Friday, March 31, 2023

The Path to Freedom

The Bible teaches that true freedom is found in Christ.

In John 8:36 (CSB), Jesus declared, “So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.”

The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:1 (CSB), “For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

This freedom is not just the absence of external constraints but the liberation of the heart from the bondage of sin.

John Eldredge in The Utter Relief of Holiness wrote: 
"Have you ever put those two things together—freedom of heart and the passionate pursuit of God’s commands? The two go hand in hand. Genuine holiness restores human beings; restored beings possess genuine holiness."
This quote beautifully summarizes the relationship between holiness and freedom.

The freedom we have in Christ does not mean that we can live however we please. As Eldredge noted, freedom of heart and the pursuit of God's commands go hand in hand.

The psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:45 (CSB), "I will walk freely in an open place because I study your precepts."

In other words, the psalmist found freedom in obedience to God's commands.

The pursuit of holiness is not legalistic or burdensome. It is a pathway to freedom and to the healing of our wounded hearts.

In Romans 6:22 (CSB), Paul wrote, "But now, since you have been set free from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification — and the outcome is eternal life!"

Sanctification, or the process of becoming holy, is the result of our freedom in Christ.

This restoration of our being through holiness is not just for our own benefit. It also allows us to better love and serve others. In Galatians 5:13 (CSB), Paul wrote, "For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love."

True freedom is found in Christ, and this freedom leads to holiness.

Pursuing holiness is not legalistic or burdensome but is a pathway to the life God created us to live. As we are restored to this life through holiness, we are better able to love and serve others.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to pursue holiness with passion and freedom of heart, knowing that it is the pathway to full and abundant life.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Finding Freedom Through Virtue

 Followers of Jesus are to live with virtue. To live with virtue is to be a person of character that is defined by the high moral qualities of love, honesty, compassion, mercy, and faith. These are the qualities that empower us to demonstrate God’s character in the world.

The Bible, through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, provides us with the wisdom we need to be people of Christian virtue. One of the ways the Bible provides us with wisdom is through examples. These examples are not always good examples, but God intends for them challenge us in how we live. The are to get us to think about how we can live faithful lives in our situations.

One such example can be found in the book of Exodus.

Exodus is the story of the Israelites, who experienced a life of slavery for over 400 years. Their existence was marked by suffering, oppression, and forced labor. Yet, it is in this painful reality that God grew the clan of Jacob into a nation.

When the time was right, God had a plan to set them free. This plan was built around a man named Moses. He was born to Hebrew parents and raised in by Pharaoh’s daughter. This gave Moses a unique perspective on the situation, but before Moses was fully prepared to lead Israel, he spent 40 years in the wilderness herding sheep. All these experiences molded Moses into the leader God would use to lead Israel out of a life of slavery and into a life of freedom.

Not only did the Israelites need to be freed from their physical enslavement, they also needed to be freed from their spiritual enslavement. They had been living in a pagan culture that worshiped false gods, and as a result, they had become enslaved to the sinful practices and values of that culture.

God knew that in order to truly be free, the Israelites needed to be transformed from the inside out. They needed to turn away from their sinful ways and embrace a life of virtue. God’s desire was for Israel to be a light to the nations by demonstrating His character.

Through Moses, God created a covenant with Israel. The moral foundation of this covenant is summed up in what we call the Ten Commandments. This covenant would serve as a guide for living a virtuous life. These terms of the covenant were not given to enslave the Israelites, but rather to guide them away from the terrible cultural practices that enslaved their neighbors and kept them living in darkness.

In Deuteronomy 30:19-20, Moses told the Israelites:
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, love the LORD your God, obey him, and remain faithful to him. For he is your life, and he will prolong your days as you live in the land the LORD swore to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (CSB)
The virtuous life requires making a choice: following God’s will or doing what seems best to us. This is the choice that set before all of us, and it is crucial that we make the right choice.

To live with virtue means choosing the way of God even when it is difficult and we don’t have all the answers. It means choosing to love God and to love our neighbors, even when it requires sacrifice. And it means putting aside our own selfish desires and ambitions, in order to serve those around us.

When we live with virtue, we find freedom from the consequences of bad choices that would otherwise lead us into slavery. We become free to serve others, just as Jesus came to serve us.

In John 13:14-15, Jesus told his disciples,
“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you.” (CSB)
Jesus, who is the perfect image of God, lived a loving and humble life which empowered him to serve people. If we are going to demonstrate God’s character in this world then we need to follow the example of Jesus.

This is why virtue is crucial for Christians.

Living a life of virtue requires humility, selflessness, and treating others the way we want to be treated. When we live like this, we find the freedom God has promised to His people. We are free to love, free to serve, and free to make a difference in the world around us.

Living with virtue is not about being perfect or never making mistakes. It's about making choices that align with God's will, and seeking to live a life that reflects his love and grace.

When we do this, we find freedom from the consequences of bad choices that would otherwise lead us into the slavery of sin. And in that freedom, we are free to help and serve those around us, just as King Jesus did for us.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

EDC Wednesday: EDC Mistakes

Since Everyday Carry (EDC) is about the items that we carry with us on a daily basis, a lot of focus is placed on gear. It is the gear, more than anything else, that has created the EDC Community.

It is true that we want to have the tools necessary to tackle the jobs that pop up during the day, but we also want cool tools to do those jobs. There are tons of cool gears that we can buy to create an EDC kit, and that can translate into hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

To prevent you from spending lots of money on things that only sit in a drawer and collect dust, here are some common mistakes people make when it comes to EDC.

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when creating an EDC:
  1. Carrying too much: This was a big mistake when I first started carrying an intentional EDC. I watched YouTube videos and saw what other people were doing and thought, “I need to carry that too.” I had my pockets full of stuff that I never used: a lighter, screwdriver, Allen wrench, and a few other pieces of gear. One of the things that was happening is that I would put my phone in the pocket, and all the stuff in my pockets would crack the screen protector. I went through three or four protectors before I figured out what was happening. Just because someone else carries it or you can find a pocket version of some tool doesn’t mean you should add it to your carry.
  2. Not considering your daily routine: Your EDC should be tailored to your daily routine. For instance, if you work in an office, you may not need to carry a heavy-duty knife or a multitool. You only need to carry those things that make sense for your day-to-day life. There is no reason to carry a bunch of stuff around that never comes out of your pocket except when it is time to go to bed.
  3. Focusing on brand names rather than quality: This is huge. There are plenty of good quality knives that are made by “budget” companies. My most expensive knife (Buck Sprint Pro) is also the knife that has the most problems, and I never carry it because of that. In that instance, I had the opportunity to buy it, and I did based on the brand. If I had done my regular research, I would have discovered that the problem I have with the knife is a common problem, and I wouldn’t have bought it. The lesson is to do research and find stuff that is quality.
  4. Creating a carry around a theme: This is by far the biggest mistake I made. One of the things people love to do with their EDC is to create it based on a certain theme: color (olive green), movie (Star Wars), material (brass), or team (Denver Broncos). So I started creating a wishlist of things that fell into the themes (I imagined having these different themes) instead of what I really enjoyed carrying. Now, five years or so into EDC, the theme is secondary. I have things that are in a theme that I never carry because I don’t like the items. This is not “Never create your EDC around a theme,” rather it is “Find out what you like before finding the items to make up your themed carry.”
It is easy to spend a lot of money on creating an EDC. It is impossible not to spend money on gear that you end up never using. The reality is that we can’t know how useful something is until it is part of our daily system.

It is possible, with a little bit of time, thought, and research, to create an EDC with items that fit you perfectly without also having a drawer full of stuff that never gets used.

Do you have any other mistakes that you would add to the list?

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Follow Jesus’ Example of a Faithful Life


As Christians, we are called to live a faithful life.

What does that entail, and how can we ensure that we are living in accordance with God's will?

The answer lies in following the example of Jesus. In John 6:38 (CSB), Jesus said:
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me."
Thus, living a faithful life involves doing God's will, just as Jesus did.

The foundation of a faithful life is following Jesus' teachings such as loving our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31), forgiving those who wrong us (Matthew 6:14-15), and serving others (Mark 10:45).

However, staying on the path of righteousness can be challenging. We may encounter trials and temptations that make it difficult to remain faithful to Jesus’ way of life.

I think we can find encouragement in knowing that even Jesus faced challenges during his time on earth. In Matthew 26:39 (CSB), Jesus prayed :

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
In this moment, Jesus was faced with an incredibly difficult task, the task of dying on the cross and taking on our sin. In that moment Jesus chose to submit to God's will above his own desires.

This example shows us that we too must choose to submit to God’s will, even in the face of hardship.

When we face trials and temptations, we can turn to God for strength and guidance, just as Jesus did. Through a deepening faith in God that comes from the practice of spiritual disciplines, we can find the strength to stay on the path of righteousness and honor God in all that we do.

This requires that we know what God’s will is.

We are able to discern God's will for our lives, by turning to the Bible, which contains God's truth for how we should live. Not only should we turn to the Bible, but we also need to pray and ask God for guidance. James 1:5 (CSB) states:
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God — who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly — and it will be given to him.
Wisdom, the knowledge of living well in God’s world, is a gift from God. This is why wisdom is the product of both our faithful study of the Bible and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds.

Living a faithful life requires daily devotion and commitment. It means surrendering our own desires and ambitions to follow Jesus. We do this because of the conviction that following Jesus is the absolute best way to live.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Thinking Right and Worship


Worship is an essential part of the Christian life. It is the act of recognizing and praising God for who He is and what He has done. Worship is not just singing songs or attending church services; it is a way of life that centers on the recognition of God's greatness and our utter dependence on Him.

N. T. Wright, in his book Simply Christian wrote,
"Worship is at the very center of all Christian living. One of the main reasons that theology (trying to think straight about who God is) matters is that we are called to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. It matters that we learn more about who God is so that we can praise him more appropriately." (pp. 148-49)
In this quote Wright highlights the importance of theology in worship. He points out that the more we understand who God is, the more we can love and praise Him.

This idea is supported by Jesus' teach ing on the most important commandment found in Mark 12:30 (CSB):
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
In other words, to mature in our worship of God, we must engage our entire being, including our intellect. Our love for God is not just an emotional response; it is grounded in a knowledge of who God is and what He has done for us.

Theology, the study of God and His character, helps us understand God's nature, His attributes, and His actions.

As we learn more about God, our worship becomes more meaningful and authentic. To properly worship God we need to grow in our understanding of who God is. This allows us to praise Him for His holiness, His love, His mercy, His justice, and His faithfulness. Theology informs our understanding of God so we can sing songs that reflect those truths and offer prayers that are in line with His character.

Good theology also helps us avoid false worship. It helps us discern between true and false teachings and helps us avoid worshipping idols. It reminds us that our worship is not just about what we want or feel but is primarily about honoring God.

Worship is not a passive activity but a vital aspect of the Christian life. To worship God fully, we must engage our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Theology is not an activity reserved for academics, but it is a vital part of a Christian’s worship of God. Theology helps us understand who God is and what He has done, which empowers us to praise Him more fully and avoid worshipping a false god created in our own image.

As we continue to grow in our knowledge of God, our worship will become more authentic, meaningful, and life-giving. We shouldn’t neglect theology, but instead we need to let it inform our worship of God.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Sunday Prayer: Joy In Our Hearts


Father in Heaven,

On this day, we lift our hearts to you in gratitude and joy. We thank you for the beauty of your creation that surrounds us, For the sun that warms our skin, and the breeze that refreshes our spirits.

We thank you for the blessings you have bestowed upon us, For the love of family and friends, and the joy they bring into our lives.

We ask that you fill us with your joy, A joy that is not dependent on circumstances or possessions, But a joy that comes from knowing Jesus and trusting in his sacrificial love.

May this joy overflow from our hearts and spill out into the world around us, May it be a light that shines in the darkness, a hope that brings comfort to those in need.

May we find joy in the simple things of life, In the laughter of children, the beauty of a sunset, and the taste of good food.

May we find joy in the challenges we face, Knowing that they will develop our character and help us become more like Jesus.

May we find joy in the moments of stillness, When we can rest in your presence and know that you are with us always.

Bless us, Heavenly Father and Creator of life, with your joy and your peace, And may we live each day with hearts full of gratitude and joy.

In the mighty name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Finding Freedom in Jesus

 Christ has come to set us free! 

Galatians 5:1 (CSB)
For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Freedom is what we all desire, and it is, at least for Americans, a right for all people. We want to see people live in freedom rather than in oppression. 

God, too, desires that we be free! God’s desire for our freedom is seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

The news that Jesus brings freedom to our lives is Good News.

We desire freedom, and God desires that we be free. So what is the problem?

The problem is our definition of freedom and God’s definition of freedom aren’t the same. 

Too often, we see freedom as the ability to decide how we want to live. 

To be free from the expectations of authorities, families, and other social restraints. 

To have the financial freedom to go and do what we want to do. 

For us freedom is defined by having complete control of our lives.

According to the Bible, God’s definition is different. In fact, the writers of the New Testament, who experienced the freedom Jesus gives, described themselves in an interesting way. 

In Romans, the Apostle Paul writes, "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God…" (Romans 1:1, CSB).

James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote, "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ." (James 1:1, CSB). 

And the Apostle Peter wrote, "Simeon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:1; CSB).

In each of these cases, we would understand the type of servant Paul, James, and Peter called  themselves to be a slave.

It is obvious that these men did not equate autonomous control of their lives to the freedom found in Jesus. They believed they were free, but that freedom led them to surrender to the authority of  King Jesus. 

In our thinking, being under the authority of someone else is not freedom. But these men, who said they were slaves of King Jesus, lived with a greater freedom than what we can understand.

Now I have this question to ask you: Is your life better or more complicated since you have been in control of making the choices on how to live? 

In this country and in this period of time, we have had great freedom to choose the direction of our lives. 

We have the freedom to choose our careers, the freedom to choose our spouses, the freedom to choose friends and other relationships, the freedom to do what we want with the money we make, and the freedom to believe what seems true to us.

Even with all this freedom, many of us feel trapped and enslaved. 

We feel trapped in a job that we hate. We feel trapped in a marriage that we no longer want. We feel enslaved by the expectations and whims of our friends. We feel enslaved to the massive amount of debt that we have accumulated. We feel trapped and enslaved by the empty promises of humanistic philosophies. 

When we are free to decide how we want to live, we often end up being trapped and enslaved by the choices we made.

Thankfully Jesus brings freedom to us trapped in prisons made up of our own decisions. He offers a life free from the curse and condemnation of the Law. He offers a life free from the addictions of sin. He offers a life free to live in the spontaneity of love for God and people. 

Jesus’s freedom allows us to be free to use our money to help people in need, to be free to use our blessings to be a blessing to our neighbors, to be free to hope in the midst of hopelessness, and to be free to give our lives away to God and His Kingdom.

Are you living a free life  or are you enslaved to your addictions? 

Are you living free life or are you enslaved to the expectations of other people? 

The only way to truly experience freedom is to give your life to Jesus. He guides us out of the chains of bad choices and the enslavement to addictions and into his Kingdom of freedom.

The path towards freedom that Jesus offers is the path of surrendering your life to him. Freedom is found in stepping off the throne of your life and making Jesus King in your place.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Following Jesus to New Life


Following Jesus is a journey of faith that leads to the transformation of our lives. This journey is available to anyone, no matter what kind of life they have lived or how many wrong choices they have made, as long as they trust Jesus to be their guide.

In his book, Seizing Your Divine Moment, Erwin McManus wrote, "No matter what kind of life you've lived, no matter how many wrong choices you've made, the next moment is waiting to give birth to new life."

This quote is a powerful reminder that following Jesus is about looking forward, not backward and trusting that He can transform our lives, no matter what our past looks like.

One passage that teaches this truth is John 8:1-11, where a woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus. The religious leaders demand that she be stoned, as required by the law of Moses. However, Jesus responds in a surprising way. He says, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7).

The crowd disperses, and Jesus speaks to the woman, telling her that He does not condemn her, but He also commands her to "go and sin no more" (John 8:11). This encounter shows us that no matter how far we have strayed from the path of righteousness, Jesus is always ready to forgive us and give us a new start.

Following Jesus requires leaving our past behind and embracing the new life He offers us. It means recognizing our mistakes, confessing our sins, repenting, and turning to God for forgiveness. When we do this, we experience the transforming power of the Holy Spirit  in our lives, which enables us to move forward with confidence and hope.

Another benefit of following Jesus is that we discover a sense of purpose and direction. When we commit to following Jesus, we commit to living a life that is guided by His teachings and His example, as we trust His death and resurrection for hope and new life.

Living a life guided by Jesus's teaching is to live with love, compassion, forgiveness, and generosity. It means working to conform to the image of Jesus by doing the disciplines He did (prayer, fasting, solitude, service). This is the way we align our lives with God's will.

Faith is crucial to following Jesus. To have faith means we trust Jesus more than we trust ourselves. We trust that He will forgive our sins, help us overcome the sin and the doubt that plague our lives, heal our wounded hearts, and make us new creations. Living with faith in Jesus moves us to believe that no matter what kind of life we have lived, He has the power to forgive us and make us into brand new people.

Following Jesus is a journey of transformation, maturity, and renewal. This journey is open to anyone, no matter who they are or what they have done. So let's seize the divine moment and commit to following Jesus, trusting that He will transform our lives and give us a new future full of faith, joy, hope, and love.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Proper Worship


In his book The Air I Breathe Louie Giglio wrote:
You only have one life. And you only have one life of worship. You have one brief opportunity in time to declare your allegiance, to unleash your affection, to exalt something or someone above all else.

"Don't waste your worship on some little god, squandering your birthright on idols made only with human imagination. Guard your worship...and carefully evaluate all potential takers.

Louie Giglio's quote reminds us that worship is not just a Sunday morning activity, but a way of life. It is a declaration of our allegiance, an unleashing of our affections, and an exaltation of something or someone above all else. However, we must be careful not to waste our worship on "little gods" or idols made only with human imagination.

The Bible also speaks to the importance of guarding our worship and carefully evaluating all potential takers. In Matthew 6:24 (CSB), Jesus says, 
"No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
Money, success, power, and other things can easily become idols in our lives. We can start to place our trust and hope in them, thinking they will bring us happiness and fulfillment. However, they will always disappoint us because they cannot satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.

In Psalm 115:4-8 (CSB), the psalmist writes, 
"Their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk. They cannot make a sound with their throats.Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them."
We must guard our worship and make sure that we are not placing our trust in anything or anyone other than God. He alone is worthy of our worship and devotion. We must evaluate all potential takers of our worship and make sure that we are giving it to the One who deserves it.

We only have one life and one life of worship. We must guard our worship and carefully evaluate all potential takers, making sure that we are giving it to the One who deserves it. Let us not waste our worship on "little gods" or idols made only with human imagination. Instead, let us exalt God above all else and declare our allegiance and affection for Him alone.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

EDC Wednesday: Creating an EDC


All of us have an Everyday Carry. Most of the items we carry on a daily basis are there by default: wallet, keys, and phone. We wouldn’t get very far without those things.

For me, EDC is taking things to the next level. It isn’t just about what I need to take along with me, but thinking about what items would actually be helpful in our daily lives. The basic level of EDC is the items we have by default, and the next level of EDC is the items we have by choice.

Creating an Everyday Carry (EDC) is a personal process that involves selecting the items that will best suit your needs and preferences. Here are some general steps that can help guide you through the process:

Determine the purpose of your carry.

I believe that you should think in terms of purpose rather than need. The reason for this is that, for many of us, the items that we “need” on a daily basis are small; in fact, they are covered by our default carry. As a pastor, I have no need to carry a knife, multitool, or flashlight on a daily basis. From a need standpoint, my EDC is impractical.

This is why determining the purpose of your carry is crucial. Having a purpose to your carry moves things from being impractical to serving a purpose. In my mind, there are two main philosophies when it comes to purpose: Functional or Preparedness.

A Functional Carry would mean carrying items that are helpful for your job or daily life. For example, I grew up on a farm, and in my high school and college years, I began carrying pliers with me because they were helpful for a variety of tasks (plus my dad did). I know that if I were a farmer, I would carry with me: a pair of pliers, a heavy-duty multitool (Leatherman Surge), a solid budget knife (Ontario RAT 1), a flashlight, and a pencil or Sharpie. All those things would prove useful throughout the day and reduce the need to run back to the shed to get what I need. There are certain jobs for which it makes sense to build your carry based on its functionality on a daily basis.

A Preparedness Carry would be carrying items based on being prepared for what circumstances might arise during the day. This is my philosophy when it comes to EDC. A preparedness carry is based on thinking through the most likely circumstances you might face during a normal day, rather than trying to be prepared for every potential event that might happen. 

I carry the Leatherman Skeletool because most of the maintenance tasks that might pop up at home require nothing more than pliers or a screwdriver. I carry the Olight i3t eos flashlight for those times when I might need to look under the couch or other dark place in search of a Lego that dropped there. I carry the Victorinox Tinker Swiss Army knife because of its tweezers that I have used to get splinters out of the kids’ hands. I carry the Zebra Telescopic pen for those times I am out and need a pen to jot a note or sign my name. I carry the Civivi Baklash for opening boxes and packages. I don’t need any of these on a daily basis, but during a regular week each of these items will get some use.

Understanding the purpose behind your carry will help you determine the items you want to include in your carry.

Make a list. 

There are common items associated with EDC, such as a knife, multitool, flashlight, and pen. However, remember that you are creating a list based on your purpose. While it is tempting to copy someone else's carry or obtain cool gear, we may end up accumulating gear that doesn't fit our purpose.

The best place to start when creating a carry is with what you already have. There is no need to buy a new knife or multitool when you probably already have one lying around. By carrying items that you already have, you can get a feel for what you would like to include in your EDC, what you might like to upgrade, and what items don't interest you.

It is important to create a list of EDC items based on what works well for you rather than what other people say is useful or cool.

Research and choose your items. 

This is part of the fun of EDC. There are many YouTube videos and blog articles that discuss EDC and review different items. What I like to do is look for budget items that are of high quality. With a little bit of research, it is possible to assemble a carry that consists of quality items but is fairly inexpensive.

Consider your carry method. 

For me, EDC mainly involves the items you carry on your person. With this in mind, you don't want your pockets to be filled with a bunch of loose items. There are different pocket organizers available that allow you to keep your items organized. I have organizers that hold my pen, flashlight, and mini-multitool.

A keychain might be another option for small items. Many of the smaller flashlights and multitools have attachments that allow them to be put on a keychain. Personally, I don't like the bulk of a keychain, but it is a possibility.

Test and adjust. 

Once you have assembled your EDC, test it out and make adjustments as needed. You may find that some items are more or less useful than you initially thought, or that you need to switch out certain items for different situations. You will also discover what you like and don't like in knives, flashlights, multitools, and other gear. This will give you confidence as you seek to upgrade and finalize your carry.

Remember, creating an EDC is a personal process, and there is no one "right" way to do it. The goal is to create a collection of items that will help you be prepared for whatever challenges you may encounter in your daily life.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Hebrews: Don’t Neglect the Gift


The book of Hebrews was written by a pastor who had a deep concern for Jewish Christians. He wanted them to continue to follow Jesus and not give in to the temptation to change the Gospel in order to avoid persecution.

At the start of chapter 2, the pastor gives this warning:

"For this reason, we must pay attention all the more to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? This salvation had its beginning when it was spoken of by the Lord, and it was confirmed to us by those who heard him. At the same time, God also testified by signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts from the Holy Spirit according to his will." (Hebrews 2:1-4, CSB)

In these verses, the pastor urged the readers to pay attention to the message of salvation that they have received and to not allow themselves to drift away from it. He reminded his friends that the Gospel was not just any ordinary message, but it was the message declared by Jesus, the Messiah, and confirmed to be true by the first disciples. God also bore witness to the truth of this message by performing signs, wonders, and miracles through Jesus and his followers by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This warning comes after the pastor's defense of Jesus's superiority over the angels in chapter 1. In Judaism, it was a common belief that the Law came to Moses through the angels. If people are determined to be guilty based on whether or not they keep the Law, which came to people through angels, how much greater will the guilt be for ignoring the Gospel that came to people through God's Son?

We should not ignore this warning.

What can we learn from these verses?

First and foremost, we need to pay attention to the message of salvation that we have received. This message is not something to be taken lightly or ignored. It is the very message that has the power to save us from our sins and give us eternal life. We cannot afford to neglect it. This means we have to study it, meditate on it, pray over it, and obey it. We become good stewards of the Gospel when it influences our lives.

Secondly, we need to recognize the incredible privilege that we have in being the recipients of the Gospel. Many of us have heard the Gospel our entire lives, and that familiarity makes it easy to take it for granted. Remember, the Gospel is the message that Jesus came to proclaim: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Matthew 4:17; CSB). God confirmed the truth of Jesus's message not only through the miracles that he performed but most importantly for us today, through his resurrection. The Gospel is a great gift, and we should treat it as such.

Finally, we need to be aware of the consequences of neglecting this great salvation. The pastor to the Hebrews reminds us that every transgression or disobedience received a just punishment. If the people under the old covenant did not escape the curses of breaking the Law, then we should not expect to escape the consequences of neglecting the Gospel. We need to take it seriously and live our lives in light of its truth.

Hebrews 2:1-4 is a powerful reminder that we need to be good stewards of the Gospel. It is not enough for us to simply hear the message of the Gospel; we have to live the message. We cannot afford to neglect it or take it lightly. After all, this is the very message that Jesus came to give us.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Hebrews: Warning Against Neglect

STOP — Hebrews 2:1-4

The writer of Hebrews is urging the readers to pay close attention to what they have heard to avoid drifting away. The danger they are facing is that they are neglecting the salvation they have been taught, and this neglect will have dire consequences. This salvation was confirmed by Jesus and witnessed by those who heard him, and God also testified to its truth through miracles and gifts given to Christians through the Holy Spirit.

Followers of Jesus need focus on knowing God’s word and doing God’s word.

  1. For this reason: Jesus is superior to the angels and the angels are ministering spirits for God’s people. This is the truth that the writer of Hebrews wants people to remember.
  2. When we forget who Jesus is and place too much emphasize on angels or even spiritual gifts and experiences, it is easy for us to drift away from the truth.
  3. Angels, who are ministering spirits to God’s people, spoke a message that was legally binding, how much more are the words of Jesus authoritative in our lives?
  4. The salvation that we have was promised by God from the beginning and is being confirmed through Jesus and those who proclaim Jesus to the world.
  5. God proved that Jesus is the Messiah through miracles Jesus and the Holy Spirit empowered good works that Jesus’s followers are able to do.

Lord, help me to remain focused on the truth of the Gospel so that it guides both my thoughts and my actions.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Sunday Prayer: Keep My Mind Focused

Father in Heaven,

I come to you today with a grateful heart, knowing that I have been raised with Christ and that my life, along with everyone who follows Jesus, are hidden with Him in you. I thank you for the hope and promise of appearing with Jesus in glory when He returns to make everything right.

Help me to keep my mind set on things above, Your will and character, and not on the temporary and deceptive things of this earth. May I continually seek after you and your will for my life, knowing that you are the ultimate source of all that is good and true.

Guide me in all that I do, and help me to live my life in a way that pleases you. Give me the strength to resist temptations and to remain focused on faithfully following Jesus in all that I do.

Thank you for the gift of your Son, who died and rose again, making it possible for all your people to experience eternal life. May I never forget the sacrifice that was made on our behalf, and may I always strive to live in a way that honors Jesus, my King and Savior.

In the mighty name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Ordinary Moments

Have you ever felt like your life is slipping away?

I know that I have. Rather than accomplishing my dreams life seems to be swallowed up with the daily responsibilities that are required for pastoring and having a family. These are good things, but my dreams often need to be put on a back burner because of them.

In Seizing Your Divine Moment, Erwin McManus, a pastor and author, wrote, "This may sound too simple, but the abundant life that Jesus promises is ushered in through the choices we make in the ordinary moments of life."

This statement emphasizes the power of our choices and how they can shape our lives in profound ways.

When we think of "abundant life," we often envision a life filled with wealth, success, and happiness. However, the Bible offers a different perspective.

In John 10:10, Jesus says, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." This abundant life is not defined by material possessions or external circumstances, but by a deep and meaningful relationship with God. A relationship that is defined by trusting in and acting on God’s promises.

So, how do our choices influence this abundant life?

McManus suggests that it's the small, seemingly insignificant choices we make in the ordinary moments of life that ultimately shape our spiritual formation as we seek live as Jesus lived. These choices include how we respond to difficult situations, how we treat others, and how we prioritize our time and resources.

For example, if we consistently choose to respond with kindness and forgiveness instead of anger and bitterness, we cultivate a heart that reflects the character of God. If we prioritize our relationship with God through prayer and Bible study, we develop a deeper understanding of His love and purpose for our lives.

It's easy to overlook the impact of these everyday choices, but over time, they add up and shape the trajectory of our lives. As the saying goes, "little by little, a little becomes a lot."

Of course, making the right choices is not always easy. We are imperfect people who make mistakes and face different obstacles along the way. However, the good news is that we do not have to rely solely on our own strength and willpower. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Christian community we belong to, we have access to the wisdom, guidance, and strength we need to make choices that align with God's will.

The abundant life that Jesus promises is not something that is achieved through external circumstances or possessions. Rather, it's a life that is rooted in a deep and meaningful relationship with God, and it's ushered in through the choices we make in the ordinary moments of life. As we make choices that reflect God's character and prioritize our relationship with Him, we can experience the fullness of life that He has promised us.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Continue the Struggle

 It is no secret that life is hard. Even when we are following Jesus and doing God’s will, life doesn’t get any easier. We may sometimes expect things to be easier if we are doing what is right, even though this has never been promised. We want to be validated and reassured that we are doing the right thing.

It is logical to assume that if we are doing God’s will, then things would be difficult. 

Why should we assume that? 

Because the enemy is opposed to God. 

If we are making progress in overcoming sin in our lives, if we are in a relationship that God wants us to be a part of, if we are part of a ministry that is making a difference in the community, or if we are standing up for what is right, we shouldn't be surprised if things are difficult.

However, we can't solely evaluate things based on whether things are going well or not. 

Sometimes things will go well even though it is God’s will, and sometimes things will be a struggle even though it goes against God’s law.

All I want to do is to remind you that struggling isn’t a bad thing. When following God’s will becomes a struggle, it gives us an opportunity to grow and appreciate what God has in store for us on the other side of the struggle.

In the midst of our struggles, we need to remember what Jesus said to the church in Smyrna:

“Write to the angel of the church in Smyrna: Thus says the First and the Last, the one who was dead and came to life: I know your affliction and poverty, but you are rich. I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will experience affliction for ten days. Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 

“Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will never be harmed by the second death. (Revelation 2:8-11; CSB)

Jesus told this group of His followers not to give up in the face of persecution. “Hang in there,” He says, “this won’t last forever.”

Our struggle may not be persecution. 

Our struggle, most likely, are circumstances haven't turned out the way we expected. That realization that our dreams haven’t gone according to our plans, which causes us to wonder if we are really in the right place. We ask ourselves, “Should I continue to live by faith, or should I just give up?”

I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules for such situations, but let me offer you a few thoughts.

First, is to ask yourself the question, “Is my struggle related to living righteously and faithfully?” If the answer is yes, then you are doing what God wants you to do. When your desire is to honor God, to encourage and love people, and to grow in your knowledge and faith, then there are many places you can go and things you can do and remain in God’s will. Living a life that honors God by following Jesus is a life that Satan opposes.

Second, consider letting go of your dreams. I think God allows people to go through struggle because their dreams need to be changed. We miss out on the life God wants us to live when we cling too tightly to the dreams we have for our lives. Remember, we may even have to lay down our best dreams for our lives in order to experience God’s best for us. Letting go of a dream is an act of faith because we have to trust that God’s will for our lives is greater than our dreams.

Third, get the opinions of different Christians. These could be people you have a close relationship with or not. The two criteria are that you respect their opinion and they faithfully follow Jesus. We still need to evaluate what they have to tell us, but they will help us see things from a different perspective. Too often, we are so closely involved in the situation that we fail to see all the different angles it has. The perspective of other Christians helps us see things more clearly.

Life is tough. Just because life is tough doesn’t mean that we are not doing God’s will. Often, the struggle is an indication that we are doing what God wants us to do, and the Enemy is opposing us. We need to stay faithful, and in the end, we will experience the life God created us to live.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Technology and the Christian

Technology is a part of our existence. 

It is to be expected that people, who are created in the image of God, will create things that improve our lives on planet Earth.

There is no doubt that we have benefited from all sorts of technologies that we don’t give a second thought to because they are normal part of our daily lives. 

Wheels, hammers, plows, indoor plumbing, printed books, and cars are all examples of technology that has influenced our lives to such a degree that we don’t even think about them. These technologies allow us to travel more quickly, feed more people, and inform  larger audiences than we could without them.

Most, if not all, technology has pros and cons. Cars have made travel easier and faster, but they also use up enormous amounts of resources and add pollution in the environment. A technology that sticks around usually has a net benefit, as people believe that its pros outweighs its cons.

We are moving into a new wave of technology. Technologies that are going to challenge our beliefs about what it means to be human and our purpose in this world. In many ways this is an extension of the wave of technology we have already adopted: personal computers, internet, search engines, smartphones, and social media. 

Since we didn’t do a good job of thinking through the impact of these new technologies, which have brought a net benefit to our culture, we are experience some profound negative consequences. Things like depression, loneliness, and despair are on the rise. Take for instance this article, A Week Off Social Media Boosts Mental Health, that shows a link between our social media usage and our mental well being.

The last few days I have been doing some thinking around the subjects of Artificial Intelligence and Trans-humanism (I have also thought about the use of psychedelics as a way to explore the spiritual side of life), because these are going to be a reality in our culture before we know it, and as people who follow Jesus we will need to know how to respond.

Artificial Intelligence focuses on the development of machines that give them the ability to make decisions, problem solve, learn, and create. AI will allow computers to create things faster than people can create and that will be indistinguishable from what people can create.

Transhumanism is a philosophy and movement that advocates for the use of advanced technologies to enhance human abilities, both physical and cognitive. The goal of transhumanism is to transcend the limitations of the human condition and create a post-human future in which people are healthier, stronger, more intelligent, and more resilient than ever before.

I am not qualified to talk about these things in depth. With that acknowledgment, I have thought about these issues and how to help followers of Jesus to think rightly about them. The following are 5 topics I think are important to address if Christians are going to intelligently engage in the conversation.

  1. What is means to be human. When God created human beings in His image what does that mean? Part of what it means is to accept that we have limitations, and that in those limitations we learn to trust in God’s provision and help. Humans are also tasked with being productive and not just consume.
  2. The difference between wisdom and knowledge. We have had the knowledge of the world at our fingertips for a few years now, but with AI we will be able to access it in such a way that it will make education as we know it obsolete. One of the Bible’s main themes is wisdom, and wisdom isn’t simply acquired through knowledge. Wisdom, which is the knowledge for living well in God’s world, comes from prayer, personal relationships, experience, and contemplation. Wisdom can’t be downloaded from a computer into our minds.
  3. The importance of the Body. This is the reason why I am so big on talking about Resurrection and New Creation. The Christian Hope is not our souls going to Heaven when we die,is but receiving new bodies to live in God’s renewed Creation. To be human is to have a body and we experience the world through our bodies. Our bodies matter and we should be good stewards of these bodies that God has given to us as we prepare for God’s New Creation.
  4. What is reality? Discerning what is real from what is fake and what is true from what is false is going to become more and more difficult. We won’t be able to tell if an image was taken with a camera or generated by a computer. Animated movies will be impossible to distinguish from live action movies. We might even begin to wonder if life is real or if we are just part of some big simulation. Getting away from devices, unplugging from the matrix, and enjoying real places and people will be essential.
  5. The importance of connectedness with people and the rest of creation. We are experiencing a growing numbness already with the world around us. Reading about tragedies and experiencing the lives of others through YouTube disconnects us from the realities of everyday life. The more we engage in our own personal interfaces with technology the more life becomes about us and our desires, and we loose the connection to the people around us.

This is a quick summary of the ponderings I have done the last few days. I am not posing as an expert on these issues. Rather, I am pointing out the areas I think are crucial for Christians to think through so we enter into the conversation thoughtfully and productively rather than reactively. It is crucial for Christians to be able to thoughtfully participate conversation and bring a unique God-centered perspective to these issues.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Asking for a Friend: If God is Good, Why does He Allow Evil to Exist?

Everyone has questions. Some questions we can find the answer with a quick search on Google. Other questions are more intimidating. Questions that surround our faith can be scary because we worry about what the answer might be and whether or not those answer will affect our faith. What ends up happening is that we ignore the question, but that question still lingers in the back of our mind.

In Asking for a Friend we want to look at a few of these questions and see if there is a way to provide an answer to them that will not only strengthen our faith, but also help us see the world through a more Christian perspective.

One of the fundamental beliefs in Christianity is that God is good. Most of the time, when we are experiencing the good things of life, this is easy to believe, but it becomes harder to accept when we consider the reality of evil. We imagine that if we were loving and good and all-powerful we wouldn’t let bad things happen. This leads us to the conclusion that God is not good, all-powerful, or even real. This question is a crucial one to answer.

Text: Job 38:1-7
Big Idea: God addresses the problem of evil through Jesus and His faithful people.
Challenge: Resist evil by doing good.

EDC Wednesday: What is Everyday Carry?

 I am a big proponent of Everyday Carry. All of us have an everyday carry, whether we realize it or not.

An Everyday Carry is the set of items you take with you every time you leave the house. Most of us make sure we have a wallet, keys, and our phones on us when we go to work or run few errands. It is worth asking, “Is there anything else that might be useful during the day?”

The concept behind Everyday Carry (EDC) is carrying items that prove useful to us as we go about our normal daily tasks. Things like our wallets, phones, and keys they are everyday carry items by default, because they are things we know we need everyday. Building out an actual EDC involves thinking through the items that could be carried with you everyday that would make your life easier.

The EDC world focuses on a few basic items when it comes to a daily carry: knife, multi-tool, flashlight, pen, watch, and handkerchief. This may be the type of gear that EDC people focus on, that does not mean that these are the items that will prove useful in your daily life. For instance I know of a few people who carry nail clippers, not only for clipping nails, but for other small cutting tasks.

This is what my current EDC looks like:

After several years of experimenting with different items, this what I have come to like the best. 

In the picture I have a Leatherman Skeletool, Civivi Baklash, Tom’s Fidgets Flippy Chain, Olight i3t flashlight, Zebra Telescopic Pen, Victorinox Tinker Swiss Army Knife, Dryki Microfiber Handkerchief, and Norwex Optic Scarf.

This set of gear is a good combination of what is practical for me and what I simply enjoy carrying. As a pastor I don’t have a need for a knife the size of the Baklash on a daily basis, but I like carrying it (the Baklash is my favorite knife), so I carry it. I carry it, not because it is practical, but because of enjoyment. The Skeletool, between the pliers and the screwdriver, is enough to do most small jobs the might pop up during the day. I carry it because it is practical and useful on a regular basis.

An EDC is the set of items that you carry that are useful to you on daily basis. They might have a practical function or they might simply bring you joy.

All of us are going to carry things in our pockets and bags as we go about our lives, so lets put some thought into what goes along with us everyday. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Hebrews: Greater than the Angels


Understanding the identity of Jesus is fundamental to being a Christian. Jesus is not just a good teacher, a prophet, a miracle worker, or an angel. Jesus is the unique Son of God who is responsible for creating and saving the world.

The author of Hebrews is making it clear that you can’t reduce Jesus to anything less than God and still be a Christian. 

Hebrews 1:5-14 (CSB)

For to which of the angels did he ever say,

You are my Son; today I have become your Father,

or again,

I will be his Father, and he will be my Son?

Again, when he brings his firstborn into the world, he says,

And let all God’s angels worship him.

And about the angels he says:

He makes his angels winds, and his servants a fiery flame,

but to the Son:

Your throne, God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of justice.

You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; this is why God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of joy beyond your companions.


In the beginning, Lord, you established the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands;

they will perish, but you remain. 

They will all wear out like clothing; you will roll them up like a cloak,

and they will be changed like clothing.

But you are the same, and your years will never end.

Now to which of the angels has he ever said:

Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool?

Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation?

For some Jews angels were highly regarded as messengers of God. Apparently some Christians were trying argue that Jesus was not God, but an angel who God appointed as His first born Son and Messiah. Hebrews 1:5-14 explains why Jesus is greater than the angels. The author of Hebrews provides several reasons why Jesus is greater than the angels in this passage:

  1. Jesus is the Son of God - The author of Hebrews begins by quoting Psalm 2:7, which says, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father." This highlights the fact that Jesus is not just an angel or a messenger of God, but he is the Son of God. He has a unique relationship with God the Father that is superior to that of any angel.
  2. Jesus is worshiped by the angels - The author of Hebrews also quotes Psalm 97:7, which says, "Let all God's angels worship him." This shows that even the angels are called to worship Jesus, which is a clear indication of his superiority over them.
  3. Jesus is the Creator of the universe - The author of Hebrews says that God created the universe through his Son, Jesus. This means that Jesus was involved in the act of creation, which is a remarkable feat that no angel could achieve.
  4. Jesus is eternal - The author of Hebrews says that God calls Jesus "Lord" and "God" and that he will remain forever. This shows that Jesus is not just a temporary figure, but he is eternal, which is another trait that sets him apart from the angels.
  5. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God - The author of Hebrews says that Jesus has been exalted to the highest place and is seated at the right hand of God. This is a position of honor and authority that no angel has ever held.

The superiority of Jesus to angels is demonstrated by seven Old Testament quotations that show that he is God’s Son, that he is worshiped by angels, that he is the creator of the universe, that he is eternal, and that he is at the right hand of God. This also teaches that Jesus, though he is God, is distinguished from the Father.

What we believe about Jesus matters. He is greater to all created beings, including the other spiritual beings such as the angels. This means He is worthy of our worship and faith.

The Spiritually Mature Life: Having the Fruit

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, I started a new sermon series at Bethlehem Church called A Spiritually Mature Life. This sermon series is focused ...