Tag Archives: Faith

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.

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.

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.

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.