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

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

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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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Happy Father’s Day

Earlier this month was the anniversary of my dad’s death. Nineteen years since I’ve been able to talk to him. And I’m not writing this in an attempt to say “woe is me” because I don’t have a dad. I’m very grateful for the fifteen years that I was able to have with him before he died. He was a great dad, though not perfect, because none of us are.

Dad

So as I sit here and think about Father’s Day, I want to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. I miss him every day, but again, I am thankful for the time that I had with him and the lessons he taught me. He instilled a love and importance in me for my relationship with Jesus. He showed me what it meant to be a husband and a father.

But I was just fifteen when he died. I still had a lot of lessons to learn (and still do for that matter). As an only child, I didn’t have an older brother to help along the way. But I did have some other men that stepped into my life and made sure I had that father figure in my life. They never pretended or intended to take the place of my dad, but they made sure I wasn’t on my own either. So, as I say Happy Father’s Day today to all you dads out there, I want to take a minute to acknowledge some men that stepped in and helped fill a hole in my life. If it wasn’t for these men, I don’t think I would be the man or minister I am today.

Thank you Tom Berry, Tom Tucker, Barry Tolley, Curtis Booher, Clint Andrews, and my father-in-law Kevin Whitsett.

You all took an interest in me at different times and made sure that I had positive male role models to look to when needed. While I hope my dad is proud of me and who I’ve become, I hope the same from each of you. I wouldn’t be the Crosseyed Jesus Freak without you all!

If you read this and you know any of these men I mentioned, please share this with them. Most of them are not on social media.

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A Reminder: Why We Do What We Do

God did it again. I really shouldn’t be surprised, but He never ceases to amaze me. This past week was a little rough. It came at a time that I had purposefully taken some time away to reconnect and refresh my relationship with God. When I came back from that time, it just seemed like there was just some things working against me to get me down.

I was feeling a little discouraged in my ministry. Nothing big. But a few small things were popping up here and there and I let that distract me from all of the good things that were happening. Then, on top of all of that, NW Oklahoma caught on fire. It hasn’t really hit the Canton area, at least not yet. But there is devastation to the west of us. People losing homes, fields, farms, entire herds, and even a couple of lives, with no real end in sight unless we get some rain.

All of this just led to even more discouragement. That’s what I felt when I woke up this morning (Sunday). I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I just felt down. So I spent a lot of time asking God to help my attitude and to be able to preach with conviction. I didn’t want to let a little discouragement to cause me to just go through the motions, which I tend to do every now and then.

As our service ended this morning, and people were leaving, I finally understood why I had been feeling the way I was feeling. The enemy didn’t want me on my game today. He wanted me to just go through the motions or to phone it in. I had noticed while I was preaching that a couple of teens were in the back and seemed pretty emotional. At the time, I didn’t know what was going on, but I quickly found out.

They were both feeling the call to give their lives to Jesus and surrender to Him in baptism. After the service was over, I was able to talk with them about why they wanted to be baptized and to get things ready for tonight. They didn’t even want to wait until next Sunday. So as I write this, our baptistry is getting filled, and during our adult evening service tonight, we will have two new sisters in Christ and they surrender their lives to Christ through the act of baptism. (This won’t be published until Monday morning, so celebrate with us after the fact!)

That’s God’s perfect time again. That’s God reminding me that this is why I have given my life to serving Him. Watching these two girls come to an understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done for them makes all of the down times worth it. There is nothing better this side of heaven than getting to be a part of someone giving their life to Jesus. All the struggle, all the discouragement, all the restless nights are made worth it when we get to be a part of someone finally understanding that Jesus is the only thing that is worth anything in this life.

As I was talking with these two this morning, I congratulated them and then reminded them that this was the best decision that they were ever going to make in their entire lives. And that is all the encouragement I need to carry on in this calling of ministry that I have in my life. Even a Crosseyed Jesus Freak needs that reminder occasionally, so if you’re reading this and feeling discouraged in your walk with Jesus or in your ministry, take heart. There is a reason we do what we do. We have a Savior that loves us and died on the cross for us. That is the only chance that anyone has, so share Him with any and all who will listen! It’s all worth it in the end!

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Why I Do What I Do

I love Paul’s letter to the Romans. I find myself going back to it over and over again in my personal quiet times. There is just something about it that resonates with me. Recently, as I was reading, a thought stuck out to me, and I realized it is exactly why I do what I do. Before I get lost in that, let’s look at the section of Romans that I was reading through. Paul is making his plea for his fellow Israelites to come to faith in Christ. To be saved through the blood of Jesus. He wants to see them accept who Jesus is. Romans 10:11-13 reads;

11 For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame, 12 since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (CSB)

Paul is telling us that there is no distinction between Jews and everyone else, which is great news for us. Salvation through Jesus Christ is open to all! And that was a hard lesson for those of Jewish backgrounds to accept. But Paul continues his argument, and it is the next few verses that really stuck out to me. Romans 10:14-17 reads;

14 How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. 16 But not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. (CSB)

That’s why I do what I do. That’s why I write here on Thoughts from a Crosseyed Jesus Freak. That’s why I teach Sunday school, Bible study on Sunday evenings, and youth group for the teens on Wednesday evenings. That’s why I preach!

Jesus is our only hope!

This world needs Jesus. He is the only thing that can heal the brokenness of this world. Jesus is our only hope! And the world needs to hear about Him. Like Paul says, how can they call on Him if they haven’t believed? And how can they believe without hearing? And how can they hear without a preacher? God called me to preach His word. I didn’t choose this life. I accepted His call. And I don’t take that lightly.

There is nothing special about me. I’m an imperfect human being that tries his best to follow the call of God on his life. I’m not writing this post as a “look at me”. I’m writing this to remind us all that this world needs Jesus. He is our only hope. This world is broken and dying, and only in Jesus Christ, and His redemption of us on the cross, do we stand any chance.

So, if you are someone that Christ has called to preach His word, stand strong! And let me just say this. If you are a Christ follower, you have a story to tell. You might not be called to preach full time, but you can tell others about Jesus. You can show them that faith in Christ is the only way to navigate this world.

There is nothing special about the people who preach Christ. It is their message that is special. It is their message that is important. It is the gospel…the salvation offered to those that might give their lives to follow Jesus. That’s why I do what I do. Honestly, I could care less if anyone knows my name. It is my desire to step out of the way and let Jesus shine through me.

Every Sunday, those that lead our service where I serve gather to pray just before our worship service begins. It’s a practice that I started because I wanted us all to have our minds focused on God and glorifying Him. Part of my prayer is the same every time. “God, help us to lead well. Help us to step out of our own way, and let You shine through us. May it be your words that are heard this morning, and not ours. May everything we do this morning be for your glory”.

This world needs Jesus.

In other words, my prayer is always, “Help me to not make this about me. This is about You God, and You alone.” This world needs Jesus. There is no doubt about that to me. So, let me ask this. What are you doing to spread His word to those you come in contact with? Preachers, remember that it is not about us. It’s about pointing others to Him!

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He Must Become Greater

“He must become greater; I must become less.”

This quote is found in John 3:30, and is actually said by John the Baptist, referring to the person of Jesus Christ. I read this in my quiet time just recently, and it stood out. I was familiar with it before this, but for some reason it struck a chord with me in a great way this time.

John was the person that was sent ahead of Jesus to proclaim the coming of the Messiah. That is a very important job. It would be easy to think really highly of oneself when you are the one sent to proclaim that the Messiah is here. And people thought that John was either the Messiah or a great prophet of old. It would not have been hard for John to take some of that praise and the accolades that some were willing to give, and say, “I deserve this”.

But that is not what John did. In fact, he very straightforwardly stated that he was not the Messiah. In fact that happened in the same conversation where we see him saying “He must become greater; I must become less.”

It seems to be really easy these days to think more highly of yourself than you should. I know that’s a struggle of mine anyway. Preaching and teaching is something that I really enjoy, and God seems to have given me these things as strengths. And believe me, it would be really easy to start getting a little conceited about that.

What things are you really good at? Surely something comes to your mind when you read that question. But do you put those things in the proper place. That is where this conversation that the disciple John records about John the Baptist is so important for us. John the Baptist knew he had an important job, but the most important thing to him was showing Jesus for who He really was.

In other words, John the Baptist knew that the only thing that really mattered was Christ being exalted, even if that meant he was not as important as is human nature told him he was. And the same thing should be true for us. We should desire nothing above glorifying Christ. Use your gifts. Use them well. By all means. But do so not to exalt yourself, but to lift up Jesus Christ to others.

“HE MUST BECOME GREATER; I MUST BECOME LESS.”

May we all make that our goal in life.

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Missing Our Mission?

Are we missing our mission? And by that I mean are we, as Christ followers, forgetting that our primary mission is to introduce others to Jesus? There is more to it than that as we grow, but if we try to make it as simple as we can, we should be living in such a way that we are able to share Jesus with other people.

Their acceptance or rejection of Jesus is then up to them. That’s not on us. But what is on us is sharing His love with all those that we can. As I look around our world today, however, I’m afraid that the answer to my first question is a resounding ‘YES’! We are missing our mission. But before I go any further, let’s take a look at some of Jesus’ last words, both before and after His crucifixion.

After washing His disciples’ feet and commanding them through His own actions to become servants, Jesus added what He called a “new command”. John records it this way in John 13:34-35:

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

People will know you are Christ followers by the way you love one another.  That’s basically what Jesus is getting at here. Pretty simple.  William Barclay, in his commentary on this passage added some good information. Jesus is calling His disciples to love each other as Christ has loved them. In other words, for us, it is a call to love those we come in contact with, especially other Christ followers, the way that Christ has loved us.

But how has Christ loved? Barclay added four ways that Christ has loved us; Selflessly, sacrificially, understandingly, and forgivingly. That’s how we are to love one another if we want to be known as His followers.

Then, on the mountainside after His resurrection, just before ascending to Heaven, Jesus leaves us with His final command.  Matthew records it in chapter 28, and most of us know it as “The Great Commission”. These are His final words to His disciples, and it is a command that is passed to us as Christ followers. Verses 18-20 read:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Sharing Christ with others, making disciples, and baptizing them into Christ. That’s our mission. It’s not complicated, although, I think we make it complicated. One note, baptizing others is something we are commanded, and we get caught up on that, however, we miss another essential part of this command. Making disciples. That means helping others grow in their relationship with Christ. Christ followers make other Christ followers.

But back to my first question. Are we hitting this mission? Maybe to some degree, but I have to admit, my heart aches as I continue to watch Christians rip each other apart because they interpret passages from the Bible differently than one another. I am a part of a few different minister and restoration movement pages on social media. Instead of encouraging one another, what I see more often is attack after attack.

I’m all for a good debate. Debate is healthy. But what I see all too often is the attitude of “I am right and there is no room for anyone to disagree with me. If you disagree with me you are completely WRONG, and therefore are less of a Christ follower than I”. And let me just say this: I am sick of it.

Disciples make other disciples

We are called to make disciples. You can’t make disciples if you are not a disciple yourself. Disciples make other disciples or Christ followers make other Christ followers. Remember what Jesus said in John 13. I’m paraphrasing, “Love one another as I have loved you. By your love they will know you are My disciple”. How did Jesus love us? Selflessly, sacrificially, understandingly, and forgivingly.


What I am seeing from other Christ followers is anything but loving one another. And I’m talking to both sides of the debate. Most recently it has been over the topic of “women in leadership”. I’m not going to get into the debate. I’ve got friends and respected minds on both sides of the issue. For my purpose today, however, where you land on this topic is not the important part. It’s how you choose to present your interpretation.

We should be better than the world around us!

We focus so much on our differences. We are saturated by that in out culture today. It’s not just in the Church. But we should be better than the world around us! None of us are going to have it all figured out correctly. And we’re never going to agree 100% with anyone. But just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean that you can just completely rip them apart either.

I’ll wrap up with this. Again, I’m talking to both sides of any debate, especially debates among Christ followers.

John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

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Living in a Small Town

Canton CC logoWe’ve been in Canton, OK for almost three weeks now.  To say that it is a small town would almost be an understatement.  When we decided to move here, I really believed that I would like it, but that it would take some time to adjust.  I was a little off in my belief though.

I absolutely love it here.  Living in a small town is different than most places I’ve been, but I feel right at home.  It is amazing to me how this community is a true community.  We watch out for one another.  We speak to one another in town.  It really seems that people genuinely care for one another.

Let me tell you about a couple of our experiences so far.  There is a grocery store here in town, which means we don’t have to drive 30 miles to the nearest Walmart all the time.  Kelley and I went shopping the other day to get some groceries.  We were getting enough that we needed a buggy.  When we got up to the checkout, there was a high school age girl working.  She checked us out and then did something that completely blew my mind.  She didn’t even ask.  She picked up all our grocery bags and started out the door with them.  The only question she asked was where we were parked.

I had never had that happen before.  Most stores will help you take your things out if you ask, but this was different.  I’ve been in a few other times to get a few things, and when I tell them that I can take my things out myself, they almost insist on doing it for you. 

Yesterday was probably the most eventful day that we’ve had since the move.  We had our normal church activities in the morning, went to lunch with a couple from the church, and then was back at the church by 2 for a retirement reception for the previous minister here.  This was open to the entire community, not just those that attend church with us.  And this community did not disappoint.  For two solid hours people came and went, congratulating Steve and Betty, and welcoming Kelley and I to the community.  And it didn’t matter if they went to church here or not, they were genuinely excited to meet us and welcome us.

Here’s my point.  This is what true Christian community should look like.  If you are a Christ follower, then we are all on the same team.  It doesn’t matter if you go to the Christian Church, the Baptist Church, or whatever church.  One of my favorite statements about the Restoration Movement is “We are not the only Christians, but we are Christians only.”  We are all in this together, and in a small town in Oklahoma, I’m starting to see that actually play out.  Is it perfect?  No, because we are human and we will never reach perfection this side of Heaven.  But when a Christian Church minister and a First Baptist Church minister can sit down with their spouses around a dinner table and talk for hours, I think we’re headed in the right direction.

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