Who’s Your Why

Whos your why

By Jason Owens

While running early one morning at a local park I came across an individual sitting on his car in a particular area.  Saying “Hi!” I continued my run.  The next day I saw the same person in the same place.  Giving little thought to this repetition I finished my run with sweat dripping from my forehead.  The following day I saw this same individual again.  It finally clicked that this was an odd occurrence. I struck up a longer conversation with the man, as I took a break from my run, and quickly discovered he had a clear “why” as to his purpose there.  He was there for a person.  A person whom he loved.  A person who this man had very fond memories of in that very spot.  The rest is not my story to tell, but in that moment I begin to wonder who my “why” was in life.  Friends we must always have a person or group of persons clearly in mind when asking the question “why are we seeking to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world around us”.

Why are we here?  To be made holy?  To go make disciples?  To make holy disciples through the Holy Spirit? Yes to all.  However, this is not a trite reality that sits as some ideal mission.  These are people who are growing into holy disciples – not numbers and definitely not a notch in our individual belts that might somehow make us feel like we have done our part or done enough that we can take a break!

Jesus was never seemingly in the business of political issues, marketing himself, particular growth models, or thinking about what benefits he might receive from doing a specific task.  No!  Jesus cared about people.  The “why” for Jesus has always been a “who” and never a “what.” Jesus simply cares about people.  He prayed for people, sought after people, ate with people, cried with people, walked with people and talked intimately with people.

This is why I am so passionate about Hub City.  There are people who need to be fervently prayed for, sought after, cried with, walked with and talked with in our backyard.

I implore you to come alongside me.  Join me in knowing who your “why” is today.  If you do not have a name or a few names in mind who need to know Jesus then ask the Holy Spirit to make it clear, and do not be afraid to engage the world around you.

Pray for these persons fervently.  Pursue relationship with the people for Christ.  Cry with them, listen to them, walk with them in life and talk with them.  Be Jesus to them and do not look through them.

Who is your “why”?

If you do not think any of this is important to know then consider something…

YOU were once somebodies “why”.

Escape Route

Escape Route

By Manny Bustos

Have you ever been caught off guard by temptation? I have! The worst thing about being hit with temptation seemingly out of nowhere is t hat when you’re not prepared for it, it’s easy to give in to. We’re the most vulnerable when our guard is down. It is not uncommon for people to fall, even those who thought they never would.

Temptation is a given. It is guaranteed to happen. No person, regardless of age, gender, race, status, or title is exempt. So be ready!

Does that thought depress or discourage you? If so, read the promise found in 1 Corinthians 10:13 and be encouraged! Let’s look at that verse bit by bit.

First, whatever temptation you face, regardless of how seemingly insignificant or how vile it is, is common to man. You are not the first person to experience the temptation, and you most certainly won’t be the last. There are others out there who can relate to whatever is tempting you at any given moment.

One of the lies that the enemy throws at people is that their situation is unique, that no one else experiences the temptations they do, and that no one else could possibly understand. That is a lie that is meant to isolate you, and keep you from admitting your struggles to others. Don’t believe it!

Second, God is faithful. The Greek word, “pistos” which is translated as “faithful” in the verse above means “worthy to be believed, trustworthy.” So God is trustworthy. We can take him at his word, and believe him with 100% certainty. You can count on him to be there for you, even at your lowest moment. How reassuring that is!

Third, the thing that God is faithful to do is to hold back any temptation that is more than you can bear. He knows your strengths and your weaknesses. He knows your exact threshold for temptation, and will never, ever allow the enemy to throw more your way than you can bear.

Fourth, with every temptation, God will provide a way out. He’s provided an escape route for every conceivable temptation you could ever possibly experience. Have you ever been tempted to do something and right at that time, the phone rang, or there was some other interruption that kept you from doing the very thing you were tempted to do?

Other times, the way of escape may simply be walking away from the situation.  The most encouraging thing is that God is for you! He wants you to walk in victory over sin and temptation, and he is there, ready and willing to assist you. Take advantage of his assistance and walk in a new level of victory today!

Cereal and The Kingdom of God

Church Cereal

By: Khrystyne Kilgore

Guys, eating cereal with a fork is a game changer.  It creates the perfect milk-to-cereal ratio. Another game changer is a biblical view of the Kingdom of God.  Having the perfect present-to-future ratio in mind.  Recently I’ve heard a lot of phrases alluding to the Kingdom of God.  During prayers, I nod my head and even whisper a “Yes, Lord” to show I know and acknowledge the desire for the Kingdom of God to be made known among the earth. But I actually have a very small idea what that phrase means. Below is the beginning of this journey toward understanding a little more what the Kingdom of God is and why it matters right now.

Growing up, I was taught about Heaven, with its streets of gold, the crystal sea (where my grandfather said he would be fishing with Jesus), marvelous mansions (one for each person, but we would never want to retreat to them), a giant buffet table with the most magnificent food (but we would never want to eat any of the food), and there will also be the animals mentioned in Revelation, and of course the fish in the crystal sea.  All we would do, and want to do, is sing praises to the King of kings forever and ever and ever.  I love worshiping, but I just couldn’t imagine singing forever! I LOVE food, so I also couldn’t imagine not eating the most delicious food ever created.  Fishing is okay, but why does my grandfather get to fish and I have to sing all the time? Are those the only two options, either you fish in the crystal sea or you sing?

Whenever my family and church told me about Heaven they also told me about Hell, that it was hot all the time, like being in an oven forever.  I run my heater all year long, yes even in the summer.  I’m going to go out on a limb here, I didn’t want to be away from God, but being in an oven for eternity didn’t sound that bad. Also, is that where all the animals go? Is this the hope to look forward to?

I’m sure you were told various things about what Heaven would be like as well.  No wonder the world is confused about what the end looks like for Christians; we can’t even agree what we are looking forward to, nor can we articulate why people should become a Christian if all they will do for eternity is sing. “Gee, are you sure you want to risk returning as an elephant shrew? I mean you could always come with me and sing for…well…EVER.” What we believe about the future Kingdom of God affects how we live our lives now.  Not just in missions and evangelism but also how we treat others, our bodies, and the created world around us.

N.T. Wright says this about heaven, “…the word heaven to denote the ultimate goal of the redeemed, though of course hugely popularized by medieval and subsequent piety, is severely misleading and does not begin to do justice to the Christian hope.” This is exactly where I find myself today.  Is the hope we as Christians have to look forward to found in another world, one we commonly refer to as “Heaven”? Be prepared to have your mind blown: The ultimate destination is not heaven. Before I get kicked out of the Church, consider this: The ultimate destination is not heaven, but being resurrected, which is life after life after death.  The hope is being bodily raised into the transformed, glorious likeness of Jesus as we come to fully reflect God’s image for His glory.  What happened to Jesus after His death on the cross?  He was resurrected!  He was the first of the new creation, meaning others will follow in this bodily resurrection.  One of the great surprises in the Christian hope is that heaven and hell are not what the whole game is about.  The New and Old Testament regularly insist that “the major, central, framing question is that of God’s purpose of rescue and re-creation for the whole world, the entire cosmos” (N.T. Wright).

Understanding this view of the Kingdom of God I can see now why the whole created world is waiting on tiptoe.  The world is waiting to be redeemed.  This present world that is full of injustices, broken relationships, and natural disasters.  As Christians, we do not agree with Plato’s position of escaping this world and transcending to another one, a perfect world.  This present world is the real one, it’s in bad shape but it is expecting to be repaired with the coming Kingdom of God.  This is a far more “exciting” promise of what is to come.  It is also extremely convicting and changes every aspect of how I live my life now.  When I question the injustice of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and then go and buy something from one of the big companies, is it any wonder at all?  I have fallen deep into the consumerist-American ideals and it is a deep pit to try and crawl out of.  I am trying to have the right mindset as I seek to live in a way that does not benefit me thru the efforts of the oppressed.  It’s so very difficult and it also needs to have the perfect balance of the present-to-future ratio and not falling into the trap of over-glorifying or under-valuing the present world.  I see this tension as one similar to the one of social justice and missions.

However, I also need to recognize that this is a monstrous task and one not to be done alone.  God created us to be in relationship with one another.  God tasked His Church to demonstrate to the world His great love and redemption for all creation.  Those who feast at Jesus’ table are the ones in the forefront of the work to eliminate hunger and famine.  Those who pray for the Spirit to work in and through them seem to have extra resources of love and patience in caring for the damaged, bruised, and shamed.  Live into this today, pray and ask the Spirit to help you be faithful today to the work of the Kingdom of God.

No Guilt In Life

By: Khrystyne KilgoreAtlas

“No GUILT in life, no FEAR in death.  This is the power of Christ in me.”

I live with an enormous amount of guilt in this life and that makes me feel even more guilty because that means the power of Christ is not working in me, nor do I live into His peace.  Recently my husband came to me while I was wallowing in the depths of my guilt and spoke truth into my life.  Lyndol Loyd’s sermon of “What Keeps You Up At Night: When You Can’t Stand Yourself”, spoke volumes to my life as well.  I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night; if my anxiety or fear is not keeping me up, it’s my guilt.  I didn’t realize that’s what it was until my husband told me his observations and also when I read Lyndol’s sermon.

God has blessed my life in extraordinary ways.  There is NOTHING I did to earn so many blessings.  Instead of thanking God for His infinite blessings, I treat it like curses—something I need to be “good enough to keep”—and I’m NEVER good enough, yet I still have things in abundance.  I feel guilty for not being good enough to receive the rich blessings God continues to pour out.  I also feel guilty for not living into the resurrection of Jesus.  I feel I have a burden that death and sin are too great and overpowering.  As I carry this burden, it is hard for me to know what my part is to play in the great “groanings” of this world.  The injustices, broken relationships, natural disasters, etc., seem too great and I get overwhelmed and frustrated at myself for not saving the world.  I feel a lot like Atlas in Greek mythology.  Atlas led a battle of Titans against Zeus.  Zeus punished Atlas by forcing him to hold up the heavens.  Often I feel I should shoulder the weight of the world as punishment for my guilt and lack of faith.  Not only is that silly, it is also idolatry; placing myself in God’s rightful place, to care for and love the world, to carry the huge burden.

Surely I’m not alone in this struggle. Friends, how do we live as wide-awake people, as resurrection people, as people free of guilt?  First, we have to come to a place of correct thinking.  We cannot save the world.  No one person can attempt even a fraction of eliminating famine, caring for the broken, campaigning for better housing, the list goes on and on and on.  This is to be the work of the whole Church with the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.  All of us need to be nourished and encouraged by the central worshipping life of the Church.  What does that look like?  Let me offer six ways of nourishing and encouraging one another, spurring one another on to good works for the Kingdom of God, and living into the resurrection.

1. Baptism

Baptism is the membership into the family of God; a real dying to the old creation and a real rising into the new.  Where heaven and earth interlock, new creation and the resurrected life appears within the midst of the old.

2. Lord’s Supper/Communion

For a moment we become the disciples sitting around the table of the Last Supper, but that’s only half the story.  We’re also celebrating the arrival of God’s future in our present world.  The future of the anticipation of the banquet, the marriage feast of the Lamb mentioned in Revelation, when heaven and earth are made new.

3. Prayer

The extraordinary, unique, intimate relationship that Jesus Himself had enjoyed with the Father is now open to all His followers through prayer.  Jesus shared in the suffering of the world so that He might be the true Intercessor for the world.  In Romans 8:26-27 Paul writes of the Holy Spirit who calls deep within us, calls to the Father of the pain of the church, the world, and our hearts.  The Father answers back with love and we are conformed to the image of the Messiah.  The deeper we grow in faith, the less God changes our circumstances; instead He changes our character and aligns us with His purpose and perfect will.  We persist in prayer because we are being perfected and becoming more like Christ.  We are also called to be intercessors for each other, to participate in one another’s joys and sorrows.

4. Scripture

The Old and New Testament proclaim the story of creation and renewed creation, the old covenant and the new covenant.  It is not just a book informing the hearers about this narrative; it invites them into it, wraps them within it, assures them of their membership in it, and equips them for their tasks in pursuit of the goal of the relationship with God and the coming of His Kingdom.

5. Holiness

Holiness is about transformation.  Transformation happens within the family of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.  We need to, again and again, gather with other believers to retune our instruments and practice; making sure what we believe and are teaching is in line with God’s heart and will.  Then we must go out and play our instruments, demonstrate the great love of our Creator, among the clanging and screeching of the world.

6. Love

If you read nothing else, read this portion!  Love is not our duty but our destiny!  Love is at the very heart of our hope.  People who truly hope in the resurrection are enabled to love in new ways.  This leads into forgiveness.  Forgiveness is God’s way of life.  If you close your heart to forgive others, you are also closing your heart to the forgiveness of God.  God, in His tender love, longs to set us free from the prison we have stumbled into; the loveless prison where we refuse both the offer and the demand of forgiveness.  He is gentle! His only aim is to release us from our prison, to set us free to be the people He made us to be.  Then, for us to offer the same gentle gift of freedom of forgiveness to those around us. God does not want us to feel guilty, to allow sin to imprison us.  He wants us to repent, live into His forgiveness, and forgive others.

Breaking Free

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By: Jessica Bustos

When a circus elephant is small they have huge heavy chains around their front leg to keep them from trying to escape. As they continue to grow the heavy chain becomes a small rope. They are conditioned to believe that they can not break away. They believe that a small rope can still hold them so that they will never break free.

In life, we carry burdens from our past, and the world tries to condition us to think that we cannot break free from it. We hold on to words spoken over us, situations we have gone through, and things we have seen. We are taught that our past makes us stronger, and the more we carry the stronger we will become. We are not strong enough to carry such heavy things on our own, to move forward in fear, anxiety, depression, and sadness. God’s word says, “Cast your burden on the Lord (release it) and He will sustain and uphold you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken (slip, fall, fail).” Psalm 55:22

We are not like the elephants, God wants us to lay everything down at His feet. Not to be tied down to past events. He wants us to live and walk in strength, peace, and love. Break free from the chains that keep you from moving forward! Our Father knows your heart, but He wants you to share it with Him. Lay your burdens down and release it so the chains that hold you back will break so you can run free and explore what God has in store for you!

Lean in:

“God, we ask that you break the chains of anxiety, depression, sadness, and guilt. That you restore me with your love, peace, mercy, and grace. I lay everything down at your feet all my struggles and ask that you meet me where I am, so that I can be more of whom you have designed me to be.”

Amen.

Be Strong and Courageous!

Courageous

After the exodus from Egypt and the period of the wilderness wanderings, the nation of Israel entered Canaan to take the land God had promised His people. Joshua led the conquest that established Israel’s presence in the Promised Land, and he is a key figure who is looked to throughout the canon of Scripture as a model for the believer.

Joshua could be ranked alongside any of the greatest military generals in world history, but it should be noted that his career began well before he was appointed the leader of Israel after the death of Moses (Josh. 1:1–2). He was one of Moses’ top assistants (Ex. 24:13), and one of the only two Israelite spies who were convinced that God would be with the nation to conquer Canaan (Num. 14:5–10).

According to the word of the Lord, Moses appointed Joshua to succeed him in Deuteronomy 31:1–8, and the Almighty came to Joshua after Moses’ death to confirm this selection and urge him to go forth to take the land (Josh. 1:1–9). In commissioning Joshua to possess Canaan, God was simply calling upon him to actualize in history what He had promised before Joshua was born. Since the Lord swore to give Canaan to His people, Joshua could be sure that he would be victorious in his quest if he followed the law and meditated on the words of the Lord. After all, our Creator always keeps His promises, and He promised to be with Joshua and strengthen him wherever he would go (Josh. 1:59).

This pledge of covenant presence is one of the greatest blessings God gives to His people and is a repetition of one of the patriarchal promises (Gen. 28:10–15). Moreover, it is a promise given to us today through Christ (Heb. 13:5). Still, we should see that it is a promise to be with us and not a promise to keep our lives free from harm, calamity, or suffering. Indeed, we are guaranteed to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but it is likewise certain that our great Shepherd will go through it with us; He will not leave us alone (Ps. 23:4).

Yet God does not promise that we will always feel His presence. Thankfully, our feelings do not determine the truthfulness of His Word, and the Lord is with us whether or not we can feel His presence.

Pray with me brothers and sisters, and ask yourself this:

-Where in my life can I allow God to replace fear with courage?

-Am I relying on my own strength or God’s?

Are You In Need Of Rescue?

Exodus

Have you ever needed to be rescued? Whether it’s a conversation with your crazy great aunt at a Christmas get-together or the traffic jam that interrupts your morning commute, we have all found ourselves needing rescue from something.

Exodus 2 tells the story of a baby and a nation in dire need of rescue. At a time when a maniacal king was executing infants and senseless violence ruled the day, God was in control and He had something better for His people.

There’s nothing to suggest that Moses’ mother had a grand plan when she placed him in a basket on the Nile. The Bible seems to indicate that she’d simply run out of options and found herself with an impossible choice. She knew Moses would be found and killed if she kept him, so she did the only thing she knew to do to keep him alive a little longer. No doubt, that decision was made with agonizing fear and uncertainty.

There are times in life when we find ourselves in seemingly impossible situations. We may think there is no way out. At these times, our faith can be the quality that sees us through the difficulty in our lives. God is faithful, and He wants something better for us. Even when we face an impossible situation, God is there and He is in control.

As Moses drifted down the Nile, he couldn’t do anything to bring himself out of this crisis, but Moses had been set apart by God. If we are believers, we have been set apart by God in the same way Moses was, and we can trust God to be faithful in the seemingly impossible situations in our lives.

Reflect:
What part of your life is out of control?
What is one thing you can do to give that situation over to the care of God?

In The Midst of a Torrential Storm…

Front Porch Rain

Elo: Come out of the storm Henry.  Join me on the porch, my friend!  You are soaked.  Let me get you a warm drink and something to dry off with.  What were you doing out there?

Henry: Well, I didn’t know there was any option but to be out in the storm.  I don’t really know you that well.  I mean…we have lived kind of close for a while, but how many conversations have we actually had, like two?  What’s your deal anyway?  It seems you are always trying to help people and stuff.  Anyways, sometimes, it feels like this downpour won’t ever end.  Honestly, I almost feel like I live in this storm.  When was the last time you were out in the storm?  I don’t ever see you out here.

 

Elo: It is completely fine that you don’t know me that well, man.  All that matters is your desire to know me better.  Stay here, chat with me, let me tell you about things going on with me, and you share with me all that’s going on in your life.  Here’s some hot tea and a blueberry muffin.

Henry: Thanks.  I don’t even know where to start.  I hardly have any money.   I don’t know what I should be doing in life.  I am constantly living day-to-day overwhelmed with figuring out what there is for me and if there is more to life than this.  I really hate my job and my mom won’t even speak to me.  Apparently, I don’t meet the standards she expects from me.  Man, life is just rough.

Elo: Henry, I promise there is so much more to life than what you know.  Unfortunately, it takes being in a place where you can listen in order to know what is available.  Do you know how awesome you are?  My back porch is a good place for listening.  Why don’t you stay a while?

Henry: I would, but I really have to get going.

Elo: Henry, I am sorry to hear that.  You’ve hardly gotten a respite from the rain.  You didn’t even finish your muffin.

Henry: I can’t be late to work, and I can only imagine the grief I would get (from the few family members who do talk to me) if I lost my job.  Life calls.

Elo: So do I.

Henry: What?

Elo: I call you.  I text you.  I email you.  I seek a friendship with you, Henry.  Stay with me and let me show you what life can really be for you.

Henry: How can I avoid the storm, go back to life, and be with you?  That doesn’t make sense!

Elo: Earlier, you asked me when I was last in the storm.  The truth is that I am out there all the time with my umbrella desiring to bring people to my front porch.  It’s hard to see my face because I tend to put the umbrella over people and leave myself in the rain for them.  However, most people are too distracted with their cell phones, busyness, jobs, and the actual storm to hear me or notice me.  We are not made to live in the storm.  I want to be your shelter no matter what you are doing or where you are going.  I will carry the umbrella for you and will bring you back to the porch whenever you desire.  As a matter of fact, this porch and whole house are yours.  You simply have to move in and then ask me to join you each day.  What do you say, Henry?  Can I show you what a life of joy is like?  Can I show you what life looks like in the storm, yet out of the rain?

———————————————————

This is the heart of God for people.  Are you on the porch with God?  Are you walking with Christ as he holds the umbrella, listening to his heart and pouring out your own?  If so, who are you inviting to join you under the porch, umbrella and love of the Lord? If not, would you like to be out of the rain during the storm?

Equipped for Battle

Shield-of-Faith_833_460_80_c1

By: Manny Bustos

 

With our senses we are able to see, smell, feel, taste, and hear. As we grow from children to adolescents and finally adulthood, we sharpen those senses from our daily interactions with the world around us. Ultimately, we as human beings are able to sense dangers such as hearing an explosion, smelling gas in the air, or tasting food that might be expired or poisonous.

But what about our spiritual senses? How do we sharpen those? Why would we need a keen spiritual sense in the first place? Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world with many dangers both physical and spiritual. The forces of darkness have been hard at work to bring humanity down for thousands of years, but there’s hope! Fortunately for us as believers and followers of Christ, God has given us every tool that we will ever need to help refine our spiritual reflexes and prepare us for a battle we face every day.

Ephesians 6:10-17 talks clearly about the forces of darkness that are at work in our world but also, more importantly, about the armor God has given us through Jesus. We start off with the Belt of Truth and the Breastplate of Righteousness. The truth of God’s word is our first line of “self-defense” against the lies of the enemy and the righteousness of Christ covers us in all circumstances. Next, we equip our feet with the Gospel of Peace, that our feet may be firmly rooted in the good news of the gospel, sharing it with others and standing up against the cunning ways of the enemy.

Then comes the Shield of Faith. Having an unyielding faith in God’s love, sovereignty, and goodness will “extinguish the flaming arrows of Satan” (Eph 6:16). The Helmet of Salvation follows, which is a reminder of victory over sin given through Christ’s sacrifice and made available freely to us. Finally, we come to the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. When we pick up and read our bibles, memorize scripture, utilize it in our daily lives and let the Word of God live in us as we live in Him, then we are able to combat and put down the enemy and any lies that come our way.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is up to us as the body of Christ to enter into the armory that is the Word of God and outfit ourselves well before we step out of our doors every morning.  Waiting for us outside everyday are adventures, trials, dangers, and hardships – but not impossibilities. Through Christian spiritual training, fellowship, the power of the Spirit and mentoring, we are then able to take anything the enemy throws at us. Stand firm brothers and sisters, in victory!

Faith vs. Works

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By Jason Owens

 

Growing up, I remember hearing the passage “for by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). These words imprinted on my mind, and they grew in impact as I reflected on the age-old debate:  faith vs. works. I listened as Christian leaders pondered, “if faith saves you, does it matter what you do?” While others replied, “well, what you do is clearly important.” The debate went in circles as they sipped their coffee. Interestingly, not once did Ephesians 2:10 enter the conversation.  Here Paul writes “for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Wow. If you are anything like me, this realization might bring about questions. What do you mean Paul? We are saved by grace through faith, to do works??

The problem lies in our either-or mentality. In fear of losing the significance of grace, we’ve pushed back against the call to work. Maybe we’ve missed the heart of the message entirely. Yes, we are saved by grace and unable to boast of our salvation. However, we cannot simply sit on this grace and call the job done. Just like God works, we are called and commissioned to work – because of the very grace that saves us. The song writer Rich Mullins articulated this in his song Screen Door, singing these words – “faith without works is like a song you can’t sing, it’s about as useless as a screen door on a submarine.” As I look around at our neighbors, city, country and world I think it is time we take the grace God has so lavished on us and spill it out through doing the works God has called us to do.

Do not think the call to do good works must involve ending world hunger, or ushering in world peace. If you do these, fantastic, but our primary call is to do what Jesus did – walk everyday living so full of God’s grace that we simply do the next right thing. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we woke up daily, determined to love God and neighbor as best we can by doing the next right thing?

“The single raindrop never feels responsible for the flood but, the flood is a culmination of raindrops.”

Now listen.

Drop.

Drop.

That’s you and I changing the world – together.