Faith • Leadership • Life

Love God With All Your Strength

Strength

Romans 12:1

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you   to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,   holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.

 

 

The last portion of Mark 12:30 commands us to love God with all our strength.  This means we are to love God practically with our physicality, our energy, and our efforts.  A reading of the verse makes it clear that Jesus had a specific order in mind when it came to loving Him.  It begins with our inner man (heart/soul/mind), but always should make it’s way to our outer man (strength).  What we symbolize with baptism we should live out in loving God with our strength.  What’s going on inside of us should impact what’s going on externally.

Often, we mistakenly compartmentalize our lives and love for God.  We separate what we deem as spiritual from physical.  This typically will be prayer, Bible study, and worship in the spiritual column while good works, service, and effort fall into a different column.  Romans 12:1 should do away with this notion.  The Apostle Paul makes it clear that offering our bodies to God (loving Him with our strength) is a spiritual act of worship.  Yes, what happens on the outside of you is as spiritual as you inner man.  For many, this could be a game changer.

This has some important implications.  It means how you use and take care of your body is actually very spiritual.  Do you trash your temple constantly with bad food, lack of rest, and no physical activity?  Do you overemphasize your inner man and completely ignore your body, actions, and behaviors?  This is why compartmentalization is so problematic.  Everything you do, both inward and outward, matters!

My hope is this truth will inspire you to become more holistic in your approach to your life with God.  Don’t fall into the trap of emphasizing one area of your life with God over another.  God wants you to love Him completely with all that you are.  He created your inner and outer person.  Honor Him with both!  Pray and read God’s Word, but also exercise and eat healthy food.  Both will glorify God greatly.  Let the transformation that is happening inside of you begin to tangibly impact what is happening in your outer person.  It really is very spiritual.

Posted in: Bible, Blog, Yellow Brick Road

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Use Your Brain

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God made your mind and He wants you to love Him with it.  One of the major distinguishing characteristics that separates us from the rest of creation is our intellect.  The human mind is an amazing work of God’s creative power. Sadly, this seems to be one of the most ignored aspects of our love for God.  Mark 12:30 records Jesus telling to love God with our heart, soul, MIND and strength.  To love Him completely your mind must be involved.

​The problem is that over the past couple of decades it seems a strong wind of anti-intellectualism has blown into the church world.  The “experience God” movement , while positive in many ways, shoved the pursuit of the knowledge of God to the background.  This is detrimental because God wants us to know Him and know about Him!!  The more you know God the more you’ll love God.

​Knowledge and intellect have gotten a bit of a bad wrap because there’s no doubt that it can lead to arrogance and pride.  We’ve all seen the  brand new theologian armed with a specific theological system become puffed up in a way that both annoys and harms.  We shouldn’t allow this to deter us from seeking to know God on an intellectual level.  Knowledge can puff up, but it does not have to puff up.  ​

​The Apostle Paul made it clear that if your knowledge leads you to pride then you don’t know what you think you know.  Knowledge of God should never lead us to be prideful, but instead to deep humility.  Allowing your knowledge of God to lead you to pride is like a mountain climber getting 50 feet up the face of Mt. Everest and beginning to brag about it.  It’s crazy!!  He still has so far to go.  You and I could learn something new and deep about God everyday for the rest of our lives and still be scratching the surface of God’s greatness.

​We need to love Him with our MIND.  To do this, we need to start with the truth, God’s Word.  The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us.  God specially revealed Himself to us through Jesus and His Word.  When you read the Word and think on the Word and study the Word you are loving God with your mind.  I invite you to join me and my church on an 85 day reading plan in the New Testament.  This is a great way to get started.  Here is the link.  Whatever you choose to do, get started loving God with your mind!!

Posted in: Blog, Church, Learning, The MInd, Yellow Brick Road

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Stray Dogs

Today’s blog is from our Executive Pastor, Russell Creel, at COTES Ministries.  In this post he takes a deeper dive into his message on “The Enemy” from our Yellow Brick Road teaching series yesterday. I hope you enjoy the post from Pastor Russell, please comment and share with your friends. ~ Chris

Shelter Dogs
The Bible tells us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith…” (1 Peter 5:8-9). Have you ever wondered why the devil goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour? It is because he cannot devour just anyone. If he could, he would. Instead, the devil must be on the lookout, searching for opportunities. He is looking for access into someone’s life, looking for what the Bible calls a foothold. Satan can gain a foothold in your life through any area that you have not submitted to God. Once the devil’s foot is in the door, he will begin to wreak havoc in your life.

James 4:7-8 tells believers:

“Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

However, if you put out a welcome mat for the devil, he is within his rights to settle in and stay.  In that way, the devil is somewhat like a stray dog.  The story is told of a woman who had a skinny stray dog show up at her door. She felt sorry for it and began feeding it.  Then she started letting him come inside.  You could say she gave him a foothold.

Before she knew it, she had yielded her house to that dog!  She moved the furniture around to accommodate it and even gave up her favorite chair because the dog had claimed it.  She spent money on dog food, even though she could not afford it.  When asked her what she was doing with a dog in the house, she responded, “I just cannot get him to leave.”  Was it any wonder?

Likewise, you cannot open the door to the devil and expect him to leave the nice, neat areas of your life alone.  If you reserve a comfy spot for sin in your life, Satan will come and try to claim the whole house. Once he is there, he will not want to leave.

The good news is that Jesus not only took away your sins, He also redeemed you from Satan’s power and dominion. Colossians 2:15 says,

“Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

Jesus did not defeat the devil just to prove He could. He defeated him for you so you can reap the benefits and have at your disposal everything you need to enforce the devil’s defeat in your life.  So you see, Satan is already a defeated enemy!  His legal authority was neutralized by the finished work of Christ on the cross. Because Jesus made you more than a conqueror, you can enforce the devil’s defeat and keep him in his place.

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Identity Crisis

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“What is your name?”  This was the question God asked Jacob after they wrestled all night long in the desert in Genesis 32.  Jacob had been living in the middle of an identity crisis since the day he was born with his tiny infant fingers latched tightly onto the foot of his firstborn twin brother, Esau.  His parents gave him the name “Jacob” which meant “schemer or deceiver.”  As he grew up, his life was shoved tightly into a mold like beach sand into a cup.  The problem was that mold wasn’t the one his Creator had in mind.

Jacob slipped further and further into a false identity as he grew.  While Esau lived out his interests in the outdoors hunting and working, Jacob spent the majority of his time becoming a great cook at the side of his mother.  She eventually became a huge negative influence in his life.  This culminated with Jacob tricking his elderly blind father into giving him the firstborn rights and blessing.  He spent the next few decades on the run from Esau while having several misadventures, including a 14 year job trying to get the woman he wanted as a wife.

Jacob’s lack of a God given identity led to an exhausting life of insecurity and mistakes.  It was at this point in his life that Jacob got the wrestling match of a lifetime with his God, and got the penetrating question that all of us need to answer: who are you?

God wanted Jacob, and us, to answer this question.  We must admit that we’ve created false identities so that He can give us the true one.  Only God can tell us who we really are. He created us. He knit us together in our mother’s wombs.  He alone can speak to our deepest needs, and there are few deeper than that of knowing who we are.

As people, we chase the answer to this question like gold at the end of a rainbow.  We chase it in places where the answer can never be found.  Our spouses, careers, net worths and hobbies can’t fix this crisis.  Our souls long to be defined by the One who called them to be in the first place.  The destruction that results in avoiding His answer to our longing can be devastating.

Jacob answered that he was simply “Jacob,” the schemer and deciever who lived up to his name.  He had allowed his past to define him.  God, however, had a different plan.  God changed Jacob’s identity that night in the deepest way.  He named him Israel, which meant overcomer and son/child of God.  What a difference hearing the truth from God can make!!

Jacob walked with the physical scars from that fight the rest of his life, but he never had to doubt his identity again.  He belonged to God.  He had a heavenly father who loved him enough to wrestle him down.  He had a God who was willing to wound him so He could name him.  God wants to do the same for you.  Through the finished work of Jesus on the cross, we can find our deepest identity and security.

The message of the Gospel is one of reconciliation.  Through Jesus we are made RIGHT with God.  Through Jesus our identity becomes children of the Most High.  God wounded Jesus so He could name you! Stop looking for it where it can’t be found.  Turn to God and hear His voice. Hear Him tell you who you really are. He’s the only one who can.

Posted in: Blog, Church, identity, Yellow Brick Road

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Yellow Brick Road

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The Wizard of Oz is one of our culture’s most revered stories and movies. Generations of children and adults have enjoyed this fantastic tale of a young girl’s journey through the land of Oz in search of “home”. I personally grew up watching it once a year when it was aired on TV. The flying monkey’s always freaked me out!! In the story, the young girl Dorothy is blown to the strange but amazing land of Oz by a Kansas twister. She is told that there is only one road that will lead her home. This yellow brick road would be the path that Dorothy and her dog would take to get to the destination at which she so desperately wished to arrive.

Along the road she encountered several characters who all wanted and needed something. A scarecrow needed a brain, the tin man a heart, and the lion desired courage and strength. The great wizard in the Emerald City had a false identity making him essentially nothing more than a fake. The yellow brick road also took the girl down some dark and scary turns, and the entire journey was made treacherous because of the evil force of the witch who wanted nothing more than to destroy Dorothy.

Isn’t it interesting that the greatest stories actually mirror truth? Our lives are very much like Dorothy’s. We can feel like strangers in a foreign land as we walk through this life. Most of us yearn for direction and purpose. We often take paths in our lives that bring immense hardship and pain as we try to find our way home. We meet people along the way who are walking through life with similar stories and needs, all missing things that they deeply desire. A burning question often surfaces in the hearts and minds of those living this life. What is the way? How do I get “home”? Many of you ask this question daily. Even those who consider themselves Christians find themselves wrestling with this problem.

In the New Testament, the disciple Thomas asked Jesus this same question. The night before the crucifixion and death of Christ, He was with his men and began telling them that He was going to go away. Thomas asked a question that we’ve all been asking for 2000 years. What is the way Jesus? We don’t know the way? Thomas loved Jesus and truly wanted to know the way to where He was going! Jesus gave Thomas a powerful answer, and His answer hasn’t changed in 2000 years.

In John 14:6, Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Jesus said that HE was the WAY!! The Yellow Brick Road of our lives that will lead us home is not bricks and mortar but instead it is a person!! Jesus is the ROAD. Jesus is the WAY. And He made it clear that He’s the ONLY way. There isn’t multiple paths in this life that will lead you home. There’s many roads you can take, but only one right one. Jesus is the way. Getting on the right road in life begins with Jesus and loving Him.

AW Tozer wrote that the most important thing about us is what we think about God. Proverbs says the beginning of all wisdom is the FEAR of the Lord. Mark 12:30 records Jesus saying that we are to LOVE the Lord our God. This is the beginning and the end of the right road of life. It all comes back to Jesus. He is the Alpha and Omega. He’s the first step of your right journey and He’s the destination. Follow Him and you’ll never regret it. It will be dark at times, hard at times, and you’ll want to give up at times, but keep following. He’s the ONLY way. I’d rather walk in the dark with Jesus than be in the light on my own!!

Posted in: Blog, Church, Yellow Brick Road

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