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.

Unknowable Mysteries

We live in a day and age when almost everything that is can be known or found out. For example, if you are curious who won the Super Bowl in 1976, how many countries there are in the world or the distance between earth and mars a quick trip to Google will provide you thousands of answers. We love to be informed.

But we also love to figure out and discover. Many of us love when we get the chance to solve some difficult problem that stumps others. This is also why many of us love the mystery genre of movies these days. I particularly love movies that keep you guessing the entire time. I sit in my seat and continually attempt to analyze and discover who did it and what will happen next. I don’t love the mystery, but rather I love solving the mystery.

The problem is when we take our desire for mystery solving to God. While God does reveal much about Himself to us, (“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13), He still leaves much about Himself shrouded in mystery. He gives us glimpses, (like when he lets Moses see His back but not His face in Exodus 33:20-23), but often doesn’t give us the whole picture.

And while many of us who love to know and be informed cringe at the idea of an unknowable mystery, I believe that this stance by God is good and is overall in the best interests of Him and His creation. So I wanted to share a couple points with you all today about why we should appreciate the mystery surrounding God and why, in some instances, rather than seeking to solve the mystery we need to just appreciate it.

First, because it shows the distinction between us and God. We are all born with a God-complex. We desire to be the god of our own universe. So we seek information and knowledge to have more control over our situation. That way we can pretend like we are actually in control of our life. The Greek mythologies were all about humans overcoming the gods. This was what happened to Job as well. He had some terrible things happen and he decided that he was entitled to some answers. He felt that God owed him an answer because it was his life that God had disrupted.

God answers in Job 38-41, but not how we would like Him to. He doesn’t provide all the answers to the mysteries that have been plaguing Job. Rather, He calls Job out for questioning God. He shows Job that there is a giant chasm between us and God and for us to call into question what He does is complete and utter folly. God is so beyond our comprehension that for us to question Him is basically like a pot questioning the person making it, (Romans 9:20-24). There are some things that remain mystery because God is God and we are not.

Second, mystery is good because it humbles us. We are such prideful and arrogant people. Go to a party and watch how everyone attempts to one up everyone else by showing their knowledge about something. We are constantly learning, (which is a good thing), but then taking our knowledge and instead of using it to bring glory to our King we use it to glorify ourselves. This is why Paul writes that “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).

When we don’t have the answer or can’t explain every situation something happens in our hearts. It causes us to realize that no matter how smart we are we can’t ever possibly know it all. It makes us realize there is and always will be someone smarter and even that smarter person can’t possibly know it all. It forces us to trust in God more because we can’t just trust in ourselves for every answer to the universe and that in turn brings us to praise God and to humble ourselves. Mystery keeps us trusting in Him who alone has all answers rather than in ourselves who only can see a tiny speck of the big picture.

Third, mystery helps us because we couldn’t possibly comprehend if we understood everything. Let me explain that a bit. I talk to many people who say they would believe God if He just showed Himself to them or if He just answered all their questions about every life mystery right now. The problem with that is that our feeble, sinful and finite minds cannot fathom this knowledge. We are so arrogant as to think that God could speak with us and that we would actually debate, argue or question Him in the process. The truth is we would either literally die from just gazing upon Him, (again see Exodus 33:20-23), or we would be so lost in His perfectness we would fall on our knees to shield our eyes, (Isaiah 6:5).

We are not meant to know every mystery because we cannot even began to comprehend the mysteries of God. It is an amazing miracle that He does communicate with us through the Bible, but that doesn’t mean that we can fully understand God. God reveals as much about Himself as we can handle. If you feel God has only revealed a little to you then that is you problem, not a God problem.

Now just because mystery is a good thing doesn’t mean we should not pursue wisdom. God commends Solomon for asking God for wisdom in 1 Kings 3. We are to spend our lives growing and learning so as to better understand God. But, this knowledge will never be complete. We cannot attempt to answer every question because it will always lead to complacency. Complacency because you figure you can’t fully know God so why even try to know Him a little or complacency because you feel you know enough and don’t need to learn anything else about Him.

So I hope that we can all learn to appreciate the mysteries of God and the universe He created more. Yes seek to grow and learn but also understand that there will always be some things you cannot possibly understand. And may that drive you to worship and praise our great God who is so far above and beyond us. May we thank Him for what He has revealed and that we can know Him personally, but may we also appreciate that we don’t worship a God who can be completely understood by us.

Introduction to Moralistic Deism

Moralistic Deism: a term many of us have never heard before. I first heard this term listening to a sermon by Matt Chandler where he introduced it to explain how many professing Christians may actually not be Christians. He uses the term quite frequently and rightly so. And while many of us maybe haven’t seen this term before, it does accurately describe many of our belief system. While many of us claim to be Christian, we are merely Moralistic Deists. So today I thought I would introduce this term to those who have never seen it before.

So what exactly is Moralistic Deism? Well by taking it apart we see that it is focused on morality, (Moralistic), and also focused on the belief in a God, (Deism). So in it’s most base form, Moralistic Deism is a belief in God and the accompanying good words or good morality that follows such a belief. If you are good and you believe in God, this may be you. Sounds a lot like Christianity right?

And this is the extreme danger found in Moralistic Deism. It sounds so close to Christianity that many fall for the false promises it makes. I mean, when we hear about a cult or some other false belief we can easily brush it aside. But Moralistic Deism’s danger lies in its subtle differences. And that is what I want to warn us all about today. Just because you believe in Jesus and are a good person does not make you a Christian. It does make you a Moralistic Deist, but that is not Biblical nor able to save you from sin. There are three primary ways Christianity and Moralistic Deism differ.

But before we look at those, please don’t assume you are Christian and that this Moralistic Deism is talking about your friends or those other people. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Notice he doesn’t say test your neighbor or the other people at Church but rather “test yourselves.” So as we walk through these three differences, I encourage us all to test yourselves.

The first and primary difference between Christianity and Moralistic Deism is Jesus. Moralistic Deism loves Jesus and wants Him to forgive us, but doesn’t really rely or depend on Him for their lives. Being a Christian is not just about knowing facts. James tells us in James 2:19 “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe- and shudder!” Believing that Jesus actually died and rose again is only half the answer. The problem is that this knowledge is often where Moralistic Deists stop.

The second part of having a knowledge about who Jesus is is applying it to your life. The demons know Jesus is God, but do they want to serve, love, honor, glorify and praise Him? Do they call Him Lord? A number of verses, (Romans 10:9-10, 1 Corinthians 12:3, Philippians 2:11, etc..), emphasize confessing Jesus as “Lord.” I once heard a British Pastor talk about how Americans have really lost this idea of Lord because we don’t have anything like a Lord in our culture.

But basically Lord means ruler or king. So when we follow Jesus we not only know that He died and rose but we also confess that He is Lord of the universe and of our own personal lives. Moralistic Deists treat Jesus like a Genie rather than Lord of their lives. Is Jesus Lord of your life? Do you want Him to be in control and be the reason you live? Or do you just want Him to help you in those areas you can’t seem to help yourself?

This leads to the second difference between Christianity and Moralistic Deism and it’s one that has been a struggle for Christians ever since Jesus left the earth. It is this idea of grace vs. works. Paul spends most of the New Testament preaching against works based salvation, yet we still want to save ourselves. I’ll pick one verse, (there are many), where Paul tries to show grace through faith is what it means to be a Christian, not works based salvation. Galatians 2:16 says, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

Christians and Moralistic Deists both strive to be good people. Christians are motivated by love and do good in reaction to the good already done them by Jesus. They do good works naturally out of the goodness of their transformed heart, (Luke 6:43-45), and when they make fleshly errors they run TO Jesus in confession and repentance. Moralistic Deists are motivated our of fear and do good to try and earn God’s favor. They claim to have been forgiven by Jesus but seem to neglect Him by trying to earn what HE has already done for them. When Moralistic Deists make fleshly sins they tend to run FROM or hide from Jesus. They feel ashamed and instead of going to Him who alone can forgive and heal they run and try to fix it or deal with the problem themselves.

Do you do good works because you know Jesus and want to bring glory to His name? Or do you want to earn some kind of cosmic reward? When you mess up do you fall on your knees before Jesus and ask Him to restore and heal you? Or do you stay away from Jesus until you can fix yourself and can come back to Him looking good?

The third difference is where we put our focus and hope. Christians are Christ focused while Moralistic Deists tend to be self-focused. Christians realize Jesus is Lord and that He alone can save us from ourselves. Moralistic Deists like Jesus and find Him useful, but ultimately depend on themselves to save.

An example of this is in prayer. A Christian prays “your kingdom come your will be done” and “not as I will but as You will.” (Matthew 6:10 and 26:39). The heart of a Christian’s prayer is centered on God and His glory. Yes we still ask for “our daily bread” and other needs, but our ultimate focus is on His will. A Moralistic Deist tends to pray only for needs that they can’t do themselves. Miracles, healings or anything else they can’t fix themselves. But if they know the answer or how to solve the problem they rarely go to God, (Numbers 14:39-45).

Do you pray and rely on Jesus to save and forgive? Or are you self-focused and pray only for that which you cannot do for yourself? Do you see your life as a means to bring glory and honor to God? Or do you see your life as a means to bring glory and honor to yourself?

I pray that each of us would examine ourselves this week. I pray we would ask these questions and seek to find whether or not we can truly call ourselves Christians. Many use the word but some use it wrongly. May we not be those who thought we were Christians yet our Lord says He never knew us, (Matthew 25: 31-46). May we not just be Moralistic Deists who do good and believe in Jesus but rather be Christians who do good because they know Jesus is the universe’s and their personal Lord and Savior. May Jesus be our all-in-all and the reason we breathe.

Everything to Everyone

I remember when I was growing up I used to listen to a song called “Everything to Everyone” by Everclear. It’s not a Christian song but it did make me think how we are so prone to do just what the song describes. In the song they use terms like “jump through the hoop” and “play all the right games.” Doesn’t that sound like us and our relationships? And so today I wanted to talk about the right way to be “Everything to Everyone”, (yes there is a right way!) and the wrong and sinful way.

We’ll start with the sinful way because I feel like this is where most of us are. Being “Everything to Everyone” can look different for each of us. Maybe you are a people pleaser. You will do whatever it takes to make those around you happy, even if it isn’t Gospel-centered. Or maybe you’re a yes man. Even if someone is wrong you’ll always say yes or agree to keep them happy.

And what about those chameleons? You are a completely different person depending on what group you are in. I find this one especially prevalent in youth groups and among Christian University students today. You put on your “Christian” colors when at youth group but then change out of those and put on your “jock” colors with the athletes or your “stylish” colors with the beautiful people. We change our appearances in order to please others and be accepted by them.

Even Peter struggled with this. “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14). For those that don’t know, Cephas is Peter in Aramaic.

We all struggle with people pleasing, being a yes man or acting like a chameleon sometimes. But those are only symptoms. The true sin inside of us is much deeper than just these symptoms. They allow us to see what sin we are struggling with but in order to overcome these sins we need to get at the root of them. You can’t just take the top off of a weed and hope it doesn’t come back. You have to dig the root out.

The root causes of trying to be “Everything to Everyone” are numerous. But I believe most, (if not all) boil down to two main roots: fear and vanity. Even these two are closely related and sometimes the line between them can be a bit blurry, but for the sake of our argument let’s say they are different.

Fear tends to cause us to people please because we are terrified that we aren’t good enough to be accepted just as we are. So we act in a way we would never normally act in order to be approved. People who operate out of fear tend to follow the stronger personalities in the group and don’t really want to be alone. Rejection, loneliness and depression are other common symptoms that go along with fear.

The sin here is that you are putting your worth and value in others opinions of you rather than Christ’s. When we seek the approval of man we forget that the only approval that really matters is that of God in Jesus Christ. Paul tells us “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10).

Or some of us people please out of vanity. We already think we are amazing, (I know you’d never say it out loud), and want others to share in our praise of ourselves. We want to make everyone happy so they will in turn make us happy by telling or showing us how great we are. This attitude feeds our ego’s and thus we crave more praise. And while this can also be fear based I put it in it’s own category because I feel like there is a possibility that the motivation for this type of vanity is in vanity itself.

Our world has become consumed with self-love. Many people believe that you can’t truly love others until you love yourself. This idea has snowballed into billions of dollars spent on marketing the idea that we need to love ourselves first. People don’t buy BMW’s because they really love their neighbor. And so we people please and change our colors to feed into our ever increasing desire for self-love. The Bible, however, isn’t very interested in self-love. Read Matthew 22:34-40. Notice self love doesn’t even make the list. So basically in Jesus’ view our love should look like this: 1. God. 2. Every other person on the planet. 3. Last and in this case least, ourselves. Bet you won’t see that in any marketing campaign anytime soon.

So whether it is fear or vanity based, this “Everything to Everyone” approach is sinful and needs to stop. I know that is easier said than done, but I think the answer comes by looking at the Biblical way to be “Everything to Everyone.” In 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 Paul sums up why he tries to be “Everything to Everyone.” “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

And this is how we are set free from our sinful people pleasing. Rather than trying to be “Everything to Everyone” out of fear or self-love we try to be “Everything to Everyone” for “the sake of the Gospel.” This doesn’t mean Paul was a Christian with some people and cursed like a sailor with others. It means that no matter what group of people Paul was with he would treat them and act around them with the goal to “save some.”

Which is where I want to leave you all this week. Stop living in fear that others will reject you if they only knew the real you. Stop loving yourself as much as the world tells you you need to. Rather love God and love others. Be willing to adapt to those you’re around not like a chameleon but rather as a respectful and loving ambassador of Christ. And remember the motivation is always to see God glorified and to see more share in the blessings of the Gospel. May we all be set free to live in such a way this week.

Heroes of the Faith- Hudson Taylor

I recently finished a small autobiography on Hudson Taylor. For those of you who do not know Hudson Taylor I will give a brief introduction. My advise though is to do your own research on this man and his remarkable life.

Taylor was born in England to Christian parents. He became a Christian during his teen years thanks to the fervent prayer of his mother. Over time, Taylor became interested in China. He studied medicine in hopes that he may be able to go to China to bring healing to the Chinese bodies and souls. In 1853 he set sail for his first trip to China. He spent a total of 51 years in China sharing the Gospel. He is also the founder of the China Inland Mission which was responsible for much of the early inland mission work done in China. All during one of China’s most tumultuous times due to constant civil war, corruption and suspicion of foreigners.

And so today I want to give you all three things that struck me as I read about Hudson Taylor. I think his life leaves us an example we can yearn to follow as we attempt to share the Good News with all the nations (Matthew 28:19). Please understand that these words are not only meant for those who feel a call to go overseas to proclaim the Gospel but are also life lessons we can take as we go anywhere to share what Jesus has done.

The first thing that struck me about Taylor’s life was prayer. I was amazed at how much time he would spend in prayer. His answer to almost any crisis was to pray about it first, and then act later based on the Lord’s leading. Also, he would pray most fervently when praying for the salvation of those around him. He would spend much time in prayer which provided him a “peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)

I think we can all improve our prayer lives. We live a time when everything is meant to be quick. Fast food has replaced the family meal, email has replaced the posted letter and Wikipedia has replaced the library. I think we are much more prone to act first and pray second these days. I believe if we would follow the example Mr. Taylor left us to spend deep time in prayer, asking God for guidance before we search our own minds, we would better understand the will of God.

Also, I think we can better learn how to pray. Taylor would pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), but he would also spend time praying for things with eternal significance. He would continually pray for the salvation of those around him, even his enemies. Or he would pray that the work of God may be furthered in some remote area. And always with the understanding that “Yet not my will, but your will be done.” (Mark 14:36). How much time do you spend praying for protection, comfort and ease which only effect this life when you could be praying for changed hearts, open doors and God’s will? May we learn to pray as Hudson Taylor did!

Secondly, Taylor’s faith is a challenge to all us today. He not only prayers but also actually believes God will do it. Or once he has prayed Taylor trusts that the Lord’s will would be done. Two amazing stories come to mind for Taylor’s life. First, before Taylor had even gone to China he became very ill. Doctors believed he would soon die. He spent any of his conscious time in prayer and trusted the Lord. He was able to recover miraculously without many of the medicine and rest that doctors had ordered him. Secondly, with his finances he learned to never ask anyone but rather ask His Heavenly Father who would provide. Anytime he was down to his last penny and it looked as though he may soon starve God would provide him the exact amount he needed at the perfect time.

Compare that faith to our doubt filled lives today. We pray, but then we do everything we can do to solve the problem, not really trusting that God will answer our call. We pray, but we doubt God will or wants to, so instead we do. We are truly “double minded” and “unstable in all our ways.” (James 1:6-8). This is also a reason many of us choose not to go into full time mission work. We can think of too many excuses not to trust God, (it could be dangerous, I don’t have the money, what about my family, etc…). And while there are many good reasons to stay home and share the Gospel there, I challenge you all to consider if you are staying at home to seek those lost around you or because you don’t trust God outside your comfort zone.

Finally, I was amazed at Hudson Taylor’s perseverance. 51 years in China is no small accomplishment especially during the time he was here. Many times he fell ill, or was beaten or had his things stolen yet he continued to try and reach our to the Chinese people. He saw many family members and good friends die, (many of his children and his first and second wife died before he did), yet he continued the work. He could have gone back to England and stayed there any time. Many of his children probably would have lived if he had been closer to better conditions and more adequate healthcare. But Taylor “counted it all as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:8).

We, on the other hand, tend to retreat or run at the first sense of danger or discomfort. Millions are perishing in their sins but we dare not go to them because we fear we may not live with as much comfort and ease as we have at home now. What a sad generation we have become! We may even try to go some place difficult but stay there 1 year at the most. What ever happened to those who would leave all for 51 years to share the Gospel? We have replaced perseverance in missions with many short term trips scattered around our schedule and comfort level.

So I hope you all can be as challenged by the life and work of Hudson Taylor as I am. I encourage you to read more about him yourself. But I hope you won’t just read but you will also act. May we carry on the legacy of this great man of the faith, Hudson Taylor. May we learn to pray without ceasing for the salvation of those around us. May we have faith in God more than our faith in ourselves. May we learn to persevere and choose God’s work over our comfort.

A Cry for Urgency

We all know that our time is ultimately limited. Thus, we prioritize certain activities over others. For example, if I really need to go to the bathroom that takes priority over other things like sleeping or eating. While maybe at other times I am so tired I choose to sleep even though I am hungry. Or perhaps I choose to eat even though I am tired, (I’m a guy so I talk about things close to my heart: eating, sleeping and the bathroom).

My point is that with certain activities we can be quite urgent. But there are many other activities we seem to lack this sense of urgency. We have a “I can do it tomorrow” or “It’s not too important right now” attitude about it. And sadly, this idea has become a big hindrance to our ability to actively and effectively share the Gospel.

I will use myself as a perfect example of this. While I know sharing the Gospel and bringing glory to God is my ultimate purpose and mission, I often can find excuses why I shouldn’t do it. Maybe today I am busy with classes. Or maybe I need to rest because of a busy weekend. I even use language as an excuse of why I can’t share with the hundreds or even thousands of people I pass by each day. I and many of you have lost our sense of urgency. We have found so many other things that require our time that sharing the Gospel is not a life or death thing but rather only for Super Christians and Pastors.

So I am here to call, rather cry out, for urgency amongst the saints who believe in Jesus as Lord. That no matter where you are in your walk with God, we are all on an urgent mission. There are millions of people around us who are in their sins and on their way to hell. We have the cure. We have the key to set them free. Now all we need is the urgency to do it.

Just as Paul tells us in Romans 10:14-15: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Here are a few things that I think will help us become more urgent in our desire to share. First, we need to realize this is an urgent situation. I think we often don’t treat sharing the Gospel as urgent because we believe we can do it later. We don’t seem to understand that life can be taken at any moment. Deep down we understand that death is imminent, but we live as if we and those around us are immortal. Realize that each face you see today is hellbound upon death unless they see and receive Jesus.

Second, we need to realize that we are capable and made for this purpose. I think one reason we don’t have an urgency to share is because we feel that someone more qualified should do it. While many of us know the basics of the faith, we can’t answer all those tough questions a non-believer may have. The problem with this is twofold.

First, you may be the only Christian this person has contact with. Thus, God has made you exactly the person you are in order to share His grace with them. Secondly, it doubts the power of the Holy Spirit. Luke 12:12 tells us: “for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” And while this verse is specifically talking about what to say during persecution, the idea is the same when sharing with non-believers.

Finally, we need to step out of our comfort zone and do it. I think the reason a lot of us lack urgency is because we are so worried about what others may think of us. Maybe you get along with your non-Christian colleagues and so you are scared to share the Gospel with them because it may change or ruin that relationship. Or maybe you are so independent you do your own thing and only share when someone approaches you first or at a Bible study. Or maybe you are just shy. Whatever the excuse may be we need to be willing to lay them down for such an eternal conversation. In Mark 8:33 Jesus calls Peter “Satan” because “… you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

And while I hope these three points will give you more courage and urgency to share the Gospel, I also realize that we must actually practice this in order to change our routine. So I am going to challenge you all, (myself included), this week. I want all of us to try three things. First, share your testimony with someone. Second, share the Gospel with someone. Third, invite someone to Church or a Bible Study. You can do all three to the same person or the three things to three different people.

My goal is that as we start to step out and share the Gospel with urgency we see it isn’t as scary or hard as we thought it would be. That’s why I want us to do all three, not just one of the three. (I think people often just invite others to Church so they don’t have to share. While inviting others to Church is good we are also commanded in Matthew 28:19-20 to “Go” ourselves).

So may we regain the urgency the early Church Fathers and Apostles had. May we realize that there is nothing more important than the Gospel message we have. May we realize that we hold the cure to save millions from eternal punishment. Let us all go this Easter week and share with the perishing the light of hope and life found in Jesus.

We Have a Mission- Part 3

This is the third and final week in the recent series I have been doing. The first week we looked at our Hero, Jesus Christ. We realized our need for Him to save because we can’t save ourselves. Next we looked at our enemy Satan. We recognized that Satan will do anything to stop us in our mission but also that God has equipped us for the work that needs to be done.

And that is where we find ourselves this week. If Jesus is our Hero, and Satan our enemy, what about us? Why are we here, what do we have to do with this cosmic battle and how can we help? Those are the three questions I hope we can try and answer today.

So why are we here? Isn’t that the question we all ask at some point? The purpose of life. The reason we exist. And while philosophers and wise men have argued, speculated and postulated for thousands of years about that question, the Bible makes it very clear. The reason we exist is to make much of God. We were made for God’s glory. Not because he needed us, but because he wanted us. He wanted to create humans in order to share in and make much of his amazing glory. Getting into heaven is not the purpose. Your life is not the purpose. Society, advancement and your country are not the purpose. God and His ultimate glory are.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness” (1 Chronicles 16:29). And in John 8 Jesus shows that God’s ultimate goal is His glory. “Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.” (John 8:50). “Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.” (John 8:54).

The reason we live and the reason God created us was to bring glory to His already glorious Name. And while some of you may think of this as egotism or conceited, if God’s first priority was anything but Himself he could not be God. This is not only our purpose, but in His complete wisdom this is joyful to those who would follow.

So if we are here to bring glory to God, why are we involved in this cosmic battle between Jesus and Satan? Well we touched on this a bit last week, but basically we are Satan’s way of getting back at God. Satan made a play for God’s power and failed. And Satan can’t get to God directly so instead He goes after His creation. Satan sees us as a means. Satan’s attacks aren’t just focused on causing us harm, (in fact, most of Satan’s attacks involve bringing us indulgent, sinful pleasure), but rather at trying to lessen the number of those who glorify God. And sin is Satan’s means. Sinful behavior does not being glory to God. And thus Satan’s mission is to see us sin.

Which is exactly why we need a hero. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus came to foil Satan’s plot. He came to set us free from our bondage to sin so that we could make much of God. Jesus’ purpose for the Cross was secondarily to save us from hell, but primarily to see us bring glory to His Name. Trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior defeats Satan’s attack on us and frees us to pursue our mission of bringing glory to the Name of the Lord.

Which brings us to our final question. How do we actually go about this task? Bringing glory to the God who created the universe seems like an awfully big task, doesn’t it? Well there are three things I want us to consider as we look at the mission ahead of us.

First, that you are chosen for your task not out of necessity or duty, but rather you are chosen out of love and joy. Jesus tells us in Matthew 3:9 and Luke 19:40 that if God needed praise He could raise stones up to do that. If God needed us to complete this mission He could simply raise stones up to do it instead. Rather, God has decided to include us in the greatest mission ever. Makes “Mission Impossible” seem a little lame. He has chosen you to share His glory with the nations. He has given our lives purpose! He does this because of His infinite love and the joy it brings Him, but secondly because of the joy and love it brings to us.

Next, we are told to go and tell others. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20). We aren’t just supposed to sit around and wait for heaven, (which also shows that heaven is not the purpose). Rather we are to go and tell others about the glory of God so that they may too share in the mission and joy with us.

Going can look different for each of us. Some may be called across the world while others to their workplace or family. Regardless, we cannot just sit back as millions live their lives for the wrong purpose. We must go and share the true mission of our existence. And while this may seem tough, remember Jesus’ promise in verse 20 that as we go, He is with us.

Finally, we must also shine. One of my favorite verses is Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” We aren’t meant to live like everyone else. We are meant to live in such a way that we actually shine light into the darkness of the world around us. And the result of this is in verse 16: “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

We have a purpose. In fact, we have the most amazing purpose imaginable. So may we all be willing to go and share this Truth with others. May we be willing to shine so that others can look at us and glorify God. May we realize it is not about us or how good we can be but that our purpose and existence are all meant to bring Glory to God. So may we do just that and Glorify the Name of the Lord who alone is worthy to be praised.

Tis the Season for Change

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. For many of us that means food, family and football. But for others of us it means the last day before the big Christmas season kicks off. I have always wondered why they call it black Friday. Yes it is the biggest shopping day of the year, so maybe for men it is also the darkest/saddest day of the year.
感恩节将至。对于很多人来说意味着食物,家庭和足球。 但是对于其他人来说是圣诞节前的最后一个节日。 我经常疑惑为什么人们称之为黑色星期五。 的确,它是一年中最大的血拼日。很多男士也称之为一年中最黑暗的日子。

But I want to challenge us all this year to make a change. I know it has almost become cliche, but I really feel like we have all lost touch with what the Christmas season is really supposed to be about. “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35). We have all heard the second half of that verse even if we have never opened our Bible, but rarely does the whole idea put forth in this verse make it into our Christmas festivities.
我建议你们挑战自我来次新的转变。我知道这很迂腐,但我还是感觉到我们都渐渐遗忘了圣诞节本应具备的意义。 我凡事给你们做榜样,叫你们知道应当这样劳苦,辅助软弱的人,又当纪念主耶稣的话:施比受更为有益。(使徒行传20:35)

Christmas is a time to remember the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We celebrate because the King has come into the world. And then we follow our King’s example. We serve. We give. We sacrifice. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45). My question to you is, are you really serving, giving or sacrificing?

Here’s what I mean. Did you know that 1% of annual Christmas sales in the US could lead to more than 1 million rescue operations for those trapped in forced labor or the sex slave trade? ( Just a puny 1%. That tells me we are spending a whole lot on things we don’t really need while neglecting some of the most glaring needs of this generation.
这是我们的理解。你知道每年1%圣诞节的销售业绩需要花费1百万美元支付那些大规模的劳动力。只是1%呀。 这告诉我们我们在一些不必要的事情上花费很多,却忽略了这一代最重要的东西。

We do give. Problem is we are busy giving to those who can and will give back to us. I buy a gift for you so that or because you bought a gift for me. We buy each other more stuff that we think we need today but will end up in the trash, the garage or that random junk drawer within five years. Worse yet, we teach the next generation that having more stuff or materialism is what is important. Christmas is not the time to teach materialism, it’s the time to teach the Gospel message through giving and service to those most in need.

So I am proposing something radical because that is exactly what kind of life Jesus calls us to lead. As you are making a Christmas list or sharing with your loved ones what you want, I want you to check out this website: This is a charity I give to and can say they are doing some great work in the world. They have numerous needs and opportunities for you to help.
所以我现在提出一些比较激进的想法因为那才是耶稣想让我们去实现的。当你在计划圣诞行程时候,我希望你能看看这个网页。 这是我奉献的慈善机构,我敢说他们真的为了这个世界做了很多 很好的事情。 他们有很多地方需要你帮助的。

What I am proposing is that you ask others to donate to a need instead of buying you a gift. Now I am not telling to to donate instead of buying gifts for others. You still need to buy your family and friends gifts as they have asked. But maybe instead of asking for an iPhone you could ask that someone receives emergency medical attention. Instead of a new bike, how about a bike for someone who desperately needs one in order to get to work or school. Instead of more PS3 or Xbox games, how about freedom for someone caught in slavery against their will.
我的建议是你可以请求别人捐赠而不是给你买礼物。我的意思不是说叫别人捐赠不叫别人买礼物。如果需要你同样需要为家人朋友买一些东西。但是你可以请求别人捐赠一些紧急的医疗用品而不是Iphone。 相对于一辆新的自行车,那些急需自行车去上班去上学的呢?相对于PS3等游戏机,想想那些为自由而奋斗的困在奴隶?

And this is just one great charity. There are numerous others that have needs that you could help with. I find it interesting that when the economy isn’t good, giving, especially charitable giving decreases. However, I don’t feel like Christmas spending has decreased much. Woe to us if we are a generation that continues to indulge in pleasures while millions are in desperate need. And that goes for me as well. If any of you are looking to get my anything for Christmas, you can find my list here.
这只是其中一个慈善机构。还有很多的机构很多的人需要我们去提供帮助。我发现有时候很有意思,当经济萧条的时候,奉献,特别是慈善奉献会减少。但是,我从来没感觉到圣诞节的支出费用会有多大的减少。 哎,我们还是处于一个沉湎于享乐而很多人却在受苦的年代。如果你们从我这里得到圣诞礼物,你可以看看我的单子。

So may we no longer celebrate Christmas by celebrating the false gods of materialism and pleasure. Rather, may we be willing to give without expecting in return. May we will be willing to sacrifice our comfort for another’s freedom. May we stop following culture’s command for more, and rather follow Jesus’ command to give. Let’s start a new tradition this Christmas season and write a Christmas list full of treasures in heaven on it, (Matthew 6:19-20).
所以我们应该不要继续敬拜物质与享乐的神了。 愿我们大家都能发自内心的不求回报的付出。愿我们都能真心的为了别人的自己牺牲自己的舒适。 愿我们都能停止跟随文化,而去跟随耶稣基督。让我们一起开心新的一切,开始新的圣诞传统,积累天上的财富。 (马太福音6:19-20)。

Do you actually know why you believe what you believe?

This week I wanted to challenge both Christians and non-Christians with this question. I think we often have a belief in something, but we fail to look at where did that belief come from or why we actually believe it. My goal this week is that whatever you believe you will actually take a closer look at it. For Christians, to better understand your faith and to be able to share that faith with others. For non-Christians, to understand that your non-belief is a belief, even if you don’t think it is.

For non-Christians, your lack of faith actually is an even greater faith than Christianity. I find it interesting that non-Christians demand proof for God or say they will believe once they can see Him, yet demand no such proof for their own beliefs. Just as Christians often use the Bible, (in non-Christians eyes), as a type of “get out of jail free” card, so do non-Christians with science. Show me evolution from a single cell organism and I will believe. My only challenge to non-Christians is to judge yourselves and your beliefs by the same measure you judge Christianity. If you demand proof or a sign then give us proof or a sign. Don’t just believe there is no God because your school, your teachers or your parents told you so. If you don’t believe in God then go and figure out why you believe that before you charge Christians with having no ground to stand on.

For Christians, the Bible tells us we need to be ready to give an answer for our faith, or a reason for your hope, (1 Peter 3:15). But many of us Christians, when asked why we believe, either don’t know what to say or make some comment about how the Bible tells me so. The truth is, that is not why you believe. Just because a book, (now I know the Bible is a special book, but stay with me for a moment), tells me to do something doesn’t mean I blindly do it. I have some sort of faith already if I am to believe whatever this book says.

So, why do we believe? I am not going to answer this exhaustively because that would take hours upon hours, but I do want to suggest three things that may help you the next time you are faced with this daunting question. But I want to preface this by saying that really the only reason you believe anything is because God has opened your eyes to the truth. We did not choose God, HE chose us, (John 15:16). These three suggestions of why you have faith all flow from the fact that Christ allowed you to see these things. Without Christ illuminating your heart, you can not see these things, you can not know God, and you can not be saved. It starts and ends with God.

First, we believe from creation. We look around at the vastness of this world and our universe and it tells us there must be something higher than just our little human lives. We look at the detail and intricacy of creation, (our distance from the sun, four seasons each year, the complexity of our cells and DNA), and it tells us there must be something more than random chance. Someone must have created this for it to work so perfectly. Someone must hold all of this in order so that it doesn’t become completely chaotic. Romans 1:19-20 tells us that God has shown Himself to us through HIS creation. It even uses the word “plainly” to show us that when you look around at creation it is clear there is a God.

Second, we believe from experience. The reason people become Christians is not because we have logically shown them their folly and they decide that God is the only logical choice. Usually, people become Christians because they see others changed lives. Someone is healed from a disease, (John 9), or someone transforms from a drug addict into a model citizen. Your testimony of how God showed you HIS light is often the most powerful tool in showing people the Gospel. We are drawn to transformation because we all know something is not right. We have this universal sense of right and wrong, yet many of us choose not to follow it. Why do even non-believers often stay faithful to their spouse? It’s not against the law and it certainly isn’t evolved morality, (look at America, the most “evolved” nation in the world with more divorce and affairs than anywhere else). Rather, God has actually written his law on our hearts, (Jeremiah 31:33). There is a longing for justice and goodness, not because we have evolved into morally good beings, but because God is good and we want to follow Him.

Third, we believe from unfulfilled lives. No matter how hard we try, we never seem to achieve perfection. Either it is our personality that needs tweaks, our job, our relationships or even the weather. We just never get to that place in our lives where we are completely satisfied with everything. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” We are always left feeling unfulfilled because only God is meant to fulfill us. We long for eternity, and our unfulfilled lives on earth show that.

Again, this is only meant to be a brief discussion on why we believe what we believe. You can search online for more in depth reasons and proofs. My purpose today is just to get all of us thinking why we have whatever belief we have. And that by better understanding our faith we may better know and worship God. May we all build our belief on our Rock and Cornerstone Jesus Christ. May we be ready to answer those who would question our faith. And may we show the world that ultimate truth can be found in God alone.

Simple Service

As Christians, we understand the importance of service. If you look at some of the greatest charities all over the world throughout history, many were started and are still run by Christians. During the plague that wiped out one third of Europe, Christians were generally the ones who stayed and tended to the sick, even at risk to their own lives. Paul talks about taking a collection for the poor to help and serve them as well, (Romans 15:26).

Now while many of us may be patting ourselves on the back for all the good these Christian charities have done, I wonder if we have lost sight of what service really is. I am not trying to take anything away from Christian charity and service projects, but I think the example Jesus leaves us is a very simple one, yet not one many of us practice.

Let me give you an example. I feel like most Churches have some kind of homeless ministry. Maybe we will organize an event where we will collect food donations to give to the homeless, or maybe even go volunteer at a soup kitchen with others from our congregation. While many of us jump at those opportunities, we often walk by or pass up homeless people in the midst of our daily lives. It is like if we have not organized some event we are unable to help homeless people.

Or maybe its a short term Mission Trip. You travel to a foreign country to help their poor or sick and you do it with such passion for the Lord. Then you return home and get busy with work and school. The same poor and sick are right there, but now you walk right by them because you are on your way to class or a meeting.

Doesn’t this seem strange to you? Doesn’t it seem like the people we should be more eager to help are those we see on a daily basis and can actually try to develop a relationship with? Shouldn’t we try to alleviate suffering for those down the block as well as for those in a third world country? And that is why I want to challenge us this week to think if our service is really simple enough. While organizing service projects, mission trips and charities are nice, I believe service happens on a daily basis.

Again, we need to look at what Jesus did. Jesus did not organize large events and hold special projects. Jesus just walked around town and served when he saw needs. He saw a blind man, so he healed him, (John 9). He saw hungry people so he fed them, (John 6). He saw sinners, so he forgave them, (John 8). As you read the Gospels you see Jesus serving people in the dailiness of life over and over. Jesus was not just the Christ when there was a big group or when there was some cool short term Mission Trip to go on. He was the Christ day in and day out.

As Christians, I think this is a challenge to us to live our faith daily. To serve those in need around us even when it is not part of some event or Mission Trip. Yes you are busy and are often in a hurry from one thing to the next, but all of us can stop and serve more than we do. For all the bad excuses you could think of not to help someone, there are a million more good reasons why you should, (I won’t share those million reasons but if you really need them post a comment and I will try to at least name 100 or so).

While I do encourage you all to go on short term Mission Trips, be a part of Church service projects, and give to worthy charities, (,,,, just to name a few), I also hope you all can realize that service was meant to be simple. Go out and live it. Stop and give someone some food on your way to work. Buy someone lunch or a snack on your way to class. Give a blanket or some warm clothing when you see someone who looks cold. Share the Good News with someone who looks like they need it. You don’t have to go across the world to do it. You don’t have to wait for a group to do it.

Thank God that He did not wait to form a group or organize a project to save us. Rather, He came down and did it Himself. May we follow our Lord’s example and serve those around us. May we simplify our service and live it daily. May we constantly be looking for needs around us and use the amazing blessings and gifts God has given us to serve those needs. May we serve as Jesus served: simply.