Tag Archives: Christ

Returning The Slave (Reflection for 9/22)

“If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account”

-Philemon 1:18

ROTD: Christ has redeemed us to return us

Why?

 First of all, I apologize for the short break. Life caught up with me this weekend.

 The book of Philemon is such an interesting story. One chapter, it tells of how Paul came across the slave of Philemon, Onesimus. He discipled him and then returned him to his master, asking (firmly, in love) that he receive him not in anger as a slave, but as a brother.
I do not wish to stretch beyond reason here, but in this little story I see a picture of Christ. At the end of the day, we all belong to God. He made us. We are his-and even more so, when we are in Christ we are His. Paul calls himself a “Slave to righteousness” as he goes about the work of God. But-even as we walk with God, and under His authority, we fall. We try to run, we backslide, we look for escape, we lose our way. We become an Onesimus, unfortunately, because we are still human. Imperfect. Now, this is not to excuse sinful behavior, but simply to recognize that these things do happen.

Praise be to God that we have Christ. What He did for us is what Paul asks of Philemon-that any charge God might have against us, be put to His account. He took on all of our debt, all of the charges God could bring against us, and paid for them with His own perfect blood. We also know that He intercedes on our behalf to the Father, asking Him to look on us not as the sinners that we are, but as saints, covered in His own blood. And God listens.

Oh, it’s good to be reminded of the simple truths. This is at the core of our belief, and yet so often we lose sight of who we are, and who He is. We are sinful, creatures trying to surrender ourselves to Christ, to let Him disciple us, walk along with us, and at the end of the age present us before the Father to hear Him say “Well done, my good and faithful servant”

Prayer:

Lord, we come before you grateful for all you have done for us. We know that we mess up, run away, and try and hide from your authority and grace. We thank you that you sent Jesus Christ to take on our debt, so that we may be able to continue to strive forward and have a relationship with you. You are merciful, and just, and righteous, and you can deal with us in any way you please-and yet, you chose to deal with us in mercy and grace. Let us not take that for granted, and let us ALWAYS remember what it is that you’ve done for us.
In Jesus’ holy name, amen.

How Long Will We Forget His Might? (Reflection for 9/16)

“He has cut down in fierce anger
all the might of Israel,
He has withdrawn from them his right hand
in the face of the enemy; 
He has burned like a flaming fire in Jacob, 
consuming all around”

-Lamentations 2:3

ROTD: We must not forget to fear the Lord.

Why?

Another prevailing attitude of the day, among Christians and non alike, is a lack of the fear of the Lord. Going along with our lack of forethought of the consequence of our sin, it appears as though we have set out to deny that God is a God to be feared. We overemphasize His love, mercy, grace, tenderness, forgiveness (ALL of which are good things) but we forget that God is equally a God of wrath, of justice, of righteousness, of holiness, of perfection. This deserves and demands our respect, reverence, and fear.
But what does it mean to fear the Lord?
The best way I have heard it explained is in Eshon Burgundy’s song, “The Fear of The Lord“. He says, pretty simply, that

“To fear the Lord is to stand in awe of the reality of God”

So this means that we don’t necessarily go around quaking, wondering if our next wrong step will earn us a lightning bolt from the Man Upstairs. It means that we recognize and are humbled by the sheer magnitude of who God is.
Have you ever just taken a moment to consider God? Who He is? What He is capable of?
That’s why it is a good thing to fear the Lord. If we make God into someone who is not to be feared, what reason at all have we to listen? If I am more powerful than the God I serve, who does that serve better-God, or me?

When we begin to look at just who God is, what He can do, and compare that to who we are, and what we have done, it should send a little shiver down our spine. It should humble us, as we look at the reality of God and His majesty. Reading these verses in Lamentations, and throughout the Old Testament, God isn’t just some mean old God who kills people, as some would seem to believe. God is perfect, and holy, and sin is simply unacceptable.  This is what the response is to disobedience, and He told them it would be so. Does not a father discipline His child? How much more so, the perfect God of the universe?

Every other religion in the world is man reaching out-either to God, or just self-enlightenment, or to just living-everything else is us trying to do it on our own. God says, “This is what Christianity looks like as a religion”. It’s an impossible task, and we would inevitably fall to our own destruction trying to reach out to God.  So He made a way for us. Thanks be to God that His power is on display in His pursuit of us, and that when we recognize just how mighty our God is, we see that in all of His omnipotence He DESIRES to be with us. He wants us to be with Him, and He has made a way for us to do so through the death of His Son on the cross.

Prayer:

Lord, we recognize that You are holy. You are perfect, and deserving of all the praise and honor and glory. Help me to recognize the reality that is You. Help me to stand in awe of you, help me to fear you properly. Lord, we thank you that we don’t have to strive to try and reach you, but instead while we were yet sinners and rebellious You sent Your Son to make a way for us to join You. Help us to have a reverence and fear of you all of our days, and give us the joy and peace that come in knowing Christ and being known by Him.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

P.S. to find more works by Eshon Burgundy, here is the album in full: http://www.humblebeast.com/the-fear-of-god/. Eshon and other hip-hop artists write God-inspired, deep works through the label HumbleBeast. God bless!

Why Don’t Our Hearts Cry? (Reflection for 9/15)

” Look, O Lord, 
For I am in distress; my stomach churns;
my heart is wrung within me,
because I have been very rebellious.
In the street the sword bereaves; i
n the house it is like death”
-Lamentations 1:20

ROTD:

Falling down in life must be followed by falling to our knees.

WHY?
In this day and age, it is a rare thing for people to be willing to take responsibility when things go wrong in life. This isn’t to say that things DON’T happen that are outside of our control, but we like to think that everything is outside of our control. We are just helpless victims of circumstance, we were born this way, we can’t help it. And what this kind of attitude creates is equal parts apathetic, attention seeking, and aggressive. We don’t care about our own end in our walk in life with God. When things go wrong, it’s always because of some other source other than ourselves. We sound like Jerusalem in the beginnings of this book. “Look at me, look at me, and see what the Lord has done to me, I have nothing!” is the cry of the desolate city for the first two chapters. We seek pity and comfort from those around us-that surely, these things aren’t MY fault, that life is just cruel and hard and it’s just best to live for myself and do what makes ME happy. Then, when we have those few people who are willing to call us out on some things we need to change, we become very aggressive, defending our “goodness” and that the other person is just hateful, or wrong, or both.

Where are the heart cries? The late nights, the yelling and pleading and earnestly seeking some answer as to what’s going on? Because even with all of her lamenting, Jerusalem says one recurring theme that is correct; “I have been very rebellious (v. 20)”and again, “The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against His word; (v. 18)”.

Even though she still is seeking comfort, Jerusalem gets it. She brought this fall upon herself, and now she cries out to God to hear her in the midst of a horrible time in life. That is a place we need to get back to. That, when we fall down, and our choices lead to some pretty heavy consequences, that we don’t try to rationalize it or ignore it or blame others. We cry out. We tell God, truly, how we feel. And we admit our need for Him. We admit that we are messed up, torn apart, desolate, ravaged by the choices we have made, and cry out.

Again, this isn’t to say that every time we mess up, God is striking us down. Or that every bad situation is tied to something we did or thought or said. But when we sin, sometimes we do experience consequence to that sin. Instead of running from it, we need to own up to it and continually be leaning into our Lord.

Prayer:

God, bring me to a place where my heart cries out for you. Break me down if need be, but help me to see my eternal need for You and You alone. Help me not to put blame elsewhere for the consequences of my sinful actions, but to see and admit that I have rebelled against You. Teach me, keep me, and help me to learn how to pray. 
In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Because the Truth Can’t Be False. (Is There Relative Truth?)

This is a topic that I could (and probably will) spend the rest of my life debating for and talking about. But I am going to try my best to present three, simple points that help to explain why truth isn’t just something we can make up and choose as we go along.

1) The statement refutes itself.

This one is pure logic. Think about it. If we all are supposed to agree that truth is relative, what are we saying? WE ARE ALL AGREEING THAT THE STATEMENT “TRUTH IS RELATIVE” IS TRUE. so that means there is at least ONE thing in the world that holds true for all men. If this is true, then the entire argument falls apart. It’s a self-defeating statement.

On the other hand, if truth is relative, that makes it okay for me to say that I don’t believe that truth is relative. According to logic, I am saying that “truth is relative” isn’t true, you are saying “truth is relative” is true. Such a statement does not leave room to be both true and false; something must give way. If I am correct, then truth is relative is wrong. If you are correct, please see part one of this proof.

As Christian rapper Lecrae says in his song “Truth”, “what if my truth says yours is a lie? What then?”.  You cannot have your cake and eat it to.

2) Humanity presents evidence to the contrary.

Again, I could write papers and dissertations and sermons for years on this, but for now I will give you some simple logic to think about.
There are some things that we call universal.
A smile is a smile, no matter where you are.
We all know tears (generally) mean sad.
We all understand poverty,
We all know anger and hurt and pain. These emotions transcend culture.
I realize these are big generalizations, and the extent to which/the context in which these emotions occur may vary from country to country. But to recognize that we all smile. We all laugh, we all cry.

I did find some research for the hard-fact minded. In his article “How universal is happiness?” Dutch Sociologist Ruut Veenhoven says that “The available data suggest that all humans tend to appraise how much they like the life they live….Consequently, conditions for happiness appear to be quite similar across the world. The consequences of enjoying life are also largely universal. There is more cultural variation in the valuation of happiness and in beliefs about conditions for happiness. The greatest variation is to be found in how happy people are.” (Veenhoven, 2010)**. While how we view it differs across the board, reading through it became clear that we all do, in some way, understand the concept of “happy”.

3) “Because the Bible Tells Me So”

While this answer seems cliche, it is in fact true. We first of all recognize that Jesus Himself is the Truth. John 1:1 says that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. The word “word” there in Greek is λόγος (logos), which among other things means “reason explained by words”. Christ is the reason, and He Himself says “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life-no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The word Truth here is ἀληθείᾳ (alethia), which when broken down means roughly “to not be hidden/unaware of-true, truly, verity”. God has not hidden himself from us. The reason that we have these universal, seemingly deep ingrained morals is because they have been placed in us by a God who made us in His image, because He is truth.
To say that you can be moral without religion is a contradictory statement; if there is no God, where did the morals come from? Ourselves? The laws and morals that seem to govern humanity are true, because the One who made them is true. If we created our own laws and morals, this becomes impossible. If truth is relative, then there is no point in society creating non-relative guiding morals for society. When the truth is relative, all things become permissible. There is a lot more that I could begin to say, but I was trying to keep these arguments simple and basic. Perhaps I will explore this more as I move forward in my learning, but I hope that it is at least thought provoking. God bless you!

  1. **Ruut Veenhoven, 2010. “Greater Happiness for a Greater Number,” Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 11(5), pages 605-629, October.

The Valleys Can Be Pretty, Too

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke andrebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

-Mark 4:35-41

Hello to you all!
I do apologize for the small sabbatical I took from writing. It started out as a good little break, and then slowly tumbled downhill as I became overwhelmed with school, work, and my own personal struggles.

Over the past month or so, I have slowly become increasingly busy as I prepare for the summer. School became MORE demanding (what a shock). I am helping plan a youth retreat for my home church. I had to turn down a trip to Tennessee, because of school, I haven’t been reading my Bible as much, because of school, I work during the few days I don’t have school…I’m broke because I don’t spend my money wisely, so I’m stuck not being able to enjoy time with others because I have to still pay bills and such things.
One might think that school is the problem here. Or money. Or a huge workload.

But in fact, it’s not. Because I’ve discovered lately that no matter the circumstances of life, that it’s my response that determines how things are going to go. The passage above describes the well-known story of Jesus calming the wind and the waves, and reading it brings to mind a few lessons I’ve learned over the past weeks.

1) Just because you don’t see Him doesn’t mean He isn’t there.

When life is swirling all around us, it’s easy to focus on what’s immediately happening. I have had to juggle school, work, bills, and life all at the same time and it is so easy, so natural, to give in to the misery. “woe is me,”, I cry, “for life has taken me into its depths!”. I felt like I was drowning, I felt like I had come up against the side of a very steep mountain, and had no energy to climb. I didn’t see where God was in the midst of my mess.

But as we see in the story, even though the disciples are focused on the storm, Jesus is still in the boat. Jesus, the incarnate living Son of God, was in the boat. He controls the waves they were so concerned about! His very will allowed for the storm to even exist! God is there in the middle of our struggles, in the midst of the arduous climbs we have to make. We need to keep our focus on Him-not on the storm surrounding us. Because when we recognize that God is always there, it makes storms more bearable. When we know that the Almighty God is in our boat, holding our rope, it allows us to calm down. Step back. See a bit of a bigger picture than what is immediately before us.

2) We can’t learn all lessons on silent seas.

This is the harder one to take in. Let’s say I’m a nautical kind of guy, and I’m teaching my son about sailing. I would like to start on a sunny day, clear, nice breeze…laying a foundation for his knowledge. But if I only teach him, all the time, during perfect weather, what about when a storm comes? When the wind is a bit strong, and dad doesn’t happen to be there? That could be potentially dangerous. Instead, as he grows in knowledge, I take him out when the winds are a bit strong. I let him experience some rough sea, get wet a time or two. A hiker can only learn so much going on small state trails. If He wants to tackle Everest, more of a challenge is needed to build up his skill.
The disciples had Jesus, they had His teachings, but to put what they learned into practice was another ordeal. Sometimes, the storms in our lives are meant to teach us. I messed up big time financially, to the point where I barely had $50 to my name with bills to pay. It was my fault, yes. But it taught me about responsibility, and it taught me to trust in God to get me through-and He did, with just what I needed to get by. I was in a rut spiritually, and God has used this rut to show me that it’s because I’ve been negligent of the discipline required in school for me to continue on in faith. God will send the storm not to shake our faith, but to test us and to grow us. As James says, we are to rejoice in our trials because they produce perseverance in us. They allow us to put into practice the things we have heard and talked about, and they teach us new things both about ourselves and the God we serve. I’ve learned over the past few months that God always has a means to provide; even when it isn’t what I expected or hoped.

3) The valleys can be pretty, too.

Being in a low place in life is never a fun place to be, let’s be honest. Over the past month or so the journey has not been fun. I’ve been stressed out and beat up and tired all the time, slacking in work and trying desperately to figure out what’s going on.
However, looking at the situations that I’m in, there are a lot of things that have gotten better because of my time away. I’ve realized how much I love to write for God. I have a growing family (shoutout to the Brunos for that one) that keeps me centered on Christ. I have a potential writing opportunity with a local company, I’ll be working more hours as school lets out, and just a series of recent events that have given me a new sense of conviction about my faith. Because even when you’re in the storm…even when you’re looking up at the mountain in front of you. It can be quite beautiful to see what lessons, what beauty can be brought out of tough situations. I still don’t have lots of money. I have bills, and I need to clean my room, and I need to keep doing well in school at the end here. But the outlook is different. I recognize now that God really never left me, that I just couldn’t see Him. I realize that I’ve learned some good lessons that I can now apply to the life that’s ahead of me. I see the beauty of the valley, and I look forward to the climb ahead.

So I’m back for a good while now, to continue to share the lessons and stories and teachings God puts on my heart. I love you all, dear readers, and I look forward to what the future has in store. God bless.

More Than Enough-and Yet, Exactly Enough

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” 
-2 Corinthians 12:9

I’m taking a break from the devotionals for a moment, because yesterday was a huge day for me.
I have some sort of acute anxiety and depression. It’s gotten better over the years but it’s always around, and yesterday was a breaking point for me. I had a big mental breakdown, and one of my friends helped me through it.
For years and years, I realized, I have been living in a way that is trying to pay for the grace that is given to me by Christ. I was trying to re-earn it. And it was causing me to be anxious and depressed, always hating myself because I felt like I was never good enough for God. Never good enough to be used, I always messed up so why should He bless me? I felt like I was a burden to everyone around me.

God gives us His grace freely. Not because we deserve it-and that much was true about my thinking. I don’t deserve the grace He has lavished on me. But I continued striving, continued searching for something that could possibly redeem me in His sight, in my mind. That isn’t true. There is nothing I can do to earn what He has given. Ever. I can’t earn God’s favor.

BUT.
What ISN’T true was my mentality that I am too far gone for Him to pour Himself out on me, that I am messed up beyond repair and that I need to do something to fix it. That’s precisely the point! God uses our brokenness to His glory. HE uses me, messed up as I am, to bring an authentic gospel to those around me. His power is made perfect in my weakness. His abundant love is shown in my abundant tears, I feel His grace and mercy when I am just laying broken before Him.

I don’t know how else to say it. God is so good, His grace is way above and beyond what we deserve-but it is also exactly what we need to be able to find new life. It is more than we deserve but it is enough to deliver. I love my God, so much, for what He has done for me. Can you even fathom it? God, as a man, coming to die for us. For you. For me. He DIED so that we could have this free gift of grace.

Our God is so good.

I’m doing better, I’m taking it day by day. But I know that God’s grace is sufficient, and that even when I’m weak-He is able.

I’m Not That Strong..But He Is (Devo, February 16)

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
-Philippians 4:13

“The Lord our God/is mighty in battle/ we are not afraid/ His hand upholds us/ through our trials/ our God is strong to save!”

These are the lines of the chorus to “Strong to Save” by the Vertical Church Band (find the song and more by them here). I think it rings so true with where I am at in life today. This past Saturday, I was in a car accident. On a grand scale, it was quite minor-but for me, it was traumatic. I flipped my car after hitting a patch of black ice and skidded on my roof into a field. By the grace of God, I barely missed ramming a telephone pole, or the other car that was coming towards me, or anybody. I walked away with barely a scratch. It was terrifying, but because of my faith in God I knew I would get through it. I was supernaturally alert, I was calm and knew how I needed to respond to the situation. Yes, later on I broke down a bit, but I know that God was working through me to keep that situation under control. I was scared and confused, but not afraid. I knew God had me in His hand.

Most people look at this verse and think, “Yea! With God on my side I can do anything! Nothing can stop me!” and this is true. With God for us, there is none that can ultimately stand against us. But I want to talk against the thought that, because we have God, NOTHING will stand against us. This simply isn’t true. Jesus proclaimed again and again that if we were to follow Him, our lives would actually become increasingly difficult. Paul quoted in Romans that “As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Rom. 8:36). This life is going to bring suffering. God is with us, sure, but we are going to suffer. Life is going to suck sometimes. That is the truth.

So when I look at this verse, I see a God that is so great that He can overcome all the obstacles of our lives. We humans, marred by sin as we are, live in a world where bad things are just bound to happen. It’s the curse of sin. But again, our Savior is bigger than our sorrows. We have a God who doesn’t give us a free pass in life but helps us to pass into the freedom that His life brings. We have a God who, through ordinary people can do extraordinary things. We have a God that can take a young kid from a mediocre school and transform him into a speaker who sees lives changed. He can take a car accident and turn it into a testimony, a financial crisis and turn it into humble dependency, a broken family and turn it into a proclamation of His love, a prostitute and turn it into the message of the Gospel. When I see that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, it doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to conquer every obstacle or climb every mountain. Rather, it lets me know that no matter what the circumstances of my life, I have a God who is alive and active inside of me-a God that can give me strength to endure, hope that is eternal, and joy that is unexplainable. I know that He is there to guide and to lead and to comfort and to exhort me on to greater measure. He may not always change the situations (although He clearly can and does) but He does change my response to them. God uses situations and people and all sorts of means to work His strength through us. Because of Him we have the ability to change the world.

The bottom line is this:

My strength doesn’t come from
the change in the reality
of my situation,
but in the change in the response
to my Savior.

http://bible.com/59/php.4.13.esv