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.

You are Forgiven

I think it is vital that we understand that as a Christian we are forgiven. So many of us get caught up in moralism and trying to be a good person. This is not the Gospel message. Becoming more Christlike through lifelong sanctification is, but moralism and the pursuit of moral perfection is the lie of every other world religion.

As Christians, we do want to become more Christlike in our daily walk, but we also recognize that we fall short time and time again. I am not perfect and often find myself feeling guilt or shame that I am not as good as I think I should be. But the Apostle John’s words in 1 John 1:8-10 shine light into the darkness we often put ourselves in.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10).

So today I want to look how these 3 verses can dramatically shape the life of a Christian and can hopefully bring the non-Christian to a place of repentance and forgiveness.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” ( 1 John 1:8). The first step towards forgiveness is admitting fault. You must realize that you have sin and then admit and confess it to God. Now God already knows what you have done, said or thought, so why the need to confess?

Confession is a humbling act and makes us realize our fragile nature. When we confess that we have done something wrong, (sinned), we are laying down our pride and asking for God’s help. God’s forgiveness can wipe clean any and all evil we have committed. God can forgive our daily moral failures, (the things we shouldn’t do but did and the things we should do but didn’t do).

The problem is most of us “deceive ourselves.” We feel no need to confess wrongdoing to God. We feel that each person is free to make their own moral decisions and that truth is a subjective thing. This attitude only shows that “the truth is not in us.” If you feel you have nothing you need to confess and be forgiven of by God then you sadly do not know the truth. If you are unsure of what you need forgiveness for than pray and ask God that He would show you your sins against Him.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). Second, we see here that when we do confess our sins that God is faithful to forgive. Notice there is no description of the degree of sin. That’s because in God’s eyes all sin is equally evil. God does not say He will forgive a lie but not murder. He doesn’t say He will forgive arrogance but not selfishness. You see that every sin, whether it is something you did, said or thought, will be forgiven.

This massive truth is important to grasp. When I look back at my past I see so much selfishness, arrogance, worldliness and many other sins. I see things I did, said and thought that are wrong and sinful. I see things I didn’t do, say or think that I should have. I see moral mistake after moral mistake. And then this causes guilt and shame because I realize I am not as good as I think I should be.

But, that is what makes the Gospel and this verse in particular so amazing. God has forgiven each of those sins I have committed. I have no need to feel any guilt or shame for my mistakes and moral failings. Now I don’t want this to take away from the seriousness of our sin. The amazing truth is that I am forgiven and cleansed from such a great evil.

“If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10). But again many of us will look back on our lives and not see sin. I often hear people say they don’t regret anything in their past, that each thing that occurred was a new experience and helped their overall growth as a person. What a lie from the devil! I don’t regret hard times or when trial came my way because it did help me grow, but I do regret each and every foolish word or deed I did that dishonored God. How arrogant we must be to try and condone our sin or use it as some platform for moral improvement!

Rather, I hope we can all look back and find things in our lives that we do truly regret. That we know we shouldn’t have done, said or thought. And may we see those things as sin and confess them to God for we know that He will truly forgive us and we can be set free from any guilt or shame we may have.

So Christians, stop acting like you have no sin. Confess your sins to God. And not just the obvious ones. Confess your wrong motives, your selfish ambitions and bad thoughts as well as the more blatant sins you commit. If you don’t know which of the harder to see sins, (jealousy, idolatry, selfishness, pride, doubt, fear), you are struggling with, then ask God to reveal them to you so that you can confess them and be forgiven and cleansed. Daily confess your sins to God and be set free.

Non-Christians, you need to realize that your life is sinful. You are not as good as you pretend to be. Moral truth is not subjective. You have made mistakes and need to be forgiven. Confess your sins to God. Turn to Him who alone can cleanse you and set you free from your sins. Your good deeds will never outweigh your bad. You can never make up for your past wrongs. Rather, you must be forgiven of them and that comes only through the precious blood of Christ. Turn to God, confess and He is faithful to forgive.

May we all realize our need to be forgiven and then go to Jesus, the only place where true forgiveness can be offered. May we stop living with guilt or shame because of our past deeds or because we aren’t as good as we think we should be. May we stop lying to ourselves that we don’t have sin or moral failings. May we stop believing the lie of moral subjectivity and instead believe the truth of Jesus. My hope and prayer is that we would all turn to Jesus and be forgiven.

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.

Kids Wearing Daddies Clothes

I think at some point every kid does it. They sneak into Mom and Dad’s room and try on all of their clothes. Then they run out to show their parents how amazing they look. Mom and Dad take some pictures, post it on Facebook and everyone comments how cute they look. And when a 4-year-old does it it is cute.

Not so cute when someone much older does it. In fact it’s not cute at all, it’s just sad. The truth is, there are many old people playing this game right now. They are wearing “grown-up” clothes but the truth is they are still children. You see, it is not age, marital status, a good job, money or having children that makes you an adult. It’s maturity. I know people younger than I who are definitely grown-up and I know people older than I that are still just big children.

The problem is our culture dictates what we consider to be grown up. So you are 18 or 21 and now, according to the law, you are an adult. Yet, most 18-21-year-old’s don’t really act mature like an adult. Sadly, many of these same kids continue to be kids in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s because they have decided that lifestyle is somehow mature. Beer commercials do a great job of trying to get us to buy into the drink their beer and act like an idiot and you will be a mature, accepted and cool adult.

Again, this is not what maturity is. Maturity is rather a heart condition. It has to do with your relationship to God, not to the world or it’s possessions. And that is why I want to look at three verses today that describe maturity to us so that we can leave behind foolish worldly maturity and seek after true maturity.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11). Now this doesn’t mean you can’t be an adult and still have fun. That is what some cultures do and it is wreaking havoc, (many Asian cultures try to convince people that adults must be serious all the time and the result is very extreme and dangerous ways of expressing themselves through various sinful activities). You can be mature and still fun. Rather, it means giving up immature and foolish sins because you have grown-up.

For example, many high school student’s think it is cool to curse. Saying bad words is the cool thing to do at that age. But that is childish. It is sad when you hear a 40-year-old drop five F-bombs in a sentence and try to sound like he is 15 again. Many high school student’s just want to hook up and find as many girls or boys as they can. Again, this is childish immaturity, but we sadly see many so-called adults who do the same. These people still speak, think and reason like children even though their age has grown.

Rather, we must repent of these follies and leave them behind. We need to grow to desire our Lord more than childish, fleeting pleasures. We must reject what the world tells us to do for acceptance and instead seek after Him who accepts us as we are. So my first challenge is that we would all repent of any childish behavior we are currently doing and instead seek to live a mature life that represents our true growth in Christ.

“I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not ready” (1 Corinthians 3:2). Many kids pretending to be mature have this issue. They don’t take time to study, learn and grow. People graduate from college and are glad they never have to study again. The problem with this attitude is that it stunt’s your growth and you remain a big, immature kid rather than moving on to maturity.

Rather, if we are to mature as Christians but even just as people, we need to feed ourselves with solid food rather than milk. Instead of wasting our times watching TV why don’t we dive into the Bible? Instead of always talking with our friends about money, work and football why don’t we try to speak and discuss about the more weighty, heavenly things?

My challenge is that we could humble ourselves and to become students as we become teachers. That we would redeem our free time with solid food and more life-giving subjects rather than the milk of movies and TV that our culture uses to keep us numb and immature. That we would grow instead of what happened to these people: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” (Hebrews 5:12-13).

“So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:14-15). We need to be more solidly grounded in God. Grounded in God, not yourself! The lie culture tells us about maturity is that we need to become self-sufficient, completely able to take care of and deal with all of our problems ourselves.

The problem is we cannot possibly do what culture demands of us. We can’t take care of ourselves, we can’t be the lone ranger and we most certainly cannot save ourselves from our sin. If we could overcome our sin problems ourselves we wouldn’t need Jesus. But you and I can’t. I guarantee there is at least one sin that no matter how hard you try, it keeps coming back (If you claim there isn’t then I already know which sin it is that you struggle with). You can’t deal with this yourself. You can’t overcome. Not something the media would ever try to make a movie out of. But it is true. Only God can do it.

When we are not standing firm on Jesus or building our life upon Him, (Matthew 7:24-27), we tend to be thrown into confusion, doubt and anxiety a lot easier. We are tricked into believing whatever new doctrine comes out as long as the speaker is able to present it charismatically. Remember there will be many wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15), and thus we need to be mature in our faith so we will not be “tossed to and fro.”

My final challenge to us is that we would put our trust in God, not ourselves. That we would stand firm on Jesus as our Lord and that we would not be so easily deceived by new doctrine that is only lies of culture, (“The Secret” is a great example of lies that can sway those not growing with Christ).

So I hope that we can all grow up. We can stop pretending that we are mature and humble ourselves before God, repent and allow Him to truly help us mature. May we stop living in childish habits but instead grow into a mature life. May we stop living off of the food of infants and grow into mature people who need solid food. And may we not be tricked into the deceptions our culture proclaims to us daily, but instead be solidly founded in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rest Assured

I tend to write about the harsh truths of the Bible more than anything else. I do this because I think our “modern” culture has tried to water down the true Gospel time and time again. I feel like we Christians need to speak out against these false Gospels of prosperity and comfort promised in Churches around the world. We need to share the true Gospel of Christ. This Gospel calls mankind evil, (Matthew 7:11), promises suffering, (John 15:20), says the way is narrow and thus difficult, (Matthew 7:13-14), and encourages us to “take up” an instrument of death and torture in order to follow our Lord, (Luke 9:23).

And it is important to understand our sinful nature and the earthly suffering that comes from following Christ, but sometimes I forget to mention just how amazing a thing it truly is to follow Christ. And I could talk about being forgiven of millions of sins, (1 John 1:9), being allowed into the presence of God in heaven, (John 3:16), or the fact that I didn’t even have to save myself! (Ephesians 2:8-9). But what I want to focus on today is the amazing assurance we have when we trust in Christ and the resulting peace that comes from it.

Lately my life has been insanely busy. Without boring you with all the details, let’s just say that every single part of my life has needed a lot of attention lately. Usually just a few things demand my time, but lately it truly has been everything. I often lay awake at night thinking about some problem that needs fixing, tomorrow’s workload or even my own sin and my unworthiness to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. And so today I want to share with you four promises from the Bible that have helped me get through the busy and stressful times.

I’ll start with Romans 8:38-39 because not only is it an amazing promise to help us deal with anxiety or stress, but I believe it is one of the most amazing promises ever offered in all of the history of mankind. Let the words sink in. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height not depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Wow. Paul is basically saying there is nothing, NOTHING, that can separate us from God. But there is a catch. This only occurs through “Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This brings peace and rest in stressful times because often our own sin and inability is what causes us grief. We get frustrated that we should be a better person than we really are. So we either go into “woe is me” mode where we question our salvation and walk around feeling sad or into “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mode and we try to fix it, overcome it and solve our sin problem ourselves. I’ll help you all out and tell you neither of those work because they completely neglect “in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If you know Jesus you can rest assured that no matter how far you stray, no matter how much you neglect your relationship with God, Jesus will keep working and changing you and pulling you back to Himself. This isn’t a license to sin, (Romans 6), but rather an amazing assurance that brings us rest and bring praise and glory to God.

Which leads to the second thing to do when stressed. Just like we must depend on Christ for our assurance of salvation, we must depend on Christ by crying out to Him with our stresses and needs. In Matthew 7:7-11 Jesus teaches us that when we pray to Him He does answer. Yes the answer isn’t always what we want to hear, but He does answer.

The problem is that we rarely cry out to Jesus. When a problem arises we may ask a few people to pray for us and we ourselves may pray a couple times about it but that’s usually it. Then we figure it’s time we handle the problem ourselves. Very American but not very Christian. We spend too much time facing our problems head on when we should be facing them on our knees in desperation before God. Rather than trying to be your own savior, why not rely on Him who is truly Savior? “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:18).

Third, we need to rely on the Body of Christ. Again, our culture tells us not to bother others with our problems and so we independently fight battles and deal with stresses we were never meant to. Yes we need to handle small problems ourselves otherwise we may become overdependent and act like a child. But if you are dealing with something big, why not go to your Brothers and Sisters for help? I love the description of the early Church in Acts 2:42-47. Christians were made to take care of each other.

So maybe this week I have a problem I don’t know how to solve but my Christian brother does. So he helps me so my load is lightened. Then next week he has a problem and he can come to me with. This way we all share each others burdens. We tend to either be a constant burden giver, (always asking for help but never offering it), or a constant burden receiver, (always offering help but never asking for it). Both are unhealthy so may we learn to mutually give and receive each others burdens.

Last, remember that whatever stress you have it is temporary. Sometimes we see our stress as never-ending so we just dread because we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 teaches us an important lesson. We find ourselves in different seasons all the time. Maybe this is the “work is kicking my butt” season. Or the “have to study every free second” season. Or even the “why did we have kids” season. Regardless of where you are, realize that it is temporary and that you will enter a different season later.

This is also a good reminder for those in a more comfortable season of life right now. That will change. So don’t fall in love with your new found comfort and ease but realize it is a season, praise God for it, and prepare for the next one. Also, realize that whatever season you are in, Jesus has you there for a purpose. Look for the purpose in the season you are in to better understand what Jesus is trying to teach you.

So I hope all of us can find rest in these amazing Biblical promises. May we understand that nothing can separate us from God when we are in Christ. May we realize that Jesus does answer prayer and that we need to rely on Him more. May we rely on the Body of Christ and also help others carry their burdens. And may we realize that all stress is seasonal. I hope we can all find rest this week no matter how stressful our lives seem to be.

Using Our Time for the Eternal Rather than the Earthly

The fact that you are even reading this blog is a miracle. Depending on your reading level, you can probably finish this off in 5-10 minutes. That’s assuming you actually read the whole thing, (I know many won’t even make it to the end before there is something else that snatches their attention away). But even those 5-10 minutes are considered precious in our lives of packed schedules and overcommitments.

And so I thought today I would look at something I think we all struggle with: making time to spend with God. This includes prayer, study, meditation and reflection as well as Church and Bible studies. Many of us assume Church on Sunday is enough spiritual activity for one week. This statement is as foolish as saying we only need food or water once a week.

So first the problem. We are all busy. But honestly, we aren’t as busy as we think we are. How many of us have 10-12 hour work days like those living in third world countries? How many of us are farming from sunup to sundown like our ancestors? And think about all the modern conveniences we have. Things like cars, the internet, microwaves and cell phones make life in the 21st century the fastest it has ever been.

Seems like we should have more time, but for some reason we still don’t. And while I understand our busyness is a partial issue, I don’t think it explains why we struggle to have time for prayer and reflection but work less and live more convenient lives than ever before.

No I think the real problem is our priorities. While Christians profess Jesus is the most important thing in our lives, we rarely act that way. How many of us can speak like David talking about God’s law in Psalm 19:10: “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” Maybe if we looked at our Bible this way we would open it a little more often.

But our priorities have become totally out of whack. And I see this problem presenting itself mainly in two ways. First, we over commit. We have some free time in our daily schedule and we pack it with another activity. And while these activities might be good, (outreach, fellowship, etc..), they often force us to lose time with God because we find our lives are too busy.

Second, we prioritize entertainment, fun and relaxation over time with God. Many of us rush about and try to check everything off our daily to-do lists so we can sit down around 7 or 8 PM for what? The sitcom we can’t miss? A drink with our friends? Checking fantasy football stats online? Once we finally have a free second we spend it on fleeting, earthly passions rather than eternal, heavenly joys.

And so maybe this is you. Maybe you find yourself far from God or drifting away. Maybe you just can’t seem to find time with God. Maybe you wish you could pray or meditate more on His Word, yet the daily pressures of life prevent you. You know I am not just about presenting a problem but also practical solutions! So hopefully these four ideas can help you make time for what truly matters.

First, make it THE top priority. How can we as Christians claim Jesus is Lord of our lives when we only throw Him our leftovers? Where you spend your time and money is where your heart is really focused. I challenge you all to consider this. You have time to eat and sleep each day right? Well why not sacrifice one meal, (we already eat too much anyways so giving up one meal wouldn’t be the worst thing), or give up an hour of sleep to spend time with God in His Word and in prayer? Jesus says in Matthew 4:4 “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Second, make a schedule. You plan when you will go to the gym, so why not plan your quiet time with God? We seem to think it’s nonspiritual to have a planned time with God, but this is far from the truth. If you find that your daily schedule is packed already, then mark out an hour or so each day that is just for you and the Lord. If you don’t plan it there’s a good chance you’ll rationalize why you didn’t have time to pray or study today.

Third, understand that saying no is acceptable and good. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:37 “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything else more than this comes from evil.” Notice Jesus didn’t say your no needed to be yes. It is good to say no sometimes. One reason we lack time with God is because we value time with others more than our Heavenly Father. Rather, be willing to say no to someone so that you have time to spend with God each day.

Finally, make sure your quiet time is actually quiet. Many people try to do their prayer or study while they are doing something else. Your commute to work is a great time for prayer, but shouldn’t be the only time you pray. Reading the Bible in a noisy cafeteria is a great way to spend lunch, but it shouldn’t be the only time you open the Bible. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still, and know that I am God.” Notice the command to be still first. Also, Jesus would frequently go to “desolate places to pray.” (Mark 1:35, 6:31, Luke 6:12-13). And in Matthew 6:6 we are told to “go into your room and shut the door,” when we pray.

God knows we get distracted easily so He commands us to seek Him in a quiet place. Also, I think this a great time for us to meditate and reflect on God. I know the word meditation has some bad connotations because of other religions, but it is a good word. When is the last time you just dwelt on the eternal nature of the trinity? Or that God spoke and creation happened? Or even consider the amazing grace a perfect God would extend to sinful humans through his Son? (2 Corinthians 5:21). Spend time in prayer, study and meditation this week, but make it a quiet place.

Hopefully these are words of encouragement for those who seem overburdened with life and seem to have no time for God. I hope we can all learn what is really most important and that our actions will reflect that this week. May we see that the problem lies with us, not our busyness. May we make God and time with Him our top priority. May we be willing to schedule time with God and say no to others in order to keep our appointment with Him. And may we pray, study and meditate daily in a quiet place so that we can completely focus on Jesus. Let us reclaim our schedule’s and our lives for the glory of God!

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.