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.

The Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Pulled

“He will use every kind of wicked deception to fool those who are on their way to destruction because they refuse to believe the truth that would save them.” 2 Thessalonians 2:10 NLV

It’s been less than a year since I started believing the truth of salvation through Jesus Christ. I read verses like 2 Thessalonians 2:10, and shake my head and think of people that it reminds me of. People that I hear or see talking about how silly “religion” is and how can people really believe that a man in the clouds is going to take us up to heaven on streets of gold and live happily ever after. I shake my head when I think of these other people, until I realize that up until not too long ago, I was one of those people. I grew up going to church, but it was mainly to see my friends and for the youth trips to Gatlinburg, TN. Once I got out of high school and out on my own, I formed this misguided opinion that there just could not be a God. How could something as awesome as God really exist? I questioned people’s faith, I mocked and ridiculed them for their beliefs, and I straight up made fun of people that believed in this so called, “God”. Looking back on it, I never made fun of anyone for being a Buddhist, or Hindu, or even a scientologist for that matter (ok I probably made fun of scientologists) but the point is, I was singling out Christianity. Why? Why was Christ the center of my focus as far as religion bashing went? The answer to that question is in the verse at the top of this blog, deception. I was being deceived by the father of lies, the evil one himself, Satan. I heard a saying once that said, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing man that he did not exist.” That saying has stayed with me ever since I first heard it. I honestly believe that Lucifer would much rather you deny he exists than to worship him, because he knows that if you worship Satan, then you must believe in God as well. And if you believe in God, there’s a greater chance that Jesus Christ will come into you life. But if you deny that Satan exists at all, then the devil is already winning in your heart. Whether you believe it or not, one day Jesus Christ will come back. And just like Romans 14:11 says, “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” It goes on to say in verse 12 that, “each of us shall give account of himself to God.” So you can keep saying you don’t believe the living word of God that is the Bible, or the fact that He sent His only son to die for each and every single person that walked this earth. I don’t care what color you are, what part of the world you just so happened to be born in, Jesus Christ loved you enough to die for your sins so that you could go on to have eternal life in Him. As long as you have air in you lungs and a beating heart in your chest, you have time to turn your life over to God. I pray to almighty God that if you haven’t received Christ, that He would lay an undeniable conviction on your heart to hit your knees and repent. Because if you don’t, it’s not going to be that eternal sleep of nothingness when you die like I so often hear about from nonbelievers, it’s going to be the fires of Hell for all eternity.

Daily travels along the straight and narrow path to salvation.

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