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Three men were talking as they hung dying…

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.“ – a man who actually died with Jesus

Here are a few observations from Luke’s account of a conversation which took place several thousand years ago among three men as they hung on crosses dying:

  1. While Peter said he would die with Jesus, the two thieves actually did.
  1. When I die, I am not alone. Jesus is right beside me.
  2. What I say as I die matters. Out of the abundance of my heart my mouth speaks…even in death.
  3. Acknowledging that Jesus is with me AND that He is the King of His Kingdom makes whatever I say next the right thing to say… even when all I Have strength to say is, “Remember me…”
  4. Every relationship begins with an introduction. And all introductions to Jesus take place at the Cross. Only at the Cross of Jesus will I discover if I’m ready to die with him… die to my seemingly endless desire to run/lead my own life.
  5. No healthy relationship begins with “if.” (i.e. If you will do this for me then we can be friends.)

“Today you will not only be with me in death but you will be with me in paradise… resurrected never to die again!!!” – said Jesus in reply to the thief dying next to him.

Over and out!

#thebibleisalwaysspeakung #thetheologyofthieves #whengodisnear #allintroductionshappenatthecross #dyingtoenterin #luke23i

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Three men and what they are teaching me…

So this morning I’m thinking about the three men who completed what they began 12 months ago. Last night at CCOMRVA.ORG we recognized Kem, Craig, and Chris for the endurance and courage they demonstrated by their refusing to quit and run when it would have been oh so easy to do! 

I’m thinking about my own journey with God. I’m wondering if the most courageous and brave thing I can ever do is to… stand. Refuse to run away. Just stay put. There have been seasons when I’ve had the strength and vision to run full speed after the plans and purposes of God for my life. There have been seasons where I’ve been able to walk after the plans and purposes of God for my life. And then there are those seasons when all I can do is stand. The only thing I can do is to lean into the wind of opposition and discouragement, and disappointment, refusing to allow any of it to blow me away from the presence of the One I have surrendered everything to…Jesus.

And so last night, I stood alongside three men, who know what it means to run after God, to walk with God but perhaps more important know what it means to simply stand before God. And there is no place I would rather be than alongside men like that. They inspire me. They encourage me. I’m honored to be counted in their company.

So this morning I find myself crying out to God for more and more men like the three I stood with last night. Men who are willing to when all else has been done, stand. Men who when tempted over and over again to run away from God and the community in which HE has placed them, refuse. Men who simply stay standing before God without any pretending or defending.

I find myself quite literally crying out, “God raise up an army of men willing to stand before you, to follow You wherever You lead, to do whatever you ask. Not out of their own will power or strength but out of an all-consuming love for you. Jesus, capture the hearts of more and more men in our city!! Ruin us for anything less than your plan and purpose for our lives. Give more and more men the courage to dare to enter into Your kingdom where you are the King! Cause the hearts of men all over Richmond and and all over Virginia to burn within them as they stay standing before you, refusing to run away. Raise up an army equipped and prepared to RAIN DOWN HEAVEN every where hell is found on earth leaving behind YOUR KINGDOM of RIGHTEOUSNESS, PEACE, and JOY!
Last night, if we were able to see it, we saw a trickle. I’m crying out to God for a flood!!

#theranchrva
#raindownheaven
#yourkingdomcome
#havingdoneallelsestand
#nomorerunning
@celebrationrva

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Discipline is unavoidable.

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The mind.

I’m learning Philippians 2. What are you learning?

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

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Familiarity or fear?

I’ve had an ongoing wrestling match with God for quite awhile about why it is good to “fear him.” Maybe this is part of it?

While it is His kindness that leads me to repentance, it’s his holiness AND kindness that leave me on my face wondering what kind of God Jesus is anyway. He stops storms with a word and at the same time loves me deeply. I’m undone!!

When God’s transcendent attributes are revealed and at the same time his immanent attributes are experienced, when the obvious creator of the universe comes near to me as my closest friend, the only natural response when this kind of power is this kind of close is fear.

And this kind of fear leads me straight into repentance. Repentance leads to greater belief. Belief leads to a greater expression of the Kingdom of God in my life. This in turn leads to a greater sense of God’s holiness and kindness. Which then leads me back to fear. And on and on it goes.

On the other hand, familiarity leads to offense. Immanence with no transcendence. Offense leads to unbelief. Unbelief leads to isolation. It’s all about me right? Which leads back to familiarity (who does God think He is anyway?)

In the end, I’ll take fear over familiarity every time. May Jesus need to encourage me with the words, “Don’t be afraid!” because I have seen / experienced his awesome power and have, by His grace, chosen to TURN TOWARD Him in repentance rather than TURN AWAY.

Over and out.

  • Mark 5:36 | “Do not fear. Only believe.”
  • Mark 4:41 | and they were filled with great fear…
  • Mark 5:33 | But the woman knowing what happened to her, came in fear…
  • Mark 6:6 | and he marveled because of their unbelief
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    Integrity and Keeping it Original

    Last Wednesday morning during Community Bible Study (ccomrva.org) the scripture reference was Daniel 3. Last night at Celebration Church the scripture reference was Daniel 1-3. My take away?

    INTEGRITY in a person happens when the outward is aligned with the inward. In fact, every person on the planet wants to live with integrity. We all want what is true on the inside to be true on the outside. No one gets away with the two in misalignment for very long. Our outward actions will come into alignment with what we believe OR what we believe will come into alignment with what we do. Either way, we all crave alignment…INTEGRITY.

    “We all are born originals and most of us die carbon copies.” – Pastor Tick

    I want to die an original. What I mean is that I want to live my days here on planet earth aligned with what God created me to be from the start. I don’t want to waste time on fitting in, blending in, etc. I want to be the ME God created me to be and to spend my life doing two things: (1) staying connected to Jesus and (2) building connections with others, helping them stay original…helping them resist the tendency to become carbon copies.

    Over and out.

    #nocarboncopies #keepingitoriginal #theranchrva @celebrationrva

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    Becoming

    The “person you become” is largely unseen, although that person is constantly leaking out of your facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice when you’re not trying to manage your appearance. The person you become is what you will take with you into eternity–which is currently in session and inviting you to walk on in. – John Ortberg

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    Learning how to die.

    Read this recently. So true. Thank you Eugene Peterson #theranchrva #petersonquotes @celebrationrva

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    Learning how to DO the right thing WITH the right things.

    Becoming a man or woman described as having “good soil” involves starting and stopping things; leaving behind and staying with things; ignoring and listening to things.

    The ability to DO the right thing WITH the right thing is called wisdom. And the wisdom we need comes from God. So ask Him for the wisdom you need in order to become good soil.

    Yesterday a young man who had been with us at the ranch all of 4 days, left. His drug came calling and he followed.

    And it breaks my heart. And it makes me angry. And it clarifies all over again what I have known for years but am now learning again only better.

    The way out of your slavery and bondages and sins and addictions is NOT by trying hard to be free, trying hard to “keep it positive.” The way out is to grab hold of something better. And to allow the better thing to break up your heart into something Jesus calls “GOOD SOIL.” This breaking up work of God in your life might look something like the following.

    FOLLOW ME

    It begins with the resurrected man, Jesus Christ. Today He says to you, “Follow Me.”

    So follow Jesus, the Son of God, who took all your sin on himself and actually defeated death for you. Follow Him!

    LEAVE BEHIND

    Leave behind anything seeking to prevent you from following Jesus today. Leave behind people who have no desire to follow Jesus, their ways, their cynicism.

    MEDITATE

    Meditate on what you hear Jesus say and on what you see Jesus do. Read His word to you. Read the events of your day through His eyes and ears. Ruminate on these things. Remember his word to you. Remember his work in your life today. Read, ruminate, and remember.

    STAND FIRM

    Having done all else, keep standing. That’s it. We came to Jesus with nothing to offer other than our surrender and obedience. Nothing has changed. This is how we follow Him still. Keeping standing… before Jesus. Refuse to run away or hide, no matter what you have or have not done.

    ROOTED

    And finally let your roots run deep in Jesus. Live in Him and invite Him to live in you. Do this and whether you are in a season of drought or flood, you will be fruitful. Circumstances will change. Your fruitfulness will not. Your significance and prosperity is determined by what and who you are rooted in, not by any passing circumstance.

    Be a man or woman willing to (1) Follow Jesus, (2) Leave behind anything hindering their ability to follow, (3) Meditate on what they hear Jesus saying and what you see Jesus doing, (4) Keep standing, and (5) Root yourself deeply in the ways of the Kingdom of God and in the the sovereign king of that kingdom, Jesus.

    These five things will get you started in your quest to be the “good soil” needed for living a fruitful life.

    Remember the young man I mentioned earlier? It’s true, he left. But Jesus has not left him and neither have I or anyone else at The Ranch. When it comes to Jesus you can run but you cannot hide. My desire for him is that he would reach the end of his running and come to his senses. That he would see for the first time things as they really are and have the wisdom to DO the right thing WITH the right thing. And that is pretty much the same desire I have for you… and for me.

    Over and out

    #begoodsoil #theranchrva #psalmone #markfour @celebrationrva

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    There’s a storm coming… there always is.

    1. The condition of the soil matters.
    2. The generosity of the sower matters.
    3. What is done in secret matters.
    4. And the outward appearance does not matter as much as we think.

    In the fourth chapter of Mark’s gospel I’m beginning to see a way of life that just might be sustainable and at the same time extremely powerful.

    It begins with cultivating a mindset that understands that there is ALWAYS a storm coming for those of us here on earth who have answered the call to follow the Lord Jesus Christ… the Son if God. Always.

    I’d probably say that even for those not following Jesus, there’s a storm coming.

    And with this reality comes the motivation I need…

    • for making sure the soil of my heart is good,
    • for making sure I am sowing generously into the lives of others,
    • for making sure that my private life is aligned with my public one, and
    • for refusing to make judgements according to outward appearances.

    So…

    • How do I make sure the soil of my heart is good?
    • How do I day after day sow generously into the lives of others?
    • How do I go about keeping my inner life aligned with my outer?
    • How do I keep myself from making judgements according to outward appearances?

    These are the questions I’m currently asking the Holy Spirit. I believe the lives of many depend on our getting the answers to these questions right. And I believe Mark chapter 4 contains a few clues to help us out. Stay tuned.

    Over and out.

    “”Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

    And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.

    And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

    And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

    And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”

    ‭‭Mark‬ ‭4:3-9, 21-22, 26-32, 37-39‬ ‭ESV‬‬