Let’s Have Some Joy!

A few weeks ago, Kelley and I had an opportunity to attend a concert that we had always wanted to see, but never had been able to. And it wasn’t your normal concert either. We’ve seen a lot of Christian musicians over the years, and while there was some music involved, that was not the focus of the evening. Who did we see? A man by the name of Tim Hawkins.

If you aren’t familiar with that name, Tim is one of the most well known Christian comedians around. We’ve watched his videos for years, so when we found out he was going to be at a church in OKC in January, we just could not pass it up. It was a great date night, with dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and then on to the show.

We went in expecting a good night, and lots of laughs. The night, however, exceeded our expectations. Tim Hawkins put on one of the best shows I have ever seen. My ribs were almost hurting from laughing harder and longer than I had in a long time. If you ever get a chance to see him live, I would highly recommend taking advantage of it.

You might be wondering why I’ve taken so much space in the newsletter talking about a date night that Kelley and I had over a month ago. I have a point, so stick with me for just a minute. First, dating doesn’t stop when you’re married. Marriage is a lot of work, and taking the time to intentionally spend time with one another is so important in strengthening that relationship.

My main reason for writing about our experience with Tim Hawkins is something else though. I want to encourage all of us to find joy and laughter as much as we can. I’m not talking about overlooking difficult times and pretending that nothing ever goes wrong. That would be lying to ourselves and others. But as Christ followers, we should be enjoying life, as long as we are keeping God in His proper place and not finding enjoyment in things that go against His word.

Sometimes, we get so caught up in how hard being a Christ follower is. And there are difficulties in following Jesus. But that doesn’t mean that we should only focus on the hard. Yes, there is work to do in sharing Jesus with others that don’t know Him yet. But there is freedom and joy that should be found in our relationship with Jesus. In fact, I would argue that Christ followers should be the most joyful, cheerful, positive people in this world.

Taking time to laugh at good, clean humor is therapeutic. I am convinced that God has a sense of humor, and that is why we enjoy laughter so much. And as we were recently reminded at the end of Sunday school by Joyce Robison; “We all need to walk around with a smile on our face.”

What My Dog Taught Me About Trusting God

*This article will appear in Canton Christian Church’s Newsletter for December 2018*

Kelley and I adopted a puppy in May. Neyland is now just over a year old, and he’s a mix of retriever, shepherd, and probably some pit. This little guy has brought a lot of happiness in our house, and we absolutely love having him.

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Neyland and Kraig in TN at Thanksgiving

We just got back to Oklahoma after a few days in Tennessee to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family (and Kelley’s parents and brother came in too). Neyland made the trip with us, and he handled the drive like a champ. I was really impressed. In fact, most of the time, we didn’t even know he was in the car because he was just hanging out in the backseat either asleep or chewing on one of his toys.

While he handled the trip well, and even got along with everyone he met, the night before we left Tennessee to come back home, he got really nervous. He wouldn’t leave my side, especially when he saw me start packing the car with all of our luggage. And then it dawned on me. He was afraid that Kelley and I were going to leave him at my mom’s house.

The morning that we were going to leave, we left him with my mom for about an hour while we went and had breakfast with Kelley’s parents and brother. When we got back to my mom’s to pick him up, she told us that he had stood at the top of the stairs and whimpered the whole time we were gone. I had told him over and over that he was going to come home with us, that we would not leave him there permanently. But when we left, with everything in the car except him, he became a nervous, anxious, wreck. It didn’t matter how much we had done to take care of him, or how much we love him. For some reason he could not trust that we were going to bring him home.

And then I realized something. Don’t we do the same thing with God? Continue reading “What My Dog Taught Me About Trusting God”

Hate Thought it Won

Hate thought it won 17 years ago today. That’s what drove people to fly planes into buildings. And they thought they would destroy what they hated. Buildings came down. People lost their lives. For a few moments, it seemed that hate had won. As a senior in high school, I watched all the coverage, and I was numb.

It was a beautiful, crisp, fall like day in east TN when I got the news about what had taken place. The blue sky outside didn’t seem to fit what was happening in the world. And again, it seemed that hate would win. But then the unimaginable happened. People started to rally around one another. But it was bigger than that. They started to rally around each other, but at churches. This nation turned to God.

And hate doesn’t win when we come to God. People in crisis came to God all across this country, trying to make sense of what happened in NYC, Washington D.C., and a field in PA. And hate was defeated. At least momentarily. As lives got back to normal, people decided they didn’t need to rally to God any longer (human nature took over). Until the end comes, hate will always try to win.

Hate thought it had ultimately won some 2,000 years ago, on a hillside outside of Jerusalem, when Jesus Christ was crucified. Hate celebrated that day. The Son of God was killed by humans, and hate thought it had won the victory. And, from the outside looking in, it appeared that was the case. The sky grew dark. Jesus was dead. His followers were devastated. All hope seemed to be gone.

BUT! Three days later, Jesus walked out of that tomb, raised back to life through the power of God. He defeated death. He defeated sin. He defeated hate. And the best news we could ever have is that those defeats are permanent. Yes, death, sin, and hate will continue to think they can win and will try to bring us down. But Jesus defeated them through His death and resurrection. Those that place their hope and trust in Him, no matter how hard life gets, know that the victory is already won. And it’s not through their power, but through the power of the ONE who created everything.

Hate may think it can win. It may have thought it won on 9-11-01. It definitely thought it won when Christ was crucified. But it was ultimately defeated through the same act that it tried to conquer. Because of that, it can never truly win. Trust in Jesus. No matter how bad life gets, as Christ followers we have hope. The victory is set. The war is won. Stay faithful in the battle. HATE DOESN’T WIN!

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New Sermon

One thought has been dominating my mind recently. Where is our urgency? There’s different ways of expressing it, but we have to start acting like the news that we proclaim for our lives needs to be shared with others. Below is the link to our 9-2-18 sermon. In it, I pose a few tough questions that hit me just as hard as they hit anyone else.

Where is our urgency? What have you done today to advance the Kingdom? How much do you have to hate someone to believe in heaven and hell and not share your faith with them?

Whoa! Where’s the Fire

Advance the Kingdom!

I’m a Crosseyed Jesus Freak. That’s the title of my website, and I always sign off on anything written here as Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak. There is good reason for this. Briefly, let me tell you why, before I jump into my thoughts for today (if you want to read the full post of where Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak came from, you can do that here). I’m crosseyed. No, not in a physical sense. It’s just that I simply try to live my life with my eyes fixed on Jesus and what He did for all of us on the cross (Heb. 12:2). When I can keep that perspective, everything else seems to just fall into place. Life isn’t easy, by any means, but there is purpose and something bigger than me. Jesus Freak is simply a reference to, in my opinion, the greatest Christian rock song of all time…Jesus Freak by dc Talk (read the lyrics here).

That’s the filter I try to live my life through. But I don’t always live up to it. I mess up. I sin. We all do. That doesn’t excuse it, but that’s just the reality of our imperfect human nature. That’s why we needed Jesus to pay our price for us on the cross in the first place. Continue reading “Advance the Kingdom!”

One of the Best Books…

I recently had the honor and privilege of reading a book that is set to come out on September 4, 2018. It’s Carey Nieuwhof’s newest work Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences. If you don’t know who Carey is, he is a leading voice in leadership and communication in the North American Church. He is a former lawyer and founding Pastor of Connexus Church in Canada. You can check out his website at www.careynieuwhof.com.

Now for the book. I cannot oversell this. It is by far one of the best books I have ever read. Carey delivers a work that is real, raw, and full of godly advice. In a world full of people who seem blindsided by so many things, he draws our attention to not only heal from these seven issues, but also how to identify them in our lives early enough we can get ahead of them. Continue reading “One of the Best Books…”

Going Deeper: Are You Hungry?

*Due to technical difficulty, our sermon did not get recorded for 8-12-18

God’s word is not only meant to infiltrate our minds, it’s meant to infiltrate our lives. Learning God’s word should always lead to living God’s word. There’s a difference between knowing and doing. Many of us know what God’s word says, but are we doing what it instructs? We need to hunger and thirst not just for knowledge, but for making a difference in God’s Kingdom as well!

That was our main takeaway from our message yesterday in our continued Radical: Living Differently than the World Expects series. So let me just ask this question. Do you actively try to read the Word of God on a regular basis AND then apply what you read to your life?

Here’s the deal. All to often, people look to the Church as their main source of spiritual food. Whether that be for us individually or expecting the Church to be where our kids get their main source of what it means to follow Jesus. But when you look at the Word of God as a meal (which is an analogy that is found in multiple places in the New Testament), then if you are only feeding when you are at Church, then you are going hungry. Even worse, if that’s the only time you are helping your kids to eat, then your kids are starving.

We need to be in God’s Word daily, because if we are not, then we will have a hard time applying the principles and truths that are found there to our lives. And it isn’t good enough to just be reading His Word without application. Knowledge is not the goal. Knowledge does not feed the soul. Only a deepening relationship with Jesus nourishes the soul, and that happens as we mature in our faith. We mature in our faith by applying what we read to our lives. Do you see how all of this is connected?

There was many years that I didn’t get this right. I expected to be fed by the Church and didn’t proactively try to feed myself. But the Church gets to see you maybe 4-5 hours a week. That is if you attend every single function that is available. If we aren’t feeding ourselves outside of this time, then we potentially starve.

Why is this important? Because we can deceive ourselves into thinking that we are on the narrow path that leads to life since we made a decision to be baptized sometime in our life. We think that decision is enough and we don’t have to grow in our relationship with Jesus. But that is simply not the case. Jesus warned in Matthew 7 that there were going to be those in the last days that thought they were on the narrow path, but would be told in the end to depart from Jesus because He never knew them. Matthew 7:21-23;

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

How do we do the will of God? By learning His Word and applying it. By devouring His Word. By becoming hungry not just for the knowledge found in Scripture, but for the life-giving change that we find there when we start living our the principles found in God’s Word.

I thought about challenging our faith family to read a certain amount of Scripture in a certain amount of time. There are many different plans, such as reading the Bible in a year. Or an even more audacious plan of trying to read the entire Bible in 90 Days (one that I have tried many times and failed), or even reading the New Testament in 30 Days. There is nothing wrong with any of these plans. But I chose not to make a specific challenge. I get that everyone has different reading levels, skills, and comprehension. I didn’t want someone to feel obligated to finish a reading plan just to say that they read it without necessarily getting anything out of it.

So my challenge is just to be in the Word daily. Develop a hunger for it. And then do everything you can do to apply it. Again, knowledge is not the goal. Life change and becoming more and more like Jesus on a daily basis is the goal. James 1:22-25

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

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Going Deeper

We started a new series yesterday titled “Radical: Living Differently Than the World Expects”.

Radical Instagram

Radical BookThe base for the series is a book by David Platt, Radical. I read this book years ago, and honestly, at first I wasn’t real sure about how I felt. That’s because what is described as radical living in this book is really just how Christians are supposed to live anyway. There really isn’t anything radical about it. That is until I realized that I don’t know very many people, myself included, that actually live up to what Jesus says His disciples will be.

While we are using this book as the jumping off point in the series, the sermon content is not coming from the book. So, as a supplement to our messages, I would recommend reading the book on your own if you are interested in going a little deeper. You can order it here.

In this first message, I posed a question that I think is at the heart of our discussion, and I’ll begin with that here as well. What, if anything, has following Jesus cost you? All too often in our American culture, following Jesus doesn’t really cost us anything. Yes, we may get laughed at or told that we are only using Jesus as a “crutch”because we can’t deal with life on our own. But that really isn’t very costly, is it?

Jesus told His disciples that following Him would cost them their lives. And it should cost us ours as well. No, I’m not talking about physically dying because we are a Christ follower, although that may be the case for some of us. But we are to die to our own desires daily. We have to surrender our will for that of Jesus in our lives. And that is a daily decision.

We all have things in our lives that we unfortunately seem to place in front of God or Jesus. And it is different for each of us. What we need to do is to identify those things and lay them at Jesus feet, and make Him our top priority. He demands nothing less. That is exactly what our main text for this message states. In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus lays out very plainly what it means to follow Him and be a true disciple. He says you must hate your father and mother, your siblings, even yourself, and, you must carry your cross and follow Him. And if you can’t do that, then you cannot be His disciple.

What does He mean by hating your family and even yourself? Are we really supposed to hate them? Can we really have nothing to do with them? Absolutely not! But what Jesus is showing us here is that we cannot put anything in front of our love and devotion to Him. He must be our first and most important priority, meaning that in our love for Him, our relationships with others pale in comparison. In other words; Our love for Jesus should take priority above all others in our lives!

That may cost us dearly at times. Friends and family may not understand this. It may hurt our relationships with them, especially if they are not Christ followers. This may make what we choose for a career or hobbies different than what we would actually choose on our own. Following Jesus, and by that I mean truly following Jesus the way that He wants, is a costly thing. His disciples got that. They left everything to follow Him. Read Matthew 4:18-22, which is one of the accounts of the calling of His first disciples. They left family, friends, and careers to follow Him. And they were never the same.

Sometimes we have to die to ourselves daily, even hourly, because in our human nature we keep falling back to what we want instead of keeping Jesus our number one priority. So, we have to keep coming back and dying to ourselves. And that is exactly what He calls us to do. In Luke 9:23-26, Jesus states;

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Deny yourself and take up your cross daily. You don’t do that for yourself. You do that because you want to follow Jesus. You do that because He is your number one priority. Is it difficult? Absolutely! But you know what else it is? It is so worth it because He is so worth it!

I’ll leave you with this for now. Read this section of Paul’s letter to the Philippians (Chapter 3). Paul knew what it meant to follow Jesus. He knew what it cost. And he knew it was better by far than anything he knew before.

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowingChrist Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

I’ll pose the question again. And I want you to really think through it. Because your answer to this question may show you exactly where you stand in how you have been following Jesus. What, if anything, has following Jesus cost you?

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