Category Archives: Christian living

When Our Testimony Goes Awry

FallingFromGraceEverybody loves sharing their conversion story, also known as their testimony. This is the story about how bad you once were before you became a Christian. Every Christian has their story and I have mine too. These are usually great stories about how people were enslaved in drugs, alcohol, gangs, crimes, or a life filled with endless greed never  quenched. Then there is this “aha” moment were God taps them on their shoulder or hits them square in the face and realize Jesus is the answer to all of these former problems. Then we share how God changed our lives and we are not the people we once were, rather we are changed from the inside out. Our desires change, and we are no longer bound to that sin that held us captive. While these stories are true and encouraging to hear, what happens when we fall back into the sin we were first guilty of?

When it comes to our testimony we love to share how bad we once were, but then we become quiet as a mouse when we fall back into sin, and we usually try to cover it up so no one finds out. It sounds great when people say I used to be hooked on drugs before I gave myself to the Lord. For some reason though if you attend church and are a Christian and get back into drugs it seems shameful and we hide it. For men in the church, there are many who are addicted to pornography that will never admit it because God forbid anyone find out they are not perfect. This is where  hypocrisy creeps into the church when we pretend we are perfect when we are far from it.

We have legalistic tendencies that we continue to nurture. We don’t have a hard time understanding that we are saved by grace and not by works, but once we accept that we think we need to be perfect. We know that we are not able to cleanse ourselves of all of our past mistakes. We therefore come to Christ for forgiveness of our past sins, but then act as though we need to take it from there. We try hard to be a better person, we go to church, read our bibles, pray, and put on our smiley faces saying we have it all under control. Then we fail, we fall back into an addiction, stop reading the bible everyday, miss a couple of Sunday sermons and start drinking a little here a little there. We then feel like failures, like we let God down and we are no longer good Christians. Forgetting that we were never “good” to begin with.

We needed to be saved by grace,because we can’t atone for our own sins and we can’t live a perfect life by our own means. Not only is our past sins forgiven, but  our future ones also. We need to stop pretending that we are perfect, and that we got things under control, because we don’t. We need to bring our sins, past and current to the forefront, in the right situations of course so 1) others know that it is normal not to be perfect even if your saved. 2) To encourage and pray for one another 3) To keep us from being judgmental and hypocritical, and 4) to remind us not to “try to be better” rather to daily crucify the old self and carry our cross.

We need to create environments within the church so that people can open up about struggles they are going through without feeling looked down upon or feel like a lesser Christian. We need to stop feeling like we need to be perfect, rather we need to remember we are sinners that are saved by God’s grace and not our perfectness or good deeds.

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In The Know

studyI want to be, and enjoy being an answer man. I am inquisitive by nature and like to know how things work and why things are the way they are. I also like to know the answers to questions so I spend time researching things in my area of knowledge. If I don’t know an answer to something, I will go and find out so I will have the answer for next time. My motives for this can go in many different directions and that will be for another time. For this post however I just want to point out the fact that I seek knowledge.

A Cliché that brought me to an epiphany

A friend of mine recently wrote a blog the other day discussing a cliché in the Church. He went on to tell of its uselessness and even its possible falsehood. His post was on the Saying “No God No Peace Know God Know Peace”. At first I agreed with a lot of what he was saying. It wasn’t until the next day that a light bulb went off in my head. Do I know God I asked myself?. A little background on myself. I read the bible approximately 30-60 min a day. I take notes on what I learned. I go to church 2 times a week with pen and notepad in hand. I read extra-biblical books on knowing scripture and on the whys and hows of the Christian faith. I spend time listening to podcasts of those who defend the faith, and I can do a decent job of explaining the evidence of what I believe and why I believe it. My mantra was learned from the verse 1Pet 3:15 “ but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”

Oh, We need to know Him Light bulb

On the surface many, including myself would say I know God. However, the one thing that separates the Christian faith from other religions. is that Christians are not bent (or shouldn’t be bent) on following a set of rules. The Christian faith is based on having a personal relationship with its creator, Jesus Christ. In His own words He says  “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15. Here Jesus is saying that we should know Him the same way He knows the father. Hmmm, maybe I know more about Him than actually know Him.

It Is About Relationship

I realized I have been spending too much time learning about Him and becoming His answer man instead of knowing Him. In the same way we are to know our spouses, our children, our friends we need to know our savior. We don’t read books on what our kids do and want. We don’t reference the internet to inquire what our wives or husbands would like for dinner, no of course not. We spend time with them learning what they like, watching what they do and we build a relationship with them that hopefully lasts a life time. This is how we should be spending time with Jesus. I realized I had my priorities a little confused, I would spend 85%-90% of my morning devotions reading the bible and 10%-15% of my time in prayer. I should probably reverse that. On top of that my reading was usually for information and knowledge rather  bettering my understanding of the one who gave his life for me so that I may have eternal life.

Jesus requires that we know him and not just know about Him. He goes on to say in John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”  and in John 10:27-28 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand”

So let us not lose sight as I have, that we are not to know about Christ, rather to know Him personally, intimately so we will know His voice. Let us abide in Him and Him in us so that we can know His will for us and “Know Peace, because we Know God”

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Just Have Faith

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Today While at Church the Pastor on a few occasions said, we just need to have faith, and we just need to believe. I have heard these remarks many times before, but it struck me differently today. How many times have you heard people say when going through a difficult time “Just have faith”? I would guess probably many times, but what exactly does that mean and is it that easy to obtain such a faith that it can bring you out of the lowest of lows and during moments of seemingly unceasing pain.

I think we throw around these phrases a little to glibly.  I have gone through times when it feels like God isn’t  there at all, and if He is He sure isn’t listening. Times of prayer that go on seemingly unanswered and times when life doesn’t make much sense. I also have friends that have hit rock bottom and don’t know where to turn to next to get relief from the hardships of life. I know I don’t want to  hear, and they probably don’t want to hear “Just have faith” and things will get better.

The word “Just” makes it seem like it is something easy to obtain. It’s like telling someone who wants to climb Mt Everest, Just go climb it. This dismisses the amount of training involved, the expenses to do it, the time off to do it and having a team of experts to help you along the way. I think faith is similar to this. It takes time to understand who and what you are putting your faith in. It takes time to learn that God is faithful to us and that we can trust Him. But this takes time like in any relationship. It takes time to build trust before you put your faith in that person. So too in putting faith and trust in God in order to believe in Him and in His word.

Let us not then loosely say” just have faith”, and “just believe”. Let’s replace it with learn how to trust in God. Spend time in the bible to learn of His character and how others who did put their faith in Him even during the hardest of times that God was faithful to them and he too will be faithful to you. It is hard to have faith in the unseen, So I tell you not to just have faith, rather fight for it, seek it, pray for it.

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The Story is Not About You

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I was watching a show with my kids the other day, and there was a part of the story where this girl was chasing after some boy she previously broke up with.  Things however were not turning out the way she was hoping it would. This dilemma caused the girl much sadness and angst, and was thinking about ways to get the boy back .This is when her good friend stepped in and said, “I don’t think you are the main character in the story anymore”. This got me thinking about how we all think we are the main part of some story.

We might have different stories that we want to be the main character in, but if we are honest with ourselves we will discover this to be true. For me I have a desire to be liked, and even more than that is the desire to be needed. I find that I have a propensity to do things to get positive reactions from as many people as I can. I am not always conscious that I am doing this, but when I step back I can see how my actions are based on the approval of others. Why do I do this? Usually because I want people to talk about me and make the story about me. Again this is not in the forefront of my mind, but when I check my motives I realize I will do things with the hopes of getting people to like me. More than this is the my desire to feel needed. Who doesn’t want to be the hero in someone’s life. I find I gravitate to people who are going through a difficult time and I want to comfort them. Now that being said I do genuinely want to help people and comfort them. I do however need to check my motives and make sure I am not just trying to be someone’s savior. Last time I checked that job is already taken.

These are some of my ways that I try to be the main character of the story, but what are yours? I was once told an analogy about this as being a bottomless cup. We all want to fill the cup with something that makes us feel complete or the main character of the story. For me as mentioned is the feeling of being liked or needed. For you maybe it is success, or position that makes you the main character of the story. Or maybe it is looks, you want to be the head turner when you walk into the room. Whatever it is we all have something that wants us to be noticed, liked, needed, or the feeling of having power. Unfortunately the cup being bottomless will never be filled with the satisfaction you are filling it with. The desires we are trying to fulfill will never be quenched. Unless that is if you change your cup.

The day after hearing this cup analogy, I came across this passage. The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot…Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. Ps. 16:5,9  What we need to do is break that bottomless cup of ego, of self-centeredness and replace it with the Lord. Not only is he the cup, but he is  also the substance that fills it. This concludes with us finally being satisfied and our whole being will rejoice. Instead of self-focused, self-centered living that never satisfies, allow the Lord to be the main character in the story.

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Bow Down to Loki or Die

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We are all worshippers, whether you now it or not or even believe it, we are all made to worship. The question is, what do you worship? It may not be a deity you worship, it may be money, comfort, drugs, your self, exercise, food, alcohol, your spouse, or someone you wish were your spouse, and the list could go on and on, but I am sure you get the point. When you close your eyes and think of that thing that you want the most, the thing that takes up most of your thoughts, your time, your resources. This is the thing in which you worship. A lot of times we don’t think about what we worship or take the time to make a conscious effort on what or who we want to worship. This could lead us to worship the wrong God, person or thing.

In the movie “The Avengers” the antagonist, Loki, decides he wants to destroy the earth, but along the way he wants power and there is a scene where he is in the middle of the street and exploiting his power he forces everyone on the street to bow down to him or face a certain demise. So of course this caught everyone off guard and filled with fear they all bowed. That is except one man, he decided at that moment he was not going to bow to any man even though this would certainly lead to his death. As Loki noticed this act of rebellion he lifted up his weapon (a really cool staff) to strike him, but in the nick of time Captain America jumped in between this man and Loki and saved this man’s life.

This reminds me of a story in the Bible of a King who erected a huge golden image of himself measuring some 90 feet tall. He ordered musicians to play, and every time they did, everyone was ordered to bow down to it immediately or be put to death. Now this king didn’t have a cool staff like Loki did, but he did have a huge fiery furnace. He ordered anyone who did not bow to be thrown in. So as the musicians played, plagued with fear all bowed just like in the movie. Except in this story there were three people who did not bow. The twist here is that the making of the gold image took months upon months to build, so  these three men had time to ponder their decision. I would bet they talked it out ahead of time and all decided they would not bow. You see they all believed in the One true God. They would never bow to another even if it meant being thrown into a fire. Do you have that same conviction over what or who you worship? Now these three people did not have a Captain America to save them, but they did have something better. When discovered they would not bow the king turned the temperature up to 7 times the heat and had them thrown in for their disobedience. Let us see how this played out. We will pick up the story in the book of Daniel 3:23-28 “ And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
Dan 3:24  Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”
Dan 3:25  He answered and said, “
But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
Dan 3:26  Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.
Dan 3:27  And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.
Dan 3:28  Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies
rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.” These three had their own version Capt. America but instead of a movie of fictional characters, these were three people in history with a real king and a real fire facing real death.

These three men knew who they worshipped, they took time to weigh the cost of who was worthy of worship. They were not swayed by fear, emotion, or comfort. They didn’t wait until the last minute to decide what it is the believed was worthy of giving up everything for. How about you? will you bow to fear, to money, to easy living, drugs, fitness or your spouse? Will you continue to keep your head buried in the sand and not realize even what it is or who you do worship. I plead to you, put down the remote, put down that drink, put that merchandise back on the shelf,it does not save, and look to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Look to the one who gave up His life so you could live, for He is worthy of your worship.

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T.V or not T.V. That is the Question

tv-watchingI have recently been focused on living my life with greater intention, resulting in taking most of my T.V. watching out of my daily routine. It is quite easy to become a non T.V. watching snob by the way. With quick retorts of “I don’t watch that low grade form of entertainment” when someone in the lunch room asks what I thought of  “Dancing With the Stars” last night. Of course you can’t come off sounding so smug so I would usually respond with “I don’t watch that” or “I am too busy to watch T.V.”  All the while thinking to myself “what a waste of time”. Until one of my coworkers pointed something out me something I didn’t think about. She said, this takes away a lot of opportunity for you to converse with others because you have nothing to add to the conversation. So I had to ask myself, is it better to rid myself of the idiot box and continue to be a T.V. snob or do I start to watch a few programs to be a part of the conversation.

This past week, I had the perfect opportunity to delve into the world of mind numbing hours of sitting in front of the boob tube. I was on a business trip in the middle of nowhere for 5 days. So every night I would go back to my hotel room and proceed to flip through the channels. During this experiment I have discovered a couple of things.

1) The Pink Floyd song which contains the lyrics “There is 13 channels of S**t on the T.V. to choose from” needs to be increased to 120.

2) If there is a risk/reward associated with watching T.V., it is not worth the reward.

3)What on earth is wrong with us?

4)Duck Dynasty rules!! If you don’t know what that means, check it out

On more of a serious note, I believe that the media is steering our society. When we are blasted with marketing propaganda every 15 minutes of you need this product for your life to be better in addition to a great percentage of shows conforming our minds to what is to be considered normal. Shows telling us it is normal to go out and drink nightly to the point of annihilation, pick up girls and have meaningless sex with them just to start over and doing it again the next night.  I know what you’re thinking, this guy must be old. Cause that’s what I am thinking as I am typing it. But when you add this show upon show in combination with commercials filling our heads with catchy slogans to buy there product so our life will be more fulfilled. It is causing a shift in the way we perceive reality and what is meaningful in life.

So how do we respond to this? Well, with the word of God of course. This brings to mind Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The next logical question is how do I transform my mind? The answer is the same way it is being conformed to this world. If we are inundated with programs promoting an agenda and commercials with there empty promises of gratification, fill your mind with the life giving words of the Bible. Col. 3:2 “Set your minds on things above, not on things that are on earth.” Be transformed with the washing or the word and let it guide your thoughts and actions.

I am not saying not to watch T.V. cause Duck Dynasty really does rule. Rather we are to watch it in light of the reality of God’s perspective, so that we may “discern what is good and acceptable” and not the T.V. and it’s programmers. So go ahead and join the lunch room conversation, just make sure you lead it and it doesn’t lead you.

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How Much Does It Cost?

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Have you ever made a big purchase in your life that you had to really sit down and do the numbers before buying it? For many of us it was buying a house, but it could also be a car, college tuition, a wedding, or maybe a big vacation. Before you do any one of these things the first thing you need to do is find out how much it costs. It would not be wise to go look for a home, see one you like and say “I’ll take that one” without first asking how much it is. For most of us, before buying a home you sit with a mortgage brokers or a banker who goes over your finances to see how much money you make, how much is going out in bills then what is left over to afford a house. It doesn’t end there though, once they tell you what you can afford then you begin to weigh in other factors. What if  hot water heater goes, or one of us loses a job, or medical bills, or saving for a vacation and emergency reserves. We need to consider all of these factors first, then we come up with an amount that you decide you can afford and go from there. It is the same with all large purchases, we need to make sure we know what we are getting ourselves into before we decide  buy. We need to follow through on our commitment.

How about in your decision in what God you follow? Did you consider what it costs? Did you weigh in all the factors If and when you made a decision to follow Jesus as your Lord, Jesus warns us to consider the cost. I know what your thinking, if you are on the fence on this, this may not be pushing you into accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior. But these are His words, not mine. I feel so many Christians are trying to convince people to believe in Jesus, and they talk a lot about forgiveness of sins and love and the assurance of salvation, but not a lot are saying “hey, you know what, it is not going to be easy”.  Jesus on the other hand was saying this. He says in Luke 14:28  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
14:29  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,
14:30  saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
14:31  Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?
14:32  And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.
14:33  So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

It Will Cost You Everything

Oh so wait a minute, it will cost me everything? I don’t remember the preacher saying that in the alter call?  Hmmm, I am not sure I am willing to give up EVERYTHING. Jesus also says in Matthew 16:24  “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” I know, crazy right?  What does all this mean? What on earth does take up his cross even mean? Why do I have to give up stuff in order to follow Him?

This is kind of like asking, “why do I have to stop dating other people after I get married?” You had to consider this cost when you got married. Is this the person that I love? is this the person I want to spend the rest of my life with and give up all other women or all other men for. This is what Jesus is asking. He is in effect saying do you love me enough to give up others for me. Do you love me enough to give up other things for? Are you willing to take up your cross, meaning die to self, no longer living for your own desires, rather living for the will of God?  Or are you just buying fire insurance to stay out of hell?

Giving up Everything to Gain Everything

What is the result of this cost, Jesus continues by saying in Matt 16:25  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Yes it will cost us everything, we will go through hardships, Jesus even says the world hated me, they are going to hate you too. (paraphrasing) But in the end Jesus says “Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” These are tough words to understand, and even tougher to live out. Who are you living for? If you are living for yourself, for your own gain and your own wants and desires, Jesus is saying this leads to death. But if we relinquish our desires for His desires and follow Him where he leads, this leads to eternal life.

God came to earth as a man and humbled himself as a commoner, a carpenter. He lived a sinless life to give it up as a ransom for many.  Where we deserved death, he took our place on the cross. He died so that we would have eternal life. He calls us to follow him, how do you respond?  Count the cost.

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