Santa Claus or Saint Nick?

Imagine for a moment that ever since you were able to walk, your daddy took you fishing at this huge lake not far from your house. This was a weekly thing. You loved fishing at this lake. As you grew older, this was just the normal part of your week. In your teen years you began to go fishing with your friends at the lake, and eventually, you began to take your own children to experience this weekly tradition with you. Fishing at this lake had become a staple in the life of your family.

Then one day, you walk down to the lake just like you’ve done countless times before, and you run into a sheriff planting signs all around the lake. The sherif informs you that they are trying to preserve a certain species of fish that now lives in the lake. So a new law has just been passed that absolutely no one is allowed to do any fishing in the lake. In fact, the law has made the preservation of this species of fish such a high priority that the penalty for anyone breaking this law is death.

What would you do? Would you be obedient to the law? What would you think of someone who told you….

 “Well I am all for following the law, but this law is just too radical for me to obey. I mean, we’ve always gone fishing at that lake. Thats just too much to expect of me.”

I dont know about you, but I would think that person was crazy! To continue on doing something under penalty of death just because its what you’ve always done is madness!

This brings me to an issue that our family has been wrestling with for some time. Let me start by presenting the scripture that ignited this grudge match within me….

In Revelation 21:8, the Bible mentions that ALL liars will have their part in the lake of fire. The second death. Hell.  We know that doesnt mean if you have ever told a lie, you are destined for Hell. Forgiveness is offered to all sinners at the foot of the cross. All that is asked of us is that we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior and repent of our sinful lifestyle. To repent means to recognize our trespasses against God and his commands, and to turn from them and begin to follow at all costs the Christ.

Next, I want to define what exactly is a lie? Well, a lie is anything we tell someone that is not true. And we can draw the conclusion from Revelation 21 that God deems living an unrepentant lifestyle of lying is damnable. Unrepentant sin is anything that we willingly make a habit of doing. Its a sin that is just normal to us. Eventually, it can become such a normal thing that we dont even view it as sin anymore.

So now that Ive set the stage, here is my question to you. What do we do with Santa Claus during the Christmas season? Is he an acceptable tradition? Or are we blatantly lying to our children?

If there is anything that is a staple in our culture, it is the telling of the legend of Saint Nick. Saint Nick was a real life person who lived in the ancient days in the time of Constantine. Stories vary about Saint Nick. One pretty steady constant is that he was a very giving man, and a Christian at that. He would give gifts to those who had nothing. There are some reports that has even said that Saint Nick was a Bishop and a proclaimer of the Gospel and was persecuted by the Roman empire.

The legend of this man obviously grew throughout the centuries. It went from the telling of a man that was indeed a saint who gave to the less fortunate all the way to today where he is portrayed as a jolly fat man in a red suit who is basically God.

You read that last statement right. Our society today has twisted the true story of a good man named Saint Nick into the deceptive lie of a God man named Santa Claus.

*He’s Omniscient He’s sees and knows everything you do.

*He rewards you if you are good.

*He’s omnipresent He can be everywhere and see everything at once

*He is good and righteous

*He is the most famous “Old Man in the Sky” figure.

*He has record of all of the good boys and girls in a book…or a list.

Sounds alot like the God of scripture. Could the fabricated story of Santa Claus actually be a deception planted in the minds of men by Satan? The devil’s plan is to rob God of any and all Glory at any cost. Satan’s plan is to take our eyes of the savior and place them on false idols that promise the supernatural miracles of our God, only without any repentance required. What better way to accomplish this plan than by beginning the deception early on in the lives of children.

Noel Piper, wife to Pastor John Piper, wrote an article on this very subject and addressed how Santa is not God. Here is what she said……

“For example, does Santa really care if we’re bad or good? Think of the most awful kid you can remember. Did he or she ever not get gifts from Santa?

What about Santa’s spying and then rewarding you if you’re good enough? That’s not the way God operates. He gave us his gift—his Son—even though we weren’t good at all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He gave his gift to us to make us good, not because we had proved ourselves good enough.

Helping our children understand God as much as they’re able at whatever age they are is our primary goal. But we’ve also seen some other encouraging effects of not including Santa in our celebration.

First, I think children are glad to realize that their parents, who live with them all year and know all the worst things about them, still show their love at Christmas. Isn’t that more significant than a funny, old, make-believe man who drops in just once a year?

Second, I think most children know their family’s usual giving patterns for birthday and special events. They tend to have an instinct about their family’s typical spending levels and abilities. Knowing that their Christmas gifts come from the people they love, rather than from a bottomless sack, can help diminish the “I-want-this, give-me-that” syndrome.

And finally, when children know that God’s generosity is reflected by God’s people, it tends to encourage a sense of responsibility about helping make Christmas good for others.” -Noel Piper.

Just because something has been ingrained in our culture as tradition doesnt make it right. Yes, forsaking the legend of Santa Claus does seem radical to the outside world. But we have to ask ourselves just what is at stake!  I am not saying do away with Christmas by any means. Im saying lets do Christmas in a way that is glorifying to God! Lets have a Christmas not driven by media and popular culture and replace it with one steered by the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We wonder at times why some kids today seem to be more selfish and self centered in their thinking. Maybe the questions should be, “What is the example we have been setting before them?” Are we unconsciously conditioning our children to have a mind set that is contrary to the Gospel?

I believe researching and telling the true story of the Christ follower Saint Nick who lived to serve others, like Jesus, would have a greater impact on our families than that of an over weight magic man who was there to meet our selfish wishes like a genie in a bottle. The example that Jesus gave was never to ask for things for yourself. Rather it was to be a servant to others. It was to see that there is much more joy in giving rather than receiving. Lets keep Santa in Christmas, but only to play a supporting role. And lets use his story so that it points towards the teachings and example of Jesus Christ our redeemer.

50/50 Salvation?

How do you explain a total change of heart? How do you explain a personality transplant? How can you explain being passive to the message of the gospel for most of your life, and then, the same gospel message of indifference you’ve heard a thousand times breaks you and it becomes life or death. That same message that was once just a boring church service becomes your lifes mission? Is this change something we do ourselves? I mean, is it possible in our human state to have the ability to just regenerate our own hearts by just deciding we chose to follow Jesus? Have you ever just sat in church and wondered why it is that some people are just on fire for the Lord, while others, many of whom have been in church forever, appear almost untouched by the Gospel?

Have you ever thought about these questions? The topic of salvation and how exactly God saves is the most controversial doctrine in the church today. It has been known to divide friendships, families, and even split churches.  And let me say, for we as the body of Christ to ever divide over the mystery of salvation is not only childish but also heart breaking to God. If the words Calvinism, Arminianism, predestination, the extent of God’s sovereignty or the elect is mentioned from the pulpit….as they say in the old South, “Them’s fightin words.” I don’t consider myself a Calvinist or an arminianist. What I am is a follower of Jesus Christ. And regardless of if I like what his word says, or if it makes me uncomfortable, if God said it, then there is no argument.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11.

We can get all the doctorate degrees in Divinity and study scripture twelve hours a day and still we will never understand all the ways of God. Why would God hide the reasoning behind his ways from us? Because he wants us to trust him, and that is where faith comes in. If you are a parent, think about your relationship with your own children. Every parent has had this situation where the child continuously asks ‘why’ regarding something you’ve told them. After about the fourth, ‘why’, I generally say to my boys, “Because I said so.” I’m basically saying to them, “You may not understand my ways, but you don’t have to.”  All I want them to do is trust me because everything I do is done with their best interest at heart.

But God does reveal some things to us. God does give us examples of how he works throughout scripture. Is salvation a 50/50 work that God requires mans help because he cannot do it alone? Does God prod our hearts only to leave the decision to accept him or deny him up to us? Unlike a high school boy asking a girl out and waiting in anticipation for her answer, God doesn’t need our acceptance. Regardless what theological title it has been given by man, I believe scripture attests over and over that regeneration and salvation is a 100% work of God. No one would argue that salvation is a supernatural occurence. One would also have to agree that the only supernatural being is God.

Humanity as a whole so badly wants to take credit, even if it’s in the smallest way, for everything good that happens. We innately want that pat on the back. Thats why this doctrine is so offensive to man. It is offensive to our inner most being not to be able to give ourselves some credit for a decision made to follow Jesus.  In some small way, we want to be able to say, “Thanks for saving me Jesus, arent you proud of me for choosing to follow you?” Does this line of thinking strike anyone else as extremely arrogant on our behalf?
So here’s a question to sum it all up….Does God choose and accept us as his children, or do we choose and accept God as our Father? Sounds like, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Well let’s go straight to the source and see what the Lord Jesus said on this matter.

Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you…”John 15:16.

What exactly did Jesus mean when he said this? Well, I believe he means we did not choose or accept him, but he chose us! But in order for this to be true, that would mean we had nothing to do with our salvation! Some shudder at the thought. That would mean that I didn’t just have a change of heart, but God literally changed my heart! So where in scripture is this proof of God saying he changes the heart of the wicked and not man? Buckle up…here we go…….

Think about a time when you were given a present without asking for it. Maybe your birthday. Lets say your father gives you a present you were not expecting. You receive this present from your dad and are so happy. Was it your decision for your father to give you a gift? No, it was your father’s decision to give you this gift. He didn’t have to give it to you, and it wasnt your decision for him to give you the gift.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” 1 John 1:13

Thats what the above verse is saying. If we combine John 15:16 with 1 John 1:13, it may read something like this. “God decides to give the gift of salvation to certain people of his choosing, having nothing to do with their decision.”

Still holding on to desperately wanting to claim some merit for your salvation? Lets look briefly at the conversion of a lady named Lydia in Acts 16.
“On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” 
Paul was preaching the word of God to a crowd. Think of modern day, Sunday morning church. Everyone is listening, but only some are hearing the gospel. The verse gives the impression that Lydia was a rich woman, because someone who was a dealer in purple cloth in that day was like someone who dealt in Prada or Armani today. The verse also says that she was a worshipper of God. So Lydia went to church! She sat on the front pew! She attended all the bake sales. But at the end of the day, she never knew God, she only knew a religious routine.
I can relate to Lydia in my own life. I was brought up under the teaching of the gospel from a very young age. But church was just church. It was routine and what I thought good little boys were suppose to do. Most of the time I was counting the minutes down to when the service would be over. The words in scripture just bored me.
Flash forward to my early thirties when God changed me. When he rescued me. When he saved me. My heart changed. Suddenly the very same passages of scripture that just weeks before had bored me now I hungered for. I became broken over my indifference to God. Church became not about a checklist or what God could do for me, but all the sudden, it became about what I could do for my God.
Look back at the passage in Acts. Its said of Lydia, “She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” She was just an average church goer until something changed. What changed? Did she decide to follow Jesus on her own? The scripture says, “The Lord opened her heart to respond to the message of the gospel.” God did the work of salvation, not Lydia.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.
Our salvation is a gift from God! We have no part in it and have no reason to boast saying, “I accepted Jesus as my savior.” Scripture refers to the grace of God as a gift! We receive gifts from other people, we don’t give gifts to ourselves. If you do give gifts to yourself, thats a whole different blog.
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14.
We have nothing to boast or pat ourselves on the back about! Jesus is the giver. Jesus is the redeemer! Jesus is the Savior! Not us.
‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” Ezekiel 36:25-28.
This is a picture of God regenerating the nation of Israel after their rebellion towards him. In the regeneration process described above in Ezekiel, I notice alot of the word, “I”. It seems to me that God is the one who gives us a new heart….because thats what he said. It seems to me that God gives us that new spirit…because thats what he said. It is very apparent that no one is saved by their own will, but only of the will and grace given to those he choses by the Lord Jesus.
God is soverign and in control of all things. Heres proof in the pudding so to speak. Think about this….Do you think Jesus mother Mary had a choice when God said she would bare God’s son? Do you think if she wanted, she could have said no to God? Do you think when Jesus came before the apostle Paul so radically and chose to use him to bring others to himself….do you think Paul could have said no? I don’t picture Jesus appearing in front of Paul and praying that Paul would please follow him! It was part of Gods plan! He chose Paul. He chose Mary. John Piper once said that God has even already predetermined the path of the dust particles that float in the air. As much of power and control hunger people we are, we have no control, and no power given to us that God has not already ordained!
Remember what Jesus said to Pilate at his crucifixion?
‘He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” John 19:9-11.
Everything we have in our lives has been given to us by God to ultimately serve his purposes. Even power to the unbelieving work together for the good of God.
So why is it that some people receive the message of the gospel to heart while others just go through the motions?  I don’t have all the answers. But what I do have is Gods word. And for those that have received the gift of salvation in Christ, doesnt that just magnify your gratitude towards him that much more to think that you didn’t choose Jesus to be on your team, but that the God of the universe single-handedly choose you before you were even created? Regeneration is not a work of man, so that none may boast. It is a work of God alone so that our boasting is never in what we have done, but only in the cross.

The Gift of Self Denial

Sometimes the greatest gifts God gives us in life are those that most people would run from. Francis Chan once said, “Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.” What a follower of Christ would see as a treasure from God, the world may view as crazy. Even some Christians at times may not recognize Gods gifts and could very easily mistake them for punishment…as if God’s favor is not on them.  Even the most devout Christians can miss out on awesome blessings if they are not filtering every experience through the lens of scripture.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think back to one such gift God graced me with. This gift was the opportunity for my family and I to move from the United States to Panama to live as missionaries for six months last year. I have to be honest with you, upon arriving in the country as I looked around, the first thought that came to my mind was, “Oh my goodness, what a mistake I have made!” So why do I see this experience as such a treasure? Many people have looked at me as if I was just let loose from the nut house when I talk about my love of living in a third world country. Let me explain to you why Panama was such a special gift from God.

The airport we flew into in David, Panama was very small and out dated. As we left the airport and drove to our new home, I saw no nicely manicured neighborhoods or shopping malls. The roads were in bad condition, and the homes we passed driving were not much more than a cinder block hut with a tin roof. Some homes only had dirt floors, which was easy to see because they didnt have doors attached. We stayed in David, Panama for about a month before moving into the mountains of Boquete about thirty minutes north.

We rented a house in what was considered an upscale neighborhood. But the rent was dirt cheap by US standards. We had no air conditioning in our home, and television was pointless when the few channels we received were in Spanish. We didnt have technology, fancy shopping centers, or movies to pour ourselves into, because it just wasnt available. So in order to fill that void that is temporarily satisfied by so many things in America, I turned to scripture.

The time that would have been used to watch television was now filled with reading my bible on our back porch, surrounded by the majestic mountains of Panama.  The times I would have used in the states communicating with friends via the internet or Facebook was now replaced with face to face interactions with the people we were ministering to in Panama.  God took away all of the things that we just view as normal….even necessary in our Americanized lives, and left me with nothing but Him.  I began to realize just how blinded we really are in the United States to our own wealth and how subtlety and gradually Satan has taken our eyes off of the mission of Christ and placed our focus more on ourselves. Look at the example below Jesus gives…..

“A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”

21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:19-25.

It is apparent that in the days of this rich young ruler’s youth, he had some sort of “religious” experience. In verse 22, the rich man says that he has kept certain commandments of God since he was a boy.  In modern day terms, he may have walked down the aisle at an emotional youth camp and professed giving his life to Christ. He may have been baptised. He may have went on from their to be a leader in his youth group. He may be telling Jesus that he gives some money some money to charity occasionally, teaches a Sunday school class, and is a loving husband and father to his family. He has a laundry list of accomplishments of good things he has done in the name of God.

But Jesus could see his heart. And Jesus pin pointed the one thing that this rich man held in higher esteem than Christ. His wealth. Jesus asked him to give up the one thing that took his attention off of God. But dont just picture Jesus asking this rich man to give up money. Wealth is not just money….its a love of materialism over Christ.

Are we like the rich young ruler? Is it possible some of us have been playing a religious game? Put yourself in the rich young rulers place. And picture Jesus coming to you. You begin to tell Jesus how you love your church, you tithe on Sundays, and you never watch rated R movies. And Jesus says, “Yes, all of that is great. But if you really love me, lets clear some of the things that you spend more time with than me.” What if Jesus said to us…….

“You still lack one thing…..give up your Facebook account….”

“You still lack one thing…..throw away your computer…..”

“You still lack one thing…..give away your television set……”

“You still lack one thing….Downsize your two car garage house and give the excess money that you now save on the mortgage to the poor….”

The frightening reality is that Jesus does say these things to us. Whats even more frightening is that if we were to really recognize this, many of us would cling to our religious resume of things we have done in God’s name and in some way justify our idols so that we may hold on to them.

And Jesus would look at us, just as he did the rich young ruler and say, “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

We have a tendency to hear this verse about the rich and think of someone two or three rungs above us on the financial ladder. We would never consider ourselves rich! But lets examine ourselves a bit further…..

-Do you have a cell phone?

-Do you have a home?

-Do you have a car?

-Do you have a bed, a carpeted floor, electricity and running water in your house?

-Do you have a bath tub or must you bath in a nearby river?

-Do you have food available to you for consumption every day?

Do you realize that the United States of America is the exception in comparison with the majority of the rest of the world? We live in the richest country in the world! Little things like a cell phone, or a car, or even a house with air conditioning are considered necessities to us, but to most of the rest of the world, these things are luxuries! Do not be deceived. When Jesus speaks of the rich, Jesus is talking to you and me. We’re the rich.

We have a tendancy to think in America that we are so blessed and have such an advantage spiritually over poorer places in the world. When in all actuality, Jesus is saying, “It going to be really hard for you.” And its because of the abundance of distractions and stuff we fill our lives with that easily take the place of Christ. But it is possible for the rich man to enter Heaven. Look at Zaccheaus, the rich tax collector who after meeting Jesus, happily gave away half of his possessions to the poor in exchange for Christ! He realized that the real treasure was not in video games, or I Pads, or stuff, but in Jesus. Just give me Jesus.

One of my favorite evangelists of old, Leonard Ravenhill told the story of a preacher up north once. He said that it was snowing terribly hard outside and it was bone chilling cold.  In spite of the weather conditions, some of the church congregation managed to show up for church that evening. The preacher stepped into the pulpit on that cold night as he looked at the few people that made it to church and greeted them.

The preacher said to the congregation, “How wonderful it is of you to make it out to church on this dreadfully cold night.” The people were patting each other on the back and apparently very proud of their level of commitment. The preacher continued. He said, “Yes, it is great that you braved the snow and freezing temperature to come and spend time with the Lord. In fact, I think its marvelous that you left your central heated homes, and got in your warm, comfortable heated cars, and drove a few short minutes to this warm church with such comfortable pews to sit in.”

The preacher went on and then said, “But did you know that in Africa, Ive seen men travel miles by bare foot, through the jungle, where dangers of lions and wild animals lay at each turn, just to go to a small, block hut and listen to a three hour bible study in 100 plus degree temperature. Afterward, they must make the long walk home in the dark, to go back to their home which many times has no food for them. Yet they never miss a service. I am going to preach now, but I must go throw up first. Our culture makes me sick.”

What will the church of Jesus Christ in America do when real persecution falls upon us in a world where we hold our comforts in such high esteem? We pat ourselves on the back for our morality yet we are blind to the fact that we love the comforts and glitter of this world more than Christ!

Jesus delivered a message to the church in Laodicea in the book of Revelations. These people were very affluent compared to the rest of the world. Much like us. They prided themselves on religious bench marks instead of having a true commitment and love for Jesus. Here is what the Lord said to them.

“To the angel of the church in  Laodicea Write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

21 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. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:14-22.

So much could be unpacked in this verse. But lets focus on verse 16. God tells them that they are lukewarm. Historians have said that the church in Laodicea was located on top of a big hill. So they had developed pumps to deliver the cold water up the hill through a pipe system. However, by the time the water was pumped from the cold spring below, it would lose it coldness and grow lukewarm. As a result, the people in the town of Laodicea complained about the drinking water constantly.

God is relating to them in a way that they understand. He calls them lukewarm. Many christians misuse the term lukewarm to describe a person who follows Jesus just not very closely. But look at what Jesus says in verse 17 to describe the church. ” But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

Does this sound like the description to someone who is a follower of Christ? How does the old hymn go….”I once was blind, but now Im blind…?”  No, its “I once was blind but now I see!” Jesus is speaking to a people who are so caught up in their wealth that they are missing what it means to follow Jesus! Its not just a profession of the lips or Sunday school attendance! Its viewing the temporary world we live in through the eyes of Christ.

Jesus says in Matthew 7:21 that on that day of judgement, many will bring their lists of church stuff and things to the foot of his throne. They wont realize that they had lived their earthly life just like the rich young ruler. Like the ruler, they will boast of the things they did for God and the commandments that they kept. And Jesus will reply to them, “I NEVER KNEW YOU.” In the book of Isaiah, the Lord tells worshippers that he tried over and over to get their attention, but they put more stock in their acts of worship than in self denial for the cause of Christ, and they would not listen.

The scriptures speak over and over of the Christian life being one of self denial and sacrifice. Yet so many of us treat God as a cherry on top of this ice cream sunday of life we live. We treat Jesus as an accessory to our stuff. Yet if push came to shove, and we were told to give up the ice cream or the cherry, we’d sooner part ways with the cherry than give up our junk food. You see, many want to follow Jesus, as long as he doesnt require too much. Many want to follow him, as long as we can continue to live in the world and not deny ourselves. Its easy to love the aspects of following Christ that ease our conscious or benefit us in some way. And its also easy to skim over the parts that call us to a great sacrifice.

My trip to Panama was a gift. And the reason it was such a gift is because the real world as Jesus sees it became apparent to me. The materialistic scales fell from my eyes. The things I thought were necessities in my life became obvious that they were luxuries. The people we served in the remote indian villages of Panama lived in dirt huts and had literally nothing. But each time we arrived, they showed nothing but hospitality to us. And though they didnt have all material things and conviences of a modern world…..they were happy. I realized how rich I really was. And I saw that I was in danger of becoming the rich young ruler who loved his possessions more than Christ.

Pastor Paul Washer pointed out in one of his sermons that in the old testament, thunder and lightning were used as warnings from God to his people to repent of their sins and believe and follow him regardless of the cost. But on that day when we stand in front of the Lord at the end of our lives, there will be no thunder. And there will be no more lightning. Because the time for warning is over. It will be too late to change or repent and begin living for Christ and his mission. The only thing left for us will be his judgement.

Examine your life. Ask yourself a question….”What is it that would be the hardest for me to give up?” And when you pin point that idol, does it consume more of your time, thoughts and energy than is allotted to Christ?  I tend to think very deep into things. But our eternal destination is at stake. And Matthew 7:13 hauntingly reminds us that few are those who will actually enter the kingdom of God, and many are those who will be deceived to follow the broad road leading to Hell.  Could it be Jesus requires much more of a commitment than we ever thought possible? When you weigh carrying such a cross on a scale compared to the wonders of Heaven His children will inherit, our self denial is actually a very small price to pay. Do you live with an eternal perspective?

Father Knows Best

There are two things in life that God uses extensively as a model to teach us about himself. The first being marriage. What better platform could God have given us where we practice unconditional love, forgiveness, unity, and selflessness. The second is parenthood. God is the master at describing himself. God is a God that words cannot contain, yet he describes himself in a way that is simple for us to understand. More than anything else, God refers to himself in the guise of a loving Father. That is how He wants us to relate to Him. The first step to understanding God is seeing in the context of a parent. And in raising my boys, in all the little things that go into raising kids, I’m constantly reminded of my Heavenly Father. Let me share some examples from my own life as a dad.

We recently got little bicycles for our two oldest boys, Andy age six, and Lincoln who is four. And they are so eager to ride them. But the rule in our house is that they can only ride their bikes outside when mommy or daddy is with them. furthermore, we always load up their bikes in my truck and drive to the church parking lot to practice riding them. Our boys are not allowed to ride their bikes up and down the street.

A few days ago, Andy came to me and asked if he could go outside and ride his bike up and down the street in front of our house. I quickly reminded him of our rules and that he is not to ride his bike in the street.

“But daddy…” Andy said. “The little boys that live next door to us are riding their bikes up and down the street without their mommy and daddy!”

I told Andy that those little boys were not my children. Lincoln and Andy are my children. I take care of my kids. I have rules for my children not to hinder their fun, but to ensure their safety. If the little boys down the street ride dangerously in the road, that is between them and their parents. But if my boys disobey and ride in the street, you can be sure they will be disciplined for being disobedient.

Genesis 27 give the account of two brothers named Esau and Jacob. God said of the brothers, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”  So why did God “Hate” one but love the other.  Contrary to the very popular saying, we are NOT all God’s children. Scripture speaks of some who are, as 1 John puts it, “….children of the devil.” To put it simply, Jacob was a child of God, and Esau was not. Esau wanted the things of this world more than the blessings of God, as seen when he gave away his birth right for food.

Read about the lives of Esau and Jacob in Genesis. As it pertains to Esau, God kept every promise he made to Esau through out his life. And later in life, when Jacob was reunited with his brother Esau, Esau was so wealthy and prosperous he needed nothing from Jacob’s hand. So again, how is it that God hated Esau, a man who was blessed by the things of the world, and loved Jacob, a man who faced many trials during his life?

If you read about the life of Esau, you will see that Esau was just allowed to be Esau. And Esau could do anything he wanted to do. And Esau was never disciplined or punished by God, he could just do as he pleased and have a good time through life enjoying his material things. And God disciplined Jacob in some way almost every day of his life.

God let Esau be Esau, but he refused to let Jacob be Jacob.

And the distinguishing mark between the two men is the love of God the father. disciplining and changing one Jacob and in Esau we see no spiritual change or movement towards God whatsoever. Jacob at one point wrestled with God. And God touched his hip and gave Jacob a permanent limp. It wasnt Esau who was limping when the brothers were reunited, it was the one God love, the one God disiplined….it was Jacob.

I think back to the man I was only four short years ago before I truly had a personal relationship with Jesus. In my old life, one of the areas of importance to me was tied to vanity. I was a weight lifting fanatic. Image was everything. When God became real to me one of the first things that happened was my desires changed…..radically. I began to see how repulsive my vanity was in the eyes of God and in turn, in became repulsive to me. I did not touch a weight for three years.

Just recently I have begun to workout again. Not for vain reasons, but for general health. I noticed that it could be so easy to get sucked back into the world of being obsessed with working out due to it being an idol in my past. But I’ve noticed something. Since beginning to workout again, I’ve noticed that I can no longer do some of the major lifts that I once did. My joints just wont allow it. My body is broken in areas that hinder me from sculpting my body the way I used to do. And I firmly believe it was not Satan who placed these hindrances in my path, but God.

Why would he do this? Why would he cause me pain if He loves me? For the same reason I would spank my child for running out into the street. To discipline me and to keep me from running off toward idols that would rob me of my salvation. He knows me. He knows areas that I am tempted to stray. He is my Father!! And because He loves me, God will do whatever is necessary to keep me from danger.

God loves me enough not to let Charlie be Charlie. He has better plans for his children. And he disciplines his own like any father would a child.

My boys Andy and Lincoln are funny at bath time. Lacy will put them in the tub and tell them to scrub themselves clean and wash all over. They are at the age where they want to do it themselves, so she gives them the chance. But each time, she will inspect the boys and tell them to stay in the tub as she washes them until they practically sparkle. Although they grumble at times, Lacy will tell them, “You are going to be clean!” And by golly she means it!

Look at what the Lord says in Ezekiel…….

“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:24-27.

Notice what all God says He will do for His children. The first thing that jumps out takes me back to the bath tub with my boys. Just as Lacy tells them they will be clean, God says in verse 26 “…you will be clean.”

So many people justify living in filthy sin while simultaneously claiming to know Jesus. But that’s contrary to our Heavenly father. Just as an earthly parent takes a child who has been wallowing in the mud and scrubs clean every crevice of their body, God does the same with a sinner.

You see, our problem in modern-day Christianity is that we believe God is powerful enough to resurrect his own son from the dead, but we don’t believe he is powerful enough to totally, completely change a person’s life. We may not say this, but its apparent when we attempt to justify a lifestyle of sin, saying silly things like, “Well you know, we’re all Gods children!”

Jesus is a God of change! No where in scripture do I find the example of someone who had an encounter with Christ and walked away continuing to pursue sin that they know is wrong! The apostle Paul murdered Christians, and after an encounter with Christ, spent the rest of his life leading them! Rich and wealthy Zacchaeus climbed down out of that tree to meet Jesus and afterward gave half of his belongings to the poor and paid back four fold those whom he had robbed.  Did the life change continue in Zacchaeus life? If you study history, many biblically historians make the case that it was Zacchaeus who went on to take Judas place as the twelfth disciple, and was renamed Mathias!

Those who had encounters with the risen Christ had radical life transformations from who they once were!  So where do we get the idea that we can become followers of Christ without becoming a totally new creation as is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:17?

God disciplines his own. And as the above verse in Ezekiel states, God clenses his own. Notice what else does the verse in Ezekiel says. He says he will cleanse us from our impurities and idols. This is not saying a Christian will never sin. Because we know at times, we all fall short. But it is implying a major life change. And it does imply that anything in our lives that is more important than our relationship with God, or an idol in our lives, will be stripped away. Be it vanity, entertainment or relationships, if they prove to be an idol, God will in some way remove them from the life of a true believer, even if the separation causes us pain. 

God also said in Ezekiel he will take us out of the nations.  Seperation. Is there a seperateness from the worldly ways in your life? In the last part of the verse, God says he will place in us a new heart. A new heart has new desires. New Godly desires. If you don’t have a new relationship with sin, then you do not have a new relationship with God. So if this is the picture of what a child of God looks like, then why does our nation have so many worldly children of God? Based on what I read in scripture, Id say that Gods children will look more like their father Jesus Christ. I can tell you all day long that my earthly father is an African-American midget. But I am 6’5 in height, and as white as Sunbeam bread. My appearance would tell you that I am either crazy or a liar.If someone looks more like the world than Christ, chances are they look more like their father who is the prince of this world….Satan. Regardless of what they may say, their unrepentant life tells the truth.

Never miss what God may be teaching you about his relationship with you through the life lessons of parenthood. God wants us to see him as a father. As the old hymn goes, he is a God who gives and takes away. Although a child may think a parent is being mean by refusing them certain things or taking disciplinary action, a Father always knows better. And even though the child at times cant see it, a Father always does everything out of the utmost love for his child. Learn to look at trials in your life not as a pity part for yourself, but as God chipping away at you…molding you and tying you closer to him. Although it can be painful at times, God will never allow his children to ride their bikes in the street of life. Although it may look fun, we don’t see the dangers that God sees. And a Heavenly Father always knows best.

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.