Saving a Drowning Man

trevor-brown-tbrown-searescue

I remember the first time that I went snorkeling. It was over twenty years ago in Hawaii. My dad was headed to the beach to try out the new gear and nothing was going to stop me from going with him. My dad took the time to explain how snorkeling works and that the biggest key factor is to relax. I was a pretty good swimmer so I felt pretty confident in what we were about to do. The two of us swam out just beyond where my dad could touch the bottom. When I put my face in the water and stretched out my body to float on the surface, my heart began to race. It was exciting and new and wonderful. Within five minutes I had drifted to the nearby reef, teaming with life. And then, it happened. A small wave decided to crash over me filling my snorkel with water. That was not something I was prepared for. I panicked. I reached out to grab my dad, who never got further than an arm’s length away from me. In my panicked state, I only made matters worse. My dad couldn’t hardly keep himself afloat let alone me. It wasn’t until I calmed down and realized he was holding me that I was safe.

Talk to any Coast Guard rescue diver, they’ll tell you that the most dangerous factor is the person they are trying to save. A drowning person who struggles to save himself will only make matters worse. Not only can it lead to their own demise, but it can also endanger the one trying to save them. If someone who is in danger of drowning resists the one trying to save him, he will inevitably drown.

Jesus is our rescue diver and we’re all in a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean. We have two options. One, we can resist being saved and try to swim thousands of miles to the nearest land before drowning or being eaten by sharks. Two, we can let him save us.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

Matthew 16:25 NASB

Let go, brothers and sisters. Jesus has you!

Advertisements

Taming the Digital Tongue

Thanks to the technology revolution the tongue is not only physical, but it is also digital. Texting and social media are the main forms of communication in today’s modern society. It has allowed for rapid and frequent connection with friends and loved ones alike. The exchange of ideas has become as quick as a click. Along with all the good it has also brought on a new way of slandering, gossiping, and criticizing others, by saying things we’d never say in front of others.

Anyone who will gossip to you, will gossip about you.

Brothers and sisters, we need to rise above the text message bashing and gossiping. We need to be among those who speak life not the criticism of others. We have to stop talking bad about people behind their backs. We say we love, but with the same digital and physical tongues we tear others down. Unfortunately, I know followers of Jesus who are so sweet outwardly, but on a phone, with certain people, they reveal a totally different side of themselves. We really shouldn’t say anything about someone that we wouldn’t be willing to say directly to them. And we should only say things to people that are encouraging, truthful, and helpful.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians‬ ‭4:29‬ ESV

The world has enough criticism, hate, and slander. As believers, we need to be set apart from all that. Jesus knows our hearts and He can read our text messages and social media accounts. If our phones were open to the world to see, would they bring Jesus honor or shame?

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalms‬ ‭19:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The War of More

It doesn’t seem to matter what store we are in, my kids ask for something. They don’t even need to know what it is for them to beg and plead for it. It’s frustrating. Very very frustrating. I’m sure I did it as a child. In fact, I remember wanting to go to the stores with my grandma because I knew she’d get me something. My kids are the same way. As are the rest. Because humans are that way. Young and old, we want stuff. Most of which we don’t need. But stuff is fun, attractive, and entertaining.

I can’t despise my kids’ desires for things, because I have it too. Anyone that says they don’t is not being honest. I told my wife on the way home one day, “I don’t blame our kids for wanting new toys, because I have a list of things in my mind that would be fun to have.” The difference between being an adult and a child is that you have to get those things yourself and money is not always available. Also, you’ve learned to live without and the difference between need and want. While indulging still occasionally takes place, maturity overcomes most whims.

I had a serious talk with my children (one of many) about wanting things. I tried to explain that it’s a perfectly natural emotion, but it needs to be managed by wisdom. I also said that they wouldn’t be getting anything new until they were content and grateful for what they already had (which is a ton). They tried to ensure me that they were grateful, but their behavior far overshadowed any words they could speak. When the begging ceased I softly said, “you will know that you are content when you no longer feel you need anything new.”

When the Bible speaks of contentment, uses some extreme examples. Examples that are very convicting for child and adult alike. Here are some of those examples.

Food and Clothing

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

1 Timothy‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In our current situation

Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.

1 Corinthians‬ ‭7:20‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Our weaknesses and being insulted for the cause of Jesus

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:10‬ ‭NASB‬‬

With what we have

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”

Hebrews‬ ‭13:5‬ ‭NASB‬

it honestly feels like a war most days. The pull to want change or new things, or to no longer have to deal with our weaknesses, or for people to just love Jesus and stop hating on Christians. But for those who love Jesus, nothing more can be given to us than that which we already possess…new life. The Christian is free, alive, new, and filled with hope and purpose. The Christian has been given the gift of eternal life. God has paid the ultimate price for humanity but all humanity wants is more.

There is nothing greater we can be given than what God has already done for us. We are so consumed with the temporal and material that we struggle to see our true need which lies in the spiritual. Once my kids get one thing that they feel they can’t live without, their thoughts are on to the next. Christians cannot be guilty of the same. The one thing we can’t live without has been given to us…Jesus…and our minds should remain on Him. That’s what I want to teach my kids. But first, as the war rages on, I have to make sure I’m living it too.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Wherever you find yourselves, may your hearts be at peace brothers and sisters.

The Invitation of the King

Christianity is an active faith. One that stirs the heart into motion. It moves the believer towards a community of love, not just with friends and family, but with the despised and destitute also. For the Christian, family has no skin tone nor nationality. Shameful pasts can be erased in a moment and acceptance is found when a humble heart kneels at the foot of a cross. No one is unwelcome and no one is too dirty for the cleansing power of God’s grace. The Christian sees everyone as equal because he or she has come to terms with their own brokenness and need. We are all light years from God’s perfection, even the best among us. That is why God has invited us all to go to those whom the world has beaten down and rejected. Three things should always remain open for the Christian: their home, their arms, and their hands. The good and faithful servant reaps a harvest of love no matter where they find themselves and no matter the cost.

Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.

Matthew‬ ‭25:34-36‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Jesus is waiting in every hurting heart and needy soul, to be loved by us; to be acknowledged and to be provided for however we can. Love that this pure and genuine is also boundless. Jesus is waiting.

The Bible is Not the Constitution

There has always been a debate about what God has told mankind. In fact, it started in the Garden of Eden. The serpent tried to confuse Adam and Eve about what God had told them. The words “did God really say” are still being uttered by believers and non-believers alike. Keep in mind that those words are what led the first people into sin. Deception and a muddled interpretation of God’s instructions to His creation are a formula for destruction. We need to consider the source of those things. The serpent is an image of Satan, the one opposed to God and everyone who claims allegiance to Him.

I teach US History and American Government at a local high school. I love the US Constitution. It’s one of the most incredible documents in World History. It was crafted in less than three months, in secret, by only 55 people. This small group engineered one of the longest lasting governments this world has ever seen. Have the people in that government always been good? Definitely not. But the system is more than sound. A few years after the document was ratified, amendments were added which became known as the Bill of Rights. Contained within those first 10 amendments are rights that we battle over and fight for to this day. Seventeen more have been added in the 227 years since. This amazing document, as flexible, enduring, and cherished as it may be, is still imperfect. That’s because it was created by imperfect people. They were great minds. No one would argue the contrary. But none of them were perfect.

An amendment is a change made to a legal document. Perfect things never require change. You can’t add to perfection, you can only detract from it. Our government has added 27 changes to the US Constitution because it needed to be changed. Our nation and any other for that matter are made up of imperfect people. We have a history of discrimination, war, and oppression. Each nation has a different story but they’re all fluid. No society is constant because no society bases it’s existence and guidance off of a constant source. The US Constitution of 1787 was not worthy of being left untouched and unaltered. Even with its 27 additions, this document is lightyears away from being the foundation of truth to anyone’s existence.

I see a frightening trend among certain sects of believers who prefer to treat the Bible as though it was the constitution. As though it was imperfect and in need of altering. I hear people claiming to be followers of Christ, second-guessing the very things Christ spoke and stands for. To question the Bible is to question Christ. To question the Bible is to question the Creator of all existence. We cannot approach the Bible as though it needs to be flexible and mold to the times. I have no problem in making God’s word relevant to our time. It does that all by itself. The Bible is a mirror into everyone’s soul. It doesn’t matter if you lived a thousand years ago, a hundred years ago, or are alive today, the Bible speaks to your existence. It doesn’t need to be amended. To believe that it does means that you believe that God is imperfect. We do the society we live in no favors when we utter the same words as the serpent of the garden, “did God really say?” Those words only create an atmosphere ripe for sin to flourish.

We don’t mold the Bible to our worldview. The Bible is our constant, perfect document. We mold our worldview into what the Bible says. Just because the views on certain issues change in society does not mean that the Bible needs to change with them. What the world needs are followers of Jesus who are not ashamed of the truth. People who are willing to stand against deception and the love of sin that is so persistent in this world. The world does not need compromising souls but passionate disciples.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Matthew 4:4 (NIV)

Vitamins for Christians

bvitaminswide

I used to take a lot of vitamin and mineral supplements because I believed it would help me to be healthy. I also went through a weight training phase that consisted of taking protein supplements and amino acids regularly. Then one day I had an eye-opening experience. I read study after study about the different ways that vitamins and proteins are absorbed in our bodies. Not all supplements are equal, even when it comes to vitamins. Some are fat-soluble ones (like A, D, E, and K), and others are water-soluble ones (like B and C). Also, our body absorbs two types of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) are your body’s direct fuel or energy sources, whereas micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) indirectly influence available energy by serving as catalysts to release the macros. But unless they’re efficiently absorbed, none of the nutrients can fulfill their duties optimally.

I spent so much time pouring supplements into my body but they weren’t doing what I’d hoped they’d do. I wasn’t taking them in the correct manner nor was I always doing the correct activity to help boost their effectiveness. When it comes down to our health and fitness, we can take pills and powders all we want, but we won’t get the desired results unless we get up and move, and do so efficiently. Our body has limits to the amount of vitamins and minerals that it will absorb. When levels are low or you’re deficient, your body tries to regain homeostasis (equilibrium) by absorbing more of whatever is needed. Once that balance is reached, absorption will again be decreased in order to maintain the appropriate level. In short, our bodies are way smarter than we are. God’s design in the human body is absolutely astounding. In addition to all these factors, there are several outside influences to our nutrient absorption. Stress, sleep patterns, alcohol consumption, caffeine intake, and exercise are perhaps the greatest among them.

This isn’t a health blog so here’s what I’m trying to get at. We can take in a lot of spiritual nutrition, but unless we do it properly, and target the outside influences, we will never grow like we are intended to. Simply put, we can do 10 devotions a day, Bible studies three times a week, and go to church weekly, but if we aren’t putting things into practice then where’s the growth? If I put a lot of time into studying how to fight stress and live in the peace of God, but don’t let it eradicate my worries and increase my faith, then what’s the point? If I hear sermons and read books on discipleship but I’m not actively trying to connect with people and love and change lives, what good is it? If I do devotions and sing songs about the love of God and surrendering my life, but I hold on tightly to control, how does it benefit me? If I run through quick prayer times in the morning or evenings but spend all my time speaking and no time quietly listening, how will I ever hear from Him? So many of us are taking spiritual supplements but we’re seeing no change. We should be different today than when we first decided to follow Christ. We shouldn’t be battling with all of the same junk. The Christian life is one of surrender, peace, love, truth, grace, kindness, joy, and humility. Those things may not characterize a new believer, but they shouldn’t certainly be displayed the longer we follow Jesus. God’s goal for humanity is to change them into the image bearers we were always meant to be.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 8:29 (ESV)

Reading the Bible, praying, devotions, Bible studies, worship, and prayer time are amazing and essential. But no matter of spiritual supplements can make a difference without submission to the Holy Spirit and passion for our Savior. This is a lesson I’ve been confronted with every time I’m going through something that I “know” the right answer to but I’m not living the right answer. I know people who have battled with anger, anxiety, depression, addictions, and the like for the entire time they’ve walked with Jesus. There might be stuff that we all have that nag at us till the day we die, but we’re meant to walk free and redeemed. I need to be reminded of that. How about you? Brothers and sisters let’s not just be hearers (and studiers, and singers, and discussers) of the Word, but lets put it into action and see is transform lives! Let’s put the supplements to work.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

James 1:22-25 (ESV)

 

 

Four Reasons Hanukkah is Important to Christians

Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is also known as the Feast of Dedication and the Festival of Lights. It’s origins come from the Jewish rebellion against outside oppression and idolatry over 100 years before Jesus was born. Its a fascinating story of heroism, faith, and God’s people refusing to compromise. While it’s not one of the commanded celebrations of the Bible (like the feasts of Leviticus 23) it has become a greatly cherished season for honoring God. It seems to have started out that way very quickly because it was being celebrated in Israel during the time of Jesus.

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter,and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.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.My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.I and the Father are one.”

John 10:22-30 (ESV)

Here are four reasons why Hanukkah holds so much significance for the followers of Christ.

#1 Light of the World

The centerpiece of Hanukkah has to be the Hanukkiah. It is an eight candle lamp with one center candle called the Shamash. In the Temple, this candelabrum was to remain burning at all times. It was the source of light that allowed the priests to carry out the worship of Yahweh. Christians often celebrate this festival by decorating their houses with lights, inside and out, and lighting of the hanukkiah in honor of this element of Hanukkah. There is no greater light in the world than Jesus. The Festival of Lights honors the Light of the World as well as reminding us of our role to serve as lights in this world for all those walking in darkness.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12 (ESV)

#2 Miraculous Provision

When the Maccabean revolt regained the Temple, one of the first things they did was to light the lamp using the oil available there. The problem was, there was only enough oil for one day. However, the oil miraculously lasted a full eight days which is why Hanukkah lasts for eight days. This was nothing short of a miracle. And God is a God of miracles. Jesus demonstrated that during His earthly ministry. Remember those two times that He multiplied the fish and bread to feed thousands of people? Not only did He demonstrate miracles, But He is also a miracle. His birth to the Virgin Mary was a miracle. His death on the cross on behalf of humanity was a miracle. And His resurrection from the dead was a miracle. Jesus is, in fact, the miraculous provision of God for humanity. Far greater than the oil. And nothing is more miraculous than a sinful people being cleansed and made new by God. Hanukkah is eight full days of praising the Lord for cleansing us of our sins and giving us new life.

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2 (ESV)

#3 Dedication of the Temple

The temple had been desecrated by the leader Antiochus and idol worship had become a common activity there. The Jews chose to bring an end to this idol worship in the house of God and rose up in arms. After defeating their enemies, the Temple had to be rededicated to the Lord. Nearly 200 years later, Jesus would enter the Temple in Jerusalem to call out the idol worship being conducted there. He overturned tables and reminded the people of the purpose of the Temple. Jesus also changed the idea of what the Temple was. You see, God had chosen to live among His people in multiple ways throughout the story of the Bible. In the beginning, He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. Later, He gave Moses the blueprints for a tabernacle. Solomon would construct the first Temple not long after King David passed away. Jesus said in John chapter two that He would “destroy this temple and in three days raise it up.” He wasn’t speaking of the building in Jerusalem. He was talking about His body. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the temple became the believer and follower of Jesus. In the Temple, God’s Holy Spirit resided. Now His Holy Spirit lives in those who dedicate their lives to the Messiah Jesus. Hanukkah is a great time to rededicate our lives to the One who saved us.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)

#4 Jesus celebrated it

In the first Bible passage of this post, John 10, Jesus is shown celebrating the Feast of Dedication. That is obviously speaking of Hanukkah. As followers of Christ, we are supposed to do as our Savior did. Our life belongs to Him, to live a life honoring of Him, sold out for Him. If Jesus believed it to be important to celebrate Hanukkah than shouldn’t His followers? Besides, the Festival of Lights all points to Him anyways.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God.All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.In him was life, and the life was the light of men.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:1-5 (ESV)

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters and happy Hanukkah!