Tag Archives: religion

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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Growing Pains

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Do you ever realize that spiritual growth usually comes along with some sort of trial. It seems to be some necessary process for growth that it is paired up with pain, heartache, hardship or loss. I recently had a such an experience and spent the last couple of days trying to sort it out.

I have written recently about the idea that I like to be liked, in this post. I know I am probably not alone in this, because who doesn’t? I however may take it to a different level because I think I care too much what others think of me. That being said, I recently found out that people whom I have known for many years, and I thought were my friends are talking about me behind my back and  the comments were not complimentary. This hurt me on two different levels, one being that people who I thought were my friends are obviously not. Secondly that there are people out there that I like and called friends who don’t like me back. This causes me a lot of confusion and disappointment

After the initial sting of hearing these comments I spent time contemplating what I said, did, or  didn’t do that caused this, and what I can do to rectify it. As I was thinking on  these things, I thought of something my boss said to me the other day. She said “I don’t trust anyone, or any person that is”. I thought, how sad to go through life thinking this way. However, after this current situation I thought maybe she has a point. I have a habit of letting people into my life too easy and I open up and let down any defenses I may have. I am a person who wears his heart on his sleeve and will tell you how I feel, and it will be evident how I feel by my actions and facial expressions. Maybe I should be more guarded like my boss and not trust anyone, this way I won’t get hurt.

The more I thought about this however I realized there is a lesson to be learned in all of this. I continue to realize that I put my trust in people and my satisfaction is in their approval. The funny thing is, there is no where in scripture that says our hopes and approval should be in others, rather it is to be in Jesus and Jesus alone. Time and time again we are told to love others, not have others love us. We are told to count others more significant than ourselves, but no where does it say make others love you. This is pride speaking, I am making myself more important than I am. I am finding my worth in others, or as Paul puts it, I am putting my confidence in the flesh. He goes on to say in Phil 3:8 “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.”

I have failed at this miserably, I continue to count things I do as worth, and my confidence is in my flesh and the approval of others is the measuring stick of my worth. So although I feel as though I have lost friendships and the pain is still fresh. I have learned that is because my trust was in the wrong place, myself. I had made myself and others too big .Where my faith and confidence should be in Jesus. I know I will let others down and others will let me down. As my boss said “I don’t trust  anyone, or any person that is”, but she finished this statement by pointing skyward and saying,”There is only one I trust”. This is words to live by. I wish it just didn’t have to feel this way in order to learn this lesson.

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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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Sanctification-Faith

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Here is the first in a series on sanctification. We are going to tackle many different principles that comprise this process of becoming holy. The first thing  that we need  in this process is faith, for without it our journey can, and never will begin. But what is Faith?   Hebrews 11:1 says it this way, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” NKJV.

I think the thing that many people miss about faith is that it is not a blind faith. Not only that but the writer of Hebrews says it is “the evidence of things not seen.” It is based on evidence and this evidence on the truth of God’s word. This is the starting point. We need to understand that we need to base our faith in the Word of God to start this process of sanctification.

What Faith is Not.

It is not impressions, for our impressions can lead us astray. Our impressions are based on emotion which can sway us depending on our mood for the day.Some days I feel God does not love me, but His word tells me otherwise.Which one should I believe, my impressions or His Word?  The answer is always the Bible, for it is the truth that our faith is built on. Faith is also not based on probabilities. Faith has nothing to do with probabilities, again it is based on fact therefore it is certain, not probable. Faith is also not presumptuous as Evan Hopkins writes “Faith needs facts to rest upon. Presumption can take fancy instead of fact.”

Faith is God Dependence

Therefore since faith is based on facts, and that being the facts of God’s Word we need to be dependent on that truth. This results in us needing to be fully dependent of God and NOT on ourselves. Since we can not trust our emotions, or our impressions we can not be trusted. The only way however to be God dependent is to end self dependence.  Unfortunately, our autonomy is not easily overcome, this is why many times God allows suffering, sorrow, pain, and brokenness to bring us to a place where we begin to understand our need for Him. It is often during these times where we  truly begin to realize this. It was in this weakness that Paul realized this truth when he wrote, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”. 2Co 12:9-10

It was just after reading this and as I was beginning to process this idea of faith when a trial came immediately upon me, and I was powerless to change it. My spirit was crushed by this trial, and I wanted to rectify the situation. It was in this moment that God reminded me that He is in control and not me. Stop trying and start trusting. Stop fixing and start having faith. Stop depending on yourself and start depending on God. This is where our journey begins, with faith. As J.B Stoney says “The just shall live by faith, not only in your circumstances, but in everything. I believe the Lord allows many things to happen on purpose to make us feel our need for Him”. Let us meditate on these things. Gods word is fact and should be our basis for faith, and in response to that fact we need to be fully dependent on Him.

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I Am Apathetic, But I Don’t Care

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I think apathy is a major problem in our society that is producing to a culture that is impotent in meaning. We are so wrapped up in nothingness that we are producing nothing more than a vain existence. What is it that we are living for? What is the meaning for our existence? You probably don’t know or care, but why not? Where did the lack of caring come from, and our neutered vigor for life and the pursuit for the furtherance of our betterment?

When I read some authors of old, in the 18th and 19th century they seemed to have a greater veraciousness for life and a deeper understanding for you they were and how they fit into this world. They had direction, conviction, and the resolve to see things through. What if our founding fathers were born in this century, would be have a free country? Is this in part because they didn’t have mundane distractions like we have know to occupy their time. We spend so much time watching T.V., surfing the internet, and spend hours playing or watching sports. Where does that lead us?

Is Technology to Blame?

I used to work with a guy who blamed MTV for all the ills of our society. I can’t say I agree with him, but I agree with where he was coming from. With shows like Jersey Shore, Housewives of “name your state”, or any host of  “reality” shows leads us to a degraded outlook in life. It lowers our desire for greatness. We are also living in a time where there are a ton of other distractions. Video games are at a all time high for kids and adults as well. Males average 23 hours a week playing video games and the average age for gamers is not 13 like you might think, but rather 35. If you add that to 19 hours a week on average we Americans spend watching T.V., that adds up to 42 hours a week or 6 hours a day. This does not even include the time surfing the web or updating our Facebook status.

This fills our time and our thoughts with mediocrity at best and a lower standard of living with degraded morals at worst. We are being dragged into a life of complacency, and diverted from any real meaning. We no longer think of the deeper things of life, but are spending time thinking about what is going to happen in the next episode of some fictitious show or how can I get to the next level of some game that leads nowhere.

Are We Running in Circles?

Picture a person running on a treadmill, isn’t that our lives sometimes, both figuratively and literally?  We are running, running, running, but going nowhere. I think another thing that leads to apathy or maybe an outcome of it, is our tirelessness activities. We fill our time with hobbies, exercise, and leisure that it also consumes so much of our time and energies, that it keeps us from caring about the greater more pressing things in life. Now I am not trying to be a downer here, or say any of these things are bad. Activities and exercising are definitely beneficial to our well being. I am actually thinking about writing  a post about depression and mountain biking, but that’s another topic for another day. What I am getting at is that we fill too much of our time with things that have little impact on meaning, invention, poverty alleviation, raising kids to make greater differences in their circle of influence.

This constant busyness and submersion into such prosaic pastimes feed into our apathies and can keep us there for a life time. We need to break out of the commonplace distractions and strive for betterment, strive for finding our place in this world. In the Bible it says “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Eph. 2:10.  You see, we are made for a purpose, but how are you going to realize what that purpose is unless you start living with a purpose in mind? Instead of life just happening around you with your head stuck in the ground, realize you were created by a maker. This maker has a plan for you to do good works, not watching T.V. or countless hours on the internet, gaming and working out. Life is more than that. The Bible also says “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”. Php 1:6

Let us spend more time learning what it is God has planned for our lives, what good work were we created for, knowing that He will bring it to completion. Let us live our lives intentionally, filled with the purpose we were made for.

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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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