Why Bother?

I’ve been reading through the book of Exodus lately. You’d think a guy who’s been a Christian for almost 10 years would have been through Exodus. Truth is, I don’t recall ever going through it. But much like Moses, I’m finding myself on a journey. Not just literally as I’m walking with Moses and Aaron through the book but I’m finding myself on a journey myself. If you’ve got some time, I’d love to share with you something that I found today.

For those of you who have never opened a Bible before, or haven’t been in one for awhile, let me give you a synopsis of Exodus. After Adam & Eve disobeyed God, sin entered the world and everything just went haywire. Brothers killing each other, men chasing men instead of girls, people wanting to beat on angels, dramatic Facebook posts; it’s crazy. But God comes into the picture and promises that there will be a new nation, His chosen nation of people. There’s some hope in this world. The nation of Israel is slowly formed but then those dastardly Egyptians come in and enslave the nation of Israel. Now, I’ve left out a lot of details but this is where you blow the dust off your Bible and read the book of Genesis to know the whole story.

Then we find Moses. Now, Moses was special. God appears to Moses in the form of a burning bush, as in, a bush that looks like it’s on fire but, well, it’s not. I can’t make this stuff up. God tells Moses that he is to go Pharaoh and tell him to let the people of Israel go. God assures Moses that He will be with him, equipping him with the ability to perform signs that will show God’s power. But here’s the thing that’s caught my eye through the first 7 chapters of Exodus: when God tells Moses and his brother Aaron to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the nation of Israel go, God tells them that, “Pharaoh won’t listen”.

So, my question is, why bother? If I was in that position, why would I even waste my breath trying to talk someone down if they’re just going to turn green and start smashing stuff? (I don’t think Pharaoh did that, it’s never said in the Bible. But, you never know. Pharaoh is a crazy dude.)

But then I started thinking about what comes next in the story. In the end, spoiler alert, God frees the nation of Israel. They’re taken out of the bondage of the Egyptians. And who’s leading the nation of Israel through the parted walls of water (oh yeah, God parts the Red Sea through Moses. Like a boss.) and into freedom? Moses.

You see, we have choices we face everyday. Some good, some bad. But there’s those that God leads to us. We can sit there and think, “Why bother” because there’s some good sized impossibilities in front of us. But here’s the thing: we don’t know the outcome. This is where the Holy Spirit started knocking on my heart. I’ve had my sights aimed on this promotion at work for quite awhile but after 7 months of getting nowhere, I’m beginning to lose hope. Doubt is settling in. I’m thinking, “Surely there are better people for it”. But that is such the wrong attitude! I don’t know that I won’t get it. I don’t know my current level of awesome at work isn’t going to get me somewhere. (Okay, after that arrogant comment, I’m definitely not getting it. Side-note: I love using italics). 

What would have happened to Moses if he would have gave up? He would have missed out on experiencing God in a way that few people do, He would not have gotten to see God work first-hand and he would have missed out on some huge blessings. In short, Moses would have missed out. And in a lot of ways, so are we.

I’m not just talking about salvation and freedom that Christ offers but I’m also talking about the opportunities God graciously gives us. Right now, I’m enjoying the privilege of designing a logo for a church. How is that a blessing? It’s getting me back into art, which is something I’ve desperately needed for awhile. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a seminary student but I need something more creative than writing a 10 page paper on Anabaptists. (Don’t worry, I’m still trying to figure out what an Anabaptist really is).

But just think about that next time you’re faced with a big opportunity. Think about how you don’t know the outcome. Think about what might come after. The worst that can happen is that short sense of failure. The best that can happen changes depending on the opportunity.

Something to think about.

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That One Mask You Wear

Just recently, in my Baptist Heritage class at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, we began to study the differences between the General and Particular Baptists; what their differences in theology were, their views of baptism and how they viewed the Word of God. What surprised me, is that there were those who believed that sanctification was eternal. What that means is, they believed that they could live however they so pleased because when they died and went to Heaven, that’s when they would receive salvation and would be forgiven of all their “bad deeds”.

 

Upon hearing that, it struck a chord within me. These people really thought that they could just say they believe in Christ and the Bible and yet continue living their lives full of passion, lust, greed and hedonism? Clearly, they missed 1 John 3:9 that says if someone is truly born of God, they cannot keep sinning. Sure, Christians still sin but it doesn’t necessarily become a habitual reoccurrence with no remorse. It always amazes me to see people in history that say they loved the Bible yet acted like they had never read it or didn’t know how to read it.

 

But, the truth is, there are people with that theology today. Perhaps you’re one of them. Perhaps your theology is “Since God is all forgiving, I’ll live however I want and then He will forgive me in the end”. To be blunt, you’re taking advantage of the Almighty God. You’re trying to manipulate a God who is sovereign, holy and all powerful. Do you really think you can fool God with puppy eyes? Proverbs 5:21 says that “a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord and he ponders all his paths”. Don’t forget that while God is forgiving, He’s also all-knowing. He knows whether you are truly seeking Him or not.

 

If you are going to claim the name of Christ as your savior and take up the title “Christian”, then you are to follow God and allow Him to mold you and mature you; not take His forgiveness for granted and try to exploit and manipulate God.

 

“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.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” – James 1:22-27

Standing in the Way

You ever have those times where you thought you did something right but later, as you were surrounded by a group of friends, what you did was wrong? How was I supposed to know that crayons in the microwave was a bad idea, right?

Well, I was reading Acts 11 (on 11.11.11 which is pretty rad) this morning and came across this same kind of situation. Peter had just finished hanging out with this group of people called Gentiles who were always viewed as unclean and common. Basically, they were the outcasts of their time. What’s so shocking about Acts is God’s grace is extended to the Gentiles, which was thought to never happen. But when it does, people freak out! By people, I mean the people who claimed to be the sons of Abraham. They thought the covenant of blessing was for them only. But now the Gentiles are included in this and they lose it.

But getting back to Peter, once he comes back from hanging out with the Gentiles, preaching the Gospel to them and having some laughs, a group of these people who had been following the law and never thought the covenant would extend to the Gentiles surround Peter. I can see their conversation going something like:

“Peter! Dude. You were hanging out with Gentiles? What the..bro! Like, what?!”

Peter: Uh. Clearly you didn’t eat your cheerios this morning so let me explain what happened.

Peter goes on to talk about this vision he had that ultimately led him to Cornelius’ house in Caesara where, being filled with the Holy Spirit, he began to speak the Gospel. And, as always that happens when people preach the Gospel, people believed. The Holy Spirit was poured out on them. Sins were forgiven. Lives changed. Scars healed.

Yet, these guys getting at Peter were angry. So, here’s what I’m getting at: how many people have you looked at, thinking they weren’t worthy of Jesus? If you read Acts 10 and 11, you’ll clearly see that the Gospel is for everyone. Not just you. Not just your mom. Not just your neighbor who plays Call of Duty with you. It’s for everyone.

Christ died on the cross to pay for everyone’s sins, not just a select group. Who are you to try and stand in God’s way of pouring out His love, mercy and grace on someone?

If we claim the name of Christ, it’s our duty to preach this Gospel. To make it known. To all. To the misfits. The jocks. The shy. The outcasts. The popular crowd. The broken.

Something to think about.

They Will Know Us by Our Love

It’s intense to think that only a year ago I was a few weeks away from starting the journey to Fort Worth, Texas where I would attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I was excited and a little nervous; I’d be out on my own. Away from my parents and family. A strange new world filled with barbeque, cowboy hats and ridiculously hot weather. To be honest, I almost chickened out and ran back home. Thanks to a loving family and God speaking through them, I stuck it out to see what God had in store for my life.

Let me tell you, it’s been an adventure.

I’ve grown a lot. I’ve learned a lot. About myself, life, God, friends and the sort. A lot of questions found their answer and some still haven’t. The reason for this writing is because I have this nagging question about Christians. It’s a question about myself. It’s a question about you. Am I, are you, ready to give an answer?

Why do we make people fight for our fellowship? A bit of a curveball, I know. Let me explain further.

I’ve studied Scripture more this past year than I have in my entire life and one of the things I picked up on is that Jesus taught/showed people what love really looked like. That’s not all he did, for sure. He even said that people who didn’t know him would come to know him by the way we (we being Christians) loved one another in a brother/sister family way and would know we are true disciples of him.

I was one of the fortunate few to grow up in a loving family. For those of you who did not have that chance, I am truly sorry. I pray that God’s grace and love finds you and comforts you as He leads you to people who will show you this love. But I digress, what I mean is I know what it’s like to be in a family that has your back 24/7. A family who’s love you can both see and feel. A family who’s bond is so strong it could hold a skyscraper standing.

What I’m getting at is this: if we, Christians, have truly come to Christ and are following him into the church of Christ where we are all equal and we are all brothers and sisters…why aren’t we acting like that? Better yet, why aren’t we living it? I mean, if we are truly brothers and sisters, why don’t we prove it by loving on one another? By supporting one another as a church should?

I understand it’s easy to get caught up in work and life but is that really any excuse to not slow down and see how a brother or sister is doing? We even do this to people who don’t know God. We try to not think about the fact that unless they come to know Christ, their fate is hell. We try not to think of the guilt that is ours for not telling them. But if we are capable, even in the slightest, of talking to a person about Jesus for the sake that they may find peace and love beyond understanding and they escape the gates of hell, then we are just as guilty for not sharing Jesus with them.

I fear I’m becoming to scatter brained in this writing but the next time you see a brother or sister (real easy to find one if you’re on a Christian school campus or at church), take the time to sit down and invest in them. You may wind up late to class or work or wherever. So be it. I’ve come face to face with so many hurting people in the past few weeks that I feel the weight of my decisions bearing down on me as I just ignored their pain.

I don’t even feel I should be writing this right now because I, too, am not spared of the conviction from this message but at the same time, I feel as though someone needs to say this. If you’re a believer/follow of Jesus Christ, take the time to read John 13:34-35 and ask yourself, “How can I love my brothers and sisters”? Then ask yourself, “How can I love others”? It is not hard, nor painful, to ask someone how they are doing and spend a few minutes investing in them. Who knows, you may just brighten their day a little. You may convince them that there are still people in the world who genuinely care and love. You may spur a fellow believer on to good works (Hebrews 10:24).

For those who aren’t believers/followers of Jesus, I apologize for the times that a Christian failed to show you love. I apologize for the times I failed to show you just a little glimpse of what God’s love is all about. I apologize for all the times I didn’t tell you what sin really is and just how terrifying hell truly is. And I’m sorry to my brothers and sisters for not taking God’s Word seriously and loving you like a brother. For using I’m busy as a weak excuse to not stop and care for you.

So, what do we do? Do we stare our mistakes in the face, paralyzed at what we’ve done?

No.

Let’s not be paralyzed by our mistakes. Let’s learn from them. Let’s repent. Let’s change things. Let’s start loving people the way Christ intended us to.

Something to think about.

Fight Club for One

You know those people who, when they make a mistake, they tend to let that mistake fester on their brain like a zombie, leaving them in a really depressing state? Yeah, me too. Especially since I’m a lot like that.

Growing up, my mom would constantly tell me I shouldn’t carry the weight of the world on my shoulders because it’s a pretty heavy burden (especially since the planet is ginormous). I’ve never really been a fan of failure. Whenever I’d strike out in little league, miss a shot in basketball or lose all my rings only to have a robot fish bite my nose resulting in a giant “GAME OVER” on the screen, I’d get pretty upset. To the point where, instead of learning from my mistakes, I let them eat at me from the inside.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t really gone away.

I was reading through Luke this morning about how the people that were so stoked about Jesus and telling all their friends about Jesus were now…wanting Jesus dead. I sat there wondering what in the world happened. These were some of the same people that Jesus healed. Or parents who were smiling as their children played games with Jesus. Or people who just enjoyed having a conversation with Jesus. And now, they wanted him dead? It just didn’t make sense!

It didn’t make much sense to the judges Jesus was brought to either. After finding Jesus not guilty, they told the people that they would just punish him a little and let him go. This didn’t go over too well with the angry mob. They began shouting that they trade Jesus for this guy who caused a riot and murdered people. I’m sitting there thinking, “Really? You people would rather have a murderer in your midst than Jesus”.

But then, as if looking into a mirror, I saw myself in that crowd. I began seeing all the times that I pushed Jesus away for what I thought was something better. All the times the thief who’s only job was to steal a person’s life, kill them and then destroy them whispered lies into my ear and led me away from the Shepherd who never stopped chasing after me to save my life.

That’s when the blows settled in. I sat there thinking of all the times I made a bad choice. All the times I could have ran away from temptation. All the times I should have led, both at an occupation and school. I could feel the weight of the world crushing me. As I raised a hand to beat myself again, another hand grabbed my fist. Then it hit me.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” //Romans 5:8

I began to see that all my slip-ups, mistakes and downfalls; God saw them too. Before they were really even a thought in my mind. And yet, He still sent Christ to die so that I wouldn’t have continue on that vicious cycle of making mistake, after mistake. So I wouldn’t have to continue listening to the thief’s lies but that I could listen to a sweeter song. And even when I’m about to make another bump in the road, because of Jesus and the cross, He’s there to lend a tire iron to fix the flat and to lend a hand to pick myself back up, dust my shoulders off and ask, “What can you learn from this” instead of beating myself up.

And he’s ready to do the same for you.

Something to think about.

I Can’t Write Good

I often have moments that involve opening my mouth and inserting my foot. A couple of days ago, I put on my Facebook something I thought sounded good in my head but was flawed when I read it. “Get between a man and his iPad, you get anger. Get between a man and his salvation, you get sin/death.”

It sounds good at first. But when you really let the words sink in, a few questions pop up. “What if the thing getting between the man and his salvation is Jesus? Wouldn’t that lead to life?” “What happens when you get between a man and his salvation that leads to death?” “What are you talking about?” Just to name a few.

I realize now that I need to further elaborate on this. Working in retail, or just taking a step out your front door, you begin to realize that today’s society has a heavy dependence on technology. We essentially live on technology in our day to day. But the moment something comes up to interrupt our dependence (which at this point, can be defined as worship) on our precious tech, we become so enraged that our fury rivals that of the classic green hulk. Which, in some occupations, is understandable. A computer goes down and you can’t carry on your business, every minute is a dollar lost.

But what I’ve noticed is the amount of people flocking to stores for the latest gadget under the illusion that they absolutely have to have that device…almost as if…it would bring salvation to their life. Which, to be honest, is something we all want. We hear constantly about an end time or a Rapture and it freaks us out. We want whatever will keep us out of that. But the problem is, all too often we put things between us and salvation, thinking that what is between us and salvation ultimately leads to salvation but in reality, it leads to disappointment, shame and, in some cases, death. Now, that death can be physical, mental or spiritual. But, aren’t the three ultimately connected?

What I’m getting at is the newest cell phone won’t bring redemption to your life. Sure, it’ll allow you to do multiple things at once but you have to remember that that cell phone won’t keep you from facing God. The latest tablet, video game, movie, alcohol, sexual conquest; that stuff will not lead to ultimate happiness. Nor will it lead to salvation. Or enlightenment.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came so that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

As much of a Sunday School answer that is, Jesus is the way to living a full life. I mean, consider this: haven’t you wondered why whatever it is you’re trying to fill your life hasn’t been bringing true happiness? That the happiness is there a short while and then fades, leaving us in a constant, blood-thirsty chase for a new high? Are we really finding that salvation we so desperately crave?

Something to think about.

The End?

If you’ve paid attention to local media and are reading this, obviously, the Rapture didn’t happen. As I began hearing some guy (whose name I don’t even know) started saying the end was a week ago, I began to think, “Hasn’t this guy read Jesus’ words that say no man will ever know the day and time that the Kingdom would come”. Clearly not or he was ignoring those words. But I’m not going to sit here and air my thoughts about the guy and his poor hermeneutics.

Here’s what I’m writing about: the end.

Now before you start thinking I’m going to predict the end, I’m not. I have no idea when it’s all going down. But what fascinated me, is that in the midst of all this talk of the end and the Rapture, in the book of Luke, I came across Jesus talking about this same topic.

In Luke 21:5-36, Jesus begins describing various kinds of signs that point to the Kingdom coming. I first read these verses a few days ago and thought, “Okay, cool! Some kind of indicators to look for”. But what really hit me was that, a couple of the indicators had already happened. Verse 11 talks about great earthquakes. Verse 8 talks about people predicting the end of time and/or claiming to be Jesus. Verse 9-10 mention wars, kingdoms against kingdoms.

And I thought, “Is the end coming”. I mean, I always knew Jesus is coming back but after reading these verses, it sounds like it’s getting closer. Now, could this be random coincidences? Sure. But I also think we should continue looking for these indicators. To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me if the end is that close. Am I about to start spouting off random days? Not at all.

I will say though, that at the end of it all, we have to stand face to face before God. My question is: are you ready?

Something to think about.

 

(I didn’t post the entire group of verses because I wanted to keep this short. I would encourage you to go read the verses for yourself and determine if it looks like the Kingdom is coming relatively soon or not.)

Get Back Up!

So, there’s this story in Acts of a guy named Paul who basically is a huge part of the New Testament in the Bible. Paul used to be Saul, who, in a sense, was the Hitler of his day. He went from town to town, arresting and killing Christians. Until, one day, he came face to face with Jesus and was forever changed. From that day, he went on to plant churches, share the Gospel and minister to those who needed love.

But there’s this one particular part of Paul’s story that captivates me. In Acts 14, the dynamic duo of Paul and Barnabas enter this town called Lystra and begin sharing the Gospel. Unfortunately, people see them as Greek gods and try to bring sacrifices to them. Can’t a brother heal a man’s feet without being confused for a Greek god? Anyway, what ultimately ends up happening is a group of Jews come from Antioch and Iconium (neighboring towns) that persuade the crowd to hurl stones at Paul. After Paul, I’m assuming, was knocked out, they drag him outside the city.

But then Paul gets right up, dusts his shoulders off and heads right back into the city to continue sharing the Gospel. Now, this amazes me because so often, that is what I fear if I speak to people about Christ. While I’m not necessarily afraid of people literally hurling stones at my face, I am afraid of the stones taken form in words that threaten to knock me out and kick me out of social circles. Yet, when I read this, I thought, “He…just got back up and went back to what he got stoned for”?

I don’t know about you, but that’s challenging. I feel God impressing upon my heart to go and tell His story to people from all over and despite this fear that is trying so hard to paralyze me, I can’t help but think, that when I get knocked out, of that line from Batman Begins. Alfred says to Bruce, after Bruce begins to have second thoughts of being Batman (considering his mansion is kind of, well, on fire), “Why do we fall? So that we can pick ourselves back up”.

Chances are, we, as Christians, are going to get mocked for what we believe, especially when we share it with people. But we can’t really let that bum us out so bad to the point where we give up. Because, for one, if we do, that person that we tried talking to won’t know Christ and will continue drowning in the lies of the evil one. But also because, God is worth it.

Paul also says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us”. So, while we may suffer a little while for starting up conversations about Christ that will more and likely make people uncomfortable, the hurtful words and other forms of mockery we may receive pale in comparison to when Christ comes in all His glory, looks at you and says, “Well done”.

It’s up to you. Whether you’re new to starting conversations about Christ or been doing it for some time now, you have to make the choice to get up, dust yourself off and go back into the city or to pack your things and go home.

Something to think about.

Finding Treasure

I remember growing up, one of the coolest things I wanted to do was grab a shovel, dig a hole and stumble upon buried treasure. Think about how cool that would be: you hear of a secret (because everything sounds way more exciting if it’s secret!) buried treasure that would make you rich beyond your wildest imagination. So I grabbed my pirate hat, slapped on an eye patch, set my stuffed dinosaur on my shoulder (because parrots are over-rated) and set out into my backyard, seeking treasure. Then I realized that I was so little, I couldn’t really lift a shovel. Moving to the next best thing: the sand-box! There I became fascinated with burying things only to dig them back up. It’s like a weird twist to Christmas morning every time I dug up something I had buried minutes before.

Growing up though, I think we all can admit that we’re still on a quest to find buried treasure. But, the question is, are we finding it? Or are we digging and digging only to find mere pebbles and rocks that we settle for as treasure? Is that our heart’s desire? For some pebbles?

I see a lot of people digging. But I really wonder how many of them have really found that one treasure that will last them not just a lifetime, but eternity. Jesus says in Luke 12:34, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. I see a lot of people digging, not in rich soil but, in a pile of garbage. It’s almost as if someone has blindfolded people and told them that if they bury their hearts in this “rich soil”, they will be happy. But…is it really happiness? Is it true joy?

I’m convinced the people who think they find true joy in alcohol, drugs, sex, money, gaining the most material possessions they can are not really satisfied. I think what has happened is we have settled for the scraps in the trash yard. I don’t think I’m the only one who’s caught on to the idea that burying our hearts in garbage doesn’t leave us full of joy but in a feeling of something missing.

I’m going to put a foot out and say this: I have found the treasure that we’re all looking for. It’s in a field that requires the selling of all the so called “treasure” we hold onto. In this field, there is a treasure that lasts eternity. A treasure that brings true joy. A treasure that, while may be a challenge in so many senses of the word, leads to life.

This treasure is Jesus Christ. I know what you’re thinking, Mountain Dew, right? Or maybe I’ve gone off the deep end without my scuba gear? In John 10:10, Jesus says that he came so that we may have life and have it to the full.

Jesus wants us to live and experience true joy and not to be content with the garbage we’re burying our hearts in.

The question is: have you found the treasure?

A Little Help

You ever have those times where you’re completely tongue-tied? For us guys, we can think back to a time in high school to where we would think about asking a certain girl out for a week before we finally mustered up enough courage to walk up to her. Unfortunately, once we arrived to the girl, we find out that all that courage we had been storing up had been used entirely during the walk to the girl and all we can say at that point is, “Uh…uh…uh…it’s 10:30”.

When it comes to talking to people about Christ, God and our faith in general, we arrive at the same point yet instead of giving the time randomly, we don’t say a thing at all. Why is that? Fear? Yeah, that sounds about right. We all have a fear when it comes to talking about our faith so if you think you’re the only one, news flash: you’re not alone!

But here’s a word of encouragement if you’re one of those who are scared: you’re not alone.

Hold up, Logan. You just said that. Why are you repeating yourself? Oh, you drank Mountain Dew.

Trust me, Mountain Dew has nothing to do with this. Here’s what I mean:

“And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” / Mark 13:11

In this group of verses that 11 is in, Jesus is going over the consequences of following and speaking about Him to the world. But, read that again. In a parallel verse in Luke 12:12, it says the Holy Spirit will teach us what to say. I don’t know about you but that’s encouraging. I don’t have to worry about screwing up, saying the wrong thing, whatever! The Holy Spirit will teach me what to say in those times?

Huh. Kind of changes the way we think about talking about Jesus.

Will we still mess up? Totally. But I get the idea that that’s why it says the Holy Spirit will teach us what to say.

Just something to think about.