Tag Archives: Jesus

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.


Victory is Yours

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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

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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.


Stronger Than Ever

Kneeling on the first step of the stage this morning with my face just inches from the floor, I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my face. But this cry was different. It was different because I think I felt every single tear.

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I’m not sure what the tears were representative of, but I know they were meaningful. Maybe they were representative of the fifty men I committed to praying for and influencing to Act Like Men (the theme of this morning’s conference)? Maybe they were in some way representative of each struggle and painful experience our family has endured during this season of our lives?

What I do know is that as the tears rolled and every possibility ran through my head, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of complete weakness. Weakness in the fact that as my marriage experienced a struggle yesterday (since completely resolved), I was called upon to pray for and encourage one marriage that was breaking and another that was soon to happen. How could I lead others when I couldn’t lead myself? I also felt weakness in the fact that lately I have struggled to hold it all together yet I am looked at and respected as a pastor (it’s still so weird to even mention that title). I mean, I’m not on the verge of a melt-down or a freak-out but living in a current season of total unknown is weighing heavy. Again, how can I keep others off the edge when I get close at times?

Then Jesus (yup, one of those moments), spoke to me. Not audibly though that would have been mind-blowing, but in a such a way that as I was  on my knees with my face on the ground and tears running down my face, He put His hands around my heart and said:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9

I have heard it so many times before (never from God). I have taught on the verses. I believe it with all of my heart. But this morning was different because Jesus said it. He wanted to impress it on my heart, maybe so this time it wouldn’t be forgotten. And definitely so I could see that it is in my weakness that God can use me greatest.

Yesterday was a tough day but it finished with an amazing, Holy Spirit inspired conversations. My weakness caused me to be completely transparent with the couple I was counseling. The transparency broke down walls that were there and probably unbreakable in my own strength. My weakness drove me to get to that conference this morning when it looked like I wasn’t going. And my weakness brought me to my knees on the bottom step of that stage.

In my own strength, I wouldn’t have given Jesus the opportunity to speak to me when I needed it most. But because of my weakness, His perfect power came through.

And now, I feel stronger than ever!

 


Silence Isn’t Always Golden

“I neither know nor understand what you mean.” Mark 14:68. This wasn’t the last time we would hear of the apostle Peter denying Jesus. And it really got me to thinking that silence isn’t always golden (regardless of what they say in the movie theater).

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For the apostle Peter, he was in great fear of what people would think, or do to him, if they found out he associated himself with Jesus. And that was a crucial time as just a few feet away, Jesus’ enemies had arrested him and were torturing him. Still, Jesus desired that all of His people would proudly proclaim His name. It was such a big deal to Him that in Mark 8:38 He said that being ashamed of Him would result in eternal consequences.

More and more, Christians get real quiet when they talk about Jesus. Not God so much because He is a universal language in many people’s eyes, but definitely the name of Jesus. And the greatest bit of silence happens in the business world.  People try and find secret small groups to join so they can vent their Christian beliefs in relation to their business, or so they can figure out how to wedge Jesus into their business without offending someone else. 

What about you?

Are you a Christian that openly speaks about your faith in Jesus or do you keep in quiet? Look, I don’t think it is appropriate to shove Jesus in everyone’s face. I also don’t think it’s appropriate, or even God glorifying, to shove Jesus into every conversation you have just for the sake of doing it.  But I do think that God has called you to where you are for His glory. God divinely orchestrates every conversation (yup, every one of them). God puts people in places of authority and influence. God allows people to see you succeed and fail. God does all of this so that the people on the receiving end may see some reflection of Him in your words or actions. 

By keeping quiet about Jesus, you are denying God the opportunity to use you in encounters with others and you are claiming shame, not joy in being a Christian.

I am thankful that God see every one of my shortcomings. I am thankful that even when I don’t do all that I can to glorify Him, He still loves me. And I am especially thankful that Jesus, in His infinite grace, will continue to use me to glorify Him anyway.


How About Now?

“I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.” Mark 8:2

It is interesting for me to read in Mark chapter 8  that Jesus allowed the people following him to go without food for three days. They must have been starving and would have loved if he would have given them food on day one. But he didn’t.

How often is that like us (ME)? We want God to answer NOW. We face certain trials and ask God to remove them right away. We posses a great need and want God to provide it right away. When God doesn’t answer immediately, we get frustrated, weary, and even upset with God. The worst part of all is that it begins to put a wedge in between us and God. The wedge doesn’t come from God’s side (He never does that) but from ours.

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My encouragement is this: 

Ask of God always for everything your heart desires (see Matt 7:7). Then just wait and be patient. This is not an easy task and one that I personally struggle with. But when I struggle with my patience I read of the lives of Moses and the Israelites searching for the promised land, the life of Paul (especially in prison), and even these people following Jesus in Mark chapter 8 (starving for food). None of those circumstances were satisfied overnight and in some cases, it didn’t happen for many years. And like them, we may wait a long time for God to meet our need(s).

But God will provide. And the best news of all is that even if we don’t get what we want in this present life, Jesus will make it worth every second we waited once he returns.


Live God-Centered

I recently contributed a blog post to the For His Glory Community Church website. If you have ever asked yourself what it looks like to live God-centered, I suggest you follow this link.

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If You Can’t Beat Em, Join Em

If-You-Can't-Beat-Em-Join-EmThis post was inspired by a recent sermon I preached on the same topic. It can be found in it’s entirety by clicking here.

Don’t you hate it when people want you to take their “side”? They argue just for the sake of arguing.

I am sure there was a time in the not-so-distant past when the majority of people actually respected each other’s opinions and feelings, but today people are much more concerned with us knowing their opinion and making their opinion ours. You know what I’m saying right? You’ve probably been baited into one of these conversations (more like one way transmissions) lately.

“It’s the Angels. THE ANGELS! Hamilton, Pujols, and Trout! Amazing offense, phenomenal defense. Don’t you know anything about baseball? You’re team is terrible. The Angels are the best!”

or

“What? How can you say that about our president. He is doing everything he can to improve our country. He has done his best to clean up all the old messes and move us in the right direction. You’re ignorant if you don’t feel the same way!”

Has someone made one of those statements to you? Maybe it wasn’t about politics or sports, but there are an unlimited number of other things people try to “push” on us. I can’t tell you the last time I had a conversation with someone that didn’t include them trying to sell me on their opinion or idea. I mean how dare they try to tell me I am wrong and they are right. Why can’t they understand that I have a brain? I have a heart, an opinion, and a point of view too!

Then it hit me! I too was that person. I began to realize that every time I got into a conversation with someone, I was trying to share force my beliefs with on them. For me, the topics have ranged from business success strategies to politics to Christianity. Too often I would take these “conversations” to a whole new level. I would get my sword and my shield out to prepare for the fight I was willing to start…..and win.

It wasn’t long before I began to see what I was doing to others. I was doing the very thing that they were hurting me with. I made them feel like their opinion didn’t matter. I made them feel stupid for thinking their way was even remotely possible. So what would it take to change the way I engaged others with my opinions and theirs? Simply, instead of trying to fight with them I decided it was time to join them. Not to take their side and compromise my opinions or beliefs for theirs, but to come to their side with an open mind and attempt to learn the who, what, and why of their point of view.

This type of approach is especially important when it comes to the topic of Christianity. It is hard for me to admit this as a pastor, but most Christians do a terrible job of listening to what non-believers (people that are not Christians) have to say. They don’t seem to care about the thoughts and opinions of those outside their circles and it is such a shame for a multitude of reasons:

  • Typically more of the goings-on in a city happen outside the church circle than inside it.

  • There is much wisdom to be learned about the local church from people that don’t participate in the church circle.

  • When trying to engage the culture outside the church, it is important to know what the culture is all about.

  • Just because God knows everything doesn’t mean Christians do!

As a Christian, I think it’s time we go right to the word of God and see how God calls us to engage in conversation with people of other opinions and beliefs. In Acts 17:16-32, the Apostle Paul steps into a cultural context with which he doesn’t have much favor, and instead of putting up a fight with them he talks their talk. Paul spent time in the city of Athens sharing his heart for Jesus while listening to what they were saying. He apparently studied what was of importance to them (Acts 17:28) and he showed respect for them (Acts 17:22). Paul didn’t walk into Athens with guns ablazing but instead took his time to share in an effective manner. Surely he wanted to do his best to get his message across clearly and not jeopardize his opportunity by upsetting his audience.

What about us? How can we take a different approach to the same old fights?

When people are hanging out in the local bars until all hours of the night drinking and having a good time, don’t immediately attack their actions by labeling them horrible sinners. Maybe in fact they are there because that is where they have found a strong community of friends who don’t instantly judge the book by it’s cover.

Or the next time a conversation comes up on the topic of same-sex marriage, listen intently to why the defending party believes their side is the right side. Maybe it is due to the fact that they don’t believe in God at all. In that instance, fighting with them about God’s definition of marriage is pointless.

It’s not to say that we should never fight for what we believe is right. But each of us must do a better job of learning more about the other side of every opinion and belief. You never know when stepping to the “other” side wins that person right back to your “side”.


I’m Going on a Missions Trip

Summer is coming and churches everywhere are preparing their teams for missions trips. Maybe it’s a high school
group, a college group, or just a mish-mosh group from church that has a heart to go and reach an impoverished or unreached people group.

The planning and preparation required to go on a foreign missions trip can be so intense. Logistics, finances, passports, and clean bills of health. Who wants to go? Who can go? Will they get together all they need to in the amount of time they have to?

But what about the rest of us? What will we do this summer? Well as for me, I’m excited to say I’m going on a missions trip too. What’s crazy is I’m actually not going out of the country though. I’m not even leaving the state. Most likely, I won’t even be leaving southern California. So how do I claim to be going on a mission’s trip if I’m not really going anywhere? I think Jesus has my back here because He said…

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

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Did you catch that? He said Jerusalem. And He was talking to a bunch of guys in……yep you guessed it, Jerusalem. Now, I am in no way discounting the amazing and overwhelming work that needs to be done all throughout the world. There are people groups all over that have never even heard the gospel. How will they ever meet Jesus if someone doesn’t tell them (Romans 10:14)? We must go to them. It’s not even an option but a necessity. I have gone to a foreign country on mission and it was an amazing blessing. And I will go again too! My heart is for the gospel to go to all the world. But what I am not going to do is miss out on my opportunity to go on a missions trip every day for the rest of my life.

I have family that needs Jesus, I have neighbors that need Jesus, I live in a city with surrounding cities that need Jesus. And others that don’t need to meet Jesus (because they already know Him) still need the love of Jesus. There are people within my local reach that need food, money, and care for the things they are struggling with. I don’t want to miss those opportunities because I’m in my Jerusalem.

What about you? Are you going on a missions trip this summer? If you are, I pray that God provides all you need to get where you want to go and that your trip is a magnificent work of God. But as you prepare, don’t miss the mission that God has you on every day. If you’re not going on a trip, realize that God already has you on mission right where He has sovereignly placed you. He is going to put before you opportunities every single day to be His hands and feet. I encourage you to look for those opportunities always, in everything you do. At home, at work, and at the grocery store.

You never know when your missions trip to the mall ends up being a life changing moment for someone God has divinely caused you to collide with.