21-Day Challenge: Day 19

Through the cracks

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

th-9These verses, about what life throws at us, immediately follow those other, more well-known verses about “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” that indwells us like treasure in a jar of clay. But it is no mistake that these verses are right next to each other, nor is it a change of subject. If Christ is in these fragile vessels, and He is our light, and our message to the world, it only follows that life would crack these vessels so that the light could be seen in us. And like the treasure contrasts the clay pot, so the worst that life can throw us contrasts the presence of God inside.

Here’s the important thing about this: It is not God’s will to steer us over, around or under the difficulties of life; it is His will to accompany us through them.

Look at these four things and think about your life. Is any of this going on in you right now?

For me, I’m definitely feeling the pressure from many sides at once; I’m perplexed about many things and unsure of what to do; I’m not sure about being persecuted unless that means being misunderstood or falsely accused, so I guess, that, too, which leaves only being struck down — that really doesn’t apply to me … yet. So three out of four? Do I get something for that?

Yes, I do, in fact. I get the opportunity to discover the indwelling life and power of the Holy Spirit to be equal to — no, greater than — any of these things. And in that, I, and everyone around me, discover that it’s not me, but the Lord, who enables me to continue to be an active participant in life.

And that’s the key here, isn’t it? Being an active participant in life. That’s the new covenant ministry. Move On It.

I’ll be honest; as I write these things, and read what I write, it looks like I know what I’m talking about — that I’m in the middle of my own struggles and the Lord is holding me up. Not really. I’m writing this because I know it’s the truth, but I can’t say that it’s exactly working for me right now.

I know what it’s like to not want to get out of bed because of what you know is waiting for you when you do. But remember this (and this part I’m saying totally by faith, not as something I’ve grasped, but something I need as much as some of you might right now): the indwelling life of the Spirit of God is also waiting to meet us. We won’t know that for sure until we get up and get there, but that’s where the faith comes in.

We can’t just pull out of the game when bad things happen. We can’t check out of life and wait for things to get better, because a big part of the ministry we’ve been given is to discover the Spirit of God in the middle of life’s pressures. That’s why these verses are here. When our little ship gets buffeted by the storm, that’s when it gets to show itself seaworthy.

So come on, let’s go. God is going to bring us through and bring Himself glory through it and bring us joy unspeakable. I believe that. I don’t see it, but I believe it … Lord, help my unbelief.

Day 19 Challenge
Action items:
1. What is your reaction to this news – that it takes our weaknesses to have His strength? I, personally, do not like it. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the power of God in my life. Yet, I want the power to come out of an untroubled, peaceful, calm life. I want to move through life protected from danger and difficulties. What about you?
2. Would you describe the Christian life as one where we are “hard pressed,” and “perplexed,” and “persecuted,” and “struck down, but not out?”
3. Do you think we have any choice in the matter? Can we choose which afflictions we are willing to go through and what ones we would rather not? Or do you think we get what God sends; whatever He wills is what we have to go through?
4. Is Paul is saying that we are not protected from life? Let’s see …Can Christians get cancer? Can Christians have financial collapse? Can Christians go through difficulties, family separations, divorce; problems of every sort?
5. If your walk with the Lord is better than mine, will you experience fewer difficulties? Why?
6. Yet, do you know Christians who are afflicted and crushed; have perplexities that drive them to despair; are persecuted; feel abandoned; are knocked down and often are knocked out for weeks or years at a time? Paul will answer this question in Verses 10-11. (Stay tuned for Day 20 of our 21-Day Challenge)


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21-Day Challenge: Day 18

Cracked pots

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

th-8This is the key verse to understanding how the new covenant works — the interplay between God and us, and how God gets His message across through us. Understand and act on this, and you will not be ineffective in your Christian life.

Notice that it starts with that same conjunction “but” that we encountered in Day 1 when Paul had just confessed his anxiety over not finding Titus in Troas, and had left behind an opportunity for spreading the gospel there, only to say, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us …” He set up one thing, and contrasts it with another. He should be anxious over Titus, guilty over walking by a door the Lord had opened for him, and depressed over the whole thing. Instead, he is thankful and confident that he is being led in Christ’s victory, and even being put on display.

Here, the “but” is referring to the incredible treasure we all contain described as “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ,” and yet that treasure is going to be housed in a most unlikely — perhaps even inappropriate — place. You won’t believe it when you hear it. It’s almost a joke, the contrast is so significant. All that glory and brightness and presence is going to be where? In you and me? You’ve got to be kidding!

The contrast is everything. The contrast is the whole point. Anything we do to eliminate that contrast is to take away from the effectiveness of this plan. The contrast between our fragile, clay-like (from the earth) bodies and the immeasurable brightness of Christ is something that should be obvious so that everyone will know the power must be coming from God, because it certainly isn’t coming from us.

You can see how the power of this message is made more effective by the commonness of our humanity. In fact, the power of God in our lives is in direct proportion to our weakness. The more honest we are with our humanity, the more the power of God can be seen and recognized in us. Conversely, the more we try and show ourselves as adequate and spiritual, the less anyone will ever know about the power of God. This is the tragedy of “playing church.” Everybody is hiding the power of God behind a false spirituality.

This is also why the new covenant is so freeing. In it, the greatest power is in concert with our greatest need. No need to hide anything.

Understanding this sets us free to live our lives with a kind of forthright boldness, counting on the Lord to show up, because He always does. The only thing that can stop Him is our manipulation of what he wants to produce in us through our genuine transparency.

Day 18 Challenge:
Here Paul makes reference not just to His power but to the surpassing greatness of His power – This glorious ministry performed through vessels of weakness.

Never forget that just as God has a plan for your life … so does Satan. Make no mistake, Satan is the god of this world and is actively at work scheming as to how he might discourage each of us from fulfilling the personal mission that our Lord has laid before each of us.

Do not lose heart! This ministry to proclaim the glory of Christ is too precious to give in to discouragement.

It is all about proclaiming Christ, and staying aware of the following facts:
The message of the gospel of welcome focuses on the glory of Christ.
Christ supremely reveals God as the image of God.
We need to be staring intently into the face of Christ.

Action Items:
Therefore, as Ministers of Christ,
Do you truly believe that God is Sovereign when it comes to who responds to the truth of the gospel? How does this affect your desire to participate as a Minister of Christ?
How glorious and cherished do you find God’s revelation about Himself in the person of Christ to be to you?
Are you hiding the power of God behind a supposed spirituality? How can you get out from under that?


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What do Cars and Coffee have to do with the Kingdom of God? Watch this..

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21-Day Challenge: Day 17

‘Let there be light’

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

th-2You are a walking miracle. If you’re a Christian — if you’re able to believe today — that is because God has performed a miracle in your life. He spoke into the void, the darkness, the chaos of your life, and said, “Let there be light”; and, lo and behold, there was light!

That’s a miracle — a modern-day miracle. Making light shine where there was none is impossible. It is in the realm of God alone. Just as the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, so the God of heaven, the universe and all worlds has opened the minds of the believing, and shined His light into their hearts.

If you believe today, it’s because God has spoken a miracle into your life and consequently, if anyone you know is going to become a believer, it’s going to take a similar miracle. This is important for us to know, because it shows us how much we are in over our heads when it comes to those people who will accept the Gospel of Welcome and those who will not. Our job is to love people without partiality, to speak the truth into everyone’s life, and see what God does.

Our vision statement, “Introducing the Gospel of Welcome to everyone, everywhere,” uses the word “introducing” because that’s about all we can do. We can introduce people to Jesus; we can “set forth the truth plainly in front of every man’s conscience in the sight of God;” we can love everyone unconditionally; we can turn grace out to the world; but only God can turn on the light, and when He does, you’ll know it because it will be a miracle, just like it was when you first believed.

Anyone who has witnessed the birth of a baby knows that life itself is a miracle. When that little person sticks its head out into the wide world, and takes its first breath, there isn’t anyone present who is unaware of a true miracle taking place. So it is with being born again, and anyone who is present on such an occasion is aware of a similar miracle. Anyone who is helping that process at that time is nothing more than a spiritual midwife — a witness to the birth. The ability to believe is faith itself. God puts it in us; we don’t come up with it ourselves. My wife likes to call this “warming our hands by the fire.”

The miracle for me happened my senior year in college, at 3:00 in the morning, when I was facing the final in my major field in five hours, I was way behind in my preparation, and I thought I was losing my mind. It seemed like every area of my life that I thought I had under control was flying out of control, and this was the last straw. I was losing my grip. I remember walking outside on a frigid Chicago morning and crying out to God that if He was real, I needed to know it. Suddenly an unexplainable peace came over me, and an inaudible voice told me to go back to my room and go to bed. Everything was going to be okay. It was as real as the table in front of me right now. It was an undeniable presence. One moment I was losing my mind; the very next moment I was in my right mind and completely at rest. No drugs. No talking myself into something. No other explanation, except for a miracle. That’s what it was. Someone turned on the light. And it was sustainable, because nothing was quite the same again.

Day 17 Challenge:
Some people have had gradual, somewhat quiet conversions, and others, more dramatic; but everyone can relate to a time when the light went on.

Action items:
Has God turned on the light for you?
If so, when did that first happen? What was it like?
If God hasn’t turned on the light for you yet, would you like Him to? We’d love to help. We can’t turn on the light, but we can share the truth with you, and try to answer questions you may have, or maybe help to remove some perceived barriers to believing.
Ask someone you know today to tell you the story of when his or her light first went on.


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21-Day Challenge: Day 16

Not about us

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. (2 Corinthians 4:5)

This guy obviously thinks he's pretty hot stuff. God used him anyway.

This guy obviously thinks he’s pretty hot stuff. God used him anyway.

It’s not about me. Nor is it about you.

It doesn’t matter what our strengths or weaknesses are, the ministry of the new covenant will carry on through our lives in spite of them. In this case, our strengths only serve to get in the way.

In the old covenant, we thought of our natural strengths as assets to the ministry. We brought all the best we had to the table and expected God to appreciate it and incorporate it into our ministry. We thought our best plus God equaled a winning formula. But this couldn’t be anything further from the truth.

Our best + God = Disaster.

Our best is our worst enemy. Our best only gets in the way of God. In the new covenant, our natural strengths only mess things up. Incorporating our strengths doesn’t make the ministry any better. In fact, learning the new covenant is all about unlearning what we have relied on most of our lives up until now, and this is what makes our natural strengths so dangerous. They keep us from discovering and using the power of the Spirit of God in our lives.

As long as we think we can rely, as we always have, on our strengths, we will be rendering the new covenant ineffective. God is not interested is partnering with our assets. He wants to take over.

My first mentor in the new covenant realized, and rightfully so, that he was going to have to wean me from my guitar if I was going to discover the power of the Spirit in my life. In those early days, it was all about me. With my guitar strapped on, God and I were pretty hot stuff. Problem was, my guitar and my songs were what I relied on and hid behind. My musical talent was like a veil for me, hiding all my insecurities and inadequacies. As long as I had a guitar around my neck, the Spirit of God was not in control.

But in the new covenant, our insecurities and inadequacies are not something to cover up; they are our pathways to power.

Our weaknesses are not anything we have to be concerned about, as if we had to work on them in order to overcome them. Actually, we will find our weaknesses as our greatest asset to the new covenant ministry. They unlock the power of God in us.

Our worst + God = Success.
This struggle is never over. I mention the guitar thing because it’s easy to see how it got in the way. But losing one veil doesn’t mean we can’t put up another one. Learning to stop relying on one strength doesn’t mean we don’t pick up another and not even notice.

It’s not about you, and it’s not about me; it’s about the Lord Jesus Christ and us as His servants. “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy comes from God” … and God alone.

Challenge: Day 16
For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Paul is saying he serves others and does not expect others to serve him. Just like we, as ministers of the new covenant, are to serve others for Jesus’ sake, because we are servants of Jesus Christ. No one is the boss or in charge over anyone else. We are compelled by His love, for the promotion of His glory. It is the desire of our hearts.

Action items:
Who is the focus on? Who is the focus not on?
Given “For we do not preach ourselves”, why do we often notice ourselves and others enjoying praise and attention? Are any of us capable of saving anyone?
Who are we accountable to? Why?
Do we or do we not play a critical supporting role? Or are by bystanders?
What strengths do you have that could stand in the way of the new covenant ministry?
What weaknesses do you have that could unlock God’s power in your life?


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21-Day Challenge: Day 15


And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

"How I long to gather you in my arms..."

“How I long to gather you in my arms…”

I do not relish writing this Catch. I have been staring at the blank page on my screen for a while now, trying to figure out how to go about this. There is no easy way. I wish the Bible weren’t so clear about heaven and hell so we could maybe explain hell away somehow. But Paul talks about those who are saved and those who are perishing, about vessels made for honor and vessels made for dishonor, and Jesus talks about dividing people into sheep and goats, wheat and tares, and branches that are lifted up, and those that are pruned out and thrown into the fire. Kind of hard to get around all of that.

There’s no way you can make this pretty; but there is a way you can make sure everyone knows there is a way clear through to the Father.  That the arms of Christ — as represented by that famous statue over Rio de Janeiro we saw time and time again during the World Cup — are still open wide to the whole world, and will stay open right up to the end of this age.

And if, when you try, some people don’t get it, there just isn’t much you can do about that except to keep setting forth the truth plainly, because you never know when the veil that is disabling someone from seeing and understanding the truth might come down. The veil here sounds final, but it is not. It is not irrevocable. “When anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” is still true. If it’s true for the children of Israel, it’s true for everyone. That’s all it takes to undo what Satan has done in blinding the minds of some. Turn to the Lord.

The new covenant ministry is unique in that it doesn’t demand results from us. Not everyone will get it, but choosing those who see and those who don’t is out of our hands. It’s not who can set forth the truth in the most compelling way; it’s the fact that the results are in a spiritual realm that is beyond us. This is where the forces of God and the forces of Satan clash over the souls of men and women. This is the mystery.

This is also the power of the Gospel of Welcome. The arms of God are wide open to receive. So open wide your heart to everyone. Set forth the truth plainly. Whatever you do, don’t give up on anybody. Pray. It’s still good news. It will always be good news.

Day 15 Challenge:
Paul is responding to a question, “If this is all true (setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God), why don’t more people come to the truth?”

People are perishing because they do not believe; and they do not believe because they are blinded by the devil. That is what he is saying. The god of this age has brainwashed them. They cannot understand what the good news is saying; they do not believe it.

As before, the veil is the delusion that we are adequate to handle life by ourselves. It is that independent sense of pride that says, “I can handle it by myself; I do not need God.”

The veil that lies over the minds of people is to keep them from seeing their inadequacy up against the law, which is fading into death; their death.

Action items:

  1. Who is responsible for unbelief?
  2. If it is Satan who has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, do we give up on them?
  3. Why then do we not grow discouraged if in our offering no one responds to the plain truth of the gospel?
  4. Do we know who is being saved and who is perishing?
  5. How do we know what to tell people if we don’t know whether they are being saved or they are perishing?
  6. So what hope is there that anybody who has been blinded by the devil will ever believe the good news?


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Can you believe what happened to Thousand Oaks, California? Watch this..

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