Thy Word Have I Hid In My Heart

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

Research is proving what we intuitively know. We have become a cliff notes society. Research on how people read websites found that 79 percent scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read the content word by word. In websites and in printed media you have a few seconds to attract a person’s attention before it is lost forever. Forty years ago, the newspaper was read daily in homes across America. Today we skim RSS feeds and if something doesn’t attract our attention we do not go any further than the headline.

And with the constant advancement of technology, we are becoming people who are relentless scanners for information. This is not a bad thing, of course, but we must remember that technological advancements are never free—they always cost us something. So while we have a limitless amount of information at our fingertips, we have lost our love for reading and for digging deeper into a subject.

Unfortunately, the same phenomenon is happening in the church. When I ask people how much time they spend reading their Bible, they look surprised. They tell me in all sincerity that they need to do a better job of reading their Bible, or they need to make it a bigger priority. But, when I ask them why they don’t read their Bible more, their answers are “I don’t have time” or “I’m not sure how to do it effectively.”

I certainly don’t know the precise reason, however, but I do wonder if we delight in the Bible. Or, do we just scan it for information. We don’t drink it in and digest it and thus miss the eternal source of truth, wisdom and knowledge that cannot be found anywhere else. The Bible has expositions on various aspects of life, finances, work, management, marriage, and relationships to name a few. It has practical wisdom that can be applied to every area of human life.  The Bible has accounts of the failures and successes of various biblical figures that have relevance to our current generation. We can study such biblical characters to discern what made them succeed and incorporate that into our life.

If you do not regularly read your Bible, I would encourage you to ask God to help you start or rekindle your love for His word. Then we should read. And read some more. We know that faith comes from hearing the Word of God. So read, digest, dwell, meditate, and grow in your faith in God through the Bible. Take the Bible with you everywhere you go. Remember a passage and try to apply it to your life. If there is something you don’t understand, read a Bible commentary and ask someone who can help you find the answer.

The Bible has incredible power to transform your life. It should be your daily resource. Dwight Moody said it best: “The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.”

Get in your Bible today and let God’s Word get in you.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Do you believe the Bible, as God’s inspired Word, can be trusted fully to teach us truth and shape our lives?
  2. How much time each week do you spend reading your Bible? How much time do you think you should spend?
  3. Was there a time when the Bible helped you see something wrong in your life? How has the Bible enabled you to see Jesus more clearly? How does the Word of God prepare and equip you for everyday life?
  4. Pray and ask God to give you the discipline to spend time in His word every day.

I Left My Patience In My Other Suit

“Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14 (NLT)

In my mind, one of the most important passages in the Scriptures is 1st Corinthians 13. It is the love chapter often read at weddings. In 1 Corinthians 13:4, we read the profound and powerful words: “Love is patient.”

What does that mean to us today?  Most would agree that love should be patient, but does that mean we should be tranquil or peaceful? Or does it mean we should be long-suffering? Does it mean that when the heat gets turned up around us or within us–we should just take it without giving up or losing it?

When we think about patience we have to think about God himself. God isn’t patient because we deserve it. He’s patient because it’s who He is. He doesn’t lose patience with those He loves, since patience is His very nature. Peter assures us the Lord is “patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).  A couple verses later, Peter says it straight out: “our Lord’s patience means salvation” (2 Peter 3:15).

When we are patient in an impatient world, we show people the One who is patient with us. When was the last time you had to be patient with someone? Our culture isn’t exactly keen on patience. We want what we want now, not later. It would be difficult to wait in line without a smartphone to accompany us. Being patient while waiting in line is one thing, but being patient with another person is sometimes even harder, especially when somebody causes delays or raises our blood pressure. Being patient with others can be the hardest time to have patience.

Read the parable in Matthew 18:21-35. This is a story Jesus told his disciples about two servants who both had debts. The first servant owed his master an exorbitant amount of money; so high a payment that he likely could work his entire life and never fully make the payment. He asked his master to be patient with him, and the master, being good and forgiving, forgave the servant of the entire amount. Can you imagine how the servant must have felt? Instead of relieved and grateful, it looks like this servant turned to greed next. He went to his friend and asked for the friend to repay his (very small) debt. Instead of showing patience to another, he showed extreme impatience! The story highlights the contrast of the two responses, and makes clear how God intends for us to respond to His great patience.

If you want patience then ask God for it. Because when we’re patient, we’re more like Him. The apostle James writes that the testing of our faith produces patience, and patience perfects us and makes us complete so that we lack nothing (James 1:2-4).

Discussion Question:

  1. In your relationships, are you patient? Do you love others?
  2. Consider your relationship with your kids. Do you find yourself patient with your children when they disobey?
  3. Are you losing your temper when things don’t go your way? Can you handle adversity with patience?
  4. Are you patient with God’s timing?
  5. Pray and ask God for patience in all your dealings this week.

Who Am I Becoming?

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,to comfort all who mourn,” – Isaiah 61:1-2.

As you have probably guessed, I am not following my typical pattern of using the devotional to explore the week’s message in more detail. Rather, I have been using this week’s devotionals to write about general subjects that have been on my heart and mind. In this devotional, I am asking each of us a question: Who are you becoming?

How long did it take to prepare for your career? The responses will vary widely depending on what your occupation is. In most cases it took some time. The Bible teaches that the goal of the Christian life is to become like Jesus? How long does it take to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ? If you want to be a person that God can use, a person who is becoming more like Jesus, then it will take time. It is going to take time spent with God. It is going to take days and weeks and months of journeying with other Christ followers. It is going to take years of participating in God’s mission, praying for God’s heart and obeying God’s words. It takes time, but with time comes progress.

The ultimate goal in life is to be more like Jesus. Are you more like Jesus this year, than you were last year? As a Christian, I yearn to not only know more about the Bible but to become more Christ-like to my family, friends, and people I meet. I want them to see something different in me, something uncommon, I want them to see Jesus in me. I fail more often than I care to admit. Perfection is a difficult target to say the least.

But If you just keep with the same old, same old you will typically get the same results you had before. It is so easy to turn a blind eye to our faults, but if we continue to do that, we will never grow. Ephesians 4:13 tells us, “…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

So what needs to change in your life? God has put you on earth for a purpose, but have you discovered it yet? William Barkley said, “There are two great days in a person’s life, the day we are born and the day we discover why.”

If you are a Christian you know why and how. The question is are you open to change and transformation? We all have obstacles in life; they can be stepping stones to new heights or they can seem impossible to climb. The good news is, you can change. Jesus is in the business of changed lives.  We have heard the stories of people whose lives have been radically changed by Jesus. Their stories are about normal people, from normal backgrounds, who have decided to serve an extraordinary Jesus.  

My prayer is that you will challenge yourself in 2015 to be committed to becoming more like Jesus. So the answer to the question “who am I becoming” is more like Jesus.

Discussion Question:

  1. Who do your actions say you belong to?
  2. In what areas of your life has your culture crept in and watered down your view of Christianity?
  3. How do I judge my progress at becoming more Christ like?
  4. Pray and ask God to help you in becoming more like Him.

 

Jumping To Conclusions

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:1-5.

I have been a pastor for a very long time. I have met and talked with or counseled a significant number of people during that time. The one thing I have learned through my daily work as a pastor is this: “There’s always one fact you don’t know that changes the whole story.” That there is something that we may not know, that changes the story and our reactions to it. Proverbs 18:13 says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”

Too often, the stories we hear are stark portraits that are clearly black and white. We believe we have a pretty good handle on what is going on. We have the smoking gun. We have all the evidence we need. I have to resist jumping to a conclusion as a means of resolving the situation. Because I know that is not a resolution. So I reserve judgement and quickly replying when I first hear someone’s story, especially if it is critical of the church, me or others. If you want the whole story,  you need to resist the urge to form knee jerk conclusions by slowing down and asking the right questions.

Because then… we hear the other side of the story.

Walking into a department store, I heard a very angry customer virtually screaming at an employee who is visibly angry as well. It was awkward watching those two raise their voices a couple decibels each time they spoke. It was fueling itself so it went on for some time. When people act inappropriately, our first move is to judge them. What’s wrong with them? At least the employee should be more professional. The customer should leave, no matter what the provocation, there was no excuse for what was happening. Then I realized I simply did not have enough information to pass judgement.

We can make easy generalizations about each one of them, and others in our lives. It is easy to make those type of generalizations about people who are far from the heart of God. It is not malicious, we just believe it is common sense. God expects something different. Sometimes, all that God will expect us to do is to listen to the other person with a heart of compassion, and to pray for them. To be understanding and to love them regardless of how things appear or we perceive them. We should pray for the Lord’s wisdom, be sensitive to His Spirit’s leading, so we position ourselves to be used by God to touch and change the lives of others.

It’s not as easy. It takes more time. But listen to both sides of the story. The bible says: “Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight.” (Proverbs 18:17 TLB)

The next time someone tells you their side of the story, before they even finish speaking, pray silently for God’s wisdom. Ask the Lord to help you handle the situation, and to not be quick to judgment. Rather to remember that God loves this person and we should as well.

Discussion Question:

  1. Why is it so easy to judge other people by jumping to conclusions?
  2. What are we really doing when we judge others?
  3. Have you been judged by someone? How did it make you feel to be judged by that person?
  4. Pray and ask God for the wisdom to hear the whole story and react with love and compassion.

Is Going To Church All That Important?

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” – Matthew 18:20

We have more and more people who believe that church is irrelevant because they believe all that the church once provided can be provided by modern society. From community service projects to feeding the poor, from self-help and support groups, they provide the modern person with what the Church used to (and occasionally still does) provide.

So is church still necessary? Is is that important that I go? The simple truth is that there are valid reasons for needing to miss church. And the truth is missing one Sunday every once in awhile is pretty harmless. Just as missing exercise once in awhile is not a major issue. But when you consistently miss your workouts, is when you stop receiving the benefits. The same is true of attending church. You miss one Sunday with the flu, no problem. But then you miss to go to the beach. Or cut your grass. Or maybe you just want to chill out by attending bedside community church. The fact is that it is easy to move from skipping community worship on Sundays “just this once” into “oh I can skip, no big deal” and suddenly you are only attending on Easter and Christmas.

As a pastor, you probably can figure out where I stand on this issue. But for the record, I believe, as Bill Hybels does when he said, “the local church is the hope of the world.” The local church is the hope of people who are far from the heart of God. In addition, I believe attending church regularly is vital to spiritual growth. It’s the one habit that can strengthen all other Christian habits combined.

So why go to church? First, scripture tells us to. Going to church is not just a suggestion, it is God’s will for believers. Hebrews 10:25 says we should “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Even in the early church, some were falling into the bad habit of not meeting with other believers. The author of Hebrews says that’s not a good idea. We need the spiritual encouragement that church attendance affords.

Second, you may hear something that will motivate and convict you to make changes in your life. I have heard pastors use the phrase, “The service you miss is the service you need.” Each service is tailored and designed to maximize your Sunday worship so that you can leave with the best possible spiritual experience. You can praise and worship God and you can learn things that you didn’t know before. You will be challenged. You’re going to be motivated. Church is where you will be inspired to go higher than you’ve gone, to live a life that is godlier and greater than you’ve been living. And to sync your life up with Jesus and His purpose and plan a Home Run Life.

Third, be a part of the change you are looking for. As the world searches for positive models to follow, you have the opportunity to be that model. When you go to church, others take notice. You are setting an example that other people notice. Examples inspire so why not inspire others. People want to do better, live better, and be better. For the people around you, whether it’s your friends or your co-workers, whether it’s your family, when they see that you have a commitment that is leading you to living a better life – that is a positive example that other people can follow.

So is church attendance still importance? Nothing does more for your spiritual health than regularly being in church. Being in a church service is irreplaceable. It is a moment in time and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. There will always be competition for your time and other things that you could do on a Sunday.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you really need to attend church? Why or why not?
  2. Do you believe being part of a church satisfies our need for belonging and acceptance.
  3. Does church give you the ability to minister to others? Is church one of the ways to exercise the ministry gift God has given you to be a blessing to someone else.
  4. Does the church minister to you? You have questions. There’s no better place to find the answers and comfort and support you need than a church of people who genuinely care about you. Agree or disagree?

Serve Like Jesus

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.  – 1 Peter 4:10-11.

Some of you remember those World War II posters of a stern Uncle Sam pointing out at you and saying, “Uncle Sam wants you!” or “Your country needs you!” Many folks responded to that challenge, going to work or to fight for their country even though they knew it would mean personal sacrifice and change of priorities. They responded because they believed in the cause they were fighting for.

As Christians, we are challenged to discover that same kind of commitment to step up and serve God and the church.  Doing so contributes to a Home Run Life. I don’t want anybody to think I am not grateful and humbled by the hundreds of people (just like you) who have stepped up to share their time and talents on one of our incredible teams. We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers.

But, at least once a week somebody who attends Northstar tells me that I am doing a good job. While I appreciate the feedback and the support, I am concerned that many people believe it is permissible, even expected, to leave the work of the church to the pastor or church leaders. It is their job after all. That is what they are paid to do. And yes, things are going pretty well at Northstar as it is, so why change anything. Success sometimes can breed complacency. The wonderful things that God is doing at Northstar has made many people comfortable, but I wonder if some of us have been too comfortable for too long.

Here is my point. The mission of our church is too important to leave to everyone else. The moment you begin to believe that our church can be healthy while you sit on the sidelines, you have forgotten that God has a plan for you. And to accomplish His plan, God made you to be exactly who you are, and His Spirit has empowered you with unique spiritual abilities, or “gifts.” God placed you in your unique situation because He wants you to minister to and with the other Christians He has placed around you. Paul’s vision for the church included every Christian: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:15–16)

The goal of the church is to grow up in every way into the likeness of Christ. But the church will never reach this goal unless “each part is working properly.” This doesn’t mean that we will all function in exactly the same way, but it does mean that we all have a responsibility. Together, we function as one body. Until every person in our church is actively ministering to the people around us, people in our area won’t experience what the church was created to be.

Now I understand that we have plenty of people who serve outside the walls during the week. This is not an indictment against those who are serving somewhere, rather an encouragement to those who aren’t serving anywhere. If you are one who tends to sit back and let everyone else meet the volunteer needs of the church, I ask that you pray about where you too can be used.

If you’re not serving, it’s never too late to start. Look at the things that you have a natural talent for. What are your skills? Are you an organized person? Are you great with numbers? Do you have an ear for sound? Your gifts and skill sets – whether they’re hobbies or vocational – can be used to serve Northstar. What is your passion? Do you love kids? Love talking to people? Love one-on-one discipleship? The things that make your heart beat a little faster can be used for ministry. Pray about filling an area of need? We have a number of need areas: Babies that need to be rocked. Cars that need to be parked. Coffee that needs to be served.

I encourage you to jump in and see how life change happens through the simple act of serving others. Don’t underestimate the blessing that you can be if you will lay aside your fears and inhibitions and allow God to use you. Most people are not going to criticize genuine works of love, even if not done perfectly. And as you begin to serve in small ways, you will begin to be more confident and see more ways that you can practically serve others.

If you attend Northstar, talk to your Campus Pastor today (or shoot him an email) and tell them you are ready to get started. The whoosh you hear will be him leaping on the opportunity.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to serve God? Is it a position, a role, or a mindset?
  2. Whose responsibility is it to serve people that are in need?
  3. Read what Jesus had to say about being a servant in this context in Luke 17:7-10. How does this show us how Christ wants His followers to serve? How does that compare with how we view service?
  4. How do Christ’s beatitudes about Christian service, particularly in Matthew 5:40-41, reveal the type of service Christ is looking for? Why do you think most Christians find it hard to serve in this way?
  5. Pray and ask God to direct you in where to serve in the church.

I'm Going To Live So God Can Use Me

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

“You can be anything you want to be.” Most parents have said those words to their wide-eyed child taking them in and responding, “can I really be anything I want to be?” Anything is so open ended that you wonder how you would ever narrow the limitless options to choose from. At the risk of getting in trouble with parents, I believe you can’t be anything you want to be because you weren’t designed to be everything. You were designed with a specific purpose in mind. And we all know, intuitively, that you have more power behind our efforts in life when you know the direction you are headed, and are focused on the vision and goal for your life. And that includes our spiritual life. God has a purpose for us. We are on mission for Him. We serve His purpose and not our own. We are called and chosen by Christ and it is in that authority that we can boldly step forward as His representative, His ambassador to our neighbors and to the farthest regions of the world.

Trying to figure out how to best serve His purpose seems as open ended as deciding what you want to pursue amongst unlimited options. But is it? In truth, it is not that complicated. Remembering our larger purpose keeps us hopeful when our day-to-day purpose seems less sure. We simply need to surrender our day to Him, and do what our hands find to do. I believe we walk in step with the spirit and that our steps are ordered by God as Proverbs 16:9 says. This doesn’t have to be laborious. Live each day with intention, having a plan, even a “to-do” list, but always understanding, when you give your day to God, your will yields to His will. Rick Warren explains it by saying: “You were planned for God’s pleasure, formed for God’s family, created to become like Christ, shaped for service, and made for a mission.”

Focusing less on ourselves and more on our Savior is undoubtedly essential to being used by God. In so doing, you can take the day as it comes and at the end of it you may find out you were able to cross many things off your list and in the mean time you were able to pray with a friend for peace in his life, or spending a few moments telling your waitress about church, or giving the boy who mows your lawn a few extra dollars because of the heat. It might be a teachable moment with your child or word of encouragement right when your spouse needed to hear it. It may not seem like a big deal, but it could be very well be God using you as His representative.

Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California wrote an article entitled, The Person God Uses. He focuses on seven principles that apply to a person God uses. They are:

  • God uses people who realize they are weak.
  • God uses people who are faithful.
  • God uses people who study and live by His Word.
  • God uses the person who is patient and waits on His timing.
  • God uses the person who cares about lost souls.
  • God uses the person who sets himself or herself apart.
  • God uses the person who knows how to work with others.

The bottom line is God can use you.  Notice it does not say you need a seminary degree, or that you need to be able to translate scriptures from the original Greek. Or that you need to be intelligent or uber successful. Or charismatic. No you just need to be available and as you seek to live a Home Run Life,  God can use you no matter what base you are on at the time.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Consider a time where God has used you as His representative, or ambassador? What was the situation?
  2. What kind of fears or obstacles do you need to overcome in order to be used by God?
  3. How do we maintain the proper balance between God’s sovereignty and our responsibility? Are there checks to warn us if we are out of balance in either direction?
  4. Do you consider yourself part of the greater mission of Jesus Christ?
  5. Pray and ask God for opportunities to be used by Him on a daily basis.

 

No One Left Behind

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” – Matthew 9:35-38.

With smart phones and global positioning systems you have to wonder how anybody could get lost anymore. But we all know full well that it can and does happen. After all, you could simply be out of cell phone range or your battery runs low? And since we are so dependent on technology we have no plan B. So we are lost, and from experience, it is no fun being lost on the back roads of Florida.

But being lost physically is nothing compared to being eternally and spiritually lost. But people far from the heart of God don’t view being spiritually lost as a big thing. They are perfectly content with their house, car, dealing with their kids, and their upward mobility at work. How are you going to convince them you are not a religious nut or that spiritual issues count more than making money? How are you going to rescue them?

I asked some tough questions on Sunday such as: How concerned are you about people perishing outside of Christ?  I also asked whether those far from the heart of God are a high enough priority for us? Are you concerned enough to invite them to church? Are you concerned enough to pray for them?

God is asking us the same question that He asks every generation. He’s asking us if we have His heart. Do we value what He values, or do we value the temporary and the trivial? Do we love and have compassion for who God has love and compassion for? God desires all men to be saved.  2 Timothy 2:4 says: “…who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”  (Ezekiel 18:23). God’s heart is one of compassion for everyone, not just Christians.

The Home Run Life should not include indifference for those far from the heart of God. We need to ask God to break our hearts over the things that break His heart. That means we should love our community, neighbors, friends and relatives so much that we want to take the life changing gospel message to them. At Northstar everybody is welcome regardless of the season of their life or their past. People won’t be judged because we are imperfect too. And we will continue to add new campuses as long as we are able to reach people we ordinarily would not reach. If we have to add more services, we will, because it means we can share with more people the love of God.

I am praying that the Lord will give us a burden for those who need the Lord. If we are going to reach the lost we must intentionally get involved in their lives. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” I hope that we will seek out those who need the Lord. It will take time and energy to build a relationship with them. But any sacrifice we might make will be well worth it to see them respond to the gospel.

Discussion Question:

  1. Do you think it is possible to stay neutral on this topic?
  2. “…who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:4 What does that mean to you in your life?
  3. Embracing God’s mission will help you embrace your mission. You will not fully become all you were destined to be until you discover God’s heart for the lost, discover God’s mission to disciple the lost, and finally discover your role in God’s mission. What does that mean for your life?
  4. Is there an unsaved group, locally, or globally, that you can be praying for regularly?
  5. Pray and ask God to move your heart for the lost.

Your Will Be Done, On Earth As It Is In Heaven.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.” – 2 Peter 3:10-15

C.S. Lewis once said, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” Heaven should always be in our line of sight because this world is not our home. Our true citizenship is in Heaven. Focusing on Heaven should free us to give to and serve others far more than when we are focused on the things of this world.

Some Christians are content simply to know they are eternally secure. Sure, they want to experience the glories above but see no immediate connection between their daily lives and their future destination. Therefore, they feel no desire to learn more about it. But the Bible points out the hope of your calling: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” (Ephesians 1:18) If someone rang your doorbell and said that you are entitled to a large inheritance, it would be an understatement to say we would be very interested in very detail. Yet, many Christians make no effort to discover and anticipate what God has prepared for them in eternity.

The concept of heavenly citizenship was expressed by the Apostle Paul when he wrote to Christians in Philippi. Philippians 3:20 tells us, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” If we see ourselves as here now, but headed to a far better place, what happens here won’t define us or our long-term futures. C.S. Lewis said accurately in Mere Christianity that many of the saints who have made the greatest difference in this world are the ones who have their hope set on the next.

At a practical level, having our hope fixed on Heaven should free us to do more good here. Paul had this view when he wrote to the Philippians: But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ  (Philippians 3:7-8).

Heaven is our future home. That’s where our citizenship is; we’re only travelers on earth. A lifetime here will seem like a mere breath compared to the time we spend in eternity. Whenever you read a Bible passage that describes some heavenly scene or activity, put yourself in the picture, because that is going to be your reality if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. The pearly gates and the streets of gold are not just a fairy tale. You will one day walk through those gates, step on that street, and come face to face with Jesus.

Discussion Question:

  1. Do you spend time reflecting on what lies in store for you after this life? Do you understand and more importantly own your heavenly citizenship?
  2. Reread 2 Peter 3:10-15: What is going to happen to the earth and everything that goes on here? How should this knowledge shape our lives now?
  3. How should we view people knowing we will be citizens of Heaven?
  4. Pray and ask God to help you live the Home Run Life while our eyes remain focused on Heaven.

The Well-Lived Life

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” – Colossians 3:23

If I asked a group of people to describe their life – right now – in one word, I would expect some of the following answers: Growing. Frustrated. Disappointing. Fulfilled. Forgiven. Stuck. Struggling. Joyful. Defeated. Exciting. Empty. Discouraged.  Great. Mediocre. Painful. Dynamic. If I asked the same group if they desired more in life, my guess is everyone would answer yes.

The Home Run Life series was for those who desire more in life. There are Christians who assume that the only thing they need to do to please God and live the Home Run Life is to be saved. That if you are a Christian, God is pleased with you. But there is a difference between pleasing God because we accepted Jesus as Lord over our lives and living a Home Run Life. We must remember that a relationship with Jesus, a transformed life, is not a to-do list that can be checked off along the way.

God’s acceptance is not based on our ability to do the right things. As we study the bible, we quickly see that even on our best day, when we seem to be doing everything right, we are still a sinner. We never keep God’s commands perfectly. That’s why we needed God’s grace in the first place.

We need to understand that God is pleased with us, not because of what we do but because of who we are—his children. Through his grace, I am  “…now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3). That means when God looks at us, he doesn’t see our sin, he sees the perfection of His Son.

I am bringing this up because of the fear of failure in living a life pleasing to God, a Home Ruin Life. Then I thought of all the work the Christian life seemed to demand. How could I ever make a passing grade?  I’m finding a freedom I didn’t know before. Understanding that I don’t have to work for God’s approval hasn’t made me stop reading my Bible or memorizing Scripture. It’s actually given me a passion for it. I’m also finding that the more I learn about His love for me, the more motivated I am to love others.

What I hope you take away from the Home Run Life is that living a life pleasing to God, our heart must match the heart of God. And that means changing and transforming lives.

The ministry of Northstar is all about changing hearts. We want to change the hearts of the lost so that they might be willing to be found. We want to see their hearts changed in order that they too might experience the love and joy of a life-transforming relationship with Christ. But, our efforts won’t mean much unless our own hearts have not undergone full and complete renovation.

I am praying for the hearts of the people in our church. I am praying that our hearts will be softened. I am praying that the Holy Spirit will penetrate our hearts so radically that our hearts will be broken for those that are lost and as a result, we will do whatever it takes to see them found.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why should we care about the lost? Why should we be concerned? Why should we worry about the other person? Am I responsible for their situation?
  2. Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” What does this mean in your life?
  3. What things are you more concerned about than reaching the lost with the Gospel?
  4. What is the one thing you will work on as a result of the Home Run Life series?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you live your life according to His patterns.