Crazy Talk

“I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18 NLT

 

I believe the bible. I believe every word. I don’t always understand it, but I believe it. I believe that God sent His son, Jesus, to die on the cross for the sins of the world then raised Him from the dead three days later. I believe that one day Jesus will return and we will all have to answer for our time here on earth. I believe that each and every one of us will be judged for what we have done and the only way to avoid God’s righteous wrath is Jesus Christ. I also believe that sounds completely crazy to anyone who doesn’t believe that. So how do we reach these people? People that look at our beliefs and think we are some kind of crazy. The bible says that, “Faith comes from listening to this message of good news-the Good News about Christ.” Romans 10:17 NLT. It’s up to us to tell them, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable, we must tell them about Jesus. Romans 10:14 NLT says, “But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?” Jesus has given us a commission, a calling, a command. At the end of the book of Matthew, Jesus tells us to go and make disciples.  So why aren’t we doing it? What’s holding us back? This commission wasn’t just for preachers, it’s for every man or woman that would call themselves a Christian. It can, and will, be awkward. Push through it. If we truly believe the bible, we have to believe what it says about hell and the unbelievers. “But cowards who turn away from me, and unbelievers, and the corrupt, and murderers, and the immoral, and those who practice witchcraft, and idol worshipers, and all liars-their doom is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur.” Revelation 21:8 NLT. Hell is not something that is particularly fun to talk about, but it is a reality. A reality that many choose to ignore or pretend doesn’t exist. I recently read an article that said 43% of Americans were “unchurched”. 43%. Almost half of the US is headed to eternal damnation, separated from God, forever. Christians, we must step-up. If we truly believe what the bible says, and we have any love in our hearts, we must spread the gospel. We must reach out to those who don’t know the hope of Jesus. We must shine the light of God in this dark world. It wasn’t merely a suggestion from Jesus, it was a command.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end 0f the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NLT

Fearing Man

I’ve made a reputation for myself, and not necessarily a good one.  I’m not sure how I get here. Actually, I take that back, I do know. It starts with me turning from God.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10 ESV

I try so hard to be cool, to fit in, to make people laugh. I’m still trying to be part of the “cool kids” club. But in truth, I’m running from God. I’ve made friends here, good friends, that desperately need the hope of Jesus. But instead of speaking truth to them, I engage in idle chatter. Ephesians 5:16-17 NLT says, “Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do.” I understand what the Lord wants me to do, yet I run. I run from the awkwardness of confessing my faith to people out of fear of what they will think or say. I hold my tongue when God is clearly telling me to speak. Instead of asking, “How can God use me?” I’m asking, “What will they think?” Bouncing back and forth between Galatians and Ephesians, it’s clear how we as Christians are supposed to act. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:11 I am tired of living my life to please man. It is fruitless. If I stop and look at my life and everyone agrees with me, then I can almost always be assured that it doesn’t agree with God. We as Christians follow Jesus, a man that was murdered for the way He lived. Why should we think that, as Christians following this example, we would not face some form of resistance? 2 Timothy 3:12 ESV assures us that we with face persecution if we are true followers of Christ. Looking at the world around us, it’s painfully clear that we are trying as hard as we can to please man, not God. We try to be politically correct in everything we do, worrying more of what some group of people will say about us instead of what the creator of the universe will. We think that we are making progress in law and rights when, in actuality, we are plunging further and further into darkness. We true Christians have to make a stand. We can no longer afford to fear man, we are losing too many brothers and sisters. Paul spells it quite clearly for us in a letter to Timothy. “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV I don’t think you can paint a clearer picture of the world today than that. So what do we do? As Christians what can we do in such a dark world? Paul gives us the answer in the next chapter of the same book. “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill you ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:2-5 ESV I hope these words are as sobering for you as they were for me.

We are called to action. Prayer is great, and I highly encourage it. But we are called, by God Himself, to do more than just pray. We must reach out. How will they ever be saved if we fail to tell them about the love of God? Fulfill your ministry, whatever that ministry may be.

Withdrawn

“However, when ambassadors arrived from Babylon to ask about the remarkable events that had taken place in the land, God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart.” 2 Chronicles 32:31 NLT

 

As I look through some of my recent journal entries, one word seems to be popping up in almost all of them, distant. Distant from friends and family (mainly because I live in a different country) but also distance from God. I don’t feel as close to Him as I have in the past. It has been weighing on me for a few weeks now.

This morning I had a few minutes before I had to take my son to school, so I decided to read a chapter. I have been on a journey through the entire bible and have made it up to 2 Chronicles. The book is recapping all the Kings, good and bad, that have ruled in Judah and Israel. Hezekiah had put into place some religious reforms to bring the people back to the Lord. As I read about the success of Hezekiah, the chapter closed with the verse above. The last part of the verse is what really hit me, “…God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart.” In the ESV version of the bible it says, “God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.” That’s exactly how I have felt lately, left to myself. But as I prayed and really tried to look at this verse, God gave me a different perspective. It says that ambassadors came to ask about all the remarkable events that had happened. I believe that God left him to himself to see what he would say in regards to the miracles that God had done in his life. Would he give God the glory, or would he try and take credit for it.

As I reflect on this verse, I can’t help but be humbled by what God has done in my own life. The miracles He has worked in me, the gifts He has given me, His grace and love.  The truth is that without Jesus in my life, I can do no good. The only “good” is what Jesus does through me, when I allow His living and active word to change me and work through me. When I stop trying to take the glory for His works and just thank Him for all He has done for me. What about you? Are you having a season of “withdrawal”? Maybe this is a good time to stop and look at all the things God has done for us. His miracles, His grace, His love, His mercy. I know for me it was. This one short verse stopped me in the middle of a selfish “all-about-me” season in my life. A “test” to see what was truly in my heart.

I pray that you will give yourself fully to Jesus Christ. Hold nothing back from Him. Give every area, the good, the bad, and the ugly over to Him. Trust me, He can handle it.

 

Tone-deaf

“And though they worshiped the Lord, they continued to follow the religious customs of the nations from which they came. And this is still going on among them today. They follow their former practices instead of truly worshiping the Lord…” 2 Kings 17:33-34

Sometimes when my wife calls me or asks me to do something, I’ll pretend not to hear her. I know, I know, this is horrible. But it’s the truth. She’ll ask me to give the kids a bath or take out the trash and I just sit there looking off into space. I joke with her that I must have gone tone-deaf to her voice…she doesn’t think it’s too funny. Making my way through 2 Kings, I came across some verses that really stood out and honestly make me reflect on the way we view Christ. I say we because I am guilty of this as well. The verse above says that yes, they worshiped the Lord, but they also continued in their old ways. They never TRULY worshiped the Lord. They never TRULY surrendered to God. As I look at my own life and compare it to these verses, I can’t help but to relate. Yes, I worship the Lord Jesus Christ, I read my bible, I sing songs of worship, and I pray. But I also have not fully surrendered. I haven’t surrendered my emotions, my selfishness, my pride, the list goes on. I know what the bible says about this, but just like with my wife, I sometimes try to act like I don’t hear the Lord calling out to me. It’s usually when He asks me to do something difficult or out of my comfort zone. In these times it’s important for us to remember the promises of God. God said He would never fail us, forsake us, or abandon us. Hebrews 13:8 states that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” If this is true, and we believe what the bible says, we must take to heart what Jesus said in Matthew 28, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus Christ is with us. Always. We Christians must turn from our old ways. We must forget the religious customs that came from this world and remember what the bible says about who we are and what we are called to do. We can’t afford to turn a deaf ear to God any longer, this world needs Him. Please, please don’t follow the footsteps of those mentioned in 2 Kings 17:40, “But the people would not listen and continued to follow their old ways.” Whatever God is calling you to do, no matter how difficult or awkward it may be, do it. God is with us. Trust in His word. “And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.” Philippians 1:6.

 

Burn Out

“Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.” Romans 12:11 MSG

Easier said than done, right? A gentleman in my Wednesday morning bible study made an interesting comment today. He said that a group of college kids had came in on a mission trip and were “on fire for Jesus”. He also stated that he wished we could keep that fire going as we grew older, but the world would eventually beat them down as well. Maybe one would keep the fire but most would “burn out”. I have to admit, when he said this I was taken back, even a little angered that he could say this so nonchalantly. Like it was inevitable and that we could do nothing about it. When I sat down to write this post I was frustrated at his comment, upset with the ease of it. But as I started typing I realized something…he was right. But why? Jesus said in Matthew 11:30, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” If it’s easy and light, why do so many Christians burn out? As I prayed about it, a thought came to mind. Maybe the reason so many of us burn out is because we are not yoked with Christ, but ourselves. We try to take on the yoke of Christianity without Christ. Instead of leaning on Jesus and trusting in Him and His work on the cross for salvation, we are desperately trying to save ourselves. We trust in our own works, our bible studies, our prayer time, our volunteering to ensure our salvation. We end up trying to be our own savior. Don’t get me wrong, all these things are of great value, but they won’t save us. Only faith in Jesus Christ can save us, and through faith come the works. The bible studies and prayer time, the volunteering and serving should come as a result of faith in Jesus, not the other way around.  So looking back on the comment made of “burning out,” he was right, to an extent. Apart from Jesus we can only sustain the fire for so long. Eventually we will burn out. The world will beat us down and do its very best to douse our flames. If we hope to stand any chance of avoiding exhaustion and spiritual burn out we must rely on Jesus. Only He can sustain us. “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:30-31 ESV. My prayer is that you would find your strength in Jesus Christ, that He would fan your flames until they roar uncontrollably with His spirit. That you would lean on Him in times of weakness. That those of you who don’t know Him would stumble into the wildfires of my Christian brothers and sisters and upon seeing the flames of their passion for Christ, have no other option than to themselves ignite. I pray for those whose coals have all but burned out, that the Holy Spirit would blow in like a hurricane and set your soul ablaze. We are called to be the light of the world. I pray that the Holy Spirit would keep us fueled and aflame. Amen.

What is Love

Baby, don’t hurt me! Sorry, I couldn’t help it. When we think of love, often a song or movie will pop into our heads. We may think of our spouse or children, our dogs and cats, or pizza. But what is love? The bible talks a great deal about love. 1 John 4 says that, “God IS love.” We think of love as in two people who love each other. I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family! But God’s love is different. His love is unconditional. Most people know John 3:16, even if you don’t believe in God or have any church background, you have probably seen it on a sign at a sporting event. John 3:16 NLT says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” This is a verse that I have heard and read so many times that I just tend to gloss over it. But here lately, God has been trying to open my eyes to what love truly is, His love. John 3:16 has a couple words that really stand out to me. It says, “God so loved the WORLD,” it also says, “EVERYONE”. WORLD, EVERYONE, those words are powerful when you think about it in the sense of God’s love. 1 John 4:10 NLT says, “It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” It’s not that we loved God, but He first loved us. Before we loved Him, He loved us. When we were still lost to sin, He loved us. Before we acknowledged Him as Lord, He loved us. When we didn’t even believe that He existed, He loved us. Even when we are actively rebelling against Him, He loves us. God loves the worst sinner just as much as the He loves the most evangelical preacher. Hates the sin, loves the sinner. That’s what the Good News is, God’s love. Before Jesus Christ, we were dead to sin. Doomed. But God loved us. He SO LOVED us that He sent His Son, Jesus, to take our place. Instead of us being nailed to a cross bleeding and humiliated, God sent His only Son so that we could have life and have it abundantly! He did this not only for the “good people” of the world, as if there were any, but He did this for EVERYONE. The drug addicts, the liars, the drunks, the sexually immoral, murderers, and thieves….everyone. God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, not just the “acceptable” sins, all sins, so that we may have eternal life in Him. That is the Good News. God offers a gift, a gift of love, true love, all you have to do is accept it.

I Surrender…

When I became a Christian I thought that the battles of addiction would be my biggest struggle. Addiction to booze, drugs, porn, you name it and it was an issue. But that wasn’t the case. My desires for those things simply didn’t weigh as much as I thought they would. My biggest struggle was, and still is, myself. Trying to take my eyes off of myself and focus on Jesus Christ has proven to be one of the biggest challenges of my life. I’m selfish. I’m inconsiderate. I’m impatient. I’m human. The bible says in Luke 9:23 NLT, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me.” Jesus calls us to die to ourselves and He calls us to do it daily. This has been weighing on me for a while now. Every sermon I watch, every book I read, every verse, every song, is telling me to surrender. Why is this so hard? If I take a step back and really look at why I don’t just give in to the call of surrender, the answer is simple and heartbreaking. I don’t trust Jesus. I don’t trust the fact that He truly knows what is best for my life. I don’t trust that He WANTS what is best for my life. So many times I will hear the Holy Spirit speaking to me, telling me the next steps I should be taking, but I choose to ignore it. Why? Jeremiah 29:11 NLT says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” The Lord Himself has told us, promised us, that He has plans for good! Why do so many of us refuse to believe this? We believe that He was raised from the dead and will save us from an eternity in hell, but we don’t fully surrender our lives to Him. I have been living a life of partial surrender for too long. It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, and it has been my stumbling block for long enough! I’m tired of pretending that I know better than God. From now on, and I encourage you as well, I will start my day off with a prayer of surrender. A prayer that will empower me to live out Galatians 2:20, “I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” I surrender Lord, I surrender.

Daily travels along the straight and narrow path to salvation.