Category Archives: Religion

Focus

 

    During this season of lent one of the things that God has shown me is how easy it is to have a critical spirit and not even notice it.  It is one of those sins that is not on the “big list” and it is easy for us as Christians to brush it under the rug like it is no big deal.  The truth is when we as Christians have a critical spirit it not only affects us, but it also affects our families, work environments, and our churches.

   Recently for my Ministerial Formation 2 class I have been reading a book called, “Spiritual Classics” and one of the sections of the book on Catherine Marshall (1914-1983).  Catherine was a gifted story-teller and journalist during her life.  In this section of the book it goes on to share how Catherine fasted from criticalness and how that affected her relationship with God.

Catherine shared, “My critical nature had not corrected a single one of the multitudinous things I found fault with.  What it had done was to stifle my own creativity- in prayer, in relationships, perhaps even in writing- ideas that He wanted to give me.”

How might a critical spirit you have had recently affected your relationship with God?  How might this spirit have affected relationships with others around you?

When you and I hold onto a spirit of criticalness we block the work of God in our lives.   so today I urge you to let God fill you with love, grace, and mercy and let God do the corrections in others that are necessary. Keep your focus on our Creator!

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Lies!

I believe that Satan tries to tell us many lies that will distract us or tear us away from the truth that God wants to share with us.  I think one of the lies I bought into early on in my ministry was I had to look bullet-proof, no struggles, and have all the answers.  I have no problem now saying I have struggles, I cry, I get overwhelmed, and I am ok saying I don’t know to a theological question.

I think I believed this was the best way to minister was to buy into this lie.  How could I actually answer a question about God, Jesus, or The Holy Spirit with I don’t know?  How could I share that I have doubts or confusion at times in my walk?  What if I told people I struggled with depression and anxiety would they still want me to be their minister?

However, when I really began looking at the people God worked through in the Bible it became crystal clear that it is in our weakness that He is strongest!  That these things I struggled with didn’t disqualify me from the ministry but actually made it possible for God to work through me in an even greater way!  I chose to stop believing the lie that I had to have all the answers and have no struggles and started believing the truth that God wanted to use me in a big way, to go into the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ.

What lies have you bought into in the past?

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Filed under God, Moving forward, Religion

If you could have been there

    What is one experience from the Bible that you wish you could have been there for?  I am sure there are many that we would like to choose but if you could rewind time for a moment and experience one moment in from the Bible in person what would yours be?  As I reflect on the many stories from the Bible and the miraculous things that happened I think I would want to be at the scene where the woman was caught in the act of adultery in John 8.  This is one of my favorite parts of scripture because we have a great opportunity to see an incredible act of mercy and grace.   In this situation when everyone else wanted to pull this woman into the center and stone her to death Jesus just began writing in the sand and then said, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”  One by one starting with the older men they began to walk away until it was just Jesus and the woman.  He asked her, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?” to which she replied, “No one, Lord.”  Then I love what happens next Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”  To see Jesus show her so much mercy and forgiveness and at the same time so much love for her that he doesn’t want to see her continue down this path of sin and destruction.  Where he didn’t just offer her forgiveness but He offered her a better way to live…the best way to live…the way that lead to life!  This gives me incredible hope for my own life and shows me how his message of love can transform the world.

How about you?  If you could choose to go back in time and experience a scene in the Bible which would you choose and why?

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The Cost of Following Jesus

 

What do you need to let go of?

 

Every now and then a verse I read just hits to the core of my being and yesterday it was Luke 14:33 when Jesus said, “If anyone is not willing to give up everything he has he cannot be my disciple.”  Those who know me know that I don’t live a lavish lifestyle.  I live in a 2 bedroom apartment, I drive a 97′ Ford T-bird, most of my furniture is donated or is pushing 10 years old or older so I am not necessarily living the high life.  However the truth is compared to most of the world I am rich.  I recently went to this website http://www.globalrichlist.com/ where you put in your salary before taxes and it will tell you how rich you are compared to the world.  When I put in my pre-tax salary it said I was in the top 6% richest people in the world.  As a Minister of Youth and Young Adults at church of around 250 I am not swimming in a big bank vault with lots of cash like Scrooge McDuck (sorry couldn’t resist the Duck Tales reference) but my church is very thoughtful of my living expenses and wants to make sure I can get groceries, pay bills, have a place to live, have a vehicle to drive, etc… However if you looked at my paycheck your eyes would not be bugging out of your head nor would you be doing back flips in amazement.  It can get very tempting to compare ourselves to people who get most of the publicity especially when you hear about things such as the story about British soccer player, Jermaine Pennant whose Porsche 911 was left at Spanish train station for 5 weeks and was accruing parking tickets.  When it was reported Jermaine explained that he forgot he owned the car?!?  Most of us would probably say if I had a Porsche 911 there is no way I would forget it!   Honestly there is no way I would forget about my 97′ T-bird for 5 weeks.  So we can say to ourselves, “Man, if I just had that kind of cash I would have it made!” but the truth is we are so well off compared to most in our world.  I just read an article that said if you have shelter, food, clothing, and some form of transportation (even riding the bus) you are in the top 15% richest people in the world.

So I come back to that verse in Luke 14:33 where Jesus says, “If anyone is not willing to give up everything he has he cannot be my disciple.”  I might not look at myself as rich but I am compared to the rest of the world.  I have so many privileges that many around the world would love to have.  So I ask myself is there things that I am holding onto more tightly than I am to God?  Are there things that I am treasuring more than his kingdom?  Am I willing to walk away from everything?  Could I let everything go? Car? Apartment? TV? Movies? Games?  Those are not easy questions but I am taking the steps to simplify my life more so I can give more to those in need.  I have begun to ask myself do I need two jackets when someone doesn’t even have one?  Do I need I need 6 sweaters?  Do I need cable TV when someone is struggling to put food on the table?  I want to make it clear I am not telling you what to give up but I would ask you to read that scripture again and examine your heart and ask yourself am I letting God have everything?  Am I holding onto certain things tighter than God?  Is there something that he wants me to let go?  Because my friends if we are going to be his disciples it is going to cost us everything!

 

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With Jesus :) ? Without Jesus :( ? Part 2

If we don't have Jesus then we're not happy?

Yesterday I talked a little about my issue with many Christian bumper stickers (Such as the one above) and how I think it provides a distorted view of  Christianity.  I addressed the first face that says “With Jesus” and has a big smile if you are interested in what I had to say about that I would encourage you to check out Part 1 of With Jesus 🙂 ?  Without Jesus 😦 ?

Today I want to take a look at the second part of this bumper sticker which says “Without Jesus” and has a 😦 face.  I am sure what was intended by this is to point out that without Jesus we will miss out on the purpose that God has for our lives and we will not experience the freedom from sin that comes by being receiving God’s gift through the sacrifice of his son for us.  However, I don’t think that is what this picture conveys.  Too me this picture is trying to say that if you don’t have Jesus you won’t be happy.   I don’t think this is true, I know lots of people who don’t follow Jesus but are living pretty happy lives.  There are many people who are currently “Without Jesus” but have wonderful families that love and care for one another, spend time reaching out in their communities to those less fortunate, are a good citizen, and overall enjoy their work and leisure life.

I think we miss the point when we tell people if you want to be happy you need Jesus.  Many people would reply, “Well I don’t currently have Jesus but I am pretty happy on my own but thanks anyways.”  I think this also really distorts the gospel and makes the central point us and what God can do for us.  Jesus is not a happy pill that we take to make all of our problems go away.  The point of the gospel is not about you or I it is about God.  The point of Christianity is not that Jesus love you and I so much that he died for us.  Even in the book “Radical” by David Platt he says, “The message of Biblical Christianity is “God loves me so that I might make him-his ways, his salvation, his glory, and his greatness-known among all nations.  Now God is the object of our faith, and Christianity centers around him.  We are not the end of the gospel.  God is.”  I truly do enjoy that book but I feel it is even more important to look at scripture to see what we have been told and in Colossians 1:16 it says, “For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him.”  So the point is not we need Jesus and then we will be happy, the point is we have been created by God not for ourselves but we have been made by Him for Him!  We have been created to give him praise and make him known to the world!

So what do I believe?  I believe whether we are “With Jesus” or “Without Jesus” there will be times we will all feel happy, nervous, frustrated, angry, joyous, thankful, confused, annoyed, peaceful, distraught, and many other feelings.  I believe that the message of the gospel is not “Jesus will make you happy” I believe the message is we have been created through God and for God!  The entire story of creation, fall, and redemption is all for the glory of God.  As a Christian will I always be happy with Jesus? No, but in good times and in trials I can make him known to the world!

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With Jesus :) ? Without Jesus :( ? Part 1

So we are always happy if we have Jesus?

 

If you are driving down the road it usually does not take long before you come across a vehicle with a “Christian” bumper sticker on it.  I don’t know about you but a lot of the time I am embarrassed by the message it is presenting.

I ran across this Christian bumper sticker recently and to a lot of Christians they wouldn’t think twice about it but it made me stop in my tracts.  It reminded me of a conversation I had with someone recently and as I looked at the face on the left with the smiley face that says, “With Jesus” implying that if we have Jesus we are happy it truly bothered me.  Now I understand probably the intended message is that if we are Christians, following Jesus, and have given Jesus our life that we will have peace and joy.  However I think there are many times that if we are with Jesus we will not be happy.  I think there will be many times that he will challenge us out of our comfort zones, out of our normal day lives and push us to become who he has made us to be.  You don’t have to look long in the Old Testament or the New Testament to come across people who loved God but encountered very trying situations and circumstances that wouldn’t make anyone happy.

I think this is where we begin to get confused in the church.  People are told “If you really love Jesus you can’t be sad.”  “If you love Jesus you can never be depressed.”  Or we tell ourselves, “I gotta fake it till I can make it”  or “I can’t let others see me hurting or crying what will they think?”  So instead many times well intended Christians plaster fake smiles on their faces pretending everything is o.k. and whenever anyone asks them, “How are you doing?” they put the fake smile back on their face and reply, “I’m fine.  God is good.” To which the other person replies, “All the Time.”  When in all reality they might feel like breaking down and crying because they have lost someone close to them, maybe they got laid off from their job, money is so tight they don’t know how they are going to make ends meet, or they are having problems in their family.

So what am I saying?  Am I saying that we should all just be miserable, cry all the time, be depressed and not seek help, give in and just admit to ourselves that our lives are pointless…No not at all because I don’t think that is Biblical either because God does have a purpose for our lives, he loves and cares for us even in our times of trouble.  What I am saying is what if we put away the masquerade?  What if when we were hurting we could openly share that as the church?  What if when we had doubts we could express them?  What if when we didn’t know the answer to something we could just say, “I don’t know?” and that would be o.k.  So do I love Jesus?  Yes I do.  Am I always happy?  No I am not.

So if you could put away the masquerade for a minute what might you say?

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What must I do…

 

What it will cost us...

 

I have been reading the book “Radical” by David Platt and it has been challenging me in some great ways.  During the book David Platt referenced Mark 10:17-22 where it talks about the rich young ruler.  Now I have heard this story numerous times and believed I had grasped everything I could from that passage…silly me.  After Jesus and the young ruler talked about the commandments and the young man said, “Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.” Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “you lack one thing: Go sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”  But he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

Did you notice it said that Jesus loved him and then told him what to do.  You might be saying, “Wow Dave that is your big revelation don’t you know the Jesus loves me so song?”  But sometimes I think we can miss this in the transition of our everyday lives.  This young ruler wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life and Jesus loved him enough to tell him the truth.  Jesus didn’t tell him to get rid of all his possessions because he wanted to see what he could get this guy to do like some double dog dare you do in 7th grade, or he didn’t really like this guy so he just threw out some unreasonable demand to get rid of him Jesus loved him.

I have heard many times from people “I don’t want to become a Christian and give up everything I like to do.” like Jesus is some giant buzz kill and just wants to take away those things that people enjoy.  Just like the young ruler Jesus loves you and I and knows what things keep him from knowing him in a greater way and what keeps people from experiencing eternal life.  Jesus wanted to give that young ruler a new life in him right then and there but for the young ruler the cost was just too high.  Some versions say the young ruler was stunned which meant he was “shocked” or “appalled” others say he became “gloomy” and he walked away.  What about you and I?  It doesn’t mean that Jesus is going to ask you and I to get rid of all of our possessions but maybe he will!  Maybe he is asking you to take a new job?  Maybe move to another state or another country?  Maybe he is asking you to take a step of faith that you know on your own power is just not possible?  Whatever it may be and whatever step Jesus is asking you to take know that it is because he loves you, want to shower his grace on you in some awesome ways, so you may reflect his glory to the world!

How has God been challenging you lately?  What steps is he asking you to take?

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