Don’t be a rotten fig tree

“On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.” Mark‬ ‭11:12-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This has been one of the oddest stories in the New Testament, for me, for so long. It just seemed out of place. But knowing that God has a unique design for everything that’s in the Bible I still knew that there was a deeper meaning that I was missing. When it finally dawned on me I became extremely convicted. That seems to happen a lot when reading the Bible.

Jesus used the symbolism of the withered fig tree to teach His disciples that the nation of Israel had become as spiritually fruitless as the tree Jesus cursed. The same lesson is important for today’s followers of Jesus to understand as well. A person can look spiritually healthy on the outside just as the fig tree looked good for bearing fruit. But the best indicators of spiritual health are a person’s faith in God and love for others (see vv. 22-25). We can certainly look the part and not be the part. More than anything Jesus renounced and rebuked hypocrisy in people who claimed allegiance to God.

“As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots.” Mark‬ ‭11:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

For all the people walking into churches and going to Bible studies yet aren’t producing faith and love and change in their lives are but a tree withering at the roots. We have to guard against complacency and apathy. We have to let Jesus keep our hearts soft and tender and open to others. We have to continue to grow in love and goodness. Let’s move forward loved ones. Let’s produce the faith and joy and wonder that this world longs to see.

“”You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Rejoice in the Everlasting

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There is no question that life comes with many challenges. As we get older, the challenges generally increase. Some, however, face even the most difficult challenges from birth. Regardless of when the difficulties arise, they will in fact arise. Some people seem to die far too soon, while others live long lives. Some live in poverty while others flourish in wealth. The world is full of imbalance. Discrimination, hatred, pride, selfishness, and greed all dominate no matter the society you look at. Painful relationships, sickness, and loss are things we all come face-to-face with at one time or another. We have all been disappointed by others and we have all been the ones to disappoint others. No one needs to look too far to see the effects of sin and brokenness in this world.   But in the face of this bleak and often heart-wrenching life, we can know that one constant exists that can bring us hope. His name is Jesus.

Rejoice, believer, in Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus always was. The Babe born in Bethlehem was united to the Word, which was in the beginning, by whom all things were made…If he were not God from everlasting, we could not so devoutly love him; we could not feel that he had any share in the eternal love which is the fountain of all covenant blessings…When only your last battle remains to be fought, you shall find that the hand of your conquering Captain has not grown feeble—the living Saviour shall cheer the dying saint. When you enter heaven you shall find Him there bearing the dew of his youth, and through eternity the Lord Jesus shall still remain the perennial spring of joy, and life, and glory to his people. Living waters may you draw from this sacred well! Jesus always was, he always is, he always shall be. He is eternal in all His attributes, in all his offices, in all his might, and willingness to bless, comfort, guard, and crown his chosen people.  -Charles Spurgeon

Dear loved ones, for all of you walking through a painful and uncertain season of your life, hold fast to the anchor in every storm…the eternal Savior. He is with you in your pain and suffering. He weeps for our sorrow. No matter the challenges we may face, we will always have Him, and that is a cause for rejoicing!

“Thou art from everlasting.”    -Psalm 93:2 KJV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Christian Husbands and Fathers

What does it mean to be a good husband and father? How does the Bible define the role of a Husband and a father? As a man who has been married nearly ten years now, and with three kids, these questions are extremely important to me. I’ve spent the last nine and a half years trying to become the man that my wife deserves and the husband that would honor our marriage, and the last six years trying to be the godly father my children deserve. I have failed many times but I have also learned a lot along the way. I’ve known several men who have demonstrated what it means to be a godly husband and father and for their example, I am very thankful. While watching others live it out is important, nothing can replace knowing the Biblical roots for the calling of a husband and father and choosing to live them out ourselves. At some point, we ourselves need to become an example for others.

I think the Bible lays things out pretty neatly for men. The calling on husbands and fathers is to lead, to love, and to lay down our lives. Looking back through history, men as a whole (the church included) have not followed God’s design for being a husband and father very well. The male dominant societies throughout the centuries demonstrate a real misguided view of the value of women and children and men’s role in the lives. While there are clear passages in the Bible that address the role of husbands and fathers, it seems they get lost in translation a lot. This is not an indictment, it’s a rallying cry for me and my brothers out there to step it up and show this world what God designed us to be. We can’t rely on media or even the pulpit to show us the way. God has already done that. The rest of this post is about what I’ve learned along the way and the standard I want to be held accountable to.

The Bible sets the man up as the head of the household. The head is the one who takes the lead. So what exactly does it mean to lead? Leadership is not domineering. While the husband/father is the Biblical head of the family, he is not the dictator. The best leaders in life are those who lead by example. They never ask of others what they are not willing to do themselves. Every value they hope to cultivate in those they lead, they first cultivate in themselves. A leader listens to the voices of those they lead. They seek what is best for those they lead. And a leader never views themselves as any more important than anyone else. A true leader is humble. As husbands, we must involve our spouses and children. We must invest our time, more in them than in any job or career. As husbands, our highest calling is in our homes.

A husband/father is not just a provider for the family, they are a nurturer as well. I know a lot of men who believe that their job is 9 to 5 and then check out the rest of the time. Male chauvinistic societies have unfortunately bread generation after generation of men who view life this way. All of a sudden fictitious gender roles are created. The wife takes care of the home and the children and the husband brings home the paycheck right? False. That is not the Biblical design. The home and the children belong to both the husband and the wife. They are jointly responsible for their wellbeing. While some women are geared more towards gentleness and nurturing, it is no less the man’s responsibility to be tender and kind and invest quality time in his children. Our wives should also get more of our energy and affection than our hobbies or careers. If we went to our jobs and sat around in a lounge chair and watched tv or scrolled our phones all day, we’d get fired. So why do we think it’s a good idea to do that when we walk in the door of our homes? Our wives and our children deserve our best, not our leftovers.

Back to the concept of fictitious gender roles…whoever said it was the wife’s job to cook, clean, and do the “dirty work” of taking care of our kids? It certainly wasn’t God. The best leaders are willing and able to do the hard stuff. They don’t delegate it. Just look at the greatest leader of all time: Jesus. He came to Earth to serve. From day one, He laid down His life, all the way to His last breath. If Jesus can stoop to wash the feet of sinful men, then we can stoop to do any task that can help ensure the success of our homes. If Jesus could lay down His life, and bear our sin on the cross, then we can lay down our pride to wash the dishes, take out the trash, cook dinner, clean up the kitchen, change the diapers, vacuum the floors, and on and on. These are the responsibilities of a parent, not a wife. As the head of the house, it is our charge to share the load, in whatever form that may take. If we want to be a great leader then we need to look for ways to take the burdens off of our wives’ shoulders. If we want to lead the way Jesus did, then our lives need to be far less about ourselves, and far more about those God has placed in our care.

There is no one who can ever take the place of dad. More than anyone else, they are the ones who will give their children their first and greatest impression of what God is like. More than anyone else, they are the ones who can impress value and worth on their daughters and sons. To be a dad is to carry a heavy responsibility but it is a role to be cherished. Men, don’t find your fulfillment in your work. That’s empty compared to your role as a father. Our children need us to step up. Our children need to see us love their mom deeply. Our children need us to be there for them and with them. They couldn’t care less about how much we make. They want us. Our time and our affection. They need to hear us say “I love you” often. More than that, they need us to show them we love them often. We cannot abdicate our role to anyone else.

Men, our wives need to know that they are a priority. We should never stop pursuing them and showing them they are our greatest treasure. Chivalry is not dead. Honor is not dead. When we get married we should do more to win over our wives than we ever did when dating or during the engagement. We cannot let our vows be empty promises. They are a promissory note stamped on our hearts sealed for life. Our love must endure the hardest of times. A fragile love is not real love. They need to know we are in it for the long haul, not to simply make it, but to thrive and to love greatly. Men, let’s love greatly.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

Ephesians 5:25-27 NASB

Prayer is a glimpse into the soul

*image from Faithgateway

Of all the things Jesus’ disciples could have asked of Him, it was prayer that they wanted to know how to do the most. And there was no greater teacher. Jesus’ life was a display of what it meant to be in tuned with God. It was intentional. It was humble. Jesus often sought solitude in order to be alone with God. He used prayer to regain strength and resolve. If prayer was so essential in the life of the Messiah, so to it must be in His followers. If we are to walk as He walked, it all starts with prayer.

Have you ever stopped to study the prayer that are in the Bible? There are so many great examples from the patriarchs, the prophets, king David, Jesus, and His disciples. I truly believe that they are in the Bible for us to learn from. They show us a heart devoted to a calling. They show us people in love with God. They show us desperate need for the One who saves. They are anything but a rudimentary activity worked in as part of the Christian’s day.

When we pray, our soul connects with our Maker. When we pray, spiritual forces are put into motion that we struggle to comprehend. When we pray the depth of who we are and what we stand for is laid bare before God. When we pray our love for others is proved genuine or superficial. Take a look at this prayer from a Christian woman who was confined to a labor camp in Siberia:

O God, accept all my sufferings, my tiredness, my humiliations, my tears, my nostalgia, my being hungry, my suffering of cold, all the bitterness accumulated in my soul. Dear Lord, have pity also on those who persecute and torture us day and night. Grant them, too, the divine grace of knowing the sweetness and happiness of your love.

Let’s pray with more passion and power brothers and sisters!

Don’t limit God

Since when did the followers of Jesus stop believing in the extraordinary? Why are preachers out there promoting a concept that God doesn’t still perform wonders and miracles? Aren’t we still worshiping the same God who stops the raging storms, heals the broken body, who mends wounded hearts, who redeems wayward souls, and who orchestrates our lives in such a way that cannot be explained otherwise?

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.” Mark‬ ‭16:17-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Why are brothers and sisters getting criticized by their fellow Christians for praying that God raise their child from the dead? Did Jesus stay in the grave? Did Lazarus? How about the son of the widow Zarapeth? Or the Shunamite woman’s son? Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son and Jairus’ daughter. And it’s not like it all ended when Jesus ascended into heaven. Just take a look at Tabitha and Eutychus. The Bible is full of accounts where God raised the dead, most of the time using the prayers and intervention of His saints. Yet there are many in the fold who simply don’t believe God does that anymore.

“He alone is your God, the only one who is worthy of your praise, the one who has done these mighty miracles that you have seen with your own eyes.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭10:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In an article posted in May of 2017 in Medical News Today, the concept of the Lazarus phenomenon is expounded on. Several examples are given of people who are clinically dead come back to life many hours or even days later. There have been as many as 38 reported cases in the last 38 years. That’s just in the postmodern world where these cases are reported. You know it has to be happening in other parts of the world too where we never hear about it.

“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” Acts‬ ‭4:29-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The point is. God isn’t done with miracles. Why on earth would we stop asking Him to move in amazing ways? It takes faith to believe our God still opens eyes, unstops ears, and raises the dead. And it takes courage to proclaim it.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Do you desire to know God?

Perhaps one great way to start off this new year is to ask ourselves whether or not we are desiring to know more of God. This works for everyone from the seeker who is still uncertain about things to the Christian who has believed since childhood and everyone in between. God is endless. Therefore the journey to know Him should never end.

Where do we even begin to answer that question? Is it whether or not we go to church? Maybe how often we read the Bible? Or even how many Christian books we read? Could it be the number of devotions we do? All of those things alone do not necessarily point to someone who is desiring to know God. There is a vast difference between knowing about God and knowing God.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:17-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The one faithful indicator that we want to know God is how connected we are with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the spiritual breath of God. It is what brings us into new life. It is the way our life and His can overlap. When Jesus spoke about abiding in Him in John chapter 15, He was alluding to the connecting force of the Spirit.

Let’s think about it on a personal level. I can know about my wife. We can talk regularly. Same with my kids. We can live under the same roof and spend our passing moments together. But even in all of that, I can still not really know them. Unless I invest quality time in knowing them, and asking the hard questions, and seeking to know their hopes and dreams, their fears and failures, and their struggles and successes, I won’t ever truly know them.

“”Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew‬ ‭7:21-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The same is true with God. I can know lots of facts about God and still not know Him. I can do lots of things for God and still not know God. The passage out of Matthew 7 is one of the hardest hitting in the entire Bible. In my opinion of course. But it’s exactly what I’m talking about. These people called Jesus Lord and even did things in His name, but they had no idea who He really was. Their faith was superficial. It wasn’t about Jesus at all. It was all about themselves.

If our pursuit of God is really only about us knowing facts about Him and doing good things then it serves no more than to promote a godly image of ourselves and soothe our religious appetites. The true marker of desiring God is wanting to be with Him. Like actually connected with Him. In everything. That means allowing our individual identity to fade away and be replaced by the overlapping nature that comes with having His Holy Spirit reside in us. It means living empowered, living in hope, living in joy, living in peace, and being transformed continually. If we aren’t changing and becoming more like Jesus then we aren’t truly desiring God.

Am I content with knowing little about God? Because the only way to know God is through his Spirit, and if I don’t desire more of the spirit and being in contact with the spirit and living my life abiding in spirit then I don’t desire to know more about God. How about you?

Peace in Christ loved ones!

A new path

Look back over the last year and a half is someone depressing when it comes to taking care of myself. I’m not huge on New Years resolutions but something has to change. I could make excuses all day. We had a new baby join the family, my business has taken off, my two older children are in school now, I have lots of new responsibilities at work, etc…But when it all comes down to it, I’m just not making it a priority to take care of myself. I don’t want to be dramatic but if I want to make it 50 I better reverse course immediately. I’m driving myself into the dirt and not feeding myself with the right fuel. Too much soda, sweets, and fast food and not enough vitamins, nutrients, water, rest, and exercise. I get lazy with taking care of myself when I’m busy taking care of my family, business, and over 160 high school kids. But laziness will be the death of me.

I’m putting my foot down. Enough is enough. I’m tired of feeling drained and depleted. My life won’t be slowing down any time soon but I can make the choice to refill my body and soul with the right stuff to keep running strong. I will choose to study and meditate on the Word more. I’ve already started studying the book of Mark and a memorization of scripture with my good friend Matt. I will work out consistently, eat better, stop and rest more, do more of what I enjoy with those random minutes of free time. I will do better in every area.

A man without self control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28 ESV

A year from now I hope to be celebrating with all of you are fighting the same fight. The fight for self control. The fight to no longer be controlled by indulgences. I hope to celebrate victory through more health and wholeness. That is my new path. One that I hope to never leave.