I like to hear things that sound good. Things that don’t make me question, feel concerned or convicted. I like being in the majority, knowing what’s being said is supported by “the many”.
That’s what I like.
The problem is, often what I like and what God through His Word says is right are in conflict. In other words, what the culture and world say is “good and right” contradicts what Jesus teaches. And if I claim to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, I have a decision to make.
What has always fascinated me with this issue is, it’s nothing new. Paul dealt with it in his ministry, and addressed it directly in his letter to Timothy.
 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.2 Timothy 4:3-4
Paul had already encountered and combated false teachings within the churches he planted. He even goes as far to name some people specifically. He knew the reality that Timothy would encounter it also.
Our humanness can be one of our biggest foes. We like what sounds “good”. Honestly, who likes to be wrong? Who likes being confronted with conviction? Our humanness, the sin nature we all have, craves being right. And many, even Christians, will turn to whatever will feed their need to be justified in their thinking and actions. It’s nothing new today, we see it within the Church more today than perhaps ever.
It’s easy to get frustrated, I know. To see a brother or sister in Christ, or Church Leadership take a position on an issue Scripture is exceptionally clear about. Today you can jump on social media and start a word-war in seconds. It’s easy to see people run towards the things that feed their own passions and want to lash out with criticism and “facts” and leave a wake of destruction.
With Paul’s warning to Timothy comes instruction, wisdom from his own battles within the Church.
 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.2 Timothy 4:2 & 5
How do I, as a professing follower of Jesus, respond to Paul’s warning? What should I do when everyone around me is turning to the voices that tell us what we want to hear?
I press into Jesus more. I fill my heart and mind with His truth contained in Scripture. I speak truth in love when the opportunity arises. I persevered under attacks. I resist false teaching and what the world says is “right”. I stay faithful to God and love people, even if we disagree.
I do what God has called me to do, and leave the rest to His Spirit.
What matters most to you?
As a follower of Jesus there are many convictions I hold that the world doesn’t. A lot of convictions and beliefs that many will ridicule.
There were many who said they believed in Jesus, but lived in fear of expressing their claimed beliefs. Jesus had some strong words about it.
“…for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.John 12:43
They were more concerned with what the Pharisees thought than God. The opinions of their peers were of greater value than the person they claimed to believe in.
How true is this for many Christians today?
Christians who reject the authenticity and authority of Scripture because the world discredits it.
Christians who reject God’s definition of marriage between one man and one woman because the world says it’s outdated, and you’re bigoted if you agree.
Christians who see a person’s “choice” of greater value than the voiceless life it effects, because culture says it’s a person’s “right” and you must hate women if you don’t agree.
How many Christians today contradict the faith they claim, their claim to follow Jesus by taking stands in opposition to Jesus because they might face some backlash from their peers?
What I see when I look at the life of Jesus is someone who was more concerned with the opinion of His Father than His peers. He expects the same from me as His follower.
So who’s opinion matters most to you?
We expect the Spirit to operate within our parameters, but we have it backwards. He expects us to operate within His.
When He says move, we move.
When He says wait, we wait.
When He says speak, we speak.
When He says be silent, we close our mouth.
He expects us to be obedient to His leading. To trust His leading. Instead of thinking I know best, trust that He does.
How do I know the Spirits leading in my life?
I spend time in Prayer.
I spend time in His Scripture.
I spend time in Worship.
I invest in my relationship with Him.
I hear His voice the strongest when my relationship is closest.
What does His leading look like in your life?
We have a saying in our church that is more than a saying; it’s one of our Core Convictions. We believe Growing People Change.
As a follower of Jesus, I should be in a constant and consistent pursuit of growth! That means I should be changing. You, as a professing follower of Jesus, should be changing. Growing and changing more and more into the likeness of Jesus.
Paul gives us this very instruction in his letter to the church in Rome.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:2
Paul understood the pull of conformity to the toxic culture. He knew the evil. He walked it before his encounter with Jesus, which brought radical transformation to his life. Paul understood not only the struggle, but also the freedom that comes through transformation in Christ!
The problem is, we often live as if the constant change and growth we are called to is true of God’s character and attributes. If we can change, God must also. We live and think as if He is lacking in areas just like us. You might step back like me and go, that’s not what I believe.
But what do my actions say? What do my interactions with others say? What does my life say?
Does my life show I’m living in awe of a God who is constant in character and attribute?
Does my life reflect my knowledge that He is the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end? That He is totally sovereign, all knowing, all powerful, perfectly just, and eternally gracious. God never changes, He even declares it Himself!
“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.Malachi 3:6
Even though His people continually turned their backs on Him, God continued to remain constant in who He is. He continued to love, discipline, and call them back to Himself.
Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!Psalm 33:8
The Psalmist knew who God is. And because of this convicting knowledge he lived in awe of Him. But he also understood this expectation wasn’t meant for him alone, it was meant for the entire world. From the animals to the stars; you, me, and everything created is called to live in awe of the constant glory and holiness of God.
The question we each have to answer is whether our life lives up to that call.
Do I live in awe of a constant, never changing God?
To be honest, Christmas isn’t my most favorite holiday. Easter is. But the reality I am reminded of each Christmas is that Easter has no meaning, no true significance, if Christmas never happened.
If Jesus never left His throne in Heaven, born of a virgin, took on flesh as fully God and fully man, He would not have faced the false accusations, the beatings and spitting, the crucifixion.
It’s because of Christmas that as a follower of Jesus I can celebrate Easter.
This year as you gather with family and friends, watch the kids open presents, remember what we are really celebrating at Christmas.
Jesus, leaving heaven. Jesus, taking on flesh like you and me. Jesus, His birth. God’s gift of grace to a hurting, broken world in need of redemption.
Make sure you take time today to reflect on the gift we received, and celebrate how that gift changed eternity.
The story of Abraham in Genesis 12 hit me differently today. While finishing my preparations for Life Group tonight I was reading the story of God calling Abraham to leave everything he had known to go somewhere he didn’t know. Talk about a blind faith, Abraham was 75 years old and had what would have been considered a pretty comfy life. He had a lot of possessions and was established, and here God is telling him it’s time to pack it all up and start walking with no indication of where or what was ahead of him!
And he does.
Abraham packs up all his belongings, gets his wife, his nephew Lot, servants, livestock, all of it. And this is the part that struck me. No one hesitated to go with Abraham. Abraham’s faith in God inspired others around him to step forward in faith with him.
That’s powerful. They had no idea what was in store, just like Abraham. Yet they were willing to leave behind their comfort and trust that God had something better in store. It’s interesting to me how Abrahams faith lead him to be obedient to God’s call in his life. And out of that obedience came blessing not only for Abraham, but for his family for generations to come.
Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.Genesis 12:7
Abraham’s obedience opened the door of God’s blessing in the present and the future. His faith in God’s provision inspired those with him to take steps of their own in faith. Abraham’s obedience to the Lord not only brought blessing to him and his family, but that of others like his nephew Lot.
The reality is we all have people around us whose lives we make an impact in. Some even look to us specifically for guidance, counsel, trusting we will help guide them in the right direction. Have you ever though about the impact your obedience to God has on the lives of those around you?
There are people you may not even know who seeing your steps of faith in obedience to God, will be inspired to take steps of their own. I’m sure it could have been easy for Lot to step back and allow doubts and questions about the situation at hand keep him from moving out of his comfort zone. But I can’t help think there was something about Abraham’s faith that inspired Lot. Abraham’s confidence in God’s provision inspired Lot to step forward himself.
But what if Abraham had been disobedient to God’s call? What if instead of stepping forward in faith, he hesitated and just stayed in his father’s house?
We often think if we mess up, it just effects us. But that’s just a lie we tell ourselves to lessen the blow. Truth is, disobedience in our personal lives can have lasting effects on those around us and beyond. If Abraham had stayed home, he wouldn’t have experienced Genesis 12:7. The blessing of the Promise Land would not have been experienced because comfortability in the moment would have been more important.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on the blessing God has for me. But to receive that blessing, I have to first walk in obedience. I have to but my faith to work, get out of my comfort zone, and trust God will provide even when I can’t see or don’t understand. My obedience may also just be the catalyst God uses for someone else stepping out of their comfort zone, putting their faith into action for the first time.
That’s pretty cool to think about if you ask me!
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6
It’s not a promise, but a principal to practice. This unsuspected picture shines a light for me on the impact our practices in life have on our kids. Good or bad, they notice and imitate. My 2 year old daughter sat at my feet, took my hand, and bowed her little head while we prayed in our Life Group.
I didn’t have to sit her down and explain what prayer was or how we do it. She is learning by observation and experience. It’s the same way she knows what a Bible is from other books, and that Jesus is in the Bible.
As parents, we lay a foundation for our kids through what we say and do. If foul language is commonplace in my personal life, I can’t be surprised when my kids think it’s acceptable for them to use it. If I prioritize my social life over my faith, I shouldn’t be surprised when my kids put youth group and church on the back-burner in their personal life. What I demonstrate with my own life will eventually surface in the lives of my kids as they grow up.
The question as a parent is not will what I say and do take hold in their life.
The question as a parent I have to constantly evaluate is, what do I want to take hold in their life.
I want my kids to understand the importance of a well-grounded faith, and obedience to God’s calling. I want them to have a devotional life that is genuine, born out of a love for Jesus, not just to check boxes. I want my daughters to know and believe that God loves them and has a purpose for their life. I want my son to know God has called him to be a leader in a dark world. I want my kids to lean and press into Jesus when they struggle because they know He is faithful. I want Jesus to be the first one they turn to when they celebrate and mourn.
I want them to have a love for Jesus that is deeper than my own.
But I can’t expect something I don’t model and live out in my own life. It starts with me practicing my own faith in a practical way that they can see. But it’s also holding them accountable to grow in their own faith as they grow older. Encouraging them to pray, to read Scripture and journal about how and what God is speaking to them through a passage. Teaching them songs when they are little that emphasize who Jesus is and what He has and can do.
To train someone you first have to be doing whatever it is you are training them in. That means I can’t be an un-present dad, who is more concerned with myself then the needs and wellbeing of my kids. I have to lead by example.
Training up my children starts with me.
I have learned that in life, facing storms isn’t a one-and-done experience. While each one my look different, they are an experience we all face time and time again. What really sets us apart is how we view, and respond to, the storms we each face.
As a follower of Jesus I have a hope firmly planted in the faithfulness, sovereignty and power of God. My faith convicts and reminds me that what I am facing, regardless of how trying it might be, did not escape the knowledge of my God. He has already established victory in my life.
King David often described God as a rock, a fortress that stood firm in the chaos and darkness of life’s storms. He uses this language in reflection of how God delivered him from his enemies, chiefly King Saul at the time.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.Psalm 18:2
David’s way of describing God has always brought to mind a lighthouse. A structure that stands firm in the throes of harsh storms, provides shelter and guidance when everything seems dark and uncertain. A lighthouse can take the brunt of the storm because it was designed to do so.
The Bell Rock lighthouse in its design illustrates this well. It’s base was designed with interlocking stone blocks that when pressed from any side by the crashing waves, caused the locking joints to strengthen and secure themselves even more than before. As each new storm blows against the Bell Rock lighthouse, it becomes stronger and more secure.
With each crash of a wave in the storms of life, we have an opportunity to see Gods strength. We have an opportunity to trust in His faithfulness, sovereignty, and power. But it will always be a perspective we must choose to have and hold onto in the midst of the storm. When the waves of fear and worry come crashing in, lean into God’s strength and trust those waves will break upon Him.
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.James 1:15
It’s interesting to me how sin works. From how it begins to its devastating outcome in our life. Yet, we continue to fall victim to it over, and over, and over again. Scripture is very clear where sin in our life begins; it’s rooted within the desires of ourself.
When we entertain the desires within us, we open the door for temptation to parade through uninhibited. And when we choose to give into that desire, conception takes place within our hearts and minds, resulting in the birth or action we take, sin.
The picture James paints here is rather graphic. It’s the idea of a pregnancy, which brings joy and pleasure. The anticipation of something great. A sad picture of what sin is. In the moment it might be pleasurable and exciting. We might even be convinced that the outcome is worth while, that we will be happy in the end.
Just like that pregnancy. Waiting for the birth.
But instead, sin is like a stillborn baby. What was once anticipation and excitement, even pleasure in the moment is now heartbreak. It’s devastation that ripples out in our life.
Sin often leaves us in a state of numbness and disconnect; I call it the void.
A place of loneliness, feeling like God’s presence has left and now I’m stuck and numb. Not sure what to do, because after all what I did didn’t bring me the result I was anticipating.
The void is an easy place to find yourself, and an easy place to get stuck in. As a flower of Jesus I’m going to have moments where I fail and give into temptation. Following Jesus does not prevent me from sinning. It also doesn’t grant me a license to sin. What following Jesus does is provide a means of grace and forgiveness when I sin.
That grace, made possible by Jesus dying in my place on a cross and my acceptance of it in faith, provides the avenue for me to escape the void. As a follower of Jesus I am not alone when I fail to obey, and sin.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18
Words written by a guy who sinned a lot in his life. Yet, had one of the most profound relationships with God. The words for you and I today as followers of Jesus are just as true as they were for King David. When I mess up I’m not alone, even when I feel like it.
Satan does a great job convincing us of lies. He did it in the garden with Eve, giving a half truth to convince her of a lie. Her and Adam’s response after they sinned is much like we find ourselves in the void. They ran and hid from God, knowing what they had done was sin. They felt alone, ashamed, numb. How could God still love them, care about them after what they did.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”Genesis 3:8-9
While we think in the aftermath of our sin God has deserted us, the reality is what we see with Adam and Eve. We ran from God. We turned away and ran. Finding ourself in the void isn’t because God left. We did. And just like with Adam and Eve, God is calling us. Not because He doesn’t know where we are, but to remind us of where He is.
Are yo stuck in the void of your sin? Do you feel lost, lonely, numb, like God has walked away?
God never turned His back on you. He’s been there the whole time, calling you back to Himself.
The question is, will you get up and go back to Him. Will you repent and humble yourself before Him. Being stuck in the void is your choice.