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Life of Christ #64: Family, Life and that Seedy Salt Salesman

Most of us understand at least a little about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ – but did you know there is another crucifixion as well? It’s one you may have forgotten, or may not even be aware of at all. Knowing, however, could change everything. In this potent podcast, you’ll explore the other crucifixion that has eternal consequences here and now.

Life of Christ #63: The Elephant in the Room

Some problems are awkward to address because of the different views people have in solving them. Cowards cower, but great leaders have courage. They do what is best and right regardless of what others may fear. Courage is a precondition for being an excellent leader – and Jesus again demonstrates that He is The Leader of leaders. If you want to learn how to be a great leader, follow The Leader.

In this passage, you’ll learn about the elephant in the room when it comes to loving, serving and glorifying God. He’s the elephant that could keep you from reaching your fullest potential in life. Do you see him? It’s time you do – and time you show him the exit.

God’s Definite Calling On Your Life, Part 1

God has a definite calling on your life. It’s not a calling exclusively for pastors, church leaders, missionaries and people we assume to be spiritually “deep” or responsible. It’s for you. It’s practical. Embracing and cultivating it will positively change everything about you – and in the process, it will also affect countless others along the way. Do you know what it is, and are you cultivating it?
Listen to the companion podcast on the Godfactor App and iTunes. See below for info.

[W]E ALL STRUGGLE WITH IT. Intimacy with God. Our prayer lives. But the consequences of neglecting a close relationship with God can be catastrophic – personally, for a family and for a nation.

In Luke 13:31-35, Jesus casts a significant vision for His people:

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Jesus says He “often” wanted to gather them as a hen gathers her chicks. The imagery is one of closeness, protection and provision. (In saying this, Jesus put Himself in the position of God once more. How could He assume a role for the people that only God could fulfill?). Like a mother hen fending for her young, God knows how to protect and nurture His children. But there is only one problem with the imagery. Jesus was rebuffed. He tells them, “you would not.” Would not what? They would not allow Jesus to draw close. They would not allow Him to be the Protector and Provider He longed to be for His people – and this is what led to the destruction of the Temple just four decades later. Jesus said, “Behold, your house is forsaken” (verse 35).

Our use of time reveals our real convictions about God’s invitation for intimacy with Him . . .

Instead of accepting God’s invitation for intimacy, His people replaced it with religious ritual. We do the same today, in many ways, on many occasions. Still, Jesus’ invitation stands. He often wants to gather us, protect us, nurture us from the ravages of life. But when we spurn God’s advances, we open a Pandora’s box of unnecessary trouble, hardship and difficulties. These come as a result of living life apart from abiding intimacy with God. Doing so isn’t just dangerous. It’s outright foolish. But we, the pinnacle of God’s creation, have a propensity to drift toward things that are very foolish, unsatisfying and distracting. We are skilled at exchanging wisdom for foolishness, and we pay a very heavy price in the long run. Eventually, the way we live catches up to us.

Like a mother hen fending for her young, God knows how to protect and nurture His children. But God’s children must welcome the protection – or forfeit it.

Israel’s fate, in rejecting Jesus, is troubling and telling for us today. Those who spurn God’s appeals expose themselves to an unprotected life. This is true for any individual and any group of people who begin with God but then stray from Him. God has ways of keeping our attention, and helping us realize that there really is no “life” apart from His power and presence. In fact, we are witnessing the remarkable disembowelment of America right now, as men and women trek the dangerous path of seeking satisfaction apart from a growing relationship with God. History teaches us that those who abandon God eventually pay a very heavy price for their neglect. No one has ever neglected the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9) and wound up better for it.

If God has called you to anything definite in life, He has called you to deepening intimacy with Him. Intimacy with God will help you in every area of life – and its lack will eventually catch up with you. Both the Bible and history teach this. God wants to be your literal shield from all foes who may seek your demise. He wants to gather you. Do you want Him to? He wants to protect you. Do you want Him to? He wants to be your shield, your guardian. Think about this for a moment. Can anyone or anything succeed against GOD? It would be an absurd proposition to suggest otherwise, but our actions often leave us vulnerable to the elements of life. Our words can say one thing while our actions say another. Our use of time reveals our real conviction about God’s invitation for intimacy with Him. The big sin behind busyness is our willingness to live life without dependence and affection for God.

Our actions reveal what we really believe about God. What do your actions say about God as your Provider and Protector? God wants to gather you, often. He has a definite calling on your life – but are you embracing it?

In Part II, we’ll explore some specific, practical actions you can take to be a person who embraces Jesus’ invitation by cultivating a life of prayer and intimacy with God. Stay tuned . . .

Life of Christ #62: God’s Definite Calling On Your Life

God has a definite calling on your life – no matter who you are. This message will help you understand what it is, and how to embrace it so that every area of your life begins to positively change.

You will understand the difference between good and great leadership, how God wants you to journey through the challenges of life, and why the United States of America is facing a series of crises of epic proportions – crises that you will navigate through much better if you pursue God’s definite calling on your life.

Fill Your Relationship Fuel Tank

 
If you find yourself feeling a bit empty, and can’t quite put your finger on exactly why, examine your relationships with people. Oftentimes, that empty feeling is the byproduct of an empty – or nearly empty – relationship “fuel tank.” Refill it, and you just might see a change in how you feel.

IT’S TOO EASY TO BE SIDE-TRACKED FROM LIVING LARGE. By “large”, I’m not talking about pursuing material things, like a bigger, better home, or car, or a lifestyle of luxury. I’m talking about being a big person who really makes healthy, rewarding relationships life’s highest priority. It’s too easy to go through the motions of work, and life, and have life itself elude us. After all, if we don’t have healthy, rewarding relationships with people, what have we really accomplished? No other “success” compensates for a void in the area of relationships.

If you find yourself feeling a bit empty, and can’t quite put your finger on exactly why, examine your relationships with people. Oftentimes, that empty feeling is the byproduct from an empty – or nearly empty – relationship “fuel tank.” Refill it, and you just might see a change in how you feel. The change might not happen immediately – but if you remain committed, over time you could see a marked improvement in your feelings. Here are some tips on developing healthy, rewarding relationships:

1. STOP APPROACHING GOOD RELATIONSHIPS LIKE “ACCIDENTS.” Yes, we’ve all met people with whom we immediately hit it off – but such relationships are rare, and that is the reason why they stand out in our minds. They caught us off guard, because they are not the norm of life. Good, growing relationships, no matter how easy they may begin, require intentional cultivation. Any garden, no matter how immaculate and productive, would begin to grow weeds and decline if it was not cared for. The garden of an “old” friendship must be weeded, fertilized and watered in order to continue bearing enjoyable fruits and vegetables. New, potential friends, cannot be taken for granted. You’ve got to tend to your relationships with the diligence of an eager gardener who wants to see the seeds he/she planted become beautiful vegetables and fruits. If you want to fill your relationship fuel tank, tend to the garden of your relationships, and stop assuming good relationships are accidents.

2. TIME DOES NOT EQUAL FRIENDSHIP. Working beside people will not make you friends with your co-workers. (And, yes, you can be friends with your co-workers). Being in close physical proximity to another human being does not make you friends with them. It only gives you the opportunity to become friends and cultivate the friendship.

In the same way that married people can assume that years of marriage makes for a strong marriage, you could wrongly assume that the amount of time you spend around another person makes you friends with them. Many people have worked side-by-side, and merely have, after many, many years, a working co-existence. They are not nearly as close, supportive, encouraging  productive – as possible. Granted, friendship is a two-sided venture. Both parties must be dedicated to the friendship – but are you doing your part? Are you doing all you can to be the best possible friend you can be? Remember the words of Jesus in Luke 6:38:

“. . . give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. for with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

When Jesus spoke of things being “shaken together, running over”, it was NOT ABOUT MONEY. It drives me nuts when I see televangelists and pastors reducing Jesus’ words about relationships to money. There is no mention of money anywhere in the context. Jesus is teaching us that the way we treat people will come back to us in the way they treat us. This leads me to the “boomerang principle”, my next point . . .

3. RELATIONSHIPS ARE LIKE BOOMERANGS.Eventually, you get what you toss. Generally speaking, that is. Of course, there are exceptions. Some people will not reciprocate no matter what you do for them. No, you can’t be friends with everyone. In general, people tend to treat us the way we treat them. Start tossing great things to the people in your life, and see what begins to come back to you. Be forgiving. Be gracious. Be kind. You will find these same things, eventually, coming back to you. You have Jesus’ word on it in Luke 6:38. Give and it will be given to you. And, don’t spend a lot of time fixating on the one or two people who are not reciprocating. Many people didn’t get the teachings of Jesus during His day. Many people won’t get the teachings of Jesus in our day. Press on, and you will find good people who will reciprocate for your efforts. You’ll know who they are as you toss good things their way and they return the kindness.

4. GOD CALLS YOU TO A BE A MINORITY IN A MAJORITY WORLD. In speaking of what the world will look like prior to His return, Jesus said “because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). The love of many will grow cold. These words are followed by Jesus’ admonition: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Part of that endurance is to not be like other people. Most people will be cold, unloving. Do you want to be among the majority, or among God’s minority? How is your life characterized? Again, a great degree of intentionality is required, because the natural state of things is to gravitate toward living life far below what God intends. Wake up. Be among the minority and live for Jesus by growing increasingly warm toward people while others are growing cold. This is a fight that is never over, and this leads me to the next point . . .

5. WALK CLOSELY WITH GOD. People who don’t love people don’t love God. This is frightening, sobering and motivating. The way to measure love for God is by your love for people. And the way to love people is to spend regular  time with God, in His Word, the Bible, and to surrender to Him perpetually. But it’s not merely reading the Bible that will bring transformation. You must apply what you read. The Bible is a relationship handbook. If you say you read the Bible, and that you are a Christ-follower, and your relationships are a shambles, something is wrong with you. Ouch, I know, that hurts. But it’s true. Isn’t the whole word of God summarized by loving God and people? Remember Mark 12:28-33? Read it again – for the first time. If you’re like me, you are continually forgetting Mark 12:28-33 and what it means for the daily grind of life. But this passage is the compass for LIFE. Memorize it, reflect on it often, and it will guide you into making perpetual decisions that shape everything you do here and now – and the quality of your eternity. (And yes, I’m purposely not writing out what Mark 12:28-33 says so that you get your Bible, open it up and spend time reading, reflecting, praying and applying).

6. STOP POSTPONING JOY. Life is best when experienced with people. God didn’t make a human being. He created human beings. By design, you and I were created to be in healthy relationships with other people. It’s not merely enough to be around people. We were created to be in relationship with other people. To go through life with  people. Too much of life these days is spent avoiding people. No wonder so many are running on empty. Much of the joy in life is missed whenever we try to live life apart from our design. If we avoid people we postpone joy. Don’t do that any longer. Prioritize joy by prioritizing good, healthy relationships. Don’t avoid people, pursue them. If this idea seems bizarre to you, or completely undesirable, it may be that you simply need to be a better discerner at who to pursue. But don’t throw the baby out with the diaper bucket and avoid everyone. That’s a recipe for a joyless life. The right people will bring joy into your life.

7. LOOK TO GOD, NOT PEOPLE. Be careful you don’t subtly begin to do things for people to get something in return. People will let you down if you put your hope in them rather than God. Don’t love people as a strategy to get love. Love people because they are loved by God, and because life is best when we live as God designed us.  Your reward is in doing what is right, period. The more people you are loving, kind and gracious toward, the higher your chances of people reciprocating, eventually. It’s only a matter of time. But all along the way, you must look to God, not people, for relational satisfaction. Only He can fill your fuel tank and keep it from running out.

Your thoughts? 

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About the Author: Michael Anthony is the President and Co-Founder ofGodfactor, the creator of the Godfactor App (search for “Godfactor” in your app store), and the Lead Pastor of Grace Fellowship in York, Pa. He believes that all of life is relationships.

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