Tag Archives: Jesus

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


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.


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.