RSS

Tag Archives: christian personality

The Lamenting of a Fan

imagesIt’s no secret that I’m a New England Patriots fan, and the shocking events of this week have not been lost on me.  Sure, I’d love to bury my head in the sand and pretend that nothing happened, but this is Aaron Hernandez we’re talking about.  One of the most dynamic players in the NFL.  What’s going on here?

For those of you who don’t know, Aaron Hernandez is, was, a tight end for the New England Patriots.  He was arrested yesterday and charged with first degree murder.  This doesn’t come long after he signed a forty million dollar contract extension that doesn’t include the just over twelve million he gets from bonuses.  This man is twenty-three years old and his life is over.

I will never pretend to understand what makes the rich and famous do incredibly stupid things.  I know that if I was blessed with an exorbitant amount of money, I would be on my best behavior, wanting to preserve my money and status.  But perhaps that is too wise for some people.  Aaron Hernandez is not alone in his idiocy.  There have been many before him and I’m sure many after who will spectacularly and irrevocably fall from the graces of their fans.

But why does this happen?  Why does it seem that people who are perfectly equipped to do the right thing and make huge impacts in the world, throw it all away in a moment of lust, or anger, or greed?  Proverbs 12:15 says that fools do what is right in their own eyes.  I’m going to be writing more about this tomorrow, but the gist of it is this: people, no matter how good they are, if they are not following after God, will, in this life or the next, fall.

The broader concept here is the idea of relative truth versus absolute truth.  I’ve heard it as I’m sure you have: this is what’s true for me.  If my children used that phrase while in the process of telling a lie, I would lose it!  I lie is still a lie no matter how much you believe it to be true.  Aaron Hernandez did something horrible.  He didn’t do it because he felt justified (although he might feel justified), he didn’t do it because he got angry and carried away (although that may have occurred).  He did it because he is a sinful person who, instead of following after God, followed after the wisdom of himself and others.  That is ALWAYS a losing formula.

“The wicked are too proud to seek God.  They seem to think that God is dead.”  (Psalm 10:4 NLT)

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 27, 2013 in Random Ruminations

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Time to Move: Dealing With Baggage in Our Lives

1117483_58149629As an Army brat, I’ve moved my entire life, usually every two or three years.  But my memories of those moves are vastly different from the reality of my most recent move.  As a child, I remember those great Army movers coming in and packing everything up.  My brother, sister, and I would sit at the box of our giant Magnavox TV (TVs were much larger back then!), eat pizza, and drink orange soda pop.  And that was it.  That’s what moving was all about to me.  And I loved it!

But as I said, that’s much a stark contrast to my most recent move.  This last one was the first time I had moved with my wife and kids.  But there were no burly Army men to come and lift all the heavy stuff.  There was no one to bring me pizza and orange soda pop.  I was on my own on this one.

And the ‘stuff’ just kept on coming.  I had no idea that we had so many things in our home, but it seemed as though every time I felt like we were making headway, there was another pile of ‘stuff’ waiting in the same spot of the pile I had just cleared.  It was absolutely exhausting.  A week-long marathon of packing, lifting, moving, driving, lifting, and moving again that rivaled any workout that I have ever done.  I’m sore from top to bottom and have no desire to do that again, EVER!  But at the same time, I’m happy that it’s done.  There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with tackling such a daunting task.

As I’ve been preparing to speak this Sunday at church, some amazing parallels struck me about my life and my recent move.  You see, like most people, I’ve had to overcome many difficulties in my life.  Sins that I’ve committed in the past seem to come back and haunt me on a regular basis.  Moving out of a house is hard.  Moving out the Old Man and moving in the Holy Spirit is much harder.

But there is good news!

“With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused.  Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him.  They have no sense of shame.  They live for pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.  But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned about the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.  Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.”  (Ephesians 4:17-23)

Thanks to God, the ‘old man’ has received his eviction notice!  It’s time for him to go.  But he doesn’t want to leave and he won’t go quietly.  It’s our job to kick him to the curb.  But how do we do that?  How can we force out the remnants of our old life?

Little by little.  I didn’t get my house packed up and everything moved to another location all at once, at a snap of my fingers.  It took days, weeks really, to get everything in order.  Little by little I moved things from one room until that room was clean and empty.  Then I went to another.

Every time we resist the Devil and temptation, we are moving something out of a room in our soul.  Slowly but surely, as we begin to let the Holy Spirit win, we move out the old and let the Spirit take his rightful place in our souls.

But when something moves out, we need to replace it with something else.  If we don’t then we will find our old friend, temptation, squatting and taking up illegal residence in our hearts.  So we must study the Word of God and fill our hearts and minds with His Word.  If we do this, there won’t be any room left for the ‘old man.’  Moving something out isn’t enough, we must allow the Spirit to transform us into the temple of the Holy Spirit that He wants us to be.

Don’t get discouraged if it seems as though your sinful past seems to be hanging on for dear life.  Instead, take every opportunity to slowly evict it from your heart.  Choose to live in a godly way and the ‘old man’ will have no choice but to pack his bags and get out of town.  It takes time, and it takes effort, but if you consistently follow after God and seek to do His will, then you can and will have victory over your own life!

Dear Lord, I pray that you will help me to choose you over temptation.  Help me to evict the ‘old man’ and move in the Spirit.  Thank you for your faithfulness!  Amen

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wash Your Mouth Out!: What You Say is Who You Are

77711_7264“You brood of snakes!  How could evil men like you speak what is good and right?  For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” (Matthew 12:34 NLT)

Harsh words.  Perhaps what makes it worse is that Jesus is actually speaking to the spiritual elite, the Pharisees.  These are people who know all about the law of God.  In fact, they know it so well that they devised more laws just to keep people as far as possible from breaking the original laws.  Yet still there hearts were not right and Jesus points this out to them by showing them their speech.  The words they spoke were hateful and condemning while they professed to love God.  The thing is, it can’t work both ways.  I’m discouraged to see how some Christians are living their verbal lives.

I was recently encouraged by my friend and mentor Matt Ross (worship pastor at Pike’s Peak Christian Church) to be bold for Christ.  So, to put his advice into action, let me make a bold statement:  What you say is a direct reflection of what is in your heart.  (Not my words, Jesus’, again see Matthew 12:34)  I know that it’s not easy to reign in your tongue, especially if foul language was a big part of your speech prior to coming to Jesus.  But as Christians, we are called to watch what we say.

As far as I can tell, there’s three main areas where we fall short as Christians in regards to our speech: Complaining, Cursing, and Crassness.  Some people only struggle with one or two of these, some with all three.  Either way, I want to show you a couple of verses regarding these.  Remember, I am not condemning, in fact, I struggle with one myself: Complaining.  That’s why I put it first on our list.

Complaining

I’ve written about this subject before and my struggles with it.  I find myself complaining sometimes about the most insignificant of things.  I allow myself to get overwhelmed with life and then I can do nothing but complain about everything.  Paul talks about his in his letter to the Philippians.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT)  It’s pretty clear in this verse that we are to be thankful for everything God has done in our lives.  But the opposite of thankfulness is complaining.  You can’t do both at the same time.  Try it!  There’s no possible way to earnestly thank God for something while at the same time whining about it.

As I have said before, this is my biggest area of struggle.  There’s nothing easy about it.  But that doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to try.  I often fail and find myself whining or complaining about something, but the Lord is faithful to convict me and bring me to a place of repentance.

Cursing

I am shocked and amazed at how much foul language has polluted our Christian culture.  It’s gotten so bad that there are some pastors who openly curse from the pulpit just to be more relatable to the culture.  Here’s a news flash for you: “DON’T COPY THE BEHAVIORS AND CUSTOMS OF THIS WORLD.” (Romans 12:2 NLT)  Are you kidding me?  God calls us to be holy and separate from the world and Christians are trying to do everything they can to blend in with the culture.  Christianity is not guerilla warfare!  We are called to be a shining light, an example of His glory.  (Matthew 5:14)  We are told to be the city on the hill that can’t be hid.  We shouldn’t be slinking down into the background, hoping to not offend people by standing up for God.  But are we just offending God by standing up for our rights to be a part of this wicked world?

“Sometimes it (our tongue) praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.  And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth.  Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!”  (James 3:9-10 NLT)

How can we fulfill the two greatest commandments of loving God and loving others if we are cursing others and speaking against those who God created?

“Don’t use foul or abusive language.  Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)

Remember the old adage, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all?  I wish that more Christians would heed this advice.  If you spew curse words and demeaning speech from your mouth, polluting the air with the words of the world, are you building people up?  Are you encouraging those around you?  If not, then keep your lips together.  How can you claim to spread the Word of God out of the same mouth that sprays filth?

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, (or say) do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT)

Crassness

The dictionary defines crassness as: so crude and unrefined as to be lacking in discrimination and sensibility.  When we hear or see something crude are we drawn to it?  Do we then turn around and share it with our friends?

What we really need is a filter.  Not a moral filter, not an ethical filter, but a Jesus filter.  We are called to have the same mind as Christ.  (Philippians 2:5)  If Jesus wouldn’t say it, then neither should we.  Remember, it’s our job to build others up with our words, not lead them into temptation and cause them to sin by forcing them to hear the evil that comes from our mouths.

I realize that this post sounds harsh and I’m sure that there are those of you who agree whole-heartedly with what the Bible tells us to do.  But I am just as sure that there are those who will read this and feel as though I am trying to infringe on their Christian liberty to speak how they wish.  Either way, your actions are accountable to God, not me.

What I have provided here is not my opinion, but the very words of God regarding how we are to speak. So it is my fervent prayer that all Christians will heed this article and begin to change what they say, so as to constantly bring glory to God and stand as a shining light for all the world to see, and bring them to a saving knowledge of Christ. Amen.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is Serving God Really A Privilege?

1411635_57097477I find myself praying every week before I go out on stage to sing and play with the praise band.  Praying itself is not what I’m second guessing right now; it’s the content of my prayers.  You see, I pray every week and thank God for the privilege to serve Him.  I thank Him for using me and letting me be part of the ministry.  I thank Him for letting me lead others into worship and for the chance to share my faith with those around me.  But I began to think recently, is it really a privilege to serve God.

Now, before those of you who are Christians get defensive on me and flag me as a heretic and blasphemer, let me explain.  I don’t think that serving is a privilege, I think it’s a requirement.  I came to this realization when I was listening to a Joyce Meyer session in which she said that she was handing out job applications for God.  That hit me pretty hard.  For the longest time, I had been living like salvation was just something that I got.  I received salvation, I believed in Christ, my job was done.

But in fact, my job is just beginning.  Salvation isn’t a word or a promise or a prayer.  Salvation is a lifestyle.  I know, I know.  I can hear you now saying that if salvation is a lifestyle, that means that I believe in a salvation based on works.  Again, let me explain.  The Bible says in numerous places that our outward actions are a reflection of the great work that Christ has done in us.  (James 2:14-17; James 2:26; Matthew 7:21-23)

The Bible also says that even if we profess to be Christians but don’t have the fruit to show for it, then we are actually dead and should be cut from the vine.  (Matthew 7:17; John 15:1-27; Galatians 5:22)

So I am not saying that you must have good works to be saved, but I am saying that good works is the outward proof of the change that is in you.  If things don’t change on the outside, there has been no change on the inside.  Both cannot coexist in the same body: works of the flesh and works of the spirit.

“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14 NLT)

As Christians, it is our responsibility to live differently from the rest of the world.  We are told to let our let shine.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16 NLT)

Ok, so now that you can see that we are supposed to be different from the world, what does that have to do with serving in the church?  Good question.  As you can see, I’ve been using a ton of Scripture here to back this up because I don’t want anyone to think that I’m preaching some agenda or ulterior motive.  This is a revelation that came to me.  If you wish to heed this, then that’s great!  But if you want to ignore it, then that is between you and God and not for me to judge.  I will love you as a brother or sister either way.

So here’s my conviction.  Peter says, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” (1 Peter 4:10 NLT)  What I didn’t see from this verse, or any of the surrounding verses, is an exclusion clause.  Peter is saying that God has given each of His children a gift, and that we have a responsibility to use that gift to the glory of God.  I believe that this doesn’t just imply, but commands us to serve in the church in some capacity or another.

I truly believe that if you show up every Sunday, sit through the service, and then go home, and this is your routine week in and week out, then you’re probably not using your gift to its fullest potential, if at all.  Each of us should be serving in some capacity.  I will leave it up to you to decide the gifts that God has given you and how best to use them.

Before I sound ungrateful, let me say that I do count it a privilege to be able to serve my Lord on a weekly basis.  I am completely humbled that God would use me in a way that would bring glory to His name.  I do believe that I am called, as a child of God, to serve Him, but I also count it a privilege to be able to do the work of the Father in the capacity that I do.

I have no idea whether this will help anyone or not, but in my mind, I have begun to look at my service in a whole new light.  It’s not that I’m volunteering to serve or just serving to fulfill some sort of spiritual requirement, I do it because it is my job as part of the family of God.  And I’m honored that He has given me the privilege to spend my days serving and worshipping Him!

Lord, please help me to have a grateful heart of a servant.  Help me to view my service as more than a volunteer position for my resume, but as a responsibility that I have to serve you and to serve others as well.  Continue to humble me as I strive to live each day in service to you.  Amen.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fake it ’til you make it

1271144_50739548Have you ever had those days when it just seemed impossible to get into a good mood?  If you’re human like me, then there are no shortage of those days in our lives.  Between the stresses of work, money, family commitments, and ministry, sometimes life just gets overwhelming.  And on those days, sad as it is to say, I don’t always feel like a Christian.

You know the feeling: everything is pressing in around you and you feel claustrophobic, smothered, by the world.  It’s hard to see God at work in our lives on those days.  Everything is vying for our attention and God often gets pushed to the back burner.  For me, the first thing that goes on a bad day is my daily devotions.  Sad, but true.

So what’s the solution to days like that?  How do we refocus our minds and prioritize our thoughts?

Unfortunately, like so many other things in life, there is no quick fix.  I use a little phrase that I learned while working in the customer service industry: fake it ’til you make it.  We are commanded to act like Jesus acted while He was here on this Earth.  We don’t try our best and hope that everything works out.  We just do it!

“Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6 NLT)

I don’t know about you, but my Bible doesn’t have a little footnote that says to only follow this verse on days that I feel like it.  Living as Jesus did should be an every minute of every day kind of imitation.  John is not telling us to feel  like Christ, just to act like Him.

We can never be like Christ.  Try as we might, we can never attain to His glory and perfection.  But we are called to do it anyways, feel like it or not.  If you’re having a bad day and you don’t feel like reading your Bible that morning, do it anyways.  If you’re in a deplorable mood and you don’t feel like showing grace to the knuckle-head that just cut you off in traffic, do it anyways.

This could be one of the hardest spiritual battles you face on a regular basis, but it’s also one of the most important.  If the devil can convince you to stop imitating Christ for one day, then he can use that day to destroy your testimony and turn people away from God.  What may just seem like a bad day for us can have eternal consequences for someone else.

Lord, I pray that you will help me in the face of temptation.  strengthen me when I’m weak and help me to conquer the bad days that come my way.  Help me to embrace the mind of Christ and spend every waking moment of my life imitating Him and showing the world His love.  Amen

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is God Real?: How can I believe in a God that I can’t see?

555997_12036983One of my favorite DJs on my favorite Christian radio station is well-known for his ability to ask provocative questions that force Christians to think outside the box.  He never lets anyone answer his questions with clichés or standard Christian phrases.  Instead, he wants real, thought-out answers.

The other day, he asked a question based on an email that he received: How can you believe in a God that you can’t see, touch, or feel?  Like any good radio host, he put that question out to his listeners, but with a challenge.  In order to answer that question, one couldn’t use clichés like “One can’t see the wind, but we see the effects of the wind.”

So I began to think about how I would answer that question if someone approached me with that dilemma.  How can I believe in a God that I can’t see, touch, or feel?  I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve struggled with that very question in my own mind in the past.  There is no easy answer.  Sure, if I’m in a good mood and things are going great in my life, then it’s a simple answer:  God blesses me!  Look at what He’s doing in my life!  If there would no God, surely I wouldn’t be blessed like this.

But it’s never in times of prosperity that I’ve questioned God, so I think it’s safe to assume that if someone were to actually ask me that question, there would be something going on in their life that would prompt them to ask the question in the first place.

I believe that the best place to begin when trying to explain why I believe, is with the works of God in my life.  Not the tangible blessings like money and a job, but the intangibles like peace, and joy, and wonder.  It won’t be easy to explain these concepts to someone who has never experienced them, so take the time to think of a moment in your life when you shouldn’t have had peace and joy; a time when normal people would be struggling just to make it through the day.  Then tell them what God did for you in that moment.  Tell them how He was there when it seemed as though the world had left you far behind.

The next step is pure honesty: tell them that it doesn’t make sense all the time.  It’s ok to admit that our faith is a mystery to those who don’t believe.  But the only way to get it is to believe.  One caller into the show told the host that the person asking the question should just ask God to show Himself to them and then they would believe.  But Jesus Himself said that only a wicked and perverse generation would ask for a sign.  (Matthew 16:4)

In order to experience God, you must believe in Him.  It doesn’t work the other way around.  If God performed some kind of great miracle in order to get us to believe in Him, then there is no faith involved. It costs us something to have a relationship with Christ.  In the beginning of our relationship, it costs us faith, and this is probably the most important thing we can give.  This fledgling act of faith will prepare us for the future when our faith will be tested and we must blindly follow the will of God without any direction at all.  That day will come.  And if we don’t have the initial faith to believe in Christ, then when the hard times fall, instead of relying on God through faith to get us through, we will be trampled by the world and all it throws at us.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.  We have to speak honestly with people and meet them where they are at.  We must speak in love at all times, yet not ignore the fact that everyone is a sinner in need of a savior.  We have to clearly explain to them who God is and what He has done in our lives.  Then we must invite them to believe, so that in doing so, they too can experience the love and compassion of an amazing God.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Don’t live in a prairie dog war zone!

574559_75963904My route to church takes me along a back road that is completely surrounded by open fields.  On a normal trip, I can see prairie dogs standing guard, foraging for food, and playing little rodent games.  But for the most part, they stay off the road and cling to the safety of their homes.

The other day was a different story.  I was on my way to church for praise band practice, and I turned onto that back road.  What I saw next formed a lump in my throat.  As far as I could see down that stretch of road, prairie dogs bodies were scattered all over the pavement.  I couldn’t understand it.  Why would they leave their homes and venture into the road to do battle with forces that were bigger and stronger than they were?  Tears formed in my eyes as I slowly made my way through the carnage like a one-man funeral procession.

Ok.  Maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but it did make me think.  It was weird to me that all of these little creatures would suddenly abandon all caution and venture onto a road that held nothing but death and destruction for them.

Well, like the good little writer that I am, I drew a parallel from the prairie dog war zone to our lives as Christians.  As believers, we are safe from the dangers of the devil.  If we walk with Christ, he will protect our souls and keep us pure and holy for Him.  And like our ancestors in Bible times, we are given a set of guidelines to help keep us separate for God.

I know, I know.  Our works don’t save us and I’m not implying that.  But I am saying that how we act as professing Christians is a direct reflection of our relationship with Christ, if indeed there truly is one.

“A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.  A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.  So every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”  (Matthew 7:17-20 NLT)

Sandwiched in those verses is a dire warning for Christians.  “So every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  I am not going to be so bold as to say whether this means you will go to hell or if you will just be removed from this Earth.  But what I can say, with certainty, is that I don’t care what it means, I just know it’s bad and I want no part of it!

With warnings like that in Scripture, I can’t help but think that Christians would do everything possible to make sure that every moment of every day was somehow spent bringing glory to God.  Sadly, it seems as though more and more believers are getting close to the road, gingerly walking the line between freedom in Christ and the bondage of sin.

I’m not saying that we should lock ourselves in a room and spend all day praying and studying the Word.  That would render us useless here on Earth.  What I am saying is to be careful with your liberties.

Without opening too big a can of worms, let me give a practical example.  Alcohol is a hot-button issue amongst Christians, and for good reason.  Personally, as I have struggled with alcoholism in the past as have others in my family, I am against it and don’t think that believers should have any part of it.  That being said, is drinking alcohol a sin?  My answer is still no.  As far as I can tell, we are never commanded to not drink alcohol.  (Now, this could go into a huge discussion, and many books have even been written on the topic of alcohol in the Bible.  I just want to keep it simple as this is merely for illustrative purposes.)

Although the Bible doesn’t condemn the consumption of alcohol, there are several verses that give strong warning against it.

“Wine produces mockers, alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.” (Proverbs 20:1 NLT)

“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine.  Rulers should not crave alcohol.  For if they drink, they may forget the law and not give justice to the oppressed.” (Proverbs 31:4-5 NLT)

I don’t know about you, but I have no desire to put myself in position where I might forget the law of God.  It doesn’t take much alcohol to start compromising a mental state.  There’s too much at risk, terrestrially and eternally for me to take the chance that I would do something outside of what God would have me do.

Although that is just an example, and if you drink, please know that I am not condemning you.  I am merely saying that we need to be careful how close to the road we get.  We can’t step out into a place that we shouldn’t be in the first place and expect God to heroically swoop down and protect us from everything that comes our way.  We should obey God and steer clear of the temptations that pull us towards the road.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,