The Fine line

Carefully observe the commands of the Lord your God, the decrees and statutes he has commanded you.

Deuteronomy 7:17 CSB

I consistently wrestle with always making sure I stay in between legalism and grace. I know, that may sound weird to some modern Christians that ONLY focus on His love and grace. Truth is, we cannot truly understand His love and grace without realizing how broken we are. We cannot even begin to comprehend His love and grace for us without understanding His wrath and judgment.

The reality is that we should all make sure that we are consistently analyzing our lives to see where we can improve. Although we no longer live under the law, God still desires for us to all be holy and set apart.

So if anyone purifies himself from anything dishonorable,he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

2 Timothy 2:21-22 CSB

The call for us to be holy and live a blameless life before God is still in place. The difference is that we are not judged based on our performance and we have been reconciled to God through Jesus. I’m sure at one point or another many of us have wrestled with trying to find this balance. There are usually two spectrums when it comes to how we react to sin. On one end, we feel an overwhelming sense of conviction and guilt that drives us away from God. On the other end, we remind ourselves that God is loving, full of grace and that Jesus died from our sins. For most, they don’t realize that simply reminding ourselves of God’s goodness still doesn’t bring us any closer to God.

For most, they don’t realize that simply reminding ourselves of God’s goodness still doesn’t bring us any closer to God.

You see, this is where the balance becomes critical for our walk with God. We must find that fine line of letting the overwhelming conviction drive us to a place of repentance and ultimately into God’s graceful arms. We cannot have one without the other and the bridge between the two is a heart full of repentance.

What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 6:1-2 CSB

We are all loved with an everlasting love from God. This overwhelming love still calls us to pursue holiness and carefully observing God’s commands. Do not let Jesus’ death on the cross become an excuse for sin.

Have we forgotten?

He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then he gave you manna to eat, which you and your ancestors had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Deuteronomy 8:3 – CSB

God is the giver of all good things in our lives. We know this because of what we are told in Matthew 7:11. Sadly, many of us enjoy the good gifts that are given without ever acknowledging the giver. If we look around, the vast majority of people only give God credit for the “bad” things to happen in life. This is one of the biggest plagues of our culture when it comes to a proper view of who God is.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.

Matthew 7:11 – CSB

It wouldn’t take long for anyone to realize that Israelite people continually did this during their journey out of Egypt. Not only did they do it after God freed them from Egyptian slavery, He continually did it throughout their lifetime. Time and time again God would do something amazing for them and they would quickly forget. There would be a short time of them giving God thanks and then it would fade into grumbling. We cannot let this be said of us. They saw so many amazing and miraculous things but still shook their fist at God.

There would be a short time of them giving God thanks and then it would fade into grumbling. We cannot let this be said of us.

Let’s not overlook the fact that “He humbled you…” is a key phrase in this passage. There will be times in life that God will allow circumstances to come into our lives to humble us. The big difference isn’t the circumstance, but instead, it is the reaction of a believer. When “negative” circumstances come into our lives most of our auto-responses would be grumbling, pleading for something different, or just straight up complaining. Maybe there is a better way of responding?

WHAT IF our automatic response is to ask God what He is wanting us to learn from this? I mean, if there is one thing that can cause us all to say WHAT IF it is this pandemic. In my county, we were able to open up for about a month or so, and as a youth leader, it was incredible! We are just starting to get kids coming back, momentum is growing and things are going great! Then boom…. we are put back on time out and can no longer meet inside.

From here, we have two reactions we can take. We can get frustrated and shake our fist at God OR we can pull ourselves back and ask God what manna He wants to provide for us… You see, for me… This concept has completely changed the way I live my life. God is the giver of all good things and He is the sustainer of life. If a “negative” thing comes into our life, we simply must sit back and ask God for clarity…

“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”

Charles Spurgeon

What does your life say?

What does your life say?

He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

John 9:25 ESV

Learning to defend your faith is something that is so crucial in today’s world and it should not be neglected. Sadly, most believers do not feel qualified to “defend” their faith and it completely stops them from sharing their faith. We should all know how to defend our faith and know why we believe what we do, BUT no one has to learn how to tell their story.

The man in today’s verse was healed by Jesus and his key defense was simply that. Throughout our society, some people will argue and debate every possible thing they come across. With the Pharisees, they wanted nothing more than to get rid of Jesus. They tried to accuse Jesus of being a sinner to this man, and his response was profound and so very simple.

“The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

John 9:30-34 ESV

You see, the truth is that we need to be focused on how we love one another and the way we treat people. Our testimonies of what God has done in our lives cannot be argued and the power that comes from a changed life. There is power in living out the restored life that God has given every believer who has trusted in Him. When the “world” sees that Church they should see such an overwhelming and loving community. When the “world” sees a transformed life, we should at least be able to point back to Him.

There is power in living out the restored life that God has given every believer who has trusted in Him.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35 ESV

At times, it will not matter how much proof you give for the life that God has blessed you with. It will not matter how obvious the truth may be, it will not matter how much you love someone… sadly, sometimes a hard heart remains hard. This should not scare us away from speaking God’s truth in love to those around us. Our lives should speak of His love and bring God glory.

When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves–that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience.

N.T. Wright

Moved to action

Moved to action

And they buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the land of Benjamin in Zela, in the tomb of Kish his father. And they did all that the king commanded. And after that God responded to the plea for the land.

2 Samuel 21:14 ESV

Often, I am reminded of the importance of our actions and following through. Both from a non-Christian and Christian mindset, consistency with our relationships can go a long way. For better context of this passage we must start in verse 10! This act of moving the bones of Saul and Jonathan is an act of compassion from David. Rizpah started to mourn beside the bodies of her dead sons and David wanted to make amends for the sufferings caused.

leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:24 ESV

Have you ever thought to sit down and take the time to think about what amends you may need to make? Often, as believers we do not do a very good job of doing what is right towards others. We repent, and start trying to clean our lives up without ever actually making amends to those that we have hurt. It reminds me of what Jesus taught when it came to making amends with a fellow believer.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

1 Peter 3:7 ESV

Have you ever thought about this concept? That maybe there are some things God needs you to make right before He responds to your plea. Peter talks about prayers being hindered if husbands do not live with their wives honorably. This is something that we cannot simply ignore and keep living as if our relationship with others is not important.

I challenge us all to not live in a place of solely being focused on being right with God, while not doing our part to be right with others.

Far too often we overlook the importance of the relationship with those around us. It is heart breaking to sit down and talk with people that have directly been hurt by the “church.” A place that is supposed to be a beacon of hope for the hurting does not always do well at loving and making amends. I challenge us all to not live in a place of solely being focused on being right with God, while not doing our part to be right with others. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9 ESV

When we tell the story of our own conversion, I would have it done with great sorrow, remembering what we used to be, and with great joy and gratitude, remembering how little we deserve these things.

Charles Spurgeon

But God… I did it again…

But God… I did it again…

…as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

Psalm 103:12 ESV

There is a fine line that we must dance as believers in Jesus Christ. There is forgiveness for our sins, but yet there is an abuse of His grace. Truth is, believers today don’t dance the line very well but instead lean towards one extreme or the other. They are either extremely strict and uphold the highest standards/condemnation for those who sin, or there are those that sin regularly while reminding themselves that it is okay because God loves them and forgives them… Fam, this is not okay…

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 6:1-2 ESV

Every single believer on the face of this planet struggles with sin, and not doing what is right. Even people in the world struggle to stick to the moral standards that they set and struggle to not judge others who do not meet those standards. Right now, we can see how prevalent that is in society with how divided is over wearing a mask or not. We can see it in the BLM movement and so on.

…learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

Isaiah 1:17 ESV

In today’s passage, we have an amazing reminder of how compassionate and loving God is. So many times people reject God because, “How can someone who is loving do [blank]?!” This rejection of God’s goodness is always misplaced as being bad because of SOMEONE ELSE’S SINFUL ACTION.

Injustice and failing is not something any of us want to deal with, and it is something we should all fight to prevent.

Even the idea of God “sending” people to hell does not make sense when we seriously sit down and consider it. God has DONE EVERYTHING He can to get all into heaven. He sent His only Son to come down to earth to live the perfect life that we should have lived, to die the death that we all deserved for our sin, to pay the price we cannot pay so that we can get into heaven…

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13 ESV

If that’s not loving, then I do not know what is. How beautiful it is to see that the greatest act of love is laying down our own lives for a friend… That is exactly what Jesus did for all of us and that is exactly what He would do a thousand times over if that’s what it meant.

You may fear that the Lord has passed you by, but it is not so: he who counts the stars, and calls them by their names, is in no danger of forgetting his own children. He knows your case as thoroughly as if you were the only creature he ever made, or the only saint he ever loved. Approach him and be at peace.

Charles Spurgeon

What are you neglecting inside?

What are you neglecting inside?

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

Luke 11:42 ESV

Many of us struggle with balancing life and all the craziness of it, especially with the pandemic. Sadly, we are all in the same boat right now but yet our world seems more divided than ever! With this divide, many people are pointing the finger and blaming others for many of the issues that are going on in this life. Truth be told, we can all become a little hypocritical at times, and this is exactly what Jesus is addressing with the Pharisees and Lawyers in today’s text.

The hurt caused by Christians in today’s world goes far beyond anything that Jesus would have wanted. There are so many people in the “church” today that live exactly like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. They do all of their religious “duties” and have their hierarchies of power that they use to judge others. There have unfortunately been many occasions that I have experienced a tiny bit of judgment because of who I was before I knew Jesus and have been denied opportunities because of them.

If there is one big prayer that I can ask everyone to pray each day it would simply be this: Ask God to see if your actions are lining up with the story you are trying to tell. Ask God if the person you are on the outside is actually who you are on the inside. Ask God to shine a light on where you can live in authenticity instead of behind religion.

This world is losing hope every day, but my friends… please do not let this be said about us.

This world is full of hurt and we cannot add to this hurt. This world is losing hope every day, but my friends… please do not let this be said about us. Do not offer up the finest of religious offerings all while ignoring the truths in God’s word. He desires so much more than simply doing what seems right in the eyes of man. He desires us to worship Him in spirit and truth by loving Him and obeying His commands.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

John 14:15-17 ESV

Do not neglect to uphold sound doctrine in your life and live out your faith authentically. Authentic faith will lead to many life-changing moments to those around you, but religiousness will only continue to drive a wedge between people.

Revenge, lust, ambition, pride, and self-will are too often exalted as the gods of man’s idolatry; while holiness, peace, contentment, and humility are viewed as unworthy of a serious thought.

Charles Spurgeon

He Grants Peace To The Humble

“Let the groans of the prisoners come before you; according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!”

Psalm 79:11 (ESV)

The Israelite community was in great distress when Psalm 79 was written. Many scholars believe it was during a time where disaster struck Jerusalem. Throughout God walking with His people, they continually turned away from Him. Over and over again we see a recurring pattern of God’s favor, God was taken for granted, sin entering His people, terrible things come, God’s people crying out for help and God restores. This pattern of favor, sin, repentance, restoration reoccurred for hundreds of years.

Unfortunately, the pattern has evolved into something much less beautiful and sadly much more destructive. Many people today experience God’s blessing/favor (whether they realize it or not) and end up going through the same pattern. They take it for granted, eventually lead to terrible sin that starts to destroy all that God has been doing in their lives. For some, humility enters as they realize the mistakes which leads them to repentance and eventual restoration. My life is a product of God’s grace overwhelming my life and giving me FAR more then I could ever ask for, pray for or even dream.

The more deadly cycle comes in right before humility enters into their lives… Instead, bitterness and hate come in. God starts to get blamed for other people’s actions and sometimes even someone’s very own actions. People start to question God’s goodness because of what SIN has been doing. Some people start to get angry with God and turn even further away from Him when their own sin/choices start to wreck their lives.

The truth is, all the negative things in this world break God’s heart more then any of us could understand.

The injustice and pain that is running around this world is the very reason God decided to become a human to save us from the pain on this earth. This does not mean that bad things won’t happen to good people but instead that when bad things happen to good people there is a hope to be found in Jesus. God’s love for His people is outstanding and the effort He puts into the relationship FAR outweighs our effort. One of the greatest reminders for me is found in Ephesians 1 where Paul says,

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Ephesians 1:7-10 (ESV)

It is through Jesus that we can be set free from the bondage and pain of this world. We can experience a sense of peace and love that goes beyond anything we could ever imagine. We can walk in peace with others and be restored to something so much greater than ourselves. he gives us a greater purpose and a passion to serve others. The Israelite people understood the goodness of God. That’s why their response in Psalm 79 is a prayer of humility for freedom and protection from the destruction they were in. They knew the source of life and the love that was to be found in God and God alone.

Can’t Deny It

“Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.”

Exodus 19:18 (ESV)

During this time in history, Moses was leading God’s people out of a very dark and terrible part of their lives. They were slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years and God heard there cries to be set free. God used this moment in history to show Israel that God was with Moses… What an amazing picture to try to imagine. I can’t even begin the fathom what type of awe and amazement I would feel witnessing something this powerful happening right before my eyes…

Although I may not have seen God’s glory shown in this manner there are hundreds of moments throughout my life that have left me completely speechless. Time and time again God has made Himself known to me. Even though I have failed more times then I could count, He is still with me. As we read through the Bible, we can see how patience, loving and kind God is.

Time and time again God’s people turn to things that can never truly satisfy them but guess what… He still loves you.

Time and time again God’s people turned from Him and yet He still loved them. Our world is in such a unique and probably uncomfortable position. Many of the things that we turned to cope with everyday life are no longer available. Yes, I am talking about clubs, bars, etc… BUT I am also talking about the church folk. Many of us have run to church programs, bible studies, fellowships, etc… like ways to connect with God. Sadly, many of us have elevated those things above personal time with God Himself.

As the days go on with us all being forced to slow down we have a beautiful opportunity to asses what brings us joy. We have the opportunity to asses what makes us better. We have this time to be uncomfortably, in some cases, stuck with our thoughts and we have no where to run and hide. Truth is, God is wanting to show Himself to many of us. God is wanting to show us HOW MUCH better He is then EVERYTHING. Yes, this includes the church and the club. God’s presence is all around us and He is always wanting to be involved in every aspect of our lives.

God’s love for us all go WAY beyond what church we go to or what denomination we side with most. God’s love goes WAY beyond many of the things that have caused division within His church. Sadly, many people argue and fight over things that have no eternal value and God wants to correct that.

During this season of life, we can choose to come before God and let Him love us. Our entire lives can be offerings with God and He will meet us right where we are. Time and time again I have had amazing moments with God where He has broken down so many walls in my life… And a majority of those times have been in my living room. Friends, God’s love is not constrained to a building or your sin. God’s love is not only found in church buildings but in the hearts and minds of all those that He loves.

Even Now – We Praise

“Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.”

Psalm 69:34 ESV

If a lot of us were honest with ourselves right now we would probably conclude that we are not properly praising God in this season. For some, the church building has become a crutch that has been used to gimp along in a spiritual journey. For some, worshiping God is something that was only done on Sundays with a group of people leading you in a song. For some, that worship & praise turned into humming/singing a song purely from memory/habit. For some, the mark has been missed with truly worshiping in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24 ESV)

Jesus didn’t die for us to go to a building to worship Him. He died to remove the NEED of having to go to a building to worship Him.

Truth is, some of us have struggle having legitimate moments with God during this season. Many people have been missing out on so many incredibly sweet moments with Jesus because we have relied on a system (the church) to lead us to Jesus without ever implementing it in our own homes. For my family, we have personally had moments with Jesus for many months without the need for a church building. We enjoy time with our church community, but it is not our main source of coming to Jesus. That is accomplished in our home each day.

PLEASE understand the simple fact that it is incredibly vital and important to be plugged into a good local church to help you grow in your faith. The Bible is very clear on its viewpoint of the importance of meeting together and not neglecting the power that comes from a community of believers worshiping God together. Also, please understand that we were not meant to do life on our own and we will never be as effective as God needs us to be without community.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

This blog post is not meant to be a “bash” on church culture spoon-feeding people. No-no-no. This blog post is meant to be a call for us all to start developing a place of worship in our hearts and minds that goes outside of the church building on Sundays SO THAT when we return to our time of worship and praise together we can be whole. God designed us to worship together as a community, but also to worship & pray to Him in our secret place. The “secret place” comes from Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:6 where he says, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

For some, the word “worship” only makes us think of singing songs to God on Sunday. Going back to the reference of John 4:23-24, the word used for “worship” means much more. Worshiping God in Spirit and Truth requires a personal walk with God that cannot be fully expressed merely in a “church” context to where our Sunday norms almost cripple or blind us to a major deficiency in our lives. This deficiency being an improper view of who God is and a lack of pure love for how amazing He is because we only meet with Him on Sunday for a scheduled bit of time. The best way to put this into something practical would be a view point on a marriage/relationship. If I choose to only spend Sunday mornings with my wife and the rest of the days/time ignoring her, it would be safe to assume our relationship would have major deficiencies as time goes on. Sadly, this is what happens with God when we only spend time with Him on Sunday morning before heading on with the remainder of our life. Then, we start to question how “good” He really is because we are not able to see the fullness of His goodness.

Friends…. Take this time to develop a heart posture of truly worshiping God in spirit and truth at all times. Yes, we must do it together on Sundays as a body of believers but it is extremely vital to also ensure we practice true spiritual worship in our personal lives on the other 6 days. If we do not develop a proper heart posture of worship, we will backslide back into the world. Or even worse, we will lose our first love of God and turn into modern-day Pharisees that judge those that are still experiencing God’s love in the purest of joy. We must learn to enjoy fellowship with God and with one another regardless of what is going on in our own lives and the world around us. In these times, we can come together as a family to worship God in a manner that will cause a ripple into eternity.

Do you get it?

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.

Galatians 2:20 ESV

This morning I found myself in a very unique position. Upperroom Dallas released its new worship album and on the song, “Open The Scroll” there is a portion where they continually quote Revelation 5:13… I found myself singing it completely drenched in tears from the realization that nothing I can do on this earth changes His position on the throne.

            One of the reasons why Jesus came down to earth is to bring Himself glory, honor, and praise. He desired these three things from His people and would do anything to ensure that we would be in heaven with Him while He sits on the throne. Many of us get so completely wrapped up in our own lives and shortcomings that we forget this amazing truth. Upon reading today’s daily verse I realized the importance of truly understanding His love for me and how He gave Himself up for me.

            Paul truly understood this simple but profound truth in his own life! Paul understood how vitally important it was to grasp that our lives here on earth are to be lived for Him because of His immense love for us. When we can get this concept we can truly start to live in complete freedom to see Jesus for who He is…

            That’s what happened to me in the car this morning. I found myself singing at the top of my lungs over and over again. Coming into a greater understanding of the purpose of my life on earth. It is simply to live in His love and bring Him glory, honor, and praise. That’s all that He wants from me, from us… He wants us to live in His love and in doing so bring Him those simple things. At all times and in many ways.

            Sadly, many of us can get wrapped up in the “church” lifestyle to where we aren’t living in the freedom that Jesus has empowered us with. We are serving the church while being spiritually dead and completely drained. We aren’t walking in the power of His love by Holy Spirit’s empowerment. We must understand and live a life full of God’s love to where we are constantly bringing Him blessing, honor, glory and praise.             I challenge you to listen to the whole song and sing Revelation 5:13 with them over and over again. All blessings, honor, power, and glory… That is the God that died for us all and wants to empower us to live in His freedom. He is holy. He is so very loving, kind and profoundly in love with you.

“Blessing and honor and glory and power be to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

Rev. 5:13 CSB