Nothing compares to God's love. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and oh how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! When we reflect on God's love, when we meditate on the gospel, and when realize just how much God has done in our lives, we can't help but fall on our face. God's love drives us to our knees. When we fully understand our need for Jesus every second of every day things begin to change in our life. Jesus stated in John 14:15 that "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." 1 John 4:19 states that "We love because He first loved us." When we reflect on God's love it is going to begin to drive us to deeper dependence and obedience to Him, which is going to drive a deeper love for our Lord. As our love for God grows our life is inevitably going to change, we are going to begin to look more like Jesus. As our minds are renewed and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the reading, and dwelling on God's word, we are going to fall more in love with Jesus. To quote Original Soul Invented "God's love is everything." This is no small statement, and it need not be missed, as God's love truly is everything. It was through love that God sent His only Son, and it was love that drove Jesus to the cross (a love first for the Father and His will), and that love is further expressed through those whom believe and follow Jesus. God's love is everything, in fact, God is love (1 John 4:8). God's love should drive us, it should flow from us as believers. I often share this when speaking on evangelism "God's love for us fuels our love for God, and our love for God fuels our love for others."
There is so much to unpack here as it relates to God's love but if you have taken the time to read this, first, thank you, and second, take a minute to reflect on the love of God. Meditate on what God has done for you, and allow that to motivate you, to drive you deeper into His word and seek to be more like Christ daily. I was moved by Original Soul Invented's song "God's Love", give it a listen, pay attention to the lyrics and enjoy! God bless!
"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory." Colossians 3:1-4
It is so easy for us to get wrapped up in the things of this world. We are constantly being bombarded with countless temptations and worldly desires that want nothing more than to feed our flesh. Sadly, we tend to give into these desires more often than we care to admit. I think people have this idea that when you come to Christ your life is going to be rainbows and butterflies and everything is going to be peachy. This couldn't be further from the truth. Life seems to get harder at times. We find ourselves in the midst of a battle we new nothing of before our lives were transformed by Jesus. There are so many scriptures that speak to putting our old selves to death and walking in the newness of life only found in Christ. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:17 "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" We are to hold this in tension with the fact that we are in process and as Paul stated "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day." 2 Corinthians 4:16
The more I grow in Jesus the more I learn that so much of this boils down to what we are focused on. If we are focused on Jesus, if we are focused on God's word and we are focused on doing what God has called us to do, things change. I can know in my mind that I am a new creation in Christ but am I working out my salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12)? Do I have a Kingdom mindset? Do I hunger and thirst after the things of God? Do I long to see people redeemed and come to know the Savior? Do I seek to flee from sin? Am I praising God for His grace and the advocate that I have in Jesus (1 John 2:1-2)? Do I learn from grace that which I would learn from discipline? Do I long to know God more? Am I fully dependent on Him or do I seek to control everything? Do I trust God with my life? These are important questions for us to meditate on and for us to answer. It is a prayer for myself but also for all of us as followers of Jesus that we take Him seriously and we take Him at His word. It is my desire to have a Kingdom mindset, and to be fully devoted to Jesus. The good news is that the more I pray this and the more I seek Him in and through His word, the more I see this change in my life and the more I get about His business.
How about you? Where's your focus at? Where do you need to grow? Are you Kingdom Minded?
This article was inspired by a song written by Old Man Xero. The song challenges us to really think about what it means to follow after Jesus and to take Him seriously. Our lives will reflect what we truly believe and our faith in Jesus should be permeating our entire lives. You really should give it a listen and pray that God do a mighty work in your heart as well as your brothers and sisters across the globe. Let's Go!
Have something to add? Leave a comment below, lets chat! As always, God bless!!
The Pharisee card, I have seen it used a lot these days and it is breaking my heart. Unfortunately, most of the time the card is being played it is played as sort of a Christian trump card intended to discredit the person it is being played against, this can be very problematic. We see the Pharisee card being played in conversations that challenge our previous held beliefs or ideas, and instead of engaging in Christ honoring conversation we assume the person is being Pharisaical and we dismiss them as not having anything to offer us, so we shut them down by calling them Pharisees or Religious Leaders. I want to look at the Pharisees for a minute and dive into how they were responding to Jesus and His disciples. As a bit of a disclaimer, this may be hard to swallow because it should challenge us to look at how we respond to people when they challenge the things we believe.
Lets state the obvious first, the Pharisees were self-righteous hypocrites. Sadly, this is where we tend to stop and often why we use the Pharisee card out of context and incorrectly, and we certainly don't apply the card to ourselves because we are not self-righteous hypocrites (please insert any level of sarcasm you see fit). There is so much more to this picture than meets the eye, and this is where we can find our self acting like the Pharisees if we are not careful. The Pharisees refused to listen to the truth of God's Word, they refused to admit that they might not have it all figured out, they refused to examine the claims of Jesus, the figured they had all the answers and no one could tell them otherwise. With that, when Jesus brought them a truth claim about Himself or the Scripture they rejected it immediately, they had already come to the conclusion that they were right and He was wrong. This is where we can be much like the Pharisees. When a brother or sister brings something to us or challenges something said or that we have held on to as a belief, instead of examining if what they are saying is true, we reject their claims, and we seek to discredit them, this is exactly what the Pharisees did. We as people have a problem when the facts don't align with our previously held beliefs and with that, we have a couple of options. We can either approach the topic presented with an open mind and an open Bible examining the claim(s) that is being made, or we can cling to our presuppositions and assume the person is wrong and dismiss what they are saying. In my mind, the first approach is the wise approach and the more Biblical approach. (Now, there are certain doctrines that you are going to rightly cling to, for example; Salvation through faith alone, the person of Christ (the hypostatic union (two complete natures, Jesus was fully human and fully God during His time on earth), and others.)
We look an awful lot like the Pharisees when refuse to examine a claim being brought to our attention. Even if the person is way out of bounds in their thinking, we should still be willing to hear them out, take the time to examine the Biblical reality of the claim and have a conversation. The problem is that that option is harder, longer, and requires our attention and time, it is way easier for us to dismiss things. I am reminded of a time when I was young in my faith and a buddy of mine whom I had come to trust had shared that the music I was listening to was problematic and certainly didn't glorify God. My initial response wasn't the kindest, I thought in my mind that they were some religious nut and I said "music is just art, it's fine for me to listen to these things." That friend shared a series called "They Sold Their Souls for Rock and Roll" by Good Fight Ministries with me, and I didn't want to watch it. I thought it was just going to be some over the top, crazy religious stuff that was seeking to condem me for my listening habits. However, because I had come to know this brother in Christ I chose to watch it. The video series was 10 hours long and after the first half of video 1 I was wrecked, I was in tears and I realized I was wrong, God did a mighty work. Later that week I gathered up all my music and I threw it in the dumpster, it took everything for me not to jump in and fish it all out but I knew that God had made it clear that it needed to go. My point is this, my previously held belief was that my music was fine, but in reality, it wasn't and through careful examination of my buddies claim according the to the Word of God I saw that I was wrong. I could have fought for what I thought was right, I could have called him a Pharisee, I could have dismissed him or sought to discredit him but instead I reluctantly listened, and examined the claim and my life changed as a result.
One of the hardest things for us to do as humans is to admit when we are wrong, or to entertain the possibility we could be wrong or even deceived.
We need to be teachable and realize we aren't always right, and that it is possible that we can be deceived and go around thinking we are right when we are in fact wrong. It is important for us to study, to examine the evidence and when we are wrong, we need to adjust. Sadly, with the way the Pharisee card is being used today, Jesus, the disciples and especially Paul would be likely to be called Pharisees, that should trouble us and shake us awake.
The final thing I will mention about the Pharisees is not an item that is spoke about much but it is so important!! The Pharisees were heretics, they were false teachers, this also plays greatly into their self-righteousness and rejection of the Truth. The Pharisees were more concerned with what the Tradition of the Elders taught then they were what the Word of God taught. They were more concerned with what the Talmud had to say then the Word, they were teaching and holding people to extra-Biblical material, that is not okay. I wont spend much time here but just know it is important and maybe do some study on it, you might be surprised what you find.
The bottom line is this, before you play the Pharisee card examine your heart, examine your thoughts, examine the claims, and make sure you are properly using the card. There are for sure times when playing the Pharisee card makes sense, however it is not as often as you think and unfortunately we have abused it's usage. May we be careful to examine what is being said by our brothers and sisters in Christ, even if we don't agree with them we need to have the conversation in love, not ascribe motive or intention to them, and always represent Jesus in all situations, even the ones where it makes sense to play the card.
We would love to hear from you about this, please leave a comment and continue the conversation, and as always lets keep the conversation Christ-centered and Christ-like. Thank you so much for taking the time!!
Finding a healthy balance is never easy.
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33
When I read the Scriptures it seems to me that God has a pretty clear order of how things should look in our life and we as fallen creatures sure do a good job of muddying the waters. All of us are guilty at times of having our priorities out of wack. We can get so caught up in different things that other important parts of our lives get lost in the shuffle and this can have detrimental consequences. We are all too familiar with the grind between work, family, our hobbies, our goals, our hopes to provide a better life for us and our family, etc... None of those things in and of themselves is bad, but how we manage them is where it can get tricky and sometimes turn a good thing into a bad thing quickly.
As believers in Jesus we know in our minds that we are to put Christ first always, He is to be the reason we do what we do. So many of us believe that we are called to certain things and so we pursue those things with great vigor, sometimes we pursue them so intensely that other things that God has directly called us to, suffer. I was very specific in naming this article as most who will read it are aspiring Christian artists. We can feel so deeply that God has called us to make music that we tend to rearrange the order of our life. I am going to be real honest here... Not everyone who makes music and thinks they are called to make music for Jesus are in fact called, and even if you are, it doesn't mean you are destined for the big stage. (Check out the article "You May Be Highly Successful and Not Even Know It." ) I feel very much called to make music for Jesus but I also know that my calling in that is not to be a CHH star, I am okay with that, in fact it is very welcomed. Do I strive to make the best possible music I can for Jesus, yes, you bet I do! Do I want people to listen to the music I make, absolutely! Am I going to sacrifice the other things God has called me to do in my life for the sake of the music I believe He has called me to, 1000% NO! I have seen it happen, and if I am honest, I have seen it happen in my own life, where people (myself included) get so caught up in one thing, that other vital pieces to their life/calling take a back seat. I have watched marriages falter because people are so wrapped in their musical calling that their spouse feels neglected and it causes nothing but problems.
My hope in writing this is to help.
If you believe you are called to music ministry, praise God, what you do with that calling and how you handle the other areas of your life that are equally (if not more) important (i.e. your wife, & kids is you have them), is vital. If you are married than your spouse is your number one priority. We can say this all day but is it reflected in how we live our lives? We can say we love our wife/husband all day but our actions are going to be what they see and hear. Those of us who are married need to be vigilant in this area, we must genuinely put our spouse first, always (Note: Your relationship with God should be first and if we are putting Him first we will take seriously the call to put our spouses first in the area of human relations). Read Ephesians 5. The next layer of this is if you have a child or children, they are next in line before anyone or anything else. I have learned all of this the hard way as I continue to wrestle with my own selfishness. I have seen my selfishness have such a negative impact on my family to the point where it was so clear that I was doing it wrong. This is why I take this so seriously, there is much at stake and the way we live matters. Love God, Love your Spouse, Love your Children.
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Pornography addiction is no small thing, and for many men and women the struggle is real. Pornography addiction can leave a person feeling broken, desperate, isolated and simply put, imprisoned. For those struggling with this addiction they are constantly being told that there is hope and that freedom available but they never seem to be able experience it and as a result they feel even worse. The truth of the matter though is that there is in fact hope, there is a way to experience freedom from this bondage. I started watching pornography when I was 9 years old, I always knew that it was something I shouldn't be watching but I began to crave it. By the time I was a teenager I was a full blown porn addict, and I was also beginning to have actual sexual experiences which heightened the watching of porn. This carried well into my adult life. I came to Christ when I was 27, I had many addictions prior to my turning to Jesus from drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, to sex and pornography, and when I came to Christ, 4 of those things immediately dealt with. I stopped smoking, doing drugs, drinking, and I stopped engaging in sexual activity. For some reason the one that stuck around was the pornography. It had become a way of life for me, it was normal and I couldn't stop watching it. In the beginning of my walk I would seek to hide it as I felt ashamed but then in reading the Gospel of John I came across John 3 verses 20 and 21 which state "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” These verses shook me, I had to ask myself the question, "am I practicing the truth and coming to the Light or am I hiding my sin?" Clearly I was hiding my sin. This convicted me and I began to reach out. I kept my circle tight but I made sure that I had a couple guys I could share my struggle with, and this began the process of me getting the help I needed to walk in the freedom that Christ offers.
Lets get into some practical steps on how to deal with pornography addiction. (Please note that though they aren't directly listed in the steps below, fervent prayer and Bible study are a must in and through this process.) (Also, this blog will be a little longer than normal and that's okay!)
Step 1, Admit you have an issue and need help. This might seem obvious but pride can be a beast and a lot of times we think we can handle these issues on our own. Porn addiction is not an issue that you can handle by yourself, it will require the help of the Holy Spirit and the help of the body of Christ. This is so vital to beating this addiction!
Step 2. Have a couple people that you can openly talk to about your struggles, your failures and your successes. There are a few things to draw out here that are important to mention. Fist, again, our pride can be a beast. If we have those people in our life we need to make sure we exercise the option to contact them and not only contact them but contact them before and not after a failure. This point is so important because it is often the hardest. We get embarrassed or we think they will be mad at us for struggling, or we just messaged them a couple of hours ago, or the day before etc... The enemy is crafty in these moments and our flesh starts to take over, we need to get out ahead of things before they get out of hand (and if we are honest they can get out of hand quickly). You need to have people in your life that will walk through this with you and that you can be open and honest with. I tell my friends that I am accountability partners for that even if I don't pick up leave a message or text me, I will respond and know that I will ask so they will have to answer, I tell them that I expect honesty as that is what they will get from me, and I want them to walk in the victory they have in Christ.
Step 3, Have an escape plan. This follows step 2 as they go hand in hand. This plan should be known by your accountability partners as they are a key part of the plan and holding you to the plan laid out. This plan should include contacting your accountability partners, prayer, Bible reading (specific Scriptures that you have found powerful or remind you of Gods goodness), something or a series of somethings you can do instead (this is where having a hobby is huge, for me it is writing or making music, this helps me focus on something different and is very helpful). If you are alone, sometimes you might have to leave the house and go somewhere public or just get in your car, crank some worship music (or just Christian music in general) and just drive. 1 Corinthians 10:13 is a great verse to memorize for those that struggle with lust or pornography "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure." This is a fantastic verse to remember, it's one of those verses that removes our excuses. Do we believe and trust that God is faithful and that He will show us a way out so that we can endure the temptation(s) before us? Think of it this way, if you were in a burning building you would do anything and everything to get out, to save your life. You wouldn't just sit in the middle of a room and say "well the building is burning so I guess I am just going to sit here and die." You would fight for your life. I would like to develop this illustration a bit. Let's say that the fire represents temptation and allowing it to consume you would represent you sinning. God gives us an ax in one of those glass cases that says "break glass in the event of an emergency." Jesus is always our exit, we need to choose Him rather than sit in the temptation, allow it to consume us and rebel against Him. Jesus died so we may have life, in Him we have victory over sin and death, we fight for our life by choosing Jesus in the moments when we feel the weakest. This brings me to step 4.
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I was born in the 80's. I grew up watching some of what I consider, the best cartoons ever made. Transformers, Voltron, M.A.S.K., Thunder Cats and of course, G.I. Joe. A phrase that seemed to stick with me was always found at the end of each episode of G.I. Joe. There would be some life lesson that a kid had to learn and one of the characters would say "Knowing is half the battle." As a kid I would often repeat that in the deepest voice I could and I thought it made me sound smart (don't judge me), I never really thought much about the phrase, I just thought it was cool. One day when I was reading the book of James the phrase popped back into my mind. I laughed at first but then it hit me. James is literally stating that knowing is only half the battle and that applying that knowledge is the other half. James chapter 1 verses 22-25 states; "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does."
It is one thing to read the word, hear the word and know the word, it's another thing to apply that which you are reading, hearing and know. This is where the rubber meets the road. Now that I am older and hopefully wiser (by the grace of God go I), I feel that G.I. Joe sort of let us down or if anything, left the quote incomplete causing us children to fill in the blanks based on the application of the end scene. I think the quote should have been "Knowing is half the battle, the other half is applying that knowledge." Now, that doesn't sound nearly as cool as the original and even in the most manly of voices it might come off as nerdy but it is no less true. This is often how we go about life though. In this day and age we have access to so much information and we are constantly bombarded with things seeking our attention.
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One of the hardest things for us to do as humans is to admit when we are wrong, or to entertain the possibility we could be wrong or even deceived.
We need to be teachable and realize we aren't always right, and that it is possible that we can be deceived and go around thinking we are right when we are in fact wrong. It is important for us to study, to examine the evidence and when we are wrong, we need to adjust.
There are somethings that are going on in the Church of America that are very saddening. I do not claim to have the perfect Theology, however, I have put in the time, effort and energy in studying the things I have found concerning; 1st, to see if I am wrong in my thinking and 2nd, if I am correct, too ask the question, how do we lovingly get about dealing with and drawing out the falsehoods that are being taught. This has resulted in much prayer, much study of the Word of God, and many conversations with people that agree and disagree "as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17
In bringing these things up I have been refereed to as a Pharisee, a Religious Zealot, or simply a religious leader who is offended when God moves, Yet, the more I pray and seek the Lord, the more I read His Word, the more I dive in deep and ask God by the power of His Spirit to reveal what is true as is represented in His Word, He has continued to bring peace and a desire to lovingly come alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ that have bought into some ideologies and philosophy's that are not presented in the Scripture. The Holy Spirit of God will always be in complete alignment with the Word of God, if what you are hearing does not find itself in compete agreement with the Word of God then it is not the Holy Spirit you are hearing from.
There are predominant teachers that are teaching that Jesus was not God in the flesh but a mere man during His time on the earth, and that after He died that He was tormented by satan in Hell until God rose Him from the grave, here is where they say was the moment that Jesus was reborn. They are teaching that the Holy Spirit moves subjectively and independently from the Word of God and that God is giving new revelation through the Spirit (implying that the canon of Scripture is not closed). They are teaching that prophecy is a learned gift and that you need to practice (try and get better) at it and that there is a difference between a false prophet and a bad prophet (a bad prophet from their perspective is one that simply got a bad word... where did this bad word come from?) That we are little gods (that when God made us in His image He made us little gods (to be clear this is not true)). They are teaching something known as the 7 mountain mandate (this is a view of the end times that is not presented in the Scripture). It is even being taught that God is the biggest failure in the Bible (the things used to justify this point from the Scripture are very saddening and this teaching seems to be isolated to Kennith Copeland but his influence on some of the heavy hitters is deeper than you may think.)
The enemy within is two fold, first, it is in the evil one preaching heresy and men buying the lie and preaching it to people, and the second is the enemy within ourselves as we refuse to listen to sound doctrine, consider we may be wrong or that we are being deceived. We so often don't or refuse to put the time in to examine the claims being made by either the preachers preaching false doctrine or examining the claims of those that are refuting the teachings. As believers in Jesus we are to test all things in accordance with the Word of God, we are to be teachable and we must find ourselves in full submission to God and His authoritative Word. The things I mentioned above are very much heretical and leading people astray. These false doctrines are being propagated by two of the more predominant names in the church today, Todd White, and Bill Johnson along with Shawn Bolz, Heidi Baker and several others. Now, I am not questioning their salvation as that is not my place, only God knows who is truly saved and who isn't, and my battle isn't with these people, it is with the ideologies and philosophies that are being taught.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:10-12
What is most saddening to me is what seems to be an abandoning of the Word of God, either that or the manipulation, misinterpretations or the misapplications or a combination of all 4 of those things. I am not just speaking about the teachers preaching these things, I am also speaking to the hearers of what they are teaching. Because this movement is laced with experience and emotional connection people have a hard time separating their subjective emotional experience from what is objectively true. This is why it is vital to teach that the Holy Spirit of God will always be in complete alignment with the Word of God (which is the objective truth). When we separate the Holy Spirit from God's Word and make the Spirits movement subjective we enter into very dangerous ground, sadly most people are walking on this ground daily and don't realize it or they think someone who says other wise is wrong and either a Pharisee or Religious nut job. One of the other subtle things that happens with the teachings that Jesus was only a man during His time on earth is that it minimizes Jesus and elevates the Holy Spirit and the experience the Holy Spirit provides. This deception is subtle and probably one these teachers would deny if asked, however, their teachings promote this ideology whether they know it or not. I am sure people will be unhappy that I mentioned some names in this blog, and that is okay. If you follow the teachings of any of the people listed I challenge you to do some research, and if you don't know where to start I would love to provide some resources for you that demonstrate the claims I have made. Again, I do not wish to go against God and bear false witness, it is important to note that I am not the type to make blanket claims, I have made my claims biased on the evidence that they themselves have provided in their teachings. We should always be testing anything a Pastor or preacher says, as well as the things our brothers and sisters share, we need to put the things said up against God's Word, this is how we know that what is being shared is in fact true.
There is so much more conversation to be had, please feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts. As always, lets keep the conversation Christlike and friendly.
For those of us that have been following Christ we should seek to know the Word, and strive to share the truth in love. Though this can be hard, we are called to share it and to not be an offense because the gospel is offense. Telling someone or a group of people that what they are doing or saying is wrong according to the Word of God is no easy task and it is to be done with the utmost care and love both outside the church and in the church (the body of Christ). The reality, you are likely going to upset people, they are likely to be offended, and something I experienced this past week, they are likely to resort to name calling and subtle yet evident character bashing. These are not uncommon responses. The key in these situations is to not allow your emotions to control or dictate your response. If this is happening on social media or email it is easy for people to assume and apply tone, motive and emotion to what they are reading, sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly. We are all guilty of this and need to fight against the urge. It is important, especially when we disagree with someone that we demonstrate a Philippians 4:8 mindset and approach, "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." It is vital that we think on what is true and assume the best of someone rather than ascribing motive or intent to them.
In the reckless love blog I took an extreme amount of care in not pretending to know the authors motives or bashing them as brothers in Christ. I took great care in making sure that the blog was simply dealing with the theology presented in the song as well as in their descriptions as to why they went with the word reckless. The unfortunate piece in this is that people took offense and assumed I was bashing the authors, this couldn't have been further from the truth. To ensure this I had the blog proof read and had a couple of people make sure that I was clearly dealing with the theology and not attacking the men. This is very important in sharing hard truths with people. We have a tendency to take things personal, and we hate to admit we might be wrong about something, so we seek to defend our stance rather than being teachable and humbling ourselves. It is very important in sharing hard truth that you check yourself first, you examine your motives, and most importantly, you must make sure your claims are true. In sharing hard truth, especially with people involved, you need to make sure you are not bearing false witness and that what you are saying is in complete alignment with the Word of God. It is vital that you make sure that you are teachable, that you are willing to concede if you are incorrect, and that you are willing to adjust if you are wrong, I can not stress this part enough, it is so very important!! When we find ourselves being argumentative it should be a sign that we are more concerned with proving our point and saving face. When we are allowing the Spirit of God to move, and we are submitted to God and His Word, we will operate in the fruits of the Spirit and point to Jesus. It is so essential for us as believers to be about pointing to Jesus and not our point. When you are trying to prove your point you are going to do so no matter the cost, you will shut down any possibility you may be wrong and you will make all sorts of assumptions about the person or people telling you otherwise. When being led by the Spirit of God, you will seek to honor others, hear them out, and put what they are saying up against the Word of God, this will determine if what they are saying is true or not and we need to be praying that God make it clear. Again, we all need to be teachable realizing we don't know everything and that maybe our brothers and sisters have something of value to add to the conversation.
Because it is seemingly so complicated to share hard truth as it pertains to the Word of God people either shy away from it or go to the other extreme and become angry and over zealous. There is compromise on both sides. One lands itself close to what I call graceism (all grace, no obedience or change required, confrontation free), and the other legalism (no grace, all law and judgement). Both of these in there extreme are incorrect according to the Scripture. Believe it or not, the line is smack dab in the middle. When we realize that we are to hold each other accountable and to confront fellow believers concerning sin, and doctrinal matters, we must also realize that we are to do so graciously and in love. Again, you are going to upset or offend someone, but it should be the Word that divides, not you or I. Again, the gospel, the Word of God is offensive to people and this is why we are not to be an offense. Stand firm on the truth, hide behind God's Word and allow Him to speak.
"Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left..." Joshua 23:6
"So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." 2 Thessalonians 2:15
"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" Galatians 1:6-8
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17
I spent a long time this week evaluating things after posting the reckless love blog due to the comments and various conversations. I spent time in prayer, in the Word, in conversation, more prayer, more study and more conversations. It was a draining few days for sure but the more I would study, pray, and talk with people the more energized and excited I would get. I was very blessed and encouraged by many people who came alongside me and held up my arms in this. God used the blog and the conversations in my life (and others it would seem) as an opportunity for growth and deeper dependence on Him. Praise God!
What has been your experience when sharing hard truths concerning God and what His Word has to say? I would love to continue the conversation, and as always, lets keep things Christ-Centered as we seek to bring glory and honor to God in all that we do!! God Bless!!
By now you have likely heard the controversy surrounding the song "Reckless Love" by Cory Asbury. If you haven't, a quick google search and some reading will have you caught up. I have been engaged in many conversations concerning this song and I thought it time to share my thoughts via a blog post.
Personally, when having these sorts of conversations I think it wise to hear the persons heart, I want to know the why behind what they are saying or in this case singing. So to be fair, here is a YouTube video of Cory explaining the song. From the best I can tell, this song is an attempt to describe God's love from a purely human perspective, it is seeking to evoke an emotional reaction in the listener. If this is true, then we have an interesting conundrum to unpack. I am a pastor, so I will be looking at it from a pastoral perspective. The definition for the word reckless is; 1: marked by lack of proper caution : careless of consequences 2: irresponsible. Some examples of it used in a sentence; He is a wild and reckless young man. He showed a reckless disregard for the safety of others. He spends money with reckless abandon (Definitions and examples provided by Merriam-Webster). Worship songs that are sung corporately with the congregation in a church should be accurate to the Scripture. Are we okay teaching people that God is reckless? That He is careless, and irresponsible? The sad reality that I have encountered is that people are okay with this teaching and seek to use the Scriptures to justify their point. Unfortunately, it doesn't add up.
In one video Cory uses the parable of the 99 sheep from the book of Luke (Luke 15:1-7). Cory makes it seem as though God is reckless by leaving the 99 to go after the 1, but is this true? Is God being reckless? It took some conversation, some reading and some studying but I found out something interesting. First off, this is a parable and a parable is not intended to portray a real life situation but it is a simple story intended to make a point, however, it does beg the question, "what if it did happen in real life?" If a shepherd was in the situation that Jesus explained they would first take precaution, they would make sure that the sheep were looked after. They would likely have another shepherd tend to their sheep, they would have a hired hand look after them, or if there was no one around or available the shepherd would relocate the sheep to an area that they know is going to be safe, and provide what the sheep need. Not to mention the sheep that is wandering isn't likely to be that far away and so it wouldn't likely take the shepherd that long to find it and bring it back to the flock. Jesus in this parable is seeking to prove the point that God cares for His sheep and doesn't want any to perish. In the case of the parable in Luke, Jesus is making a contrast between the self-righteous Pharisees and those who recognize their need for forgiveness and ultimately for Jesus. Jesus is in no way saying that the shepherd (in this case being that it is a parable, the shepherd is God), is reckless in (H)his thinking. That is for sure not the point of the parable, nor is it an accurate description of God. From a human perspective it may appear that the shepherd is reckless when we hear this parable, but again, a good shepherd is going to make sure that his sheep are safe and therefore he puts thought and action together to ensure their safety, this is the opposite of reckless. The shepherd doesn't just run off without giving thought to the 99, that would indeed be reckless and likely rather costly and full of negative consequence. As a matter of fact, the one that is reckless is the sheep that wanders off from the flock. Humor me as I give you another example, Lets say you have 3 kids, 2 of which are 2 and 3, and 1 that is say 5. You are in the grocery and your oldest wanders off and ultimately leaves the store. You start to panic. Do you simply leave the other 2 kids alone while you run around trying to find your oldest? Of course not, in this case you either take them with you, or you would ask a store clerk to help you, does that change how much you love your oldest who has wondered off? Of course not, it simply means you love all your children and you want to make sure they are all safe. You are obviously going to go great lengths to find your child but not at the expense of the other 2. If you left the other 2 unattended, you are in fact being reckless. God is not reckless in His love, He is very well thought out and this is clear through-out the Scripture. As a matter of fact go and read Ephesians 1 and then come back to the definition of reckless and tell me if they align?
There is so much to discuss concerning this topic, but I don't feel I need to explain everything here or in this moment. I would encourage us to be aware of this new version of the gospel, a version that puts us at the center of it. Make no mistake, it's all about Him, we are simply the benefactors. This does not change the love that God has for us in any way but the Scripture makes it clear that Jesus came, lived, died, and rose all for the glory of God and for God's glory alone. As a result, we can experience the amazing grace, forgiveness, and have eternal salvation that results from putting our faith in Jesus. It is not about us.
A friend sent me an interesting article about what God demands from us concerning worship, the article is powerful and to the point. This article does point out the belief system of Bethel church in Redding, California and how when you dig into what they teach you will find it laced with heresy. That may sound harsh, but from a pastor's perspective, the call to be a shepherd of a flock is to protect them from wolves. I say this in the most loving, non-legalistic way I can, Bethel is not preaching the Jesus of the Bible, they are not preaching the gospel represented in Scripture, and they are leading countless people astray. Don't take my word for it, do the research, dig in, you might be surprised what you find.
As always I am open to questions, comments, concerns and healthy debate. We do not have to agree but we do need to disagree in love so please keep the conversation civil and Christlike.
I hope it's okay to be vulnerable. When I was younger I was angry, I was usually set to snap at any minute, I hated myself, I wore a mask, and I was good at faking it to make it. When I came to Christ in 2008 my anger was something that God quickly addressed. I began memorizing verses concerning anger and praying that the fruit of the Spirit would be evident and that I would put the flesh to death. God honored my prayers and my anger and rage subsided and I was beginning to look more like Christ in and through circumstances where anger would normally rule the day. I was very thankful for this.
I am in a new season of life, I am now married to my lovely wife Stephanie & we have 2 wonderful boys (currently both are under 2). Sleep is a hot commodity, time to yourself is virtually non-existent and your whole routine centers around others. I am beyond blessed, however, something unexpected started happening, anger has begun to rear it's evil head. I have found myself allowing my emotions to control me rather than me controlling my emotions. I have found myself constantly on edge, responding poorly, and then feeling awful. Thankfully there are many moments in this where I hold my thoughts and my actions captive, and by the grace of God keep it together, but sadly there are moments when I don't. I know I am not perfect, but I am hard on myself, I expect better because I am new person in Christ. I am very open about my struggles, I seek to live in the light and so Stephanie and I have had a pretty open dialogue concerning our frustrations and our feelings as a result. These conversations are starting to bring us closer to each other and ultimately closer to God. If your like me, you want to take things on, and you take them on in your own strength. I always think I am stronger than I am and so I rely more on myself then I do God and His Spirit in me. Stephanie and I started a couples devotional this morning and the author drew out this exact point. He stated that in marriage we can drain our batteries, and forget to plug in, we start to take things on in our own strength and it will inevitably end in failure. This really resonated with me, the author is right and more importantly God used those words to remind me that I am doing this exact thing again.
"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires." James 1:19-20
I woke up in the middle of the night already launched in prayer, I was thanking God that His mercies are renewed daily, and I was praying that I would be a better man today then I was yesterday. When I read the devo with Stephanie and those words about our own strength came, it clicked, the only way I am going to be a better man today then yesterday is if I surrender myself fully to Christ and rest in His strength not my own. I praise God that His power is made known in my weakness and that His grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9). I praise God that He is not finished with me, that He sees His work through to completion and that He is in the business of molding and shaping me into the likeness of Jesus.
I don't know what you are struggling with, but I want to encourage you to stop trying to beat it on your own. We are all in desperate need of Jesus, we are all in desperate need of the body of Christ (other believers), and we are all in process. Today, rest in Him, rely on His strength, and press on.
I would love to pray for and with you, and I ask that you pray for me and my family. If you have a prayer request please leave it in the comments or email me at email@example.com. God bless!!
Joe Bragg is the Ministry Director for Kalamazoo Youth For Christ. Joe also has the awesome privilege to lead the youth ministry at his church, where he was previously the Executive Pastor. Joe and his beautiful wife Stephanie have 3 wonderful boys, a shaggy dog and a cat that thinks he's a dog. Never a dull moment!