Encourage Each Other to live lives fully devoted to Him.

                  Idolatry of the heart

“Give me children, or I die!” – Rachel  Genesis:30:1.

Three!- The number of children Miranda, 24, said she must have to be happy. Her idol. Her god. Miranda had silky, smooth, brown flowing hair that swayed in the fresh light air breeze of Manhattan. The languid flames of the firepit needed more fuel to stay alive. The firey flames resembled her current situation in her mind- still alive but slowly dying. Kailee, Miranda’s best friend,  whispered, “How are you doing, Miranda?” Miranda murmured, “okay.” Miranda wanted to get married. Miranda desired children so much that marriage wasn’t even about the marriage anymore. Miranda wanted to get married to have children. Miranda’s father died in a horrific car accident at five years old. Being a foster child, Miranda desired to be loved more than anything else. The type of love that is unconditional. Unrefuted. Always there. Always accessible. She worshipped the god of children at all costs. Children would make her happy. Satisfy her desires, and make everything okay. Children=happiness. 

What is Idolatry? 

Idolatry is anything that dominates our mind, will, and affection that is on par with God or more than God in our hearts. What does God’s Word say about Idolatry? 

Exodus 20:3- You shall have no other Gods before me. 

Matthew 22:37-38- You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  (Our one and true devotion is to him for His glory and worship.)

At the heart of Idolatry is a lie. Believing that something else will satisfy us more than God. Rachel wanted Children so much that she wanted to die because she wasn’t getting what she thought would make her happy. Rachel was coveting the children of her sister Leah! Why is it that beautiful Rachel was barren, but her sister produced many children? Ironically, how does the story end? Rachel dies in childbirth. The thing she desired so much ended up being destructive to the point of her death. 

Idolatry is rooted in unbelief- When we don’t believe Christ can satisfy us, Idols come to offer everything they can provide to replace Christ and His satisfaction. It’s tangible. 

How do we know when we’ve gone from a good desire to idolatry? 

When we are willing to sin to get it. When the desire consumes our thoughts, desires, affection, and will. When our life is centered on something other than God, His glory, and His purposes. When you have another god. (gods lower g is anything that is an idol in your life.)

Another example of Idolatry- 

32 Remember Lot’s wife.

33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

Lot’s wife disobeyed God because she was attached to Her city and Her people. She was told not to look back because Sodom was being destroyed for its sin. But she looked back at the city. And it cost her the one life she had.

Moses’ example-

We can look to Moses’ example, who was tempted to sin but chose Christ instead. 

Hebrews: 24-26

24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, srefused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 tchoosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy uthe fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 vHe considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to wthe reward. 

Our minds and Idols

In Colossians:3 and Ephesians:4, Paul outlines the connection between our minds and obedience. If we are fully committed to Christ and His Kingdom, our minds and hearts will be set on Him. Part of worshipping God truly is setting our minds on him and not other things.

Colossians 3:2- Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth……….

5- Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body as dead to sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. On account of these things, the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 

But now you also, lay them all aside: wrath, anger, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you put off the old man with its evil practices, and have put on the new man who is being renewed to a full knowledge according to the image of the One who created him………..

So as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another, and graciously forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as the Lord graciously forgave you, so also should you. Above all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 

In Ephesians, Paul talks about the Gentiles who walk in the futility of their minds-

Therefore this I say, and testify in the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind. 

Conclusion

We are heart idolaters. What is it that we want that we think will make us happy? That we have to have? Is it power? Respect? Fame? Marriage? Relationships? Finances? Friends? Praise? As Christians, we have a new Heart (Ezekiel 36:26). We have a new disposition. But we aren’t perfect. Inordinate desires can fill our hearts. But our allegiance and what we live for is Christ and Him crucified as the center of our lives. We were bought at a price. And are so thankful for what we have in Him. To live is Christ.

The words of the Apostle Paul Philippians 1:21

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Galatians 2:20-

“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” 

1 Corinthians 6:9

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Nor idolaters will inherit the kingdom of God.

Loving God with your mind

You are a product of your thinking

The Story of Ted Bundy- Credit to ATI (All that is interesting)

During the spring and summer of 1974, police in the Pacific Northwest were in a panic. Young women at colleges across Washington and Oregon were disappearing at an alarming rate, and law enforcement had few leads as to who was behind it.

In just six months, six women had been abducted. Panic in the area reached a fever pitch when Janice Ann Ott and Denise Marie Naslund disappeared in broad daylight from a crowded beach at Lake Sammamish State Park…….. he didn’t fit the profile.

He was convicted of kidnapping and assault and sent to prison while police attempted to build a murder case against him. Just before his execution, he said this-

“I’ve lived in prison a long time now. I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence just like me. And without exception, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography.

—————————————————————————————————

Our thinking impacts our actions. Maybe we aren’t as bad as Ted Bundy. Maybe you haven’t committed the heinous crimes Ted Bundy has committed. But we can learn some important principles.

What are you doing to your mind?

I’ve heard stories of men spending countless hours on video games every single day. Call of duty, counter-strike, etc. Scrolling through Instagram every day because they are bored, trying to stimulate the senses and entertain themselves.

According to a Nielsen Company Audience report, the average American spends 10 hours a day on screen time which includes smart phones, computers, video games, radios, tablets, and tvs.

Our minds are being heavily influenced. If we aren’t careful, our thoughts will be fortified and our actions influenced. But as Christians we are called to much more. We are called to give our whole selves to God which includes our Heart, soul, and mind.

Matthew 22:37-

And He said to him, “You Shall Love The Lord Your God with all your Heart and with all your Soul and with all Your Mind.

Our thought life is of the utmost importance. We are commanded to Love our God with a pure mind and be transformed by it.

Romans 12:2- And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Paul is saying here that in light of our justification, and in light of our union with Christ, we should be transformed and be renewed because we are a new creation. New Creatures have new minds and new desires for the glory of Christ. We worship Christ and give glory to Him.

The Implication-

As believers, we should be aware of how our minds are being impacted every day. Patterns become habits which become our character and who we are. Ultimately, what we fill our minds with is a matter of worship, allegiance, and obedience. If we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, we should take it seriously.

Meditation as a pattern

The bible talks about meditation is Psalm:1 and Psalm:119. The Psalmist meditates on his law day and night. Biblically speaking, meditation is the bridge between head knowledge and true obedience. It is the man who develops a pattern of meditation that obeys enabled by the Spirit.

Conclusion

We are one step away from sin. Thoughts start out small. We make excuses, say it’s not that bad until sinful thought patterns are fully formed and influence our actions. Lets pay attention to our thoughts and what we worship. Our thoughts are part of our obedience to Him who created us so that we can glorify Him with everything that we do. But there is hope. We have been radically transformed and are being directed to conformity with Christ every day. As our thoughts conform to Christ, we will see our speech more edifying, actions more loving, and a humility form in us in accordance with our nature. Loving God with our mind is not optional. It’s a basic Characteristic of a Christian that provides a catalyst for loving God and people externally while we love God internally in our mind. It’s like 2 sides of the same coin. Loving God with our minds will result in Loving God and others externally with our actions. Lets be people that don’t fill our minds with ungodly forms of media of every kind but with the truth of scripture that loves God and others as it’s primary goal on this Earth. The results will be amazing.

“The Word of God does not only permit but also commands us to love and embrace Christ with the sweetest, dearest affections that nature can possibly stir up in our minds, heart and soul.” – William Pinke,

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

August 14, 1281 C.E. Kublai Khan, Emperor of Japan rules the vast Mongol Empire- The largest empire at the time which extends 9 million square miles; the largest contiguous empire in world history. For reference, the United states is 3.8 million square miles. But Kublai Khan wanted more. He wasn’t satisfied. Khan’s Empire stretched from the Black Sea all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Khan’s army is massive- invading with 4,400 ships coming off the coasts of China and Korea. Japan didn’t stand a chance. They were helpless, on their way to destruction. Miraculously, on August 14, a typhoon wiped out the Mongol invasion and Japan thrives till this day.

Just like the miraculous typhoon in feudal Japan’s history, God’s love saves us. It isn’t anything we asked for. It comes to us. We were on our way to destruction and eternal death. Japan would have been wiped out from existence forever. But, in God’s great mercy, he provided a way out. We were certainly on our way to destruction but the figurative typhoon of Jesus and His death on the cross saved us from hell and provided salvation. 

Sanctification starts with God’s love. This is the most miraculous part of sanctification. We were dead in our sins. But God, in his great mercy, saved us from our sins and brought us to life. Sanctification isn’t possible without God’s love. God’s love initiates sanctification and is monogerstic. Everything else stems and draws from God’s great love.. These are all great things. But they all draw from the cistern of God’s great love. God provided an everlasting cistern that we can draw from on a daily basis. He provided fresh water every day that never runs out. Conforming to Christ is drawing from the cisterns of fresh water, never being thirsty again. This is true sanctification- realizing who we were in sin, knowing that God provided a redeemer through his great love, and drawing from the everlasting cistern of Christ and what He has done. Sanctification is God working through us as we draw from the everlasting Cistern that never runs out. God’s cistern always satisfies, sanctifies, and propels us to live for His Kingdom.  God’s love makes possible the fruits of the Spirit, our desire for repentance, faith, hope, desire to be in the Word, affection for Christ, purpose, fellowship, prayer, and worship.

God’s love initiates Salvation 

God’s love initiates salvation. John 3:16 says that “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Going on, John continues by saying that God first loved us- “we love, because He first loved us.” God first loved us by sending his Son to die for our sins on the cross. We were predestined according to his love- “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love.” (Ephesians 1:4). God, in his great love and mercy, provided a way out for sinners to be reconciled to a Holy God. The Bible is about reconciling the fallen nature of Humanity to a Holy God. And this is the greatest love story ever told. Paradise was lost when Adam sinned and took a bite of the apple. However, very early on, God provided a way out. Genesis 3:15 says that “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” God will be victorious over Satan and the world system in the end. When God, in his great love, changes a believer’s heart, a radical transformation occurs. Paul states that “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” He is our God and we are His people. The Prophet Ezekiel prophesied of God’s great love to remove our heart of stone and create a heart of flesh-”Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26). Our relationship with God was broken. But we have moved from being in Adam to in Christ- (For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were appointed sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be appointed righteous.” (Romans 5:19.) And this is the start of the greatest love story ever told. Our progressive sanctification starts with our positional sanctification in Christ and God’s great love that makes new desires and obedience possible because we have a new heart that desires to follow him and his precepts. The story continues.

God’s Love results in Christ in Us.

We just took a look at how God’s great love makes salvation possible. God’s great love makes progressive sanctification possible because without justification, there are no new desires or no new heart. We would still be in our sins pursuing the World, the flesh, and the devil. What is sanctification? Sanctification, is being set apart for holiness. We are continually trying to conform to Christ by his grace. Christ is in us as a result of God’s great love. Paul states in Galatians that “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” Paul is stating here that Christ is in Him as a result of His great love. His desires have been radically changed. He is being controlled by Christ and lives for Him. 

Going on, we are in Christ Jesus who is sanctification. Paul states in Corinthians that “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that , just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Christ is our sanctification.” It is Christ who prays in his High Priestly prayer- “For their sake I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” Christ is our sanctification and is interceding for us to the Father on our behalf!

        God’s love results in Obedience

Because God loved us, we desire to obey Him. John states that “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” Our desire to love God is from a fear of God that is reverential. We are so thankful for what He has done and want to live lives conformed to His will and His purposes. 

              God’s Love results in Faith working through love

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. Because of God’s love, he predestined us for good works- “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) The spirit is in us and results in the fruit of the spirit- “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22).

          God’s love results in Faith and Repentance

 In addition, our fruit bears repentance- “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Mark 1:15- “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Faith and repentance are of the same coin. If one has faith, the believer will repent. True repentance produces genuine change but worldly repentance results in being sorry for being caught. Paul talks about the difference in 2 Corinthians 7:10- “For godly sorrow produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world brings about death.”

God’s love results in being in the Word

Once saved, a child of God desires to be in the Word of God. One mark of a disciple is being in the Word and pursuing the Word. John exclaims this clearly by saying- “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly My disciples.” (John 8:31). God’s Word is sanctifying and produces repentance, conforming to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Psalmist in Psalm 119 exclaims- “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to your word.” The fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom and delighting in the Word of God. The Psalmist also starts off the book by stating a connection between the way of the Righteous and the law of God- “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of Yahweh, and in His law he meditates day and nights. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruits in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Psalm:1-Psalm:3). Delighting in the law of the lord has a sanctifying effect in which the blessed man does not walk in the way of sinners. In addition, Paul points out the importance of the mind in Romans- “For even though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans: 1:21). The unbeliever’s sin was propelled by a futile mind. As believers, we need to be transformed by the Word and the renewing of our minds. Paul goes on to say- “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may approve what the will of God is, that which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans:12:1-2). Our minds are vital to sanctification and being transformed by the Word of God. We seek her as silver. Peter states that “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the full knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Clearly, there is a profound connection between the Word, having full knowledge of Him, and godliness. 

God’s Love propels a new hope that results  in Obedience

God’s love gives us much hope in this life because we can look forward to the great day of Bema seat judgments. A day when we will receive rewards and give them back to Christ. Paul explains this great day in Corinthians- “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  The day is coming and the world will be burned up culminating in a New Heaven and a New Earth- “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense hear, and the earth and its works will be found out. Since all these things are to be destroyed  in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens burning will be destroyed, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for New Heavens and a New Earth, in which righteousness dwells. Our everlasting hope propels obedience for the future. We can look forward to that day and be prepared in this life. Nothing that happens in this life can take away our sure hope of being with Christ one day!

God’s love results in assurance of Salvation, obedience, and fruitfulness

If we are truly pursuing righteousness and the Word, we will be fruitful for the Kingdom of God. God’s love enables us to be fruitful for His Kingdom. Peter talks about this is 1 Peter:5- “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these things are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For in whom these things are not present, that one is blind, being nearsighted, having forgotten the purification from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and choosing sure; for in doing these things, you will never stumble. Going on, it is the Holy Spirit that ensures we are children of God. Paul states in Romans that “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, also heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:17). 

        God’s love results in the outworking of our faith

The outworking of our faith won’t happen unless we proactively pursue Godly disciplines. God gives us the grace to obey and enables us. Obeying is a synergistic work. Paul states this clearly in Philippians- “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Sanctification is ultimately a synergistic work. The believer is 100% responsible to put in effort but he is also 100% dependent upon God’s grace. This is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith. As believers, we are called to work but can only do so by his grace. Faith works through love and God loves. We love because God is love and it is a communicable attribute that we can emulate to represent Him, His Kingdom, and His Glory. 

  God’s love results in us loving- He is love

God’s love results in positional sanctification and makes progressive sanctification possible. God is love. The Apostle John states this clearly by saying that- “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. Fellowship and loving other is part of sanctification. Relationships can be used as a catalyst for transforming our lives. As believers, we are to build each other up and use our gifts for the maturity of the saints. Paul mentions this in Ephesians- “And He Himself gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians:4)  In addition, Paul is clear in Corinthians that “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians:15). In order to continually be sanctified in Christ, we need to be building each other up into maturity of Christ that stems from the love God first had for us. We love because he first loved us.

Topic #1 Biblical Decision Making

Decisions, decisions, decisions! –

(A response to Chris Hamilton’s lecture and Biblical Decision Making)

Do you want a mocha or a latte? Hyundai or Lexus? USC or UCLA? Which one do I choose? Is it a sin to choose the mocha!?!? What if I’m not in God’s will and I choose UCLA but God wanted me to choose USC? Or maybe I decided to ask out Christine instead of Monica! Our life is ultimately determined by God. He is perfectly orchestrating everything according to his will. However, from a human perspective, we are making decisions every day that impact our lives. And this is the great paradox. God is sovereign but we are responsible to act according to his will. So how in the world do we go about making Biblical Decisions?

There are many, many examples of bad decisions in the Bible. David choosing to kill Uriah and living a lifetime of consequences. Israel deciding to not repent. Below are the two principles I learned*

Principle 1- You decisions change nothing

Principle 2- We must make good decisions.

God is sovereign. He created the heavens and the Earth. He is orchestrating everything according to His purposes and His plans. We are exactly where He wants us to be at the moment. Yahweh is in control and His purposes will come to pass. Hannah’s prayer is a great example of this! 1 Samuel 2:1-11

Hannah’s Prayer

Then Hannah prayed and said,

“my heart exults in yahweh

my horn is exalted in Yahweh;

My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I am glad in your slavation.

“There is no one holy like Yahweh; Indeed, there is no one besides you, nor is there any rock like our God.

“Do not multiply speaking so very proudly; let arrogance not come out of your mouth; For Yahweh is a God of knowledge, and with Him actions are weighed.

“The bows of the mighty are shattered, but those who stumble gird on strength.

“Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, but she who has many children languishes.

“Yahweh puts to death and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.

Yahweh makes poor and rich; he brings low; He exalts.

“He raises the poor from the dust; He exalts the needy from the ash heap.

To make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of glory; For the pillars of the earth are Yahweh’s, And He set the world on them. “He keeps the feet of His holy ones, But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness, for not by power shall a man prevail.

“Those who contend with Yahweh will be dismayed; against them He will thunder in the heavens;

Yahweh will render justice to the ends of the earth, and he will give strength to his king, and he will exalt the horn of his anointed.”|

Then Elkanah went to his home at Ramah. But the young boy ministered to Yahweh before Eli the priest.

Yahweh has the power to give and take away. He allows people to be rich and allows others to be poor. Whatever our situation, we are right where He wants us to be!

Our most important decision

-The most important decision we will ever make is to repent and believe. Many know the truth but not all will repent. Repentance is granted to us by God (2 Timothy 2:25)

If God is sovereign, why make decisions?

So do we just let go and let God? We are responsible for making decisions. Decisions that are obedient to God, authorities, and scripture as long as we aren’t required to sin. We make decisions with pure motives, wise decisions that glorify God in everything we do. There will be consequences to the decisions but we have the body to help us through and get counsel!

Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

So no, getting a mocha IS NOT SIN in relation to getting a latte. It’s a preference issue. Choosing Monica over Christine is a preference issue. Now there may be some principals we can apply to make the wisest decisions, but ultimately, there is freedom in Christ.

Final thoughts

People will give all sorts of counsel. People will say things are sin when they aren’t. Or they may say your reasoning is not a good reason for the decision you are trying to make. Where do we look? We always go back to scripture and make decisions based on that. Ultimately, our decisions are not based on what someone says but what scripture says. We need to make sure we are Bereans, studying the Word every day for our own benefit, the benefit of others, and glorifying God to the end of our days. It is ok to disagree with a counselor as long as the decision doesn’t involve sin. Preference issues are a matter of choice. However, we will all give an account to God based on how we make decisions and the principals we applied. But there is joy knowing that God is in control, he is sovereign, and we can make decisions in accordance with His will. Just make a decision and trust in God’s sovereignty and providence. A truth that I need to remind myself of every day.

Fired

The rising sun cast a rosy hue across the morning sky. This was THE DAY. The day that I would find out if I still had a job. If I still had a credential. As I briskly walked into the administration office, I could sense the irateness of the HR director. The words that came out of her mouth slowly sputtered out “You are terminated.” Terminated for what? Separation of Church and State.

What happened? How did Michael Suzuki get fired? I’ll start off by saying that I love the kids I teach. They are in 7th grade and I always knew I wanted to be a teacher since I was a child. Sometimes, you just know. You know what your God-given desires are and what you are called to do. Investing in the next generation is an important task. A task that impacts the futures and destinies of those being taught. Live out your convictions- more words I learned from the Pastors that I have grown up with over the years. Now it was all coming to fruition- Everything I believed was going to be tested in this moment. Would I cave into the culture and live out what I believe?

One student asked, “Do you support the LBGTQ community?” Was this a legitimate question? Was this a setup? I’m not sure but I just answered truthfully. Students were claiming to be homosexual and Christian. Out of love, I told them that it’s not possible to be homosexual and Christian. I gave them the Gospel message and told them that being a Christian is about the heart. We are sinners in need of God’s grace. To be a Christian, one must repent and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He was raised from the dead and is the only one who can forgive sins. This is our hope. An habitual, unrepentant lifestyle of any sin is characteristic of an unbeliever. It’s not possible to be homosexual and Christian. Unbelievers are going to hell but there is hope in the Gospel message.

God is working through this. I’m just thankful I had the opportunity to give the Gospel message to the students that are deceived. The ones that think they can be homosexual and Christian. In fact, we can’t be heterosexual and Christian if we are living in unrepentant, habitual fornication either. The Gospel frees from the Power and Penalty of sin toward new desires and a new heart that wants to obey. God can use this as a means for salvation to accomplish His purposes.

What now? I’m not sure what the future holds. I’m being diligent in applying to jobs and am open to anything at this point. But I don’t live for a job. Katie Davis Majors once said- “the Gospel of Jesus Christ changes people’s lives and their eternity. And that’s worth spending my life for.” We aren’t all called to be missionaries but we are called to be faithful to the Gospel message and proclaim Christ. It’s a message of utmost value. Like Diamonds. However, diamonds do not last forever. EVEN diamonds eventually turn into graphite over billions of years. It may seem like diamonds have supreme value and last forever but the Gospel message never goes away and is infinitely more valuable than diamonds because it affects eternity. Lets remain faithful to what has eternal value. Infinite value. What do you value with your life and are we willing to stand up for the truth? Could I do it again? I’m not sure. I was never looking to get fired but the Holy Spirit enabled me to stand firm. The goal is to be faithful and one day, He will say good job faithful servant. Lets live for that day and influence those around us! Let the love of Christ indwell your heart so much that we would want to give the message because of what He has done for us. For one day we will give an account with how we stewarded our time, what we said, and how we impacted the Kingdom of God. Judgment is coming for unbelievers and Glory awaits those that are saved. What a great truth we can set our minds and hearts on as we try to be representatives and ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. Stay faithful.

Graciousness

3 Gs For A Better Life : Gratitude, Graciousness and Generosity ...

Today I came across a post by Jim martin. Here is what he said are the 10 qualities of graciousness.

A gracious person is slow to take credit and quick to lavish praise. 

A gracious person never seeks to embarrass another. Humiliating another is not in this person’s vocabulary.  (And
please don’t say something that humiliates another and then try to escape responsibility by saying, “I was only joking.”)
A gracious person is always thanking others.  Do you go through an entire day without thanking another? 

A gracious person doesn’t monopolize the conversation. Someone else has something to offer.
A gracious person doesn’t try to play one-upmanship. (That’s nothing, you should have seen what I did!”) 

A gracious person pays attention to people. Sometimes people come away from such conversations saying, “He made me feel like I was the most important person at that moment.”
A gracious person desires to say what is appropriate. He doesn’t just say what is on his mind or whatever he might be thinking. (There is no redeeming value in emptying one’s mind of whatever fleeting thought has happened to land at the moment.)

A gracious person looks out for the comfort of others.<!–
A gracious person understands that she is not indispensable. You’ve
seen this person.  She desires constant attention.  She has a way of
constantly focusing most any conversation back on herself.  There is a
humility in realizing that you are dispensable. A gracious person constantly points out the good that he sees  “Would you like a cup of coffee?  What about a coke?  Can I get you a newspaper while I’m out?”

A gracious person looks for the good.  Maybe
you are visiting a friend who lives in another place.  Instead of
pointing out the inadequacies of your friend’s community, you are
constantly finding things that are good.  “This cafe has outstanding
peach pie!  That was delicious.”  “I just love the way you have planted
your garden.  It is beautiful!” 

That’s a great list! What else would I add?

Gracious people are gracious to everyone regardless of what they’ve done. They have an innate ability to make the day of other people better. People have needs including respect, being highly valued, feeling important, and conversing with others. They are slow to get frustrated, angry, or make assumptions but quick to love, interact, invite, elevate, and be a blessing to others through their words and deeds. Being warm, welcoming, elevating others, making others comfortable, being easy to talk to, being open to talk to, and thinking the best of others are great qualities for a gracious person to have. Gracious people will make your day better; you’ll look forward to meeting them and interacting with them.

Do you have any other thoughts on the quality of being gracious? I’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

 

Gossip

gossip

“I have never seen adultery send a whole church into meltdown. Gossip is perceived as a little sin but it destroys church.” -Unknown

Wow. What a statement. I’m not sure who wrote that but that woke me up. Gossip can be seen as an accepted sin in any community. And the fact is that it is accepted. The problem is that sin is sin and there’s no such thing as a sin that is accepted. We need to repent! I’ve even heard gossip about people that are passionate about scripture, posting verses, on fire for God. We need more of that. We don’t need more passive men but people that are on a holy pursuit of righteousness and character.

Why do I feel a need to write about Gossip?

I’m concerned about the unity of the church. I’m concerned that this particular sin is justified and accepted. I need a review of this. It’s a communal effort and I think we need a good understanding of the implications. What is Gossip and how do we handle it?

Definition-

Gossip is speaking against someone that you would never say to their face. (Speaking negatively against someone and running their reputation.) It has an inverse relationship to flattery.

Flattery- Saying something to someone that you would never say behind their back. It’s telling someone nice things that aren’t true.

What are some implications of Gossip?

  1. At the core of Gossip is a sense to lift yourself up and put someone else down. We feel a sense of superiority over another person.
  2. Sows distrust among people
  3. Harms our spiritual witness and faith. How can someone trust you with the Word of God and what He says when you are gossiping all the time?
  4. Destroys your integrity- Gossips are perceived as having worse characters. If someone gossips about others, they are likely gossiping about you.
  5. Harms or ends friendships
  6. Ruins reputations

From Midwestern Seminary:

  • Gossip is a sly and sneaky sin that can destroy the unity of a church.
  • Gossip points to self importance; ministry and service point to the importance of others.
  • There is never a time when gossip helps or builds up.
  • Once gossip is out about someone, it’s hard to correct it if it’s false.
  • Gossip not only hurts the reputation of the subject, but of those who pass it on as well.
  • If someone gossips about someone to you, they’d likely gossip about you to someone else.
  • Gossip is a very evil and destructive force within the church.
  • Churches should have an environment of trust that does not allow for gossip.
  • Every church covenant should address gossip.

Gossip has the power to damage careers, ministry, and families. How can we respond in a Godly with Gossip?

Think. Are you part of the problem or solution? If not it’s gossip. Are you listening to a gossiper? That’s a form of gossip because you are saying you are ok with the gossip. That you have an attentive ear to what they are saying. Shut it down.

Play the role of advocate- stick up for the defenseless person in the conversation- the person not in the room. Say something good about them or like we don’t have all the facts.

What is our typical response when someone hurts or offends us? We tell 10 friends and gossip about them, ruining their reputation. I think the correct response is to solve the problem with that particular person instead of damaging their reputation. If we can’t still work it out, go to the elders.

Last things

Talking about someone really has two options. We can say words that are life giving or life depleting. We can begin to see Gossip as facts when they are actually only rumors. We can look at a person through the lens of the gossip or through the lens of scripture. We can start assuming things about people including their motivations for everything they do. It’s not healthy and it’s never edifying.

How do you respond to the person being gossiped about?

Maybe you see this person in real life. There are rumors going around. We need to love this person. I think true love starts with the mind. When you engage in conversations with this person, what are you thinking? Are you thinking about the gossip or just trying to love this person genuinely? Are you maintaining eye contact and expressing body language that suggests genuine interest in this person or are you being cold and disregarding your brother? Do you look down on this person? What is your motivation for engaging with this person? Yes, we need to have unity in the church but that isn’t the ultimate motivation. The motivation  is a genuine love for beleivers and unbelievers. Its about forming love into our character as a pattern of life because of the Gospel. Its about sanctification and setting an example for others to follow. We have a responsibility to love others well through our thoughts, words, and deeds. We have a responsibility to care about the unity of the church. Lets get back to treating gossip as a serious sin and love as an essential responsibility.

Where’s the Line Between Helpful Info-Sharing and Office Gossip?

Counseling Well

 

 

 

biblical counseling.png

I love getting counsel and trying to understand how to live life better. I’ve had the opportunity to be counseled from different students fulfilling their clinical practice requirement at the university they attend. I’ve received good counsel and bad counsel from people I consider Godly; probably better men than me. In the future, I want to make sure I can counsel well and help others counsel well. Below are a few observations of how we should counsel well that I’ve learned throughout the years-

1) Focus on what they are doing right

Our brothers and sisters should be doing something right. I mean, if they are true Christians, they will be producing fruit of some kind. We can encourage them in how they are loving others well, serving in the church, etc. Counseling can seem like such a formal process sometimes. What a blessing it would be to do it with someone you consider a dear friend.

2) Don’t make assumptions

It’s easy to make assumptions about other people. Sometimes, we tend to make the biggest assumptions about people we barely even know; people we have almost never talked to. We draw conclusions about others based on rumors and inaccurate information. It happens all the time. I’d encourage everyone and myself to be careful with our words and draw on the facts that you know for sure. And if the facts lead you to believe something sinful about that person, we can encourage that person with the Word of God. Even through the trials of life, we need to have an attitude of encouragement. We are all sinners and we need each other. Be that person to encourage others.

3) Empathy and Selfishness

When someone expresses a desire of theirs, we can automatically say that they are selfish, sinful, and prideful. While this may be true, I think there is a time and place for that. People need empathy and want to feel like someone understands where they are coming from. Below are some characteristics of empathy that I feel are important really not just for counseling but for relationships in general:

Characteristics of Empathy

1.  validate

People need their feelings validated. They need to hear that they aren’t alone and that you can see where they are coming from.

Example: If someone tells you that they are sad because of situation x, it’s important to show them you care and see where they are coming from. Saying something like I’ve been in situation x and have never been sad because of situation x is focusing on yourself. We have to remember that just because we experienced a certain situation and felt a certain way doesn’t mean that it can affect another person a different way. You can validate how someone feels even if you don’t necessarily feel the same way in that particular situation.

2. Attitude

Although it seems simple, I know that godly people can get frustrated with other peoples sin. Our attitude needs to convey that of someone that wants to talk to that person, is there for them, and genuinely wants the best for them. In the best counseling situations I’ve experienced, I leave feeling like the person cares, has empathy, and has directed me toward the Word of God to see my sin. That is quite a skill and is hard to implement! Sometimes its easy to think that counseling is about fixing the other person with God’s Word. But it’s not. It’s about loving the other person with the Word of God and realizing that there really isn’t anything we can do to fix that person. We can influence their heart but ultimately, only God can fix that person and that person’s heart.

4) Getting Counsel

I highly encourage people seeking counsel to focus on getting counsel from older leaders in the church and not their peers; even if they are on staff. I do believe that young people can have great things to say and can have lots of wisdom. However, I also know that young people haven’t experienced a lot of things in life that older people have. Sometimes, older leaders in the church have been through more counseling situations and will have a better perspective on the topic.

5) Make definitive plans and follow up

Sometimes the person getting counseled needs a date to follow up on. We need to see how they are doing and get a better picture of the situation later on. Make the sacrifice and spend a little bit of time with this person and be a blessing.

Conclusion

I’m just making observations. I believe that if people I consider very godly can make some of these mistakes, I’m prone to make these mistakes too and I probably have. I hope  that in the future I can help counsel well in all contexts whether that be with friends, in the church, or with my wife if God provides one. All for the glory of God and His name.

 

 

What it means to be man

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Cor. 13:11).

Emotional health and spiritual maturity cannot be separated. It is impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. – Peter Scazzero

becoming a man

Abandoning Childish Ways

In 1 Corinthians 13:11, we are called toward abandoning our childish ways. We move on the spectrum of love from an immature love toward a mature love that emulates Christ. Our love is tested most when we go through trials. When we don’t get when we want. When someone offends us. It is in these circumstances that we navigate conflict resolution and have the opportunity to exemplify the agape, sacrificial love we are called to live out. And that’s wisdom. Wisdom is skillfully living out the principles of the Bible in daily living. We are not perfect, and we never will be. But we can move right on the spectrum of mature love and influence others as we emulate the principles we have learned.

english long bowman

Proverb 127:4 Like Arrows

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children[a] of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate

How does this passage relate to 1 Corinthians:11? We have partly been shaped by our parents. They are the archers and we are the arrows. However, even if they aim right at the target, they have to have a good arrow for the target to be hit. One writer described the parts of the arrow like this:

Shaft- Identity

Feathers/fletching- Character

Nook- Relationships

Point-Mission

It is only through God’s grace that we can achieve the instrumental parts of the arrow to hit the target. The arrow needs to be released at some point with full force so that it can reach it’s full potential. It is when the arrow (maybe around age 18) that we move from dependence on parents to independence and more dependence on God. It is the start of adulthood physically but the real test of manhood and womanhood has just begun. True men and women have embraced the love their parents have taught them and live it out. They have gone from an immature love to a mature love that is sacrificial and thinks of others first. As the arrow swiftly flies through air, the goal becomes closer and closer. The shaft, fletching, nook, and point will determine where the arrow will land.

When does a boy become a man?

Interesting question. A person can be a man physically but spiritually and emotionally be a boy. Albert M. Gives a good description of when a boy becomes a man in these areas. The link is below.

http://equip.sbts.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/boy-to-man.pdf