Shine a little light

“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

1 Peter 2:17 ESV

I’m finding it very difficult to not get bitter towards the media in our nation. Not necessarily because of anything new, but of the consistent manner of its existence. That’s all forms of media by the way. Social, broadcast, print, and chain media alike. In the opening verse above, none of those things occur with much regularity. I understand that not many media outlets run by godly standards, but some certainly claim to. Yet even in those, it’s rare to see people being honored, love being spread, the fear of God being shown, and our nation’s leaders being honored.

I am also aware that all of our presidents have been shady in their own way. They’ve all messed up. They’ve all been imperfect. No president has a spotless foreign or domestic record. And our media sources behave like ravenous wolves out for blood. It doesn’t matter who is in power, the media closely related to opposing ideologies take every opportunity, whether manufactured or legitimate, to attack and ridicule.

It’s expected, sadly, for our media to behave in such a manner. The bigger problem, however, is when individuals operating on their own, mimic the behavior. Gossip and misleading information circulates with rapid speed through our social media. I guess to some extent we can’t blame them since that is what they are being fed. But for those of us who hold allegiance to Jesus and godly virtues, we should not be guilty of the same.

Honor everyone. This is a pretty all inclusive command. We all have people who aren’t honorable in our lives, but that doesn’t excuse any Christian from extending honor to them. That simply means we show everyone that they have value. Whether they act or think like me means nothing. They still have value because they’re created in God’s image just like me.

Love the brotherhood. Jesus said that people will know that we belong to Him by how we love each other. That’s unconditional, sincere, deep seated, servanthood love. And just as Jesus demonstrated, we still love the unlovable in this way.

Fear God. This is probably the most obvious element missing. Godly standards are pushed aside, and in some cases, outright ridiculed. For believers, our faith should be interwoven into everything we say and do. Those around us should know Who and what we stand for.

Honor the emperor. Even though we don’t have an emperor, and even though our president is far from perfect, he’s head and shoulders above any Roman emperor. The worst that any American president has ever done can’t even be compared to the leaders of Rome. Crimes against humanity were a daily occurrence, especially among those who were in power when Peter wrote the words above. To disagree with our leaders is natural. But to disrespect them should not be permitted among those who follow Jesus.

The body of Christ needs to shine a bright light in all three of these areas. Our voices of love and honor need to resound more loudly than the pervasive winds of pessimism and hate that consumes much of what is broadcasted in our nation. Those of you who work in the mainstream media, start where you are. If you have social media, utilize that tool to it’s greatest potential. For all of us, let’s be a beacon of love and honor wherever we are.

Peace brothers and sisters

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Wasted Earnings

“You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”

Haggai 1:6 ESV

Occasionally I take time to drink in the measure of my life by evaluating how I spend my days. I have a wife, two little girls, a Golden Retriever, a career, and a separate business. Saying I am busy is a drastic understatement. But busyness does not equate to effectiveness.

I sat down to write this following some devotional time with my girls. No super deep theological discussions came out of it. I had to ask one of my girls to come sit down multiple times. But we watched a short video and followed it up with a bible story and prayer. It was only 10 minutes of my day, but it could have eternal value. Most of the rest of the day could consist of cleaning up after two girls and two dogs (I’m pet sitting a second Golden retriever). Sometimes life feels like survival mode. Sometimes the end of the day comes with little recollection of what I actually accomplished that day. But it’s up to each of us to take control of how we spend our time.

We all have responsibilities. We all come across uncontrollable circumstances that demand our attention. But we all have the ability to determine our mindset and purpose. Those two things thread through everything we do. For example, I get to choose to be thankful for every moment with my children. That’s the mindset. And I can choose to look for teaching moments, both in the ways I behave throughout the day and how they behave. Dozens of ‘teaching moments’ arise every day with kids, especially little ones. Many of those moments are repeats from the day before, or even from earlier that day. If that’s my purpose, and my mindset is thankfulness, then my day will never be a waste. That’s only one example but it can be applied to anything from our marriage to our career.

We don’t have a lot of time in this life to make an eternal mark. Let’s break it down this way. If we sleep 6-8 hours for 365 days a year then that’s 2190 to 2920 hours a year that we aren’t making a difference. Live for 60 years, then that’s 5475 to 7300 days worth of sleep. That’s equals 15-20 years we spend asleep. If you sleep 8 hours a day you are asleep for a third of your life. As a kid, 60 years seemed like an eternity. Now, at 36, I’m over half way there and it has seemed like a flash.

So much of my life has been wasted. I know that now. Not because of sleep. Sleep is never a waste, even though I’ve kind of lived that way (I don’t sleep a lot). What I am talking about is all the time I’ve spent playing video games, partying and drinking in my youth, vegging out in front of the television, going over stats on ESPN, and fussing and fretting over so many things. I can’t even calculate the time lost. I’m glad because it would probably depress me.

The passage in Haggai is a stark reminder of how many people live their lives. A lot of what we do in life goes into a bag with holes in it. We sit in our beds at the end of the day and can’t think of anything done that day that pointed someone to Jesus, that served the needs of others, or that demonstrated unconditional love.

How do you determine a successful day? How much you earned? How many pleasures you satisfied? What new things you accumulated? Unfortunately, that’s how much of the world measures success. But that’s not God’s measure of successful living. That’s measured by the lives we impact on a spiritual and eternal scale. And that can best be done by the example we are showing with our lives.

We are going to be asleep for a quarter to a third of our lives. Let’s not waste the rest on our selfish desires. Instead, let’s spend that time loving well, both God and our neighbor.

Peace brothers and sisters

The Flood of Salvation #2

Narrow-GateThe flood is a significant event in human history. In fact, ancient cultures have been telling this story of thousands of years. It’s not simply a Christian and Jewish folklore. It’s embedded in cultures around the world. That’s because all of humanity comes from the survivors of the flood. And that event, as tragic as it was, is nothing compared to the coming judgments that this world will see. However, just as God provided a way of safety from that judgement, so to did He provide that for the one to come. The flood story, as with all Old Testament salvation stories, were meant to point to something far greater. They point to the One who would save us, not from temporary tragedies, but from a spiritual impairment…from an eternal death.

In part one of this series I drew the connections between the flood story and salvation in Jesus by looking at the construction of the ark itself. Today’s correlation is somewhat different. While the first post was very positive and encouraging, I’m afraid this one is more dire. But even in the bleak reality of what we’re going to look at, there is always hope. Like with any warnings, it only benefits those who choose to take them seriously. And for those who do, there is always hope.

The flood affected the entire world. Every living creature would be impacted. We don’t know exactly how many people lived on the earth in Noah’s day, but common sense estimates would have to conclude that there were millions, if not billions. If read some scientists calculations that have placed it from 1 to 40 billion people based on lifespans and numbers of children from each of those listed in the chapters leading up to Genesis 6. Either way, there were a lot. The sad reality is, only a tiny fraction of those were saved.

…because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

1 Peter 3:20 (NIV)

Eight…out of millions or billions. Even if it were only thousands on the earth, eight would be such a small number. It’s not like God had a “Noah only club”. Noah preached for 120 years and, as 1 Peter says, God waited patiently for mankind to turn. Because of who God is, we know that He didn’t want to just save eight. God wants everyone on the boat. But only a small percentage will walk through the door.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

When Jesus spoke these words, He was expressing the heart of a savior. God in the flesh was laying out the path to life and bidding us to come and follow. It’s not like Noah’s ark or it’s door were hidden. They are in plain sight. It’s not like the door to eternal life is hidden either. Jesus made it as plain and obvious as anyone could. It’s Him. That’s it. Jesus is the person who is also the path. And instead of one man preaching righteousness and repentance and salvation through faith, we have an entire church with that same mission today. But just like in Noah’s day, the message is falling on so many deaf ears. Please don’t let that be true of you. And if you’ve already punched your boat pass by believing in Jesus, lets spend our lives getting more people on the boat.

The Flood of Salvation #1

ark-doorThere are so many connection throughout the bible. Interwoven themes that lace old and new testaments and thousands of years of human history together. It is one thing that makes the Bible so believable and so reliable.

One of those common themes is salvation. The word salvation is used in different ways in the Bible when applied to different scenarios. For example, God can save someone from a present danger. David prayed many times for God to save him from his enemies who pursued him throughout various points in his life. Then there is the idea that we are in the process of being saved. This is commonly expressed as sanctification. The concept that God is transforming our nature to be more like His. In this particular notion, we are being saved from ourselves. Then there is the use of the word salvation applied to a spiritual sense. Salvation in this way means that we are being saved from God’s wrath. This is an eternal salvation, unlike the other two.

God has used many instruments to bring salvation to mankind, but every single one of them, whichever form of salvation we’re talking about, points to the ultimate means of salvation: Jesus Christ. In the next few posts, I am going to break down one of the most monumental occasions in human history, the great flood, and show how God worked salvation during this tragic experience, and how that points directly to the coming Messiah.

The flood story of the Bible takes place in Genesis 6 through 9. It’s an incredibly sad story and yet, at the same time, one that gives us a lot of hope. It’s set during an age much like the one we live in now. Rampant sexual immorality, people calling good things bad and bad things good, and outright disregard for God. The Bible describes mankind as wicked in the days of the flood.

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

Genesis 6:5 (NIV)

With a world that evil, God needed to cleanse the earth. Fortunately, there was a man and his family who lived apart from the practices of those around them. Noah is referred to as a righteous man and a preacher. He is a man of great faith. Because of His faith, God is going to bring salvation to Noah and his family. As you’re probably familiar with, God instructs Noah to build an ark that will carry his entire family and animals from all over the world. It’s absolutely fascinating. This brings me to the first connection between the flood story and our salvation in Jesus. It is the theme of ONE.

You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.

Genesis 6:16 (NASB)

There is one ark and on that ark, there is one window and one door. The theme of ONE is so prevalent throughout the Bible narrative and yet it is so hotly contested by people today. There was one ark on which people and animals could be delivered from the coming peril. There was one door and one way into that ark. And there was one window through which to view the world. Humanity has always been plagued with this desire to build their own ark, to their own specifications, on their own terms. The ark that is Jesus, does not “fit their mold” of religion or lack there of. Many people are afraid of the idea of one way to be saved. But those is Noah’s day didn’t get to argue with God or pick their own means of being saved. God provided that way. It was huge and obvious and everyone knew the way in. There was one door, wide open, with a giant invitation.

The Bible tells us that Noah spent his life preaching salvation to the world, in the years leading up to the flood. Even though Noah and his family were the target of the ark’s construction, they were not the only one’s offered salvation. Noah spent 120 years building and preaching, building and preaching, and yet, no one came. But the offer still remained. for 120 years it remained. The one ark, a giant beacon of hope and salvation, stood out for the world to gaze upon. And they shunned it and scoffed at it. Jesus is that one ark.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6 (ESV)

Jesus is the epitome of the concept of ONE. God provided us yet again, with a giant beautiful beacon of hope and life. He did so by putting on human flesh and dying for the evil that is in all of us. In Jesus, God built the ark Himself. While Noah’s ark could be used to save humanity and animal life from a cataclysmic event, it could never redeem their souls. That kind of ark would have to be built by God. And not only is Jesus that ark, faith in Him is the door by which we enter the ark, and His life and teachings are the window to how we see the world and others.

The theme of ONE is the most inclusive offer that a good God could make. It removes confusion. The ark, and the ark that is Jesus, is a message to mankind to stop trying to build your own leaky boat and come to the one God has built for you. Lay down your burdens and attempts to appease God and get on the boat. The door is wide open. The only ID you have to show at the door is that of your faith in the savior of the world.

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (HCSB)

Memory or Life?

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What use are bible verses if they don’t become practical in our lives? We can memorize, share, read, or even preach them, but if they fail to become reality through use, they have benefited us not. Advice unheated may as well have fallen on deaf ears. Principles unpracticed will not build character. The Bible is alive. It’s full of weapons against depression, addiction, pride, and every destructive thing that would harm the individual and humanity as a whole. Knowing that does little. Living that changes everything.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires

Hebrews 4:12 (NLT)

Knowing the word of God is the obvious first step in living out the word of God. My four year old daughter has seven bible verses memorized. It’s incredible. But if she doesn’t allow those to impact her life as she grows, then they will be like anything else she learns in life. It is easy to gain knowledge but much more difficult to allow that knowledge to forge a lifestyle.

I’ve preached messages on the peace of God and joy in difficult times. But I will be the first to admit, that I still have a hard time being a peace and joyful at all times. Our kids have been sick on and off for over six months. We’ve seen E. Coli, Walking Pneumonia, Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, Colds, and more. It’s been really really hard. At times, my wife and I have felt desperate. We have had to choose peace and joy through it all. Sometimes each day. Some days, I have completely failed. It wasn’t because the peace of God wasn’t extended to me, it’s because I didn’t choose to rest in that peace.

For all of us, the difference between a life change and more head knowledge is a simple choice. Even if we don’t trust God, He is still every bit trustworthy. We don’t benefit from the rest and hope that comes from that trust because we don’t choose to. We can choose to love, choose kindness, choose selflessness, choose joy, and choose faith. That’s the beauty of freewill. The Holy Spirit won’t ever force us to change, only if we choose to. When we do choose to change and grow, there are no limits to what the Holy Spirit can do in and through us.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…

2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)

Prayer Warriors

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“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

                                                                        Matthew 26:36-41 (ESV)

When my wife and I started dating we used to stay up all hours of the night watching movies or just talking. There were several occasions I can recall driving her home and knowing that I only had a few hours before I had to be ready to head to work that morning. But it was worth it. The sleep was not that important compared to spending the time with her. From the day we had started talking to one another, we never wanted to spend much time apart. The first time we hung out, a lunch date turned into nine hours of talking, reading silly books at a local bookstore, running to the pet store, and going to see what turned out to be a pretty lame movie. I’m not telling you my sappy love story to try to impress or brag but because this is what love can look like. I’m not for a moment pretending that we have it all figured out. We have our ‘stuff’. But what we do have, and really always have had, is connectivity.

I don’t know about you, but much of my life in pursuit of Christ has been a long shot from a good friendship and marriage. I have been a lousy friend to Him. In fact, if I were to treat my wife or any of my friends the way I have shown friendship to Jesus, they all would have dropped me long ago. Praise God that His friendship and devotion more than makes up for my failures. But that doesn’t allow me any excuse to not do my part. The connection I have with my wife should mirror the one that I have with Jesus. The connectivity and intimacy that I’m talking about can only be established through prayer.

The life of Jesus shows us what it’s like to want to be with God, even in seclusion. Never once does it say that Jesus prayed when He had a chance or when something came up. It doesn’t say that He set aside 10-15 minutes of morning and evenings to say His prayers. It doesn’t talk about having a little bit of quiet time with the Lord. Jesus’ life was a life of connectivity and intimacy. Jesus had a life of prayer, and He wants the same for us.

“And he (Jesus) came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?”

Matthew 26:40 (ESV) [my emphasis]

My flesh says, “Give them a break Jesus.” They didn’t know what was about to happen plus they’ve been up all night already. But that’s just it. Our life in prayer, and in the Spirit, isn’t about our convenience, doing it when we feel like it, or knowing what lies ahead. If anything, prayer is not convenient, but just like spending time with my wife, I do it because I want to regardless of convenience. It was never convenient to stay up till 3 am and then go to work at 6:30 am. But I did it because I wanted to be with her. The same is true with prayer. We do it as often as we can no matter the time of day or what is going on because we want to be with God. More than that, we know we need to be with God.

What does it look like to live a life of prayer? We are at war for our entire life, but what does that exactly mean? What is at stake in this war? Can we really be so connected to Jesus? These questions and more are discussed in chapter nine of my book Questioned by Christ. You can check it out on Amazon or Barnes and Nobles.

God bless brothers and sisters!

The Curse of Tenderness

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I have found that it is the tenderhearted people in this world that get hurt the most. Why? Because they believe the best in everyone. They endure the longest and stick with people the most. Tenderhearted people cling to hope, even if things never change. They show grace to others so willingly, even when they themselves don’t receive it in return. Tenderhearted people lay their heart out for those they love, and often, even for those they don’t know. They are vulnerable like no one else. And that fact can subject them to an emotion melee. Because so much in life tries to drain the tenderness out of people.

I admit that the title of this post is simply meant to shock. I don’t believe that tenderness is a curse. It’s actually an attribute of a godly person. Everyone should be tenderhearted. That’s the Lord’s design for His creation. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case.

Tenderness has to be fought for. That may sound contrary. A tender person fighting for something…you better believe it. Many opportunities will arise for the heart to become hardened. The longer we live, the easier it is for callouses to form on our heart. We suffer loss, abuse, failure, unforgiveness, and so much more. Each time a callous could form if we let it.

So how does the heart stay tender? Love. A deep and sincere love. The tender heart will still experience pain but that doesn’t have to remove the tenderness. To all my tenderhearted brothers and sisters out there: don’t give up. The world needs you. Don’t allow life’s circumstances to change you. Remain tender even when it hurts the most, because you are demonstrating an attribute of God to a world that so desperately needs Him. Allow yourself to be hurt, time and time again, because the reward and the impact of your love is far greater than the pain you will feel. Continue showing grace even when you don’t receive it. Grace was never ours to withhold. If you find yourself getting a little calloused, seek some time alone with Jesus and let Him smooth off the rough edges. Confide in others. You’re not meant to go this life alone. The love of a friend can help keep your heart tender. Continue to love deeply and sincerely because Someone up above loves you even more deeply and sincerely.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32 (NASB)