The Weight of the Need

Sometimes I feel as though I need God more times than other. In my naturally carnal mind, I value things, people, and opinions more than I value God. Paul talks about how “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). In my mind, my flesh and spirit clash against one another. Knowing I need to “put to death the deeds of the body” (8:13) in order to live, I tend to thing I need these fleshly things more than the single spiritual thing: the need for God.

When I consider the weight of my need for God, I go through whether I need him a little, for guidance throughout the day, or I need him a lot, to keep my eyes from wandering and for lustful thoughts to permeate my mind. The weight of my need for God can be little, or it can be high. The weight of my need for God needs to supersede the weight of my need for water, breath, food, and air. How do I get there? How can I go from saying, “Life’s good right now God. Keep doing what you are doing and this relationship will be fine,” to, “God I need you every minute of my day. I’m nothing without you, and even when I don’t realize it and don’t consider your thoughts for me, I NEED you God. I NEED you for every move I make today.”

Going through my One-Year Bible this morning, I read a passage of Scripture in Ezekiel 33:11 that says, “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ declares the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?'” The Bible has this thing where these people of God (the Israelites) have turned from God and despised his commandments, yet he still doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked. God still has a need to love his people, and a large weight of need at that. God is moved by his people. His desire for them to live is heavy.

When will I come to the point to where I understand God does not need me? He doesn’t. He is simply fine on his own. The weight of my need of God needs to be attempted to be close to matching the love and compassion of God over me. In reading this passage, I realize that even though he does not, should not, and has no reason to continue to pursue me, he still does. And in this, I am encouraged to increase the weight of my need of God. All Christians (and for that matter non-Christians) need God in some form or fashion, even if we don’t realize it. Do you need God a little, or do you need God a lot? I hope this is encouragement for someone reading. God doesn’t need you, yet he still shines his love on you. God doesn’t need you. His desire for you to be saved is ever consistent (2 Peter 3:9). So knowing that God is consistent on his end, I encourage you to ask yourself: Do you need him?

The Importance of Unity

So often as a Christian, and especially going to a Christian university, I hear about the different sects and denominations within our beliefs. Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Church of God, Anglican, Presbyterian, and the list goes on and on. Going to a school directly affiliated with the Church of God as well as attending a COG my entire life, I tend to know what the beliefs inside the denomination is. When a fellow believer asks me what denomination I am and I say Church of God, they have questions concerning my beliefs about the denomination. Because of the way the Bible is read and interpreted differently by different believers, we have these different denominations. The beliefs in these different churches aren’t necessarily wrong; but I think it may be time to reconsider some things.

A particular convicting passage of Scripture I read the past week comes from 1 Corinthians, the book I’ve been in the past couple of days. 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 is titled “Sectarianism is Sin” from my NKJV but from the ESV it’s titled “Divisions in the Church.” I’ll let the Word speak for itself, starting with 1:10: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement.” In my Bible I have “that you all speak the same thing” and “that there be no divisions among you” underlined. What a verse! Is it possible that we associate with our church denomination before the name of Jesus itself in our beliefs? I don’t want to be a believer who sells myself out for a sect or denomination of the church but forgets the Gospel. We need to be speaking the same thing! What are we to speak? Perhaps you already know the answer, but just to make sure, Paul tells us later on.

1 Corinthians 1:22-23 says, “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.” I quoted this verse and the one I’m about to use in an earlier blog, but it’s simplicity astounds me. The Jews are looking for a sign, whereas the Greeks are seeking after wisdom, but the power of preaching Christ crucified and only Christ crucified is what’s key. Two verses down Paul writes an exclamation point on this previous verse, saying in 1:25, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” No matter how smart we are, the foolishness of god is still wiser than our brains could ever imagine. Paul opens up the next chapter by proclaiming, “And I…did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Sounding smart and articulating your speech isn’t important to Paul. Neither is wisdom, when declaring the testimony of God. Paul wants to know one thing, and nothing else in this world: it’s to know Christ crucified. And this is the unity that, if not already is, NEEDS to be, the center of the church. It’s preaching Jesus crucified.

The second part I underlined in 1 Corinthians 1:10 reads, “that there be no divisions among you.” As clear cut as this sounds, the body of Christ needs to be unified, and it starts with believing the same thing: preaching Christ crucified. I love the urgency of Colossians 3:5, which states we are to “put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” So much in our culture we are taught to live free. I see this seeping in to the cloud of believers. Paul doesn’t say we should “abstain” or “refrain” from these things. We must “flee from idolatry,” (1 Corinthians 10:14). He says, literally, to “put to death” these things that hold us back from becoming the new creation in Christ. What is the new creation in Christ? Colossians 3:12-14, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” How do we make sure there are no divisions among us as a body of believers? It’s rooted in bearing with one another, forgiving one another, and most importantly (Matthew 5:44, John 13:34) loving one another. “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Corinthians 8:1). But preaching the gospel isn’t enough. 1 Corinthians 9:14 says, “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” Let us not only preach the gospel but live by the gospel; our actions, our conduct, and our mindset.

I believe for revival to break out in America, it starts with a unified church. By believing and preaching Christ crucified and bearing one another’s burdens, we allow the Lord to use us in ways we can’t even imagine. I’m not saying all churchgoers that go to a church with a particular affiliation need to jump ship to a nondenominational church-even nondenominational is still a church “denomination.” But let’s remember the message and the conduct that binds every single believer together. The world is messed up and dis-configured enough; shouldn’t the church stand together as one?

God Bless America

It’s a phrase that’s been used forever in our great nation. I don’t think it necessarily is meant to be a religious phrase, it’s just something that we say to one another to show our love for our country. Moreover, it’s a phrase used a lot around the time of Independence Day. But do we really think about what the three words mean or do we simply say it as an empty saying? When we say “God Bless America,” do we realize God has already blessed us, is blessing us, and will bless us, beyond what we could ever imagine? When you think of our country from a global perspective, think of how we’re blessed. We have food to eat. We have clean water to drink. Our education system is top notch. I love Luke 12:48, it’s one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It says, “…For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” Much has been given to us as a country. The Lord has committed a lot to America, and he has required much fruit for us to bear. So next time you say “God Bless America,” just think to yourself: God has already blessed this country. Are we really blessing him?

On the eve of Independence Day, one of my most favorite holidays, we reflect upon the freedom this country has. Memorial Day, held in May, is when we remember the men and women who have sacrificed their lives so we could have this freedom in our great nation. Just as we have men and women daily making sacrifices to protect the US in places outside the US, we have saints and martyrs daily making sacrifices to protect and spread the Gospel outside of the US. These missionaries are our servicemen, and they’re fighting for something bigger. No offense to our servicemen and servicewomen-I’m so grateful for what they are doing, but I’m a Christian before I’m an American. The only difference in these wars is it’s not just the missionaries that are fighting it; it’s you and me.

Paul describes this spiritual war in a letter to the church at Corinth. 2 Corinthians 10:3-“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.” We are walking in our own body, but the war we are a part of is not of our body. Verse 4-6-“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” So we already know that the war isn’t in our bodies. Ephesians 6:12 says that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” Now we know who we’re fighting. We’re fighting against darkness, wickedness, any “high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:4). Like I said earlier, we’re all at war. If you call yourself a believer, you need to have the full armor of God on at all times (finish Ephesians 6 for that one) and be able to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you”. We are to be alert and on our guard. It’s a daily war. And it won’t be over till the day of the Lord comes with his final judgement. But you know what? He’s made his promises to his faithful people. Paul says this in Philippians 1:3, 6-“I thank God upon every remembrance of you, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” So there is hope, and there is a promise that Jesus will complete the good work he has started in us. But until that day, we’re ready. We have the power to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

I hope you enjoy this Independence Day. Hang out with family, grill out, maybe go to the pool (just not my pool, unless you’re bringing food). But remember: God has blessed America. He’s blessing us this very second and will continue to bless us. Are we as a nation blessing him by fighting this spiritual war? Are we casting down arguments and punishing disobedience? Live with a kingdom mindset today.

The Mask

In my One Year Chronological Bible, I’ve recently been in the Psalms, where David is communicating his thoughts to God. Throughout the Psalms, whether he praises or questions God, he is very real with God. David puts his mask down when he talks to God, being as true in his prayer as he can be. We all have masks. But what’s important in our prayer life is that we lay our masks down when talking with God.

Through our everyday life, we put on masks. We mask our shortcomings, our iniquities; anything that we don’t want people to see, we cover it up with masks. For different people in your life, you might be wearing a different mask. With our communication with God, it’s no different. Instead of coming to him as simple as we are, mere human beings, we want to hide our frustration, our weakness, or anything that hinders us from truly communicating with him in the purest form. I think part of this is that the church has painted a bad picture for us. Maybe it’s that we dress up in suits to make it look like we deserve to go to church. Maybe we lift our hands because everyone else is doing it and it will make us fit in. Or maybe, behind every smile and “Hi, how are you?”, we smile back and let them know everything’s great when it’s really not. I’m not saying dressing up in a suit in a church is bad, or that we shouldn’t lift our hands to the Lord, or that we should tell our life story to someone who asks how we’re doing in the congregation on Sunday. But church has become such a production that we lose the realness of gospel-centered community behind these masks. In the presence of the Lord, I choose to lay everything down that might stop me from speaking with the Lord in an effort to hear his voice.

God isn’t looking for the best Christians, or the one’s who have it all together. He wants us to lay down our masks at the foot of the cross and be real with him, as well as with each other. When we aren’t genuine with each other as well as with the Lord, we lose the transparency that makes the Lord shape us into who we’re supposed to be. God can’t shape you into the person you are destined to be if you can’t communicate with him in the truest form. Proverbs 15:32 says, “Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.” By telling God the way we feel, we’re able to gain understanding. If we can’t tell others around us our truest feelings, how are we going to properly communicate with an all-knowing God who already knows our feelings? He knows what you’re feeling regardless; he’s just looking for you to tell the truth.

You and I were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). He knew exactly what he was doing as he was making you; what your strengths and weaknesses are, and who you are supposed to be. Just as David did some thousands of years ago, we need to let God know our truest thoughts, wherever it may be. By being 100% transparent with the Lord, we’re able to hear what the Lord has to say to us in response. I encourage you this week, whether you write down your thoughts to the Lord, speak them aloud, play them through a song, etc., to communicate to him exactly what you’re feeling. Be transparent with the Lord, and he will speak to you.

the-mask (I had to)

Christ Crucified

Something that’s been on my mind a lot lately is the preaching content of pastors across America as they take the pulpit every Sunday. As they go to the stand to preach, there are dozens of people that are hurting, suffering, and dying, both spiritually and physically, in the congregation. Every time the pastor of the church preaches, he has a chance to radically transform someone’s life through Jesus Christ. And as I think about the messages these pastors are preaching, I wonder…”Do they ever run out of sermons?” There is only so much information in the Bible. Obviously it would take years and years for one pastor at one church to preach from every book of the entire Bible (I want to go to that church!), but really; isn’t it possible that an elderly person who knows the Bible exceptionally well already knows the story before the pastor speaks it? I struggle with this; I want to tell something new. Something educational. Something that people have never heard before. But this is where the Gospel comes in.

Paul writes this in 1 Corinthians 1:23-“but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.” He writes in Romans 1 that the Gospel is the power of Christ to all who believe-for the Jew as well as for the Greek. Going back to 1 Corinthians, Paul says he preaches Christ crucified. Note he doesn’t say Christ resurrected or Christ exalted-because there’s no resurrection without the crucifixion. Christ crucified-the crucifixion of Jesus-is just as important to the story of the Gospel as his resurrection. I want to be someone who preaches Christ crucified! The crucifixion of Christ is beautiful because it says we do not have to be good enough for this world; but “Christ has overcome the world.” 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” I do not want to know anything but Christ, and Christ crucified. Then I want to preach Christ crucified. This is the beauty of the Gospel-how simple yet complex it is. Pastors: the message doesn’t have to change because the truth has stayed the same.

David Wells, from an excerpt of a book I’m reading, offers this about the Gospel: “In its biblical setting…the gospel does not give us a choice between its simplicity and its profundity. It is both. It is both so simple that everyone can understand it and so profound that no one can fully plumb its depths.” Christ crucified is so simple-Christ was crucified for me-yet it’s also as complex: someone died for me. Why did he do that? To this day, I still don’t understand.

But Paul later on talks about the importance of preaching Christ crucified. Galatians 1:8 says, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Another translations says “let him be anathema.” Anathema is a word that means accursed, damned, attested, loathed. It is so important that we come to know nothing else but Christ crucified and to preach nothing else but Christ crucified. The Gospel has never changed, it never will, and it’s power will always be eternal.

Grace

Grace is the reason I am alive. It is not of my own doing. It is 100% God’s work in my life-sending his son Jesus to die on a cross and rise again, in having mercy on my soul. Grace is the act of God showing forgiveness on sinners through Jesus. Every morning you wake up and deserve judgement and condemnation, you receive life (which is Jesus [Colossians 3:4]) and a choice of whether or not to serve the Lord that day. This is grace.

Paraphrasing this verse, we see that Ephesians 2:4-7 says this: “But God…made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” I do not value grace enough. I would say none of us truly do. Grace is not a one time offer, nor is it something that fades with time. Grace is eternal-we always can accept grace as a free gift from God through Jesus. When I do not openly thank the Lord for his grace over my life daily, saving me from my own sin, I am undervaluing the riches of his grace. Knowing this, it’s important we not only thank God daily for his saving grace, but that we also look forward to the grace that is to come, that God is pouring out to us through Jesus. The riches of this world do not phase me; I desperately want to grasp the riches of the grace that is Jesus Christ. His grace is enough for me.

Scripture Alone

Most; no-all of what I believe in my Christian life is in the Bible. I cannot come to the terms of valuing the thoughts and opinions of present day pastors and theologians over that of the authors and writers of the Word that I base my theology and beliefs off of. The term used here is Sola Scriptora, which in Latin means “Scripture alone.” Sola Scriptora is the thought that scripture alone has authority for the faith and practice of the Christian. Charles Swindoll has a beautiful quote pertaining to scripture in his book, Church Awakening: “Our world is not only ignorant of the basic facts of the Bible, most now are skeptical, convinced there is no such thing as an absolute truth. The deception is so subtle we can be led to believe that what is wrong is right, and what is bad is, in fact, good…When the Bible loses its central place in the church’s worship-even if good things replace it-the fallout is biblical ignorance.” Of all the things that can go wrong with the church today, it can’t begin with proclaimed believers having an ignorance to the Holy Scriptures. Hopefully I’m not sounding like a hypocrite-there is a LOT of the Bible I have no idea about. But the point is, we have to make a concerted effort each day to open up the Word and hear what the Lord has to say.

I can’t think of a better way to open up talking about the importance of scripture in a blog than by quoting a scripture. Paul says this to Timothy in his second letter to him: 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” God has inspired these scriptures. An argument I’ve heard of this is that since the Bible is comprised of the writings of men, mere mortals, doesn’t that mean they could have messed up a time or two and written something that’s false? In my humble opinion, no. I can’t come to terms that God’s own book, having been around for thousands of years, contains anything without God’s prior knowledge to it. All throughout, you will see the phrases, “And the word of the Lord says”, “The Lord said unto him”, “God spoke to him,” etc. It’s God’s word, and not ours. My New Testament professor last year noted this in class: “The Bible, when correctly interpreted in its culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it was written, and in view of the purposes for which it was given, is fully truthful in all that it affirms.” This view is absolute inerrancy-that the Bible is totally without any error in theology, science, history, grammar, syntax, math, among such other things. The Word of God is real.

God, after the death of Moses, says this to Joshua, Moses’ assistant, concerning what the Lord had revealed to Moses. Joshua 1:8-“This Book of Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” God hasn’t simply called us to hold a Bible in our hands once a week in a building with a steeple on top. I don’t think he’s given it to us to exclusively keep to ourselves. The Bible is the most printed and most read piece of writing in all of history. God has given us these scriptures for a reason. The similarity I notice in the two aforementioned scriptures is that we are instructed to do what they say, so we might be equipped to go out and live in a sinful world and be bold with what we believe. The Bible is absolutely key in knowing how to take the battle to the world, how to put on Christ, and how we are to conduct ourselves as Christians.

I’ve started a One Year Bible plan, chronologically (by time) going through the Old Testament onto the New. Each day, I read a different piece of scripture. It’s so refreshing. No matter what I read, I almost always seem to get something out of it-and that’s saying a lot, being in the middle of an extensive amount of law and boring commands. “Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart…” (Psalm 119:10-11). The Bible instructs us to hide these words in our heart, so we might be able to use them practically in our everyday lives. A thoroughly equipped man/woman of God knows what has been revealed through the Word.

The Lord hasn’t given us a complete piece of writing for us to take lightly. This book is the foundation by which we base our beliefs off of. We do not worship the book itself; we take pleasure in reading what is in the book so our eyes might be opened to Jesus Christ and his righteousness.