Saturday, June 25, 2016

What is Wrong with the World?

Dear friends, this is the most difficult blog I have written thus far because I want it to be communicated in the proper way, but have no control as to how it will be received. Still, I must write it because I feel like we, as the body of Christ, must grasp hold of what I am about to say. So without further ado:

Over the past week our nation has been swept away in the shock and heartbreak following the terror attack in Orlando, Fl. We have been consumed by it. News anchors share their opinions as politicians make statements as to what they will or won’t do in order to prevent another attack. Radio hosts ask people to call in and share their anger or hurt with the listening audience. Bloggers, like myself, rush to their computers to spout their words of wisdom or disgust while social media users share every post they can about what happened or is happening regarding said tragedy. This is our response. It has been for decades. We rush to share our thoughts so we can process what we have experienced. 
Well, I too have thoughts regarding this terrible day, and I would like to share them with you. If you would be so kind to allow me, I would appreciate it. 

As I scroll through my social media newsfeed, I continually see people, including my brothers and sisters in Christ, posting this question: “What is wrong with the world!?”

Friends, I would like to answer this question in this blog.

The problem with the world is this: They do not have a relationship with Jesus. Simple. To the point. 

Yes, they might know of Jesus, that good guy who did some cool miracles a few thousand years ago. But Judas knew Him, yet he still betrayed Him. Simply knowing of Jesus is not the “end all be all.” In order to experience a transformation, one must encounter Jesus, experience salvation, and submit to Him. This is true for every human being – in the church and outside of it. The majority of people know of Jesus, like the children born in 2000 know of Elvis Presley, but they do not know Him personally. A relationship with Jesus is a foreign concept to many people. This is the problem with America – with the world.

We, as the church, have gotten fat and lazy in Zion trusting that the government would handle a job that we have been called to do. Christians have been spoiled by an America who was once dictated by morality. Now, we live in an America who knows not God. And those who do not know God serve themselves because that is all they know to do. (After all, without Jesus in your life, who would you serve?) 

Those without Christ have not been released from their chains of sin; instead, they revel in it. This is why we find people glorifying sin while trampling upon righteousness - which is contrary to the Word of God, as we can see in the following verses:

Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

2 Peter 3:3: “…knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.”

Romans 1:28-31: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”

These are only a few Scriptures highlighting the problems that result from choosing sin over righteous.

But I ask you, what are we to expect if they do not know Christ?

Why don’t they know Him?

We, as the body of Christ, have not done our job. We have not taken the gospel of Jesus Christ to our country. And here we sit during a time of great tragedy wondering what is wrong with the world. 

The problem is: humanity is living for itself. The longer they serve their human nature the more they will become enslaved to it and the “crazier” this world will become because we are in a downward spiral of immorality. 

For this reason, the greatest tragedy is that people, including the Muslim man, entered into a very real eternity without knowing Jesus Christ. People of God, this means on that horrific Thursday people found themselves in Hell. Because no matter how we try to rationalize it away or claim it doesn’t exist, men and women without Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord will spend eternity disconnected from God in a place of indescribable torment. Pain, horror, fire, brimstone, but most devastating of all, complete separation from God. God, who is all perfection and goodness. This means that those men and women who enter Hell will never experience anything good again. Nothing. Why? Because they will be divorced from the only being who produces perfection, love, and all that is good. If you think this world we live in is terrible, wait until God disappears from the equation. That is Hell. 

So you see, the real tragedy is that there were men and women who died in that attack who did not personally know Jesus. 

When a follower of Jesus dies we are comforted by the knowledge that they will be with Him and we will see them again. When a person dies without salvation through Jesus, there is no hope. It is over in that moment. 

Friends, hear my heart. It is time for us to quit playing sides. Quit trying to make it things comfortable for yourself and others. Speak the truth. If you know Jesus then you are commanded to share the Gospel with the world around you. 

This is very real. 

We’re talking about Hell. 

We’re talking about no hope. 

We are not guaranteed how long we have here. Make it count. I beg you. Tell the people around you about Jesus. Make sure that they know the truth. Earnestly invite them to come to Jesus by sharing your story. Share the Gospel. Pray for their heart. Do little things to show them Jesus. You can’t force them to love Jesus but you can give them every chance before they enter eternity – which could be today. 

The attack in Orlando was a great tragedy. My heart breaks for the loved ones who have been left broken and empty. I hope that someone in Orlando is able to show the love of Jesus to those who desperately need His comfort, love, and peace. I cannot begin to imagine the emotions they are experiencing. All I can do is ask God to be present and use His people to minister to the brokenhearted. I ask you to do the same.

Friends, if you glean one point from this blog, let it be this:

Share the truth of Christ, because that is what is wrong with the world – they do not know Him.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

... and Peter... and you...

Mark 16:7 “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.”

Hopefully you have heard a point like this at some time in your life: “Jesus is personal. He cares about you individually. If you were the only person on earth Jesus would have died just for you.”

I believe that most of you have more faith and are less cynical than myself, but for a long time I could not comprehend the truth expressed in those sentiments. I believed myself to be too sinful to be noticed or cared for by an almighty Savior.

So how did I respond? I chose to attempt to earn God’s favor. I bought into this idea that my “good” behavior could convince God I was worthy of His good graces.
I am sure by now most of you are correcting me with what you know of God’s grace. Isn’t it interesting how we can convey the truth to other people but cannot convince our hearts of what we already know to be true?

I have met so many people that have fallen prey to the same mindset as my younger self. They know that Jesus came to save them, regardless of their short comings and sin, yet when it comes to accepting it they struggle to embrace this truth. So, they slave away attempting to earn the greatest gift ever given not realizing that they will never be able to complete enough work to deserve it.

Why do we end up captive to these thoughts? It is because we have believed a lie. This lie tells us that we are the exception to God’s offer of forgiveness and grace. It feeds our heart and mind with evidence by playing each and every sin constantly on repeat. When we think that we might walk in freedom, we see that episode of our most egregious sin which forces us to remain chained to the wall of our past.

There was a man who lived about two thousand years ago who “wrote the book” on being held captive by your past. His name was Peter.

If you are not familiar with Peter, please allow me to introduce you.

Peter was one of Jesus’ twelve apostles. He was a fisherman who left everything he had to learn from Jesus. Peter was an eager young man who often opened his mouth merely to insert his foot. Still he loved Jesus deeply and yearned to know more about the Kingdom of God. No matter what Jesus asked of His disciples, Peter was willing to do it (you may know him as the one who walked on water with Jesus). Peter witnessed the miracles Jesus performed on earth. He was destined to build the New Testament church. Overall, Peter was passionate about God and His work.

How is it that a man such as this lived chained to his past?

What did He have to regret or be ashamed of?

Well, if you read the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, you’ll find Peter standing in a court yard 
during one of His trials. The people were angry and becoming more aggressive towards this man, Jesus, and his ministry. Three different times Peter was identified as one of Christ’s followers and at each occasion Peter denied even knowing Jesus.

Following the third denial Peter leaves the scene of Jesus’ trial. He was completely overcome with regret. We know from the story that Peter repented of his betrayal, but he was held captive by it. Peter would not allow himself to walk in the freedom offered by Jesus. How could he? Peter wasn’t there when Jesus took His last breath on the cross. He denied Jesus when he thought it might cost him his life. He didn’t deserve forgiveness.

Have you ever had these thoughts? Do you still have them?

Peter had them. Peter believed himself unworthy of God’s grace.

However, we know from the account that Peter would become the leader of the New Testament church and have the honor of leading thousands to salvation in Jesus.

So what happened to create such a change in Peter’s demeanor?

The Resurrection happened.

In Mark 16, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and a person named Salome went to anoint the body of Jesus. This was a part of Jewish burial customs. When they arrived they encountered a young man, wearing white, who told them that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, He had risen! Then he instructs them to do this: “Go, tell His disciples and Peter…”

Did you catch that?

“Go, tell His disciples and Peter…”

Peter. The one who denied Him, was the one mentioned by name.

You see, Jesus is personal. He is relational.

He knew that Peter was being tormented by his past decisions and Jesus longed to free Him. Jesus specifically wanted Peter to know that He had risen and freedom had been purchased on the cross and forgiveness won!

For those of us who, like Peter, do not believe we are worthy of forgiveness and grace, allow me to take the weight off your shoulders by informing you that you are not worthy of God’s grace.

No one is.

That is why it is a gift – tremendously precious. We cannot earn it. We do not deserve it. Yet, it was purchased for us.

Jesus did not die so that we could remain haunted by our past sins. He came to forgive the murderer, adulterer, liar, glutton, gossip, thief, sexually immoral, idolater, proud, self-indulgent, etc.

He came to free us.

Therefore, if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your one and only Savior and Lord, believed that He is the Christ, God’s own Son, and confessed openly that you are a sinner in need of grace; then you are free. Because “He whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36).”

I urge you friends, do not be like me. Do not waste years attempting to earn salvation or God’s good graces. Simply open up your hands, your heart, and accept it.

Why?

Because God wants to write a new story in your life and your past is not included.
Our past motivates us but does not define us. The blood of Jesus does that.
Peter was not the same after denying Christ. His fervor to share the Gospel increased. He never wanted to deny Jesus again. So instead, he shared the message of Christ everywhere that he went until the day he was put to death.

Let your past do the same. Do not repeat that portion of your story again but allow it to be your motive for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that others may walk in freedom.
These two things I leave you with:

 1)      If you do not know Jesus, He wants you to know that He is risen and purchased your salvation at the cross. I am here to tell you that He is alive and offers the gift of freedom to you. Jesus does not want you to live in sin but freedom. And it’s easier than it sounds. Simply accept that he is Savior, believe Jesus is the Son of God, and confess that you are a sinner. With that, you are free.


      2)      If you know Jesus, but are chained to you past, today you must make the decision to believe in the power of the cross. Your freedom was purchased there. There is no need for you to attempt to earn it. He gives freely. Simply accept. Why? So that you can live the story He has written for you. 

Wave Walker and Saltwater Guzzler

Wow, it's been a long time! I haven't really had much to share or say recently but a few days ago inspiration struck so I though...