Sunday, November 22, 2015

Christian Devotional Story: The Duck & The Devil



There was a little boy visiting his grandparents on their farm. He was given a slingshot to play with out in the woods. He practiced out in the woods, but he could never hit a target. Getting a little discouraged, he headed back for dinner. As he was walking back, he saw Grandma's pet duck.

Out of impulse, he let the slingshot fly, hit the duck square in the head, and killed it. He was shocked and grieved. In a panic, he hid the dead duck in a wood pile, only to see his sister watching! Sally has seen it all, but she said nothing. 

After lunch the next day, Grandma said, "Sally, let's wash the dishes." But Sally said, "Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help." She whispered to Johnny, "Remember the duck?" So Sally went fishing and Johnny helped with dishes. 

After several days, of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally's, he finally couldn't stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he had killed the duck. Grandma knelt down, gave him a hug, and said, "Sweetheart, I know. You see, I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing. But because I love you, I forgave you. I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave out of you."

________________________________________________


Devotional:

Whatever is in your past, whatever you have done, whatever the devil keeps throwing it in your face (lying, cheating, debt, fear, bad habits, anger, bitterness, etc)... you need to know that God has been standing at the window and has watched the whole thing. He has seen your whole life, and He wants you to know that He loves you and that you are forgiven. He's just wondering how long you will let the devil make a slave out of you. 

The great thing about God is that when you ask for forgiveness, He not only forgives you, but He forgets. It's by God's grace and mercy that we are saved. Go ahead and make the difference in someone's life today by choosing to love and forgive, no matter what they do or did. Always remember, God is at the window.

Live as though Christ died yesterday, rose today, and is coming back tomorrow. 


Friday, October 2, 2015

Is God Anti-Gay? Sermon Notes


Is God Anti-Gay?


A question that many ask: those who are gay, those who are non-believers, and those who are believers. We all need to be reminded of the answer to this question.

These are simply notes I had taken from the sermon "Is God Anti-Gay?" The sermon was presented to The Village Church in Denton, Texas by Sam Allbury. Sam Allbury is a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction and wants to address this issue. 




  • What the bible says about homosexuality doesn’t represent everything God has to say to homosexuals.



  • The bible clearly prohibits homosexual activity… but equally also prohibits all sexual acts outside of marriage. 



  • This prohibition is not the whole message of Christianity, nor the 1st thing we need to say about it. 



  • The Bible is not about homosexuality, but it is related to what the Bible is about. It begins and it ends with a marriage.... and it's why the way God designed marriage to look like matters to us, as believers:

    • First Marriage: Adam and Eve = trailer to the final marriage.
      • Human marriage (sign post God has given us to point us to #2)
    • Second Marriage: Jesus and his church = winning a people for himself.




  • Mark 1:15 – Everything that God has planned to do with humanity is at hand because Jesus has come. He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He showed the law in different ways.



  • To "repent" means to truly turn around, make a 180 / U-turn in your mind/actions.



  • All of us are attracted to things we shouldn’t be.... all of us are broken sexually.... none of us are straight (but instead, skewed/broken).... none of us are lined up with how God designed us to be.... and all of us need to repent and follow Jesus.



  • The Gospel/Good News: Jesus came to make us new, to give us new life, to allow ourselves to be clean and have a relationship with God.



  • Jesus is upfront about what it will cost to follow him. Following Jesus will involve hard/difficult change and cost, but it will be a blessing and will be worth it. Jesus promises anything we give up for His sake, He will return in a hundredfold.



  • Matthew 15: 19-20: what makes us dirty in Gods sight comes from within ourselves, in our hearts and mind.



  • Greek ‘pornea’: any sexual activity outside of marriage is prohibited (adultery, premarital sex, homosexual sex, prostitution, etc)



  • But our sexual brokenness isn’t the only thing that makes us unclean. Homosexuality is just one expression of brokenness, but not the only expression of it.


  • Matthew 19: 3-6, 10-12: The issue isn’t the strength of the feelings/love of the relationship, but the kinds of union that results. Only man and woman can become “one flesh.” Celibacy/eunuchs is the alternative to marriage between man and woman. It’s costly to follow Jesus. Nobody gets everything they want sexually.


  • Mark 8:34: Deny yourself = say no to yourself, give your identity/value/who you think you are to Jesus, the Lord of everything. Take up your cross: you have no rights, you may be mistreated or go thru struggles along the way, just as Jesus did taking his cross to the crucifixion.


  • Your sexual feelings are not who you are / your identity. 


  • If the “gospel” has fit neatly into your life without any disturbance or interference/struggle, it may not be the gospel of Jesus Christ that you’ve received.


  • Why would anyone follow Jesus? What could be worth giving up _____ for (besides Heaven)?
    • The gospel is a blessing, even with all the costs and trials.
    • Mark 10: 28-30: Jesus assumes we will have to leave behind a lot (including relationships) to follow Him… but responds with “you will receive a hundredfold.” Whatever you give up for his sake, you will receive far more from him than you ever leave behind for him. “Relational jackpot.”


  • God’s household is the church, the church is your family. The Christian church should be a place of community, where our true family is, even if you have left your family behind, you should always have family at the church. We receive new community and identity in Jesus. The church must walk in community and love when engaging homosexuals or all broken people.


  • Church should feel like the waiting room for a doctor, rather than the waiting room for a job interview.
    • Doctor: 
      • You’re there because something is wrong with you, looking to get better, don’t mind what you look like because everyone else there is also there for the same reason
    • Job Interview: 
      • You have no weaknesses, you look your absolute best, nothing wrong with you, put on a mask that youre an awesome person.


  • God created them, male and female (body), he doesn’t say he created them opposite sex attracted. Sexual feelings are not your identity. Sexual feelings are not eternal. You weren’t born with them and when you raise from the dead/born again, you will not have sexual desires. They are temporary and can shift/be unstable.


  • Our culture says “you are your sexual desires” and must fulfill them. But sex is not the key to human fulfillment. You are not bound to them and it is not your identity.


  • John 6:35: Relationship with Jesus – he is the only one that can satisfy us at the deepest level. No earthly relationship can do that or make us whole/complete. If you do rely on an earthly relationship to fulfill you, it puts a burden on that person that they were never meant to bear.



  • If you are claiming to be a Christian, you are claiming that Jesus is the Lord of your life. So does Jesus have the right to tell you that would be the wrong thing to do, or ask you to stop doing something? If not, then Jesus isn’t really the lord of your life.

Friday, September 18, 2015

What Type Of Christian Are You?



Yes, there are "types" of Christians. It's the unfortunate truth.

Why is this so?

Because we are all human beings. We are all sinners. We live in a broken world....

And because of that, we're going to have differences.

Although we should, not all believers have the same viewpoint or understanding of every subject the Bible addresses (whether that's because of influence from upbringing, culture, experience, the environment lived in, or even the church attended). Heck, there's even different viewpoints for each denomination of the same faith (baptist, methodist, church of christ, etc).

The fact is, Christians are just like everyone else in this world... with a few exceptions:

  • We believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ
  • We have been completely forgiven of our sins (past, present, and future)
  • We have hope in Jesus Christ and eternity in Heaven
  • We are offered the opportunity to have a relationship with our Creator
  • Our future in Heaven has been secured forever (we have been adopted as children of God).

But...

Which type of Christian is "correct"? Is there a "true" Christian?

Hopefully, all types of Christians believe in the SAME gospel, the same underlying message of Jesus Christ. If not, then they are not considered Christians at all.

After reading the descriptions of each "type," pray about it (if you are a believer) and see which type of Christian category lines up with Biblical truth.... not just part of the Bible, but the whole Bible. Answer these questions:

  1. What is God's character? 
  2. Who was Jesus? 
  3. What did Jesus do? 
  4. Why did Jesus come? 
  5. Who did Jesus walk with? 
  6. What is the message of Jesus?

Types of Christians

Bible Beaters


This is the type of Christian that many nonbelievers or atheists believe most Christians to be: A bunch of Bible beatin', judgmental folk who want to shove Jesus down their throats.

They protest outside of buildings and events that are "unclean" and tell drug addicts, prostitutes, Muslims, and the gay community that they're damned to the fiery pits of Hell.

Wow. They really know how to show the love of Jesus.

As a devout believer, I'd have to agree with the nonbelievers on this one. These types of Christians are, unfortunately, the ones who tend to drive people away from Jesus. These types of Christians are bold in their faith... which is a wonderful thing that many of us fail to live up to... but, they are missing out very important truths:

  • Jesus DID NOT come to judge, to condemn, or to yell at the sinners that they are going to burn in Hell. He came to save. 
    • He talked to, walked with, loved and forgave those who were deep in sin... even the prostitutes, the thieves, etc. He showed them love, not just told them what they should and should not do. He died for them, too! 
  • Did you forget that you, too, are just as much of a sinner as everyone you're screaming at? 
    • Did you forget that Jesus died for ALL sins, including yours? 
    • Did you forget that it is only God Himself that has the authority to judge, and that He commanded us to love our neighbors (and enemies) as ourselves?
  • Affection and love can change things that discipline never will be able to. 
    • Your hateful and judgmental actions towards those in "worse" sin than your own (*sarcastic statement: all sin is equal in God's eyes) is doing nothing but driving them away from hearing the TRUE message of Jesus Christ. And that message is love and redemption.
    • The best way we can reach out to nonbelievers is by walking in love and kindness as Jesus did. 

So-Called Christians


Christian novel, fan vs. follower of Jesus.
Just because you live in The Bible Belt (the South), it doesn't make you a Christian.

Just because you went to church as a kid, or even attend church weekly, it doesn't make you a Christian.

Just because you prayed a prayer and said your ABC's of being a Christian, it doesn't make you a Christian.

Just because you fed the homeless, went on a mission trip, or sponsored a kid in Africa in the name of Jesus, doesn't make you a Christian.

Your bumper sticker, your Christian T-Shirt or WWJD bracelet, your Bible sitting on your night stand, and your Jesus-loving parents do not make you a Christian.

I'm not saying this to label you. I'm saying this because I used to be these things. I was a so-called Christian and "checked off" all the boxes of "being a good Christian."

I attended Bible studies, said prayers, asked God to forgive me of sins, went to church (most Sunday's) and posted multiple Bible verses on my Facebook. For the most part, I considered myself to be a good Christian. But it wasn't until after I graduated college that I experienced something for the first time that made me question my faith up until that point....

I experienced God.

Truly. For real this time. I fell in love with Him. I felt His presence, His peace, His grace, His crazy love. I think this was the first time the Holy Spirit filled me up and made me whole. I fell to my knees in amazement and awe. And I cried my eyes out.

My heart was.... TRANSFORMED.

Christianity stopped being a thing I did or called myself.
It stopped being a chore list or rule book.
It stopped being my parent's faith.
.... It became my identity.

Not all at once, of course. Experiencing God was the first stepping stone into who I am and where I am in my faith today. I've never been the same since that heart transformation. Even though I sin daily and often.. even though I struggle with many of the same sins as before... even though I am far from perfect and even rebel against God (as the sinful, broken human being that I am)... for the first time, I know and have experienced the true difference of what being a genuine believer is.

I realized that a relationship with God is the most important thing. He desires a relationship with you, and He takes the transformation of your heart seriously. Just read the entire New Testament.

Think about it: When you love someone, you desire to be faithful to them and want to tell everyone how great they are. You want to do good things for them to show your appreciation, love, and commitment. You desire to be near to them, to have a strong relationship with them, and communicate with them often.

That's exactly what having a relationship with God is like. But multiply that times 100.

Every other relationship will leave you empty, will fall short, will fail you, or will be temporary (even if it's a lifetime). A relationship with God is the most fulfilling, life-changing experience you will ever have. And He will never leave you. He will never fail you. He will never fall back on His promises. He will never stop loving you, no matter what.

A heart transformation gives you the desire to have a relationship with God, and in turn, you will desire to devote your life to His Will... in love, obedience, faithfulness, etc.

So if you don't have a transformed heart, just keep praying. Pray honestly. Pray openly. Pray boldly. Pray often. Pray that God will do so in your life. And of course, repenting of your sins shows that you know that you have sinned and want to be made right with God.


Gospel-Centered Christian


If I had to label what a "true Christian" really is, I would call it a gospel-centered Christian. A gospel-centered Christian is one who completely knows and understands the gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ, why He came, what He did, his actions and words in the New Testament), and strives daily to live as Jesus did. 

Of course, nobody can live exactly as Jesus did, because He did not sin and live perfectly obedient to God the Father.



A gospel-centered Christian strives to:


For the Non-Christians

Many nonbelievers in America are not Christians because of a negative experience they had with a Christian or church. Many nonbelievers have heard of the gospel, but never truly believed in a way that it transformed their hearts and changed their lives. Many nonbelievers have simply adopted the popular cultural view of Christianity as the Bible beaters, the gay haters, the Westboro Baptist Church folk, etc. whose lives are built around judgmental and hateful behavior towards others.

As you read earlier, Christians are sinful, human beings. We all (nonbelievers and believers) actively rebel against our Creator and choose to fall into our selfish desires and temptations. We make our own man-made ideas, beliefs, and rules and try to force it on other people. We are sinners. Each and every one of us. And we are all in need of a Savior, Jesus Christ.

In my blog, "Christians are HYPOCRITES!," you will see that we are no different than nonbelievers. (Even Ghandi agrees).

We are sinners. We are in need of a savior. We are confused, lost, broken, and selfish. But thanks be to God, true Christians have been saved and all transgressions have been covered (past, present, and future).

It doesn't mean we will become perfect; it doesn't mean that we will always get it right; it doesn't mean that we will fully 'make it.' It only means we have been extended God's grace through the gospel of Jesus, and we are CALLED to live our lives accordingly... however, many of us fail daily. Some say they are Christians, yet actively live their lives against how Jesus commanded us to live (which makes you question if they are true believers). True believers should always try to live as Jesus did, even though our efforts may fail due to the brokenness of our sinful hearts.

The underlying message is that we Christians cannot (and will not ever be able to) measure up to what we are called to do. We will never be able to live the life that Jesus did perfectly. We will always fall short, we will always sin, and we will always be in need of forgiveness. Jesus is so gracious and so loving that He died on the cross for us, even knowing that we would fail and that we would rebel against Him. He already knew. And He did it anyway. He made a way for us to be completely washed of all sins, free from the chains and slavery of sin, and adopted into the eternal family of God.

For nonbelievers, there is comfort in knowing that Christianity does not mean you have to be or become perfect. It means that we recognize our imperfections and yet, we are made flawless and right with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Impact of Faith, Hope, & Love


Faith. Hope. Love. 


...These are three of the most cliché words used in Christianity (and almost as cliché as "WWJD?").

But such words and phrases become cliché for a REASON... or you might even say, "Everything happens for a reason," if you want to keep it going. The word "cliché" is even cliché.

The reason words and phrases become cliché is because they are overused, well-known, and on every poster/mug/t-shirt/bracelet/bag/etc. you can think of. Even verses like John 3:16 and Philippians 4:13 have become cliché....and it's GOD'S WORD!

But "faith," "hope," and "love" have a significant impact in Christianity. In fact, I would say they are the very key words that define what it means to be a Christian.



Faith:

Without faith, you cannot be a true believer. Without being a true believer, you cannot experience the Holy Spirit and have a transformed heart. Without the Holy Spirit or a transformed heart, you cannot be a true follower of Jesus. Without being a true follower of Jesus, you cannot have eternal salvation.

Obviously, faith is a pretty big deal in our Christian walk.

Of course, Christian counsel and devotionals are great. But it must always be backed up with some good 'ol verses from God's Word itself. So here ya go:

Hebrews 11:1, 11:6: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.... And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."


1 Peter 1:5-9: "Those who are in faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls."

1 Peter 1:21: "Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God."

1 Corinthians 15:14-17: "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.  More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins."

Acts 26:18: "...to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me."


Ephesians 2:8: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and not from yourselves, as it is the gift of God."

John 14:12: "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."



Hope:

We are all sinners, and there's not a lot that makes us different than the rest of the world... except.... the essence of eternal hope due to genuine faith in Jesus Christ. A believer yearns for the day Jesus returns to make the world new, the day we spend eternity with God in an unimaginable paradise with no sorrow, no tears, no crime, no hunger, no poverty....not even the negative memories of our human lives.

We are taught to put our hope in Jesus and "things above / in Heaven" or "things not of this world." However, because we are sinners and of the flesh, we struggle with this and instead tend to put our hope in temporary, worldly things that will vanish or not matter the moment we die (or when Jesus returns). We need to remind ourselves of that very thought --- "What then?" If we put our hope in the world, we will be lost with it the moment we die or Jesus returns. If we put our hope in the eternal Father who always was, always is, and always will be (and who never changes), then we have "blessed assurance that Jesus is mine."

Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

Titus 3:7: "...so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

2 Corinthians 4:16-18:  "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

Romans 5:2-5: "Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

Romans 8:24-25: "For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."

Romans 15:4: "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

Psalm 27:4-5: "One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.  For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock."

Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."



Love:

Again, all of us are sinners -- even the most devout of Christians (including Mother Teresa). What's amazing about the word "love" is that it is the very thing that allowed us to have a relationship with God, be forgiven of every sin (past, present, and future), and acquire salvation that secures our eternity in Heaven with our Lord.

God's unfailing, unconditional love and grace for us SHOULD call us to show the same love and grace for others. God commands us to do so, but as sinners of the human flesh, we get caught up in our selfish pride and forget that those we judge/hate/dislike/tease/etc are also made in God's image.

James 3:9:  “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse man, who have been made in the image of God."

John 3:16:  For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

Romans 5:8: "..but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."


Matthew 5:43-48"  You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Matthew 6:24-25:  “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?"

John 14:21-24:  "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him,  “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me."

John 15:9-17: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another."

Mark 12:28-30:  "And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'"


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"New Year Resolutions" & Christianity


Most people already know what their New Year Resolutions will be in December.
Some, earlier in the year.
Some, not until January 1st.
And some don't even bother with resolutions.

Because the most popular resolution revolves around some kind of fitness goal (exercise, weight loss, physical appearance, etc), I will be focusing on this example to get my point across. But you will be able to replace this category with just about any resolution and get the same outcome -- "How a New Year Resolution relates to your faith as a Christian."

So, how does being a Christian relate to a New Year Resolution?


Of course I could ask if your resolution is "growing closer to God" (or some other churchy answer). But for many of us, we don't think about God as a resolution.... and that's okay. The reality is that God should never be a resolution.

The average time that people stick to their New Year Resolutions is one month, but allowing God to be the center of our hearts and the Lord of our lives should be a daily habit... a lifestyle....a lifelong journey. The good news is that you don't have to wait until a certain time, or day, or year to draw near to God. He meets you where you are.

First, let's take a look at the "fitness" resolution:

  1. What does a "fitness" resolution entail?
    • Usually, it's a combination of goals for weight loss, toned muscles, gained strength, good health, and better physical appearance. All good things.
  2. What do you have to do to achieve this resolution? 
    • Daily exercise, weight lifting, cardio workouts, dieting, healthy eating, more protein / less carbs, personal training, jogging, etc. The ways of reaching these goals are almost limitless.

The problem with this popular resolution is that it is short-lived. Again, the average time one sticks to their resolution is a month... and you may have personally experienced this short-lived duration for a similar goal (if not the same one).

But how can we possibly view God the same way we view our New Year Resolutions?

When you start the new year, the process of achieving your resolution is similar with your relationship with God. Both take:
  1. Time
  2. Effort
  3. Discipline
  4. Endurance
  5. Motivation
  6. Habit
  7. Progress

First, let's look at these factors with a fitness resolution: 


Time and Effort: 

  • Getting fit, toned, healthy, and losing weight takes both time and effort. You have to take the time to exercise and try your hardest to have a healthy diet in order to reach your goals.


Discipline:

  • The hardest factor to overcome is discipline, yet it is the main factor in the life-span of your resolution. Discipline is hard. Discipline isn't fun. Discipline isn't comfortable. But discipline pays off. It's the big hump or obstacle in the game that you need to push through in order to have a chance at overcoming the other factors in reaching your end goal. 


Endurance:

  • Endurance is pushing through and continuing to pursue your goal, regardless of pain, hardship, excuses, busy schedules, soreness, weather conditions, etc. 


Motivation:

  • Find ways to keep that goal on your mind and to stay encouraged in the process. This can be motivational fitness quotes/posters, having a workout buddy or group, having an accountability partner, having a gym near your work or home, have a picture of what you want to accomplish on your bathroom mirror, etc. With enough endurance and motivation, you will "keep on keeping on" and get closer to your goal. 


Habit:

  • If you become disciplined in your fitness routine and continue to pursue endurance and motivation, you will be able to develop this goal as a habit. Once it becomes a habit, you will "just do it," naturally and you will more easily see tangible progress in reaching your end goal. 


Progress:

  • The great thing about progress is that you don't have to stop once you reach your initial goal. Progress can be a lifelong journey of many goals, and you will grow more and more each time. 



Now, let's look at these factors with your relationship with God:


Time and Effort:

  • This one's a bit tricky. Your works alone cannot get you closer to God, and only God can allow Himself to be revealed to you or get closer to you. But if you have the Holy Spirit moving in you to draw near to God, that IS God drawing near to you. And when God draws you near to Him, He is calling you to take the time and effort to get to know Him more. So now that we've looped around that circle, getting closer to God takes both time and effort. Just like any relationship does.


Discipline:

  • Again, the hardest factor to overcome is discipline, yet it is the main factor in making your life God-centered. Discipline is hard. Discipline isn't fun. Discipline isn't comfortable. But discipline pays off. It's the big hump or obstacle that you need to push through in order to have a chance at overcoming the other factors in reaching closeness with God. 


Endurance:

  • Endurance is pushing through and continuing to draw nearer to God, regardless of pain, hardships, busy schedules, distractions, etc. 


Motivation:

  • Motivation is finding ways to continue to draw near to him and keep Him at the center of your life. That can be involvement in church or Christian community, bible study groups, an accountability partner, serving those in need, journaling prayers throughout the day, listing to sermons or Christian podcasts on your commute to work, reading a daily bible verse on your smartphone app, etc. 


Habit:

  • If you become disciplined in a routine to spending time with God, and continue to pursue endurance and motivation during the process, this goal will eventually become a habit. Once it becomes a habit, it will become more natural to you and there will be a noticeable difference in your life with the closeness you have with God. You will see difference in many areas of your life: relationships, perspectives (hardships, blessings, people, etc), decision making, goals, etc. 


Progress:

  • Even though you will see a noticeable difference (or progress) in your walk with God, you will never reach ultimate closeness with Him until we live with Him forever in Heaven. Maybe that's encouraging to you... maybe it's not. But here's why it's a good thing: this means that God will never stop REVEALING Himself to you... a.k.a you will never stop learning about God, getting closer to Him, seeing Him work in all areas of your life, seeing His unfailing faithfulness in answering prayers, etc. 

So let's really pursue God this year. It's not a resolution, it's a decision to change and make God the center of your life. Happy New Year!


Monday, December 1, 2014

7 Realities of Experiencing God


If you are a believer (new or old), I would encourage you to dig into the devotional called "Experiencing God" by Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King.

This study guides you to experience God by teaching you how to:
  • Hear when God is speaking to you
  • Clearly identify His activity in your life
  • Believe Him to be and do everything He has promised
  • Adjust your beliefs, character, and behavior to Him and His ways
  • Recognize a direction He is taking in your life and identify what He wants to do through your life
  • Clearly know what you need to do in response to His activity in your life
  • Experience God doing through you what only He can do


You will need to go through the entire study to really grasp how to experience God fully. But as given in the study, these are the 7 realities to experiencing God:
  1. God is always at work around you.
  2. God pursuers a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
  3. God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.
  4. God speaks by Holy Spirit via Bible/prayer/circumstances/church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.
  5. God's invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
  7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him, and He accomplishes His work through you.

Friday, May 9, 2014

America Is The Hardest Place To Be A Christian





You may think that statement is impossible. Of course, it would be extremely hard and even dangerous living in other parts of the world as a Christian... but you'll be presented reasons why being a true Christian in America is the hardest.

Mother Teresa once said that the spiritual poverty of the West (America) was far worse than any tangible poverty she ever saw. And I think we can all agree with her....

Here's why:


"I'm a Christian."

          In America, many throw around the word "Christianity" like it's just a label. Heck, "everyone" is a Christian it seems! Especially if you live in the South, it comes to a surprise if someone says they're not a Christian. Many think they're Christians because their parents believed, because they attended a church camp one summer, because they went to church growing up, because they were baptized at the age of 7, because they said a few prayers, or even because they told people they were a Christian.... but they don't understand that being a Christian is a whole lot more than that. In fact, those things don't mean you are a true follower of Jesus at all.

          It's not just a way of living or telling people you're a part of the "club"; it's a complete transformation of the heart, having a relationship with God, and putting your complete trust in Jesus. Jesus said throughout the New Testament that external deeds, knowledge of Him, and even following God's Law never saved anyone.... only a transformation of the heart and faith in Jesus Christ did.

          ....And trust me, you don't have a transformation of the heart or a relationship with God if you don't have the desire to live out your life according to His will, desire to live as Jesus did, consistently repent and try to turn from sin (even knowing we will always fail), put your faith and trust in Jesus, or attempt to abide in Him daily.

          Disclaimer: Even the most devout followers of Jesus fail, fall away from God, turn to their sinful desires, struggle to put their trust in Jesus, and even struggle with the desire to build in their relationship with the Lord. You can see this throughout the New Testament too, even with Peter (Jesus' most devout disciple). What I am saying is that if we live our life merely to gain worldly things and put our hope/desires in those things, we truly don't have a transformation of the heart. As Jesus says, "What do you benefit if you gain the whole world, but lose your soul?" - Matthew 16:26.


Pitiful Persecution = Weakened Hearts 

          I think we can all say that we're very thankful that we live in a country where we have religious freedom and don't have to live in fear of imprisonment (or even death) because of our faith. But because of this, we have taken it for granted and don't see the daily need to rely and trust in Jesus. But persecution has strengthened faith over history, as well as for our Christian brothers and sisters all over the world facing real persecution.

          In fact, one missionary in China actually asked our church to stop praying about that topic for Asia because they WANTED persecution. They didn't want it to be like America; they didn't want to get too comfortable or to be easily accepted... because persecution, having to truly rely on God for the gospel to affect nonbeliever's hearts, and learning to put their full trust and faith in Jesus actually strengthened their ministry and walk with God.

          The only thing we seem to worry about (faith wise) in America is getting made fun of or not fitting in. We're so wrapped up in our privileged freedom that we take it for granted and live as if we don't need God (or live like we're our own gods). Our culture thrives on the idea that it's "all about you" and getting what we want... so in America, it's easy to get sucked into the diluted flow of our culture by putting all of our heart's desires on things of this temporary life.

          Just like you can't become strong and physically fit at the gym without some struggle, stressing your muscles, and being persistent at reaching your goal... you can't truly grow in your relationship with God without struggle, persistence, and learning to put your faith and trust in Him (in all circumstances).



Moments of Realization

The American Dream / The American Way