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.

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!”

Daily travels along the straight and narrow path to salvation.

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