Tag Archives: follower

Fearless Living

I just finished the book “Fearless”, a story about the heroic life and death of Naval SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown. I loved it for so many reasons, but for lack of desire in writing a book report I just want to share a few thoughts that have stirred in my heart as a result of reading it.

First, I want my life to be different. Not necessarily different than it is now, though it will have to be, but definitely different than the “norm.” I want to exhaust myself in loving my wife and loving my children. I want them to know that they mean more to me than anything or anyone else on this earth and are only second to God in my heart. I want them to know that because God is first, they are able to get more of me than I could give them on my own. I want to enjoy more silly, irresponsible, and ridiculous times with my kids. I want to be more romantic and caring with my wife. I know I just don’t do those things enough.

Second, I want to worry less about the little things. I don’t want the temporal junk in this world to have so much weight on my attitude and demeanor. I realize wasted time in God’s economy is such a shame and absolutely unnecessary. There are just too many great things going on to get hung up with junk. Instead, I want to spend all my time in life pressing into what matters most (God and family).

Third, I want everyone around me to realize that every bit of good in me (my talent, recognition, achievements, and good days) is the result of a God that loved me. I try to take credit at times to my own fault, but it’s always been God. I didn’t know or understand it was God until August 13, 2001 but He knew it before he formed me. Without God, my life would be so meaningless but because of Him, everything has a purpose.

So what will I do? How will the inspiration from this book last longer than the night? I am not completely sure but I do know that I will try my best to fearlessly attack each one of those areas above. If the life and death of Adam Brown taught me anything, it was that if I set my mind to something and trust God with it, failure is nothing more than an opportunity for a greater appreciation of eternal victory!

 

Oh…and go read the book!


Encouraged to Believe

I remember the first time I was truly exposed to the thought of Calvinism. A good friend shared with me in disgust that he found out two of our favorite musical artists were indeed Calvinists. “Ugh, that makes me sick!” was one of my first reactions. I couldn’t believe two men who would share such amazing music could believe in a God “like that.” That was 2009.

“Ugh, that (Calvinism) makes me sick!”

Fast forward to this morning. I sat with a young man over a business meeting. A few minutes in, he mentioned that my email signature and other “subtle hints” led him to believe that I could be a Christian. I confirmed his assumption and went on to say that I was a pastor. He seemed relieved that was my answer to his question. We went about our business meeting on a new playing field. My message didn’t change, and I don’t think his did either, but because we knew where each other stood, things just went a bit “different.” The meeting went great as we talked business ownership, family balance, and more. As we wound down, he asked if I was familiar with his local church. I told him that other than mentions from a few people, I didn’t know much. Then he let the cat out of the bag…..

“We are a little different than many other churches” he said. “Like how?” was my reply. “Well, we are a bit Calvinistic…err, reformed” he hesitantly responded. “Ha, us too!” I said. At that point, we stood up and began walking out the door.

What then transpired outside was something I needed personally after some weeks of theological discussions, challenges, and debates. He proceeded to share that years earlier he was faced with his dad telling him that Calvinism was supported by the teachings of the Bible. “I denied it and wouldn’t have it” he said. But as time went on, he searched the scriptures. He began to reluctantly discover that God was fully sovereign, thus in total control. He saw that God did the saving and his own “failed” attempts to save friends wasn’t failure at all, but the result of a God working apart from his human ability (or lack of it). He realized that God wasn’t disappoointed with his life struggles, but actually supportive and more in love with him than ever before. All this came at a time when depression and thoughts of suicide were prevelant in his life. And then, as he got teary-eyed mid-sentence, he said that practically overnight “this new view of God removed the thoughts of depression and suicide.” He no longer had to measure himself for God. He was free to live as God called him and trusted that if he gave all he had, God would take care of the results.

“This new view of God removed the thoughts of depression and suicide.”

I don’t need to be a Calvinist but I do need to be a Christian.

I don’t need to line up with a man’s interpretation of scripture but I do need to line up with what I believe scripture teaches.

I don’t need a God that manipulates but I do need a God that is always in control.

I don’t need to convince anyone to believe as I do but I will encourage it because often times, it’s the only thing that gets me through the day.

 


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)

 


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!

 


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!

 


No Pressure

Blog---No-Pressure

In many Christian circles highly pressured calls to salvation are the norm. Sometimes they are done in the midst of a church service as an altar call. Other times they are public evangelism efforts. Even others, people push to get every person they share the gospel with to pray a prayer of salvation.

In many of these instances I have personally witnessed people being encouraged, excited, enticed, and even coaxed to respond to the call being given. Too often, the purpose of these things is to feed the ego of the person giving the call or wooing the crowd get people to make a public proclamation of what they just heard before they leave the presence of the one giving the call. Now before I ruffle every feather of every person reading this, let me clarify a few things:

  • I believe that when done in proper biblical context, public calls to salvation are very necessary for sharing the gospel
  • I believe men like Greg Laurie are gifted to share these kinds of messages and encourage heartfelt responses to the gospel
  • I believe there are many other men and women with similar gifts that do so with great awareness of their actions and opportunities

So why did I start with negatives if I believe in the three statements above? Because way too often we think we are the final word in unbelievers coming into a personal relationship with Christ. We put so much emphasis on our responsibility to share the gospel and on the need to bring all to salvation that we miss the greater point. Here is a wonderful example from scripture where I think you will see where I am going:

Early in John chapter 4, Jesus meets a woman at a well. As they are in conversation, Jesus makes it pretty clear that He is the Messiah (“I who speak to you am He.” John 4:26). Now let me say this. I do not think that Jesus was weak in His evangelism. He was solid and knew how to tug on all the right strings when necessary. So here Jesus is, the super-evangelist, and the women gets away without praying her prayer. Yup, in John 4:28 it says that she left her water jar and ran into town to tell a whole bunch of people what happened. But there is no evidence to show that she actually came to salvation. As a matter of fact, I think there is more evidence to the contrary. In verse 29 of the same chapter she is quoted as saying “Can this be the Christ?”. So she didn’t personally believe. Jesus had a chance with this woman right in front of her to get her to proclaim Him as Lord and He let her go (because He is perfect and knows perfectly what to do). Additionally, after the woman runs into town to tell all the people what she had heard, John records this from someone in the crowd:

“It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:42

They no longer needed some person (the woman in this case) sharing their information, because God Himself allowed them to personally know who Jesus was.

So why then do we push so hard to get people to the “decision”? Is it for ego’s sake? Is it because we believe this is what we are called to do? Or is it something else? I think we need to examine our hearts and determine why it is we believe what we believe about the way in which people come to salvation. For me, I hold to the firm belief that God does ALL THE WORK before we ever share with that person as well as during the time we are sharing and after we are done. Now this definitely doesn’t mean I should just sit and do nothing. It means that:

  • I can freely share without the worry of “doing it right”
  • I can continue loving that person and believing God can save them even if they reject me
  • I do not have to get creative in order to share the gospel (ok, sometimes getting creative is fun)
  • I do not have to stretch or distort God’s word in order to lead unbelievers to Christ (yup, people do it)
  • I get to be blown away by the fact that God would use me to assist Him in doing a work that He can do all Himself

So go and share the amazing news of the gospel. Share it freely and trust that God has prepared you (and that person) for whatever may come as a result.

There is no pressure in that!

 

 


God-Centered

The following is a post I wrote for For His Glory Community Church a few months back. It’s something I have been focusing on a lot lately (living a God-centered life) so I wanted to reshare it here.

God-Centered

LIVE GOD-CENTERED!

It sounds so simple……..until you begin to unpack the complexity and enormity of what that really means. Let’s look at a few key areas which I believe we must first submit to before we can begin to outwardly live God-centered.

Make Jesus Lord of your life (Luke 9:23-27)

This isn’t about making a decision to accept Christ. Effectively, anyone can claim to “accept Christ” or even “follow Christ” (John 6:64-66). The decision to allow Christ to rule and reign in our lives and to submit to everything He is calling us to is much greater. During His public ministry, Jesus told people to give up everything they had and even hate their family. Why would He do that? I believe this is Jesus’ illustration to say that we must be willing to risk and even give up all we have to follow Him and truly make Him Lord.

Love the greatest commandment (John 13:34)

If we cannot do what Jesus has commanded us to do, how can we make Him the center of our life? Love is such a challenge. The world gives us many definitions (most of them false) of love. In Christianity, the catchy phrase says something like “love is a verb”. I agree that it is an action. But the root of that action is where true love comes from.

Why should we love Jesus? To seek blessing? Or maybe because we’ve just always loved Him? To me (and I hope you), loving Jesus is rooted in the recognition of the gift of grace He has given us through His perfect life on Earth, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead. He died for each of us personally so we could live a life free of condemnation. I LOVE JESUS because He loved me first and has given me the ability to truly love.

Why should we love people? Because Jesus tells us to? Or is it because we feel bad for them? Maybe both in some small way, but greater should be the desire to love like Jesus loves because we love Jesus. Our love is Jesus’ love and our loving of His people is Him loving His people through us.

Live out the great commission (Matt 28:19-20)

God sent Jesus to us and Jesus sends us to the world (John 20:21). We are an ambassador of Jesus. As this ambassador, we are given the key to the kingdom and Jesus is asking us to make copies and hand them out. While we trust in the sovereign will of God who is able to reveal Himself to anyone and everyone, we must see the world as never getting the keys unless we give them to them. God does not put His work on us, He blesses us with the opportunity to share in it.

God-centered

If we make Jesus Lord of our life, love Jesus and His people, and live out the great commission I believe that we will live God-centered. This will flow out into our families, work places, churches, communities, and more. As Christians, living God-centered isn’t a way of life, it is our life.