Friday, September 10, 2021

Trust God to Forgive


It is never easy to admit that we have made a mistake. 

The bigger the mistake the more we want to hide it, deny it, or ignore it. 

It is no wonder that we have a hard time confessing our sin, even in our private prayers to God. The result is that we carry around a complex baggage of guilt, shame, temptation, and habitual sin. This reality makes it difficult to accept God’s promise of forgiveness.

I know that I find it hard to confess my sins to God because I am embarrassed about what my sin reveals about my weakness. 

 After all I should know better! 

 “If I truly had faith,” I reason, “this sin wouldn’t be a problem.”

As a result I keep my distance from God. I don’t want to be weak faithless fool before Him.

Perhaps you struggle with asking for forgiveness because you are afraid of God. 

There is a voice inside of your mind telling you that if you confess your sins to God then He will punish you.  

“After all,” you think,  “isn’t God going to judge lawbreakers?”

In his book Created to Be God’s Friend, Henry Blackaby wrote:



Faith is lived out through trust. 

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: Do I trust God to forgive me? 

If we don’t trust God to forgive then we won’t turn to Him and confess our sins. 

Instead we will run away and hide. We will ignore the sin that is ruining our lives. We will do every thing we can think of to avoid God.

For us to trust people we have to believe that they have our best interest at heart.

This means we need to answer this question: Is there any reason why we should trust God to forgive us?
 
The reason we can trust God is Jesus. 

The life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the evidence we need to trust that God will forgive us. This is true, no matter who we are or what we have done.

The writer of the book of Hebrews gave us this gem of truth:



How do we come before the throne of God? 

First, it requires our surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord. If we are not willing to be a follower of Jesus it is impossible for us to experience God’s gift of forgiveness. Jesus is the High Priest who has prepared the way to God. There is no other way to forgiveness except through Jesus.

Second, we need to confess our sins to God through prayer. God knows our sins, and He has declared His willingness to forgive. Yet, forgiveness requires the acknowledgement that we have done something wrong. This is an act of trust, because we need to believe that God has our best interest at heart. So we confess our sin because we trust that God will forgive us.

Third, we need to worship God. From singing praise songs to serving people in need, it is important that we set our hearts towards God. Worship requires the right motivation more than it requires the right actions. We can go through the motions of worship without love and trust. Worship that is grounded in faith is the type of worship that God desires from us.

Living in these bodies of flesh in this world means that sin will be a part of our lives. 

Not only do we need constantly struggle with sin to eliminate it from our lives, we also have to trust God to forgive us when we sin. 

God is gracious and willing to forgive us, but we need to turn to Him and ask for it.

Trust God to forgive you.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Committed to the Body



Something that has been on my mind recently is our commitment to the local church.

As a pastor this is something that concerns me a great deal. The church, a local community of Jesus followers, is a gift from God. 

In the church we have people who are there to support us, encourage us, grieve with us, and help us. It is a community where we find acceptance and belonging. At its best a local church provides the environment needed for discipleship to happen.

Granted, local churches are rarely at their best. The realities of poor leadership, personal agendas, and inconsistent attendance make it difficult for the church to feel like home. 

I agree, being part of a local church can be a lot of work and it can be messy. There are many reasons that making a commitment to a local church is difficult.

This morning on Twitter I saw this:

I think many of the problems we have with the various expressions of the local church come back to consumerism. 

We have these expectations of what the church should be like and when it doesn’t live up to our expectations we are willing to leave. It doesn’t matter that we are handicapping that church as they seek to take the Gospel into the world, because our needs aren’t being met.

All are different expectations are not what makes a church a church.

The reality is that there is not much a group of believers need in order to form a church. One thing that is essential for a church to exist is commitment.


We were created to bear God’s image in this world. The full expression of that image comes when we are working together as we love one another and serve the world. 

That is when we truly become the body of Christ.

This is why leaving a local church family handicaps them. It is like removing a hand, leg, or eye from a person. Sure, he still can function, but his ability to do work is limited.

Leaving a church may not kill the church, but you make it more difficult for them to do ministry.

I am not saying you can never leave a church.

I am saying that by making the church something you attend or a service that you receive, you make it easy to hop from church to church when your expectations are not met. 

In this way you handicap the mission of the church.

Being committed to a local church is a responsibility that we have as followers of Jesus. 

I want to encourage you to commit to a local church, even if the sermons are boring, the music off key, and the people are a mess, because you will be a blessing to them, and through them God will bless you.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

A Repentant Heart

As a life long Christian, I know the right things to say.

For instance, when life becomes difficult I know that the right thing to say is, "I am trusting God an His timing." 

I may say that, but the reality is that I am full of worry. Rather than praying and doing the next right thing, I distract myself with scrolling through social media or watching YouTube videos. Then I wonder why God never showed up.

It is possible to say that right words while lacking the faith to believe those words. 



The prophet Isaiah made it clear that God wants to help us. His desire is to show us love and give us life.

Here is the kicker: God is waiting for us.

He is generous and desires to help, but we are not turning to Him for help. We are trying to make it on our own. If we would stop and turn to God the experience of our lives would be different.

What is the answer? 
How do we receive the love God has for us? 

King David in Psalm 51 gives us an insight on how we are to approach God:



David wrote this Psalm after Nathan the prophet confronted him about his sin against Uriah, stealing his wife Bathesheba and murdering him. For a year afterwards David pretended everything was fine, but in reality it wasn't. So when David thought about what he needed to do, in light of Nathan’s words, this is was came to his mind: Repentance.

At the heart of repentance is the denouncement of our actions and declaration of our loyalty to God. 

Repentance requires both.

This isn’t about coming to God through religious piety and tradition. Going through the motions of religion does not move God’s heart. 

What moves the heart of God?

Our heart is what moves God.

We can imitate the motions. 
We can fake the right words. 

What we can't fake is the genuine emotion, motivation, and intention of our heart. There needs to be a genuine sorrow for our evil and a genuine desire to be in a relationship with God for Him to act on our behalf.

God waits for us because He wants us to have a heart that desires Him above everything else in our lives. 

Until we approach the throne of God broken and repentant we will never realize the awesome love God has for us. 

This makes pride the biggest obstacle we have in experiencing the love of God.

When we are prideful we believe we change the circumstance of our lives by ourselves. We pursue happiness the way we think is best. We may say all the right things and go though the motions, but the intentions of our heart is on our plans. 

Our pride keeps us from experiencing God’s love.

I am  tired of mouthing the right things and ignoring God. 

My pride has kept me from admitting my weakness and my need for God’s wisdom and strength. 

I come before God with a humble spirit in search of His love. 

Will you do the same?

Monday, September 6, 2021

The Benefit of Principles


Last week I posted this to Facebook:

 

I believe this is true for the majority of controversial topics that are out there today. We watch a 7 minute segment on Tucker Carlson or Rachel Maddow  and think we understand the topic to give our hot take on it. To truly understand topics we need investigate all sides of an argument. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a gut feeling on things (often that is all that we can go on because we can’t properly study every topic out there), but it does mean that we don’t present our gut feelings as THE truth on these topics.

There is no possible way that we can adequately research all the different areas of knowledge that are out there. No one is an expert on everything.

This is why it is okay to go with our gut feelings on things. When we do so we need to keep in mind that our guts could be wrong.

The gut feelings that we have often come from the principles that make up our lives. For instance, when it comes to something like biblical interpretation or reading the Constitution, the principle that guides my understanding is: How would the original readers understand this. 

Granted, this is not always easy to figure out, but it helps us establish the original intent, then we are better able to apply that to our lives.

When we have certain principles that guide our lives, they provide shortcuts to through the maze controversial issues that we face in life. They provide a solid ground for us to stand on and they give us a starting point on determining what is true.

Since we don’t have the time or the ability to research all the different topics out there, our principles provide us with a way to navigate the landscape of current opinion as we seek to follow Jesus.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Masks, Vaccinations, and Love



Jesus said:
“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31, NLT)
There is no question that in order to follow Jesus we must love our neighbors.


This has been a common sentiment the last 18 months as we have endured the COVID pandemic.

I understand the thought. Part of loving people is not harming them. That means more than not physically hurting them. It means if we can do something to keep people safe we should do it.

Before I go any further I want to point out that I am not a scientist. The last science class I took was a community college biology class 30 years ago. My point is not to make a scientific case, but help us think through how we love people.

With that in mind, is this thought about masking wearing and being vaccinated the best way to love our neighbor?

In my mind this argument depends on assuming that wearing masks and being vaccinated are the only ways to keep people safe. Therefore, if we don’t want to harm to someone then that requires us to mask up and get vaccinated. 

The reality is that there are other things we can do to help keep people safe. We can wash our hands, we can cover our coughs and sneezes, and can stay home when we are sick. Those are all things that help keep people safe.

The key here is about motivations. You are acting in love, even if you decide not to mask up or be vaccinated, when you consistently and intentionally practice other ways to keep people safe.

If the reason you are refusing to mask up and to be vaccinated is because you are going to “protect your rights,” and you don’t do other things to keep people safe, then you are not loving your neighbor. 

As Christians, our primary task is to love people. That means that our greatest concern isn’t about our personal liberties, but the well-being of others. So, if our primary reason for not wearing masks and not being vaccinated is about our rights AND we don’t do other things to protect the health of others, we are failing to keep the most important commandment.

It all comes down to motivation.

This is also important piece of the puzzle.

Again, it is legitimate to think that these actions we are being asked to make, and in some cases that are being mandated, have little benefit. That doesn’t mean we can disregard the health concerns of other people. That is why it is essential, as we seek to love people, that we are consistent in doing alternative things to protect the health of people.

Another reason why I think this line of reasoning should be pushed back on is because we can use it as a reason to do other things. We can say that we want socialism because it promotes “loving our neighbor.” 

I would argue that a free market economy that promotes the free exchange of goods, services, and ideas is the best way to  love your neighbor. 

While the stated goals of a more socialist economy appear to be loving, in the long run it could lead to more hardship and harm, which would be unloving. 

This is why we shouldn’t pull out the  “love your neighbor” card when we are talking about policy. Something seem to be loving in the short term might have longer negative effects. So people who are opposed to government mandates for masks and vaccinations are opposed to them because of unintended consequences that will show up later, including greater governmental interference in our private lives.

It is important that followers of Jesus take the command to love our neighbors seriously. As you think through how to love people we also need to consider our motivations and the consequences for our actions.

 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Theology of Rights


I have had these three tweets from Skye Jethani rolling around in my head for a couple of weeks.



I follow Skye on Twitter because I occasionally listen to The Holy Post Podcast, which he cohosts. Even through I don't always agree with him, I do find his thoughts to be interesting.

That is how I feel about these tweets. I don't 100% agree with them, but they sure got me thinking.

The part I absolutely agree with Skye about is the need for a corporate theology. American Christianity has developed a very individualized faith. It is all about my personal relationship with God. 

I have written before how we don’t just have a personal relationship with God, but we have a covenant relationship with God. An understanding of the covenant nature of Christianity would go along way to help us grasp the truth that we are part of God’s Global Family, and that our relationship with God includes our relationships with other people.

With that being said, when it comes to the topic of masks and vaccinations more than a corporate theology we need a theology of rights.

The reason I say this is because Americans, even though our Constitution was created to protect rights, have a poor understanding of what rights are. 

This lack of understanding about rights is true for people inside and outside the church. We have many people who want to stand up and claim something as a right to justify what they want to do.

One of the reasons we need a proper understanding of rights is because it helps us navigate these type of conversations.

Do I have the right to choose to wear a mask or not to wear a mask? 
Do I have the right to choose to be vaccinated or not to be vaccinated?

We need a way to determine if something is really a right or if we are using freedom as a  justification for doing what we want to do.

A second reason why we need a proper understanding of rights is because it helps us understand the sacrifice we need to make so we can follow Jesus. 

In Philippians 2:7 (NLT) we read:
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.

Jesus gave up, in other words he sacrificed, his rights in order to save us. 

Looking at this passage through the lens of rights, Jesus saw his rights as something that he could set aside in order to love his Father and to love people. 

Our rights, like all of God’s blessings, are to be used for the good of His kingdom. That means there will be times when we have to set aside or sacrifice our rights in order to love people.

Remember, sacrifice is one of the primary ways we worship God.

For example, I am a big 2nd Amendment guy. I think we have the right to self-defense and to protect the lives of our family and friends. If we believe that, then we understand the sacrifice we make when we lay down our weapons for the sake of the Kingdom.

Having a proper understanding of rights allows us to have the conversation about how we properly use our rights, when we should work to protect our rights, and the when and why we should lay them down to follow the example Jesus.

Here is the bottom-line: A proper understanding of our rights helps us know when a sacrifice of our rights is needed in order to love people.

When it comes to these questions about masks and vaccinations here are a couple of thoughts I have.

It doesn’t matter what your position on masks are, whether they are effective or not, it is not a violation of your rights to wear a mask to spend time with a person who is more concerned about COVID than you are. In fact, wearing a masking is the loving thing to do because it is taking in to consideration the other person’s thoughts and feelings.

When it comes to vaccinations I think things are a little different. 

God created us to be good stewards, and being good stewards includes taking good care of our bodies. I don’t think it is wise or loving to tell a person unsure of the health benefits of a vaccine that they need to be vaccinated in order to show love to other people. This is especially true since there are other ways for a person to protect others, like practicing good hygiene and staying home when you are sick. 

Therefore, as long as a person is practicing good hygiene and staying home when not feeling well, they are not violating the command to “love your neighbor,” because they are doing other things to keep themselves and other people healthy.

Having a good theology of rights would help us know the proper use of our individual rights and us understand when to sacrifice those rights so we can love our neighbor.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Don’t be Lazy in Your Thinking



Many of us live in an echo chamber.

“What is an echo chamber?” You ask.

According to Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary an echo chamber is:

a room with sound-reflecting walls used for producing hollow or echoing sound effects —often used figuratively, “Living in a kind of echo chamber of their own opinions, they pay attention to information that fits their conclusions and ignore information that does not.”
To say that we live in echo chambers means that we live in an environment where our worldview is endorsed and confirmed rather than challenged.

I know why we prefer the echo chamber. It is hard word to defend our worldview and think through our beliefs. We would rather be told that we hold the correct beliefs about the world.

Unfortunately, that causes us to miss out on what other people are truly saying. Often, it positions other people as the enemy because they have an opposing view than what we have.

Preston Sprinkle offers some good advice.


I think it is helpful to remember two very important points.
  1. Reading or listening to people outside our tribe doesn’t mean we will switch tribes. When I read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and A Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris I was told to be careful. There was a fear that if I read books by atheist authors I would become an atheist. To have this fear means that we are not very confident about our own positions to begin with. We fear that one little thought from the “other side” could cause our worldview to come crashing down. It is important for us to take the time to learn why we believe the things that we believe.
  2. Reading or listening to people outside our tribe opens our eyes to nuances in the different positions. I see this happen all the time. It is easier to create a caricature the other side’s beliefs rather than actually dealing with them. This at the core of what Preston Sprinkle called “lazy thinking.” 
Read books, or listen to, people who don’t think like you.

Not only will you be better equipped to handle their arguments, you might just learn a thing or two along the way. 



Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Loyal Leader


William Barclay in his Daily Study Bible: the letter to the Hebrews wrote: 
The real leader, if need be, dies in loyalty. He shows men how to live and is prepared to show them how to die. Jesus, having loved his own, loved them to the end; and the real leader having loved Jesus, loves him to the end. His loyalty never stops halfway. (p. 195)

Wow! What a thought. 

The best Christian leaders are people whose loyalty to Jesus gives them the courage to live a life worthy of Jesus and his sacrifice. These leaders understand that their lives are an example on how to live. This also includes preparing to die well.

This raises the question: Am I prepared to show other people how to die? 

To be honest, it isn’t something have really considered. My main focus has been on how to live well because death isn’t something I have had to face. It is hard to be an example to someone when you haven’t had to experience it yourself.

Maybe that is the wrong way to think about it.

Rather than thinking about the end of life, perhaps we should think about life. When we do something well to the best of our ability we can walk away confident that we did well. If we apply this to the end of life, we can face death with no regrets when we lived by faith, remaining loyal to Jesus.

The true leader in the Church is the person who is loyal to Jesus. 

Doubts may come, hardships may arrive, and persecution may be present, but that leader remains committed to Jesus. He or she is an example of what it means to live by faith, even if that commitment takes them to their death. 

No matter what, they will not forsake their King.

If I am to be the leader my family and church needs, then I have to be an example of loyalty and faith no matter what happens in my life. Attendance my rise and fall, but my confidence remains in Jesus. Health issues may creep in, but I remain faithful to Jesus. 

Loyalty and faith are not fickle. They are committed through the ups and downs of life.

A good leader realizes that his life is on display and that his actions are a powerful testimony of his faith. As people follow his example, they are constantly preparing for the end of their life, because they can face death with no regrets.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Be Different



It is hard to be different and to stand out from those around you. 

I find it easy to go with the flow and to allow myself to be influenced by the very same things that influence the rest of the world. It takes intention and work to go against the current of the culture.

This is exactly what we need to do.

It is essential for people who follow Jesus to live differently from the world. 

The apostle Paul wrote:
Don’t participate in the things these people do. For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true (Ephesians 5:7-9; NLT).
Christians are a changed people. We no longer participate in the same activities that the world does. These are activities that continue bring corruption and sin into God’s good creation. This is why it is crucial for us to live lives of faith.

 How do we do this? 

How do we prevent ourselves from being influenced by the culture in which we live? 

I believe the writer of Hebrews have provided us with some answers to these questions:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven (Hebrews 12:1-2; NLT).
In these two verses we find four actions we must do if we are going to live differently from the world.

First we must remember the witnesses
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith...

Hebrews 11 is filled with great examples of faith, men and women who trusted God through the ups and downs of life. The writer of Hebrews wanted people be encouraged by these examples. Abraham, Moses, Ruth, David, Esther, Daniel, and the Apostles give us encouragement as we attempt to live faithfully in our culture. Remember, there is a reason God preserved their lives on the pages of Scripture so lets learn from them.

It is also important to remember that through the past two thousand years more and more people have been added to this great cloud of witnesses. On the pages of history and through the years of our lives are more men and women who are examples of what it means to live faithful lives in a culture not aligned with God’s will.

The second action we need to do is remove the hindrances
...let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress.

Change is difficult. 

One reason it is difficult is because it means that we are wrong in the way we live. If we were living right then a change wouldn’t need to happen. 

A second reason why change is hard is because of our habits. It is hard to break a habit, no matter how much we may want to be rid of it. Habits are ingrained in the way we do life.

We all have junk in our our lives that needs to be removed. We have self-image issues that rob us of confidence. We have relationship issues that cause problems with those that we are closest with. We have emotional problems (depression, anxiety, perfectionism, guilt, etc.) that need to be addressed. 

All these things hinder us from being the people God created us to be, and so we need to face these issues and deal with them. That might even mean going to a professional for help.

The universal weight people carry is sin. 
 
Yes, the weight of sin is different for each of us, but it is still there weighing us down. For us to get rid of it requires that we attack it, struggle with it, confess it to God, and continually look for ways to uproot it form our hearts. We cannot go with God and allow sin to remain in our lives unchecked. If we are not struggling to rid our lives of sin then we are not living a life of faith.

The third action we must do is run the race
And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.

God has created us to do good. 

Doing good is more than just being moral people. Doing good requires that we love and serve our neighbors. I like to say that we have been blessed so that we can be a blessing. 

Running the race that God has given to us is about doing the good works that He planned for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). So when we use the blessings God has given us to bring good into this world, we are running the race of faith.

The final action is to reflect on Jesus
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.

Jesus is our ultimate example on how we are to live. He showed us how to love, how to serve, and how to forgive. We must model our lives after his life.

Jesus’s sacrifice is the ultimate encouragement we need to live a life of faith. Knowing that Jesus went through brutal times, to save us from sin, offers us courage when we go through dark times of life and motivates us to remain faithful.

We can only keep our eyes on Jesus by reflecting on his life through reading and studying the Bible. 

I think one of the reasons we fail is because we create an image of Jesus that appeals to us rather than doing the hard work of discovering who Jesus really is. We cannot neglect the study, reading, and discussion that gives us a better understanding of Jesus.

Christians are called to be different from the world. 

It is easy to participate in the activities that help us blend right into our culture. This is why we must fight the hard fight to be different. 

Are you willing to do what it takes to change your life and be different?

Saturday, August 28, 2021

More than a Personal Relationship



God deals with people through the use of covenants. 

Carl Ketcherside in his book The Death of the Custodian wrote:
The fact is that God has chosen to relate to man on the basis of covenants. He is a covenant-making God. No one who ignores this fact will ever grasp God’s plan and purpose in any age. (p. 15)
I want to throw this idea out to you: We have a covenant relationship with God and not just a personal relationship with God. 
 
Yes, I understand that marriage is a covenant relationship, and you can't get a more personal relationship than marriage. 

Just like marriage, the covenant God established with us through Jesus creates a personal relationship. At the same time it sets apart a covenant people for Him. 
 
1 Peter 2:9 reminds us:
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, his own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light (NLT).
Christians are a chosen people, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. 

We have a personal relationship with God, but that personal relationship is lived out in the context of community. We are in this together. Which means we have a responsibility to and for each other. None of us should try to walk the journey of faith alone. It is crucial that we help each other as much as possible because our lives are linked through Jesus.

I bring this up because I think our focus on a “personal” relationship with God sidetracks us from what God has really called us to be—a covenant people. 

Leon Morris in The Atonement wrote:
It mattered intensely to Old Testament Israel that the nation was in covenant relationship with the one and only God. All its thinking and living revolved around this fact. (p. 22)
Israel is not a great example of covenant faithfulness, but I still wonder what the church would be like if our thinking and living revolved around the reality that we are in a covenant relationship with God. 

Knowing that we are in a covenant relationship with God, that extends beyond our personal relationship with Him, leads us to consider other people. We become responsible for helping, encouraging, forgiving, and teaching one another, because that is God expectation for His people.

Galatians 6:1-3 (NLT):
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
Let this be the description of our lives as we live in a covenant relationship with God that is both personal and communal. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

You Can’t Hurry Love


Americans tend to fill every waking moment with activity. With our full schedules it is difficult to find time to squeeze one more thing into our days. 

When the opportunity comes our way to help and server some one, it often comes at us as an inconvenience. It is interrupting our schedule. So we try to hurry through it so we can do a good deed and still check off everything on our to do lists.

Sadly, this leads people feeling more like an inconvenience or an afterthought rather than feeling truly loved. 

To be different, Christians need to slow down and understand that one of the sacrifices that we make on behalf of God is the interruption of our schedules. By letting God disrupt our lives we are saying that His will is more important than our will. We are also saying that people matter more than our personal agendas.

Loving our neighbor can’t simply be blocked off on our schedules. These opportunities to love people will  appear in our lives during inconvenient times, forcing us to choose between our agendas and God’s command. 

For us to truly love people we need to sacrifice our time, our agendas, and our money to be present in the lives of other people.

This is how we can love our neighbors well.

Monday, August 16, 2021

What Can We Do?


 We live in a sin corrupted world where violence and death too often reign, and we are powerless to do anything about the evil that surrounds us.

 In moments like these all we can do is focus on what is within our power to control. So we pray, asking God to intervene in the cares and concerns of our heart, and we commit to loving our neighbor. 

This what is under our control to do.

Seek to Discover Jesus



Reading through the book of John it becomes evident that there were great disagreements about Jesus' identity.  This is even seen in the Pharisees. Here is a group that we generally talk about opposing Jesus, but the reality was that there was a disagreement about Jesus among them (John 9:16).

In John 10:19 we again see that people had a disagreement about Jesus: When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him (NLT). 
 
There was this disagreement, or division, because Jesus provided a paradox for them. 

On the one hand Jesus taught with great authority and insight. 

On the other hand Jesus did not obey the culture expectations of the day. He was not always a "good" Jew.

All these centuries later, people still have disagreements about who Jesus is. 
  • Some want to classify him as a good teacher who was able to give profound spiritual insight. 
  • Some may elevate him to the position of prophet, a man of God giving people a word from God. 
  • Some label Jesus as a liar who led people astray. 
  • Some call him a myth who never existed. 
People are still divided about who Jesus is.

Since I claim to follow Jesus, it is important that I understand who Jesus is to the best of my ability. 

Now, I admit, it is easy, even by looking at the biblical account, to create Jesus in my image. To make a Jesus I am comfortable with, who will support my agendas, and promote my worldview. 
 
Even within the Church there are many different ideas of who Jesus is, how he lived, and what he taught.

This means we need make an effort to discover who Jesus is. 
  • We need understand the culture in which Jesus lived which provide much needed context to his teaching. 
  • We need to seek to hear his teaching through the ears of his intended audience.
  • We need to learn why see his miracles and ministry through these first century eyes.
 It is easier to engage the Gospels, as well as the whole of Scripture, at just the surface level, as we look for those eternal truths to apply to our lives. But, I have come to believe that we miss much of the truth God has for us by not digging deeper into the text. 

People will always be divided over who Jesus is, but that shouldn’t keep us from the responsibility of doing what we can to discover the Jesus of history. 

I believe that when we commit ourselves to such a study we will be blessed with the gift of getting to know who Jesus is and all that he has done for us.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Liberty Depends on Virtue


 I love this John Adams quote for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is because it reminds me that the most important thing I can spend my time doing is making disciples. Freedom and liberty are not independent of the choices that we make. 

Living with virtue makes us free from the consequences of bad choices that lead to our enslavement. When we are not enslaved we are free to help and serve those around us. This is how we live as a benefit to our community.

The second reason I like this quote is that virtue reminds us that there is an outside authority  that defines right and wrong. We are not the ones who define good and bad, rather we look to God for His wisdom to guide us in the type of life we should live.

A loss of liberty in the United States can be traced back to the reality that as a country we have lost the notion of virtue. Instead of virtue we have turned to politics to determine what is right and wrong. 

This is why every election turns into “the most important election of our lives.” 

Instead of electing people to lead us, we fight a battle to determine who has the authority to determine what is right and wrong. It is a fight that will always be nasty and brutal as dividing lines between people and groups are created.

It is impossible to have unity when there is no common understanding of what virtue is. There is no hope for unity in the United States apart from a common understanding of virtue.

Instead of using political power to try to conform people to our understanding of right and wrong, we need to focus on discipleship and teaching people the true source of virtue: the wisdom of God.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Discipled in the Way of Partisan Politics


 One of the basic truths that we need to remember is that everyone is going through a process of spiritual formation.

A big influence in spiritual formation is the information that we consume and what our minds think about. This is why the New Testament emphasizes our mind and thoughts.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Phillippians 4:8; NLT) 

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. (Colossians 3:1-2; NLT)
Our minds play a major role in our discipleship. This is why we need to be intentional about what our minds think about.

We have access to a vast amount of information. All of our devices are designed as media consumption devices. 

As we consume media and as that information directs our thoughts and emotions, our spirits are being formed. 

This is the reason the world feels so divided now. Everything in life has become political. 

Politics deals with the best way to run the world. We come to believe that our side has the best way to run the world and the opposite side wants to destroy our way of life.

Making everything political has led us to live with fear and declaring everyone who doesn't agree with us as our enemy. 

In this environment, imagine what happens when the pastor says something that you don’t agree with?

Too often the pastor becomes the enemy. You can convince yourself that he has, at the very least, been influenced by the enemy, if not entirely in their camp. 

If you are able to see the pastor as an enemy, who is leading the church astray, leaving that Christian community behind is an easy thing to do.

The sad reality is that many Christians in the United States are being discipled, not in the way of Jesus, but in the way of partisan politics. It is hard to breakthrough this partisan barrier because people have convinced themselves that their politics are the politics of Jesus. 

Instead of consuming and meditating on cable news, podcasts, Facebook, and Twitter, we need to read and  meditate on the Bible. 


If we are going to be discipled in the way of Jesus, then we need to let Scripture challenge us in all the different areas of our lives. 

We can't allow our partisan political culture to be the greatest influence in spiritual formation. If we do, then we will end up looking just like the world.

That is not what God wants from our lives.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Should We Listen The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill?

 


This tweet popped up on Twitter last week. It got me thinking about listening to a podcast like The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, because I do think there is a danger to it.

1. We need to avoid treating in like gossip. This might be my #1 issue with it, because after listening to an episode I want to Google “Mark Driscoll” to see what he is up to now. So there is a fine line there between the journalistic storytelling the podcast is and gossip.

2. We need to see the big picture. This isn’t just about Driscoll and Mars Hill, it is about Evangelicalism and celebrity. How we justify certain behaviors if we believe they are getting the right results. There is a parallel here with the Evangelical support of President Trump. Evangelicals were okay supporting Donald Trump, in spite of his treatment of women, because he promised them things they wanted. They believed he would deliver the results they wanted. People justified Driscoll’s behavior because he appeared to be getting good results.

3. We should remember that in the midst of bad that happened at Mars Hill, God still brought about God. Remember, we worship God, who is so powerful that He is able to bring good out of bad and life out of death. This is what Paul wrote; “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT). Yes, the Mars Hill story contains tragedy, but it also contains examples of God’s grace and transformation. This is one of the great lessons from the podcast.

Should we bee listening to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill?

I think it is something worth listening to as long as we avoid the temptation to use it as an excuse to cast judgment on Mark Driscoll. This podcast gives us the opportunity for self reflection and consider the question: In what ways am I using God and His Kingdom to build my own platform?

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Are Christians Coerced?


 Are Christians coerced into following Jesus?

I can understand that view if the primary focus of what God is doing through Jesus is rescuing people from Hell. Then the fear of Hell would be one of the main reasons for trusting Jesus.

To be honest fear of Hell was a motivating factor for me when I was baptized and started my journey following Jesus.

That may have been my starting point, but it certainly isn't where I am today. While I accept the reality of Hell (leaning towards conditional immortality), it is not a motivating factor in my life. 

To be honest, I hardly think about Hell. 

Rather, my focus is on my calling to make disciples and the hope of New Creation that comes through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. 

As we mature in faith our reasoning for following Jesus should change. 

The fear of Hell might be the initial reason why a person puts his trust in Jesus, but it shouldn’t remain the primary reason for faith. 

There should come a time when love overcomes the fear, and the reason for faith is to love: God and people.

1 John 4:17-21 (NLT )
And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.

 John wrote that love empowers us to be confident on the day of judgment. He emphasized that it isn't just our love for God, but God’s love for us that gives us confidence and drives away fear. 

This love is made real in our lives as we follow Jesus.

Fear doesn’t transform our lives. 

Yes, it might get us started making changes, but that intense fear can't sustain the transformation process. 

Only love is able to do that. 

As we move from fear to love as the primary motivating factor for following Jesus, we move away from being coerced to being a partner in the work God is doing in the world.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Live as an Exile



A follower of Jesus Christ is a person in exile. 

I know that it doesn't feel that way. 

We were born in this world. 
We are comfortable with the culture that we live in. 
This world is familiar. 
It feels like home. 

We may sing songs about this world not being our home or talk about how God has mansions waiting for us in heaven, but the reality is that we like it here.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

God created a good world, and that means there are many things that are part of this world that are enjoyable. We should find joy in this life.

Yet, one of the themes that runs through the Bible is that God's people are to be a holy people, a set apart people. Over and over again God's people choose to be another "Canaanite people" rather than God's covenant people.
 
We have this tension of living in a world that God intended for us to enjoy while seeking to live differently from the world around us.

To do this properly we need a shift in our thinking.

Traditionally we ask the question: "How close to the line can I go?"

More often than not we are interested in how we can push God's boundaries so we can live comfortably in the world.

We need to make a shift to turn away from the world and move in the direction of Jesus.

You and I are created in the image of God. This means we are to demonstrate His character in this world. We do that best when we follow the example of Jesus. 

Jesus lived as foreigner in this world:
I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. (John 17:14, NLT)
In his prayer to the Father, Jesus confessed that the world hated him and his followers because they did not belong to it. Jesus' teachings and his way of life were foreign to the the way of the world.

Foreigners stands out because they are different.  

They speak a different language. 
They dress differently.
They celebrate different holidays.
They have different values.  

Christians are to live like foreigners in a strange land.  Our goal isn't to learn the language and the customs of this world, but to adopt the customs of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

The apostle Peter wrote:
Dear friends, I warn you as "temporary residents and foreigners" to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (1 Peter 2:11-12; NLT)
How does the apostle Peter want us to live?  As "temporary residents" and "foreigners"! We are displaced.  We are not at home!

I want you to catch this: when we live like the world we are not part of God's Kingdom!  

God isn’t interested in people who will merely confess Him and believe in Him.  The Bible teaches us that everyone will bow a knee confess Jesus as Lord. What God wants is a people who will live by faith, people who will bow before Him now.  

People who will be motivated by a different set of desires.  
People who live by a different set of standards.  
People who love people no one else will love.  
People who will not abandon the customs of their home country, but will teach those customs to others.  
By living differently we proclaim to the world that there is a better way to live!

In his book The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus wrote:
From the moment we become citizens of the kingdom of God, we become aliens and strangers in a world that chooses to live absent of God.  From the first step taken to follow Jesus, we are out of step with the rest of the world.  Once your life is in sync with the story of God, you become out of sync with any story that attempts to ignore or eliminate God.  You are a stranger to them, an alien among them, a nomadic wanderer who, while refusing to be rooted in this life, seems to somehow enjoy this life most. (p. 93)

Are you walking out of step with the world?  

My great concern for American Christians is that we are not.  

I know that many of us have a different moral standard than the world, but our hopes and dreams are the same dreams the world around us has.  Our dreams and desires center around success, money, happiness, and love.  The list could go on, but the point is that while we are morally different from the world we are not spiritually different from them.  

That my friends was one of the problems Jesus had with the Pharisees.  They looked good on the outside, but on the inside they were filled with dead men’s bones.  White washed tombs.  

We need to quit fooling ourselves that to be different from the world is just about having a different moral standard.  Being different from the world is primarily about our desires, dreams, attitudes, and thoughts. It is about the direction of our lives and what we are willing to sacrifice to accomplish.

A temporary resident doesn’t put down roots in the land he is living.  Instead he hopes and dreams for his home and thinks of the day when he will finally join his family there.  

How can we think about settling for the things of this world when God is offering us so much more?
How can we think about being like the citizens of the world when God is calling us to be citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven?  

Since this world is not our home let us live like citizens of Heaven.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

An Example to Follow


Show me how a person responds to life, and I will show you what he truly believes.

While it is unfair to judge a person based solely on one or two situations, it is certainly true that choices a person makes over the course of his life reveals what he truly believes.

Our lives, for good or bad, are telling the people around us whether or not we truly have faith in what we say we believe. If we claim to be Christians and yet live lives the resemble the world, then we are telling people that we don’t really have faith in Jesus.

Faith is more than what we confess with our lives, but it is also how we act with our hands and where we go with our feet. If faith is just about what we confess then the only value it has for us is a way to escape hell. Instead, faith is to be the path of transformation.

Not only is faith the path of transformation, but it is also an example to follow.

In Scripture we are urged to follow the example of Abraham (Romans 4:16) and Paul urged others to follow his example (Philippians 3:17). We also know that we have been influenced by the lives faithful people. Our faith is connected to the example they gave to us.

What this teaches us is the importance our lives have in influencing others. Just as the example of faithful people influenced our lives, our faithful example can be a powerful influence in the life of another person.

A life that faithfully follows Jesus provides an example for others to follow.

In sense we have to see ourselves as teachers.

To be a good teacher requires us to be knowledgeable about what we are teaching and the ability to demonstrate how that teaching looks in real life. Humans need examples to help us move from theory to reality.

The Pharisees where part of the religious class of Jesus’ day. They interpreted Scripture for the people and taught them how it applied to their lives.

Yet, they missed a key component in their teaching: they didn’t live what they taught. This is one of the points that Jesus confronted them about.

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,2 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. (Matthew 23:1-4; NLT)

The underlying theology that the Pharisees taught was okay. In fact, on many key points Jesus agreed with the Pharisees. The mistake Jesus highlighted was the burden the religious leaders placed on people with laws upon laws.

These men were able to teach what a faithful life was supposed to look like, but they could not provide the people with an example of what faithful living looked like.

Jesus did not tell the crowd that the Pharisees had bad theology, but that they had bad faith. Jesus urged the crowd to listen to the Pharisees teaching, but discouraged them from following their example.

As Christians who desire to influence the world for Jesus Christ it is essential that we remember that there are two parts to effective teaching: communicating true ideas and letting putting those ideas to practice in your life.

When our lives do not reflect the truth of the Gospel then people will wonder whether or not the Gospel is really the truth.

The best evidence for the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are the faithful lives of his followers.

When we live faithful lives we make the teachings of Jesus come alive.

Without our example Jesus’ teachings remain simply a theory – a nice way to live.

Having the truth doesn’t do us or anybody else any good if we don’t apply that truth to our lives.

The life of faith is the life that is lived based on the truth that we know.

As we live out the truth we believe we become examples for other people to follow. This is how Jesus is able turn ordinary people into lights of the world. Be a light worth following.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Remembering a Conservative Icon

 


I don’t remember the last time I listened to Rush Limbaugh.

That might come as a surprise for people who knew me in high school and college. Back then I was one of the biggest “ditto heads” around.

I started listening to Rush shortly after his show was nationally syndicated. My dad had WHO (the great radio station from Des Moines, Iowa) on as we worked around the farm, and that meant everyday at 1pm we would listen to The Rush Limbaugh Show and for 3 hours the Doctor of Democracy taught me what I needed to know to be a good conservative in the United States.

One of the things I have grown to appreciate about Rush was his ability to hold the attention of people for 3 hours on the radio. Being a pastor I put together sermons and lessons, and what Rush did everyday was amazing. There is no way I could go on the air 5 days a week and fill a 3 hour slot and make it interesting. The skill Rush had on the radio was amazing.

He basically invented political talk radio and became the first real conservative voice in the country. The secret to his success was that he was engaging and entertaining while providing a narrative the lined up with a more conservative worldview. This was a worldview conservatives felt was under represented in the main stream media.

The things that I learned from Rush are:
  1. The value of following the Constitution. This stuck with me from the early days of listening to his show: the Constitution provides the framework for our government to follow.
  2. Making the complex simple. Rush would say he was making the complex simple. In my teaching and preaching this is something I have tried to emulate. One of the keys to good communication is making things understandable. 
  3. The importance of living out what you believe. I think it was in See I Told You So, Rush wrote something like "Be a beacon of light for that which you advocate." That phrase has stuck with me all these years, and something I try to live up to.
  4. Influence people to make the right choice. Rush was pro-life. Something that he said in those early days of the program that I continue to think about was that he was in favor of people having a choice and he wanted to make sure that choice was life. This maybe be the idea that has influenced me the most over the years. I want people to have the liberty, which means they have the ability to make choices I think are wrong. Which means as a Christian I have responsibility to help people make the right choice.
There is no doubt that my intellectual and political life was influenced by Rush. I listened to him during those years that many of us start to think for ourselves and form our own opinions. I am grateful for the positive influence that he had that still lingers in my life today.

I have tried to recreate my journey away from conservative Republican to the Christian anarchist/libertarian view I hold today and I can't with any accuracy. The dates and specifics are jumbled in my mind. So I am not entirely sure what caused me to turn Rush off. 

I do remember four reasons why I stopped trusting what Rush said on air.
  1. He wouldn't answer callers' questions directly. The older I got the more I realized that Rush didn't always answer the questions that people had. I remember talking back to the radio and saying, "But that isn't what he asked!" Or, "Rush, you are missing the point." I came to realize that he really wasn't interested in answering questions, rather he used the calls to further comment on what he wanted to say.
  2. He didn't fairly represent the news articles that used on the show. As the internet became bigger and it became easier to track down the articles Rush used, I would go and read them. More often than not I would come away thinking, "That isn't what the article was saying." I am not saying this always happened, but it happened enough for me to begin to distrust what he was saying, especially when it came to the liberal side of things. 
  3.  It seemed to me that Rush got away from promoting conservatism and started bashing the left. This was by far the biggest thing for me. I wrote the following in post titled Where have the True Conservatives Gone?: "A third observation is that talk radio, and Rush Limbaugh I am primarily talking about you because you set the standard for everyone else to follow, has become anti-liberal rather than pro-conservative. Every time I turned on Rush through December and January he was talking about the Clintons (Clinton, Inc.). He wasn't talking about why conservative ideas were superior just trashing the Clintons."
  4. His support for war changed between Clinton and Bush. During President Clinton's Bosnia War I remember Rush explained how the United States shouldn't be the policeman of the world and how we shouldn't be nation building. He also talked about how there needed to be a goal so we have a definition for what victory is and an exit strategy. Fast forward to the President Bush's second term and the United States is deeper and deeper into this so-called war on terror and as I listen to Rush continue to support this war I have this realization that every reason he gave against President Clinton's Bosnia intervention could be applied to the War on Terror. His principle changed based on who was in office.

There was a good 12 year period in my life when Rush Limbaugh was the major intellectual influence in my life, especially when it came to politics. There was another 3 or 4 years as I gradually stopped paying attention to what he had to say. In the last 12 years I haven't listened to him at all.

From this perspective I see Rush as a very flawed man who struggled with relationships and addiction issues, yet who had the strength and perseverance to continue to do a radio program while loudly being denounced by his critics and facing some major health problems. He had the talent to make politics engaging and hold people's attention for three hours a day, five days a week.

Rush became the voice for people who felt like their principles and beliefs were under represented in the mainstream press. He became the leader of the opposition in a world of progressivism. After all, that is what conservatism is: opposition. It opposes the changes offered by progressivism.

Though I a grateful for the influence he had on me and my thinking, I had moved on from Rush. In the end there are too many differences in our thoughts for me to call him a hero. He was a radio legend who brought  thousands of hours of enjoyment to millions of people and for that he deserves respect.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Reflecting on a Scandal


I originally posted this to my Facebook page, but thought it was worthy posting here:

This past week the board of directors of RZIM posted this letter concerning the double life of Ravi Zacharias. You can find the letter here Open Letter from the International Board of Directors of RZIM on the Investigation of Ravi Zacharias.

Ravi Zacharias had a ministry that influenced many people. The news that has been confirmed recently of his moral failure is disheartening, especially if he and his arguments helped strengthen your faith. 

In the light of this  I want to remind us of a few truths. First, truth is not dependent on the life of the messenger. When Ravi spoke truth about God, about the condition of the world, and about Jesus all that continues to be true. His grievous sin does not invalidate the truth he taught.

Second, the way that we live totally impacts the message that we have. Unfortunately, the revelation of Ravi’s double life is going to undo all his years of public life. This is why Jesus taught his disciples to be salt and light. Both of those metaphors deal with living in such a way that we are able to influence the world around us. Our lives provide evidence that our message is true. When we don’t live up to the message it will cause people to doubt our message.

Third, we have a choice to make when it comes to sin. It is probably true, as the letter indicates, that more accountably would have prevented some of this from happening, but accountability is overrated when it comes to transforming our lives. Accountability might help us manage the sin, but it falls short of creating holiness in our lives. When we have sin we need to confess it and seek ways to get rid of it. The Holy Spirit is able to transform our lives, but we need to give Him room to work.

The greatest tragedy here is not the moral failure of Ravi but the women he abused and their reputations that were ruined in order protect Ravi’s reputation. This is what should truly break our hearts.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Move Forward in Courage


Many men, at the core of their being, long to be courageous. 

A man desires to stand alone and face to face the danger and become the hero. 

This is certainly true with me. 

Ever since I was a young boy I have wanted to defeat the bad guys, defend the ones I love, and rescue the beauty from the clutches of evil.

This craving in my soul comes from the reality that God made me to live a courageous life and to face the dangers of life. 

Often the danger which exists in our lives bears little resemblance to the danger faced by James Bond or Batman on the movie screen. Therefore, it is easy to convince ourselves that no real danger exists and all this talk of courage is just an exaggeration to play on the imaginations of men.

Our daily lives don't seem to be dangerous because we are rarely in physical danger. We don't have bullets whizzing past our heads or bombs exploding around us. This is why we are lulled into a sense of safety and convince ourselves that danger doesn’t exist in our lives. 
 
Just because our lives aren’t in physical danger doesn’t mean a threat doesn't exist.

One of our main threats is the same threat Adam faced from the beginning. It is the threat of following our definitions of good and bad rather than holding on to God’s definitions. It was easy to buckle under the words of the serpent and Eve than it was to stand firm against their temptations.

Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection the failure of Adam is being reversed. 

If we are going to participate with God to bring restoration to creation we need to stand firm in this very area that Adam fell. 

The apostle Paul wrote:
A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against the wicked spirits in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:10-11; NLT)

I am convinced that when we experience fear in our relationships, doing what is right, or fear changing our lives, that is the enemy trying to convince us to surrender without a fight. 

Why does a husband fear talking to his wife? 

Ultimately because Satan is out there seeking destroy the marriage. 

Why does creating a budget and tithing cause fear to run through your body? 

The reason is Satan wants you to hoard what you have rather than being generous with God's provision. 

Why does the thought of giving up Facebook and Instagram cause you to fear that you might miss out on something?

Perhaps it is because Satan wants us distracted by insignificant things so we are unable to give our full attention to what really matters.

When we give into our fears we play right into Satan's hands.

God created us to live with courage! 

This doesn't mean that our lives should be absent of fear. What it means is that we trust God for the provisions we need for life, including the spiritual provisions of strength, hope, and confidence. 

When we live lives of courage we experience God's power at work in the world around us. Even if things don't turn out the way we would like, our faith is strengthened as we experience God at work in our lives.

Yet, if we live lives of fear at least two things will happen. 

First, our relationship with God will be stunted. Relationships grow with experience, and when we don’t allow God to provide for what we need, then we will miss out on experiencing Him.

Second, we put our families and friends at risk. Christians are to stand in the gap for their loved ones. My children do not have another dad who will be praying for them and loving them. I am it. I need to do that job. Likewise, I am the pastor at the church I lead, there is no one else who has been called to pray, teach, and lead like I have. It is my responsibility to do that.

It is crucial to remember: When we face our fears, it is not for us alone, but it is for all those we know and love. 

We need to resist the temptation to take the easy path and avoid our fears. The path of discipleship, the path of becoming the person God created us to be, is found on the other side of our fears. 

Today is the day to live with courage.


Trust God to Forgive

It is never easy to admit that we have made a mistake.  The bigger the mistake the more we want to hide it, deny it, or ignore it.  It is no...