Pushing Deeper

Do you ever stop and just fathom how extraordinarily big God is? Just look at the complexity of our own solar system. Scientists have estimated that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies beyond our own milky way. And encased in each of those galaxies are 200 to 400 billion stars. Or simply look at a creation on earth. Did you know that the average caterpillar has 248 muscles in its head alone?  Did you know that the human eyeball has approximately 40,000 nerves?

What about the uniquely designed defense mechanisms of Gods creation. Most people are surprised to know that a sand dollar is actually a living creature in the sea. If a fish comes near it wanting to take a nibble, it emits a yellow liquid that is repelling to whoever pondered making it dinner. Or how about the mystery of how in extremely cold temperatures, the tops of bodies of water will freeze, but below the ice, water will not freeze and sea life is unaffected.

Or what about how plant life feed off of carbon dioxide, a substance that is toxic to human. Yet plants give off oxygen, the very thing that is needed for life on earth. I’m also amazed at how plants defy gravity and pull water upward into their stem to gain nourishment.

If we open our eyes….if we are still and just take in creation….if we just take a moment to stand in awe of God, we can see him everywhere and in everything. Do you ever look at your smart phone and marvel at how brilliant someone must have been to create such a device? A smart phone is nothing compared to a sunset. Or a blade of grass. Or the human body.

To say that God is big would probably be the biggest understatement ever made. God is infinitely larger than we could ever imagine. Yet at times, we find ourselves complacent in our faith. We feel like we are involved in church, we are doing a quiet time, we are reading our bibles for fifteen point two minutes each day, and praying with the kids before bed time. And all these things are good. But it can be easy to stop there, believing that’s all that is meant by seeking God.

But if for example, all of the knowledge in my little brain could be contained in a small cup of water, then Gods knowledge by comparison would be more expansive than all the drops of water in the oceans. How can I ever think I have finally figured God out? If we were to live a billion years we would never even come close to comprehending all the ways of God!  And this is not a frustrating thing! Its exciting!  To think that there is so much more to our God than the routine church worship service! Yet so many of us are satisfied with just the basic Sunday school knowledge!

So how do we get to know God on this deeper than surface level? Well lets start with our worship. So many churches claim to worship God on Sundays, but they internally argue over music styles, flower arrangement placements, temperature in the sanctuary, and lighting. And after the service, we gossip about what Suzie Q was wearing in the front row of the choir. Many churches have a form or worship that God spoke sternly about in Isaiah 66. He called this worship style, “self-serving worship.”

“God’s Message: “Heaven’s my throne, earth is my footstool. What sort of house could you build for me? What holiday spot reserve for me? I made all this! I own all this!” God’s Decree.”But there is something I’m looking for:  a person simple and plain, reverently responsive to what I say.

“Your acts of worship are acts of sin: Your sacrificial slaughter of the ox is no different from murdering the neighbor;

Your offerings for worship,  no different from dumping pig’s blood on the altar; Your presentation of memorial gifts, no different from honoring a no-god idol. You choose self-serving worship,  you delight in self-centered worship—disgusting!

Well, I choose to expose your nonsense and let you realize your worst fears, Because when I invited you, you ignored me;  when I spoke to you, you brushed me off. You did the very things I exposed as evil, you chose what I hate.” Isaiah 66: 1-4. (The Message Bible Interpretation).

God is describing to Isaiah acts of worship that have become just routine things. They have become so routine, that the things done in worship are more of a ritual than true worship to God. Notice that God calls these routine acts of worship sinful. Look down to the last part of that verse. God says he will expose the nonsense.

These worshippers thought they were doing all the right things. They probably had the sanctuary decorated just perfectly, the newest sound system in place, and more programs to plug into than any church in the areas. Their appearance was fine tuned. But notice what God said at the opening of the verse. He showed just how big he is!! He said the earth is a mere footstool and all of Heaven his throne. God asks them, “What sort of house could you possibly build for me?” In other words, your ways of trying to impress me by dressing up the church and boasting of different programs is not what Im looking for. If your focus is here, its all sinful.

But God does say what pleases him. A person who is humble, and responsive to His commands. Someone who is less interested in playing church and more interested in stamping his word on their heart, and living life to obey His commands. Not just his commands of avoiding sin….but his commands to be his followers, his soldiers, his true disciples. Its as if God was saying, “I dont care how the pulpit is arranged or any other surface worship that looks good on the outside, but is lacking your heart.” God was saying, “I dont want your empty acts of worship…..I want you. I want your heart.”

So what did these ritualistic worshippers of God do wrong? They did all the right things outwardly. They sung the right hymns, worked regularly in the nursery, volunteered to work church fundraisers, tithed generously, and even sung solo’s in the choir. In the last part of the verse above, God reveals their folly. He said when God invited them in, when God spoke to them his commands, they brushed him off. These people were satisfied in their deeds of worship more so than in the word of God.

After reading this verse, I had to stop and ask myself….”Is this who I’ve become?” It’s not enough to claim to love God. I had to ask myself, “Am I in love with his word?” God has spoken to all of us through scripture. Yet how many of us know more than twenty or so verses by heart? How many of us have to deliberately carve  out twenty minutes a day, or pencil in a time slot  to spend time with God that we have universally labeled, “a quiet time.” Are you in awe of Gods word? Or have we all grown numb to his calling?

“Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” Nehemiah 8:5.

Did you catch that? All Ezra did was open the word of God. And immediately , all the people stood up and lifted their hands in praise! Now this sounds like something that would happen today during the singing of a stirring hymn or at the close of an altar call.  But imagine if the pastor of your church simply stepped into the pulpit, opened this bible, and everyone began praising God! Not stirred by the words of a song or melody of an organ, but simply by the opening of the word of God to us! What would our churches look like if we loved the word of God more than the words of mans preaching!

All it took was the opening of the bible to ignite hearts with praise and worship. Now days when the pastor opens the bible we set our stop watches to make sure he doesn’t preach too long.

“Your word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11.

We are called to not only love God, but love his word! To not view church or reading our Bible in the context of thinking, “How much time is this going to take”, and instead, loving his word so much that we begin to see what we can cut short in our days so that we may have more time with him!!

-God commands us to go and make disciples. But in our society, we’re more interested in making a dollar. 

-Gods word commands us to go to all the nations preaching the gospel. But we’re much more interested in going to the baseball game or new release at the theaters.

-God commands over and over of the importance in ministering to the poor and widows of our world. But we’re much more comfortable ministering to those who don’t stretch us too far out of our comfort zone.

-God calls for us to love his word. But we’re much more likely to read and even love Entertainment magazines or put adulterous books like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ on the best seller list.

We claim to be worshipful of God on Sunday mornings, despite the fact that we love our ways and habits much more than His. In many cases, we only know what we are taught about God because we never take time to seek him on our own. Are you a little bit like me in questioning yourself? Can we really call routine acts of worship the best we have to give our Heavenly father? As big as God is, don’t you think there is more of us we could give to him seeing as he gave his life for us?

I recently listen to a podcast of David Platt preaching. For his sermon, he simply opened up the book of Romans and went through the whole book of Romans verbatum…..without reading from his Bible! He had memorized the entire book of Romans. But he didn’t just memorize it, he let it penetrate his heart. He quoted the whole book, never missing a verse, which such passion. It was as if those were his words in a sermon he had prepared.

He closed with challenging his congregation to be more in Gods word. Not just reading, but taking it to heart. Not just seeing, but developing a hunger to want to know his word. David said that many people in his congregation would no doubt claim that they were not good at memorizing scripture. But he went on to say that if he offered a thousand dollars for each verse memorized, he would see many people doing their best to memorize scripture.

“The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Psalm 119:72.

The Psalmist says that Gods word is more precious than thousands of pieces of Gold and silver. Is Gods word more precious to you than money? Is Gods more precious to you than your worship preferences? Is your life an obsessive, all-consuming, mission on seeking out ways you can make disciples, feed the poor, give more of yourself and gain less of the worldly things? Or are you comfortable with your “church” routines? Jesus calls us to a life of self-denial. A life of sacrifice.

It’s good to question ourselves. Because it pushes us into the deeper things of God. If we are comfortable or routine….odds are we are lacking a life of sacrifice. Because sacrifice is never comfortable. Sacrifice is never routine. God never intended us to be comfortable. Because out of comfort grows complacency. And there is no room for complacency within the mission of the King.

Spiritual Mouse Traps

The subtle messages that are all around us and ingrained within the fabric of our culture are slowly coaxing mindless masses of people into a slow, spiritual death. I heard one pastor remark that modern day culture is Satan’s pulpit from which he delivers damning sermons. Satan’s tactics to lead people away from Christ and down that broad road to Hell are very similar to how we would set out to capture a mouse in our homes.

I am the head of my household. You could said that I am the ruler of my house. My wife Lacy is gracious enough to let me believe that. When we first got married, I remember we realize that we had a mouse in our home. I quickly bought a mouse trap and that night, we baited it with a small morsel of cheese. The next morning, I found that our trap had worked. The mouse was caught, and we disposed of him immediately.

Ultimately, the mouse’s demise was caused by it’s own selfish desires. The mouse smells the crumb of cheese and begins to seek out that which has stirred up his appetite. Now if the mouse had the brain power to actually examine the funny looking contraption that the cheese rested on, he may realize that things are not what they seem. But all the mouse cares about is fulfilling his own cravings. Without thinking, he runs head first into the trap which at first glance, appeared so enticing, only for death to seize him without any warning.

The Bible says that Satan is the reigning prince of this world.

“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” John 12:31.

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Satan has been given authority over this earth, but only for a short time. He is blinding the eyes of many, enticing them through the church of the media and spewing poisonous propaganda just as a person will cater to the lusts of a mouse in order to draw them to certian death. Much like a spiritual mouse trap.

I remember when we first got married one of the staples of our trips to the grocery store would be to pick up a copy of the latest People Magazine or something like it. We would watch all the Hollywood entertainment news shows to stay up to date on the lives of our favorite celebs. We would go every weekend to see the newest movies at the theaters and listen to radio stations that played the current top 20 songs. We sought out these media outlets to entertain our minds and to satisfy our hunger for entertainment. But we were no different than that mouse creeping towards the cheese on a trap. We were unknowingly taking a front row seat to listen to Satan preach his messages of deception.

Its been three years since I truly gave my life over to Jesus Christ. Since I began to seek him through his word and allow him to transform my life. One of the first things I changed is what I was using to feed my mind. Lacy and I quickly that we had been more interested in what the lastest happening in Hollywood were than Jesus. We were in front of wordly entertainment more than reading the Bible. It may have seemed drastic to those who knew us, but we cut ourselves off from Entertainment Magazines, worldly music, and even movies.

This morning I clicked my internet explorer icon on my computer to get my work day started as usual. My home page is just a regular MSN news feed which I never pay attention to. But this morning, a headline on one of the feeds was about the lives of Hollywood stars. For some reason, I gravitated towards this trap to see what was happening in the lives of the worlds favorite people. I clicked on the headline, and I was amazed at what I saw.

It wasnt so much what I saw, but how my perception had changed. The Hollywood news stories were not much different than what I read three years ago in the Entertainment Magazines. But where as three years ago I was very entertained by them, this morning I was broken hearted over them. It was as if I was that mouse again, but this time, I could see the trap for what it was….a potential spiritual death sentence.

One story I read was of Hollywood legend Warren Beatty’s homosexual daughter. Here is an excerpt of the article I read….

“Born Kathlyn Elizabeth Bening Beatty, the Hollywood couple’s 20-year-old daughter now goes by the name Steven Ira Beatty, and calls himself a “Trans-man” …”

In his new video, obtained by Entertainment Tonight, Beatty also reveals he dreams of becoming a teacher and he hopes to become a father one day.

 He adds, “I am going to have babies and give them onesies with, ‘This is what a transfeminist looks like’ on them.” (Wonderwall.msn.com).

The next story I read was of Twilight actress Kristen Stewart cheating on her boyfriend with a married Hollywood director. I clicked again on another link about the Matrix movie director Larry Wachowski now wishing to be called “Lana” due to his sex change. This continued everywhere on the site I clicked. I read of a so called “war” going on between Tom Cruise and John Travolta regarding who is the best Scientologist. I then read popular news reporter Anderson Cooper has admitted that he is openly gay.

Families destroyed. People living demented lives. Seeking without regard the pleasures of the flesh regardless of whom it may hurt including the mental scarring of young children. We live in such a “me first” centered world. Yet daily, be it in music, publications or the big screen, we allow these same values that we say are disgusting and unGodly to us serve as our entertainment. Does anyone see the problem in this?

The more stories I clicked on, the more evil and sin I saw being exposed right before my eyes. And these were the same stories I was using to gratify my need for entertainment a few years ago! Stories of acceptable homosexuality and pushing this belief on children from birth. Stories of adultery. Stories of worshipping other Gods. And I ask the same question as I did in yesterday’s blog….how are we as a people who predominately call ourselves “Christian” so plainly deceived!!

How can we not be disgusted at the sinful lives we see flaunted in the media and instead call it entertainment?? Why can we not see that when we willingly place ourselves in front of sinful voyeurism, what may be entertainment to us is blatant Idoltery to God!! Many will say there dont agree with Hollywood movies that contain sex, cursing, homosexuality or adultery, they just watch it for entertainment. Many will say they dont agree with the sexual innuendos in popular music lyrics, they just like the beat. Many will say they dont agree with the lives of celebrities they just like reading about them.  Many will say they dont worship cultural entertainment, they just spend more time in front of it than Jesus.

But isnt that sort of like saying you dont agree with killing unborn children, you just like to watch abortion procedures?

Satans pulpit is pop culture. The sins that God plainly spoke of as being damning are the same ones being portrayed in our Media as acceptable and the norm. Anton Levay, the founder of the church of Satan once said in an interview that the greatest tool for Satan reaching people is television and the entertainment industry. Yet the founder of Satanism went on to say that he would never let his children watch television because of some of the immoral things. Isnt it a sad thing when the founder of Satanism has more of a moral standard and discernment from pop culture than many Christians.

1 John 2:15-17, ” Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

Why is it that so many professing Christians squirm at the thought of giving up worldly entertainment? Why do so many try desperately to justify in some way what is clearly defined as evil by God? I firmly believe the Bible to be black and white. Its is not up to interpretation. God meant what he said. I am always driven back to the passage in Matthew speaking of the narrow road to Heaven that Jesus says, “few will find.” He says more will gravitate towards the broad road leading to Hell.

Jesus says in Matthew 7:21 that many will stand before him on the day of Judgement in utter shock. Claiming that Jesus was Lord of their lives only to hear Jesus reply, “I never knew you.” Only to hear Jesus say to them that they were more a lover of the world than of Christ. And it is so important for us to examine constantly our love for Jesus. How much do you love Jesus? Are the enticements of our pop culture generation to much for you to give up? Or have you seen that Christ is so much greater that you willingly toss everything of this world aside in exchange for Him. Look at what Jesus says in Matthew…..

“The kingdom of heaven is  like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:44-50.

Are you willing to give up the sinful preaching of Satan through pop culture in exchange for the pursuit of Christ? Is He that hidden treasure in the field or the pearl of great value that is worth more than anything? Do you find yourself disgusted at the blasphemy in our world or entertained by it? See Satans trap for what it is. There is no justification of right and wrong in scripture. The question you must ask yourself is whom will you follow?

How Did We Miss This?

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2.

It breaks my heart to look back at my life three years ago. How I sat under good, biblical preaching, literally since age three and totally missed it blows my mind. It wasnt my Pastor’s fault, because he stood strong on Gods word. It wasnt my parents fault, because they constantly pressed the importance of having a relationship with Christ. The blame was totally mine and mine alone. I had ears to hear and eyes to see, but I was blinded by my own ignorance.

And now that Ive been given eyes to see, I see the same blindness that once afflicted me all around. I think back to the false  perception of Christ I once had and think, “How in the world did I miss the truth?” The unchangeable truth that has been since the very beginning. And whats worse, Im not alone in this deception. So many people live their lives under a false hope. They live under a false image of Jesus. We fall into the trap of basing our committment to Christ on what other people in the church do, not on Christ.

There are so many happily singing hymns to Jesus through life while unknowingly walking on the broad road straight to Hell. Where did we get this idea that as long as we’ve been baptised and attend church on Sunday’s, that our ticket to glory has been punched? Where is this in scripture that God ultimately wants us happy, so because we are all sinners and God knows this, we are free to live in the vilest of sins under the banner that we serve a forgiving God? Adultery, homosexuality, sexual relations outside of marriage, slander,lying, drunkenness, and so many other sins are justified, because even though we know its wrong, we’ve been washed by the blood of the lamb. And every good Baptist believes the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.”

But we’ve only deceived ourselves. We’ve gravitated as a culture towards the more appealing attributes of Christ and ignored his characteristics that make us uncomfortable, or may cause us to abandon our sins. We’re quick to claim Christ is forgiving, but we easily dismiss his wrath. We love to quote passages about the love of God, but quickly skim over those that speak of self denial. Yes, once we have salvation in Christ, it cannot be lost. But true salvation breaks the chains of sin. There are so many the wallow in the sins of the world and love their chains. Its not a question of if salvation can be lost. The question many should ask is if they ever had it to begin with.

“Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with mennor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:6-10.

How could this verse read any clearer? But there are those who will shout, “Wait a minute. Jesus died on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins and his blood covers us!” Yes Jesus did serve as the sacrifice to pay for the sins of those who would believe upon him and repent. But this goes back to picking and chosing the attributes of Christ. We love to claim we believe in him as proof of our salvation. But what about repentance? Repentance is a total abandonment of the sins that we once clung to.

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,” Hebrews 10:26.

Can we claim the sacrifice of Christ over our sins and deliberately live a lifestyle of sin? The world would claim the blood of Christ and the power of forgiveness and say yes. But the word of God clearly says no. I wondered to myself where we got such an easy believeism mindset. So I set out to search the scriptures for evidence pointing to this image of Jesus so many seem to hold. And not one scripture did I find that states we are free to sin. I think we’ve missed that mark on two things. The first as I mentioned is a lack of repentance or understanding of what that looks like. The second is we have a misunderstanding of who the Holy spirit is in our lives.

Scripture clearly states that once a person truly comes to Christ, he or she is given the Holy Spirit that comes to live within them. As Ive stated in previous blogs, Holy in its original text is translated as meaning separate. So the true believer has a separate spirit within them. Separate from what? Separate from the ways of the world. The Lord is Holy. He is separate from the world because he and he alone is without sin.

“Since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16.

Does this mean that we are called to be sinless? Although we can never be sinless, we are to strive with everything in us to avoid sin and be conformed to Christ. We are to run from sin, not towards it. We are to hate sin, not find ways to justify it in our lives. God calls us to be Holy. To be seperate. God’s desire is for us not to sin. But we all fall short. We all sin at times. Its our nature. But in Christ, we are to strive to be Holy, not sinful. Some would use the excuse that we are all sinners and all fall short to justify living in sin. But the Lord says it is impossible to do this. Because we have a seperate spirit that we now live for.

When I was an early teenager, I wanted to be a professional bodybuilder. I was facinated with muscle men and being that big. So I dedicated myself to avoiding bad foods, and working out daily. Needless to say I never achieved that perfect body. But I did strive for it. Some of the workout routines I gave it my all and fell short sometimes. But instead of saying to myself, “Well I cant do it so Ill get a bowl of ice cream”, I began to train harder. I was frustraited when I fell short. Even dissapointed in myself. I looked at the areas of my training that I was weak in and focused on strengthening them. I learned from my training mistakes, I never excused myself to live in them. My shortcomings pushed me to be more disiplined.

Our Christian walk is very similar. Our sins should press us further into seeking Christ. We should strive to avoid them.

“Do you not know that love for the world is hatred towards God?” James 4:4.

1 John 2:4, “He who professes to know Him, and yet does not obey His commands, is a liar, and the truth has no place in his heart.”

Can you live in adultery, homosexuality, fornicate outside of marriage, drunkenness or slander others as a way of life and know Christ? Dont listen to what the world would tell you! Look at what the word of God says! All through out scripture, the Lord screams NO!!!! He warns our culture against being deceived in their sins thus never knowing him!!

Romans 8:9 says, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
 
Colossians 3:10 says, “And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
 
Psalm 119:9, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.”
 
1 John 5:18 says, “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

God is loving. God is forgiving. And he is the sacrifice for those as Mark 1:15 would state, who not only believe but also turn and repent! God repeated gives the picture of a follower of Christ as one of a new creation. Of being transformed from our old ways. Of being set free from a lifestyle of sin. And of receiving the Holy Spirit of God to live in them, making them run towards righteousness. And I ask again….how have so many missed this and so watered down the Gospel of Jesus?

Romans 1:25 speaks about how many will exchange the truth for a lie. It says that many will worship and serve the creature, (that being us), rather than the creator (God). There are those who will say with their lips that they worship Christ, but their  actions of craving sin over his word prove that they worship their own desires and lusts. They are not children of God as they may claim, but as 1 John 3:5 says, “….children of the devil.”

Matthew 15:8, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

If we live in a continuous state of sin and seek after our own lustful, worldly desires over the commands of God then we do not know him, and we abide not in the love of God, but under his fiery wrath. 1 John tells us that he who loves God obeys his commands. Is your life following more of a path of holiness or worldliness? Do you love God? Your tounge will deceive you. What do your actions say? What does your lifestyle say? Take time to search the scriptures, and maybe see for the first time with your heart what your eyes have blindly seen all along.

Faulty Prayers

My children are one of the great joys of my life. But God’s ultimate purpose for blessing parents with children was not first and foremost to heighten our joy. God created the bond, the relationship, and the love between parents and their children to model between His children and himself. I would, without hesitation or any regard to myself, give my life in an instant for any one of my four boys. When I set rules and boundaries for them to follow, even though they at times think Im spoiling their fun, Im truly attempting to protect them from harm. I see things and understand things that they do not.

One of these mirror images of God seen through our children struck me directly one night last week. Every night a little after dinner, we give the boys one last snack before bed. And so, as is the norm in our house, I fixed the boys a plate of cookies Lacy had baked and some milk. They devoured them in no time, and then went back to playing. Not long after, it was time to get them into bed. Andy who is six years at times will try his best to delay bedtime. Tonight was no different.

I had told the boys it was time to go brush their teeth and hop into bed. Andy came running up to me with a grin on his face. He gave me a big hug. Somehow, I could sense a string attached to his affectionate attitude. “Daddy, can I have more cookies and milk?” The boys had just finished a large plate of cookies not thirty minutes earlier. And it was bed time. I smiled back at him, kissed him, and told him, “No more cookies, its time for bed.”

Immediately, the smile left his face. He began pitch one of the biggest tantrums Ive seen in a while. It was apparent he wasnt hungry, because he began shouting through angry tears, “I dont want to go to bed!!” What happened to the big smile and huggy disposition he had  less than a minute ago? Andy had come to me wanting me to do something for him. But when I refused, he grew angry and even distant to a point. He gave me the silent treatment for the rest of the night, which wasnt that long because he went straight to bed.

Andy didnt want the will of his daddy, he wanted his way or no way. We parents can look at our young children who act this way and chalk it up to immaturity. But honestly, aren’t we at times the exact same way with God? We claim to be Christ followers and may even love Jesus with all our hearts. But we must ask ourselves, are we really a people who truly want the will of God over anything else in life? Do we desire his name to be glorified daily? Are we driven by His perfect will being done?  There is one way to reveal this. And that is to examine your prayer life. Is there any power in your prayer life?

I believe it was the great theologian George Muller who once commented to a friend about how much he had to get accomplished one day. Muller said on this particular day, he had so many things he had to do that there was almost not enough time in the day. Muller then made the comment, “There is no way Ill get all that I must do accomplished by days end unless I first spend about three hours in prayer.”

Think that through. He just said there were hardly enough hours in the day to get everything done. But he had confidence if he sought the Lord first, seeking him for THREE HOURS in prayer, that God would cover him. How much time do you spend in prayer daily?

If you find no power in prayer, ask yourself….why is that? Is it because God is not hearing you? Possibly.

John 9:31 31 says, “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.”

Prov 15:29 29, ” The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.”

Isaiah 1:15 “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.”

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

The more I study God’s word, the more I am amazed how the world in general so easily distorts and confuses scripture. As I pointed out in the previous blog, God not only gives commands, but he repeats them over and over in the Bible. The first step to a healthy prayer life is clearly that fact that prayer and communication with Christ is reserved for His children. It is for those that he knows as his children and those that know Christ as Lord, God and Saviour of their lives. This is no power in the prayer of a non believer.

I once had a friend who was a professed atheist. She did not believe God existed. I was in shock the day she came to me and told me of her husbands health problems, and asked if I would keep him in my prayers. Ive heard of similar incidences where people who dont believe in Jesus have come to Christians in hard times and asked them to “pray to their God” on their behalf. There is something in all of us that recognizes truth, but because naturally we seek our fleshly desires and by human nature desire to be under no authority but our own, we suppress the truth of God for a lie that allows us to have our way.

In 1 Peter, we see the command given for husbands to love and care for their wives. But the final part of that verse is what grabs my attention.

“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” 1 Peter 3:7.

Peter says husband should honor their wives and treat them with kindness, and adds, “so nothing will hinder your prayers.” Implying that if you are a tyrant over your wife and mistreat her, God will not hear your prayer. Because you are being disobedient. Because you are giving way to your sinful ways. Because you are ignoring his commands. The conclusion can be most definitely drawn, that if Jesus is not Lord of your life, and you are living contrary to His commands, then God will not hear your prayers.

But lets go back to the illustration I used with my son Andy and his tantrum. Andy is a good boy. Im not just saying that because Im his father. He really is a very good child. He is respectful, considerate, and I know genuinely loves me as his father. And I love him more than my own life.  Yet he didnt get his request of another snack before bed granted. I heard his request. He did nothing wrong for me not to give him a snack. But it was not my will or my desire as his father for him to eat again at that moment. It was his bedtime….thus saith his daddy!

It broke my heart to see Andy throw a tantrum. I try to give him things to make him happy. But in this moment when he didnt get his way, I could see the human nature that is in all of us in my son. In a perfect world, it would have been so nice for Andy to acknowledge me as his father, and submit that he would very much like a snack, but only if it were for the greater good. And honestly, there have been times when Andy has asked me for something, but followed it up with, “But if you dont think I should have it daddy, then thats ok too.”  Although at only six years old, those moments are few.

If you are a follower of Christ, how is your communication? How is your prayer life? Is there any power to it? And if there is power in your prayer life, how to you measure that? Is it on a scale of how many times you have gotten what you asked for? Or is it by the closeness of our Heavenly father that you feel as you draw near to him?

The reason our culture is so powerless in prayer is because we’ve paid little to no attention to how God taught us to pray.

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13.

We could spend hours just digging into the meat and depth of the many things God shows us of prayer in this one verse. But key into one specific part. Notice where it says, “Your will be done.”

Paul Washer gave the perfect illustration. In speaking on the subject of prayer, Rev. Washer explained to a congregation that he had numerous broken bones and fractures over the course of his life. He told them of how his body now as a result has aches and pains all the time. It would be very easy and a common prayer of our culture for him to simply pray that God heal his body. To make the request so that his needs be fulfilled.

But then Rev. Washer gave an example of how he does indeed pray. This is what he said regarding the healing of his body in a prayer to God……..

“Father, please heal my broken, aching body. But only if by healing my body your great name would be glorified in some way. However, if greater glorification and honour will be displayed through crushing my body to dust, then so be it. Your Will Be Done!”

He gave another example of a man praying for the Lord to give him a new car. But only if it would fit somehow into God’s will for the Kingdom. If greater glory will come to God through not having a car, then the man said to the Lord, “Lord, let me walk everywhere.”

But you see, there is our problem. We at times can be just like Andy. We dont want any other outcome than what we are asking for to be given to us. And if God doesnt answer our prayer, then we grow angry or just think there is no point in praying to God. When my son Andy has those moments I mentioned where he will ask me for something, but cap his request off with telling me that even if I dont give him what he wants, he knows I will do what is best, I get misty eyed. Because thats my son! In that moment, even if for just a second, he gets it! He understands that I am not out to harm him or spoil his fun, but he understands that his daddy loves him! And he understands that regardless of if his selfish desires are not met, that I have a reason for not granting them that is good and right!

The point to praying is not so that you and I will get our needs met. Jesus is not a genie in a bottle. The purpose for prayer is the same purpose my little boy talking to me and asking of me, even if he knows the answer will be no! The purpose for prayer is to draw us into a relationship with our Heavenly Father! The purpose of prayer is to know Him! The purpose of prayer is to draw near to Him!

Have you realized that you have a Heavenly Father! The bible speaks of great and majestic creatures in Heaven that if they were to come upon this earth, they would probably be powerful enough to smash our planet to dust! But these same creatures described in the book of Revelation cannot even look upon splendor the Lord  as they cry out,”Holy, Holy, Holy!” While we as his children can draw near to this same God, this Father, and curl up beside him on His throne!!

“To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne..” Revelation 3:21.

If prayer has been a struggle for you, examine your prayer life biblically. Ask yourself…you may call yourself a christian, but are you truly a person who wants the will of God over your own desires? Is he really the most loved in your life? Would you let go of everything you want and be satisfied with nothing if you knew that through your circumstances, your Heavenly Father was being glorified? Do You Love God? He truly is either everything in your life, or he is nothing. Its all about Jesus, and in Him, we will find our true joy!

Salvation on Deaf Ears

“He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15.

Christ says this over and over in the new testament. I’m no historian, but I have learned one very interesting fact regarding the culture in Jesus day. In our society today, if we want to get a point across, we raise our voice. But to a Jew in the days of Christ, they had a more effective way of getting their point across. According to history, in the first century, if I Jew wanted to get his point across, he would repeat himself over and over. Upon closer examination of scripture, the bible is full of constant repetition. Specifically when it comes to the words of Jesus and the commands of God.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:9.

I don’t know what it was about this verse, but recently it has haunted my mind. Why would Jesus make such a simple statement like this repeatedly? I mean, everyone has ears! That’s like saying, “Everyone who is alive….breath!” It’s one of those statements that leave most people scratching their head. It’s a verse that can be easily overlooked. Cast aside in exchange for a more relevant scripture for our daily devotion. It would be easily dismissed, but it keeps coming up  over and over. Regardless of where I try to flip in the pages of God’s word, this passage continues to find me.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7.

God has gotten my attention within the past few months. He is teaching me something, leading me to a greater understanding of Him, and deepening my own personal repentance. Jesus repeated this phrase on so many occasions, I can no longer overlook it. It is apparent he is desperately trying to get his point across to us. If he were on the earth in human form today, he would be screaming this command. It is that important. So how do we come to a conclusion as to what Jesus is saying? What is it he so eagerly wants humanity to understand?  Jeremiah 29:13 says to know God, we must seek him in scripture.

“When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Luke 8:8

Jesus goes on a few verses down in Luke to give insight to the meaning of this urgent message.

“‘…though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’” Luke 8:10

There is a difference between seeing and hearing and actually seeing and hearing. A few years ago, a strong hurricane was forecasted to hit the pan handle of Florida where my wife and I were living at the time. The whole town was taking appropriate measure, boarding up their houses and evacuating the town before the storm arrived. Our next door neighbor was one of the few people who decided to stay in town. In spite of all the numerous warnings to evacuate the city, he expressed to me that he really didn’t think it was going to be that bad of a storm. He had even planned a party of sorts with a few other friends of his who had the same mindset as he did.

My family along with most of Destin Florida evacuated until the storm had passed. When we returned to our home, we had some minor roof damage, but our doors and windows were unharmed due to the fact that we boarded up our home. My neighbor was not so lucky. His home had endured major damage. He went on to tell me how wrong he had been in his thinking, and how he evacuated the city right in the midst of the hurricane, barely escaping to safety.

My neighbor had heard the warnings of the coming storm repeatedly with his ears, but he hadn’t heard with his heart. It didn’t sink in the urgency of the matter even though the signs were all around him. And it almost cost him his life.

“It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 14:35.

One area of my life that has been in need of great repentance has been my method of hearing God. He desires us to seek him and know him in scripture. However, many times I substitute this with studying sermons and reading books on theology. But this is no substitute for the word of God. Last night I was settled in bed getting ready to listen to a preaching message online, but instead, I felt prompted to pick up the bible.

I turned to the book of 1 John, and I began to read. And immediately, I was captivated. I was amazed at how clear and relevant God was speaking. How have we miss this? When did the commands of the creator of all that is and ever will be get reduced to a book that we pick up when we are bored or at the end of our ropes? In reading 1 John last night, it dawned on me something that I’ve heard a thousand times, but for the first time, I heard it with my heart!

HIS WORD IS LIFE!!

Our culture is so deaf to the words of God, that Christian theology has practically been reduced down to a form of witchcraft! We rest our assurance of salvation on a little incantation we quote called “The sinner’s prayer.” And so we pray  like most preachers taught us at youth camp growing up and ask Christ to come live in our hearts. And one of the very first truths our fallen minds grasp to regarding the nature of Christ is that he is a forgiving God. We cling to this. Partly because many believe this allows them to hang on to that free pass to sin.

It is true, we all fall short and are all sinners. But again, this is another verse the worldly Christian clings to! They have the mindset of, “Well I can go out and sin even though I know its wrong, but I did say a prayer to ask Christ in my heart, and we are all sinners, and Jesus does say he forgives, so I have the best of both worlds!” But honestly, this is kind of like a husband who tells his wife, “We made vows that said til death do us part, and I love you, but I’m going to see other women.” When a husband and wife commit to one another in marriage, they agree to love each other and put aside other men and women. Marriage requires you to put aside your old nature and commit to fully to your spouse. And following Christ is no different. It is a committment that requires us to cast aside our sin nature and strive to love him with our whole lives!

Three verses jumped out at me in my reading of 1 John last night. They all said the same thing, yet in different ways. God could not have made himself more clear. And again, in reading these verses, I have to ask myself, how is it that so many professed believers have totally missed this!

“No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” 1 John 3:6

“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” 1 John 3:8

“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” 1 John 3:9.

Look at the wording of these verses. Does this sound like in Christ, because he is a forgiving God, we have the right to continue to live in sin and claim deliverance from eternal damnation due to a profession we once made? Whoever makes a practice of sin is not saved! A practice is something you do on a regular basis. A practice is something that is a staple in your life. A practice is something you have gotten used to and can be hard to give up.

Facebook is the clearest example of this. In the age we live in, internet sites like this have made it very hard to hide who we really are. So many people put on that Sunday School face in public. So many people will claim they love Jesus and are saved to your face. Some of them are very convincing as they can be involved in tons of church activities. Yet their posts on Facebook tell a different story.

Pictures of drunken parties, inappropriately dressed pictures of themselves personally shot with a smart phone, and vulgar language headlining their pages. People live together and have sexual relations out of marriage and even homosexual relationships. There are those who profess Christ yet continually slander and gossip about others. These are not sins people try to turn from. These sins are their pet sins. They are common practices. These sins become who they are. Yet they will tell you to your face that Jesus is the Lord of their lives. All due to the continual practice of sin.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Matthew 7:21-23.

There is a verse in the book of Hebrews that says it this way……

“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” Hebrews 10:26.

I truly believe the world will stand before God on that day of Judgement and literally have no excuse except a deafness to His word in their damnation. There is no room for confusion here! Yet as God says in the book of Hosea…..

“My people are destroyed from a lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6.

We don’t even realize the state of our separateness from God because we know not God! We may know what we’ve heard in Sunday school, or what the scripture on the back of a t-shirt says, but so few professing believers actually seek Christ personally in their lives.

1 Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We quote verses like this and file into church singing hymns like, “Victory in Jesus.” But if the bible is true, and those in Christ are victorious over sin, why are so many constantly surrendering to the temptations in their life?

“Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Matthew 13:43.

God is speaking. He hasn’t stopped speaking to us. In fact, he is screaming at us through the repetition of his word to turn from our sinful practices. He is warning us that if we can continue on living in sin willingly after professing him and point to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as our justification, then as the verse above in Hebrews said, that sacrifice no longer remains over you. Pray for God to search you as David did in the book of Psalm.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24.

Examine yourself and seek Christ in scripture! The promise of Christ is that we will be victorious over the sins that once enslaved us when we truly place our faith in Him. The clearest way to tell if you are truly saved is to examine yourself in light of scripture. Do you now hold a victory in your life over that sin that was once so prevalent? Or has very little changed since making your profession of faith? If the latter hold true, then as Mark 1:15 says, “Repent and believe!” Begin to read the Bible. But don’t just see it, see it clearly for what it says for quite possibly the first time. Dont just hear his words, but let them penetrate your heart as well as change you from the inside out! A prayer wont save you. Baptism wont save you. A transformation and seeking Christ as Lord of your life is the only road that you will encounter true saving grace.

“Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. …” Psalm 119:33-41.

Not Fair

My two oldest boys love each other, except when they are together. Our four year old Lincoln wants to do everything his big brother Andy, age six does. If Andy is not with Lincoln, he wants to know where Andy is so he can be near him. The most common example of this happens on a daily basis in our house. Lincoln had just woke up from a nap and wanted to know where his big brother was playing. When Lincoln found out Andy was playing with toys in his room, Lincoln ran as fast as he could to where Andy was playing. And they play together like loving brothers…for about five minutes. Then Lincoln will come running out of the run crying and screaming.

We ask, “What’s wrong Lincoln?”

He replies, “Andy has a toy I want and he wont give it to me!”

“Who had it first?” I ask.

“Andy, but I want it!” Lincoln replies.

I always close this little scenario by telling Lincoln that he can have the toy when Andy is done playing with it, and that we don’t take toys from others. I let him know that we take turns and share, not just take things because we want them. And little Lincoln’s reply to me is always the same….

“THAT’s NOT FAIR!!!”

Lincoln being only four years old doesnt have the capability to fully understand justice yet. He doesnt fully understand the difference between right and wrong. All Lincoln sees is that his selfish desires are not being met. Things are not playing out in his favor. So any verdict that doesnt appear satisfactory to his standards, he deems them unfair. Andy, our six year old, has pulled this “not fair” card as well. But Andy at times will take it up a notch. If things dont go his way, he has been known to tell me, “You just dont love me.”

That crushes me. I would give my life for any of my children. I dont have rules and consequences for disobedience because of a lack of love for them. Its quite the opposite. Even though they may not understand at times, the rules in our household are in place because I do love them more than they know. The rules are in place because I dont want them to get hurt. I want nothing but joy in the lives of my kids, but I will not compromise the rules of our house just because they dont understand.

This plays out the very same way in our walk with Christ. How many times have you shaken your fist to the Heavens above and pleaded before God that the circumstances in your life were unfair? I can think of more than a few times.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8.

God clearly points out that his thoughts are so much higher than ours. And his standards and ways are not ours. But honestly, aren’t you glad to know that? If we had our way, we would be wallowing in every feel good sin we stumbled upon. If we had our way, our human nature points us towards putting our selfish desires as utmost importance. Like the old saying goes, “Looking out for number one!” We are selfish by nature. We are sinful by nature. But the Lord is Holy. Holy literally means seperate.What a scary thought that would be to serve a God who was just as fallen and sinful as we are!

It is so prevalent in many churches today to seek a God that is made in our image. Christianity has been distorted so much within the last century. Jesus has been given a make over so to speak. He has been made  so loving that he is almost weak. Jesus is portrayed at times as  a God who is loving and forgiving to a fault. And it is because he has been taken out of context.

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39.

Did you read that? Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. So many take this to mean we cannot lose our salvation once we have declared Jesus is Lord. And I believe that to be true! The Bible said it! We cannot lose our salvation. And because of this verse, so many people will live a willingly sinful life, and when confronted, they will claim that they gave their life to Christ years ago so they are good. They treat salvation sort of like a flu shot. But that’s not how God works.

“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” Hebrews 10:26.

You see, the question is not one of, “Did that person living in sin lose his salvation?” The question is, did that person ever truly have salvation to begin with? So many have been falsely deceived into placing all their faith in a prayer or baptism experience that they are saved instead of taking the word of God and seeking to see what it says a true Christian looks like! As it says plainly in the verse above from Hebrews, if a person can continue living in  sin after professing Christ as Lord, the grace of God no longer covers them.

Jesus paid the price for sin. He was the sacrifice for sin. But a person who choses to continue living in sin after raising their hand for Jesus is no longer covered under Christ’s sacrifice.

2 Corinthians 5:17 saysTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

This verse is so overlooked, yet it says it all! If you truly profess Christ as Lord, you literally become a new creation! The sins you once loved, you now hate. It doesnt mean you are not tempted, but you now avoid the temptation because you heart now desires to do the will of God! You hunger to know and draw near to him not just no Sunday mornings, but with your life! Friends, I pray you take these words to heart. If you have no desire for the Lord in your life and are still chosing sin over Christ, then according to scripture, you are not saved.

First of all, if someone claims salvation in Christ, if it is true, they will be developing that relationship with Him. They will be seeking him in scripture and searching to know what He expects of our lives. A true Christian will seek to know the desire of the Lord. Secondly in knowing God’s expectations, we will know know God’s commands for our lives. Now think about this logically. If someone claimed to be a Christian yet continued on in a certain sin, and then once it was brought to their attention, claimed they didnt know it was breaking God’s commandment, what would this tell you? It would tell you that they have a shallow understanding of the God they claim to serve, therefore proving they have no relationship with him.

Now the other side of the coin are those who will profess to know Christ as saviour, yet chose to continue sinning placing their faith in a moment in time where they professed Jesus a Lord. Rev. Paul Washer once said, “Do you know what your profession of Christ as Lord is worth? Absolutely nothing.”

“A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” Matthew 7:18.

If I were to tell you that I had an very healthy apple tree growing in my backyard, and when glanced at it, there were no apples but instead rotten fruit all over it, you would say that I was either crazy or a liar. In the same way, a person cannot profess Christ and it be true unless they bear his fruit. As I alluded to in my previous blog post, I think we spend so little time in the word of God that the majority of American Christians dont truly know the God they profess to serve.

We serve a God of love and forgiveness. But that forgiveness requires a life change from us. I heard a pastor once say it would do Christianity a greater justice if many professing Christians just renounced their faith instead of filing into church on Sunday and living like the devil every other day of the week. Because if they are not a new creation in Christ, the regardless of what they say, they are not abiding under the forgiveness of Christ, but his wrath. They also set an example for new believers that is false. As Ive written many times, Jesus clearly says in Matthew that the road to salvation is narrow, and few will truly find it.

Test yourself, search yourself….ask yourself why you believe what you believe regarding salvation? Is it because of what your friends told you? Is it because of an article you read? Is it because what your pastor told you? The only answer should be based on what scripture says. The very people that will claim Jesus is Lord of their life are sometimes the same ones that only open their Bible’s on Sunday mornings. If we are a people that are truly converted and truly seeking God’s will for our lives, then we should be in His word at every opportunity. People will claim they are just so busy and dont have time to sit and read their bible, but they have plenty of time to cookout with friends on the weekend, go to the movies, watch television at night, or play on their new I Phone.

Its not that they dont have time for God, its that they want salvation and eternal security without the commitment. They want the benefits without the responsibilities. And its no surprise that many “christians” have this mindset. It is the society we live in. The majority of view on marriage are the same way. Sexual relations as well as alcohol and drug abuse are the same way. Our culture teaches us to seek the pleasures and benefits of a sinful life and just dont worry about the responsibilities. Dont worry about a long term commitment. That is the theology of our world. That is how many people think about God. And God has warned, “Few of you will actually receive eternal life.”

My boys at times think I am unfair. They think I am unloving because of rules I have in my house. They think I am robbing them of their joy. But they dont know what I know. They dont realize that if I allowed them to jump on my bed, they could fall off and be seriously injured. They dont realize that teaching them to share is actually teaching them justice. Our twin baby boys Abel and Luke dont realize that I am forbidding them from swimming in the deep end of a pool not to spoil their fun, but because they dont know how to swim and they could drown. They see me as a kill joy. But I am seeking to save them from heartache. I want their lives full of joy more so very much.  And even though they cant see it, I know more than they do.

If I as a fallen, sinful man can love enough to have rules in place to protect my children, how much more can be said of God in the same manner?

“The path is narrow…”

” Seek me with all your heart….”

“I will make you a new creation….

“Repent and flee from sin…”

“Deny your flesh, take up your cross, and follow me…

” Why do you call me Lord, yet not do as I say…

” Those who love me, obey my commands….”

All words of the Lord Jesus Christ. All his commands. Yet all passages of scripture that we hear, but dont really hear. Because when you really truly hear something and key into it, and you believe it, you follow the order.
 
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15.
 
Do you view God as unfair? Could it be that you are much like a four year old child looking after his own interest, and not realizing that his father knows best? Could it be that you dont understand God because you have never sought that deep relationship with him? Could it be that you dont really know him because you have never really pursued him other than what your pastor has told you? Have you really ever read the Bible? Because if you do, that which is fair, that which is just, and the full love of God comes into our sight. And his affection for us is magnified so much more through his commands.
 

Distorted Obediance

Growing up, my parents were not strict, as long as we were obedient to what they asked of me and my brother. When my dad told us to clean our rooms, that meant an inspection of how well we had followed orders was soon to come. I can only recall one time in which my dad specifically asked me to clean my room, and I didnt do it. I told him I would do it, but I went in my room, closed the door, and proceeded to play video games for the remainder of the afternoon. Now in my mind, I really had planned to get to it. But I was just having so much fun. A few hours went by and I heard dad’s footsteps coming up the stairs. Immediately, I remembered what he had asked me to do, and time was up. When dad opened my bedroom door, he was very disappointed in me. There was no reward or pat on the head for doing a good job, because I had disobeyed his orders. All that I had to look forward to was punishment.

Imagine a different scenario for a moment. Imagine that when you were a kid, your dad had asked you to go and clean your room. He had even given you a whole week to accomplish this task. When the week was over, your dad comes into your room to find the room is still a wreck. With a proud smile on your face, you look at the bulging blood vein on your daddy’s angry face and say this to him…..

“Hey dad! Guess what! I memorized what you said when you asked me to clean my room! In fact, my friends and I all got together this week and did a devotional of sorts of what it would actually look like if I cleaned my room! We’re planning on really studying the topic of cleaning our rooms! We might even do a sermon series on it!”

Do you honestly think your dad is going to look at your wreck of a room, and just because you “memorized” his orders, tell you that you did a good job?  Of course not! He’s going to be furious! Especially if you had a whole week to get it done and you didnt obey him! Even a little child knows that it would be foolish to attempt something like this! A child knows that when his parents, especially his father, gives him or her an order, it had better be followed, or some form of punishment will be expected!

And sadly, this is a snapshot of what the church is slowly becoming today. We read scriptures about denying ourselves, about giving to the poor, about fleeing from sexual immorality, drunkenness, and idolatry, and about going to the ends of the earth with a burden to preach the gospel all the time. We even memorize these scriptures and listen to sermons and sit in bible studies about what it looked like when the disciples followed Christ’s commands. But for many professing believers, their faith never gives birth to action and actually following Jesus.

I have been on somewhat of a soul searching journey in the past few weeks. And one of the questions I asked of myself was, “Am I a person that really desires to do the will of God?” The Bible is so very specific in communicating the commands of God. Yet there are so many aspects of my life that look nothing like that of the disciples in scripture.

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19.

This was the command Jesus gave to the disciples and the church before ascending into Heaven. And Ive really examined this scripture in my own life. We live in such a backwards society. Christ’s orders are clear. He didnt say sit in a pew and take notes every Sunday. He didnt say work on building your financial resume. He didnt say purchase the next new I Phone. Why are we here? Why do we exist?  We exist for God’s glory! And to accomplish the mission of preaching the Gospel to all nations.

But instead, American church culture has turned into this feed me, bless me, look after my needs type animal. We pride ourselves on how many bible studies we attend, or how many notebooks we fill up with Sunday morning notes, or how many scriptures we memorize in Sunday School, but how many of us are truly living obediently to scripture?

Let me ask you a question that may step on some toes, just as it does mine….

How many disciples have you made? And if you have made disciples in the past, is it something you are continuing to do today? Is it the driving force in your life, or does Facebook or a smart phone hold the position?

Here’s another question….How many people have you baptized in your life? You see, Jesus never said that this order was only for the clergy of the Church. He never said these orders were strictly for those who have been to a seminary college. Jesus commanded uneducated fishermen, tax collectors, and a former murder to repent of their evil ways. To take up their crosses and follow after him. To deny themselves that which is of the flesh and set their eyes on the riches of eternity. And to go out, putting everything in their lives as second to the mission of making disciples.

And to me, it just seems like this is what he is asking of us today. It seems to me that some where along the way, the commands of Christ have just been watered down to memorizing scripture and sitting in a pew. And while these are good things, if we are neglecting the mission at hand, then we are living a disobedient life. In the book of Matthew, Jesus speaks of Heaven as a narrow road  leading to a narrow gate. He goes on to say that few will find that gate, and few will enter.

That verse terrifies me. And I have to ask myself, “Why is it that few will enter?” Jesus calls us to repent and believe and become disciples who follow after him. Following after him means being obedient to Him! Jesus says in 1 John that those who love him obey his commands. So if we are truly his disciples, we are obedient to his commands! So the question must be asked of yourself, “Does your idea of obedience match up the the accomplishment of Christ’s orders?”

So I have begun digging into scripture more than ever. Because I want to know what Jesus expects of me. I dont want to just accept things because Ive heard it in a sermon. What would our lives look like if we really studied scripture privately in our own lives? The founder of Heartcry Missionary Society (Heartcrymissionary.com), Paul Washer, once said, “Jesus is everything in your life or he is nothing.” Don’t miss the blunt truth in that statement! Is Christ everything in your life? Is he what consumes your thoughts? Do his final commands of going out and making disciples burden your soul daily?

Francis Chan gave a great analogy. If you lived on a remote island, separated from modern church culture all of your life, and all you had was the Bible to base your view of God on, how different would you be? I mean if you were on this island and all you did was read the bible from cover to cover over and over, and then one day you were rescued and taken to a modern day church service, would what you were seeing in the American church match up to what you had always read in scripture?

The picture of church that we see in the book of Acts shows radical reactions to hearing the preaching of the gospel. When Peter and Paul preached, one of two things happened. Those they were preaching to either tried to run them out of town or stone them, or they became missional follower of Jesus, joining their cause in preaching the gospel wherever they were and making disciples.

The reactions in our culture today to the preaching of the gospel is not the same as it was in scripture for the most part. Its now more of an attitude of indifference. The disciples of Jesus Christ now have been watered down by political correctness. We come to church, we study the bible, but when it comes to making disciples and being bold in our faith, we really dont want to hurt people’s feelings. It just isnt the proper thing to do regarding sharing Christ in public. The worst thing that can ever happen to you as a follower is Christ is to become civilized in our faith.

If you really read the Bible cover to cover, and took the teachings of Jesus literally, how different would your life look? Thats the question I am currently asking myself. How different would my life look? Just going to church, being a good person, and attending bible study doesnt make you an obediant follower of Christ. Just because I happen to be in the ministry doesnt mean I am an obedient follower of Christ. We are not saved by association with the church!

A soldier is not considered a soldier just because he wears a uniform and lives on a military base. A soldier is a soldier because he is obedient to his commanding office, and will willingly give his life to accomplish his or her given mission. There is nothing more important than the mission a soldier is given. The mission is everything. Let me ask you the same question Im asking myself….

Is the mission, the commands of Christ, everything in your life? Because this is one question that we cannot afford to be wrong about. Personally, for myself, I want to be sure about this. Is Christ really everything to me? Is there anything more important in my life! When Jesus was speaking the the rich man in Luke, the rich man asked what he had to do to become Christ’s follower. Jesus answered he must sell all his possession and give them to the poor. The rich man held his possession as a far greater treasure than Christ, and rejected Jesus.

What is your mindset regarding this world we live in? The Bible said Jesus created humanity for HIS GLORY! He created everything for himself! I dont think Jesus is glorified if our only goal is to live a happy little life. We are here on a mission for Christ! How many of us are active soldiers on this mission? I dont believe Jesus is going to say, “Well done my good and faithful servant” to those who made Christ as an accessory to the life they desired. Rather I believe those words are reserved for those who have built their lives around Christ. True joy comes out of serving the mission of God.

John Piper once said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Ive heard of married couples saying they need to work on strengthening their marriage first and foremost. Then after that is done they will come to Christ. People say I need to achieve all my dreams to be happy first. Then they claim they will serve Christ. Thats kind of like someone saying, “I want to get in shape so I can start jogging.” If you jog, you’ll get in shape. If you are obedient to Christ and his mission, your marriage will grow stronger. Your life will be more joyful. And you will serve a greater purpose than merely living for yourself.

Ive grown to love writing this blog because its sort of like a venue where I can share exactly what Christ is showing me in my own walk. I dont have all the answers. All I know for certain is the truth I read in scripture. And Ive got to know for myself just how obedient I am to Christ. As Francis Chan once asked, “Am I am man who truly even wants the will of God?” I think its a question far to few of us ask ourselves. We can’t afford to be wrong about this.

Who Defines Friendship: Facebook or God?

I love listening to my grandfather talk about his younger days. One of the coolest things is to hear my grandaddy talk about his school days. He will talk about things they did, and mischief he and his friends got into. One of his good friends growing up was a boy by the name of George Lindsey. Most TV Land fans today know him by the name Goober. George Lindsey became an actor as an adult. And his most well-known role was as a loveable mechanic on the popular Andy Griffith Show. My grandaddy said they used to play hooky, (thats skipping school) and go fishing or swimming in a pond all the time. Grandaddy has even told me about pranks Goober used to pull on the teachers. They were friends because they knew each other. They were friends because they cared about each other. They were friends because they spent time together.

It’s amazing how the definition of friendship has changed in just a few short years. Not long ago, I heard someone boasting that they were friends with a celebrity. I began to ask them how they knew this famous person. They replied that they were friends on Facebook.  The internet has totally redefined the word friendship. Friendship has gone from once being a very personal, intimate thing to being very impersonal. According to the internet, you really don’t even have to know someone to be their friend. It seems now days you can just know of someone and know nothing about them personally and have a relationship. Once friendship required an investment in another’s life. It required a sacrifice of time in order to build a relationship. Now friendship is non sacrificial and non-committal. Friendship in our modern society is as easy as clicking a button.

This new shift in relationships is not only damaging to us as human beings, but it can also be damning by allowing us to be deceived. This new mindset as it pertains to friendship has slowly watered down what a true relationship should be. Even our relationship with Jesus. One popular T-shirt became a fad and is still being sold to this day. The slogan on the shirt reads, “Jesus is my Home Boy.” Sadly, many of the people I’ve seen wearing these shirts lived a very worldly life. Its kind of like their way of being able to live life on their own terms regardless of how sinful their actions may be, but still call Jesus their friend. There again, a real relationship God is watered down and made to be as easy as putting on a t-shirt.

Look at your friends Facebook pages. The majority of them claim under religious beliefs to be Christian. Some even take it a step further and put that they are a Christ follower. Yet many of the same people who would claim to know Jesus post pictures and status updates on their pages that are the opposite of everything Jesus taught in scripture. We are not friends with Jesus because we clicked “Like” on a Christian fan page. We are not friends with Jesus because of what our T Shirts may say. And just because someone says they know Jesus, doesn’t mean that Jesus would claim to know them.

Jesus made the Heavens. He made the earth and the planets. He made everything that exists in all of creation. That must mean he also made friendship. So if Jesus created friendship, shouldn’t we seek to know his definition of friendship? It would be like me telling a man who was painting a portrait of a boat that his portrait was actually not of a boat, but a banana. The man painting the picture is the creator, and he alone has the right to define his creation. So what does God say about friendship? Who does God consider our friends? I can promise you this….Facebook’s definition of friendship doesn’t even come close to God’s.

“You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:14.

The ones Jesus calls his friends are those who obey him. But how can you obey someone unless you spend time with them? Contrary to what the T Shirts says, Jesus is not your home boy. He is your King. He is your Lord. He is the Savior of the world. And he wants to be your friend. If you live more for your own fleshly desire than for Christ, He is not your friend. This may anger some people. You may think, “What right do you have to say who is Jesus friend and who isn’t?” But look at the verse above. I didn’t say it. I’m just repeating what Jesus said.

Jesus never said you have to be sinless to be considered his friend. But he did say you have to obey him. And that means that if we are his friends, we will constantly be seeking more after him than our own desires. Real friends of Jesus are growing daily in Holiness and sanctification.These are two common words thrown around in church very regularly. But few people actually know what these words mean.

The word Holy in the Hebrew is defined as being separate. So when you hear, “The Holy Spirit”, think of a separate spirit. Then you must ask yourself, “Separate from what?” Separate from the ways of the world. Thats why the angels sing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord almighty.” Thats why when Moses asked the question to God, “Who are you?” The Lord replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” You see if an alien came down to this planet and asked me to describe myself, I could point to any other person and say, “Im like that human being.” But God had no one to compare himself to. God is separate from everything in creation. That is until the day God finally could point down from Heaven to a humble Jewish Carpenter and say, “Im like Him.”

1 John 1:6 “So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.”

The term Sanctification is simply growing daily in our pursuit of holiness. Are you daily being sanctified or more separate? If we are not striving to be more Holy, or separate from the world, with our lives daily, we remain enemies of God. Here is what one pastor said speaking on holiness. He said, “The reason we even struggle with this sin is because we are not pursuing holiness. If Christians would grow in holiness, then they would stop being a slave to their sinful nature.” Growing in Holiness will make us separate from the world in our thinking and actions. But we cannot grow in Holiness, unless we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. And we cannot have the dwelling of the spirit unless Jesus has become our friend.

Here are some of the best ways to being pursing Jesus as your friend. The first step begins with becoming holy or separate from temptations of the world. And then growing in that sanctification daily.

1. Submit To God

You must come to a point of surrender. Its not just believing in God. Its not just saying Jesus is your friend and living contrary to his commands. Its repentance in your life. And repentance at its most basic is simply just giving up. Its to stop fighting against God. Stop fighting against your conscious and what you know is right. Stop justifying your sin. Just stop and give up. Surrender your life over to Christ. Begin to ask yourself who has Lordship over your life! If your base how you live life on feelings, culture, peer pressure, or selfish desires, then you have Lordship over your life, not God. However, if you begin to seek to know what God says about how you walk, how you talk, what you watch on television, and how you live your life, then God has Lordship. But know this…God doesnt want to be Lord over some parts of your life and not others. He wants it all. Submit all aspects of your life over to Jesus. If you say he is Lord of your life, the let him be Lord over all areas of your life.

2. Choose To Stop Sinning

Although Satan is responsible for many terrible things, he doesnt make you sin. Satan is a tempter, but he is not sovereign or able to control everything like God. You cannot stand before God and blame living a sinful lifestyle on Satan. That falls on you and you alone. In submitting to God, you must choose to stop sinning. This begins by examining your life and pinpointing the areas that you know are dishonoring to God. This may cost you popularity or friends. This may cost you money and material things. One thing is for sure, whenever we choose to follow Christ we will have to give up something. Turning from a sin that we have grown to love can be tough. But thats when we, as John Piper put it, “Make War on the sin.”

If your sin is drunkenness, make war and dont go hang out ever again at the bars. This may cost you friends. But again, ask yourself who has Lordship over your life, your friends or God?  If your sin is lust, this may cost you a relationship or even more. If lust is claiming Lordship over your life, end that sinful relationship or take your computer and throw it in the garbage. Whatever it takes to rid yourself of the chains that hold you in a sin, take action.

3. Seek To Be Friends with Jesus

Read your Bible daily. Become a regular member of a church. And seek to know what God says about our lives as opposed to what the world says.

“God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7.

God has called us to live separate from this world. We cannot be a friend to God and be a friend to the world at the same time. You either love God or hate him. Matthew 6:24 tells us this. If you love the things of this world and reject Gods commands then no matter what your lips say, you prove that you actually hate God because you hate his commands.

“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God,” Titus 2:11-12.

We are to live in this world, but not be of it. God says we are to seek Wisdom in his word. And we are to be devoted in everything we say and do to the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matthew 7:21-23.

Are you Holy or do you break God’s laws? Are you seperate or are you just another example of modern-day sinful living? Would Jesus call you his friend or tell you to depart from Him. That even though you may have known his word and attended church, in judging your life….he never knew you. Dont be a friend of Jesus as Facebook would define friendship. Be a friend of Jesus in truth by living a holy life in obedience to His perfect word. Friendship with Jesus is not as easy as clicking like. But it holds far more benefits than any earthly friendship you will ever experience.

Are Your Sins Justified?

Imagine for a moment that you discovered your closest loved one is addicted to a very strong drug. And if this loved one continued using this drug, it would eventually cost them their lives. Doing your best to intervene, you convince them to check into a rehab clinic for a few weeks. There, your loved one is around others with the same addiction that he or she has. The addicts are meeting daily with a councilor from the clinic who is telling them to be clean, they must completely turn from their drug use. The councilor is telling them that they must replace the time they once used seeking this drug with a more positive pastime. They must develop new desires.

There are some addicts that really take these words to heart. But a few of the addicts have a different mindset. A few troubled addicts begin to tell your loved one that in recovering from any addiction, its alright to fall of the wagon every now and then. They tell your loved one that they should strive not to use drugs, but if the urge gets too strong, its alright to use. Because they tell your loved one that eventually, they will get things right.

So your loved one comes out of the rehab clinic and back into society. But the first week after getting out of rehab, you catch your loved one using the very same drug once again. Very concerned, you ask them what they are thinking! Your loved one responds, “Its alright, I am a new person since going to rehab. I met a very nice councilor and I am following his advice of staying clean. But other addicts have told me that its ok if I get high now and then. Because no one is perfect and everyone does it.”

You can never be free from a drug if you keep allowing yourself to be enslaved to it. And it would be apparent to you that your loved one cared more about what other drug users said about rehabbing than the councilor who honestly knew how to recover. Your loved one tells you that the clinic councilor is a person who can help them become a clean person. And so even though they continue to use, since they have spent time around the councilor, they are clean. But that is ridiculous. Because a drug addict can never be clean unless they take the advice of the councilor and turn from that drug completely.

One of the most joyous things in ministry is to hear someone say that they want to know the Lord. But it can also be very frustrating. Because when someone claims that they are following Jesus and living a sinful lifestyle at the same time, their actions betray their profession of faith. You cannot claim to be a follower of Christ and continue to live in addiction to sin. You cannot claim to be a Christian and yet use the excuse of God being a forgiving God. And just as the loved one decided to believe in other drug addicts methods of recovering from addiction, you cannot listen to other sinners and use the excuse, “We all sin, so God understands.”

If a drug addict continues in his rehab saying, “We all fall off the wagon once in a while so my use in rehab is justified”, it will eventually cost him his life. Sin is addictive. Maybe even more so than a drug. And just like a drug, if you continue living in it with no repentance, or turning from it, then it will lead to an eternal death. A drug councilor is a healer. But he cant heal you unless you turn from the drugs. And God is forgiving. But he offers no salvation unless you repent from sins in your life.

People twist scripture to make it mold more to their sinful lifestyle.

 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.

This is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. And it is true. We have all fallen short of the glory of God in sin. No one is without sin except the Lord Jesus Christ. So since we are all sinners by nature, and it says this in the Bible, cant we just live however we want knowing that God forgives? I mean doesnt our sin magnify the grace of God since he is forgiving? If our sins make Christ’s grace even greater, then we can just continue sinning, right?

Wrong.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:1-4.

What the apostle Paul is saying in this passage of scripture is that if anyone can use Christ’s grace as an excuse to go on sinning, then they do not know Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is representative of our sinful life. Just as Christ died under the weight of our sin, he rose to new life. In the same way, when we say we know Jesus as our savior, we are claiming to put to death striving to fulfill our fleshly desires and being a new way of life in seeking to live as Christ.

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. ” Colossians 3:5-10.

Paul tells us once we begin to follow Christ, the sign of a true believer is one who puts away all evil desires. Everyone sins. But notice what Paul says. He acknowledges this, saying those who are saved in Christ ONCE walked in these evil desires. In the life the ONCE lived! But now they live their lives striving to avoid sin and live for Jesus.

So many people profession to know God make statements that show their true hearts. I heard Pastor Mark Driscoll tell the story of a man who came into his office for counseling. Pastor Mark was surprised to see this man, because he had been a very faithful church member. What he said floored Pastor Mark. The man said that he was divorcing his wife and leaving his kids to be raised by her. When Pastor Mark asked why, this faithful church member said that he wanted to live life for himself for a while. He openly admitted that he wanted to date around, to party, and to just have fun while he was young. He said he knew biblically it was wrong, but claimed that everyone sinned and that God would forgive him. In spite of Pastor Mark’s efforts to change this man’s mind, he ended up divorcing his wife and doing as he pleased.

No regard to the hurt he had caused in his wife and the pain to come when his kids got older.  And he justified his sin by claiming the God loves everyone and he would be forgiven. But what this man was doing was committing idolatry. He was making God into a God he felt comfortable with. He was changing certain aspects of Jesus and twisting scripture so that he may be justified in his sin. God is loving. But God doesnt love everyone. He loves those who love him and repent. Those who do not love God show it by not obeying his commands. They are not children of God but Children of wrath.

“If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:15.

We can claim to love God. But if we disregard his commands in exchange for loving our sins more than him, our words are empty. If you refuse to turn from your sins and choose sin over Christ, you do not know God, you are not saved, and you are on a road leading to Hell. Jesus does forgive, but in order to receive that forgiveness, you must die to your old self and begin new life living under his Lordship. You either follow Christ or follow your fleshly desires. And only following Jesus will lead to eternal life.

Some may not like my reply and may try to justify themselves like the Jews did. Some may say, “Hey, wait a minute! I’m already a Christian.”

In the book of John, Jesus is basically telling the Jews that they are not children of God due to their sin. The Jews argue back with Jesus. If we were to put this story in todays terms, ts kind of like they were saying to Jesus, “Dont judge me, Im a Christian.” Look at what the Jews say to Jesus.

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:41-47.

If you are claiming to be a Christian yet choosing to continue on in sin instead of repenting, my reply would be much like Jesus’ reply in these verses.”If you are a Christian, then why do you continue to do the things that the devil does? Why do you continue to sin? The whole world is under the control of the evil one and yet you love things that are in the world; therefore, God’s love is NOT in you!

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Fatheris not in them.” I John 2:15.

” Then I would say, “Turn from your sin and realize that God provides a way for you to stand up under EVERY temptation.

“No temptationhas overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be temptedbeyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I Cor. 10:13.

Have faith in God. Rely on Him. In the Hebrew language, Holy means to be set apart or separate from. We are to be separate from the ways of the world. Make every effort to be holy.

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14.

If there is no difference between how we as followers of Christ act, and those who live for themselves, we will not inherit eternal life!

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially,live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” I Peter 1:13-17.

If you are in Christ, you are not following the ways of the world.

 “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

These two verses sum everything up. Our WHOLE duty is to fear God and keep His commandments. Yet, there are so many who claim that this is an impossible duty to fulfill. “Sure,” they say, “we can obey God sometimes, but of course we will still sin.” They say this despite the fact that they have no Scripture to back up what they claim. So, many professing believers EXPECT to continue to sin and therefore they do because without faith in God to keep them from sin, they will surely fall–guaranteed.

“They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him” (Titus 1:16). They have a form of godliness going to church every week and being “spiritual” MOST of the time, but when it comes down to it, they have not accepted God’s provision to overcome sin and thus they deny the power to be godly. What is this provision that God has made for Christians to overcome sin? It is the grace given us by God sending His Son. Through the blood of Jesus, we can overcome, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world” (I John 5:4). Many professing believers have read passages like Romans 6 and I John 3 that state VERY CLEARLY that we are no longer slaves to sin and that those who are in Christ do NOT continue to sin:

“We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:2

“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Rom. 6:18).

“No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (I John 3:6).

Despite these and MANY other clear passages throughout the Bible, many do not have the faith to fully believe, so they may turn to ask a friend who helps them twist scripture and condones their sin. Then they FEEL much better thinking that they can continue in sin. So these people are like seed sown along a path: they “hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts” (Luke 8:12). So I ask you, do you have faith to believe the Bible? Have you accepted God’s provision to overcome sin in YOUR life? Do you really know what it means to be a SLAVE of righteousness? I pray that you will consider these things. I long to see more people living a victorious life in Christ overcoming sin.

We grow in holiness when we begin to follow the Lord. And His power will sustain you and keep you from falling. I pray that you will listen and believe the Bible and come to true faith in God. Give up those sins in your life and repent. The more you grow in your relationship to Christ, the more distant you will begin to feel from those evil desires. And the more you will begin to desire the things of God.

Just as a person who was once addicted to drugs cannot imagine living without the pleasure the drug provides them, when they are truly clean from it, they cannot imagine going back to it. Because their lives are so much more fruitful. And they have new desires that are good. Sin is no different. Be it drug addiction, sexual addiction, or simply living contrary to Gods word for your own fleshly desires sake, the life God has planned for you is far more satisfying than anything the devil’s world has to offer. But the only way to realize those new desires is to die to the old ones. And to begin to follow Jesus Christ with your whole heart and life. Everyone one sins. But not everyone continues willingly living in their sins.

Belief in Christ is not enough. For even Satan believes in Christ, but he chose to live contrary to the commands of Jesus. Satan believes in Jesus, but never repented and changed. Therefore his belief is not enough to save him. Satan will spend an eternity in Hell. So many are spitting images of Satan. They claim to believe in Christ, but they choose to live in their sins instead of following Christ. Because of this, as the verse above in John 8 pointed out, they are not sons of God. According to Jesus, their father is Satan. And because of their lack of repentance, they will spend eternity with their father in Hell.

God knows the desires of your heart. Desires that you may have yet to even realize. Because you’ve never really sought Christ.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33.

We get so mad at God when our lives get in a mess, and blessings are not added to our lives. But maybe it is because we have been seeking the wrong desires. Maybe it is because we have yet to seek God first, and to die to ourselves. Seek him, knowing that there is joy unspeakable in knowing Christ. Seek him, knowing the growing in holiness is more exciting than any sin Satan has to offer. And seek him knowing that judgement is closer than we think. And on that day, we will be judged according to the life we lived. God will declare you lived as a child of God or a child or wrath.  The measuring stick will not be what the world did or what our friends convinced us would be ok. Rather it will be Jesus Christ and the example give to us in scripture. Who are you listening too right now to justify your life? Your friends and society, or the word of God? It is your choice. Choose carefully. Your eternal destination depends on it.

Laborers of Wheat

There is just something revitalizing about the word harvest. It’s a time of new beginnings. For the farmer, it has always marked an end to the hardships of sewing a generous crop. Days and months are spent plowing fields. If the farmer is lucky, the field will be very fertal.

Though there have been instances of infertal soil. The farmer pours all of his life into tending to his field in anticipation of the coming harvest. The crop will no doubt endure trials of harsh weather threatening to spoil what was growing.

Weeds and tare will grow along side good wheat in hopes of tarnishing the crop. But the farmer never gives up. He never has the mindset that his crop will never make it. His eyes are supremely focused on that coming day. The farmer’s life is about one thing and one thing only. He could care less about the trifles of this world. His heart is in reaping a successful harvest.

When Jesus came and saved me three years ago, I immediately felt a hunger to grow in my knowledge of Christ. And one of the most intriguing imagery used by Christ was when he spoke of the harvest. Jesus spoke in terms of a harvest on more than one occasion in the new testament. One of my favorite parables is in Matthew 13:24-30. It is the parable of the wheat and the tare.

“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;  but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.  But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 

He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’

Such a clear story alluding to the Christian life. Jesus couldn’t have put it any clearer. There are wheat, and there tare or weeds. They grow together, side by side. Examining a stalk of wheat and a tare, you would quickly see that the only way to tell them apart is to open the heads of each stalk. The tares would be empty, while the wheat would be full of seed. In the same manner, there are children of God, and there are those who will deny Him. Although people may look similar on the outside, it’s what inhabits their bodies that makes the difference. And on that day of harvest, the unrepentant will be cast away into Hades just as the stalks of tare found their final resting place in the fire.

Jesus went on to use the allegory of the harvest when giving his disciples their most important marching orders on the purpose for their lives prior to his crucifixion. So many self professing christians will claim to be followers yet have more of a laxidasical approach to preaching the gospel and reaching the lost. We live as though time is on our side, and if not today, there will be another sunrise in which we may plant the seed of salvation. But that is contrary to what Jesus said about the harvest.

“Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” John 4:35.

There is to be an urgency in the life of a believer. It is a missional mindset that should be predominant over anything in our lives. I dare say it should be all-consuming. The great theologian Leonard Ravenhill went so far as to say that a true Christian should have anguish in his heart over people he may see daily that are void of salvation. If we are not living our lives on mission and for Christs harvest, then we are no better than the wicked tare that sprout disguised as wheat. We are not to think Christ’s return may be far off and that we have time a plenty to warn unbelievers of his coming wrath. As Jesus tells in the verse above, the harvest is very ripe, meaning he could come at any moment.

Jesus mentions the harvest yet again in the verse that served as the name for our ministry in Panama as well as the name of this blog. This was said to his disciples in the beginnings of his earthly ministry.

“Then He said to His disciples,“The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”  Matthew 10:37-38.

It doesn’t take a seminary graduate to realize that the harvest Jesus keeps referring to is mankind. We are Christs creation. And on that day, we will be ripe for harvest. For mankind is plentiful, just as any harvest. But the laborers, the ones that are committed to seeing that the harvest be fruitful, they are few. Therefore as believers, we are to spend much time in prayer. Not for God to bless us with health, wealth, and the deepest materialistic desires of our hearts. Prayers such as this would be the mark of a tare. But for Christ to call others unto himself for his great glory. That they might be raised up, called, and justified in living a life of proclaiming his great name to all nations.

These laborers the Jesus spoke of in Matthew 10 are true committed followers of the Lord. Towards the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus makes their calling clear. This account that has become known as the great commission has become the mantra for my life. It defines who I am as a person. And it clearly sheds light on how the life of a believer in Christ is to live their life. It is in obedience to these final orders recorded in Matthew 28 that we as christians can distinguish between the wheat and the tare. Between those who proclaim to follow Christ and those who are truly his adopted sons.

“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” Matthew 28:16-20.

The blueprint for their lives had been laid out. They no longer lived for themselves. They had been called to a greater purpose. As have you. As followers of Christ, we are all called disciples. And if our lives do not show the same level of committment as those who walked beside him within the pages of scripture, chances are we are deceiving ourselves. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you have been called into the harvest. Why would Jesus use the comparison to a harvest when relating to the most serious of matter. Each time Jesus talks about a harvest, he is alluding to ones spiritual salvation. And when Jesus comes back for his bride, that will be the final harvest he spoke of so plainly.

For the farmer, the end of a fruitful harvest season is a time of celebration and feasting with all those who are family. The hard work of reaping and toiling in the land is finished. Still don’t see the correlation between the harvest and following Christ? Isnt it ironic that just as a huge feast marks the end of a long harvest, so scripture tells us the reaping of God ‘s harvest will be no different.

“Then the angel said to me,“Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” Revelation 19:9.

How does your life look right now? Is it defined by the American Dream of building a better you? Or is more comparable to one anticipating a coming harvest? Are you constantly planting seeds in the hearts of unbelievers and persistent in making sure they grow through intentional discipleship? Is your life marked by the example of a farmer, sacrificing his own life for the good of the crop? Or have you become enslaved to complacency?

It is my prayer that God use the writings of this blog as a tool to raise up laborers willing to go boldly into the harvest with their lives. Just as the disciples, in Christ, your life is no longer your own. But in this bondage to Him, we find real purpose. Pray for the Lord of the harvest to raise up new disciples. Pray that our children would one day become missionaries who carry the banner of Christ to an unreached nation. Jesus said it best, the christian life is a harvest. And the privilege is ours carrying the seed of his great name to soils that are in need of a living water. The harvest is ripe indeed. Will you be willing to enter?