Craving the Slop

hqdefault

Have you ever craved the slop? I know I have. My life story is full of it.

One of my favorite stories that Jesus told was about a family torn apart by greed and selfishness and later restored by love and grace. In most Bibles, it’s labeled as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s part of a series of stories that Jesus told relating to the idea of things that were lost but searched out and found by God. They are stories of discovery that bring hope to even the most wayward soul. They are also stories that most people can relate to. I definitely can.

In Luke 15, Jesus talks about a boy who decides to go out on his own. He’s done with his family and all he wants is to claim his cash inheritance and live a self-indulgent life. As with anyone who chooses this path, life was empty and unsatisfying. For many, that lifestyle usually runs people into the gutters of despair. The young man from Luke 15 hit rock bottom. In verse 16 it says that he was so desperate that he craved the slop that he was feeding to the pigs as a hired worker. He had wasted all his money and was employed in one of the lowliest possible professions. It was a filthy job feeding unclean animals. Not only that, but he couldn’t even afford to eat. He was so hungry that he wanted to devour the nasty food that the pigs ate. That’s desperation. I’ve been there.

I too have craved the slop. In my darkest year (2009) I was wallowing in the slop. For me, the slop was an addiction to pornography, caught in a cycle of alcoholism and self-loathing, divorced from an adulterous woman, and at an end to a hopeful career. Just like the young man in Jesus’ story, I was craving all the wrong things and it led me into a destructive lifestyle. The scene from Luke 15 takes me back to that year in my life. I too needed to come home. I too needed to right many wrongs. I too needed to crave the right things.

This world presents us with more slop than things that actually provide for our need. The slop is anything short of anything that draws us closer to the Lord. My slop was creating an image for myself, gaining approval, and enjoying the flesh. I had the same aim as the young man from the story in Luke 15. I wanted to set out on my own. I wanted to get mine. I wanted to live a self-centered life. That’s what leads us to the slop. That’s because the slop feeds self, not the soul. The fortunate ones are those who come to enlightenment and realize they need to go home. They realize that where their life has led them is nothing more than a pigsty. The unfortunate ones are those who are living in a pigsty and don’t even realize it.

Let me make it plain – anyone who runs from the Father will end up in the pigsty, craving unclean things, surrounded by unclean things. The father in this story is meant to depict our Father in Heaven. He will let us go. He will let us run from Him. He will let us choose the slop. But He will always be watching for us and wanting us to return home. He will always come running to those who choose Him. It doesn’t matter how dirty we are from wallowing in the mud. He will always come running to embrace the wayward child who turns to Him.

Just as 2009 was the darkest year of my life, it was also the year I returned home. It was the year I felt the Father run to me and embrace me. It was my year of enlightenment and deep repentance. I felt what it was like to be separated from the Father and to be held in His loving arms. If you have wandered from the Lord as I did, just know that He’s waiting and watching for you. All you have to do is take the first steps home and He’ll come running your way.

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:20-24 NASB

Advertisements

The Great Kinsman

1888931_orig

Once upon a time, there was a family. This was a beautiful family who fell upon hard times. Resources were scarce and money was tight. Due to the pressing circumstances, and facing few other choices, the family decided it was time to pack up and move. Not long after they arrived at their destination things started to look up. The two sons of this family found their future brides and soon married. But the joyous times were not meant to last. The father of the family passed away suddenly causing a shockwave of heartache to ripple through the family. Just when it seemed that life couldn’t get any harder, the two sons also passed away leaving the mom and her two daughters-in-law to fend for themselves. In a time that was very man-dominant, women faced few options for income. Difficult choices lay ahead.

Some readers may be able to relate to this story so far. The situation is bleak, and hard, and desperate. Life seems like a roller coaster of hardship to joy, and back to hardship. For every step forward in life, it seems like they take one or two back. They just can’t get ahead. People who have faced difficulty such as this hesitate to ever utter the phrase, “it couldn’t get any worse than this.” That’s because they’ve tasted the “worse” that seems to lay right around the corner. But Jesus doesn’t want to leave anyone here. These are the circumstances that God’s grace shines the brightest. For the family in this story had a beautiful future ahead of them. Ask them at this juncture and they may have had their doubts. But God’s love and God’s plan is not contingent upon our strength or our certainty.

In various passages of the Bible, we see the concept of a kinsman redeemer. Passages like Genesis 38, Deuteronomy 25, and Leviticus 25 all address this role. It’s a role that reveals something about God’s heart for the hurting and the destitute. The basic idea is that the closest family member would step in to take care of those who found themselves in a situation like the family from the previous story…the family from the book of Ruth. Naomi (the mom), and Ruth and Orpah (the daughters-in-law) were in need of such a person.

As the story progressed, Naomi and Ruth journeyed back to Naomi’s former home – to the land of Israel. When they arrived in Bethlehem the reception was somewhat mixed. It would be as a soldier returning home after a terrible defeat. The shame and hurt were immense and Naomi was in no mood for a welcome home party.

So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

Ruth 1:19-21 ESV

Naomi’s heart would not remain in despair. In a short span of time, both her and Ruth would be rejoicing over the goodness of God. It is in our darkest times that we can experience His goodness the most. Naomi and Ruth are a testament to that. By the end of this story, Ruth meets the key character in the journey from ashes to beauty. His name – Boaz. The name means ‘strength is within him’. He is a successful landowner and farmer in Israel who had endured the famine which had motivated Naomi and her family to leave the land. Not only is he successful, but he is also compassionate and kind. He demonstrates this in the way that he tenderly cares for Ruth from the moment he laid eyes on her. The first time they met was when Ruth had gone out to glean scraps from the harvested fields so she and Naomi wouldn’t starve. Boaz doubled down and supplied for their every need. He didn’t stop here. Boaz would also restore the land back to Naomi from before she had left with her husband Elimelech. He was their kinsman redeemer.

Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.”

Ruth 4:9-10 ESV

The institution of the kinsman redeemer was not only a method of grace bestowed upon God’s children, but it also pointed to a much greater act of grace to come to the entire world. Even if life’s circumstances haven’t placed all of us in a disposition of empathy for Naomi and Ruth, the Bible describes all our spiritual circumstances as far more desperate.

According to the Bible, we were:

  • Dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:13)
  • Sinners and enemies of God (Romans 5:8-10)
  • Far off from God (Ephesians 2:13)
  • Unrighteous, immoral, and idolators (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Homelessness does not compare. Being in need does not compare. Suffering tremendous does not compare. Humanity’s situation without Jesus is far more dire than anything we will ever face in our temporal lifetimes. But we have the Great Kinsman Redeemer – the Messiah. The Messiah of God was sent to buy us back with a far greater price than that of Boaz. Our Messiah paid with His life.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insightmaking known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Ephesians 1:3-10 ESV

Peace in our Messiah, the Great Kinsman Redeemer!

Enduring Love

31Wci55k5UL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

John 21:15-19 (ESV

In this final chapter of my book, I share more about my own story. It breaks down into four phases of my short 36 years of life. Some phases are longer than others. Some are more enjoyable to share. Others shed a dark shadow on years of my life. My story is one of redemption and grace. I am far from perfect, and still have my battles, but I have experienced God’s love and mercy and it is forever changing me.

In John 21, Jesus is speaking with Peter. Peter is no man of perfection or superstar disciple. In fact, Peter’s journey is not all that different from ours. He was an ordinary man with a common profession. Peter, also called Simon Peter, was a fisherman along with his brother and father (Mark 4:18-19). He did not have years of theological studies prior to following Jesus, but when Christ called him, he went. Later in the story, Peter will be standing before the council, in trouble for preaching the name of Jesus. The men of the council observe two things: his lack of schooling and he’d been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Peter’s desire to walk with Jesus was all he needed to become a powerful witness for the gospel and that’s all we need too. That’s because the Holy Spirit turns ordinary people into emboldened disciples that can change the world.

This chapter details the life of Peter that we know from scripture and historical records. It all centers on that one conversation from John chapter 21. It’s a conversation that Jesus wants to have with each and every one of us. Come see how Jesus wants to draw you in with His love for you and invite you into a mission, a journey, a life’s purpose, that will fulfill your deepest needs.

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.

John 10:27-28 (ESV)

Get your copy online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble and join others who have been questioned by Christ!

Peace in Christ

Which Cross is Mine?

ruggedcrossnailssunset

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12

JAPAN: IBARAGI KUN

After they all had been tried, found guilty, and sentenced to die, twenty-six Christians were marched to the place where crudely made crosses stood. Almost three months earlier, they had been arrested in Kyoto, Japan, and charged with following Christ. One of the convicts was named Ibaragi Kun.

Seeing how young Kun was, an official took him aside and urged him to recant his faith to save his life. Looking the official in the eye, Kun said confidently, “Sir, it would be far better if you yourself became a Christian. Then you could go to heaven with me.” The officer stared, startled by the young man’s faith. Finally, Ibaragi asked, “Sir, which cross is mine?” The bewildered official pointed to the smallest of the twenty-six crosses. Young Kun ran to the cross, knelt before it, and embraced it. When the soldiers began to nail his hands and feet to the cross, he did not cry out in pain. He courageously accepted the path God had laid out for him. The crucifixion of the twenty-six Christians on November 23, 1596, was the beginning of a period of intense persecution of Christians in Japan. Over the next seventy years, as many as one million Japanese Christians would be killed for their faith. Many would embrace their own crosses to follow the example of Ibaragi Kun, a very mature twelve-year-old boy.

Spiritual maturity is not measured by a birth certificate. Chronological age has little to do with conviction. Rather, spiritual maturity is measured one day at a time. We measure our maturity by how well we daily apply our faith. Contrary to popular belief, spiritual maturity is not how much we know about the Bible. Many people are very familiar with the Bible, yet they remain strangers to spiritual maturity. Obedience to the Bible’s commands is the mark of maturity. One question will help us know how well we are growing spiritually. We must ask ourselves each day, “How much more do we look like Jesus today than we did yesterday?” Our answer is a true reflection of our growth.

…and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

Acts 5:40-42 ESV

Reflection:

  1. Do I avoid sharing my faith so as to avoid conflict with others?
  2. Have I ever let age or experiences prevent me from sharing my faith?
  3. Is there someone specific that I am being prompted by the Lord to reach out to?
  4. Would I choose Jesus over my life?

Much of the post originated from Voice of the Martyrs Ministry. For more about them click here.

img_0938-1

General of God’s Army

1888931_orig

Between 1405 and 1385 BC the book of Joshua was written. It is the first book to follow the Torah. Contained in these pages are stories of conquest and victory over evil. There are also moments of fear and disobedience. There are tragic events, death, and new life. The nation of Israel still struggled to follow their redeeming God in pure obedience, as we all do. But overall, it is a story of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His promises.

The victories in this book do not belong to Joshua and the nation of Israel…they belong to God. Multiple times (Deuteronomy 1:30 and 31:8) in the book right before Joshua, God spoke through Moses to the people of Israel letting them know that it was the Lord Himself that would be fighting for the people and that He would be leading the charge into the promised land. God wanted Israel to know that they were not alone in this fight because this fight seemed insurmountable. Without God, it would have been. There were many evil empires who were strong and deeply entrenched in the land. And Israel needed to purify the land through force of arms. They faced obstacle far greater than themselves. To anyone who is without faith, it would have been folly to even try.

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.

Joshua 1:1-5 ESV

God was sure to remind the new leader of Israel that he was not alone. When God has called us to something, He will always be in it, with us, and for us. While none of us have ever tried to conquer hundreds of miles of territory from wicked nations, we have all faced tragedies, hardships, and obstacles that have been far too much for us to bear alone. But God has never abandoned us, especially in our darkest and most difficult moments of life. For Joshua and the people of Israel, this would be the greatest test of their lives. Some pass and others do not. But those who do, get to experience the glory of a faithful God.

The central figure of this book is not who you’d suspect. The book is named after Joshua, the leader of God’s people, but he is not the main character. He’s not even the highest ranking commander in this military campaign to regain and redeem the land. The lead protagonist doesn’t even make His entry until chapter five.

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”And the commander of the Lord‘s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Joshua 5:13-15 ESV

A few things about this character. One, he is in charge. Two, Joshua reveres him. And three, his presence is holy. I want to point out how each of these qualities points to the Messiah. First of all, the commander of the Lord’s army is used multiple times in connection with the person of Jesus. This insignia of headship is important when it comes to recognizing who the Messiah is. Check out these passages and how they relate to the figure and story of Joshua chapter five.

Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

Matthew 26:33 ESV

On the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus reminded His disciples of His ability to command none other than an army of angels. A standard legion consists of anywhere from 3000 to 6000 men. So in this statement, Jesus lets us know that he could call down up to 72,000 angels at His will. Guaranteed He could call them all down if He so chose.

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Revelation 19:11-16 ESV

In John’s vision of the time to come, Jesus again makes an appearance, not as a gentle and lowly servant, but as a conquering general. With Him were the armies of heaven. Far greater in magnitude than twelve legions. This passage in revelations is highly regarded as the parallel passage to the events of Joshua’s day. Reasons for that are pretty numerous. A couple being that they contain the same main character and the same purpose to rid the land of evil. In Joshua’s day, it was isolated to the land of Canaan. In the end, it will be the entire Planet Earth that gets renewed and cleansed. And it is God who accomplishes both.

For the final comparison, I’d like to draw off of what the Commander of the Lord’s army tells Joshua. He tells him to take off his shoes for the place where he stands is holy. There is only one Figure in all of the Bible who can create holy space…God Himself. As we’ve already talked about in previous posts, God is the Messiah. He’s the one who goes before. He’s the one who rescues. The words of the Commander are exactly like the ones God Himself spoke back in Exodus chapter three.

Then he [God] said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Exodus 3:5 ESV [my emphasis]

The Messiah is holy. His presence should make us tremble and rejoice. He is the definition of perfection, unlike anything else we’ve ever known. When we come before Him, it should be with extreme reverence and awe.  And the fact that He loves us like He does should leave us even more awestruck.

Be at peace brothers and sisters. You have a Savior who goes before you. Find yourself facing insurmountable odds? Your Messiah commands legions of Angels. Nothing is impossible with Him in your life.

God bless

Fear vs. Love

slide-02

Fear is one of the most basic human motivations. It drives stock markets and fuels wars. Its unruly energies can be used for great harm or channeled for great good. Professional boxers are often told fear is their friend. Fear can make them better fighters. It keeps them alert. It sensitizes their determination. In the same way, God can use our fears and make us better fighters for his cause. Whenever we are afraid, we have the potential to do the impossible. Why? That which is impossible in our own strength is made possible with God’s help. Fear makes us more likely to forsake our own resources and rely on God instead. In this way, extreme fear can lead to extreme faith.

The following is a story shared from Voice of the Martyrs.

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear?

Psalm 27:1

LAOS: The unwritten code of the police was clear: If you catch the Khmu or other tribesmen converting to Christianity, arrest them. If you catch anyone evangelizing the tribesmen, kill him.

After “Lu” had been shackled at the hands and feet and shamefully marched through the village, the Communist police threw him in a pit. “We will let you go,” they said, “when one hundred Christians in your village renounce their conversion to Christianity.” But they were unable to find believers willing to turn their backs on Christ. Then tragedy struck the police. One officer’s son broke both legs in an accident. His other son became critically ill. The officer who had beaten and harassed new Christians suddenly died of a heart attack. Other officials fearfully pulled “Lu” from the pit and allowed him to return home. Government authorities were too frightened to take action against the Christians in the village after seeing what happened to their leader. Seeing God’s show of power, more Khmu became believers. Where there had been one hundred Christians, now there were seven hundred. They even sent Christians out to tell other villages about Jesus. While the Laotian authorities were controlled by their fear, the Christians in Southeast Asia overcame theirs.

For some people living in post-modern nations, sharing the gospel may result in losing friends, not being invited places, being written up at work, being overlooked, and perhaps being ridiculed and given a nasty label. But it won’t result in death and imprisonment. Yet, fear still grips the believer. Fear of rejection. Fear of being different. Fear of what people will say. When we compare this with Lu’s story in Laos, it’s embarrassing that anyone would allow these minor inconveniences to prevent them from spreading the greatest news the world has ever heard. Fear is strong. But not as strong as love.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:18 ESV

Believer, we no longer need to fear anything. Not sickness, not persecution, not ridicule, not rejection, and not even death. Because we are perfectly loved and that love is our view of those who need to know Jesus. No matter how they respond, they need to know Jesus just as much as we did. We can’t keep this great love to ourselves, not even from those who reject it. Never forget that your courage and love could change someone’s life forever.

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

Be brave brothers and sisters, and go change the world!