My wife and I have been married for thirty-four years and no one has ever forced me to love her. It’s a choice I made over three decades ago followed by ensuing implications. The moment I said, “I do” I was clueless as to what all marriage entailed. But over the years, as our relationship has grown and matured I now have a full understanding. We are the object of God’s love. We didn’t ask Him to love us, and there’s nothing we can do or not do to make Him love us any more or any less. However, it is our decision to love Him back. When sin entered the world, God saw the chasm between Himself and us and took the initiative to step through space and time to bridge the gap.
And for those of us who have an intimate relationship with Christ, it’s our job to lead the breathless, the spiritually asthmatic to the greatest Physician—Jesus! Right now, He is saying, “Come to Me and I will give you rest. I want to forgive you, cleanse you, and transform your life”. Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and burst forth victoriously from death. You see, the resurrection is all about resuscitation. Again, I ask, have you received the breath of life?
Do the most critical and difficult tasks when you are at your best. Put the most offensive energy into those time zones, when you feel the wind at your back. Then do the easier stuff when your energy level wanes. Whatever works, you do you! I “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (I Corinthians 14:40). And remember, order is part of God’s very character and nature; and great character is an outward reflection of an inward connection with the Creator.
When you fumble the ball or stumble off God’s path, quickly lay each transgression before the Lord. Do not procrastinate because unlike the IRS, we cannot file an extension with the Lord. Once we expire, explanation time transpires. Remember, keep short accounts with God, and I promise He will take you places you never dreamed possible.
Here’s the good news! Once you choose to follow Christ, you will be privy to what life is all about. So no matter how far from God you think you are, or how many questions and doubts you have, if you call out to Him and admit the obvious, I promise He will enter your life and change you from the inside out. Yes, you will still have struggles, but Christ gives us a peace that surpasses all understanding. Your eternity will rest with the Everlasting, and your gifts, abilities, and aptitudes will take on a completely new flavor and feel. You were wired, woven, and fashioned for this relationship in your mother’s womb. God makes much over us so we will make much over Him. But this cannot transpire if you don’t know Him by name.
Those who know Christ know peace. The Holy Spirit grants us His peace the moment we invite Him into our lives. Peace means reconciliation with God the Father through the Son who shed His blood for us on the cross. With Christ in us, we experience well-being, restoration, and tranquility. Personal or inner peace is a by-product of spiritual peace and has little to do with external surroundings. Why? Because, no matter the circumstance, we know God is sovereign over all. As Christ followers, we do not fear the unknown. Our future hope rests not in this world, but the next. However, there is another aspect of peace that really causes us to stumble. This one nails me every single time. I do not care if you cut your teeth on the back of a church pew, or if you have been a Christian for forty years, we all struggle with this—relational peace. If you think you are at peace with others 24/7, think again. It is simply not true. The Bible says in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”. My favorite part of this verse is, “If it is possible”. Essentially, there is always an exception to relational peace. God know this. That is why He gave us this conditional clause. For example, have you ever sought reconciliation with someone who refuses to even broach the situation? The Bible says to do as much as possible, but if the person refuses to rectify the problem relationally just say, “Thank you Lord” and move on because God just did you a favor. Moreover, it depends on us—not them! I am not referring to pseudo peace where we refrain from all confrontation. Always keeping everything smoothed over is not healthy. Codependency is not okay with God.
Fellowship with Christ
But there is something else we can learn during our search and we can pick this up from the life of Solomon. We have got to beware of the numbing factor. If we search and say to ourselves, I can’t get no satisfaction so I’ll try and try and try and try, a numbing factor may set in. We can get numbed out We can become so immersed in the search that it numbs us out to our necessity for God. You say, how in the world could someone so smart as Solomon burn up four decades searching for the meaning and purpose of life? Why didn’t Solomon just come clean and say, “OK God, I blew it. I messed up.” He didn’t because of the numbing factor. He moved from one thing to another. Oftentimes we are so busy and scheduled out, shaking and baking, that we don’t have time for introspection. We don’t have time for solitude. We don’t have time to really assess our lives before God.
Watch more videos of Fellowship with Christ on http://oneplace.com/ministries/ed-young-ministries/listen/vision-295435.html
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Every time Christ points to the Old Covenant, he sets a higher standard. He raises the bar under the New Covenant of grace. We see this especially in Matthew 5:17-20.
The law said, “Don’t murder.” Christ comes along, though and says, “Don’t even get angry.” The New Covenant holds us to a higher standard.
The law says, “Don’t commit adultery.” But Christ says, “Don’t even look lustfully at a woman.” Again, it’s a higher standard.
The level of righteousness that grace demands goes much further than the law demands. People will sometimes say, “I don’t tithe because I’m not under law. I’m under grace.”
I say, “Great! That means you should be giving a lot more than 10%, because the righteousness of grace always exceeds the righteousness of law.”
Think about how our perspective of tithing will change when we begin to see the local church as a visible manifestation of God’s love. Christ has gone away for a season. And I believe he is saying to us, “While I’m away, I want each of you to take care of my bride. Bring the tithe into the storehouse.”
Do you remember the Skittles story I told you about? When I shared that for the first time in our church, I got a letter a few days later with an empty package of Skittles in it. And inside the empty package of Skittles was a check for $80,000! Attached to the package was a note that simply said, “Dear Ed, Here are some of our Skittles that we want to bring back to God.”
Now, that doesn’t happen all the time. What that couple did was an amazing act of faith on their part. They recognized that the local church is the heartbeat of God. They recognized that they needed to step out and give to his church. They understood that God had given them a pile of Skittles and that they had a responsibility to bring some back. For that couple, it wasn’t all about what they had done, what they had accumulated or what they possessed. They knew that the pile of Skittles in their life wasn’t about them at all. It was all about God.
They were part of the 21-percenters that I mentioned earlier in the chapter, because they did something that only about 21% of the church does: they tithed. Statistically, about 79% of those who attend church on a regular basis do not tithe to the church; they do not give ten percent of their income and gain back to God’s work. Do you want to be a 79-percenter living outside the zone? Or do you want to be a 21-percenter, living inside the zone of God’s tangible and intangible favor? The choice is yours.
As we segue into other aspects of money management throughout the rest of the book, don’t forget what comes first. Put God first, remember the tithe, and the rest of it will fall into place. Materialism, greed, envy, debt, and every other money issue hinges on this critical issue of bringing first to God what is his. When you do that, and only when you do that, will you be able to get the rest of your financial house in order.
I don’t care how much money you make, how good I am, how good you are, how many times you have been baptized or how many times I have been baptized, or how many hours I read the Bible or how many hours you read the Bible, there is a debt that I cannot pay, that you cannot pay, a spiritual deficit.
We have thousands of singles at Fellowship. About 45% of our church is made up of single adults. Isn’t that great? I love that, because that mirrors the demographic of our area. You put thousands of singles together, and you’ve got relationships. With relationships, you’ve got what? Romance. With romance you’ve got engagements, with engagements you’ve got weddings. We’re going to build, within this north expansion, a 600-seat chapel. The ministers at Fellowship are tired of driving to do weddings. Those who’ve gotten married say, “Man, why can’t we get married at Fellowship?” Well, there’s no room. This thing’s taken on the weekends, unless you want to have about 100 people in a 4,100-seat room. “I now pronounce you-oo-oo-oo husband and wife-ife-ife-ife.” We could have special services over there, prayer meetings over there, funerals over there. That’s north.
We’re also going south. I hear rumors, now and then, from our friends at the Grapevine police department, rumors from our police crew, that we have traffic problems now and then. I hear there’s kind of a backup now and then. Well, we are going to build a giant road. In fact, this road will be the most important road ever constructed in the history of the world. It will go south connecting Bass Pro to our campus. This will be a great thing. In and out quickly. That’s south.
It was with my wife. It is a stretch for me just to hammer a nail. I said, “Oh Laurie, Landra and EJ, I can’t build a tree house. See the tree is not arranged well.
The second reason why we would come to hear Christ is because He has His eyes set on the eternal. Everyone is always interested in life after the grave. Jesus talked on and on about this very subject. In a couple of weeks we will talk about a man called the rich, young ruler. This affluent young man had all the cars, the clothes, the corner office, the toys, the trinkets. He walked up to Christ and he said, “Jesus, I still have a hole in my heart. I want eternal life.” We would come to hear Christ because He talked about how to spend eternity with Him in heaven.
Another reason we would come to hear Christ is because He speaks words of truth. A lot of us are swimming in the seas of relativity and we are looking for truth. There are a lot of self-proclaimed Messiahs running around, glassy-eyed gurus saying this and that. Jesus cuts to the chase and says that He is the way, He is the truth, He is the life and that no one gets to God except by Him.
Now many of us here are believers. We are Christians. We are born again. If you are, I want you to think back to the time in your life before you became a Christian, that season of seeking. Don’t you remember when you heard a message or a Christian song or read a Bible passage that sounded right to you? Maybe you heard Jesus’ own words when He said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul.” Even those here who are not Christians would say that that kind of makes sense. He said, “Do you want to become great? Become a servant.” We say that really makes sense. Christ spoke in words of truth and that would draw us to Him.
Chameleons are amazing reptiles because they change color to whatever matches their particular foundation. For instance, if they are on asphalt they turn black, if they are on a green leaf, if that is the foundation behind them, they turn green, or yellow, or whatever.