Live With Passion

Hacksaw Ridge is a raw movie. It contains realistic battle scenes that accurately depict the horror of war. The movie also accurately depicts the difficulties for people who passionately stick to their faith. Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Pfc. Desmond Doss, an American soldier who served in WWII. Doss entered the army as a medic because he wanted to save lives rather than take them; he also was a conscientious objector and refused to carry a gun. In the movie, Doss is quickly branded a coward, and ostracized and abused by his fellow soldiers for his religious stance. In the Battle of Okinawa, however, Doss shows his true colors.

After his division had retreated from the ridge, he worked tirelessly through the night to save men who had been injured and left behind during the previous day’s fighting. By the end of the battle, Desmond Doss had risked his own life over and over again to save 75 men – without firing a single shot. His story is wonderfully inspiring, but not because he was a particularly impressive person. He didn’t have a lot of money or charisma or connections. He was, in fact, pretty ordinary in every way, except one. That one thing that set Doss apart was his passion for his convictions. And he stayed passionate even when everybody around him valiantly tried to dismiss that passion.

So, what do we get fired up over? What are we passionate about? And how do we grow our passion? Increasing our passion is a worthwhile goal. God has given each of us a unique passion — a special ability and a specific place to serve His kingdom. It is never too late to discover that passion. Because when  we do what God wants us to do, truly amazing things can happen.

We simply need to start moving. God will do His part to increase your passion, but He also expects you to do your part. William Wilberforce knew his passion. He resisted it, but this passion held him captive as he became completely captivated by Jesus. He met God and wanted nothing more than to begin working in the ministry which he was convinced was the best way to serve God. But the passion that kept him up at night was the unacceptable injustice of the slave trade in England and he worked tirelessly to abolish it.

So what is your passion?

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you determine what you are most passionate about? 
  2. What can we do this week to put that passion into action?    

A Hero

“Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” – Judges 5:14-16.

Desmond Doss would have seemed the most unlikeliest of heroes. The movie Hacksaw Ridge features the true story of Pfc. Doss, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor despite refusing to bear arms during WWII on religious grounds. Doss, a Christian who wouldn’t touch a weapon or work on the Sabbath, enlisted in the Army as a combat medic because he believed in the cause, but had vowed not to kill. The Army wanted nothing to do with him. His fellow soldiers constantly harassed him.  His commanding officer tried to get him transferred.  But in a bloody battle called “Hacksaw Ridge” Doss saved 75 men—including his captain, over a 12-hour period. The same soldiers who had shamed him now praised him. Veteran Carl Bentley, who was also at Hacksaw Ridge, said, “It’s as if God had his hand on [Doss’] shoulder. It’s the only explanation I can give.”

In Judges 6, we read about another person who wasn’t a hero by any stretch of the imagination. That is until God used him to do the impossible. If you grew up in church you probably heard the story of brave and strong Gideon.  But when reading Judges 4:14-16 you get a different picture. Gideon would not appear to be a good candidate for the job God wanted done. The Bible doesn’t say this of course, but you have to wonder how Gideon reacted when the prophet the Lord sent said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” (Judges 6:12)   Gideon didn’t recognize that his calling was rooted in the strength, wisdom, and ability of God. Gideon thought he was going to be responsible for the success of this mission, and when he looked at himself and at the size of the calling, he panicked and replied “My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

Most of us have been there and done that. We forget the providence, promises and power of God. Instead we jump to situational conclusions forgetting that we’ve been empowered by the Spirit of God. Gideon isn’t a hero, nor was he called to be.  We aren’t called to be heroes either. We have no heroic qualities within ourselves. But we still can act with faith, courage, and hope, because like Gideon and Desmond Doss, it’s the Lord who sends us and the Lord who will be with us every step of the way.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do we need to be a hero to share our faith with others? How is God with us when we share our faith with others?
  2. What would we do different this week if we were absolutely confident that God is with us?

Unintended Benefit

“Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” – Ephesians 1:11.

One of the most interesting things to discover in scripture is how God uses unlikely characters to bring about His will. One example is Rahab. Rahab the prostitute hid three Hebrew spies sent by Joshua to gauge the defenses of the city. (Joshua 2:1-7)  In doing so, she saved their lives. She then helped them escape. (Joshua 2:15-24)  In return, they promised that when the city was attacked, Rahab and her family would be spared. Jericho was captured, and Rahab and her family were spared. Rahab is among the four women listed in Matthew’s gospel as ancestors of Jesus. (Matthew 1:5)

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs brought numerous innovative, best in class products to the market place. These products helped pave the way for more people to hear the Gospel. Greg Laurie, the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, wrote a blog article on how God used Steve Jobs.

Laurie said that before Jobs, there was no such thing as an iPod, an iPhone or an iPad. “Now these devices have become a part of our everyday lives,” Greg wrote. “Most ministries now have a Podcast, which is an archived message that you can download and listen to at your convenience. Harvest ministries recently released an iPhone/iPad app that allows access to a ton of media content filled with the Gospel. I personally listen to podcasts everyday on my iPhone and I am typing this on a Apple Powerbook laptop and I read through the Bible in a year on the Harvest iPad app.”

Basically, Steve jobs put a Bible in everyone’s palm. He also gave everyone access to inspirational music. Although the was not his intent, there are few people who have had such an impact on the proclamation of the Gospel as Steve Jobs. God uses individual abilities for His purpose and that includes each one of us.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you seen examples of God using people for His purposes?
  2. How can God use your creative abilities?

Counting Down The Days

For the last 33 years of my life, I would look in the mirror every morning and ask myself this question: If this was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today.  And whenever the answer has been no for too many days in in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I will be dead soon is the best tool I have ever encountered to make choices in life.” – Steve Jobs   

Steve Job’s faith is unknown, but he stumbled upon the Biblical truth of numbering your days. He was reflecting on a sobering, somewhat unsettling question that has been asked for centuries: how many days do I have left? We don’t like to think about the fact that our days here on this earth are numbered, yet we know they are. In Psalm 39: 4 David wrote:  “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered–how fleeting my life is.” And in Psalm 90:12 Moses prayed:  “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”

In the 1700’s, Jonathan Edwards put together a list of some 70 resolutions that he resolved to live by. Number 17: Resolve that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.  Given that our days are numbered, how are we living them? Are you living today in light of the day you die?

In Psalm 39 and Psalm 90 David and Moses were not asking for a gift of prophecy, but rather for a change in perspective. They understood that living in the knowledge of how fleeting life is becomes a life-changing attitude, and they recognized that this attitude doesn’t happen automatically. It just is not natural, so they prayed for the ability to number their days. Should we do the same?

We tend to think of years. When someone asks you how long you have been working at a company the response is in years rather than days. While that seems a lot easier than days, we live a day at a time. Matthew 6:11 says, “Give us today the food we need.” That makes sense because we function one day at a time. So while God sets the number of our days, it’s up to us to make them count. Don’t think about the days that you can’t get back, days you may have wasted or sped through. Remember what Philippians 3:13. “…focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”    

What would happen if we had the mindset that this day was our last day. We wouldn’t just go through life, we would grow through life. We would treat each day with value and purpose. We would have a different perspective by seeing each new day as an opportunity to do things better than the day before as we serve God and through love serve one another.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you want to know how many days you have to live? Why or why not? 
  2. What can we do this week to number our days and grow in wisdom? 

A Recipe For Success

“For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. 5 Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! 6 As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.?” – 1 Thessalonians 2: 4-6.

We are encouraged, from birth, to be winners. It becomes ingrained in us. Kids want that trophy at the end of the season and we want that recognition, promotion or bonus that exemplifies our success. Steve Jobs was the poster child for success. He was a billionaire who ran one of the most successful companies in the history of business. He is an inspiration and a legend to many people. God’s standard for success is nothing like the world’s standard. 

What God requires of you is not success, but faithfulness. We may not be a billionaire but God still expects each one of us to be faithful in whatever God has called us to do. Here is the thing: God can do more with one act of faithfulness than we could accomplish in many lifetimes on our own. Faithfulness starts with the questions, “Where can I make the biggest impact?” and, “Where does God want me?”

Faithfulness is defined as being loyal and dependable. Therefore, to be faithful means to be worthy of trust. A faithful person does what he says and finishes what he starts. Faithfulness begins with the little things in life. It is seen first in your routine and in your everyday chores and activities. It should also be seen in your home, on your job, and at your church. Your spouse and your children need to know they can depend upon you and that you will keep your word. Your employer needs to know that you will show up and do an excellent job. Your employees need to know that you will provide them with the opportunities to be successful.

Worldly success can be difficult to achieve. But there are opportunities for faithfulness all around us. At work, it means choosing integrity when everyone else is cutting corners, or using your skills to further the Kingdom rather than just enhancing the company’s bottom line.  If you’re a parent, it means being a reflection of Christ because the kids are always watching. The bottom line is that God can and does give us these small acts of faithfulness in the lives of others.

God is looking for faithful people to learn His ways and recognize when He is leading them. If we will be faithful in these areas, then we will see the acts of God in our homes, our workplaces, our schools, and our churches. Faithfulness will produce lasting results.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are we doing here in your opinion?
  2. How does your answer to what are we doing here compare or contrast to what was said in this article?   

A Matter Of Time

“One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.” — Mark 10:13-14

Consider the following statement: Your family matters, but your time with your family also matters. When the end of his life drew near, Steve Jobs expressed little regret or dissatisfaction with himself. His repeated wish was that he had spent more time with his children.

We are only going to have our kids for a few more years and then they will be gone. And we don’t want that time to pass by and say, “Why did I give my time to everyone else, but not my kids? Why did I think it was so important to be at work one more hour? Why didn’t I watch their school programs? Why didn’t I read them Bible stories? How did I miss out on so much?” James writes in 4:14, “…Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” The only time we have is right now. 

If you want to see how to make good use of your time, study the life of Jesus. Jesus never seemed to be in a hurry. You never saw Jesus running, or rushing around, trying to make up time. It was the opposite, He made time for all people. He made time to consider the flowers and the birds in the air. He had time to put his hands on the children and bless them. He had time to heal people and feed thousands. He had time to stop and talk to the woman at the well, the centurion whose daughter was dying, and a man born blind. Time was His friend.

Our time is our life, and how we spend it shapes our character, our happiness, our success and our future. Spending time with each child may be difficult when you have a few children and you are busy and tired after a day’s work. Nor are we suggesting that you spend every minute staring into your children’s eyes telling them they are perfect. It’s not possible nor do they need that. But they do want your time.

Talk to parents and they will remember the quality time they spend with their parents. The year that their dad coached their soccer team. Or that special family vacation.  Or the conversations around the dinner tables, or the time mom made that Bible story seem a little less scary. Not only will they remember the events, they will remember the willingness and the commitment in finding time for the kids. 

Every dad who has ever braided his daughter’s hair, knows that it is not as easy as it looks.  And often when done, the child refuses to go outside. But here is the point: It’s not about the quality of the braid, but about the quality of the time spent with your little girl. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What constitutes quality time with another person in your mind? 
  2. What can we do this week to spend more quality time with those you love?   

Think Different

“To model yourself after Steve Jobs is like, ‘I’d like to paint like Picasso, what should I do? Should I use more red?”’ – Larry Ellison

Before his death and even after his death, you read and heard a lot about Steve Jobs. So many products and so much innovation is connected to this one man. The man that people compare to the titans of American industry – Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Sam Walton – was not interested in profits, instead he was focused on being “insanely great.” He was first and foremost, a great explainer of technology–a charismatic leader and visionary. He was a symbol of ruthless perfectionism. He was the embodiment of the famous “Think Different” Apple iconic advertising campaign. He is a legend and a success by anyone’s definition. Walt Mossberg said, “I think Steve Jobs is a historic figure. He’s not only a historic figure in business, but really in America.”

But here is the question: How do you define greatness? Is it talent and abilities, or accomplishments, or power? What Steve Jobs did in building Apple into the first trillion-dollar company, coupled with numerous accolades and a 10.2 billion net worth fulfills that criteria for greatness in our culture. But when Jesus stepped on this earth, He completely redefined what greatness is, serving others to the glory of God.

The world has a hard time understanding how you can be considered great and be a servant at the same time. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Yet, He had the attitude of a servant. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,” (Philippians 2:6-7)

How often do you see a CEO be a true servant of those that they are called to lead? Yet that is what the Son of God did. Think about it this way—have you ever had a boss in the past that cared so much about your success, cared so much for you as a person, that you didn’t want to work for anybody else? That boss is being a servant! To care and to show love is what greatness it all about. And it begins with serving God, because our love for God will be expressed in our love for others. And that, is the Biblical definition of greatness.

Our goal should be to develop God’s kind of greatness. It was Oswald Chambers who said, “I have chosen you! Keep that note of greatness in your creed. It is not that you have got God but that He has got you.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is your definition of greatness?
  2. What can we do this week to be greater in God’s eyes? 

Are The Things You Are Living For Worth Christ Dying For?

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” -Philippians 1:21” 

It was Woody Allen who said, “I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” In the movie Collateral Beauty, death is one of the three people that visit Howard trying to make sense of what happened in his life. Howard tries to figure out how love, time and death all work together in life.  People have been trying to get their arms around life, love and death for centuries, especially death. The word “death” sounds so final when you say it.

Guaranteed we’re all going to die someday. Some of us deny it as if we can somehow cheat death while others fear death and take no chances in life. The Apostle Paul identified his life for Christ. His burden was to preach Christ and Him crucified. Death to Paul was just a delay until he could be with Christ.

In the delay, however, he knew he could serve others best by preaching Christ. He knew that anything he accomplished in this life was “rubbish” compared to gaining Christ (Philippians 3:8) The question is not that we will die, but what are we living for. There is an English evangelist named Leonard Ravenhill who had an unusual inscription on his tombstone: Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for. 

What a timeless question. Yes we will all face death and those who accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior will spend eternity with the risen Savior. But what are we doing now? As a Christian, God gives us an abundant life and we should be living like that. Is anything you and I living for worth Christ dying for? It’s truly a matter of priorities.

Being a Christian is about action as much as it is in prayer.  We are meant to be the salt of the earth and a light unto the nations. How can we do that if we make no effort to spread God’s love to those who are hurting? Are you helping at a soup kitchen? Are you volunteering at a homeless shelter? Are you leading a small group or serving in the church?  

Action takes all forms, large and small. If some of the bigger things seem out of reach, start small, offer to buy someone a cup of coffee, open the door for someone that has their arms full.  Show the love of Christ to others so that they want to see what this is all about. You never know how many people you can affect by your one action.  We are the pebble in the pond that causes the ripple affect to others.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are you afraid of dying? Why or why not? 
  2. What is one thing holding you back from doing more for the kingdom?   

Who Are We?

“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.” — Ephesians 4:1-4.

How do you define yourself? A lot of people use their job description as a self-description. “I am a firemen,” or “I am a physical therapist.”  Other people use their success, bank account or resume to define them. “I graduated from Yale” or “I have just been named a partner in my firm.”  Still others use their belief system: “I am a Christian, or “I am am agnostic” or “I am on the fence.” 

But what Paul tells the church in Ephesus is true for us as well: If you are a Christian, the truest thing about you is that you are in Christ. There may be a lot of true things about you, but the truest thing about you, the lens through which you see everything else, your identity, should come from who you are in Christ. In Collateral Beauty, Howard cannot find the answers he seeks, nor can his friends, so he questions his identity and his future. Howard doesn’t know where to turn or what to do.

Paul gives us the answer to who we are in Christ, and then tells us what our lives should look like. He gives us the answer to who we are and what we are to do. We are those who belong to Jesus. In Ephesians 4:1-4,  Paul talks about what our lives should look like because we are in Christ. He is talking about behavior and that our identity results from our behavior.  Our identity in Christ is who we are. In other words, the term Christian should not just be a title. It is to be your identification, just like your name. Being a follower of Christ is the essence of who you are.

Our identity in Christ impacts how we treat people. We need to remind ourselves periodically who we are in Christ and what Christ has done for each of us on the cross.

Our identity in Christ should make us imitate God in all we do. “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.” (Ephesians 5:1)  The question is, what should we be doing differently if we lived out this identity.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In what ways does your identity in Christ shape your behavior, decisions, actions toward others, and relationships. Be specific.
  2. In what ways is your behavior not matching up with your true identity in Christ? What steps can you take to “validate” your identity?

What Are We Doing Here?

“….But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” – 1 Kings 19:9b.

This Sunday, like last Sunday, millions of people across the world will attend church. And many of them will ask a simple question, why? Why do I come to church every Sunday? 

There will be different answers to that question. Some started going because of a parent. Maybe you have always gone to church and that is simply what you do on Sundays. There was no discussion or negotiations when it came to church. One or both parents said you had to and that was that. If you attended church to appease a significant other or relative, it can be really easy to become a fan rather than a follower. There is nothing wrong with going to church, but until you have a personal and meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ you could easily become numb to real faith, and comfortable with a few songs and a few favorite verses, none of which answers the question of what are we doing here. 

So what are we doing here? About now people reading this are waiting for a deep spiritual, existential answer on “Why are you and I here?” Why have we been placed here on earth? What is our purpose in life? I don’t have the answers, but here are my thoughts:  I believe the reason for our existence is essentially the same as the reason why the church exists. And I believe the church exists for the the glorification of God, the edification and sanctification of believers and to fulfill the great commission. 

The church exists to bring glory to God. That is not only true of us in a church worship service, but it is also true of us in life. We are here to bring glory to God – in our careers, in our marriages and in the choices we make in life. This means we need to get our eyes off of us.  When we are focused on our own self—our problems, our issues, our worries, our fears—we forget to look at God.  In Collateral Beauty, Howard was so focused on his circumstances that he was overwhelmed. Stuck. Alone. 

The church also exists for the instruction and improvement of the believer’s spiritual walk.  We are here to follow hard after the Lord every day and let Him renew us and shape us into the person we need to be. We are here to grow ever closer to God. We do that through personal time with God, Bible study, small groups, reading books, etc.

The church also exists for the great commission and it is another reason why we are here. The great commission is for every believer, not just the staff of Northstar and a few missionaries and pastors.  Every Christian is commanded to be involved in helping to reach the world for Christ. Each of us has an important, God given role to play in helping to fulfill the Great Commission.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are we doing here in your opinion?
  2. How does your answer to what are we doing here compare or contrast to what was said in this article?