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Cultivate the garden of the soul and the fruit you desire will emerge

I worked in a rehab /re-entry / restoration center for about 7 years. Actually, 8 years- if you count my year-stint working under a grant program at the other one.

One thing I noticed is this: the boomerang. A lot of people walked through the front doors of our ministry center to receive help, they got it, and then they went back to the same lifestyle they were living before. Some of them did this multiple times.

In fact, once you get in "rehab circles," it's not odd to meet someone who's been in and out of all of them in a single city. You read that right. They've done this 90-day program, that 6-month one, that 30-day treatment, that 45-day...

In just a few years, they've received more help from more people than most people ever thought possible... yet nothing has changed.

It's almost like it doesn't matter how much the external circumstances change ("If I can just go to the place... or if I can just get that ____________... or if...

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Who you are > what you do- Podcast #15

identity podcast Jun 19, 2017

I grew up hearing this phrase a lot in church world: “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.”

The problem with that statement is two-fold:

First, sin doesn’t exist apart from sinners. That is, it takes a person actually DOING something in order for sin to occur. 

Second, everything we do happens as an overflow of who we are. Whereas we tend to look at actions, those actions are simply symptoms of an internal reality. 

Just like a tree and its fruit. It’s not the fruit that makes the tree; it’s the tree that makes the fruit, right?

That said, we know that people DO change. They’re transformed. That’s the basic message of the Gospel- the truth that God does something so radical in is that it transforms us from who we were into who we’re designed to be. 

And, once we get hold of that message… that it’s not just our actions that change (i.e., Christianity isn’t a moral system whereby people get a list of...

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Salvation is Jesus' very identity + Here's what that means for you-

The message of Jesus is bigger than the forgiveness of sins. The Gospel affects all of life. Jesus desires for the Kingdom to come present, now. The goal isn’t simply to get people to Heaven; the goal is also to get Heaven to people.

Some background on that...

At the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, we read that Mary was told to name her child Jesus. His name actually means “salvation, deliverance.” The angel told her, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). 

The name Jesus, Yeshua, actually means “salvation.” That is, “Name the baby Salvation because He will save…” Salvation is Jesus’ very identity. 

Jesus came to save people in a far greater way than we may have thought, however. It’s important to note that Jesus came to offer a complete salvation, a salvation that affects the entire person.  

Throughout the story of His life on earth, we...

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Judgment already happened- Podcast #14

identity podcast shame Jun 12, 2017

As He approached the Cross, Jesus said a few important things- things completely relevant to how we often feel about how we relate to God. Whereas we tend to think God is out to “get us” or “judge us,” Jesus said- 

“Now is the time of judgment. The ruler of this world will be cast out. And when I am lifted up, I will draw all ________ to myself” (see John 12:31f.). 

What was Jesus drawing to Himself? Judgment. 

And when was it happening? 2,000 years ago. 

Understanding that Jesus said judgment is about to happen AND remembering that, on the Cross He declared “It is finished” empowers us to live in freedom. You don’t have to tip toe around, wondering if you might step out of line… you don’t have to worry that you’re so far gone that you’re out of the reach of God’s grace. 

Nonsense. 

Judgment happened. And you weren’t the one being judged; you were the one being...

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How hard should you work WITHOUT over-working it, whatever it is...?

I worked in churches and nonprofits for the better part of the past 20 years. Before that, I interned, volunteered, and worked part-time with church youth groups. As a result, I’ve preached a TON of sermons and taught a LOT of lessons. 

Some were excellent- a lot of them were junk (just being honest!). 

I say that because I had the distinct advantage, I think, of working on the craft WHILE I was on the job. I got to “earn and learn” at the same time. And, to be blunt about it, speaking in public is a lot like swimming. You can read books about it, you can listen and learn some great tips on what to do, and you can watch others do it themselves. However, at some point, you’ve got to just jump in and go for it yourself. The only way to really learn to swim is to swim; the only way to learn how to speak is to speak. 

I can usually tell when someone is new to the craft. They do what I did for the first few years I was speaking… 

* They...

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Our journey to freedom- Podcast #13

podcast salvation sozo Jun 05, 2017

To understand redemption, we need to understand the first time the word is used in the Bible. You see, later authors actually build on what earlier writers teach us. In other words, to understand the redemption Jesus offers (i.e, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Acts 20:22, etc.), we must understand the concept of redemption those authors had in mind. 

This takes us all the way back to Exodus. The first time we see the word “redeem” in the Bible is what God reveals to Moses that He is about to free His people from slavery (Exodus 6:6). The second time we see the word used is in Exodus 15:13, when Miriam (Moses’ sister) looks back at what has happened and exclaims through song, “God did it! He redeemed His people.”

Redemption means freedom. Freedom from bondage. And Jesus is clear that His freedom is all-encompassing (see John 8:36). 

Now, the Israelites weren’t just forgiven, they were freed. In the same way, we’re not just forgiven, we’re...

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Reaping long, sowing strong

Farmers know all about reaping and sowing. They know that you always eventually reap WHAT you sow (i.e., if you plant corn, you'll reap corn), they know you reap WHERE you sow (in the same field), and they know you reap AFTER you sow... 

Oh, and you always reap MORE than you sow. A few seeds can turn into massive plants which bear hundreds of seeds, each one of those holding the possibility in itself for an ongoing, endless supply of more seeds and more plants…

Life is the same way. 

If we plant generosity and kindness... that's what we'll reap... 

If we plant diligence, we reap the rewards...

The Bible tells us that whatever we put our hand to actually grows (Deuteronomy 15:10, 28:8). Anything. Everything. Whatever you do multiplies

 

And it all happens where you sow it!

It’s important to note, too, that we always reap WHERE we sow. In the same way that won’t reap an apple orchard in this field if I plant squash seeds here but...

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Free to be who you really are = intro to the Redemption talks- Podcast #12

identity podcast salvation May 29, 2017

Peter tells us that we’re redeemed by the blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18-19). Most of us that grew up in the church know that- and believe it. However, we often have a limited view of what Jesus came to do. 

You see, most of us believe that Jesus achieved our redemption on the Cross. However, if we’re redeemed by the blood, it makes MORE sense that we would find redemption, somehow, in each place that Jesus bled….

In the Garden, when He sweat great drops of blood.

And when the soldiers beat Him, causing Him to bruise and bleed even more.

When they scourged His back. 

When they placed a crown of thorns on His head.

When they nailed His hands to the Cross… and then nailed His feet.

And, even after He died, when they pierced His heart… and He bled water, mixed with blood.

In other words, Jesus didn’t just bleed at the Cross. He bled before it, on it, and even after He died. In each place, He bought more freedom, more...

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No, for now (but not for later) = postponing the "yes" for better time

 

My cousin Jonathan is one of the smartest guys I know. Especially to be so young. Over a decade-and-a-half my junior, my first memory of him comes from my now-deceased grandmother’s house in Tarrant City, a small bedroom community just outside of downtown Birmingham.

One Christmas I walked to through the neighbor’s yard, tossing a football or build-and-toss styrofoam airplane or some other Christmas gift contraption… 

I noticed that the neighbor had HUGE leaves attached to a random plant on the front left corner of their home’s flower bed. They were the kind of leaves you see adorning Adam and Eve in kids’ picture Bibles. 

Like any well-meaning college freshman that’s more impressed with himself than reality, I snapped a leaf off the plant, tucked the stem in my belt, and walked around the corner of the house, wearing my leaf just like Adam might have done after The Fall.

Four or five minutes later, Jonathan emerged from the same...

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Jesus' Came to Make Religion Easy- Podcast #11

legalism podcast salvation May 22, 2017

Paul encouraged us to not stray from the simplicity that is found in Christ. His thought was, well… we tend to make things infinitely more complex. We tend to move towards complex religious systems. 

Jesus, on the other hand, came to make things easy. 

Follow me here… 

Moses received the Law- ten commandments which, in Hebrew, were expressed using only ten words (they have a far more economical language than we do). 

613 more laws were then added to explain what those ten words meant. They had moral laws, civil laws, and religious laws.

You’d think that would be enough, but no… well intended leaders created the Mishnah, the oral tradition built around the laws, to explain what each one meant…

That wasn’t enough, either. Enter, the Talmud. 

Then the legal comments added by scribes and lawyers (and their “fences” and “hedges” around the law).

And, then along come the rabbis… 

Jesus...

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