It’s as Easy as 1…2…3…


Have you ever been traveling into work, listening to the radio and something just smacks you upside the preverbal head?  That’s what happened to me this morning.

As I was driving into work this morning, I was listening to my favorite radio station K-Love.  As usual, I was listening and singing with the songs they were playing.  Then as I was enjoying the music, the DJs then told us about a statistic which was extremely disturbing…here is it…ready???

“More than 50% of Christians don’t know what the Great Commission is.”

WAIT, WHAT!  THAT CAN’T BE TRUE!!!  How could we call ourselves Christians and not know what the Great Commission is?  Well, before you get your imaginary undies in a bunch, let’s first understand the possible reasons to this statement.

First, it is possible that those polled may or may not have been actual Christians.  Just because someone says they are a Christian, doesn’t mean they have given themselves over to Jesus Christ.  It’s like having a gym membership but never going.  You have access to everything you need in order to get in shape (other than round), the equipment, the locker room, the personal trainers, but you never make the effort to go there so you lose out on all that you have access to.

Second, it is possible that those polled were Christians who never read the Bible.  They heard the Gospel message, responded but never went any further.  They may be at the infancy stage of growth, not realizing that the milk and nourishment they need is in the best book ever written, the Bible.  Because there was no one guiding them or taking care of their spiritual infancy, they stagnated and figured, that they know they were going to heaven so that was good enough for them.

Third, the church-isms like Great Commission aren’t being used on the pulpit.  The Great Commission is explained but other words are used to communicate this mission.  Churches communicate the concepts, but do not use the lingo of our past fore-fathers.

Lastly, and the most disturbing, is that church leaders are not properly communicating the mission of the church, here on earth.  Unfortunately, I think this may be the most probable reason for this disturbing statistic.  If this is true, then the church needs revival now, more than ever.

Have we become so enamored by the social and political divisions of our societies that we have forgotten to communicate the one message Jesus gave us?  Could it be that churches are teaching more about concepts that don’t matter and not the fundamentals of our Christian faith?  Is it possible, that we have pastors, teachers and leaders who know so little about Scripture that they don’t know how to communicate what Scripture says from the pulpit?

Recently, I have been learning and teaching on unity within the church.  No matter what denomination you are from, unity within the church is essential in ensuring the Great Commission is completed.  Each denomination may have secondary differences, but the primary mission is the same and is as simple as 1…2…3…  Let me explain.

One (1)…

There is only one way to heaven, Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one goes to the Father except through Me.”  This means there is no other way outside of Jesus Christ.  No matter what society says, no matter how high up on the smart-meter you may be, there is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ alone.

Two (2)…

Once we recognize this, there are two things we need to do.  One…we need to acknowledge that we are sinners saved by His grace, because of the work He has done.  Two… we need to accept Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives.  This means every action, reaction, decision or step must be taken in light of His mission and the direction He has for your life.   Once this is completed, you are ready for three (3)…

Three (3)…

Jesus gave us three things we need to do for Him, in this life.  This is what we call the Great Commission.  He explains this in Matthew 28:19-20…

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

One….we need to make disciples.  As I’ve stated in other blogs, this is not like making a cake.  Instead, the word here for make means to lead.  It means we have a vested interest in leading someone to Christ.  We lead them by helping them understand how like them, Jesus saved us and wants to save them too.  We lead them in prayer by helping them understand how to ask for forgiveness and cry out to God for salvation.  We lead them into becoming a disciple.

Two…we lead them into their first act of obedience, baptism.  We lead them into publicly proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to their family and community, through baptism.  We show them the excitement of being saved and encourage obedience with this first act.

Three…we teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded us.  We teach them by leading through Scripture.  We can’t teach if we don’t know what Jesus commanded and we can only know what Jesus commanded by studying Scripture.  We teach them by leading and showing how joyous it is to serve Jesus Christ by serving others.  We teach them by leading and showing what the Beatitudes mean and how to live by them.  We teach them by leading and showing what it means to be compassionate toward others that hate us.  We teach them by leading and showing what grace is, towards a lost and dying world.

It’s not complicated.  In fact, the mission is very simple…

Be united in a divided world by leading others to Christ, to baptism and to obedience.

As leaders, we need to teach this from the pulpit and in private.  If we, as leaders, are not pointing our messages toward the cross of Jesus Christ, then we are being disobedient to our God-given mission.  Our jobs are to equip the saints (Christians) to do the work of the Great Commission.  But we can’t expect our people to do the Great Commission if they don’t understand what it is.  We can’t expect our people to do the Great Commission if we are selves aren’t practicing the Great Commission.

If you’re like me, you probably want to see your church grow.  God will only grow our churches if we are obedient to his Great Commission.  Once we all take part in teaching our people what the Great Commission is and how to do it, then and only then will God allow our churches to grow.

Let’s be sure that this statistic changes from over 50% not knowing to over 50% knowing and doing the Great Commission.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Advertisements

Brtete Teoetghr – Leading, not making


Our words are not merely a way to express ourselves; they are also a weapon of choice, used with precision and exactness as to wound the mind into thinking that even heresy is truth.

Our brains are being scrambled.  The media is doing an awesome job telling us what to think, how to think and when to think.  Have you noticed the important stories are the ones they want to tell you?  This month alone, we have all heard stories about an illegal immigrant who allegedly murdered a young woman.  But we do not hear about the father who killed his wife and family.  As we listen, we hear about how gun violence is out of control in Chicago, but we do not hear how a woman protected herself and her family with the use of a firearm.  We hear how income inequality is rampant among our nation and we hear the war cries of injustice.  We hear how horrible the wealthy are because of how much they steal from others, only to find out that the same people who cry this way are making millions themselves.  Today is the epitome of hypocrisy and deception.

So what is the solution to all of this?  How can we overcome the hypocrisy and deception we face in today’s media driven world?  It’s not like we can just turn it all off and hide in our little bubbles.  Even though that might sound appetizing, it is not reality.  Our world is filled with various media outlets and many are subject to the brainwashing.  So if we can’t turn off the media, what can we do?  We can answer the prayer of one man, Jesus Christ.

In John 17, Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.  In one of his prayers, he says the following:

”My prayer is not for them (the disciples) alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John 17:20-23 (NIV)

Today, this prayer has yet to be answered, but I believe that it can be answered and will be answered someday.  However, the only way we can come to complete unity is if we have a better understanding of what we stand for.  Now, I do not mean racial inequality or income inequality or Democrat vs Republican, no, what I mean is, as Christians, do we truly understand why we are here?  Do we really understand what our responsibilities are while we are living?

Please don’t misunderstand me…the matters of these social issues is important.  It is important when someone is arrested for something they didn’t do all because of the color of their skin.  It is important when a woman can’t make as much as a man simply because they were created as a woman.  It is important when our soldiers, who come home, are homeless, yet those who claim to fight for them, don’t even donate to causes which help our homeless veterans.  It is important to stand up for what you believe in, but is it more important to stand up for social issues and not stand up for your mission?

Our unity can only come when we fully understand the mission we have.  So what does Jesus want us to do?  Does He simply ask us to live a quiet life among those who are lost?  Does He want us to preach from the mountain top and cry out on how to come to Him?  What exactly, does Jesus want us to do?

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives us our mission.  It is a clear and focused mission and I truly believe that once we all work towards that mission, not only will be become unified, but the social ills of today will become calmer.  These issues may not fully go away, but they can be tamed if we just follow the clear and focused mission Jesus gave us:

”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Our mission is a threefold mission.  But before we get into what the mission is, we need to understand why this mission is so important.  The answer…Jesus has given us His authority to do so.  Jesus told them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  This means that no matter what we experience, no matter the war cries of the media, Jesus is in control and in charge.  There is no earthly ruler that can claim that all authority has been given to them.  They may try to claim this but it would be an ill-gotten attempt to try and convince us otherwise.  Here is what I mean…

A ruler proclaims, “I have the authority over all people!  No one can stop what I have started.”  Yet in times of war, another, stronger ruler comes against this heretical ruler and overcomes him.  The new ruler takes over the former’s people and immediately proves the authority he proclaimed is limited.

However, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  How can this be proven?  When Jesus was hanging on the cross, someone said, “Hey Jesus…if you are truly the Son of God, come down from there.”  He didn’t.  Not because He couldn’t but because Jesus understood that by Him staying there and dying, He was fulfilling the command of his Father.  Therefore, He stayed on the cross willingly.

“Being found in appearance as a man, He (Jesus) humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:8 (NASB)

Then after His death, Jesus rose from the dead, showing His authority over death.  Therefore, because Jesus was fully obedient, He was given all authority over everything…in heaven and here on earth.  There is truly nothing that is out of the scope of His authority.

It is with this authority, that we can do the three things we need to do.  Our mission is not a complex one, but it isn’t easy either.

First, with the authority of Jesus Christ, we need to make disciples.  This isn’t like baking a cake.  The word for make here is to lead.  To lead means we there is involvement.  Typically, people do not follow others who are demanding or obstinate.  Instead, we desire to follow someone who has experienced the same or similar situations we have.  We like leaders who are willing to get their hands dirty with the people they are leading.  We do not like those who say they are leaders but are not willing to do the things others are willing to do.  Our calling is to be in the trenches with others.  To share the message of Jesus Christ with them.  We do not lead them to a way of acceptance, but rather to the one who has accepted them already.  The first part of our mission is to lead them to the cross of Jesus Christ.

We, alone, cannot change anyone.  We can only show them a better way to live.  It’s like the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”  The same holds true with sharing the Gospel.  We can lead someone by telling them about the Gospel, but just as the cowboy leads the horse to water, so too, must we lead others by walking with them.

Our words are a weapon which can be used in a precise way to allow others to see that what Jesus Christ did for them is real.  Others must also see that what we say are not just merely words, but we are willing to place action behind them.  We must walk with them.  We must not pull them forcibly.  We must not push them when they do not want to move.  But we must hold their hand, walk at their pace, show them the love of Jesus by helping them when they are struggling or hurting.  We must sit with them when they are tired.  We must sleep when they sleep, move when they move.  If we simply tell someone the Gospel, but do not show them the Gospel, we blindly swing our sword in the hopes to hit the broad side of a barn.  Instead when we only tell them, we swing our sword injuring both them and us in the process.

If you want to unite the world, we must first be united as Christians, with a united goal.  We can be better together if we focus in on the first part of our mission, lead others to the cross.  Next, we will look at the second (and possibly third) part of our mission.

Let’s unite under the cross of Jesus Christ and not worry about the brainwashing of society.  Our authority to lead comes from the Maker of Heaven and Earth, so stop following blindly and open your eyes to the truth…Jesus is in control and has called us to lead as one.

Let’s answer the prayer of Jesus to become united as one body.  We are truly better together when we are united in our mission to lead.  God bless and encourage someone today.

Better Together


Over the last number of weeks, there has been a reoccurring theme in my everyday life…unity.

Everywhere we look, there is something or someone trying to divide us.  Whether it is CNN versus Fox News, who is for versus who is against the President, Republican versus Democrat, or one of my favorites, those who are tolerant versus those who are intolerant.  No matter where you look, there is a “spirit” of division that is increasing in strength and power and for evangelical Christians, this is becoming an increasing problem.

What problem you may ask?  Well, if you’re in any church regularly, you will find those who stand on one of the sides of the political/social fence.  The problem comes in when those same people decide to take a stand for one of those sides.  Once someone does that, another person comes around to argue how wrong the other party is.  Then over a very short period of time, this argument increases in intensity and frequency causing a division among those who are supposed to worship together.

When outsiders come in, they don’t see this behavior right away, but as they come week after week, some of them make the assumption that our churches are divided just like the rest of the world.  They question whether they should they keep coming or just stay home?  They hear about who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for them, but in reality, they see people who are supposed to be joyful and changed, but those same people argue over divided topics of the day.  The actions of individuals taint the Good News for plain old regular news.

So how can we change this perception?  What can we do to ensure the Good News stays good?  We need to be better together.

In John 13, we see Jesus serving his disciples by washing their feet.  Then during the Passover meal, he lets his disciples know that Judas was going to betray him.  Judas immediately leaves and the rest of the disciples stay with Jesus.  Right after Judas leaves, Jesus communicates the following:

“A new command I give to you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35 NIV

Did you notice something?  This is a command, not a suggestion.  Jesus knew that his disciples weren’t going to agree on everything.  In fact, Jesus, being God, knew that over time, there would be various denominations based on how people interpret theology.  Unfortunately, He also knew that over time, the “love of most will grow cold.”  It is because of this love growing cold that division reigns and grows stronger.

So how do we love one another?  How can we show the world we aren’t like the rest of the world?  We can do what Jesus did.

Remember, right before Jesus tells them to love each other, He goes out of his way to wash their feet.  This action of washing their feet was a representation how to love, forgive and serve others.  Jesus wanted to display the kind of love we need to have with others.  First, as his new command was to love each other, he also wanted us to forgive each other as well.

Peter tried not to have his feet washed by Jesus, but Jesus told Peter that if he didn’t allow him to wash his feet, Peter could not have any part with Jesus.  Then Peter said, “Then wash my whole body.”  Jesus then reminded him that only those who are dirty over their entire body need to be cleansed.  Peter only needed his feet to be cleansed.

What Jesus was telling Peter was, “Son, I have already made you clean.  You don’t need that.  What you need is forgiveness in your daily walk.  That is why your feet are dirty.”  Isn’t that a wonderful application?  Our walk in this life is not a clean one.  Many times, we do things or say things we regret.  We shout when we should be silent.  We act when we should wait.  We look towards when we should look away.  No matter how you dice it, our daily lives need daily forgiveness.

This is where the command of loving each other comes in.  Just as Jesus washed the disciple’s feet, signifying daily cleansing, Jesus also did the washing.  When we forgive others for their sins towards us, we wash their dirty feet.  When someone forgives us for something we said or did, they wash our dirty feet.  We display our love for each other by forgiving each other.

We also display our love by forgiving the sins of others outside of the church.  If you look at any social media outlets, you will find millions of postings pointing the finger of negative news from one person or group of people to another.    We hear things like, “It’s Obama’s fault” or “It’s Trump’s fault”.  We read posts which invoke hatred rather than love.  We see images of condemnation rather than forgiveness.

Prior to Jesus’ death, he was asked, “How many times should we forgive others?  Seven times?”  In biblical times, it was thought that forgiving the same person for the same sin seven times was enough grace and mercy.  However, Jesus had a different idea towards this.  His reply was, “Seventy times seven.  This is how often you need to forgive.”  It wasn’t the number that was important but the idea of forgiveness.

We can’t keep track of how many times we forgive others, especially, if it is continual.  Jesus knew this.  So he gave the disciples a number they couldn’t comprehend, according to their tradition.  The disciples immediately knew that forgiveness should be unconditional and ever present.

What would our society look like if we stopped all the division and presented a pattern of forgiveness?  Forgiveness to those who sin against us over and over again.  Forgiveness to those who display hatred towards Christ and His church.  Forgiveness that is unconditional and ever present.  How would our neighbors react if our display of love went beyond those who look or act like us?  Forgiveness is not just for those who attend church, but it is also for those who are lost.

We also display our love towards others by serving them.  Jesus served his disciples.  He didn’t want them to wash his feet.  He wanted to wash theirs.  This meant that as a leader, He was willing to do the dirty work, while others reap the benefits.

Imagine if churches today, served their communities.  What if the church went out of its way to serve the community they worship in?  In biblical times, the temple was the epicenter of society.  Everything revolved around the temple.  Markets were all around the temple for travelers who couldn’t bring their sacrifice.  People met, worshipped, talked and lived around the temple.

In Acts 2, we find the early church serving their community while meeting in the temple for worship.  What would our communities look like if we centered everything we did around the church?  It used to be.  What would happen if we tried this again?  How would the people in our community react?

Down the block from my church is a Sheik Temple.  No matter what time of the day or evening, there is always hustle and bustle around their temple, why?  Because they believe in community living.  They live, work and shop in places owned by them.  They know that if they support each other, they also support their local temple.

This was the early churches mindset.  The early church went out of their way to help others.  They took care of those who were left for dead.  They adopted unwanted children.  They gave to those who were in need.  They supplied the needs and cares of those they lived among.  Why don’t we do the same today?  It is because we have forgotten the new command Jesus gave to love each other.

When we love each other, we will have a tendency to forgive and serve each other.  Once we do that, we then move into our communities and forgive and serve them as well.  In this way, we display the kind of love Jesus commanded and when outsiders see this, they will know we are His children.

However, when we share hateful, hurtful or condemning words, we prove to the world, that our form of Christianity is no different than the rest of the world.  Our calling was not to stand up for one political agenda or another.  Our calling goes beyond the boundaries of the United States.  Our calling goes into all the world.  Our calling is to love one another and love the lost.

We are called to live lives that are different than the rest of society.  One way we can display that difference is in loving each other, loving outsiders and serving our communities.  Once we get a handle on that, then we can discuss the differences.  Only when we display our love towards all and serve all, can we understand that the things that divide us are not meant for our good, but are meant to destroy.

Live different lives.  Live better lives.  Live unified.  Know that we are all better together when we love others just as Jesus Christ loves us.  God bless and encourage someone today.

Like our Fore-Fathers


Have you ever read something and just can’t get it out of your head?

Yesterday morning, as I was doing my devotions, I read through Amos 5.  Although the entire chapter was intriguing, I found a few of the verses quite compelling to my mind:

“Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, for what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you?  It will be darkness and not light; as when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him.  Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?” (Amos 5:18-20 NASB)

It wasn’t the prose that gripped my mind, but it was the essence of what these words mean.

At this time, Israel had rejected God and gone after idols and sensuality.  They had rebelled against the very one who had rescued them time and time again from their enemies.  The kings of Israel had decided that it was better to lead the people in the ways of immorality, idolatry and ignorance.  They had experienced the temporary happiness of wealth, wine and women and forsook the eternal joy of their Creator.

However, even though they had forsaken God, they still observed the “rules” and “traditions” contained within the Torah.  They completed the festivals, burned the offerings and did each task as required, but their mindset was one of rote instead of gratitude.  We know this by God’s reaction to them in the next few verses:

“I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.  Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.  Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.  But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24 NASB)

The Israelites continued to worship in the methods and traditions they always had.  They completed the tasks and rituals they were supposed to.  They sang the songs and recited the prayers as they had always done.  However, their hearts were not present.  So why did this grip me the way it did?  Recently, as I study church history, I noted a pattern within the church that is exactly the same in ancient Israel.

There are two topics here that are very prevalent within today’s church.  The first is concern with the End Time events.  When will the Lord return?  When will the rapture take place?  When will God’s judgement be poured out on sinful mankind?  These are the questions of today.  We discuss, debate and degrade each other when we cannot come to a consensus.  We concern ourselves with the details of the events, the bewilderment of figurative or contextual language.  We look toward the sky and cry out to God about the sins of the earth.  We sing the songs of the Psalmist and shout praises from the mountaintops.  Yet in all of this, we forget the heart of God and where His heart remains; for the lost.

This is not to say that the topic of the return of Christ isn’t important.   It is.  Paul, John, Daniel and others examine the events surrounding this time, which is yet to come.  However, as we read through the text, we seem to forget that it is not a time to rejoice in, but to mourn.  We mourn because those who reject Jesus Christ as Savior will suffer His wrath and eternal damnation.

God had picked Amos, the shepherd, to proclaim His words to His people.  God wanted Israel to know that the day of the Lord is not something to look forward to.  It is a day to beware and mourn, a day of reckoning and a day where people will run from one tragic event to another, only to find themselves in the grips of death.

Amos said the day of the Lord is like a man who fled from a lion but meets a bear as he flees.  Or after he flees the bear, he runs home, exhausted only to lean on the wall to be bitten by a snake.  Then the venom of the snake rushes through his body and courses through his veins.  It begins the process of breaking down blood cells, killing the coagulation agents and finally killing the tissue it comes in contact with.  It is a time of great suffering for those who do not believe.

We have forgotten the love, grace and mercy for the lost.  We proclaim about injustice in the world.  We cry about our rights being taken away.  We shout against Republican or Democrat, Socialist or Communist.  We forget that it matters not what party you belong to, what color you are or what social environment you are a part of.  What matters are there are lost people who don’t realize that they are headed toward eternal separation from God.

It is when we forget about the lost, that God deems our worship invalid.  When we forget the lost, our songs are just noise from our lips, not making any sense nor pleasing to the ear.  When we forget the lost, our offerings are rejected and not used, our sacrifices are looked upon as dung.  When we do not have the heart of the Father, there is no use in our worship, no worth in our worship.

When I look at social media, I find many who proclaim the rights of American over the love of Christ.  Many proclaim the evangelism of democracy rather than evangelize the lost, showing that the love of democracy supersedes their love of God.  This is the basic definition of idolatry.

Like Israel, we have a golden calf.  I love my country and know beyond any shadow of doubt that this is the greatest country in the world.  I love the stars and stripes, Old Glory.  The red stripes representing the blood spilled to unite our country and fight the tyranny of England.  However, I love the stripes of Jesus Christ all the more.  His blood which was spilt to save us who are lost.

So how do we solve this dilemma?  How do we change our mindset and actions?

First, we must repent.  Repentance is turning around and walking the opposite direction we have been going.  We must forsake our idols which so easily entangle us both individually and corporately and turn around toward the cross of Jesus Christ.

Second, we need to study.  Scripture has been given to us for our benefit.  It proclaims the love and redemption of God and provides us insight into how to proceed in sharing God’s message.  It warns us, encourages us and teaches us about the wonderful saving message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Third, we must pray.  Simply put, praying is how we communicate and commune with God.  It is how we cry out to Him when we are hurting.  It is how we proclaim His glory.  It is how we intervene for our loved ones and it is how we show our concern for the lost and our enemies.  Prayer is an essential part of our daily lives.

Fourth, we must fellowship with other believers.  This is more than just spending time together.  It is an intimate process.  Because of Jesus Christ, our lives are intertwined with each other.  We are now brothers and sisters.  Regardless of our looks, cultural background or past experiences, we are family and are to care for each other.  We are to share our struggles, confess our sins and encourage each other into a closer relationship with God.  Without fellowship, we deny ourselves the necessary nutrients for our spiritual bodies.  We starve ourselves from the relationships God desires us to have with each other.

Lastly, we must reach out.  This is more than just sharing the Gospel.  It is getting involved in people’s lives that are lost.  It is caring for those who don’t care for us.  It is loving those who have been deemed unloved.  The best example of this was Jesus Christ.  He ate with the dredge of the earth, tax collectors, adulterers and sinners.  He healed those who were hurting and freed those who were slaves.  Like him, we too must not be afraid to associate with those who are hurting, with those who are hungry and with those who are thirsty for something more than just this life.

The Scriptures have warned us.  We are not to be so enamored by arguable doctrines rather we need to be enamored by sharing the heart of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.  As we move away from our idols and toward the cross, we will find that the things we once fought for are just like a dust in the wind.  We will find ourselves loving others as Christ loves us.  We will find ourselves serving others and sharing the Gospel with those in need.  We will find that our own hearts and those of our churches will once again be transformed because of the renewing of our minds.  We will find that all we stand for can be solved if we just place our trust in Jesus Christ and His mission, to seek and save those who are lost.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Small things speak


Have you ever had one of those days, where someone gives you something small and yet it has a profound effect on your life?

Today, a friend of mine gave me a kaleidoscope.  At first, you may say, that’s a child’s toy, but for me the impact of that gift gave me profound insight into how God works in our lives daily.

I want you to think of this for a moment.  How does your faith affect you?  Does it make you ponder the works of God in nature?  Does your faith move you to tell others about Christ?  Does it allow you to see the wonders of God’s love?  How does your faith affect you?

A kaleidoscope has three (3) elements which make it work.  The first is the canister, the outer shell of the kaleidoscope.  It protects the contents contained within.  It moves when the operator turns it.  It has a peep hole which allows the onlooker to see the wonders and beauty within.  Without the canister, the inner contents would have no order, no security, which in return would have no beauty to show.

The canister of our faith, is the Word of God.  The Word of God has order, it contains security and most of all, it contains the inner beauty that God wants to reveal to us.  As we open the Word of God, we allow God to speak through the words to reveal His Son, His work and our part in that work.  We discover that life is good, that God is good and that He desires all to come to know Him through Jesus Christ.

The second element in the kaleidoscope is the prism.  If you remember from elementary school, when light enters a prism, the prism then reveals what is contained within the light.  It reveals both what we can see and what we cannot see.  From infra-red to ultra-voilet and to the visible colors of RGBIV, the prism reveals the inner most parts of the light.  Without the prism, we would be simply blinded by the light as we looked through the canister.  We would not see the beauty and discover the wonder of the light itself.

The prism of our faith is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit shows us the inner most parts of God’s will for our lives.  He breaks down the complex understanding of who God is and reveals the beauty and wonder of God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  He encourages us, disciplines us and gives us the words we need to speak.  He is the guarantee of our salvation in Christ Jesus and is the reminder of Christ’s teachings.  He explains the Word of God to us so that we can understand how we ought to live.

Without the Holy Spirit, we would continue to wonder what beauty is contained within the Word of God.  Without Him, we would be blinded by the outpouring of God’s love on this earth and could not understand the message of God.  It is only by the working of the Holy Spirit that we understand the Word of God.

The third element in a kaleidoscope is the colorful beads.  Each bead has its own individual beauty, however each bead also reflects the light do display its beauty.  Each bead is unique, having its own personality, its own lesson.  But together, each individual bead also makes up the beauty we see in the kaleidoscope.  Each bead works together to reveal beauty and wonder as a whole.

The basic and essential doctrines we hold to are like the beads of a kaleidoscope.  Each doctrine contains its own beauty, but together they work to show us who God is, how God works and what God expects from us.  If you remove a bead or two from the kaleidoscope, you remove the ability for it to display its total beauty.  If you remove a foundational doctrine from your life, you remove the ability for the Word of God to display what God desires you to see.  You distort the true message of God and substitute it for a watered down Gospel.

Think of it this way, in order to remove any beads from the kaleidoscope, you must first break its seal, rip the cylinder apart, remove the prism and then you can remove the beads.  If you remove one of the basic and essential doctrines of Christianity, you have to rip out the portions you don’t like, place the Holy Spirit to the side and then you can create the doctrine you desire.  From there all heresy and lies are born.  Many have tried this only to expose their own evil desires.

However, the only way the kaleidoscope works, is when the light enters into it and the user looks in.  The user must hold the kaleidoscope and point it towards the light, then look into it and move it in order to see its beauty and wonder.  In the same way, the only way we can see who God is, what He desires for us and His plan is to hold it up to the light of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ shines brightly through the Word of God.  We, the user, then read it, study it, pray for wisdom and knowledge through it.  As we do this, the Holy Spirit, then reveals the beauty which Jesus Christ intended us to see.  We see His love and compassion towards us.  We see His love and compassion for others.  It is only because of the light that the kaleidoscope works.  It is only because of Jesus Christ that we see the Word of God from His perspective.

The kaleidoscope may only be a child’s toy, but even in the simplest things, can we see who God is, how He works and what He desires for us.  Look at the simple things in life and ponder the great and mighty works of God.  You might be surprised at the beauty in the simple things.  And once you see the beauty, pass it along to someone who needs to see God’s beautiful message of salvation, like my friend shared the kaleidoscope with me.  If he hadn’t, I would have never seen the profound message in simplicity.

God bless and encourage someone today.

I Survived and Lived to Be a Difference – #isalt


Over 80 years ago, there was a movement that would change the course of history.  A charismatic leader began to speak to the public, promising a life filled with happiness and security.  Many times, this leader would speak with children by his side to show his support of the furtherance of securing the children’s future.  The problem was not what was promised, but rather the method by which he felt this security and prosperity would occur.

In 1923, this same leader wrote a book, while in prison, called Mein Kompf (My struggle) where he filled the pages of why he hated Jews so much.  In this horrific text, Adolf Hitler gives his hate-filled explanation that Jews were the reason why Germany was in so much trouble.  Obviously, this was influenced by the Prince of Darkness, Satan, himself.  However, out of this terrible time period of history, influenced by evil, there were countless stories of survivors.

Some had survived mass military style executions.  Some had survived the concentration camps.  Others ran for their lives and hid while their families were gathered for execution.  Regardless of the stories, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their survival, there seems to be a common theme among each of these survivor stories – they survived and wanted to make a positive difference.

Have you gone through something so traumatic, so horrific that you wondered why you survived?  Do you think it may be possible that your survival was meant for something so much more?

These questions came to mind after my experience in 1993.  After I had survived an attack while someone was attempting to steal my car, I began to look at my life and ask myself some questions.  Why did I survive?  What was I supposed to learn from this?  How can this be used to benefit others?  I also began to look back at my life and realized something, God had been (and continues) protecting me all my life.

In 1972, as a young toddler, I pulled a piping hot coffee pot onto me.  I had been burned on most of my chest.  When I was a little bit older, I had a habit of climbing up into trees that swayed freely in the wind on branches that shouldn’t have held me.  As time went on, I had fought every day for 3 straight years because I had been fed up with being bullied.  Right after high school, I had made a trip to Haiti with my church only to find out that within minutes of taking off to leave Haiti, a coup had occurred and our safety would have been in jeopardy, had we stayed or been delayed.  Even after all of this, God allowed me to survive the attack in 1993.  It was because of this, I concluded that God had been saving me for a purpose.

As I began to pray and reach out to God, he graciously began to reveal why I had been allowed to survive.  He showed me the story of Peter drowning but surviving because Jesus Christ had pulled Peter to safety.  He showed me the stories of Paul, who was shipwrecked at sea and stoned for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Both of these men had once rejected God, rejected the Savior and yet it was the same Jesus who called them into a relationship with him and allowed their survival to have a purpose, to make a positive difference in the lives of others.  It was through these stories that I realized my life was not my own.  In fact, my life was saved for the same reason as Paul and Peter, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  However, before I could share the Gospel, I also needed to realize that my life was not where God wanted it to be either.  It was then I began to make the commitment to grow in the faith given to me so that I can help in fulfilling the greatest commission ever given to mankind:

“Therefore, go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

It was during this time of learning that I found out how inefficient I was at sharing the message of Jesus Christ.  God allowed me to realize I had preconceived ideas about people groups and philosophies.  He showed me that to neglect those who are considered the lowest of my time is to reject Jesus Christ and His message.  It was revealed to me that my prejudices, my dislikes were not toward a specific action but toward a people who were different than I.  How could I make a positive difference if I held so many sins in my life?

You see, I learned my life was an anger filled, hatred, bigoted and filled with lies.  I was able to convince people of things that never even happened in my life.  The process of learning who I was, was not easy.  It hurt.  It was very painful but it was necessary.  It was necessary for me to allow God to destroy the wickedness inside of me to produce a branch that had good fruit on it.  This good fruit would benefit others in a positive way by leading them back to the Savior.

Through Scripture I learned that I was a new creation in Christ.  The old me had passed away and the new me was birthed.  This then led me to the painful journey of evaluation.  I needed to ask God, what David asked of him, to destroy any wicked way in me.  From there, I needed to realize that those who tried to take my life, did so out of ignorance and blindness.  The book of Romans teaches that all have sinned and we all fall short of the glory of God.  Therefore, the only difference between me and my attackers were that Jesus called to me and I responded.  They have yet to respond to His calling.

After this, I learned that Jesus ate and spent time with people who were thought to be useless in society.  He had healed those who had ailments from birth, sickness for many years, people who were thought to be property and not people.  The leaders of his day asked how he could eat and spend time with such people.  It was then Jesus showed his compassion by saying that the sick need a doctor, so these people need him.

You and I need Jesus in our lives.  We need to rely on His power, His strength and His wisdom to get us through each and every day.  We may struggle with being a survivor, with anxieties and paranoia but we also are called by Jesus to be His because He loves us.  Survivors, like us, are meant for something bigger.

Over the past few years, I have watched as people I know have passed away for various reasons.  Some from cancer or accidents or old age.  I evaluated the lifestyles of each of these and came to the following conclusion….life and death are in the hands of God.  It is not up to us how long we live, it is up to God.

Being a survivor means, God has given us the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others.  Being a survivor means, that we have a purpose greater than ourselves.  Being a survivor means we have been saved to share that experience with others to lead them straight to the cross of Jesus Christ.

If you ever wondered why your life was spared, read the book of Acts.  Read about those who survived many trials and tribulations, yet had the fortitude to proceed with the responsibility that God placed into their hands.

Hopefully, you and I can also live lives that God is not only pleased with but that will make a positive difference in others.  So what do you say?  Are you ready to begin the next phase of your journey?  Are you ready to help others?  Are you ready to share your story?

How has your survivor story positively influenced others?  Share your story in the comments box.

May God continue to use you as He sees fit.  God bless and encourage someone today.

I Survived and Lived to Grow – #isalt


As I lay in the hospital bed, I could not help but think, “Will I ever be able to use my hand and leg again?”  When the doctors checked for feeling, I could feel the pressure of the needle but my body would not react to its force.  Depression began to worm its way into my psyche.   The doctor had told me that I would probably get most of my motion back but could not guarantee it.

After my release from the hospital, I continued to drag my right leg and watch as my right arm flapped in the wind.  Depression continued its work.  I began to wonder what life would be like with one less arm and one less leg.  No matter what happened, my arm and leg would be a reminder of my stupidity that fateful night, the night I was hit over the head with a hammer.  During my internal battle of and sorrow of “Why me” syndrome, I was reminded of my past.

When I was younger, I had made fun of people with physical disabilities.  It wasn’t because I enjoyed it, but rather to hide the pain inside of me for being different than other kids.  Instead of feeling compassion, I was a fighter.  I physically fought others for many years.  In my mind, if I made fun of others for their problems, mine would just go away.  However, I was so wrong about that.  Here I was, disabled, possibly permanently and began to understand the hurt and pain I once caused in others.

It was then I decided to plead with God.  I asked Him to give me back my leg so that I wouldn’t have to drag it everywhere, but if He felt I didn’t need my hand or arm, He could keep that.  Although I continued to fight the depression and anxiety of PTSD, I also knew that God would answer me, even if it wasn’t what I wanted.

The very next morning, I got up out of bed and realized something incredible.  I didn’t have to drag my leg anymore!  My prayer had been answered.  I was able to skip, hop, jump and walk like I did before my “accident”.  God had given me back my leg.  My hand and arm were a different story.

As time went on, I went to physical and occupational therapy for my arm and hand.  Today, I have full motion of my arm and most of the motion in my hand.  It was in this very situation, God taught me “I survived and lived to grow.”

Most of us survivors will wonder and ask the ‘why me’ question.  Why did I survive?  Why didn’t God take me?  Almost always the ‘why me’ question is not one of selfishness or pride, rather it is a way which we express our desire to grow.  We want to grow.  We want to become better than we were before.

Psalm 1 shares this very thought of living to grow:

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

Have you ever gone camping and looked at a tree that grows next to a river?  Usually, the root structure is deep, the tree is properly nourished and if it is a fruit bearing tree, the tree has good juicy fruit.  If you look into the reason why, it is because of its deep roots.  The deeper the roots of a tree grow, the more likely it will withstand the hurricane force winds when the storm comes.

The same is true for us.  When we survive tragic events, if we have shallow roots, we will sway with every emotional thought that crosses our mind.  If our roots are deeper, we may falter with our emotions for a short time, but ultimately, we will stand tall once again after the storm is done.  We do not survive because we have deep roots, we survived so that God can teach us something and make us grow.

Just as the Psalmist stated, if we do what is right, if we avoid sin and if we read and study His word, our roots will grow deeper and our lives will become healthier.  This doesn’t mean we will heal physically completely, but it does mean that our mental and emotional state will be better because we have grown to trust in the Lord.  When we trust in Him, our lives will prosper.

When you have an opportunity, read Psalm 1 but also read Psalm 116.  The writer of Psalm 116 clearly shows how focus on the Lord is the very reason why we survive.  Below is an excerpt from Psalm 116…

I love the Lord, because He has heard
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.

The pains of death surrounded me,
And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me;
I found trouble and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!”

 

When God spoke with Jeremiah, he stated the following in Jeremiah 26:11 (NASB):

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

God never intends for us to continue to suffer in the midst of our tragedies.  God intends for us to grow from our situations and grow closer to Him.  God does not intend to hurt us, in fact just the opposite.  God wants us to understand that He has a plan for us.  It is a plan to allow us to grow, bear fruit and help others with similar situations.  Growth is not something we do, rather it is the result of our relationship with God.  When we get closer to Him, we grow.  When we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, we grow.  When we read, study and pray, we grow.  When we let go of the feelings and emotions that keep us slaves to our situations, we grow.

Our lives have a purpose.  God desires for us to walk with Him toward His plan for our lives.  The question becomes what we will do with what we have been given.  As survivors, we have a unique opportunity to positively affect others through our growth.  We can express our compassion, explain our lessons and encourage others to continue to fight in this battle of survival.

Recently, the subject of growth has come up again.  Over the last few weeks, our church has seen two of our oldest trees collapse from wind and rain.  In both situations, little to no damage occurred but one of our Elders noticed something.  He stated that both trees didn’t have a good root structure.  Their roots were too shallow.   If the trees had deeper roots, then the tree would not have fallen.

The same holds true for us.  As we grow from our situation and grow toward God, we will discover at one time our roots may have been shallow, but now they begin to grow deeper toward the nourishment that God provides.  However, if we reject this growth, if we reject His plan for prospering us, we will end up like the fallen trees with shallow roots.  On the outside, we will appear healthy, but because our roots are shallow, our lives will fall and potentially hurt others.

If we grow in our relationship with God and move our lives closer to Him, He will give us water and nourishment which will make our roots grow deeper so that when tragic events occur, we will be able to withstand the storm.  The question becomes what will you do next?  Will you allow your tragic event to become a crutch toward depression or will you grow from it so that God can show His love toward others who are suffering the same way?  It’s your decision.  What will you do?

To hear what our pastor shared with us concerning growth, just use the link below:

https://www.facebook.com/lifechristhope/videos/1022463191227667

God bless and encourage someone today.