Proclaiming Freedom – #1

“…proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” Is. 61:1

It’s time to address the  human trafficking epidemic that is invading our city!

 
Visit www.ywamsac.com/freedom for more info
 

HOPE is a noun!

No, this isn’t an English lesson, but just a challenge to consider the meaning and spiritual perspective of this little word that carries great eternal power.  Hope is something that can transform both a person’s outlook as well as a nation’s direction!

What makes the difference between Hope and hoping is faith.  Whenever I look at someone who needs Christ, I don’t just want to hope they might have a chance for salvation and personal transformation.  By faith I want to see them choosing the Hope found in Jesus, and envision what that change means for their future.

When I found Christ, I found hope…the Hope!  Jesus didn’t only speak the Word, He is the Word.  In the same way, Jesus did not only speak of hope, He IS the HOPE!!!  In Him, we don’t have just a platform for hoping, but Hope incarnate.

For this reason I choose that the hope in my life is a noun, not a verb!

  •         I want to be a person of hope, not just someone who is continually hoping, wondering if it will happen.
  •         I want to be a person who introduces people to Hope Himself, not a 50/50 chance of a probable future
  •         I want to be a person who knows the Hope, not just knows about hope

I encourage you today, instead of living with some hopeful, wishful, 50/50 thinking, choose to look at life through the eyes of Hope Himself.  If The Hope incarnate has given you hope, don’t miss a chance to give it away!

Recipe for Disaster

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”  Gal. 5:25

 

Recently I’ve been examining my life, processing with God and asking for fresh revelation of what it means to “live by the Spirit.”  I have felt myself striving, and struggling to stop, but instead striving more. #foolishness

In my life I’ve seen a pendulum swinging where three options are evident.  On the left is self-disqualification, where I have determined that I probably won’t be good enough, and so the Spirit will never really use me.  On the right-hand side, a life of struggle to prove my qualifications, striving to measure up and seeking the Spirit’s approval, so that then He will use me.  And in the center, where I want to be, where I belong…a place of rest, of yielding, where I see myself as neither qualified or disqualified, but instead yielded.  It is where I recognize that I’m washed in the blood, covered by grace and dependent on the Holy Spirit alone.

Just last week I heard Dean Sherman say something along these lines  –  The Holy Spirit will rest upon those who are more yielded to the Spirit’s leading, not those who are more qualified!

One of the things I love most about serving with YWAM (and what might seem like a recipe for disaster) is taking young, brave students, many who are completely green, with no Bible college degree and impossibly huge vision out on the field to share the Gospel.  Their heads are not filled with the “what” and the “how” of ministry, but are driven by having felt God’s heart and understood the resounding “why” behind His call.  They respond to the Spirit’s leading and move in faith, uncertain of exactly how it will look.  They make mistakes, sometimes even saying the wrong thing, but choose boldness in place of reputational safety, knowing that the Holy Spirit is their only hope.  With their clearly “unprofessional” and sometimes sketchy delivery of the Gospel and use of the gifts, many may look at them as just babies, little children in the faith, maybe better to be seen and not heard.  Or at least until they’ve been aptly trained.

At times I’ve allowed this religious, ministry-oriented mindset to creep in and must remind myself what Jesus taught the disciples – the Kingdom of God belongs to those who enter like a child (Mark 10:14-15).  And a child doesn’t feel the need to prove they qualify to be a son or daughter, they just belong.

When you choose a life of yieldedness, you choose a life of relational dependence.  You find your identity in knowing WHO you belong to, not WHAT you belong to, such as a church, denomination, organization, etc.  Recognizing WHO you belong to allows you to understand the “why” of God’s heart for a specific person, and respond relationally in the moment.  The Spirit opens the door for you to release freedom and revelation, not because of WHAT you know, but WHO you know.

The Bible says it best, “Cease striving, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10 NASB).  My paraphrase would be, “stop trying to prove that you belong, and realize you already belong to God!”

So my challenge is this…stop for just a minute, ask for the Spirit’s help and choose today to rest!  Rest in the fact that your guidelines for self-qualification, and/or your reasons for self-disqualification are completely BOGUS, rooted in striving and yielding to the flesh.  Choose to yield yourself instead to the Spirit – you will find rest, you will find freedom, you will find purpose, and you will know God…and you will see the fruit of His Spirit in your life!

The Holy Spirit rests upon those who rest in Him!

The Gardener

 “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”  Gal. 5:22-23 (NASB)

A few weeks ago I felt called to share with my kids about the Fruit of the Spirit.  And since we home school, it became a craft project.  Grabbing a rainbow-colored stack of construction paper, we soon fashioned a big bushy tree and nine pieces of fruit.  A plum, grapes, two bananas, a strawberry, a lemon, watermelon, an apple, and a coconut, each labeled according to the scripture.

After putting our little art/Bible project up in their room, we sat and talked about the importance that our lives be full of this fruit.  We discussed obedience to God’s Word and how this verse can be used to judge our behavior.  It was a fun little lesson, and we laughed about fruit trying to grow on our bodies.  And then a thought crossed my mind…

I was teaching my kids about the Fruit of the Spirit, as though it were something they could create through human effort.  In my small-mindedness, I wanted to remove what I saw as bad fruit and replace it with the Fruit of the Spirit.  Sounds good to me, right?  I wanted to see change in their external behavior without considering the internal struggle.

In all of my good intentions, if I focus solely on shaping the behavior of those I’m leading (my children, in this case), instead of seeing the Fruit of the Spirit evident in their lives, I will see the Fruit of the Jeremy.  My demand for their behavior to look like the Fruit of the Spirit does not encourage them to be lead by the Spirit, but lead by their fear of discipline.  In no short time this will become evident, and the false fruit I have created in their lives will die off.

You probably already know this, but bananas don’t grow on pine trees.  Yes, that is truth — bananas don’t grow on pine trees.   No matter how hard you try to place, position or attach a bunch of bananas to the needled branches, it doesn’t work.  It won’t look right, feel right, and much less produce growth.  The bananas will die, and the pine tree will go right ahead producing pine cones filled with nuts.

This is perfect example of our lives, when we try to live like Christians, instead of allowing the Spirit of Christ inside of us to live, unrestrained by our flesh.  We end up trying to decorate our outside with all kinds of fruit, showing the world just how much we love Jesus.  Or we try to produce the same with our children, or the youth group at church, or a friend that we see needs fixing.  But if we aren’t careful, and sensitive to the Spirit’s leading, we end up producing the Fruit of Our Labors.

Found just two chapters earlier, I think Galatians 3:3 says it best, “Are you so foolish?  After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”

In that moment with my children, I realized that there was an imbalance in my nurturing.  I’d been spending 90% on disciplining and 10% on teaching my kids about the Spirit and praying for them, and that needed to change.  Instead of allowing the Spirit to replace the flesh, I was trying to shape the flesh to look like the Spirit – i.e. bananas on a pine tree.  And know this — you can’t change the root by changing the fruit.

In that moment I was drawn to my knees, recognizing my need for my Savior, a gentle Gardener who is still working on my root with His Spirit, and bringing forth fruit for His glory.  No matter how hard I try to garden my flesh, or the flesh of others, I will always come up short, with rotten fruit to show.  I must lead both myself and others to the one true miracle worker, the One who rebirths the root within us so that we may produce the beautiful Fruit of the Spirit.

Parable of the Sower…Revisited!

Since I first heard the parable of the Sower, probably sometime during my Sunday school years, I have always believed that it was referring solely to those who receive Christ and those who don’t.  And over all these years my understanding of this passage hasn’t changed…until last week.

I was teaching on the subject of Evangelism to a group of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) students, and this parable formed an important part of my notes.  As we dove into the story and its interpretation, the Holy Spirit began to challenge my heart, and I, being human, ignored what I was sensing.  In fact, I even wrapped up this passage and was going to send the class to break, when I realized what I was doing…rejecting a fresh revelation from the Holy Spirit.  So right then and there I stopped the class, and began to share what was coursing through my spirit…

Is it possible that this parable is relevant to us as existing believers?

Could it be true that God wants to challenge His living disciples, us, to revisit this powerful story?

In the moment I felt the Holy Spirit say, “Jeremy, there are areas of your heart where I have sown the seed of My Word, but it has fallen on rocky and thorn-infested ground.”

BAM!!!  Ouch…but it was true!  Very true!

There are areas of your heart where you have allowed the lies of the enemy and the worries of this life to overpower My Word.”

In that moment I knew that I needed to revisit this parable, to dig deeper, to revisit a portion of scripture that I had determined long ago to hold no additional fruit for me.  I had determined that part of God’s Word was meaningless for me, because I had matured beyond its subject matter.  “How IMMATURE is that,” I thought.

So here I am today, taking the time to re-read and reconsider this amazing parable found in three of the Gospels (Matt. 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8), and challenging myself with the following questions.

  • Are there areas of my heart where I have allowed the enemy to steal away the words God has spoken to me?
  • Have I allowed parts of my heart to remain loyal to the flesh, choking out God’s revelation for a few moments of human acceptance, satisfaction or personal gain?
  • Where have I passed over portions of scripture, or even sat in church and allowed myself to focus on other things because I thought, “I’ve heard this passage a million times…there’s nothing new for me here.”

Jesus, I ask that today you would break in me any part of my heart that is restricting Your Word from finding a home.  Root out areas where the rocky and thorny soil have overgrown my heart and I haven’t even realized it.  Holy Spirit, I ask that you would bring personal conviction, not to my mind, but to my heart, killing off the thorns as Your Word revitalizes my heart.  Convert every part of who I am to good, healthy soil, not for my glory, but for Yours!

So I challenge you today – revisit this amazing parable in the light of the Holy Spirit and Truth, because you will find Him, when you seek Him “with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13)

Buy Truth

“Buy truth, and do not sell it!”  Prov. 23:23

Welcome to a snapshot of your soul, World Series of Poker style!

When God created you, He gave you a free will, the ability to view the options and choose for yourself.  So the question becomes, what have you chosen?  Have you sprung to buy the Truth?  Or maybe someone else’s truth?  Or a lie that has masqueraded as truth?

If you choose to buy truth, the Truth, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, it is going to cost you.  It is going to cost you everything, EVERYTHING!  It isn’t cheap, it isn’t easy and it isn’t popular.  And once you have made that decision to go all in, trading all your soul chips for the Truth, the world is quick to offer other options.  Trade-offs that force you to give up chunks of truth in order to satisfy selfish, fleshly desires.

Many times the enemy works at a pace that avoids setting off your Christian alarms, drawing you to trade just a chip or two at a time.  And it doesn’t seem like much at first.  But do not be deceived.  This is not an “either/or” deal.  If you accept what the world is selling, it will cost something from your truth portfolio.  Every part of this world that we bring into our life invalidates of portion of the truth that we carry.  It is best said in Matt. 6:24 — “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

So today, prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to bring personal revelation of truth.  Ask yourself, “Are there areas in my life where I have sold truth, where I have traded away a part of my destiny to satisfy a fleshly desire?”  The very exposure and recognition of these things is truth, spoken and revealed by the Truth Himself.  And in our repentance, He is always there to restore the truth we traded away, and walk with us in disposing of the junk we thought was truth.

So, today choose to “Buy truth, and do not sell it!”

Playground Preachers

“I don’t want that boy to go to hell!”

I had taken Abby, Zach and Lily to the park on a beautiful, sunny afternoon.  The playground was deserted except for a blond-haired youngster who quickly befriended my entourage.  After just a few trips down the slide, their playtime interaction jumped to the next level as Zach and Abby began to share about Jesus.

The little boy, Shawn, listened intently as Abby articulated that Jesus died on the cross, He loves us, if you believe in Him you go to heaven, God heals, and more.  Zach chimed in periodically, feeling the call to share his belief in Jesus alongside his sister.  The boy didn’t seem interested and responded with, “um…I don’t know.”

That’s when Zach came running to me.  “I don’t want that boy to go to hell!”  Zach just couldn’t understand why someone would not choose Jesus.  There was heartache in his eyes as I explained to him that sometimes people choose to say no to Jesus; we don’t understand why, but some people just decide to believe in something else.

Seeing tears well up in my son’s eyes, I felt as though I were looking into the eyes of Christ.  The same pain that Zach was feeling is felt by Jesus every time someone rejects Him, yet magnified exponentially beyond human emotion.  I felt like my explanation lacked depth, and I wished that Jesus were sitting next to me calling, “Let the little children come to me!”  “If Jesus were here,” I thought, “Zach would have been comforted, Shawn might have received the gift of salvation, and all of us, including me, would have taken turns sitting on His lap, hanging out with the best friend in the world!”

 

As Zach ran back to rejoin the conversation/playtime, my heart swelled with crazy amounts of joy.  Here were my kids, on a playground, sharing their best friend Jesus with whoever would listen, which happened to be Shawn.  They weren’t held back by fear, peer pressure, or thoughts of rejection.  No timidity or no political correctness.  Just a pure dose of straight truth from the heart, and the Spirit of truth living inside my kids.

As a father I couldn’t be prouder.  Having served as a person of mission, where sharing the Gospel is my primary purpose, I was so encouraged that my kids had caught on to the passion in my heart for the lost.  Though we as parents have taught them about Jesus, and they know I go and “talk to people about Jesus,” we’ve never done any evangelism training.  We’ve never taught them theRomans Road, or all the right Gospel scriptures.  I always thought, “Well, when they’re a little older.”  My mistake!

Here’s the coolest part!  They didn’t need some plan, Evangicube or 2 question test.  All they needed was Jesus…living inside of them…wanting to get out!  Jesus is the answer, and in this case, Jesus was the message!  Shawn needed to hear about Jesus.  My kids needed to share their relationship with Jesus.  I needed to see my kids boldly sharing Jesus to recognize that I need not put an age limit on teaching God’s call to “preach the good news.”

So here’s my challenge…from the moment our children accept Christ, let’s begin to instill the importance of sharing that incredible news with others.  Our children can reach a segment of the population that you and I as adults will find difficult, if not impossible to impact.  If you want to impact your world, your home is a great place to start!!!

Come to Me

The words seemed to come to life, as though the wind of the Spirit was gently whispering in the depths of my soul.

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28

He reaches out His hand and says, “Come to Me!”  It is not a demanding mandate, nor is it a pleading attempt to gain my attention.  His tone is not harsh or annoyed, but soft, and genuinely concerned with my well-being.

So I have to ask…how often do you find yourself steeped in worry?  Unfortunately worry is much more a part of my life than I would like to admit.  From finances, family and the future to big decisions and if my kids will grow up to love and serve Jesus…I worry.  A friend of mine recently joked, “Why pray when you can worry?”  Though meant to poke fun at our foolish human thinking, it unfortunately describes how I sometimes feel.  Really?!?

Jesus is promising me that He will “give me rest.”  He wants to take my burdens, weights and worry and burn them, bury them and break them from my stubborn life-cycle.  My Savior is in the business of freedom, sweet freedom.  And I can have that freedom, if I would just come!

After reading this verse 759,465 times I finally get it.  I have to “come” to Him.  “Come to Me,” does not mean to shout out my requests from afar, but actually come, be, remain, chill and in His presence I will find rest.  You can’t only say, “you will find rest.”  This promise is part of a conditional statement, and the promise is only a promise if you first come.

In my personal prayers I realized that sometimes I shout out my requests as though I were some sort of Wall Street stock trader.  In my fleshly, impersonal, disconnected and business-like mindset I come with a laundry list of things for God to deal with.  In essence I tell Him, “Dad, I don’t need You…I just need your money, your influence and your authority.  Thanks!”  He is looking for some personal Facetime and I just want to send Him a text.  A personal visit would be nice, but instead I opt for an email.

Lord forgive me for throwing you paper airplane requests, and disregarding your gentle voice, “Come to Me.”  I get it.  I don’t come to You and you give me rest…You are rest.  You don’t hand me provision…You are my provision.  What I am desperately in need of is not some “thing” that You give, it is You!

When I find You I find rest!

So thank you for You!  Instead of thanking you for the tangible things that I sometimes use to monetize Your involvement in my life, I just want to thank you for YOU!  Your presence in my life is the answer to my everything.  THANK YOU JESUS!

The definition of a “Missionary”

The term “missionary” might just be an overused, sometimes misunderstood and possibly poorly represented word in the English language.  It is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a person undertaking a mission and especially a religious mission.”  Well it does revolve around a person on a mission, and the activities that surround said person do tend to be related to what most define as “religious”, but that’s all it says.  But somewhere in its journey as a definitive label, it has taken a funny turn.  The definition of “missionary” now requires you to check your GPS before you can use this term correctly.

When I lived in Mexico and spent my time sharing the Gospel with the beautiful Mexican people, people called me a missionary.  Now that I have returned to the United States and do the exact same sharing of the Gospel with many of the same type of people, some ask, “You’re a missionary?”

YES!  I’m still on the same mission, just a different location.  I’m still passionate for the same people, now they’re just in a different looking neighborhood.  I’m still doing outreaches, VBS’s and feeding people on the streets, but many of these people hold the same passport I do.

If all that defines me as a “missionary” is my nationality vs. my place of residence, then I think I might just be done with using that term.  I want to be able to go anywhere in the world and minister like I have for the last 15 years and not wonder if I need to use a different term to describe who I am based on geography.  All I consider myself to be is “youth with a mission” (and yes, I still consider myself to be a “youth”).  I have a deep desire to see people freed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I believe that if its understood definition continues to limit our scope and involvement of the Christian mission, then the time has come to remove that word from our vocabulary.

I encourage you, don’t look in the mirror and ask yourself, “is God calling me to be a missionary?” because I think our preconceived idea of what the term “missionary” means might derail what God has in mind for your life.  Forget this word, and the fences that it creates.  Leave the GPS at home and stick to what’s really important…JESUS!  You’ve been called, not to a specific title or ministry degree, but to a lifestyle of sharing Him with others.

All I know is…

  • I am a youth…
  • I’m in love with Jesus…
  • I’ve got a mission…
  • I’ve got a mission field…

The world!!!

 

Valley of the Shadow

Valley of the Shadow

When walking through the darkest day
My soul cried out to scream and say
The God I serve has gone away.
Oh what a waste of time to pray.

This God I serve, where can He be?
It seems He has forsaken me.
I’ve waited oh so patiently,
But answered prayers I’ve yet to see.

Then God led me to read a line
From Jeremiah twenty-nine
That was to me a holy sign
and spoke of God’s divine design.

In Him my hope and future’s found.
He’s planted me on solid ground.
Let praises to my Lord resound,
The God I thought was lost is found!

*This is a poem I wrote about a pivotal time in my life. In 1997 while completing my DTS with YWAM in Mexico, I got Hepatitis A and spent months in bed. It was definitely my Valley of the Shadow, but also the place where I had a life-changing encounter with God and found incredible hope…and Jeremiah 29:11-13 was a huge part of that personal God revelation. Thank you Jesus for being The Word!