Branches of Pride- Entitlement

I feel like I write about pride very often. I think I do this for two reasons. First, it’s a sin I struggle with. I find it easy to write about something I struggle with because I face the battle with pride on a daily basis. The second reason is because I believe it is probably the most prevalent and devastating of all sins and can be found as the root cause for many of the other ugly sins we commit.

While I usually try to deal with the roots of our sins, I want to change gears for the next couple of weeks and focus on the branches. My hope is that my recognizing some of these more obvious sins in your own life that you would be able to trace it down to the root of pride and start working on pulling that sin out. So the next couple weeks we will look at some sins that are rooted in pride.

I wanted to start this week with a real ugly one, but one we all struggle with at one time or another. It’s called entitlement. What is entitlement? It’s the belief that you deserve or are entitled to something good. Let’s take a look at a few ways entitlement rears it’s ugly head in our lives, how to combat this sin, and how it traces back to the root sin of pride.

Entitlement shows itself in many different ways. Just the other day I was walking and noticed a traffic jam at an intersection. All the cars had decided they wanted to go first. The entire problem could have been adverted had one or two people allowed someone to go first. But these people felt entitled. They felt like it was their turn and they needed to go first. This is especially true for those driving really nice cars. Many of them drive in a way that says, “Do you see my car? I am important, and thus I should get to go where I want, when I want.”

For others of us, entitlement comes out often in what we feel like we deserve. Maybe you feel like you deserve a promotion because you are a hard worker. Maybe you feel like you should get a good grade because your father is an important man. Maybe you feel like others should be nice to you because you are nice to them. These are all entitlement issues.

The way I most often struggle with entitlement personally is based on my learning. I often feel that others should take my advise or listen to my opinion because I have spent extra years studying and thus have more to bring to the table. I feel that my knowledge entitles me to be heard, and my opinion to be respected and followed.

The problem with entitlement of any kind is that is believes a lie. We think we deserve something good. Whether it’s based on our own merit, ability or personal connections, we believe we should be given good things and deserve to be first, top or better than we are.

We do deserve something, the problem is that it is the opposite of what entitlement tells us. The Bible says we don’t deserve good but rather punishment. Psalm 103:10 says “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” Also Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death…”

We deserve punishment and death because we are transgressors of God’s law. Praise be to God that He doesn’t give us what we deserve but sent His Son to die for us and save us from what we truly deserve.

And to me, this is the best way to deal with such an ugly sin: realize that without the grace of God your entitled to punishment, death and hell. In order to combat sin, it is usually doing the opposite of that sin that helps break it’s hold on your life. So for entitlement, opposite acts like humility and gratitude are great ways to break down entitlement. Realize that you aren’t as awesome as you think you are. You don’t deserve good but punishment and any and all good that comes your way is a gift. Be grateful for the good gifts God does give you and realize they aren’t from your hands, but from His.

Somewhere along the way we got this backwards. And this is where pride comes in. Pride is what has caused us to flip from a humble stance that sees all good from God into a prideful stance that believes I deserve good things because of my status, personality or ability.

Celebrities are our best example of this type of lifestyle. These people, because of their fame and fortune, live lives feeling entitled to do whatever they wish. Here you see the most prideful people on our planet. I fear that many of us look at these people and their lifestyles with envy rather than disgust and pity. I have many students who tell me their goal is to be able to do whatever they want all the time. May God have mercy on them and keep them from such an entitled hell as that.

Although brief, I hope you can see some areas where you have been acting entitled lately. Maybe it is obvious, (you are that BMW driver who always goes first no matter what), or something more subtle, (you think you should have good things happen to you because you are a “good” person). Either way, it is entitlement and it is one of the results pride can have on our lives.

My prayer for all of us is to realize how entitled we do act and repent. Ask God to forgive you of your pride and entitled nature. Ask Him to remove this ugly sin from your life. Learn to see that what you really deserve is the fire of hell and that by the grace of God alone you have been saved, (Ephesians 2:8-9). May we stop acting entitled and instead be grateful for the grace of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Jesus is Better Than…. Part 1

Sorry it has been so long since I updated this. I feel like that is what almost all people who blog say at one time or another. I had some problems with the website but have it back running correctly so I thought it’s about time I share some thoughts with you all.

There has been somewhat of a theme lately in much that I have been studying, hearing and reading about. Whether it was from a book called “Future Grace” by John Piper, listening to sermons by Pastor Matt Chandler, or watching a Christian Conference from the US, it seems like everyone is talking about this common idea.

It’s a good thing too because the Bible talks a lot about it as well! So these guys must be on to something. What is so important that all these different people and groups are saying the same thing? Well, it’s Jesus of course! But not just Jesus, the guy who heals, helps, saves and forgives. It’s more about Jesus than about what He does for us, even though the things He does for us are pretty stinking amazing too.

This week I wanted to share some thoughts based on a lot of stuff I have been studying about how we view Jesus. It has greatly helped me and I hope it will help you too.

The thing we need to realize about Jesus is He is more than just what He did or does for us on a daily basis. Yes, Jesus forgives you of your sins past, present and future. Yes, He allowed you into heaven even when you deserved hell. Yes, He took the punishment on His perfect back for you. Let us never forget these things!

But let us also not forget that our love and our faith in Him is not merely based on what He did but more so on who He is. That is why I titled this message “Jesus is Better Than…” My goal and hope is that you can see that Jesus is better and to be more desired that anything in this universe. In two weeks I will talk about why Jesus should be desired more than anything else, but this week let’s look at what happens when we desire Jesus more than anything else.

First, it helps us battle sin. Psalm 119:9-10 says “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” You see that if we are to keep our lives pure and free from sin we must live according to God’s Word. But how can we do that? By seeking Him with all our heart.

Sin is a lie. It promises satisfaction and fulfillment but never comes through. So when we sin we are basically claiming that the promise of the sin is greater than the promise of God. It’s the same trick Satan used on Eve in Genesis 3. Satan put temptation and doubt in Eve’s head completely contradictory to what God had said. That’s what sin does. It causes us to either believe that God is enough or that this sin will bring us joy.

That’s why realizing that Jesus is better than anything else will help combat sin. When we truly know and believe that Jesus is better than jealousy, pride, arrogance, selfishness, or any other sin we struggle with, we stop following that sin’s lie and it loses power over us.

Do you have some sinful habit you just can’t seem to shake? What lie are you believing about that sin? Repent and realize that Jesus is greater and more desirable than whatever that sin falsely promises. Realize that your true joy and hope comes from God alone and that by trusting in any counterfeit joy you will only be let down in the end.

Second, it’s brings purpose and passion to your life. Ecclesiastes 12:13 says “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” You see, when you aren’t living with the right meaning and purpose in life it brings emptiness and despair.

But foolishly, we keep trying to find our purpose and joy in life in other things. Watch TV and every advertisement is an ode to how great you are or how great you could be by using that product. The world tells us to pursue what is focused on us but forgets to mention that that path leads straight to emptiness and eventually hell (Matthew 7:13).

This isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, people trying to find their purpose in anything but God has been happening since Creation! However, one of the best examples of this type of living can be found in the life of Solomon. You can read his story of his various pursuits in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Basically Solomon had or pursued anything and everything that our world falsely promises to provide joy. You want power? Solomon had more. You want wisdom? Solomon was the wisest in the world. You want women? Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines. You want money? Solomon had a massive palace with tons of gold. You want friends and approval? Solomon had massive parties with tons of people.

But after Solomon mentions each of these things he makes an interesting statement. He says that each is “vanity and a chasing after the wind.” These are the things you are wrongfully pursuing in hopes of finding joy. Solomon had them and saw that they don’t fulfill. That is why he made that statement in Ecclesiastes 12:13. Only Jesus gives your life true purpose, passion and joy.

Why do so many rich and powerful seem so sad? Because they have what you hope will bring joy but they still don’t have joy. You at least have hope because you don’t have it yet, but these people have it and still feel empty. We see the rich, the famous, the popular all commit suicide or talk about wanting more. Why? Because they have put their purpose in a lie.

Only putting your faith and hope in Jesus can give your life passion, purpose and joy. Everything else will promise much but deliver little. That is why my challenge for each of you is to remember than Jesus is better than (insert anything here). He is better than money. Better than power and fame. Better than friends and popularity. He’s better than life!

Again, in two weeks I will tell you why that is. But this week just stop and contemplate what it would mean for your life if you truly believed and lived as if Jesus was better than anything else. May we see that Jesus is better than anything and everything and may that set us free from sin and give our lives true passion, purpose and joy.

Mind Your Mind

I wanted to share some quick thoughts about an area of our lives we disregard quite foolishly most of the time: our minds. I say that we disregard our mind because we do very little in our daily lives to guard it from the attacks of Satan.

It is like we are at war. Our mind in the headquarters where all the important directives are sent out from. If the enemy knows the location of our stronghold he will stop at nothing to destroy it. So in war, the headquarters is well guarded and protected from the enemy. Satan is our enemy and he knows the location of our headquarters. He knows our weak spots and how to attack and how to exploit them.

So if the enemy knows where to attack, shouldn’t we be prepared and have extra defense at that location? Here is our problem and this is why I say we disregard our minds. We basically allow Satan a free pass to tempt us. Sometimes, we even bring the temptation upon ourselves.

I want to suggest two fairly easy and practical ways in which you can guard your mind. If you are struggling with any particular sin, (and we all are), I believe this is often where that temptation first takes root. So hopefully these suggestions will help, with the guidance and grace of the Holy Spirit, combat sin struggles in your life.

The first is guard what comes into your mind. The White House does not just allow anyone to walk in and talk with the President. They tightly guard and control who enters so that the President remains safe. We can do the exact same thing with our minds. Psalm 101:3 says “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.”

I had a basketball coach in college who always told us to guard our “eargates and eyegates.” I always thought it was a strange thing to say, but as I have grown and matured I now see the incredible advise in these words. What we allow into our eyes and ears directly affects our mind. So if I am listening to music that degrades women and watching movies that show improper relationships then my mind will start to fall for the temptation and sin of lust. If I listen to people always being rude and watch TV shows where rudeness is celebrated then I will most likely treat others poorly.

We are foolish to think that what we watch and listen to on a daily basis does not directly affect our sin struggles. It is most likely that whatever sin you are struggling with can be traced back to what you are allowing into your “eargates and eyegates.”

So my first suggestion is to guard these valuable gates to your mind. Don’t watch movies that put bad thoughts in your head. Don’t listen to music with constant negative overtones. Don’t always hang around people who are rude, condescending or mean. Don’t watch shows which portray selfishness as freedom, (which is pretty much everything shown on American television these days). Figure out what sin you struggle with, (that shouldn’t be too hard, you probably already know what sin you struggle with but if not ask a close friend), and try to figure out what things cause that sin to be more difficult to fight. My guess is it will relate to what you are letting in your ears or eyes. So guard your gates!

Second, allow the right things in. While the White House doesn’t allow everyone in, they do allow the right people in. We cannot just try to block out everything, but rather allow the right things into our minds. Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Instead of filling your mind with garbage, (TV, movies, negative people and music), why not fill your mind with what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable and excellent? If we put garbage in, garbage will come out. If we put excellent in then excellent will come out. Fill your mind with good things.

What are these good things? Read your Bible. Memorize verses. Listen to Christian music. Hang around uplifting and encouraging people. I can tell the difference in my attitude when I have been listening to secular music and when I have been listening to Christian music. Secular music focuses on self, Christian music focuses on God. So when I only listen to secular music I tend to focus more on myself, (selfishness), but when I listen to Christian music I tend to focus more on God. Psalm 119:9 teaches us “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word.”

You can never put too much Bible or God in your brain. He is inexhaustible. The more you learn and grow the more you want. And as we fill our brains with the things of God our lives are transformed. Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” As we dwell on the things of God, our mind is transformed and we are actually able to discern God’s will. That is amazing!

I hope these two quick, practical steps will help you as you learn to guard a valuable place at the front of our spiritual warfare. May we not be so foolish as to think we need not protect our headquarters. Instead, may we build in practices of keeping the temptations out and allowing the heavenly in. May we stop feeling helpless in our fight against sin, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, fight the battle of our minds so that what we take in and what comes out may glorify our Father who is in Heaven.

Identity Crisis

Who are you? I mean more than your name, really who are you? When someone asks this questions does it ever make you stop and really think about who you really are? Well that’s my goal here today. So take a minute and think about the question: who are you?

Did anyone really stop and think for a minute? I am always curious whether people actually do that. Either way, your identity is important. Whether it is something you think about frequently or something you have never really considered, finding your identity is basically like discovering who you are and what you are here for. Those are two pretty big questions that make people lots of money who write about them. Seriously, go to a book store and look for books about discovering one’s purpose or identity and you will be amazed.

Today I wanted to talk about how we all have an identity crisis. We all, at some point, struggle with figuring out who we really are and what our purpose is. We can all sometimes seem to lose our true identity in the midst of lesser identities influencing us. So if that’s you and you are not exactly sure who you are and what you are here for then hopefully today should be helpful.

But before that we need to look at where people wrongly put their identity. The problem with discovering your true identity is that there are many counterfeits out there in the world today. And while these identities may seem legitimate they are not who you truly are.

First, your true identity is not in your race, nationality, gender or culture. Galatians 3:28 tells us “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I think many of us are proud of where we come from but this is not who we are. It is ok to be “Proud to be an American” as long as you don’t allow that to become your identity. Voting, paying taxes and cheering for America during the Olympics are all good things, but they don’t identify who you are or your ultimate purpose. They are not ultimate things.

We fail to grasp who we are when we reduce our identity down to the place we were born. This means that my brothers and sisters in Christ from another country are closer in relation to me than those who do not believe but were born in the same place. This means that while patriotism is a good thing it is not an ultimate thing. You are not ultimately American, Chinese, Japanese, etc.. You are a new creation in Christ.

Also notice that our identity is not even our gender either. Chauvinism and feminism cannot exist in the Church. We are no longer stereotypes of ourselves, (over-emotional women, hardhearted men), but are a new creation in Christ and thus must not allow our gender to ultimately define who we are.

Second, your true identity is not in your relationship to your family, friends, children or spouse. Jesus instructs us in Luke 14:26 that “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” This verse is often hard for non-believers to understand because it sounds so harsh, but when truly understood in the context of what Jesus says this becomes an important piece of teaching for us to find our ultimate identity.

Jesus is dealing with a case of mistaken identity and a common one at that. We often identify ourselves by the relationships we have. I am a son, a brother, a husband, a friend and one day a father. And each of these relationships are very important. 1 Timothy 5:8 says “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for the members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” So does this verse conflict with what Jesus said? Not at all. We are instructed to provide for our families and love is one of the things we must provide.

What Jesus is teaching us is that we cannot find our ultimate joy, purpose and identity in our families. While we need our families and need to love them, if we make them and our relationship to them our ultimate identity then we have again faltered. The problem with finding your identity in people is that people will never live up to your expectations.

So if I expect my child to be a genius and he turns our to be an idiot then I have lost my identity. How many marriages end in divorce because one spouse didn’t live up the expectations of the other spouse? Loving, nurturing and cherishing your family members are important and Biblical, but making them our ultimate purpose and identity is foolish and ultimately sinful.

Third, your true identity is not in your social status, job position, degree earned or achievements. Ephesians 2:9 says “Not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” While this verse is referring to how we obtain salvation it can also apply to this idea. We cannot boast in our own works, ability or accomplishments because they will all become rubbish on the final day.

Finding your identity in your accomplishments is a very dangerous thing because it will always lead you towards depression or arrogance. Depression because your job or degree or accomplishment isn’t as high as someone else with whom you compare yourself. Arrogance because your job, degree or accomplishment is higher than those you compare yourself with so you become proud and “puffed up”.

So where should we find our identity? In Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” (Ephesians 1:4-5).

Your true identity is only found in Him who created you. In Him who came to this earth to suffer and die for your sins. In Him who rose again and opened your eyes to His glory. When we understand our identity in light of Christ then we are able to understand who we are and our purpose here. Then we are able to live for our country, our family and our job in a way that is proper and not in conflict with our true purpose and identity.

So stop finding your identity in where you were born, who you are in relation to others or what position you have at your company. All of those things can change anytime and will never fulfill all our expectations. Rather, find your identity in Christ, the One who never changes and will always exceed every expectation we have for Him. When we find where our identity should truly be placed we can finally discover who we truly are. We are Christ’s and Christ is ours.

In Need of Thanks

I guess it is only right to write a blog post about being thankful this week. Me and every other American writer will most likely say something about being thankful. So, because I wouldn’t want to disappoint, here is my take on thankfulness.

I find it interesting that we give one holiday a year to the idea of being thankful. We obviously know the importance of being thankful because it has it’s own holiday, but it almost seems like we give it this one week each year and then sort of forget about it the rest of the year. I mean do you ever tell people what you are thankful for outside of Thanksgiving day? I know some of us do but I’d dare say most of us don’t.

And I feel like that’s a problem. So today I wanted to discuss two problems with our idea of being thankful and what we can do to adjust them during this year so we can learn to be more thankful people in 2013.

The first issue I see is that people don’t seem to know what we should be thankful for. We seem to expect so much from others that we aren’t really thankful when we get what was expected. Are any of us truly grateful for the guy working at McDonald’s who hands us our food? Or for the cashier for giving us the correct change? We may say thanks but we don’t really feel thankful because these are things that we expect to be done right.

The Bible tells us “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24). Are you thankful just for the fact that today exists? Often we are not thankful for our good health until we get sick. We aren’t thankful to our loved ones until we lose them. We aren’t thankful for our job until we get laid off. There are so many things we need to be thankful for on a daily basis, yet we often overlook them because we for some reason we expect that past performance equates with future promise.

Even worse, we aren’t very thankful to God. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1). Do you thank God for His steadfast love? “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28). Are you thankful for be allowed to enter God’s Kingdom?

If you find yourself taking these things for granted then change is needed. If you take the little blessings of life for granted then start to reflect on how great a blessing it is to have someone give you correct change, for the ability and means to order fast food, for the health you have, the family you have and the job you have. Tell them. I often hear people say “My parents know I am grateful because I show them.” This is a lazy excuse. Yes continue to show them your thankfulness but something special happens when it is vocalized. Make this a normal part of your week.

But most importantly, thank God for who He is and what He has done for you. This should be a daily part of our prayer. Don’t take His many blessings for granted or even worse, act entitled like you deserve any blessing you have received. Remember that we all deserve death and damnation and every day God grants us life and the gift of life after death in Him are things that should be truly praised. Realize what you have to be thankful for and you will be a more thankful person.

Secondly, I am not sure what you want to call it, but lets say its a combination of laziness, busyness, lack of depth in relationships, trying to act tough or cool, too self-sufficient and complacency. This is quick thanks to someone with no heart behind it. Or the desire to show gratitude but not doing so because it feels awkward or difficult to show such open emotion. Or you honestly don’t even think to thank someone because you are so caught up in your own life or your own ability to do the same task better.

The core of this problem is me. I am my own worst enemy. Instead of being grateful for what someone has done for me I often start comparing if I could have done it better, critiquing so the person can help me better next time or constantly moving onto the next task without stopping to appreciate what has just been done for me. Psalm 50:23 says “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Our problem is that we have not ordered our lives rightly. We are so enamored with ourselves that we forget that God’s greatest commandment was to love God and then love others, (Matthew 22:37-40). We are at the bottom of the list as far as who God expects us to love. Our culture tells us we must love ourselves before we can love others. That we must care for ourselves first in order to care for others. That we must be thankful to ourselves before we can be thankful to others, (independence vs. healthy dependence on others).

The problem is that this attitude, while very cultural, is not very Biblical. Rather, get your priorities straight. Love God. Love others. And then love yourself. When you mess up the order you lose your thankfulness because you feel you don’t need to be thankful or quickly move to the next thing in your life.

So may we all be more thankful this Thanksgiving but may it not stop there. Lord, help us not to allow one holiday a year to the extent of our thankfulness to you and to those who help us everyday! May we realize just how many things we should be truly thankful for. May we verbalize our thankfulness to Jesus and to those around us. And may we stop being so in love with ourselves and be grateful for the love and help the Lord has provided and the love and help those around us have provided to us. May we be a people marked by our thankfulness in the midst of an ungrateful world.

One Christian’s Political Perspective

I thought this would be a good time to announce my candidacy for the 2020 President of the United States. So if you are unhappy with the way things are going just hold on until then and you can vote for me!

But on a more serious note, I felt like I should write something about a Christian response to politics in the face of some worldwide political tension. America is torn asunder over the current Presidential election, China and Japan are at each others throats over a territorial dispute and much of the Muslim world is furious over a YouTube video. No matter where you live we are in a heated political time.

So I wanted to write this week about how a Christian should respond to the political tensions we are feeling all over the world. I am not here to tell you how to vote or which stance is correct on important issues. Rather, my goal for all of us is to realize some important truths about politics from the Bible rather than from our culture or political system.

First, we must remember above all else that we have one God, and no political leader or ideology can ever replace that. Reading Exodus 20:1-6 you see the first two of the ten commandments. Notice that both focus on keeping God in his place and not trying to put anything above Him. God felt it was so important to remind us that He is God alone that the Scriptures are full of His reminders about this issue.

Problem is that while we may proclaim this we often don’t actually believe it. I see many people writing on Facebook about how one candidate will “Bring America back to the golden days,” or another candidate will “usher in a new time of peace and prosperity.” But the reality is that no man can do that. Nor can any political system usher in utopia. We must remember that God is in control and that He is the one that changes, restores, heals and brings peace.

A great Biblical example of this is with the nation of Babylon. In the latter half of the Old Testament God uses the powerful nation to punish Israel. In Habakkuk 1:5-6 God tells us “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans (also known as the Babylonians), that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own.” After Gos has allowed this He later also allows the great Babylonian nation to be crushed.

Other great examples can be found in Job or even in the Gospels. You see that no political power or great leader is or can take the place of God. So my first challenge is that during these uncertain political times we would all find our hope and faith in God first and foremost above any person, system or ideology.

Second, the Bible also tells us that we must respect and submit to the governing authorities. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1). First, and this touches on our last point, there is no political group or person in charge that God did not allow. Even the worst leaders in the world God allowed them to lead for a period of time and ultimately for a purpose. So we submit to these authorities because in doing so we submit to God.

Secondly, we must learn what it means to submit. Every time after the presidential election in America there is a group of people whining or complaining that their guy didn’t get elected. Comments like “Well I guess this is the end of America” and “I am moving to Canada” are common on Facebook post-election. Christians, is our faith so small and pathetic that we don’t trust that even if our guy didn’t get elected God can and will still work in our country? Do we really want to limit God that much? Instead of whining and making foolish statements about how our political ideas didn’t get chosen, why don’t we trust in God and realize that He rules over all politics. So rather than complaining, how about we learn to submit and support those who God has put in leadership even if they aren’t who we wanted.

On that note, when Romans 13 talks about submission to authorities it doesn’t mean blind submission. As Christians, our authority is always the Bible, not the government. If there is ever a law that is unbiblical than we don’t follow that law, we follow the Bible. However, this is idea is only to be used in instances where the law of the land tries to contradict the law of the Lord. We always must side with the law of the Lord over the law of the land.

Lastly, amidst all this political turmoil, we must remember that we have brothers and sisters in Christ on both sides. Americans, you have republican Christians and democratic Christians. Chinese and Japanese must remember that there are Christians in each country. We must remember that the Middle East has Christian brothers and sisters as well.

Often, when political tensions rise we forget that the other side is our family. Remember that all Christians, no matter what country or political stance they take, are our family. Remember that your identity in Christ is more powerful than your race, nationality or political stance. Romans 12:4-5 says “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

So democratic Christians love your republican brothers and sisters and vice versa. Chinese Christians love your Japanese brothers and sisters and vice versa. Middle Eastern Christians love your western brothers and sisters and vice versa. Your dedication to your family in Christ should be stronger than your blood relatives, race and nationality. If it is ever a choice between my country and Christians from somewhere else I will always stand by the side of my Christian brothers and sisters. May we all remember that and not let current political tensions cause us to lose our love for one another.

And while this may not cover all parts of how a Christian should respond politically, it is a few things I try to live by and think can be useful to all of us who proclaim Christ as our Lord. May we not put our hope in a person or ideology but rather keep our hope in Christ alone. May we learn how to properly and respectfully submit to the authorities that God has put in place. And may we remember to love the family of believers even if they stand on the opposite side of an issue, a political team or in a different country. May we Christians influence politics with our love for Jesus rather than letting politics influence us.

Self-Reliance: One Reason you don’t Desire God

Being brought up in a culture like America teaches you many useful tools. One such tool Americans try to instil in their children is the idea of self-reliance. And at face value this seems like a virtuous quality to pass on because it teaches people to give back to others and society rather than take. However, at it’s core, self-reliance starts to erode our relationships and most importantly decreases our desire for God.

And so this week I wanted to unpack how exactly self-reliance tears us away from our souls true desire and leads us into a place where we feel like we don’t need God or where we feel like we are stuck in a pattern of sin. So I want to look at two ways self-reliance plays out in our lives and then discuss what we can do to deal with this epidemic.

First, self-reliance most clearly rears it’s ugly head in our self-righteousness. For the non-Christian this is the idea that because I am a “good” person I have no need for a Savior. Many non-Christians feel like they do not need Jesus to save them because they don’t need saving. Yes they aren’t perfect, but most try to make the good outweigh the bad and thus deem themselves “good” or at least not “evil.” (I like to use the term evil to describe all mankind, not just non-Christians. I feel as though most people would not consider themselves evil even though the Bible tells us otherwise, (Genesis 6:5)).

For the Christian, the self-righteousness disease is also fairly plain to see. While the non-Christian will outright deny their need for God, the Christian does so in a much more subtle manner. Again, the Christian depends on their good works to outweigh their sin but they do so seeking approval from God. So when a Christian has had a good day he feels good about his works and when he has sinned he feels shameful. However, often we feel these emotions not because we have honored or dishonored God, (which are good reasons to feel pride or shame in your accomplishments), but rather because we either earned or lost favor with God. This is exactly how the Pharisees viewed their works: as a means to earn something from God and thus be rewarded. (Matthew 23).

The natural results for the Christian and non-Christian practicing self-righteousness are the same. Acceptance of your own sin, (you start to excuse your own sin because you don’t want to be too hard on yourself if you are your own judge), judgment of others sins, (you become very impatient with others because they don’t match up with the standard of righteousness you have set), and ultimately a lack of desire for God, (if you are self-righteous you either don’t need God because you meet your own standard or despise God because you can’t earn his approval).

Secondly, self-reliance leads to less dependance on others which in turn erodes relationships. Don’t we love movies where the one guy is able to beat an entire group? Don’t we like the idea of a lone wolf who is able to conquer impossible odds? We even had a show called “Lone Ranger!” (I find it funny that even the Lone Ranger had a partner). Our culture, which preaches self-reliance so heavily, has in essence brain washed us into thinking we need to handle our own problems and overcome obstacles by ourselves. We have even started to view others as weak or needy if they ask for help.

This stands in stark contrast to what the Bible has to say. Genesis 2:18 says, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Ecclesiastes 4:8-12 basically laments for those who have no one to work with or help them. Acts 3:32-37 describes the early Church and the importance of them being together. And also Hebrews 10:25 teaches us “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Self-reliance, although useful in a small dose, has taken over the way we think. And now because of it we are left with shallow relationships, unable or unwilling to break our sinful habits and most depressing, lacking a need, desire and thirst for God. So what can we do?

Well first and foremost we need to repent. Frequently repent. So many of us deny having this problem yet wonder why our relationships, desire for God or sinful patterns remain unchanged. The first step in solving a problem is to admit you have one. I encourage us all to DAILY repent of this sin. Jesus was talking about the Pharisees but this same verse can also apply to us who feel no need to repent of our sin of self-reliance. “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:15).

Secondly we need to open up with others. We need to be willing to share our shortcoming with others so that we remain humble. When we only share the good with others we often start to believe only the good we hear. Also, we need to stop using a high standard for others and a low standard for ourselves. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:2 that “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” A good rule of thumb is to view others as Jesus views you, with grace. This helps to remind you that Jesus has been so graceful with you so you can be graceful with others. And rather than that low standard we use for ourselves, (often from comparing ourselves to people who sin more than we do), start comparing yourself with Jesus and you will see just how short you fall from the mark.

Finally, we need to meditate more on grace. I really feel like we don’t spend enough time dwelling on the grace of God. Self-righteousness and works based salvation makes sense to our sin-stained hearts. Grace is heavenly. Thus we have a hard time grasping it and soon fall back into self-reliance. Spend some time this week reading and meditating over God’s grace. Some good verses to check out are 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Ephesians 2:8-9. Take some time to study and pray over these verses so that you can better understand what grace really means.

So I hope we can all forsake self-reliance and self-righteousness in exchange for the amazing grace only offered through the blood of Christ. I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes, (which if you have been reading my blog for a while you probably remember it), from a man named Jim Elliot who lost his life trying to evangelize an unreached tribe in Ecuador. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Atheism: A Logical Means for Greater Self-Indulgence

I don’t really write about atheism, but as I was getting into bed last night I felt urged to say something. I had been looking on Facebook and had seen some people who just a few years before claimed to be Christian but were now quite outspoken on the opposite side. Somewhere, in the past 4 years, these people had decided that atheism, (the belief that there is no God), was right for them.

And as I crawled into bed I pondered why these people had gone the way they had gone. Why had they gone to atheism when Christianity was set right before them? I know that the road is narrow and thus hard to travel, (Matthew 7:13-14), yet it’s still sometimes hard to think why people would change like this.

And while many atheists try to argue for the scientific, (although I believe Christianity is the only belief, including atheism, that makes sense based on the most current scientific findings) or truth, (which I find odd that atheists try to claim there is no objective truth yet make statements that they claim are objectively true), aspect to their belief, I honestly believe there is much more going on philosophically than anything else. And that is what I want to discuss today and the implications for all of us.

And so my bedtime musings led me to this conclusion: Atheism is the most logical means for the greatest amount of self-indulgence. Let me explain what I mean by this and give some implications about this statement.

First, I think it is obvious that people would choose atheism because it removes responsibility. Think about it. If there is no God, we have no one to answer to. If I have no one to answer to, I can do whatever I want! Now many atheists don’t do whatever they want because they wish to live within certain societal constructs and laws. But, it still makes themselves their highest moral standard to which they must live up to. They claim morality, like truth, is subjectively based on an individuals choice rather that some objective standard, (like the Bible for Christians).

The implications of this way of thinking are massive. I can do what I want as long as I stay within the law of the land. Yet, many see this as a means to create a new, better law of the land. These men have names like Hitler, Stalin and Jong-Il just to name a few. The greatest wars, atrocities and mass murders were committed by men who claimed there is no God, not by religious turmoil. When people have no higher power to answer to, they are free to do as they see right, even if that hurts, destroys or murders millions.

Or those who choose to stay within the law still find an outlet for their desire for sin. Extramarital affairs, abortion, drunkenness, lying and divorce are all legal and are now common things for everyday Americans. Sadly some of these have crept into the Church. I will talk about that later, but when you don’t believe in God you have no higher standard than yourself. If you are your own highest standard it’s leads to a devaluation of any sort of responsibility.

Second, atheism creates a “me” centered universe. While Christians see the universe centered around our Lord, atheists are forced to place their focus elsewhere. Some atheists place their universe onto a cause, (which is why there are so many politically outspoken atheists), while others to a vocation, (which is why many atheists fill high positions, because they devote their entire life to their work). Yet, I would argue that most atheists, (based on human nature), devote their lives to their own greatest gain, (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness anyone?). I haven’t heard of many atheists who have had 50-60 years of happy marriage, it’s just not something a “me” centered person would devote their life to.

The implications created by this are also far reaching. We start to devalue human life and treat others needs and wants under our own. Things like abortion, sex/slave trafficking, lying, cheating and anything else you please becomes a reality. And while many atheists have joined the fight for human rights, they do so because of their belief in equality but not in the actual value of life, (otherwise there would be more atheists against abortion). Human rights can’t exist without a God who makes those lives valuable. All of the above things were started by people who have no fear of God.

And so what does this mean for those of us who call Christ our Lord? Well my warning to you is to be cautious not to let cultural thinking transform you. Christians in America are so shaped by our politically correct system that we often let go of objective Bible truth for freedom of choice. And while freedom is an amazing thing (Galatians 5:1), out ultimate pursuit must be after God. We pursue human rights and equality for God’s glory, honor and praise. We pursue the stopping of murdering innocent lives through genocide and abortion for God’s glory, honor and praise. We stop those who traffic humans because of who God is.

Secondly, Christians I hope this will give you hope in engaging the atheists around you. I know sometimes I personally don’t even bother to try and share because I feel like they will only treat me poorly for my heartfelt attempt to share with them. Instead of trying to get in an argument and “win” them by shouting over them, why don’t we try and win them with love? “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21).

Finally, to my Christian brothers and sisters but also to those who call themselves atheist I say the same thing. You do the things mentioned above, (abortion, affairs, lying, cheating), because you are a slave to sin (Romans 6:16-17). Your nature is to sin (Romans 3:23). So even the good you try to do will be tainted with sin, (those who stand for a good cause who do so for their own glory or gain or for equality), because you are forgetting the true reason to do it. Rather, we must choose to be a slave to righteousness which only comes through the blood of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:18).

I want to end with 3 things. First, a quote by avowed atheist Sam Harris. While he is talking about Christians, his thoughts are mine about atheists. “Let me assure you that my intent is not to offend or merely be provocative. I’m simply worried.” Second, a link to a book attacking some of the modern atheist way of thinking. It’s a free download so check it out: http://photo.goodreads.com/documents/1241093826books/1142464.pdf. Third, a prayer. May we all, Christian and atheist alike, learn that there is a God and our ultimate purpose is to honor, serve and know Him. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Opening Our Eyes

So after another two week hiatus I’m back. Vacation is nice, but it also kind of gets me off schedule and undisciplined. Hopefully being back at work and on a regular schedule will help me be more disciplined about this blog and about my own spiritual walk as well. Which leads me to a verse I read today as I was doing my devotions this morning. “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18).

The verse struck me for a few reasons today and hopefully it will strike you as well. The first thing I noticed was the first part of the verse which says “Open my eyes.” Now if you think about it, this is a strange thing to say. The act of opening eyes is a personal one. When I wake up in the morning, my wife does not need to force my eyes open in order for me to see for the day. But rather I manage to it by myself. So I found it interesting that the Psalmist would make a request that his eyes be opened.

And in these three simple words I think we find a profound Biblical truth. The opening of our eyes, (or in this sense, the ability to see and feel as God does, or to understand God and His ways more), is something we cannot hope to do ourselves. This is not something modern ears likes to hear. We have been taught that we can do anything through hard word, dedication, education, teamwork or whatever other value your culture or society has emphasized.

However, the truth of this verse and of the entire Bible is that we are unable to save or help ourselves. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). The opening of our eyes is a passive act. Jesus does the work. This amazing truth, when truly understood, cannot only help you understand Christianity as it is meant to be, but can also help you better understand and overcome sin in your life.

The problem most of us have with our sin, (arrogance, lust, covetousness, jealousy, pride, anger, selfishness, greed, you name it), is that we feel like if we work hard at it and just persevere, we can overcome it on our own. This is not Biblical and not from Jesus. This is modern American culture creeping into the Church yet again. The truth about your sin is that you cannot overcome. You are not good enough or strong enough to be able to. Rather, you need to call out for help to the One who is wholly able to save, cleanse and overcome. Rather that put your chin up or grit your teeth and bare it, why not try to humbly fall down and cry out for help?

Which leads to the second part of the verse mentioned above. The Psalmist describes the Law of God as “wondrous.” Now when many look at the statues and laws God has set forth, “wondrous” is the last thing to come to mind. Harsh, cruel, strict, impossible, unfair, ancient, useless, and boring may be some that more readily come up, but rarely do people describe God’s Law as “wondrous.”

And again, this is because we have stained lenses through which we view God’s perfect law. It is not God’s law that is off, it’s us. God’s law is not out of date or repressive, rather we are rebellious and will look for any claim we can against perfection. However, there can be no claims made against perfection, so we start to manifest them based on our own failings rather than scriptural, perfect truth.

For example, maybe I read Matthew 5:44 which says “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and think to myself, “Self, there is no way you can or should follow this verse. I mean, just think of how badly your enemies have treated you. They are in the wrong, not you. To love and pray for them would be to overlook their offense.”

Now you may not have this exact train of thought, but I can imagine many of you have had something like it. We feel like our circumstance somehow makes us void from the Law of God. We think that if God really knew my situation He would understand my anger. He would be ok with it. Once we have this thought, we have decided we would rather keep our eyes closed with scales and view God’s Law through our lenses rather than try to view our life and situation through the perfect lens of God’s Law.

So my advise to all of us this week is to cry out for help. Stop trying to open your own eyes, but instead humbly throw yourself at the feet of Jesus and ask Him to help. Cry out that He would save you. Cry out that He would heal your wounds. Cry out that He would help you defeat some sin in your life. Then be amazed at how wondrous He truly is and at how wondrous His Law is. Open our eyes Lord Jesus.

Social Club or Meaningful Community?

The word meaningful has lost some of it’s meaningfulness. In this era of quick thrills, bells and whistles, our definition of meaningful can be summed up in whatever makes me feel good now. We say a sermon we just heard was meaningful, yet we completely forget the speakers message a week or so later. A song that was meaningful for me in college is now a mere afterthought. And sadly, the really meaningful people in my life can change every few years.

With this loss of a deep, long sighted meaningfulness, it is no wonder that our Christian communities are the same. Whether it is Church or a small group, we have traded meaningful community for cheap thrills. We go to get “recharged” or “refueled”. Some of us go to be entertained or because we are lonely. Christian community is now an event, not a lifestyle.

Here’s my problem. Social clubs provide a great chance for people to mingle and feel connected, but they rarely transform lives. True Christian community is so special because of its ability to completely transform. This idea is perfectly portrayed in a line from the classic song “Amazing Grace”: “I once was blind but now I see.” The amazing transformation that Jesus offers is actually fleshed out through a deep, meaningful community of believers.

I want to stop here and read Acts 2:42-47. As you read this, consider if there is any type of community other than Christian community that is like this. Also consider if your current Christian community is like this.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Wow. That is what I want to be a part of. Many don’t like Christian community because they accuse it of being stale and religious. But the above passage does not sound stale or religious at all. The early Christians lived out their faith. They weren’t looking for entertainment or for some weekend refueling. They were looking for deep meaningful community. The kind of community that awakens the dead.

Now what should we do in light of such a verse? Well the absolute last thing you should do is go and complain to your Pastor that he is not doing a good job. Or worse yet, leave your Church and start searching for one that clearly does the above. While some of us may need to reconsider what Church or small group we attend, most of us have a better option.

My advise for those of you looking for this type of community is to start right where you are. “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.” (1 Corinthians 7:20). Here Paul is specifically addressing slaves. He encourages them to remain slaves rather than try and free themselves. His point can be taken that the Lord has placed you in a set of certain circumstances in which He has planned for you to make a difference. Yes there are times when the situation isn’t good, the community is unfruitful and we must change. But today I want to focus on how we can help our community right where we are.

There are three quick things I want us to consider in trying to achieve a more meaningful community. The first is service. Just as Jesus pointed out in Mark 10:43-44 “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” Of course, Jesus did this himself by dieing on the cross for us, (Mark 10:45). Leaders of Acts 2 communities are people willing to serve. So leaders, let us serve and in doing so set an example for our people to follow.

Second, we must be generous. Generosity is one of those traits we all think we have yet none of us really do. Giving 10% to Church and some money to charities at Christmas time, but then spending more money on yourself and family than the money you gave is not exactly generous. In the community described in Acts 2, you see that they gave to all “who had need.” We Americans do not like to give or share our possessions because we feel we have earned them and that if others haven’t then they are lazy. This attitude is reeking havoc to generosity and meaningful community in America. Let us remember it’s not our stuff anyways, we are just borrowing it from God for 60-80 years, and thus can share it with others.

Last, we need urgency. The early Church leaders believed Jesus would return any day and thus lived a life of study and evangelism. We don’t expect Jesus to come back anytime soon, so we have grown lazy and complacent. Do you feel an urgency to share the Gospel with those around you? With those around the world? Do you feel an urgency to help someone in desperate need? We don’t live with any urgency because our lives have become too comfortable. I once read a quote by a Christian that said, “Once I get too comfortable somewhere I know it is God telling me it’s time to move somewhere else.” Our communities need urgency in sharing the Gospel and proclaiming the Good News to the Nations.

Again, all three of these things can be done right in the community in which you are. Lead by example. Complaining and accusing only destroys community. Rather, take these things to heart and live them this week. May we stop being satisfied with entertainment and recharging and instead seek after meaningful, committed community. May we be willing to serve, give and do so as if the world were about to end. May we be the community of believers that Christ can call His Bride.