Category Archives: Christianity

What Am I Doing Here?

alphabet-tech-punt-preg-012714-swaIt’s been quite awhile since I have written for my blog. This post is going to be more of a journal entry than a blog per se. Because of that, it may offer very scattered thoughts but I hope that in sharing, it will help me process thoughts and help anyone else that may be in the same place in life.

I think many of us, if not most of us, at some time in our lives ask the question “What am I doing here?” Maybe the question relates to a job, a relationship, or the result of a decision made. But it is a very real question. As a Christian, the typical answer is something along the lines of “I am fulfilling the call that God has for my life, which is to live for and glorify Him in all that I do.” And I would answer that way too. But it doesn’t directly address the practical ups and downs we experience (or better said, not what I am currently experiencing).

For those that know me, whether personally or through some social media channel, have seen and heard a myriad of emotions come from me over the last couple of years. There have been words of defeat as I lost a job, lost a house, and was beaten by specific situations. There have been words of victory as I started a new business, was blessed with an amazing new home, and claimed the win during many of life’s challenges. Somewhere in there, a balance needs to be found. Unfortunately, imbalance remains and it leans towards struggle and defeat. I’m not bipolar and I don’t (typically) struggle with depression, but this season of life has brought about those types of feelings.

The easy fix to defeat is achieving new victory but shaking off the defeat can be challenging, especially when the defeats come more frequently than hoped. Being hurt by someone personally, whether it was meant to be “constructive” or just downright vindictive, can leave marks that take much too long to heal. When multiple things pile on at the same time, it brings about a discouragement that I am not used to and don’t deal with well.

I trust in a sovereign God that is in control of every little thing, down to the very breath I take. And maybe at times, that makes the struggle even harder to deal with. I know God’s end-goal but I am not excited about the path. I find myself regularly asking the question, “What am I doing here?” as well as “How much more of this can I actually handle?”

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt like you have come to the very end of yourself? Was there a time (maybe even now) when you were left dumbfounded? How did you deal with it?

There is a band I really love called “Citizens” that recorded a song called “I Am Living in the Land of Death.” I have held onto a few particular lines in the song:

Darkness is everywhere
But there’s a path in the dark that has emerged
I can see a great light beyond this curse
A brilliant blaze that is Your word
A beacon of hope that burns

And I focus my captivated gaze
On the radiant light from Jesus’ face
The water of life is all I crave
Only Your word remains

So here I am. I (think I) see a light beyond this season. I fear the path to get there. I question every role I am in, every place I stand, and in some ways every word I speak. I hate feeling this way and I am ready for this season of life to be over! I turn to the word of God and trust verses like this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:1-4

 

So what am I doing here? I’ll have to get back to you on that one!

 


The Mission of God

This blog was originally written for For His Glory Community Church (www.forhisglorycc.org).

People are questioning God all the time. Many people ask things like, “Why did God allow that person to die?” “Why did God create the world and then allow sin in?” “Why doesn’t God let everyone go to heaven?” or “Why did Jesus die on a cross?” The problem with every one of those questions to God is that we completely miss the “what”.

We should always ask, “What is the purpose behind everything that God has done, is doing, and will do?” Glory. Everything that God has done, is doing, and will do is to demonstrate how awesome, powerful, loving, and good He is. The mission of God from eternity past to eternity future was to glorify Himself.

The first two chapters of the Bible in the book of Genesis describes the amazing work of creation. God creates the heavens, the earth, light, plants, animals and finally, humanity. It was a miraculous work that can be described as nothing other than God’s handiwork. Every other explanation the world has come up with doesn’t make any sense. God’s purpose in that magnificent work was to demonstrate His glory. In Romans 1:20, the apostle Paul says, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” God created everything and everyone so the world would see how awesome He is. Ultimately, God receives the glory. But something happened.

In Genesis 3, the serpent (who would later in the Bible be confirmed as Satan; see Revelation 12:9) convinces Eve that if she eats of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she will be “like God.” There were three major problems with this statement. The first was that this was in direct disobedience of God’s words to Eve to not eat of this tree (Gen 2:17). The second was that God made Adam and Eve in His own image, not as Him, but like Him, so what Satan proposed was actually something Eve already had (demonstrating our constant oversight of God’s provision for us). The third was that Eve, and ultimately all of mankind, was attempting to take from God the one thing God demanded: glory. The result of the fall (disobeying God) was the curse of sin on the whole world. Every man and woman born from that day forward would be born with a sin nature, leading them to seek their own glory instead of giving it all to God. This is where the mission of God really began. God had to do something in order to turn all people back to Him in recognition of His glory.

GOD ON MISSION

If your mission is to stop people from starving in a third world country, you may go on a missions trip to that country and help to provide the necessities to stop the starvation. If your mission is to get drugs off the streets in your local city, you may go on a mission trip (a local one) to the neighborhoods where this is taking place and interact with the people involved to stop this from continuing. Similar to that, God saw a serious problem with the sin in this world. Man’s sin and desire to revel in their own glory was in direct antithesis to God’s mission, that He would receive all the glory. God knew the only way to bring all the glory back to Himself was to go on a mission to the world.

GOD’S KINGDOM

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

When God came into the world as Jesus Christ, He came to make Himself known to the world and bring God the glory above all things. Jesus established the kingdom of God which was to reign forever.

Jesus also came to earth for God’s people. Man was full of sin and needed a way to be made right with God. There was no way for man to do it on his own. Jesus’ life on earth was an example of how we are to live our lives to bring God the most glory. In John 15:8 Jesus tells His disciples that by bearing good fruit, people would know they were His disciples and would ultimately be glorifying God. Then on the cross, Jesus defeated sin by paying the price for the sins of God’s people. When he rose from the grave, He defeated death once and for all. This allows men to be made right with God if they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and abide in Him. As Jesus was ascending into heaven to be seated on His throne, He commanded His people to go into all the world and tell the world of His glory (Matthew 28:18).

GOD’S PEOPLE

There is nothing worse than being told what to do and maybe even how to do it, but not being shown and guided along the way. It happens in our homes, our jobs, and in many other places. But Jesus being perfect, knew exactly what we would need to continue His mission of sharing His glory with the world. In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells His disciples that He is giving them the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works inside every follower of Christ to enable them to share the good news of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for the glory of God.

The purpose of receiving the Holy Spirit was so that, because of One Man, the Good News could be spread through many men to people all throughout the world. As the church goes into the world demonstrating Christ’s love and sharing of His perfect sacrifice, people everywhere will see God’s goodness and glory and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, come to saving faith in Christ.

GOD’S MISSION COMPLETED

“All good things come to an end,” except when they come from God. Many people use the first part when mentioning all the temporary things of this world. All good things in this world will perish through old age, brokenness, or irrelevancy. But God is eternal, and His goodness and glory will remain forever.

As God’s people, we are daily being brought to a closer relationship with Jesus, thus becoming more like Him. When Jesus comes back for the church (God’s people), He will complete this work and fully redeem each of us. We will be perfect and will rule and reign with Him in His kingdom forever. We will never worry about things (or people) perishing again. This will be an awesome demonstration of God’s glory in that He brings to perfection a broken and sinful people. The mission of God will be completed and all things will be restored to Him.

 


You’re Making Jesus Cry

Choices

We are faced with choices every single day. We are given the ability (in theory, but that’s a whole other blog) to choose the spouse we marry, the food we eat, the shirt we wear, the friends we have, the officials we vote for, and so much more. There are also times when we must make a stand when given a choice, and in doing so, we choose one set of beliefs over another and with that we often are choosing one person or party over another. As Christians, this goes one step further.

Most every choice we face in life as Christians starts with two options, do we choose to go with God (him, his ways, his word), or do we choose to not? All throughout the Bible, we see men choosing both paths. Some follow God to the best of their ability in every decision they make. Others call themselves followers of God/Christ, yet choose their own ways over his. One such case is addressed in Matthew 15:1-9. As he often does, Jesus gets right to the point by saying, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt 15:8-9). He clearly points out that they have chosen the ways of this world over the ways of God. And because they chose their ways over his, they will eventually pay the consequences. But it isn’t always that cut and dry. You see, for the Pharisees, they had no true regard for God so they didn’t really care how Jesus rebuked them. But what about those that want to honor God but choose against him anyway? Let’s take a look at another passage.

The Effects of Sin

In John 11:1-44, we read the well known story of Lazarus’ death, and Jesus bringing him back to life. But towards the end of that passage, there is an interesting thing that happens. In John 11:35, it simply says ” Jesus wept.” Why would he weep if he knew just minutes later he would raise Lazarus from the dead? Was Jesus just putting on a show? Was he deeply saddened by the loss of Lazarus not realizing that he would bring him back to life in a few minutes? Neither of those are possible if you understand the character and nature of God. So there had to be something else.

Jesus wept. (John 11:35 ESV)

Most likely, one of the primary reasons Jesus wept was because he fully understand why death occurred (sin) in Lazarus and others and that instead of choosing God, men were choosing to sin, or at least to agree with sin, thus signing their own death sentence (see Rom 6:23). Jesus was deeply hurt by man’s choices.

So what about you? How many times have you made Jesus cry? It sounds so distant doesn’t it? But it’s not. He weeps over you, every time you sin. Often we choose others, because we don’t want to see them hurt or struggle. Often we choose family and friends, even when they are going against God, because we don’t want them to feel distant from us. But what we don’t realize is that every time we choose man (family, friend, etc), we are choosing against God. Every time we decide to “protect” those against God, we ourselves are choosing against God.

WE MAKE JESUS CRY!

What will it take for us to realize that we are the cause of Jesus’ pain and sorrow. We personally nailed him to the cross! And what is more alarming is that even when we aren’t the ones directly sinning, our agreement with those that are sinning is in fact just as offensive to God yet we don’t (want to) see it.

We must honor Jesus with our lips AND our hearts because if we continue choosing not to, we may one day hear him say to us, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt 7:21-23)

 


Surrender

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I see you battling addiction. It causes great hurt to you, and heartache to those around you. You hope that it will just go away but it won’t. Some days are great you don’t need help. Others are awful and have you crying for help. The rest, well you got through them didn’t you?

There isn’t a program or sponsor out there that will ever do for you what you need done. You don’t need a quick fix. You cannot rely on the very things that have failed you to this point. What may those be you ask? Humanity. Programs are made by men. Sponsors are men themselves. They can be helpful, and often times are. But they fall victim to the same things you do, sin.

Sin isn’t something we “fix”. Sin isn’t something that will eventually just go away. We cannot simply ask for it to leave and more often than not, the harder we try, the more in festers. So what is left you ask? Ask for God, and God alone.

This isn’t the God you have seen in church. It isn’t the God you have read about in that Bible you have at home. This is the God that has had His hand reaching out for you since the day you were born. Before you experienced your first sinful act, or hurtful circumstance, He was calling for you. God is deeply personal, and will stop at nothing to make you feel him, and need him, and cry out for him.

God has allowed your addiction to hurt you, because He needs you to see that is what YOU are capable of. But God won’t leave you there. He has an out. It may take steps, and may involve a sponsor, but ultimately it means fully surrendering your life to him. You don’t even know what that means right now and that’s okay.

It’s time you wave the white flag. Turn your back on everything that has put you in that place of hurt, and allow God, and His people, to bring you to a place where addiction will one day be no more. You deserve more. You deserve better. And until you realize that, you’ll stay right where you are at….or worse.

“But God shows his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13


Going Back to Haiti

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As many of you know, I am a pastor at For His Glory Community Church and have been a part of the awesome work God is doing there. This summer, God has opened the door for a small team to head to Port au Prince, Haiti. There, we will be teaming up with Maranatha Children’s Ministry (www.mcmhaiti.org) to serve during a 6 week English Camp (think vacation Bible school). We will be teaching, cooking, cleaning, and most importantly loving on these children in hopes of not only meeting their physical and emotional needs, but more importantly their spiritual needs.

When presented with the opportunity to lead this team back to a country so very dear to my heart (I was there in August of 2011), I jumped at it. What brings about even more excitement is the fact that I get to bring my 12 year old daughter Alexis with me. I cannot wait to see the ways God will move her heart, how her heart will bless the children in Haiti that we will be ministering to, and how our relationship will grow during this trip. Awesome right?  While I love Haiti and am excited, this is a lot of responsibility and I pray I serve God and the team well!

Would you personally consider supporting us on this trip? I understand that for many, finances are tough and if that is you, I covet your prayers just the same. But if you are able, any financial contribution would be great. Alexis and I need to raise $1500 each ($3000 total) and need to do so very soon. The trip is scheduled for July 19 – July 26 and we have airline tickets, immunizations and other expenses already coming due.

If you feel led to pray, please be praying in the following areas:

  • For open hearts among the people of Haiti and opportunities to share the Gospel with them
  • For boldness and confidence, that I may be an effective witness
  • That I will be open to the Lord’s teaching and be a humble servant
  • For health and safety and the financial supply I need for the trip

If you would like to be updated on my progress and prayer needs, please send me an email at ryan.miller@forhisglorycc.org.

If you would like to support me financially, you may do so in the following ways:

  • Mail a check:
    • Payable to – For His Glory Community Church, P.O. Box 4196, Fullerton, CA 92834-4196
      • Include Haiti/My Name in the memo section
  • Online:

All donations are tax deductible. If you have any questions, please contact me right away.

Thank you so much for your consideration!

Ryan


Celebrating Sin

Celebrating-Sin

This blog was originally written for and can be found at www.forhisglorycc.org.

Recently, a Girl Scout in San Francisco made the news for selling her cookies in front of a local marijuana dispensary. Many news media outlets are reporting on this girl’s “crafty and savvy” thought to display outside of the dispensary. Even big organizations, like Entrepreneur Magazine, are celebrating the fact that this girl made a wise business decision to set up shop in front of a place where people are known to eat a lot of snacks (see cancer.gov research here). What is amazing to me is that in the midst of noticing this girl’s “crafty” idea, society has completely overlooked the fact that this young, impressionable, 13-year-old girl (supposedly selling cookies for a good cause) is utilizing sin to succeed. My assumption here is that this is probably not the message that the Girl Scouts of America wants to portray. But with all of the positive media coverage building up her intelligence and her success, why wouldn’t every other Girl Scout or find their local dispensary and do the same thing? Now, I know that there are practical medical uses for marijuana, which wouldn’t be sinful in and of themselves, but the “munchies crowd” probably isn’t looking to cure a sickness when they step into that dispensary.

The Bible has a lot to say when it comes to celebrating the practice of sinful behavior, as well as using sin to succeed.

“It [speaking of love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth.” – 1 Cor 13:6

The Apostle Paul is encouraging the church at Corinth to use love as a way to build one another up, which ultimately brings glory to God. Unfortunately, what he saw were the people of God celebrating the sin of another, which further damages the person in sin, leads to destruction or division in the church, and worst of all, defames the name of Jesus. Truly loving another means pointing out the wrong they are practicing before it’s too late, and they do damage that is irreversible.

Another word against the practice of celebrating sin, as well as gaining from it, comes from Jesus himself. In Matthew 21, the Bible recounts a well-known event where Jesus cleansed the temple.

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”” – Matt 21:12–13

Within the temple, there was a market where business-like activity enabled local citizens to set up shop in order to serve the city and travelers passing through. This would be similar to our present day swap meet or street vendors in popular cities (like San Francisco). They would exchange currency and buy and sell goods. Unfortunately, many were doing it for sinful gain, and Jesus knew it. Instead of fairly exchanging foreign money for the temple currency so the travelers passing through could buy goods for themselves and purchase animals for sacrifice, these money changers were charging an unfair premium to exchange the money, and in turn, would pay off those that had appointed them to the position in the first place (think money laundering and embezzlement). Jesus labeled them a “den of robbers” to compare to well-known thieves and criminals of the day that practiced similar behavior.

While I am not ready to label this young Girl Scout one of a “den of robbers”, I am pointing out that our culture is perpetuating the (potential) sinful behavior associated with marijuana use and celebrating the financial gain that comes from it. To me, that sounds all too familiar to what Jesus reproached in Matthew’s account above. So how do we handle these situations when we face them?

  • Never diminish the potential that sin has to rear its ugly head in all circumstances.Some may look at this Girl Scout as a cute, young girl looking to sell a whole bunch of cookies for a great cause. But we cannot look past the fact that sin is too closely tied to her gain.
  • Examine areas of our lives where sin is profiting from our decisions. I understand that sin is all around us and almost every product we buy nowadays can be linked to some sort of greed or deceit, so don’t go crazy digging, but definitely be wise. Stay away from movies that purposefully distort the Word of God. Don’t watch TV shows that glorify sinful behavior. There are much better companies and causes that can use our money, and much more valuable things that can use our time.
  • Point people to Jesus when they get caught up in these practices. It’s easy for me to speak out against the Girl Scout for doing wrong, and the media for that matter, but it’s hard for me to show them why Jesus is the better answer. I find it challenging at times to explain in a loving and caring way that the wages of sin is death, though it is, and that only by accepting Jesus Christ will they ever find true joy and fulfillment in their efforts, but I must. We must be willing to take the time to lead conversations towards Jesus, who is ultimately the only one who can solve the sin issues in which this world is so deeply consumed.

Love God, love others, and stay as far away from the practice of sin as possible, because Jesus still cleanses and I don’t think we want to be collateral damage when it happens!

 


True Love

This blog was originally written for and can be found at www.forhisglorycc.org

Valentine’s Day is upon us. With it comes much history, loads of myth, and a whole bunch of confusion. I thought it would be great to take the opportunity to dissect it a bit and share why I think Valentine’s Day has perverted God’s most beautiful attribute….LOVE.

HISTORY

St. Valentine’s Day began as a church celebration for of a couple of early Christian saints named Valentinus, who gave their lives for the name of Christ. Two of the men recognized for their life and death were Valentine of Terni (martyred around AD 197) and Valentine of Rome (imprisoned, persecuted, and finally martyred in AD 496). It is also believed that two other saints may have contributed to the eventual celebration in the early church.

MYTH

Legend states that St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by the Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. This led to his execution. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer. The jailer’s daughter and his forty-four member household (family members and servants) came to believe in Jesus and were baptized. This demonstration of sacrificial love strongly supported the early church’s celebration, thus a reason many people believed the myth to be true.

LOVE CONNECTION

The first known connection of love with Valentine’s Day as we know it is recorded in a 14th century poem by Geoffrey Caucher. In “Parlament of Foules”, he wrote “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.” The poem was written to honor the first anniversary of the marriage of King Richard II of England. This theme of birds mating was used by a few other writers during this time period to symbolize love.

In 1797, paper valentines began being produced to fill a need for people who couldn’t find the right words for their mates. Over the last 217 years, 190 million printed valentines have been exchanged while another 15 million have been sent online to express affection.

LOVE MISUNDERSTOOD

St. Valentine’s Day began as a time to celebrate sacrificial, God-glorifying love. But somehow, man began to replace this recognition of his sacrificial love for God with his romantic love for another. Commercialization has now made Valentine’s Day about candy, gifts, flowers, and crafty words (lacking in these things can create quite a bit of havoc in a household). But this isn’t a picture of true love at all.

The type of love that would inspire sacrifice for another, the foremost being God, is the Greek word agape. The closest English translation would be “unconditional love.” C.S. Lewis believed that agape love is specifically a virtue of the Christian, as it is something given by God to His people alone and inexpressible outside of that environment.

The type of love seen in Valentine’s celebrations today would be described by the Greek word eros. Eros is a romantic love and, while not distorted at the root, it can easily birth perversion when used as the driving force in a relationship or as a motivator for decision-making (sometimes described as the “heat of passion”).

TRUE LOVE

True love is foundational – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus was the foundation of God’s eternal, loving plan. And Jesus made sure that his love never swayed. He was sent to love his people, and he makes sure that he sees it to the end (see John 6:39). We must make Christ the foundation for our acts of love. Because of his love for us, we are given the ability to love him, and his people too.

True love is sacrificial – “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). The ultimate act of love was portrayed in an eternal, sacrificial plan. Jesus wasn’t worried about what others thought, and we shouldn’t be either when it comes to demonstrating our love for what really matters. And what matters, you may ask? To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others, as Christ himself commanded us to do.

True love is unconditional – “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39). The gift of love which was given to us by Christ has no strings. He loved us because of his grace and not because of our works. This means that if we commit to loving God or loving another, we need to cut the strings.

“…God is love.” 1 John 4:8

The only way we will ever understand love, experience love, demonstrate love, and desire to sacrifice for love is by being fully engulfed in Jesus. Here are some practical ways in which we can engulf ourselves in Jesus.

  • Pray

    We must be in constant communication with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Every day should begin in prayer and end in prayer. Every decision we make should be led by prayer. Every thought should be reasoned with prayer. And most importantly, we should recognize that when we pray, we are talking directly to God so it is not as if we need to speak some special language. We just need to be ourselves.
  • Study
    Bible reading is essential to learning about Jesus and growing closer to Jesus. Pick a book of the Bible and read it as best as you can. If that isn’t comfortable, find a great daily devotional and start there (a few good ones here). Highlight, underline, and take notes. Then, go find a friend or a pastor and ask as many questions as come up when you read.
  • Community
    We are only as good as the company we keep. We were created by a communal God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), and we were created to live in community with other Christians (1 Peter 2:9). Make sure you surround yourself with solid Christians who love Jesus (more than they love you). They will be there to love you, support you and correct you at all times, not just when you think you need help.

While there are many additional ways that help us to love like Jesus, the above are timeless and impossible to exhaust.

 


Why Should I?

22128704_sIn a few short minutes of discussion with a fellow pastor this morning, I realized that I regularly ask myself “Why should I?” when it comes to praying. I may not verbalize that phrase to myself but I definitely say it. I say it when I have a headache and first grab a pill. I say it when I am short on finances and immediately send out an email blast to my prospects. I say it when my kids won’t obey and I quickly punish them with something I know will hurt them. With the exception of a few specific environments, I typically don’t address needs with prayer first. Instead I think of what I can to do to fix or provide. 

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:1-3

In the verses above, James is basically saying that my problems fester because I am not asking the right questions, to the right Person. “Why should I” is easily answered with “because God wants me to” and “because God knows what’s best”. God wants me to be fully dependant on Him, not myself. God may direct me to the headache medicine, a new client, or grace instead of wrath. Or God may say no. And even if God says no, I can rest in that because God saying no means that he has something better for me down the line or knows this won’t be good for me in the moment.

I wonder how much hurt, heartache, and frustration I could have avoided over the years but not saying “Why should I”? Prayer is so powerful and yet it is the most under-utilized tool in my life. I am committing to more prayer and I encourage you to do the same.


Overlooked

Overlooked

Have you ever been frantically looking for something, when later you realize that it was right under your nose? It happens to the very best of us (ok, some more than others). Maybe it’s our keys, maybe it’s a screw for something we are assembling, or worse…maybe it’s the sunglasses sitting on top of our head!

Other times, we overlook the good things going on in our lives because of one bad thing, or a series of bad things. For me, I venture to say that describes the better part of my last couple of weeks. And it wasn’t until this morning that I realized what I was doing. Each morning I wake up, journal some thoughts about life, read a section of scripture, and then journal about that text before getting my day in gear. It has been very helpful on so many levels. Well, for the better part of 3 months I have been slowly reading through the Gospel of John and God has opened my eyes to so much. This morning was no different. While reading from John 20:11-18, I read this:

“Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” John 20:15

Jesus had died on the cross and was buried in a tomb. A few days pass and his friend Mary Magdalene goes to visit his tomb. But to her dismay, the stone used to close up the tomb is rolled away exposing the interior and inside she finds nothing but a few garments. Understandably her emotions turned from grief to all out panic. Who took his body? Where did they take it? How will she get it back? These are all the same type of questions (maybe not the body one) that we ask ourselves when we are looking for something and can’t find it. And like Mary, we panic and lose clarity of sight and mind.

When I read the passage this morning, I got the context but it didn’t hit me until afterwards when I read John Calvin’s commentary. He said this about verse 15; “We see that Mary has no view of this matter but what is earthly. She desires only to obtain the dead body of Christ, that she may keep it hidden in the sepulchre; but she leaves out the most important matter, the elevation of her mind to the divine power of his resurrection. We need not wonder, therefore, if such grovelling views place a veil before her eyes.”

Whoa! Did her grovelling veil her eyes? Does my grovelling veil my eyes? What have I been missing these last couple of weeks? And maybe my whole Christian life?

This season of life has been tough. Finances have been hard, business has been a roller coaster, some relationships have been tested, possessions have been lost, and a piece of me has gone missing. I know I am not the only one. What has been burdening your life? What is it that is causing you to go mad and potentially veil your own eyes from the blessing right in front of you?

Hebrews 12 says that “For the joy set before him (Jesus), he endured the cross…” Maybe our trials themselves are the blessing if we just look at them from the right perspective.

or

James 1:12 says “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” Maybe the blessing is coming at the end of the trial.

or

Like Mary Magdalene in John 20:15, maybe the blessing is right in front of us regardless of the (apparent) trial.

Am I missing out on something so amazing that God has placed right before me because I’m too busy whining about the things I don’t like? Are you missing out on something so special because the struggle seems like to much to bear? For some, it could be as simple and shifting your eyes from one thing to another. For others, it could be completely changing your life’s perspective. I am not completely sure but I encourage you to take a look.

There is one thing I am sure of and it is this; Jesus is the answer. If you don’t have your life rooted in Jesus Christ, that must happen before anything else can make sense. If you are a follower of Christ, fix your eyes on him, our author and our perfecter, and accept the blessings he has waiting for you.

Mary would eventually realize that it was Jesus talking to her and she would find great joy in her discovery. My prayer is you would do the same.

 


Victory is Yours

Blog---Victory-is-Yours

It was a crucial point in the ministry of Jesus. The man of ultimate betrayal, Judas, was about to be outed. But he isn’t the only one who has committed such sin. We too, every time we commit sin, are betraying God. 

After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” John 13:21

Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” John 13:26-27

Every person in this world is tempted with sin from Satan. For some of us, the temptation is great and the sins we commit are publicly destructive. These can be things such as sexual immorality, abuse, or drunkenness. For others, they are much more slight. These can be things such as lying, cheating on taxes (or a test), or watching pornography. Sins come in many shapes and sizes but in all them, we are betraying the God that loves us so much he sent his own Son down to this earth to die in our place.

“Sins come in many shapes and sizes…”

So how are we to overcome such things? Is it actually even possible to overcome these things? The answer to both of those questions is yes; for some people some of the time and some people all of the time. Let me explain:

Judas was tempted to betray Jesus with just a small amount of money. But that was the temptation, not the sin. The sin was not committed until later when he actual turned Jesus over to the men seeking to arrest him. Now you can argue (which I would probably agree with) that once Judas’ plot to turn Jesus in became his intent, that was probably a sin. But, the real turning point was in John 13: 27 above. At the point Satan entered Judas, there was no turning back.

What about us?

We are presented with temptation all day, every day. This comes as imagery, past desire, other people that are bad influencers, and so much more. If you are not a Christian, ultimately you have no power to deny Satan (and the sin) because he is the ruler of this world (see 2 Cor 4:4). That doesn’t mean you can’t and won’t deny sin, it just means that Satan has ultimate control and his desire is to see you sin against God and others.

If you are a Christian, you are faced with the same types of temptations as everyone else. You may try to avoid them by taking yourself out of specific environments or remove them from your life because that’s the “Christian thing to do” but those things are man-powered and as you saw in the paragraph above, man-powered only lasts so often and so long. But! BUT! You have the ability to deny Satan and deny the temptation before you sin, not because of who you are but because of what Jesus has done and what he has made you to be. This is a massive, and often times overlooked part of the victory Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. The cross just wasn’t for the forgiveness of sins (though that alone would have been amazing), but the power to overcome them and deny them before they even happen.

Because of Jesus’ victory on the cross, victory is yours too!

So what am I saying? Here are a few takeaways that I would love you to read through and pray over:

If you are not a Christian

  • Now is the time for you to make that decision. Maybe God led you to read this post so he could open your eyes to the fact that he has done it all for you and is asking you to accept him as your Savior. And if you do make that decision, or think you would like to, contact me and I would love to talk it through with you.

If you are a Christian

  • Is there any temptation in your life that you have been trying to deal with on your own?
  • Have you been open and honest with another Christian brother or sister about your struggles?
  • Are the Christians you have shared with trying to give you worldly advice or God’s word? (advice may help, God’s word is guaranteed to)
  • What sins have you determined as “just part of who you are”? (you never have to accept that)
  • Pray, pray, pray and ask God to take it away
  • Look ahead and see sins coming. Ask God to help you avoid them and then obey his guidance.

I didn’t intend to write this blog today but as I was reading Scripture and praying through it in my own life, I think it just had to be said. I have some great friends struggling in some of these areas and it hurts me so bad to see them like this. And if you are reading this post and struggling, it hurts me to know it too.

If there is anything I can do, please let me know whether you share it here or contact me directly through the contact page above.

God bless you!