Dead Faith

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

James 2:14-17 ESV

Faith without works, is dead. What good is it to sit and read your bible all day and never put it into practice? We can pray for someone hurting and struggling all we want, but sometimes we have to do more. I’m not saying not to read the bible or pray, but we have to act as well. It scares me to think about how many “Christians” are practicing “dead faith”, myself included. I try to do a bible study and pray as much as possible, but what good is that if I don’t take what I learn and put it into practice. It bothers me that we care more about a dead lion than the millions that are dying of starvation or preventable diseases. It breaks my heart that we care more about a man turning himself into a woman, than the millions that are caught in the sex slave industry. It’s 2015 and it seems that the color of someone’s skin is more important than the condition of their heart.  We have to start putting our faith into action. Yes, we are saved by faith alone, through grace alone, BUT, our works confirm our faith. James talks about Abraham and how he was justified by faith AND works, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” James 2:24 ESV. What if when God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham would have said, “uhhh, nah I’m good. I believe you and everything but I don’t trust you enough to do that.” Sadly that is what many of us do everyday. It’s simply not enough to have faith alone, even demons in hell have faith and believe in God.

When in Rome

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16 NLT

Romans is probably my favorite book in the bible. It’s written by Paul (who just so happens to be my favorite apostle) and is full of awesome verses. Reading through Romans there are certain verses that seem to stand out to me at this point in my life. I couldn’t make it through the first paragraph without having to stop and thank God for His love and grace.

Romans 1:5 says, “Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey Him, bringing glory to His name.” For me, a verse like this is a call to action. We have been called and chosen by God to spread the Good News. We have the privilege and authority to tell everyone, everywhere about what God has done in our lives through Jesus Christ. I think too many of us get caught up in the whole, “what is God’s will for my life?” question, that we fail to realize how simple it really is. Paul put it pretty plainly (say that five times fast) in the first chapter of Romans when he said, “…whom [God] I serve with all my heart by telling others the Good News about His son.” Romans 1:9 NLT. That’s it. You don’t have to be a preacher standing in a pulpit to spread the Good News. For me, this blog is a way to get God’s word out. Writing is something that has just always come pretty natural to me. When I got saved I just started writing about how God’s word had inspired me. The great thing about blogging and being able to post online, is that I don’t have to stand in front of anybody! Maybe your thing is public speaking and being in front of a crowd is where you feel right at home. Use that gift to spread the Good News! We all have a calling, a purpose according to God’s will. Someone recently told me, “if you can find what you are passionate about, then you can find your ministry.” I had a friend of mine that actually used online gaming as a sort of ministry. We would jump in a lobby and just start randomly talking about God. It was interesting to see where some of those conversations would lead. They weren’t always pleasant conversations, we were met with plenty of ridicule and harsh words, but it was awesome to be able to use something like video games as a tool to reach people far from God. Who knows, maybe one of the guys we talked to was curious enough to crack open a bible and see what all the fuss was about. What about you? What are you passionate about? What’s YOUR ministry?

Say something….

“Many people, including some of the Jewish leaders, believed in Him. But they wouldn’t admit it to anyone because of their fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.”

John 12:42-43 NLT

As much as I hate to admit it, this passage rings just as true for me, and I’m sure many others, today just as much as it did back when it was written. No, I’m not worried that the Pharisees are going to throw me out of the synagogues. But I am worried that if I start speaking up about God or my beliefs in Jesus that many of the people, who’s opinions for some strange reason I strongly care about, are going to think less of me. Why? Why do we care so much for the opinions of man? So many times I will be hanging out with friends or loved ones and some kind of conversation about religion or church will pop up and I just remain silent. I can hear God telling me to say something, nudging me to speak up, and more often than I would like to admit, I just shrug my shoulders or shake my head. Why is it so hard to speak up and spread the Good News? I mean, that’s the whole reason we are here isn’t it? Jesus Himself said in John 13 after He had washed the disciples’ feet, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” Jesus said to do as I have done to you, and I’m pretty sure He wasn’t scared to talk about God. I think most of us have the same problem as the Jewish leaders that were afraid to admit their belief when Jesus was still walking the earth, we love human praise more than the praise of God. We love to hear someone tell us we’re doing a good job or well done! And sadly, when we start witnessing to people about God, the chances are that we are not going to hear those words. Which brings me back to my original question, why do we care? Why do we care what people think? As true followers of Jesus Christ, we know where true blessing comes from. Jesus said in John 13:17, “You know these things-now do them! That is the path of blessing.” If we truly follow Jesus, truly believe Him and His word, we have to start saying something. We have to speak up for Jesus. I myself am tired of taking the easy road, looking back on past conversations and wishing I would have said something differently.  Think about the mess we would be in today if Jesus had chosen not to speak up. He knew what the outcome would be if He listened to God and He did it anyway. Knowing full well that His actions would ultimately lead to His own death, He chose to still speak up for God and die on the cross for our sins. Why? Because that was the very reason He came, to save our souls.

“All those who want to be my disciples must come and follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And if they follow me, the Father will honor them. Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from what lies ahead’? But that is the very reason why I came! Father, bring glory to your name.” John 12:26-28 NLT

The passage says His soul was deeply troubled. I’m sure that if we knew that our actions were going to lead to beatings, torture, and a painful and humiliating death on the cross, most of us would probably not do them. But Jesus did. He knew the outcome and He did it anyway. He did it so that we may have eternal life. So that we could be saved. He did it, not just as a get out of hell card, but so we may have a truly joyful and abundant life. Jesus loves you, and if you will truly give your life over to Him you can experience the blessings that God intended for each and every one of us.

Murder in the first degree

“Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart.” -John

Here lately whenever I’m having my “quiet time” doing a bible study, it seems that the theme of the study always goes back to the same thing…forgiveness. Maybe it’s because I went through a tough season in my life were I honestly felt like God could not forgive some of the things I had done in the past (I would have been stoned in the streets if this were the Old Testament days) maybe it’s because of some of the things going on in my personal family life. I don’t know, but one thing is for sure, God is definitely trying to tell me something.

“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants for you to do, and He will bless you for it.” 1 Peter 3:9 NLT

You see, I’ve held onto this grudge in my heart for weeks now. It plagues my thoughts, my dreams, my prayers, everything I do is tainted by this. It has caused me to slip away from God. To turn my thoughts from Him, to thoughts of hate, violence, and malice. While trying to find scripture that would help support me in my hate filled rage, I stumbled across a verse that made me rethink my whole perspective.

“Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” 1 John 3:15 NLT

Murderer? Really? It’s amazing which verses stand out depending on what you’re going through or where you are in your walk with Christ. I have read Johns books numerous times but have never paid that verse any mind, until now.

“If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen? And God Himself has commanded that we must love not only Him but our Christian brothers and sisters, too.” 1 John 4:21-22 NLT

God didn’t say we should “try” to love, He didn’t “recommend” we love, He COMMANDED it. God is love. God is mercy. God is grace. God is forgiveness. If we want to follow Christ’s example and be more like Him, we have to love one another, forgive one another no matter the pain that was caused.

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father WILL NOT FORGIVE YOUR SINS.” Matthew 6:14-15 NLT

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the hatred that filled my heart. I’m sorry for the violent thoughts that plagued my mind. I’m sorry. Two simple words that are often times the hardest to say. I’m sorry. Two words that have the power to completely change a relationship. I’m sorry. Two words that could mend a relationship that has been rocky for years, or maybe just a few weeks. I’m sorry.

As true Christians, we have to follow Christ’s example. If Jesus could forgive the people that were crucifying Him, WHILE THEY WERE CRUCIFYING HIM, I don’t see why we can’t forgive each other now. We don’t have a very long time on this earth, we shouldn’t spend the time we do have in hate and anger. There’s only one thing that matters and that is spreading the Good News. Showing Christ’s love to others. Finding the lost and help in bringing them closer to God. How can we show the love of God if we are bitter and angry with one another?

Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive? Or perhaps someone that you need to apologize to?

“and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” Matthew 6:12 NLT

Stargazing

“As they were straining their eyes to see Him, two white-robed men suddenly stood there among them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. And someday, just as you saw Him go, He will return!” Acts 1:10-11

Just as the apostles who were caught standing around staring at the sky, I often find myself in the same situation, standing around looking to the sky. I’ve got to a point where I am just at a stalemate, not really doing anything to spread the Good News, not doing anything to find lost people, not doing anything to further my relationship with Jesus, not doing anything really, just standing around looking to the sky. I think this is the case for a lot of Christians (whether they want to admit it or not). We reach a point were we are showing up for church but not much else. We have to keep fighting the Good Fight. We have to keep spreading the Word. We have to keep running the race. I worry that we as Christians are not doing all we can to reach others. I fear that we have reached a point where we no longer see the urgency to spread God’s message of grace and salvation. We as Christians have lost our drive. As I read through some of my older posts, I feel like I don’t even know the man that wrote them. The words have passion. The words have intensity. What happened to that man? It has been almost six months since my last post. Granted I started working a full time job and no longer have all day to study the bible like I used to, but still, why have I put off the most important part of being a Christian, reaching lost souls. The whole reason I started writing was to reach others (and I get super uncomfortable doing it on stage or in person). But even reading the last sentence, “I get super uncomfortable,” tears at me. I’m sure it wasn’t “comfortable” for Jesus on the cross, I’m sure it wasn’t “comfortable” for the apostles to leave everything they held dear in order to follow Him, and I know it wasn’t comfortable when they were all persecuted because of it. We live in a world of “comforts”. Most of us have been blessed to live in a world where we can freely and openly worship without fear of death or physical hardship. Why then is it so hard for us to get out there and spread His word? One of the last things Jesus told us to do before He ascended into Heaven was to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Jesus even says that He is “with you always, even to the end of the age,” why then is it so hard? We as Christians have to stop staring at the sky and focus more on those around us. I’ve had the opportunity to visit different churches around my area and the message is almost the same at everyone, we have to start reaching out. The preachers are all pleading with the congregation to act. We have gotten complacent, me included. I can’t begin to count all the times I have had an opportunity to reach out to someone and simply did nothing. Why? I read the stories of men and women in the bible that gave their very lives in order to spread God’s message, and wonder when we lost that drive. In most cases here in America, and other areas of the world for that matter, we don’t have to worry for our lives if we spread the message. We may be mocked, made fun of, or laughed at but not martyred for it. I for one am tired of being a “cowardly Christian” as I heard one preacher put it. It’s time to stop standing on the sidelines, staring at the sky, and start getting involved. Hell is real, and while we have no fear of death because of the grace of God, there are millions out there that are still lost. Millions that may never know the love of God unless we stop stargazing and start reaching out, no matter how “uncomfortable” it may be, because just as the white-robed men told the apostles as they stood idly by, “He will return!”

The Weight of Sin

“Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel ,saying: ‘If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which ought not be done, and does any of them, if the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, then let him offer to the Lord for his sin which he has sinned a young bull without blemish as a sin offering. He shall bring the bull to the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord, lay his hand on the bull’s head, and kill the bull before the Lord.” Leviticus 4:1-4 NKJV.

After reading through the beginning of Leviticus, one thing is for sure, everyday sin simply does not have the same weight it did back in the day. Think about it, we sin today, whether it be an innocent white lie, a lustful thought, or something as simple as spreading gossip and we don’t really give it a second thought. We may stop ourselves and think, “oh man, I really shouldn’t be thinking this” or “maybe I shouldn’t have said that” and that’s it! Everyday sin has been downplayed in today’s world. Think about the people that lived in the days of Moses, if they sinned they had to sacrifice their livestock! Even if their sin was unintentional, they still had to bring in a prized bull for the slaughter. I guarantee that if every time I sinned, even if unintentionally, I had to kill a bull I would look at sin in a whole new light. Sin would have real life consequences. What if every time you sinned, you had to sacrifice $100? I bet we would look at sin differently then!

Thankfully, Jesus Christ came down to Earth to die on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. We no longer have to do these bloody, brutal rituals when we sin because Jesus came as the perfect sacrifice. We have been washed clean by the blood of the lamb, the blood of Jesus Christ. But that doesn’t downplay the severity of sin itself. Sin still weighs the same now as it did in the days of Moses. I encourage you to read through the book of Leviticus if haven’t already. I’m still reading it myself and it’s a very brutal book, but, for me at least, it has put sin back in perspective. I’m thankful for Jesus, I’m thankful that God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, chose to send His one and only Son down to earth to die on the cross for you and for me, so that we no longer have to do these brutal rituals to wash away our sins. We often take for granted the ability to simply ask for forgiveness today, that’s why I recommend reading through this book, so that you may see the true weight that sin has.

B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth)

“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.” Titus 2:11 NLT

The book of Titus is a short one, but a really good one. While I was reading it, something just kind of popped in my head, we spend so much time pushing people to “get saved” that we often forget to teach what we should do after. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing people truly give their lives to God, that’s the main reason we’re all here isn’t it? To become “fishers of men”. But I don’t think we spend enough time teaching what we should do after. I heard the preacher say something that stuck in my head a little while back, “Salvation isn’t the finish line, it’s the starting line.” After we accept God as our savior, that’s when our journey truly begins. Paul says in Titus 2:11-14 NLT, “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave His life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us His very own people, totally committed to doing what is right.” Being totally committed to doing what is right. I’ll admit, I struggle from time to time with certain sins, we all do. Some of us have things we battle with on a daily basis, be it drugs, alcohol, lust, or envy, we all have our struggles. We’re only human, right? Paul wrote a few verses in the book of Titus that tells us of our “human nature” and God’s unending mercy. Titus 3:3-8 NLT, “Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled by others and became slaves to many wicked desires and evil pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy. We hated others, and they hated us.” I think whether we want to admit it or not, this verse describes most of us at some point or another. It’s easy to get misled in this evil world we live in. I know all too well the destructive nature of living a life of sin can have on you. But what Paul writes next is truly inspiring. “But then God our Savior showed us His kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did. He declared us not guilty because of His great kindness. And now we know that we will inherit eternal life. These things I have told you are true. I want you to insist on them so that everyone who trusts in God will be careful to do good deeds all the time. These things are good and beneficial for everyone.” Once we decide to give our lives over to God, the best thing for us to do is to really dig into the word of God. Read the gospels, what better way to find out what Jesus was all about than to read how He lived His life. Instead of just modeling our lives off the past examples of Christians, we should focus on the life of Christ Himself. We need to get this cookie cutter image of how a Christian looks and acts out of our heads and really read the bible for ourselves and pray that God would show you the way. “Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” Titus 2:6-8 NKJV.

Daily travels along the straight and narrow path to salvation.

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