4:1-4

Does Jesus really care about me or my friends?

Jesus’ personality and spirit captivated people. This was so evident because many not only came to Jesus themself, but some took it further and brought those they love and care about to Him. (v.30,32). One of the awesome things about Him is it doesn’t even matter what you look like or how unpopular you are. Jesus proved He is willing to cleanup any insecurities we see in our body or our heart (v.40).  All we need to do is come to Him with a heart of faith.

THINK:

➡️ Do you really believe in Jesus enough to bring people to Him?

➡️ Do you believe in Jesus enough to come to Him yourself?

PRAY: Jesus I know you are willing to touch my heart and make me clean and new. I ask you now and receive your words that I am healed. You have made me new, and are continuing to make me newer too. Use me as well to bring others to You.

Going for the Ultimate “W”

READ: Mark 8:31-36


What is an athlete striving for on a field or court? What is his purpose. His goal?

We might say things such as improving character or learning teamwork.  While these are admirable and highly essential in any athletic endeavor, they are not the goal.

The main goal on the court or field is to get a “W”….to get a WIN!

How about you?  What’s your main goal in life?  What’s your purpose?  Have you thought about it?

What does a “W” in life look like?

When Jesus took to the fields, courts and lives of people back in the day, he talked much of living a life of purpose.  Many however thought he was breaking the rules on how to do that.  According to them, he wasn’t playing right.  And nobody likes that kind of guy.

Unless…  Unless the “rules” are wrong or they keep it impossible to see or achieve “the goal”.

You see Jesus was revealing God’s ultimate purpose. His mind was focused on the goal: to lay down his life and ultimately to do it for Gods glory. His MIND was fixed on that. Peter’s mind was only focused on “human concerns.” That’s why Jesus had to help Peter (very strongly!) see that he did not see what the “win” looked like ultimately.

Jesus gives a warning and paints a better “glory” than what the worlds ways have to offer. He said,
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
Can you even imagine a greater upset…to forfeit LIFE?!

An athletes goal is to win the game. And this is good.  It’s the goal while on the field.  But what if that is all he is thinking about or pursuing in life?   Or take a young man that spends all his time thinking about getting and trying to be with girls. Could it be that he might miss some other important things God is trying to grow in him?

Jesus tells us that if we live our life for Jesus and for the ultimate purposes He has planned, we will not waste it.  We will save it.  That means that if we put God first in all our interests…school, sports, relationships, work and even family…when all these things are gone we will still be longing for the Ultimate Win with Him.

Let’s be young men who are going for the Ultimate W!

THINK:
  • Do you have in mind human concerns most of the time or are you focused on what God is concerned about?
  • What have you been trying to “gain” from the world at the risk of “forfeiting” your soul?
PRAY:  Jesus forgive me for focusing all my attention and time on other things more than on You.  I want to focus on what Your most concerned about for my life.  God I want to learn more of what it means to “deny myself, take up my cross, and follow you.”  Help me with that game plan.  I don’t want to loose what is most important in this life and the next.  I know you can empower me to do this!  Amen.

Swoll for Jesus: Moving Beyond a Me-Focused-Faith to “Spiritual Swollness”


When I was in the 11th grade I started working out regularly. To be honest, I began because I was tired of being skinny and I wanted bigger muscles.
For adolescents, this is a normal part of growing up…to be comfortable in your own skin.  So my vision of that was the desire to see more muscle on my body.

As I got older though, I saw a shift in my reasons for working out. The desire to be bigger and stronger and feel more comfortable “in my skin” shifted to the desire to be healthy and functionally strong so that I could do many activities well.

What is the point in telling you this?
For many, their relationship with God is all about “feeling comfortable in your own skin.”  What I mean is that their understanding and excitement about God being in their life is very self-centered.  We can hear of Jesus’ great love for us, how he died for us, how he forgives our sins and how he wants to give us eternal life, however that great and encouraging news can lead us to a very “me-focused-faith” if we are not careful.

All those realities are true and right and should make us feel good about ourself. And honestly most of us need to hear that over and over again because our own struggles and negative self image. But our faith must move forward from that.  As the writer of Hebrews says, we should be moving on to “solid food” (Hebrews 5:13-14).

Our relationship with God must move beyond just being “comfortable in our skin” to “Spiritual Swollness.” Our relationship with God can not stay stagnant.  It must grow.  It must possess new “strength” and “flexibility” in it.

True followers of Jesus are constantly challenged in their faith.  Just look at the disciples when Jesus walked the earth.  Every single one of them was not the same man after three years of being with Jesus.  Truly their faith was at new levels and had new power from Him to do some pretty incredible things.

So have you grown stagnant and too comfortable in your faith?
Or are you growing stronger…more “swoll” in your heart and soul for God and His purposes for your life?

PRAY:  “Jesus I don’t want to live my life in a weak way.  May You help me be disciplined in growing in my faith.  Help me to diligently read Your Word, listen and talk to you, and surround myself with other Christians who are serious about knowing and growing in You more.”

The Gift & Danger of Friends


THINK: 
Are you in danger without even knowing it by the type of friends you hang around?
Check out what author Jon Acuff says about friends:
“Whether you’re 14 or 44, the company you keep, determines the heights that you will peak.”
He goes on to say there is a reason your parents didn’t want you to hangout with “that kid”.
“The friends you give your calendar to are vitamins or poisons. The best bring out the best in you, the worst tell you that your worst is best.”
Think about this:
  • Are my friends reliable?
  • Are my friends leading me toward more positive things than negative?
  • Am I and my group of friends encouraging each other to move away (“flee”) from things that dishonor God? Are we instead pursuing “righteousness, faith, love and peace” that God wants in our life?

PRAY: God I really like many of my friends.  But I know I can’t let them hold me back from what You want in my life.  Help me to have courage to speak up or to distance myself from certain “friends” that are leading me down a path I should not go.  Please give me real friends that want to honor You with their life.  May we grow in our love for You Jesus so that you might use us to impact those around us.

The post 100 Words: The gift & danger of friends. appeared first on Jon Acuff.

Lust

What is lust or how do we determine if a desire is lustful?
READ: ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4:3-7‬ ‭NIV  (Yes…right now!)

Let’s get at this first with a definition.  I have written a definition before saying that “sexual lust is wanting and using something or someone for own sexual desires without proper permission, position or concern for the person or object.”   But, I like John Piper’s definition as well where he gets to the very heart of it:

“Lust is a supreme disregard for God and people that fails to honor both with a desire that is otherwise meant for good.”

So to put it bluntly, sexual desire that does not take into account God’s desire for holiness, is evil in His eyes. Therefore if someone does not know God, their desires are going to be tainted and lacking at best or destructive at their worst.


How do we determine if something we desire with our life and body is leaning toward lust? As some may ask in another way, “so are all my physical desires for the opposite sex bad?” To help us filter this out we should ask ourself this great question:  Is this desire holy and honorable to God?   Similarly, does it have in view God’s design for that desire or is it purely selfish or dishonoring to another person?


So we have to get honest here and ask ourself another question: Do I want to live in love more than lust?

Know this…
Love wants to give more.  Lust wants to get more.
Love thinks of others first.  Lust thinks of self first.
Love is God-sighted.  Lust is self and near-sighted.

PRAY: Jesus I really need your help in this area.  If I’m honest, I feel like most of my desires are pretty selfish.  But I know desires can be good.  So please help me to grow in real love by giving me a vision of the way You see others.  I want to honor You by how I view, think about and treat others.  

For more on sexual lust and pornography go here.