Tag Archives: pray

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.

 


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.


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.

How-About-Now

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.


We’re All Good

I think it is easy to assume that the guy that never speaks up, the family that always walks into church with a smile, and the college student who has tons of friends are ALL GOOD.

“We don’t have to worry about that person, he/she is a strong Christian.”

Have you said it before? Or are people saying it about you? You know what happens when we ass-u-me right?

I live a pretty transparent life. I use Facebook, Twitter and even this blog as a sounding board from time to time (ok, most of the time). But I still have people come up to me and wonder what I am doing to keep so happy and so strong. They want to know why my life is so good. REALLY? I usually tell them to just scroll through a few more of my posts, or sit with me for some time so I can share what life is really like. It’s tough and frankly sometimes it sucks! It is only because of Jesus that I can hold it together. Without the Rock as my foundation, I would be swept away (read Matthew 7:24-27).

The real danger in the assumption (not just being a donkey) is this:

What if I was in a massive state of depression? Nobody would know a thing until I was spiraling out of control, or worse yet dead.

What if I was caught up in sexual sin? Before you found out, I had already managed to ruin my marriage and my family.

WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST ASK? WHY DIDN’T YOU TAKE THE TIME TO FIND OUT WHAT WAS REALLY GOING ON?

Maybe it is because we are fearful of being inconvenienced. Or maybe we are afraid to know the truth about people we love. Or maybe, and this a BIG maybe, we may not actually have everything figured out.

The questions start simply. How are you? What has been going on in your life? What can I pray for in your life? How is your job? Your marriage? Your relationship with God? Are you struggling with anything?

I am sure by now you see it, and you either think I’m an idiot for bringing this elementary stuff up or you feel convicted to pick up the phone and send a text to someone in your life right now.

So practically I encourage you to do a few things:

  1. Think about all the people in your life that you care about (family, friends, business colleagues, church members). Maybe even list them out.
  2. Think about the last time you asked that person the hard questions.
  3. Pick one or two of those people.
  4. Don’t assume a single thing.
  5. Ask the hard questions.