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Archive for the tag “sin”

The Sinner’s Songbook

I love music. Not the music all you people like, but music that speaks to me. Sometimes that will be hymns. Sometimes that will be punk. Sometimes that will be rap. Sometimes that will be swing.

Tonight I was listening to a band that I used to listen to when I was growing up. The band is the Insyder’z. They consider themselves ska-core. Basically punk music with a lot of horns. Their newest album is The Sinner’s Songbook.

Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

As I was listening to the title track, I started to really relate with what they were singing. I got to remembering people I have come in contact with during my short life in ministry. I’d like to share some of those stories here. Please know the names have been changed to protect people.

First, there is Harvey. I met Harvey in 2013 when I led young adults at my former church. Harvey approached me one night afterward and said he was exploring his bisexual side. I didn’t know what to say. I simply asked him to explain to me what he was feeling and why he was feeling that way. We spoke for a very long time that night. Over time, I noticed that he started coming less and less. Eventually he stopped coming altogether.  When I saw him at work a few months later we started talking again. He said that he really loved our conversations but others in the church weren’t accepting him because of his lifestyle. I explained that he, as a person made in God’s image is always accepted, but his lifestyle is not. Even to this day, we talk when I see him at work and he thanks me for being approachable.

Next, there is Cassidy. Another young adult, she has had a troubled life. She has been abused by her “loved ones.” This led to her having a low self-worth and eventually ended up in her making poor life choices. She had an unhealthy addiction to sex and has had several abortions. Immediately I connected her with women in the church that could walk alongside her. She wouldn’t go to church that often because she felt as if the people in the pews were judging her, but she continued to come to young adult group and built great relationships with the women there. As those women moved on in their lives, she eventually dropped off. I haven’t seen her in a long while, even before I changed churches.

The next person is John. I met John as he was mid-divorce and dealing with an addiction to porn. As someone who has been through a divorce and had those same feelings that John had, I started meeting with him along with one other man. The three of us would hold each other accountable. Then John started pulling away and I didn’t chase after him to find out what was going on. Then it happened. I got a call from one of his family members that he isn’t answering his phone and one has seen him. I called the other guy that we were meeting with and he and I searched everywhere from his apartment to his hang outs to his work. That’s where we found John. He was hanging from a tree. Dead.

The last story is Fred. Fred led a great life. He had a wife, 2 kids, 5 acres with a large house and a 6-figure job. Fred spent his whole life focused on a great career so that his family would never have to worry. Unfortunately because of the focus on the career, the marriage ended. Having it all and then losing it brings with it a ton of baggage. Fred has turned his life around, but still struggles with the sins of the past. Sometimes that past creeps into his new marriage. Sometimes his past creeps into his job at the church. Sometimes it leads to Fred withdrawing from people, focusing on tasks rather than relationships. The fear of another broken relationship is sometimes overpowering. His relationship with Christ gives him the strength and ability to bring about change in his life. A lot of that had to do with the people God put in his way. He had people to talk to and to build him up.

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

If you haven’t guessed, that last story is me. The other 3 were people that I have come across in my time in ministry since 2013. There is one thing that is a common thread between all of these people. They all have a strong desire to change their lives. Something else that is common among all these people is that they all cried out to the church to help.

All four of the stories were affected by sin. Every single person was singing from the same Sinner’s Songbook. It didn’t matter if you were homosexual or have had several abortions or was suicidal or had an unhealthy focus on career. The tune might be different for each person, but the lyrics are the same.

“My life was affected by sin. I let the enemy win. I cried out in my distress. Depending on my difficulty, God’s people could do more but usually do less.”

Ok, so I am a terrible songwriter.

But the interesting part of the story is that there is a God who created all these people. All these sinful people. He created us all in His image. We all struggle. We are all afflicted. Any one of us, left alone in our sin, will be separated from God for eternity.

But God….

(any of you who read this blog regularly know that I love that phrase)

Romans 5:8 – But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us

But God….

God can change your trajectory.

I know that for sure because, as I said, I was that fourth story.

The same God has called to each of us in His still, small voice.

But I listened.

I didn’t fear the change that comes with listening to the One True God.

Because of listening, my life has changed course. I was headed to hell with a full tank of gas and I listened to God as He intervened in my life and made a complete U-turn.

My salvation is sure.

My future is bright.

I went from a 6-figure salary and a focus on myself to less than half that salary and filled with joy. Am I always happy? Of course not. But I am assured that the God of all creation has secured a place for me in His Kingdom.

I don’t have to fear when my life is up ended. It just means that I am either being attacked by an enemy who desires to steal my testimony or my God is trying to get my attention back on Him.

Either way, I win.

So I implore you, reader. If you are a Christian, then live like one. Live like you have the God of all creation in your corner. Live like He has nothing but your best interest and His glory at heart. Live like you belong to the family of God.

If you are not a Christian, then I will ask you to sincerely seek the God of all creation. If, at the end of your search you can still tell me you don’t believe, then we can still be friends but not family. If, however, you decide to make the decision to follow Christ, then welcome to the family and please tell me about it.

Your life will never be the same.

You are still a sinner singing from the Sinner’s Songbook, but you are a sinner that is redeemed by the blood of Christ and being sanctified each day.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast

 

Depravity & Delight – A Study in Psalm 36

Did you ever do your morning devotions and wonder why you were crying?

That was me this morning. You see, each morning I take the dog for a walk around the neighborhood. We walk about 2 miles each morning. It is during that time that I try to do my morning devotions and prayer time. My devotion is simply a chapter of the Bible. Lately I have been working through the Psalms.

This morning was Psalm 36.

Have you ever known anyone who was genuinely delighting in God alone?

That is what Psalm 36 is about.

David talks about delighting in the Lord in other places. Psalm 37:4 says:

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of desires in my heart! Keeping the desires of my heart provided could be God’s full-time job!

But Psalm 36 was today’s devotion.

And David begins this chapter in a way that he doesn’t use too often. David identifies himself as “the servant of the Lord.”

Psalm 36 – For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord.

The only other time David uses this explanation is in Psalm 18.

Why did David use that explanation in only those two Psalms? I’m not sure. But delighting in the Lord goes along with being submissive to the Lord.

But this isn’t the only strange thing David does in this Psalm. He starts this chapter by giving an analysis of sin’s effect in our lives.

Psalm 36:1-4 – Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.

I start to question what David really means here. Is David speaking about, as Calvin call them, the “abandoned despisers of God” or is it much more than that? I have a problem thinking that David is simply talking about a select group of people here. I think this is more a treatise on the condition of the human heart.

And this is where conviction came in this morning.

Have you ever had an argument with a friend or a loved one?

My wife and I had a pretty big argument the other night. When you think “big argument” your mind immediately goes to hard questions like addiction or worse.

But no.

We were arguing over something small and insignificant.

Yes, the argument was a little more than that, but at its core, we were arguing over something that means nothing in the grand eternity of life.

Now both of us have valid points in our arguments. And both of us have nothing but the good of the outcome in our minds.

But neither of us were unified with each other in the Spirit of God. We were both unifying around our own agendas and when we have divided passions we get a lot of spent energy rather than positive momentum.

But these four verses hit me hard. I had to text my wife from work this morning to own up to my shortcomings. I can’t speak for my wife, but my own transgression, whether that be pride or anger or even simply divided passion, spoke deep to my own heart as David says here. And, if you look at most Hebrew manuscripts, it actually says “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in my heart.”

My transgression was speaking to me deep in my own wicked heart.

During this argument with my wife I was not fearing God. I had an agenda and I was, literally, hellbent on enforcing it. My own pride and the thoughts that I had was flattering in my own eyes. I was so blinded by pride and arrogance that I couldn’t see my own iniquity.

Because of that, my words to my wife were trouble and not wisdom.

Later that night, I laid in bed and my mind was racing. Satan had a secure grip on my mind by that time and, just as David says in verse 4, I laid in bed and trouble was plotted in my mind. By the end of the night, I fell asleep so angry and I didn’t even reject the evil that was in my mind.

Those first four verses show us what the human heart, divorced from God’s grace, becomes. It is an unfolding of sin. It starts in the heart and it then continues to go into our words and then into our actions.

While there are interpretive differences in some manuscripts, there are some amazingly profound insights into sin and how flattery works in our lives to lead us into sin. This flattery leads us to think that we are justified by God for all of our actions, even those He calls sin.

Man, sin sucks. It is painful to come face to face with our own sin. The Puritan Ralph Venning said, “Consider that no sin against a great God can be strictly a little sin.”

So, in verse 1 our sin deceives us so that we don’t even know we are in sin. By verse 3 we see that our wickedness and deceit is happening toward God and others. Then by the end of verse 3 we see the downward spiral that our sin has placed in us. We abandon the wisdom we once had and we think about the next sin rather than denouncing sin altogether.

This is where I was in my argument with my wife. I was in the depths of depravity in my own pride.

But then, without any transition, David jumps right into the delightfulness of God.

David takes us from depravity to blessings in verses 5 through 9.

Psalm 36:5-9 – Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

The Hebrew word for “steadfast” is hesed. It is usually combined with the word for “faithfulness” to show a covenantal love. In the Septuagint, it is combined with “mercy.” The Hebrew work for “stork” comes from hesed as well because the Israelites noticed how tender and careful the stork was with her young. Combining this with Psalm 104:17, we see a better picture.

Psalm 104:17 – Where the birds build their nests, And the stork, whose home is the fir trees.

Baby birds are ugly. They spend all day crying for food and they aren’t able to support themselves. And yet, the stork shows this loyal love to her young. This is a picture of God’s loyal love to us.

How does David go from sheer depravity to overflowing joy?

Because he realizes that the permanence of the Lord is the beginning of delight.

We are permitted to take refuge in God’s house! How can you not be excited about that!

Not only are we given refuge but we are given our fill of meat and drink. In verse 8 David uses the word “abundance.” That is literally translated as “fatness.” This pictures the best meats that would have been offered to the temple for sacrifice. And then to drink from the river of God’s delights would literally mean to be drunk on God.

To truly appreciate the idea of the “river of your delights,” you need to look at who David is writing to. This is a desert people. A flowing river would mean life. It gives you something to bathe in or water your crops with. The word for “delight” is Eden, which could be a reference to the original Garden.

This is such a different view of the effects of sin before.

Is your concept of God this big? Do you see His faithfulness and love that large? Do you see his provision as abundant and delightful?

If you see God as this big then you can begin to move beyond the wickedness of sin and move into the life and light of Christ.

So David starts off by showing us how sin deceives the sinner by flattering him so that he plans and pursues it rather than hating it. Then David abruptly contrasts the immense delightfulness of God to make us want to seek Him as the source of every blessing.

Then, David ends his Psalm with verses 10-12.

Psalm 36:10-12 – Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart! Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. There the evildoers lie fallen; they are thrust down, unable to rise.

This prayer is for those who know God. Even though we know God and we experience His love and grace and mercy and all the blessings that flow from Him, we need a continuing flow of it from His river of delights.

To go back to the argument with my wife, it is when I stop seeking God that I fall into wickedness. We will never be fully sanctified until we are with Jesus face to face. Until that point we need to constantly be seeking God’s righteousness. We don’t just want to see God for an outward behavior but for an inner heart change.

That is the struggle of the modern day Christian. We sin so we seek God’s righteousness. When we do well enough to act good enough we stop seeking God and therefore we fall back into sin as it flatters us again.

If we stay on that cycle, we find our lives, our relationships, and our thoughts become tainted by the world because we can rely on our own righteousness for only so long. We need to rely solely on Christ to change our hearts and minds.

When you find yourself struggling with something, look inwardly first to determine if you are stuck in sin before you allow sin to flatter you and deceive you.

Are we Really a Hospital?

Luke 4:18 – The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed

If you run in the evangelical circles for any length of time, you have more than likely heard the phrase that the church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints.

I realize that is the goal, but are we truly striving for that?

As I write this I am sitting in a hospital setting as my dad is getting a hernia surgery today. Let me explain my experience.

It snowed today in Pennsylvania. About 5” of snow came down overnight. As we drove to the surgical center, we went by a couple of churches and I noticed that their parking lots were not cleared. When we got the surgical center, not only was the parking lot clear, but the majority of the parking surface was dry, which meant no ice.

As we pulled into the parking lot, the signage was amazing. This place has several doors and they are very well marked with signage throughout the parking lot as to which door to use and how to get there. I know in many churches signage is a huge issue. Many people who lead churches are still thinking old-school. You walk up to the front door and have a one-room schoolhouse mentality. Those days in churches are over. The church today is a multi-venue location that has several KidMin locations, Bible studies running concurrently to the service, and, in some cases, several different entrances to the service venue. If you walk through your church and pretend to be a newcomer, do you know where to go?

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Try bringing someone who has never been to your church before and let them try to navigate it on their own and see what they say. That is how your church looks to the world.

As my dad and I walked into the building we were easily able to figure out where to go as it was all clearly, and cleanly, marked. If we couldn’t figure it out, however, there was an information desk that had a very happy woman with a smile from ear to ear who got up from her desk and walked out to me to ask me if I needed help. And they must have cloned this woman because there was someone just like her on the lower level of the building at the other entrances.

Is that the same in our churches? Can we honestly say that if someone new comes to our church that we are that exuberant to greet them? Do we have someone smiling at the entrance or does the person looked stressed out? Are we simply happy to see newcomers or do we say, “I don’t know who that person is…?”

A side note to entering the building is that, while it was snowing and messy outside, the building had someone there who was putting out wet floor signage and keeping the floors as clean as possible. I don’t expect the main floors to be so clean you can eat off of them when the weather outside is dreadful, but making the effort is important. That same person was going around the building and changing the trash as well as cleaning the windows and sweeping/mopping the floors. A single person who was taking care of a building probably 4-5 times the size of most churches.

Once we got to the check-in area there were smiling people behind the desk ready to take our information. I liken this stage to our KidMin check-in areas. We signed in and my dad’s name went on a screen with a number associated with it that I have access to at all time. I am able to track where my dad is in the surgery and determine when it is time to get ready to go into recovery with him.

What about our churches? When we sign our kids into KidMin, do we even sign them in? I know a lot has changed recently with child safety in churches, but in the past when I would go to different churches when I was on business trips I would go in and see parents just dropping children off at a classroom. No check-in system. No way to track their child.

Even today, many churches minimally give the child and parent a sticker to wear. But what happens if there is problem? It is at this point that most churches and KidMin leaders would say, “But I know which kids are in my class, it rarely changes.”

Right.

So you are creating a system that opposes growth in the ministry.

1 Timothy 1:15 – The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

I know, ouch. That is painful to hear, but any system we create or put in place needs to be scalable to future growth. If we cannot scale a system upward, then it isn’t worth having as to grow would involve a lot more money, time, and energy to install.

As I dropped my dad off after check-in, he did what all children do at KidMin. He said, “I don’t wanna go.” We hugged and he went off with the KidMin, er, I mean the nurse. I was able to track anything happening with my dad either on my phone via an app or on a screen that was in the waiting room.

If there is a problem, the nurses come and get me based on the number they gave us at the beginning.

Now, what about our services?

I am a big believer that if you are going to be in a ministry in the church, whether paid or volunteer, you need to be putting everything you have into that ministry to make it successful. If we go in with a mind set that we are simply going to “do the job and then go home” then you may as well step down from ministry.

Again, ouch. There will be days that we wake up on the wrong side of the bed or there may be a lot going on in a season of our lives that wear us down, but our ministry should never suffer for it.

Just like Paul, I am going to ask you to imitate me. I am in Pennsylvania today, Friday, for my dad’s surgery. Tomorrow afternoon I will be heading back to Maryland for an event at our church Saturday night and then, unless there is a major issue with my dad, in church on Sunday morning.

Galatians 5:14 – For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Yes, I realize I get paid to do that. But I don’t do ministry for the paycheck. I am making less than I usually have in the past 20 years of my life, so the money is not the motivator. I do it with the hope that the event we are doing will motivate our church to even more excellence and that on Sunday I can introduce myself to someone new that never attended our church before. It is about trying to have a heart that God would want.

So what I am going to say about our services will run counter to what many people in our churches believe.

I’ve never been scared to upset an apple cart, or turn over a table in the temple.

When my dad went back to get his hernia operated on, everything about his experience was to make sure the service was focused on him so that he was comfortable enough to be healed and not have any anxiety or fear.

How often are newcomers to our churches fearful?

It is probably more often than you think.

Fear of church comes from various places. They are fearful that church environment will be too different than their normal lives. They are fearful of being judged if they wear the wrong clothing, don’t shave, let an f-word slip, have to step outside to smoke, or something else. They are fearful that they will not be accepted because they aren’t part of the clique.

Philippians 3:7-9 – But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith

How can we alleviate fear in our churches so that we can reach more people in our communities?

We need to look like our communities.

Now this is where purists will maintain that we need to be in the world but not of the world and if we are doing things that make us look like our communities then we are too much of the world.

I disagree.

If your community is used to watching TV, making sure you have a significant video presence on the screens will keep the community members engaged.

If your community is listening to rock music, then why does your worship sound like folk music? If your community is listening to country music, why does your worship sound like rock music?

If your community is military, then why do we not have more events for military families?

If your community is a lot of blue-collar workers, why does the church have a distinct white-collar feel?

If the community has a lot of African-American people in it, why is congregation mostly white? If the community is mostly white, why is the congregation mostly Africa-American?

You see what I am getting at?

If our churches look more like our communities that we serve then we don’t need to jump through hoops to attract them.

The problems come when the people currently in the church don’t want to see change.

But, Fred, that is how we have always done things and we will upset this family over here if we start changing.

I understand that.

And I understand that Jesus left the 99 to go save the one.

We are not Jesus.

Paul became all things to all people so that he might save some.

We are more closely like Paul.

Don’t be scared to change the worship. Don’t be scared to change the demographic. Don’t be scared to change the focus of the church to reach the people in your community.

My church was given the vision by my Senior Pastor to reach at least 10% of the 60,000 in a ten-mile radius of our church. If we stay the same way we are right now, 5 years down the line we will look the exact same as we do today with about the same number of people in our congregation.

How can we get there?

I want to echo something I heard from Thom Rainer a couple weeks ago:

  • Spend 5 hours a week working outside your church. Don’t work from home, but work from a local restaurant or coffee shop.
  • Go to a restaurant in between services on Sunday and look at the people sitting in the restaurant, those are the people that are skipping your, or most likely any, church on Sunday.

We need to become the hospital for sinners that we so emphatically like to claim we are.

Unfortunately we have way too many similarities to a resort that caters only to paying members than a hospital that takes and heals those who can’t heal themselves.

The service aspect is the exact same between a resort and a hospital, the difference, however, is what means the growth or decline of the church.

Galatians 5:13 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Comparing Apples to Oranges

Ah social media.

Through social media I can post a prayer request and within seconds I have my family, extended family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and the random dude that friend requested me at the local convenience store say that they are praying for me.

I can also share photos with everyone. Pictures that show how awesome life is. All the cool places I get to go, all the awesome food I eat or cook, my beautiful wife, the happy kids, and anything else that people will look at and say, “I wish I was him.”

But then I log into Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, LinkedIn, Snapchat and several others and realize that someone else is posting photos of their happy kids, their beautiful wife, their awesome food, and their cool places and, all of a sudden, my life doesn’t seem so “blessed.”

Comparing ourselves is not something that is new since the inception of social media.

Cain compared himself to Abel. Joseph’s brothers compared themselves to him. Even the disciples were not immune to the comparison trap. Jesus even had to put His disciples in their place about it.

John 21:23 – Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

Comparison is a sin plain and simple. It tells God that we are in control and not Him. First, it does this through making us feel better than others which is pride. In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus shares the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector.

Luke 18:9-14 – To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Next, comparison can make us feel worse than others, focusing on ourselves and what we are missing rather than what God has blessed us with.

It is easy even to compare God’s movement in our lives with how He moved in our lives previously. For example, if God blessed you with that promotion you might be thinking He is going to do it again. And why not? You tithe your 10%, you read your Bible regularly, you pray before every meal and bedtime, and you even shared AMEN when you saw that Facebook post. You are the perfect candidate for the promotion.

But then the promotion never comes.

God must not like something in your life since you didn’t get the promotion, right?

But what does God say about this?

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

Satan wants us to believe that we deserve everything in our own timing.

We feel entitled.

If we start to let Satan lead us down the path of discontentment, we find it harder and harder to ever find true contentment.

Remember David, the man after God’s own heart? When he needed to go fight Goliath God provided for him armor. Unfortunately, the armor was too large. Did David stop what he was doing until he could find armor that fit him? No. David trusted God.

If we have trust that God is always looking for our ultimate good, then even when things don’t make a lot of sense, we can take comfort in knowing that God is right there with us, helping us to get to a place of contentment. God wants to see us transformed, not temporarily happy.

What was it that Paul said?

Philippians 4:11 – I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

Paul doesn’t say that we need to be thankful for the circumstances that we are going through. We are to be content. Paul was beaten, put into prison, stoned and even shipwrecked and yet he found contentment. He wasn’t content because of anything he did, but he was content because of everything God is.

So what should we do when we are stuck in the trap of comparing ourselves with others?

Praise God.

Not for what we have that others do not have. That would be acting like the Pharisee in Luke. But Praise God just like David did in the Psalms. Thank God for who HE is, not what we have. Far too often we praise God only when we feel like praising Him.

Praise isn’t a feeling. Praise is a sacrifice.

Rejoice in the Lord, always!

If we choose to rejoice in the Lord, then we won’t have time or desire to rejoice in what is going on with us. Paul was in chains when he told us to rejoice and be content. If anyone could have been comparing his strife with others, it was Paul. But he chose not to. He chose to be content in who Christ is.

The other day my wife, Mimi, and I had a huge argument. Both of us were not fulfilling our roles properly as stated in Ephesians 5 (husbands love your wife and wives respect your husband).

Did I give that moment to God?

Unfortunately, no.

I went upstairs, got on Facebook, and started looking at people I know who had posts about their relationships and how great they are. I started comparing my relationship with theirs and wishing for what they have.

Of course, in the back of my mind I knew that they were no better or worse off than Mimi and I, but that didn’t matter. I was listening to Satan. I was allowing myself to be oppressed by the father of lies.

After about an hour of that I realized that I was caught in sin.

I started praying and asking God to forgive me.

After our devotional, I told my wife and explained that it was a sin and the I wanted to repent of it.

To do so, I decided to do something drastic. Many of you know that I love social media. I love being on Facebook and Instagram.

I decided to deactivate both of my accounts.

I am not sure for how long they will be deactivated. The last time I did this it lasted 3 years. But for the time being, don’t look for me on Facebook or Instagram. I am going to take this time to get my heart focused more on Christ and being content in what He has provided me.

And I suggest that to many people who are on social media. Fasting from it is a good start. You could fast from social media for any length of time. Or, if you are someone that may want to come back to social media one day like myself, you can deactivate your account. The accounts are there for you to reactivate (log in with your user name and password), but you aren’t being active on them and it is more difficult to get into them. Or, if you are deciding to go cold turkey, you can delete your accounts. When you do that, however, you lose all access to anything you posted before, all media, and your user name.

So take your choice.

And maybe, in a few years, I will say to follow me back on Facebook or Instagram.

*Disclaimer* My Twitter and LinkedIn are still active for work use, so I am still on those.

I Can Stay Silent No Longer

I am not one who looks to judge the world. That is not my place. That is God’s place. I am to judge good and evil and decide whether myself, as a Christian, should accept it into my life, my family’s life, and my church’s life.

Romans 12:2 is the Christian’s lead in this, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed to the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect.”

If you are reading this and do not know Christ, I am not going to be one to tell you how to live. It will fall on deaf ears. Here are a couple Bible verses that prove my point:

Proverbs 18:2 – A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, only in expressing his own opinion.

Psalm 14:1 – The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Proverbs 23:9 – Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.

If you are reading this and do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, then I will ask that you stop reading now until you know the saving grace of Christ Jesus. This post is for Christians. If you don’t know Him personally then you will project your views on my words, which will color them in a different way than I would like them perceived.

I write this post from someone who is faithfully and dearly in love with Christ.

So, Christian, who are you voting for in the election?

Loaded question, most certainly.

There is one thing I have heard over and over and over again from people calling themselves Christians who are going to vote for either Hilary or Trump. I hear Christians say, “Well, he/she is the lesser of two evils.”

Many other writers have written much better posts about how the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil, but I am going to share yet another, from my viewpoint. But let me start with some proofs from the Bible.

  • 2 Corinthians 6:14
    1. Do not bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?
  • 1 Corinthians 10:21
    1. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
  • Proverbs 22:8
    1. He who sows iniquity will reap vanity, and the rod of his fury will perish.
  • Proverbs 1:29-31
    1. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord. “They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof. So the shall eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices.”
  • The ENTIRE book of Habakkuk

And then there is this:

“When God wants to judge a nation, He gives them wicked rulers.” – John Calvin

Christian, I am pleading with you, DO NOT vote based on the lesser of two evils mentality. You will still be choosing evil, thus heaping the coals of sin upon your own head!

1 Thessalonians 5:22 tells us, as Christians, to “abstain from every form of evil.” This includes the lesser of two evils.

Finally, choosing a lesser of two evils shows the world that you are willing to compromise your own beliefs in order to get what you want. What kind of testimony do you think that gives Christ?

I will leave you with one final Bible verse:

James 4:17 – So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

 

Know Why This Week is Important in History?

John 13:34 – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:  just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.

Today, as I write this, the United Supreme Court has made two rulings that affect the rules of marriage in America.  The first is that married same-sex couples are now entitled to federal benefits.  The second is that they declined to decide on a case from California that effectively now allows same-sex marriages there.

Both of these rulings are historically significant because the first allows currently married couples to have the same benefit as heterosexual married couples while the second allows for Californians to engage in same-sex marriage.  This means that 30% of America lives in an area that allows same-sex marriage.

Now, let me stop right here.  I want you to know my stance on same-sex marriage and homosexuality as a whole, but, even if I really tick off my homosexual friends by my views, I want you to read to the end, because this blog post is less an argument against homosexuality and more a teaching experience for Christians.

Leviticus 18:22 – Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman.  It is a detestable act.

I believe the Biblical viewpoint that homosexuality is a sin.  Our bodies belong to God, not us.  Just as the potter makes His clay pots and determines what they should become, God has created us for a singular purpose, worship.  Our bodies are part of that worship.  We should be following what He desires for our bodies and our lives.

But we are human.

All of humanity fell when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit from the tree of knowledge.  At that point, humanity…ALL OF HUMANITY…decided from that point forward to follow our own choices rather than the simplicity of worshiping God.

So we as humans became “tolerant” of wrong.  That “tolerance” led to intolerance of absolute morality.  What is sad, is that those who are “tolerant” are just intolerant to other groups such as Christians who believe in absolute morality.

Now, Christian, I want you to understand this.  Christianity is to be tolerant of people but intolerant of sin.    But, you may ask, how can they go hand in hand?

Let’s look first at how Jesus interacted with the woman at the well in John 4 and then come up with some great applications that we can practice to show people that we believe homosexuality is a sin and sin is a bad thing BUT that Jesus is the answer to all sin.

Finally, I will come up with some practical applications for those gripped by homosexual sin so that they can live a life that honors God.

The Story of the Woman at the Well

I’ll paraphrase this story for you as I am sure you don’t want me re-printing entire chapters of the Bible in here.  Basically, Jesus we to a town in Samaria called Sychar.  He got tired and sat down by a well as a woman approached.  Jesus, who was alone, asked the woman for a drink of water.  Culturally, Samaritans and Jews did not like each other that much.  They had some differing beliefs and culturally kept apart.  It was at that time Jesus explained who He was to the woman and He explained that while she had water to prevent thirst, He could offer her living water, that which heals the soul.  He then explained to her some of her past, about having had 5 husbands and that she was living in sin with a man who is not her husband.  At that time, she called Him a prophet and while He did not deny His prophetic act, He turned the conversation around to God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit.  From there, the woman went and told other Samaritans that Jesus is the Messiah and they came out and believed.

That was a very quick paraphrase of the Bible story.  But I want to get a couple of points across of what Jesus did and turn it into a practical application for us as Christians today.

1)      Jesus approached the woman by breaking the ice with her.  He simply asked her for a drink.  He already knew her past.  He could have judged her and condemned her to hell, but He simply spoke to her as a friend.

We as Christians have the power in our words to either turn people on to Christ or turn them off.  If we take a hardcore stance to only make sure that the absolute moral view is heard, then you have made the scenario already about the view, not God and not loving the other person.  If we simply blast away our viewpoint to the other person (regardless of whether we are right or wrong) then the person will immediately turn off to listening to us.

2)      Once Jesus had made sure she was listening to Him, He explained that He had an amazing gift for her, living water.

The gift of Christ to someone who is living in sin is a beautiful gift.  He exemplified the life that He was offering her.  Once we have made contact with people, Christian, we are to simply show them Jesus and what He has to offer.  If we live a life of true love and show it in our daily walk, then simply asking someone if they want to have that same joy, that same peace about life, is natural.  This is not beating them over the head with “you must convert.”  It is simply saying to the person, “How would you like to hear my testimony of how I came to be here.”

3)      Jesus was brutally honest with her.  He knew her circumstance.

He knew how she lived.  He knew the sin in her life.  Jesus asked her to explain her own circumstance and He listened for her to tell the truth.  Once He realized that, He knew she was someone whose heart was ready for the Truth.  This is the part where most Christians get it wrong.  We immediately get into an apologetic debate when we simply need to understand where the person is coming from.  After we understand that, then we can have a heartfelt conversation with them about God the Father and turn the conversation to God.  So, for example, if the person is gay, we don’t launch in with Leviticus or 1 Kings from the Bible.  We ask them for more details so we can understand where they are coming from.  Jesus is able to see everything about us at all times.  We don’t all have that ability.  So opening a quiet, straightforward discussion with the person about who they are is imperative.  Then we can share a little about where we are and why.

4)      Jesus turned the conversation back to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

He did not tell her to turn away from her ways.  That will come in time.  He simply introduced her to God and to the Holy Spirit.  And that is all we need to do, we are not out to turn people away from being gay, we are out to turn people toward Christ.  It is not about us healing a person’s soul, it is about God healing the person’s soul.  Externally we can do nothing to change who a person is but internally God can change who a person is.

So to break it down:

1)      Break the ice

2)      Explain your testimony and the gift of Christ

3)      Be brutally honest about both where you were and where they are

4)      Turn the conversation to the Trinity.  Let the Holy Spirit do the work of changing the person’s soul

A.W. Tozer puts it best when he said in his book, The Crucified Life, as he explained the impact of Acts 2:41.  Peter had just finished preaching simply the Good News of Christ risen and afterward the people asked “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) and Peter told them to repent and believe and be baptized and on that day over 3,000 came to know Christ.  Tozer puts it this way, “Facts and reason cannot have such an effect. I could argue with a man, I could reason with him, I could preach to him, and if I were capable of doing so with the oratory of Cicero or Demosthenes, when it was all over I could only convince his mind.”

OUR CONSCIENCE IS AWAKENED BY THE PRESENCE OF JESUS CHRIST HAVING COME OUT OF THE GRAVE!

Now, if you are reading this and a consumed with homosexual sin and realize it is time for a change, then I want to come up with some practical applications to get your life off sin and get it turned toward God.

1)      Call out to Christ and ask Him to be your Lord and Savior.

John 3:16-18 –Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish…[and whosoever] believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

This life that we live here is flawed.  But we can rise to Christian perfection.  Not many push through to Christian perfection, but we can live a life that encompasses that.  The old Chinese proverb says that the journey of thousand miles begins with a single step.  That first step is to call out to God.  Ask Christ into your heart.  When you ask Christ to be your Savior, He begins to change you from the inside out.

2)      Get baptized.

Once your take that single step of asking Christ into your heart, the next logical step is to get baptized.  This is the physical symbol of that which the Holy Spirit has already done inside of you.  Baptism is symbolic of the washing away of the old man.  You go under the water, sinful and go under the water and rise up out of it washed of sin and alive again.  The close symbolism to Christ’s experience in crucifixion and resurrection is striking.  He got nailed to the cross bearing the sin of all humanity, went into the grave and rose up out of, blameless as before and holding the power to take away our sin.

3)      Change.

I know this seems like Fred is speaking in very simplistic form, but once Christ has come into your heart you are no longer owned by yourself.  You now wholly belong to God.  Once you give God TRUE control over your life, He will change it from the inside out.  If you were trapped in homosexual sin before, now you will find that homosexual thoughts and actions begin to bother your conscience.  Then, as time goes by, if you continue to stay faithful to Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, you will not even desire to be around or look at anything that reminds you of your past life.  Finally, if you stay faithful until the end, you will find that you will be blessed beyond measure, whether single or in a heterosexual relationship.  The only thing that holds people back in this, including Christians, is the lack of desire to give complete control over to God.  We all have areas in our life as humans that we like to remain in control of.  But God wants complete control.  When we give it to Him, He works in us to affect change and bring about joy and peace in our souls.

4)      Continue on in faith.

As a Christian, you will be tempted.  You will stumble.  And you will have days where your happiness is gone.  But your joy will continue and your heart will be filled with peace knowing that your heart is hidden in Christ.

Homosexuality is choice.  It is NOT a disease, but it is part of the sin disease that permeates throughout the core of humanity.  I may get in trouble with my gay friends when I say it is like a cancer that needs to be removed.  But WE cannot remove it.  All we can do is add something to the lives of all those around, whether straight or gay.  All we can do is add our testimony of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done in our hearts and give that testimony as to why we serve Him and love Him.  After that, we pray and wait on the power of the Holy Spirit.  Love is what will conform this world to a crucified life.  Love is what this world needs.  Not love as the world thinks of love.  Love that can only come from the Creator of the universe, Lord of lords, and King of kings that we are asked to emulate here on earth.  It is that sacrificial love that begins with Christ.  It is THAT love that the world needs.  And, I believe, it is precisely THAT love that the world wants…they just don’t realize it yet.

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