Category Archives: God’s Grace

How Do I Know I’m Saved?

My friend asked me that very question on Sunday with a sincere heart and seriousness that made me know they were searching for answers.

They had accepted Jesus a few years back, was baptized, then even re-baptized, but yet had trouble answering the question when a friend asked them the “How do you know?” question.  They were searching for answers not just to be confident in conversation, but to find confidence for their soul.

So when does it happen?

Is it when you are sprinkled as a baby?  Is it when you complete your CCD class?  Is it when you are immersed into baptism?  Is it when your mom drops you off at the front door and says “Go find God”?  Is it when you get enough of your “stuff” together that you’re worthy to talk to God?

How do I know when I’m saved?

I don’t believe the person asking this question of my friend was one of these, but there are some Christians out there who love to ask these types of questions.  Especially the ones that think being a Christian is about rules, regulations, and checking your spiritual aptitude card before you can come to church or even Jesus.  Sadly so many of these “super Christians” forget that they were once the wretch that needed Grace at one time too and weren’t looking for a spreadsheet of rules to follow but a Savior to love them.

The answer to the question is best summed up from the words of the best “sinner-to-saved” story of all time if you ask me.  The Apostle Paul, the former Christian Killer and extremist, lays out clearly when we know we are saved in the book of Romans.

Here he says:

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” “- Romans 10:12-13

Do you notice something that was missing?  There were no strings attached.  Paul didn’t ask for a secret handshake, a check to be written, or for the person to go clean up a little bit before they come to God.  Paul didn’t even say they needed to be baptized (although I believe this to be a critical step in our faith journey), but he says to simply cry out to the Lord as a sinner in need of a Savior and accept His gift of Grace.

So the answer to our question is found not in the “what” we do to be saved, but in the “when” we realize we need a Savior.

It’s in that “when” moment that we realize the effect our sin has had on our eternal life, the death penalty that we deserve because of it, grasp the grace that only Jesus can offer through his death, burial, and resurrection, and accept Him as our Lord and Savior that we are saved.

We are saved when we no longer can ignore our soul’s brokeness, realize our attempts to “fix us” have failed, and laying on our back on the floor of rock bottom we reach up to our Savior for Him to pull us out.

Jesus was always about removing obstacles to come to Him not creating more.  That’s why when he died on the cross the veil in the Temple that separated God from man was torn from top to bottom.  We now have direct access to God through Jesus and His grace is enough.  Yet, for his entire ministry on earth Jesus fought the religious more than the unreligous over this Truth.  They too were not comfortable with His answer tot he question of “How do I know I’m saved? and it led them to kill Jesus over it.

Fortunately for my friend she has good men and women around her to navigate through the question posed to her.  I also don’t think the one asking the question was trying to be hurtful towards them either.

However, there are people out there do want to be hurtful and desire to be the “gatekeepers” of grace in a way.  I just want to make sure that you don’t let the noise of list demanding, rule keeping, sphincter clenching religious people keep you from a relationship with Jesus.  Just come to Him with your ripped up, messed up, jacked up life and let Him Save you.

Yes, your life should look and be radically different, but you have to take the first step onto the path for your destination to be different.

So I will tell you the same thing I told my friend.

Come to Jesus and know without a shadow of a doubt in that moment you are saved.

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An Easter Prayer Of Preparation

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Please join me today in a moment of reflection in preparation for this upcoming Easter weekend.

Father God,

You are the Maker of both the heavens and the earth.  

You are the Creator of all that I see and the breath that I breathe.  

In You is found the origin and summation of every good and perfect gift I have or ever will have in my lifetime.

Beyond the stretches of time, Mighty God, you are The One that…

Thought of me.

Created me.

Wired me.

Loved me.

But Father despite your love for me I have chosen other things to steal my focus, my attention, my worship.  I have sinned against you in word, deed, and thought by making other things more important than You.  I have willingly chosen to go against what I know is written in your Word and have decided to turn down my own path.  

This path has led me to destruction time and time again as You well know.  And although I may pretend that I’m ok with what I’m doing…I’m not.  I am broken, hopeless, and alone without you.

But as You always do, you never give up on me.

You demonstrated this Truth through your Son Jesus.  I thank you that you sent Him to Earth, to live among us, in our shoes, in our pain, and in our temptation.  His relatability is what gives Him viability and vitality to my soul.  Through His death, burial, and resurrection my soul can once again find the rest and peace you designed it to have.

Thank you Lord Jesus for enduring the cross and experiencing not only death, but separation from your Father so that I may never feel that pain.  Thank you for not giving up on me, but showing patience in my unbelief and moments of weakness.  Thank you for allowing me to doubt and for being big enough for my questions.  Thank you for your love that is so big and so wide, but yet is only found fully when we follow how you’ve called us to live.

Father God thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit for his counseling, guidance, and prompting in my life.  May He continue to convict me of sin, challenge me to follow you closer, and encourage me to live more boldly for You.

Finally Father as I approach this weekend called Easter and remember your most amazing gift to us, please help me fully appreciate what you did.  Search my heart and tear away anything that is of me and replace it with all that is You.  Please do not let me go through the motions any more, but help me apply what I know to be true despite the challenges this world will bring me.  

Forgive me of my sin and renew me with your Spirit once more.  Help me to not to be caught up in the commercialization of this day, but to be overwhelmed by Jesus’ justification for my sin.

Thank you Father.

Thank you Father.

Thank you Father.

In the precious Name of Jesus I pray,

Amen

Be blessed my friends.

 

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What Anchors Your Soul?

My family and I went to KeyLime Cove a few weekends ago or as the astute Dr. Casey Tygrett calls it “E-Coli Cove”.  It was this kid’s first time at a water park and they loved it.  Ok, maybe Aniston enjoyed the video games and tickets that she won more than the slides, but for the baby book we will say she loved it.

Well, one of the areas that Aniston loved was this little wave pool area (which is a killer quad workout if you are wondering).  While Cherie and Aniston played in that area, I decided to take Easton on the lazy river.  If you’ve never been on a lazy river you  basically float on an inner tube as a gentle current takes you around the perimeter of the water park.  So I jumped on the tube and put Easton on my lap and off we floated.  Now my son is a very…how do you say…active child and never sits still.  But on the lazy river he found his nirvana and was completely still.  Didn’t move a muscle.

Yes we’ve decided to install one in our townhouse.  It’s totally worth it.

But what’s unique about the lazy river is that it starts and stops right by the wave pool.  The current of the wave pool is what pushes you down the lazy river.  So every time we’d go around the horn we’d encounter the wave pool…on a tube…with a 9 month old.

So normally Cherie would be there to meet me with Aniston “aka Ariel”, but a couple times she did not get there in time.  This meant Easton and I would have to ride the wave pool currents left only to my killer tube steering skills to save us.  Fearing that I’d soon capsize and drown my 9 month old son at E-coli Cove, I had to holler at Cherie to come help us right the ship.

Thankfully Cherie got there in time, but for awhile it was a little nutty.

Our lives sometimes feel like we are riding on an inner tube in the wave pool.  We are getting tossed from one side to the other and don’t know if we can hang on.  We just don’t know if we can keep the ship upright.  Our minds race, the stress mounts, and our nerves stand straight on end.

Our world feels out of control and lost at sea.

We try several things to right the ship though don’t we?  We will try to tread water by working harder, longer, faster.  Sometimes we even add things to our plate to make our boats heavier in hopes this will stop the bobbing up and down.  I mean at the very least I can distract myself with these other things to ignore the storm I’m in.

In reality none of those work and in fact they only make the waves choppier.

Our souls long for something different.  Something calming…something solid to hold onto.  Our souls long for an anchor.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” - Hebrews 6:19

What is this hope?

The hope is Jesus Christ and the anchor of His Grace, Mercy, Peace, and Forgiveness that He offers in a life rooted in Him.  Our souls are desperate to be anchored back to the dock and refuge of God.

Only there will we find peace and calm.

If we choose to anchor our souls in anything other than the truth of God we are left to our own life saving techniques.  We will be tossed back and forth in life guaranteed to have perpetual spiritual sea sickness.

I plead that we all anchor our souls properly.  To allow God to calm the seas of our life and give us the ability to tether our lives back to the rock that is unshakable, not weathered by the storms of our life.

Two ways we can do this is through God’s Word and Prayer To God.

Through God’s Word we are able to find the bedrock of Truth that God desperately wants us to cling to.  Through His Word we replace the lies of “work longer, harder, faster” with Come to me all you are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take time each day to read, meditate, and apply His Word to your life so that waves of Scripture will fill your mind and not fear or doubt.

The second thing you can do is Pray to God.  Prayer is our opportunity to simply talk to God and to be honest, transparent in front of God.  This is the place where there is no need to be someone you’re not, believe me, He already knows the real you anyway. :)

Paul gives us wise words in Philippians 4:6 when he says,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Calm the seas in your life today by throwing down your anchor in the bedrock of God’s love and Truth.  Trust that there is nothing He can’t handle and nothing He can’t calm.

Anchors away!!!

 

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Being A Christian Won’t Make You Popular

I’m much happier when people like me.

I know…I know…I’m weird, but that’s the honest to goodness truth.

So even through that bit of sarcasm I’d venture to say you probably agree with me.

I mean, if given the choice of walking into a room full of people that loved you versus a room full of people that hated your guts you’d probably choose the room where you wouldn’t get assaulted.  Right?

No one wakes up in the morning desiring to make more enemies and frankly I’m not sure if any of us wake up with a To Do list task that says “Find 3 friends today”.  We simply want to go through our days peacefully hoping to encounter people we like rather than those we want to run and hide from.

Since all relationships have two sides to them we will fall into one of these categories too as the “other person”.

Sometimes we have positive perceptions of us because we’ve built up relational credibility, share common interests, have lived some life together, and other things that allow us to be a good person to be around.

Other times you or I may be the disgruntled employee they had to fire, the girl that cheated on her husband with, or the foul mouthed parent at the t-ball game that was kicked out for punching the umpire.  In these cases we become the relationship repellant and may need a good scrubbing with the spiritual SOS pad.

But there are times where great relationships and poor relationships alike encounter a common disconnect.  It’s far less tangible to “fix” or change to make the relationship right again.  That disconnect is your faith.

Our faith as Christians will often times be a real barrier between us and other people.

Sometimes it’s justified.  There are over zealous, idiot Christians that tell people more about how they are going to Hell instead of how much Christ loves them.  Other bonehead Christians will put the Jesus fish on their car, wear the WWJD bracelet, and continue to do pot and beat their wives.  We become innocent victims to their bad experience with church or with hypocritical people in the past that now is assigned to you as a Believer.

But even when we are living a loving, balanced, humble, Christ pursuing life there are still people that will bristle at the idea that we are a Christian.  The question we face in those moments becomes part of the litmus test of our Faith.

The Apostle Paul is an interesting character and one that knew his way around a beating and argument over his faith.  Listen to these words he pens to the Galatians.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” – Galatians 1:10

The litmus test of our faith is whether we will waiver and crumble so people will like us or will we stay strong and rooted in Christ despite what people say.

To paraphrase Paul a bit, it’s as if he’s saying “Listen if I was trying to win a popularity contest I would have chose to believe in something else.  If you haven’t noticed from my broken bones, jacked up face, empty pockets, and jail suits being a Christian hasn’t made me very successful.  But I believe in Christ not for the applause of men but for the embrace of Christ.  His opinion is the only one that matters to me.

As a Christian, our beliefs go against much of what the culture has adopted as ok.  This isn’t a new concept.  The world will always be in opposition with what God desires and it’s because sin is still present.  So to believe that we can have everyone like us is a guaranteed impossibility.  After all when you start messing with the “stuff” and idols in people’s lives you know that won’t be popular.

That’s why we need to have as many positive relationships as we can with people in our life. Creating good relationships with people, not popular ones but honest relationships with people will allow you the greatest chance to share the Truth of Christ to them.

Granted in the end they may turn their back and walk away.  They still may not like you and you could lose friends over your Faith.  But the words of Paul in Romans still ring in my spirit and encourage me to stay firm in the Truth of Christ.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 8:37-39

So stand tall in your faith in Christ and don’t be upset when you aren’t voted Most Popular.

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Can Your Dishwasher Save You?

We just bought a sweet dishwasher.

Man…I must be getting old because I never thought I’d ever say that.

But…honestly…it is really freaking awesome.

Of course, as a guy, all I care about is the cool features.

For starters it’s stainless steel which means it looks more manly and why I can brag about it.  It has hidden buttons on the top edge of the door so Easton and Aniston can’t pretend to “launch rockets” while flooding the kitchen.

Easily the biggest difference between our old dish washer and our new one, beyond the fact that it’s not 12 years old, is it’s quiet.  I mean you can actually carry on a conversation with someone without having to go into the neighbor’s garage to do it.  God love the other one, but our ears would literally be ringing after each cycle like enduring a MegaDeath concert in a bathroom.

But the coolest feature is that the inside has turbo jets that will blast away any caked on garbage you couldn’t scrape off before you put it in.  It will literally pressure wash the dishes clean as if it was peeling paint off my deck.  This feature alone should let you know I will never rinse another dish as long as I live…or until Cherie finds out and makes me do it.

All those features are great, but it still isn’t perfect.  The glaring missing piece is that it won’t load the dishes for you and start itself. I mean come on!  In our technological day and age don’t you think someone can figure out a way to make a robot maid from The Jetsons and take me completely out of the equation?  Is that too much to ask!?

Nope, my dishwasher can’t do its job unless I put my dirty dishes in it and give it permission to make them clean by starting it.

Your life with Christ is the same way.

You can buy the best Bible on the market, download all the WOW 2000-whatever music you want, order all the coolest Christian swag, and even make it to church every week and still not be a Christian.  I can pray before meals, join a small group, and volunteer at the local homeless shelter and still have no idea who Christ is.

The reason is that you can have all the accessories, gadgets, tchotchkes, and features of the Christian life, but until you actually turn God on in your life He can’t work.  Until you give Him permission to start cleaning your dirty, junky, sin-filled life He’s as good as a dishwasher full of dirty dishes, soap ready to go, and the door open.

Jesus tells us clearly in the book of Revelation,

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” - Revelation 3:20

Jesus won’t load the dishwasher.

Jesus won’t start the load.

Jesus is waiting for you decide you want to be clean.  He is willing.

“So he(Jesus) traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”  -Mark 1:39-41 (emphasis mine)

Jesus is willing and able to clean you up, to make you new, to give you a new life with a spot free rinse like none other.

He is willing, but you have to be willing to give Him permission and push start on the dishwasher of your life.

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I Hope My New Year Sucks And Yours Does Too

Gym memberships skyrocket, diet supplements fly off the shelves, and wedding vows are renewed.  Yep, it’s a new year and a new you is just on the horizon…or at least that’s what you hope.

After all if you’re able to fix just those one or two things in your life everything would be perfect.  Right?

I need to confess something.  I used to prey on that mentality this time of year when I worked in the fitness industry.  Every January we would prepare for the first of the year and waves of out of shape, overweight, mentally psyched up people to come streaming through the doors.  We would sign them up for memberships, get them all set up with a personal trainer or dietitian, follow up with them from time to time, and then just wait for them to drop like flies.

After all, the best type of gym membership a person can have from the business point of view is one that is always paid, but never used.  Think about it…all the revenue with none of the expense.

Sad to say, but it’s true.

What I know about you and I is that we all desperately want things to be better in our lives. But rarely do we choose the right things to start with in order to fix them.

We’d rather fix the exterior stuff like fat and muscle instead of dealing with the inside stuff like doubt, self confidence, and loneliness.  If we can create a faux version of ourself that looks great on the outside, maybe the world won’t know we’re rotting away on the inside.  Slowly we are dying from internal bleeding caused by deep wounds from our past and present sin.

Well let me tell you something.

You and I don’t need more makeovers we need to stop the source of our pain and that will suck for sure.

In the world of medicine there is a revolutionary treatment used to help with healing large wounds in patients.  It’s known as a Wound V.A.C and in laymen terms it helps to suck out all the infection and nasty that prevents healing so that the wound can closer sooner and healthier.  Patients that don’t utilize this treatment are nearly assured to have longer hospital stays and are at more risk for infection.

You and I need spiritual wound VAC’s in our lives this year.  We need this year to suck more than it has ever before if we ever want to start really living.  When we stop believing the lies that Satan wants us to believe about what “really needs fixing” and start trusting the Godly makeover that our Father really wants for us only then will we really see life changes that will stick.

And as Christians we know this is what God wants for us and Paul reminds us of that in Ephesians.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” – Ephesians 4:22-23

My prayer for you and I this year is simple.

I pray God sucks as much garbage as possible out of your life as possible this year as He heals you from all of your wounds.

Don’t let Satan convince you that all you need to do is slap some lipstick on your “pig life” to make it look better this year.

Believe that God’s plan of internal healing may not bring external perfection, but it WILL bring you the life He’s always wanted you to have.

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12/14/12 – The Day I Took My Kids For Granted

It even feels hypocritical reading that title.

Especially since my wife and I struggled for so long and had to go through so much just to have our beautiful kids.  We should wake up every day and thank God for every second we have with them.

But I don’t.

I get upset about my son not sleeping, frustrated with my daughter for not paying attention, grumpy when Aniston is whiny, and at my whits end when Easton won’t calm down unless you bounce him.  Heck, we even go so far as to complain with other parents about our respective kids and all the headaches they give us.  It’s as if we are doing these kids a favor by being their parents.

All that seemed normal and “what every parent does”…until Friday…until 9:00 am December 14, 2012…until innocence was lost…until the unthinkable happened…until “normal” didn’t make sense anymore.

Sadly, it took a young man draped in evil walking into an elementary school and shattering all the rules of morality for me to look at my kids differently.  To look at life differently.  To look at the world differently.

As I’m sure many of you did, I left work a little quicker that day and didn’t bother to stop by the local drive-thru for an iced tea on the way home.  I didn’t take the route that “might be faster” just to see what would happen.  No, I went home as fast as I could.

When I got through the doors I kissed my wife, hugged my daughter as we watched Doc McStuffins, and l looked at my son while he drooled on my face.  Through glassy eyes clouded with tears I smiled at what God had given me and begged for His forgiveness.

Gone were the thoughts of fatigue or frustration towards my kids because an overwhelming sense of blessing had filled those spaces.  I realized in that moment what was important, what I could no longer brush past, and what I needed to NEVER take for granted again.

However, in that moment of reflection and vulnerability something also became crystal clear.

My family is not running away.

We will not place our children in a figurative or literal bubble to shield them from the challenges of this world.  I am the proud son of two public school teachers and I will be the proud father of children in the public schools.  We will still go to movies, shop at malls, and go to amusement parks.  We will travel on planes, drive in cars, and visit foreign lands.  We will play in public, worship in public, and work for the public for the reason is simple.

As Christians, this is what God has called us to do and this is what God himself did.

God did not shy away from the evil of this world.  He pressed into it with His full weight and full force sending His very best in Jesus.  God’s plan was never a plan of retreat but one of attack.  An attack led by Love.

The natural tendency is to ask the question of “Why?” when tragedies like this happen.  It’s our attempt to understand and reconcile our brains to what just took place so we can neatly package it to explain later.  Howeve,r there are times in life where we may never know the Why because the answer can only be summed up by the fact Evil still roams this earth.

And our attempt to justify evil will always come up empty.

Ironically the pursuit of understanding happiness and evil have a similar end result.  Like nailing jello to the wall the second you think you have it nailed down your happiness will change or the evil we seek to understand will morph again leaving us chasing mirages.

I pray we do not waste so much energy chasing down fleeting answers to question of evil, but rather harness all we have into pursuing the Light and being light.

Jesus said in Matthew 15:14-16

““You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

In times where evil seems to bubble to the surface of life and overflow into our worlds we must fight the urge to retreat.  We cannot insulate ourselves in fear and place ourselves in a self-made cocoon of insecurity.

Instead, as Christians we must stand tall, find the highest point we can, and shine Light in the face of darkness.  We must point to the One that has come to overcome all evil and will never back down for a second.

I know there is pain, I know there are questions, I know there is anger at the evil that was done.  Jesus knows too and feels our pain, but only He can do something with it and He has.  He nailed it to a cross, broke the chains of death, and kicked Evil in the teeth for you and for me.  Evil may appear to win in this broken world, but it never will win in the World that counts.

I leave you my friends not with my words, but with Words from the Creator of the Universe Himself and the One that has and will always triumph over evil.

And the One who I will never take for granted.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.- John 16:33

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If We Can’t Win We Will Whine

The other day I was talking with my friend, and I asked how he was doing.   He jokingly said, “Good!  I mean, I guess there is always something to complain about though right?”

We both chuckled and went our separate ways, but I got thinking about what he said.

“There’s always something to complain about right?”

That seems to sum up the natural human condition doesn’t it?

No matter how much good is going on in our life, how many blessings we have stored up, or how much we have to be thankful for we will always find a rain cloud to bring over our head.

I believe the inner reason for that is that we are never satisfied and we desperately want for all parts of our life to have a big red bow on it like the Lexus commercials at Christmas.  We want everything to be perfect or at least as personally favorable as possible.

That’s why we will complain about pretty much everything.

We will complain about our food, foot, football team, foundations, fatigue, fears, and our functions sometimes before we even leave the house!  Why is that?

It’s because we think we know what’s right and since life isn’t listening to our master plan we grumble.  In other words, if we can’t win we’ll whine.

Jesus had to deal with this whining and grumbling nearly every day of his ministry.  A classic example of this in John 6 which must have made Jesus think “Can I ever win?”

Where we pick up, Jesus had literally just got done walking on water.  He probably was stretching out his calves and doing a cool down when a crowd approaches Him.  Interwoven in the masses was a group of Jews who, in questioning Jesus about his claims of being God, bring up that Moses was able to provide the people of the Exodus mana from heaven to keep them fed and could He do that?

“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.  But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.  For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” – John 6:35-38

Well this must not have sat well with the Jews because they saw they couldn’t win so they began to whine.

“At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”  They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’? – John 6:41-42

In their dismissal of Jesus they attack His divinity through his pedigree.  Since what he said didn’t line up with what they believed they chose to dismiss Him because he came from “common” people so how can He be God?

“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered.  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” - John 6:43-44

Jesus tries to redirect their mumbles and grumbles back to the Truth in His promise but they don’t listen and leave arguing sharply amongst themselves.  Turning to His peeps, his followers, his disciples, He gets an interesting and surprising response to what transpired.

“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?” - John 6:60-61

Even his own disciples were whining about what He said!  It’s like the players after the game talking about the coach to the press.  Not everyone that says they want to be on the team has what it takes to be on the team and Jesus knew that and this grumbling was a sign of the inevitable.

“For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.  He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” – John 6:64b-66

Some of the followers of Jesus couldn’t handle the entire Christian package.  It got too tough, too much was asked of them, and too much would have to be given up so they left.

His Twelve stayed with Him, but many of the others left to go back to join the crowd of whiners instead of staying with the group of Winners.

In our life we will always have the choice whether we want to follow God’s plan or whine when we don’t.  However, our decision to choose whining is not God’s fault.  If we don’t want to obey we miss out not God.

Don’t turn you back on God and whine about why you did it.  Keep leaning into Him and although there may be a TON of stuff to complain about choose to focus on the goodness of God and all He’s done for you.

That always puts things in the right perspective for me and I guarantee it will change your outlook on your day.

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Stick It To Goliath!

The story of David and Goliath is one of the most well known and recited stories in all of history.  Christians and Non-Christians alike are familiar with the story of the undersized, under protected, under manned David defeating the 9’9” giant known as Goliath.

Goliath and the Philistines had intimidated and dominated the people of Israel for so long and with such force that the Israelites were terrified and paralyzed.  They had lost sight of the God that parts seas to protect them and wins impossible battles with ease.

It wasn’t until a small shepherd boy with mad sling shot skills and a resume that included lion and bear killing reminds them of the God that they serve.  As David stands in front of the mighty Goliath and absorbs the giant’s taunts, he quickly puts things into spiritual perspective.

“David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.” – 1 Samuel 17:45-46

The two rush at each other and David takes dead aim at Goliath’s massive head that was swollen both literally and figuratively.  Needing only 1 of the 5 smooth stones he brought with him, David strikes the giant down and the place comes unglued.

The Israelites charge the retreating Philistines and God’s plan begins to play out in David’s life on a battle field he was never meant to be at in the first place.  But before we tuck this story to bed and go on with our day there is a part of the story we skip over but is fascinating when you look at it.

It happens after the rock hits its mark and Goliath is either unconscious or stunned on the ground.  David rushes his enemy and stands over the top of him, but this time he doesn’t use a stones.  The time for stones was over.

“David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.” - 1 Samuel 17:51

Did you catch it?

Whose sword did David use?

Goliath’s!

The undersized, under manned, and under protected shepherd boy, David, takes the massive sword of Goliath and cuts the giant’s head off with it.  The weapon that Goliath had intended to kill David with turns out to be the very weapon that would end his life.

God has a tendency to do that.

In fact, He did it with His own Son.

We mistakenly assign the cross exclusively to Jesus.  In reality, this was a common device of torture and murder in the Roman world.  In fact, history tell us that the Romans perfected crucifixion before Christ’s death and at one point they crucified 1,000 Spartan warriors at the same time along a roadside to prove a point.  Rebels against Rome and this could be you.

Jesus was killed by that perfected crucifixion and although it was reserved for the worst of criminals it wasn’t used exclusively for Him.

But yet, Jesus used their weapon of death and torture to defeat them in the end.  Three days after the soldiers had taken His lifeless body off that cross and assured He was sealed in a tomb, Jesus arose and beat them at their own game.  But the goal was never to beat crucifixion it was always to beat sin.

Listen to the writer of Hebrews.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” - Hebrews 12:2-3

Jesus stood over the giant of sin that had torn the children of God away from Him and He killed it once and for all.  Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection are what made sin null and void to the believer and left Satan on a battle field bloody and decapitated.

God still is doing that today.

God is able to use everything in our life and in this world for His glory.  This means that he can somehow use our addiction, divorce, selfishness, pride, depression, and anything else this world throws at us to bring people back to Him.  However, it all starts with us submitting to Him and giving up that control.  Giving Him the permission through our repentance to use what was once destined to kill us to ultimately save us.

You and I can choose if that happens.

David chose to pick up the sword meant to kill him and cut the head off the evil in front of him.  Jesus chose to take on the cross that was meant to humiliate, torture, and murder Him and now it rests as symbol of freedom and love to all believers.

What will your challenges end up looking like in your life?

Will they be what defines your end or will you use them to beat them at their own game and redefine your future?

Don’t lose heart…Jesus is still fighting for you.

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I Almost Preached Without God

It was Saturday afternoon and I was at church getting ready to preach the 5:00 pm service.  We are in the middle of a series called “The Story” as we travel through God’s Story to find our story within it.

This particular week I was asked to preach on the life of Hannah Samuel, and Saul which in and of itself is a daunting task.  Weeks of preparation had distilled down to a mad dash to the finish as I still needed some final tweaking and proofing before it was ready for people to hear.

As I sat at my desk I started to read through the message to make sure I was making sense when I first wrote it and all of a sudden I got a knock at the door.

“Pastor Brian, I just wanted you to know that the refrigerator in the kitchen is not working.”

How do you know?” I inquired of our volunteer.

“Well I’m no expert, but the smell is pretty much a dead giveaway.”

Enough said.

I hit save on my computer and then went to the kitchen to take a look and smell for myself.  Sure enough the fridge was on the fritz and there was nothing we could do until Monday.  A few quick texts to my electrician friends and some thanks to the volunteer that was now throwing away the “science food experiment “ in the fridge and I started walking back to my office to finish the message.

As I was walking something caught my eye.

The trash in the Kids Director’s office was full.

Funny,” I thought.  “They must have missed that one.

However, as I continued on my route I noticed that every trash can I came across had the same Facebook status line: Full.

Yet another quick text message sent out revealed that an employee that normally cleans the building abruptly quit and our building had been forgotten in the scrambling fray of events that had ensued.

So taking an about face, I grabbed the cleaning cart, put on some gloves, and began cleaning toilets, scrubbing counters, vacuuming floors, and emptying trash.  To say I was a bit distracted by having to do this was an understatement, but in the middle of cleaning the middle stall in the women’s bathroom I got a spiritual punch in the gut.

It was in this moment of clarity that I realized that I had put so much emphasis on me and my sermon and my preparation and my desire to do a good job that I had lost sight of who actually was doing the preaching this weekend.

God.

It was God that was to be lifted up and not me.  It was God that draws people to Himself.  It’s God’s Word that I am given the privilege of teaching not my feeble attempts at creative turn of phrase.  It is God that saves through His grace and mercy.

I have zero to do with any of that.

In addition it was God’s strength that I needed to get through the weekend, not my own.  It was God’s love that I needed to proclaim.  It was God’s patience I needed to have grow in my life.

With every swish of the toilet brush I realized I had almost gotten on stage and left God on the ground.  I had almost preached without God.

Needless to say, I put down the brush and got down on my knees in repentance of my pride, arrogance, and weakness.  I prayed that God would make me less so that He was more and that I might be in awe of what He would do this weekend.

I know I learned a very valuable lesson that day and one I’m sure I will have to relearn again before I die.  The lesson was “Don’t think of yourself greater than you are because God has a way of humbling those that do”.

Proverbs 3:34 “He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.”

Matthew 23:12 “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Maybe this was just a post for me or maybe you can relate to this somehow in your life.  It could be that in your life you have been relying far too much on you and not enough on Him.  There possibly could be a person that is thinking that things are so good right now that why even worry about God at all?

I believe only you can answer that for you, but as for me I know I am glad I had to grab a toilet brush this weekend so that God could be lifted high.

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