December 23, 2009

Godly Goggles

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of teaching a lesson on maintaining our focus on the Savior to our AWANA group. At that time I told them that during this Christmas season that they should keep their "Godly Goggles" on so that they were not distracted by the toys, games and just stuff that this season has to offer. You see when you have goggles on it causes you to focus on what is ahead of you. As believers we can be distracted by things this season has to offer that isn't necessarily bad, but takes our focus on the Savior being born. As we get close to Christmas day I wanted to share a few verses that I am resting in and meditating on this year.

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)

I love this verse because it tells all about the child that is being born. He is the Savior! So often we want to celebrate the birth of Jesus without realizing nor acknowledging the fact that Jesus humbled himself by becoming a human being so that he could die on the cross. A death that was for all of our sins. A death that would make us all holy as we stand before a just God. A death that would present a perfect lamb as payment for our sins. 

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,  and they shall call his name Immanuel” 
(which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23

By Jesus being born God came down to dwell with us.As Philippians 2:1-11 points out Jesus willingly humbled himself by becoming a man. Have you ever taken Christmas and focused on the person of God, through Jesus, humbling himself to dwell amongst us? When Jesus was born his name would mean that God dwells among us. I do not know of a more awesome fact than that.Christmas should be jotful for the mere reason that God came to dwell among us in the person of Jesus so that he could die on the cross for our sins. The only sacrifice that could be given to satisfy a holy Gods requirement for our sins.

With our "Godly Goggles" on we should be able to focus on the Savior as Christmas approaches. We should be able to see him as the only perfect sacrifice that could be given for our sins. We should be able to see Jesus as part of the God head that humbled itself to the fathers justice. So as we approach this Christmas day I ask do you have the proper focus on Christmas day? Do you need to put you Godly Goggles on? I pray that this season would not be all about the "stuff" for you and that it would be about teh child born as our Savior.


December 17, 2009

I Was Born a Poor Black Child.....

That line is out of a movie The Jerk. Steve Martin plays a guy who was adopted by a black family. So how does that tie into today's post? Well much like Steve Martin's character in that movie being adopted by the African-American family (don't want to offend anyone), I was adopted into God’s family about 23 years ago. I've never really shared my testimony here on my blog and with recent events in my life I thought that this would be a great time to do it.

I grew up in a Catholic home. We went to church every Sunday, observed all the holy days of obligation and attended all the church carnivals. In elementary school I attended a parochial school that was at the church my family attended. Life was good and it wasn't like I had a bad childhood that scarred me for life, but it was without a  knowledge of my Savior. When I was in 5th grade we moved to Santa Clarita, California. Back then Santa Clarita looked more like a farming community then the city it is now.   This was right around the time that I started to rebel against my parents. I don't really know what triggered it. Age? Maybe....but I don't really remember. This rebellion only grew over the years, but through it all I still attended mass on Sundays and went to confession on Saturdays. I though this would keep me in God’s good graces.

As time went by and I started attending catechism class (CCD) I started asking questions about church and God and Catholic traditions. The teachers could not answer many of my questions and this created an even greater curiosity in me. As I continued to ask more questions many of my teachers grew impatient and were angered that I would question my faith in such ways. I can remember one time in 7th grade questioning a priest about some of the Catholic church traditions and why they could not be found in the Bible. He angrily shrugged me off and sent me back to class. This was the beginning of the deterioration of any faith I may have had in the Catholic church. How could I follow a religion in which the leaders could not answer my questions? So for the next 6 years I attended church, but out of the demands of my parents and not because I wanted to.
It wasn't until high school that the true outward rebellion came. In my sophomore year in high school I started hanging out with some guys that were into punk rock. I liked it. On the weekends I would go clubbing with them or head out to Hollywood to hang out. As I progressed through this I began to get caught up in the darker side of punk music, more of the goth sound. I began to wear a lot of black and wear eyeliner and other forms of make up. I really got into the music and the lifestyle. Even though my parents did not approve of this I did it anyways. I would go to a party or a club every weekend and was really just trying to figure out who I was and what I supposed to do with my life. This continued through to my freshman year in college. During this time I dated many girls out of a desire to find someone to fill a void I had.

In my senior year in high school the dating game ended when I met Suzi, my wife. She was different from the other girls I had known, for one thing she looked more like Debbie Gibson than Siouxsie Sioux. Her family attended a solid church in Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Suzi’s father said that if I was going to date her, I had to attend church with them. Seemed like a small price to pay to be with her. Over the next two years I listened to John MacArthur preach. It was through his teaching and my reading of scripture that I started to understand that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. I started to realize that the life I had led up to this point was about me and not about anyone else. It was under his preaching and conversations with Suzi’s parents that I came to know my Lord and Savior. I came to understand that when Jesus was put on the cross that my sins were nailed along with his hands and feet. It was my transgressions that he was dying for and that with his resurrection he was conquering eternal death so that I could have eternal life.
Over the next few years in my zeal for the Lord I offended many people. Due to my new found enthusiasm for the Lord I really lacked compassion in the Gospel message I presented. This does not make what I did right and for this I probably turned many people off to the Gospel message. I will have to hope and pray that our Sovereign God would have and will bring along better equipped people than myself. At this time I grew fond of Titus 2:11-14. I loved that the grace of God appeared for all through Jesus Christ. I loved that through the sanctifying process I would learn to be self-controlled and to live uprightly. I also could, and still can not wait, for Christ’s second coming. Oh what joy!

After Suzi and I got married the Lord used my job to draw me closer to Him. We moved about 32 times in 20 years. He also used job changes and moves to humble me and to show me that I had no right to be proud of my knowledge of Him or scripture. I needed this so that I could learn that I wasn’t God’s gift to evangelicalism. This process also strengthened my marriage, not the way I would have desired, but definitely the way God planned. He taught me how to be selfless in my marriage and how to serve my family first and foremost, after all they are my primary ministry. I realized that, as Galatians 1:10 says, that I am not serving to seek the approval of men. It was this growth that helped me to understand the meaning of serving and ministry.

As the Lord grew me I felt a growing desire to more and more in ministry. He has been gracious enough to provide men in my life who have helped to shape who I am and to challenge my theological beliefs. Even though I know my early zeal may have offended some, I now feel the sting of being a believer that stands for what he believes. I have come to expect this and know that my Lord and Savior endured worse. I try to react in compassion these days knowing that all need to know the Lord, but that my actions speak louder than my words. I try to live a life that shows what I believe and speaks to my beliefs. My joy comes from knowing that an almighty God chose me but my joy does not come  from my family or the things that I have. Don’t get me wrong, I find joy in my family, but not a pure joy. The joy I have in my Lord comes in knowing that He will never disappoint me even though I know that people, including my family can and will. This joy takes me off of the rollercoaster of human emotions and puts my focus on heaven and all that comes with a heavenly focus. I would hope and pray that I would continue to listen to my God as He makes me into the man He desires me to be. Philippians 3:8-11 is where I rest these days. I do count all that I have as loss in light of what I have in Christ.

I hope and pray that as you read this you would either be encouraged as a believer or that you would realize, if you are an unbeliever, that God has a plan for you and desires you to come to Him. God loves all of us sinners and desire all to be saved, no matter your background or your sins.

December 7, 2009

What is Love?

When I make the statement "What is Love?" what comes to mind? Initially for me it's the song from the movie, "A Night at the Roxbury" and the various Saturday Night Live skits that came along with that song. I also think of Valentines Day and new romance, I think of a mother and her child or even some guys and their sports. When I settle in though and I think of the word "love" and it's best definition, God and Jesus come to mind. For some, this would be the penultimate of love and for others it would be a fairy tale. To me God's love is very real, for I have seen it's outworking in my life. I have seen God's love most vibrantly through the fact that He brought me to Him and offered me salvation through His son Jesus. At this Christmas season it is important that we see God's love in the child that was born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago and the reason that child had to be born.

These days in our current culture it has become popular to define "love" as an emotion or the action that is provoked by the emotion. Most times when people talk about love it comes with the conditions that you love the way they define love and not the way God defines love. This is why people can say without hesitation that they fall in and out of love. When that mushy, warm and fuzzy feeling goes away it must be time to get a divorce or move on to someone who "loves me for who I am". That is not love. 

Now, don't get me wrong there are those within the hallowed walls of church buildings that do the same thing. As they sit in their pews or chairs they look at a cross that bore the child whose birth we celebrate at Christmas and think that his love was only defined by what he did with sinners and by bringing the Gospel message to them. Well that is only half of the story. Remember the necessity for his birth and the cross, our sin. There is an ugly side to love too. Love is sacrificial; it is dying to self and bearing others sins so that their relationship with Christ can be better. It is loving the sinner and hating the sin. It is loving the homosexual, drug addict, porn addict, but hating their sin. It is loving him/her so much that you show them their sin and then show your love for them day in and day out by being a Christ like example. 

As I though and prayed on this I came up with a few words that describe Gods love.

Security – If you are a believer, meaning if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior then you have the security in knowing that God will never fail you or leave you. Look at Isaiah 49:15-16. Verse 15 points out that God will never forget his own. In context here he is talking about Israel, but in the greater context it is all those He has drawn to Him. Verse 16 states that we are engraved on the palms of His hands. How awesome is that! We also know that once we have been called to Him no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28). What assurance it is to know that no man or even Satan himself cannot snatch us out of God's hand. God's love for us is so great that we have the security in knowing that we will be His for eternity.

Atonement – This is the part of God's love that the world and even so called "Christians" chose to ignore. People do not like the fact that we are all sinners and that the only way we could gain entrance to heaven was by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross (Romans 5:8). Our sin was what was nailed to the cross with Jesus. Our sin is what required Jesus to be born. Our sin is what required God to provide the perfect sacrifice we could not provide. Look at 1 John 4:10. Look, the verse says that love is not that we first loved God, but that He loved us and what was the outflow of that love? Look again at the verse, that He sent His son, Jesus Christ, for our sins. We needed a Savior and we needed the perfect sacrifice. When we are showing God's love for us we cannot forget this aspect. Yes the idea that our sins needed to be atoned for is ugly, but it was required by God.

Vindication – We were vindicated by Christ's death on the cross. We once stood in opposition to God, we once stood as His enemy and in one swoop we were ushered into His presence through what was accomplished on the cross. John 3:16 states this perfectly. It was because of God's love that He gave His son to die for us. This is why we have eternal life. Vindicated through the cross. Look at another set of verses, Titus 3:4-7. Look at who vindicated us, not you and certainly not me….it was God. The Titus verses also point out that it is not of any good works we have performed that we are vindicated, but through the cross and the cross alone. It is not because we hang out with homosexuals, it is not because we work at a suicide hotline and it is not because we help the homeless that saves us. The cross and the cross alone saves us.

Intercessor – Jesus Christ, by becoming our intercessor before His father is a great example of His love for us. Hebrews 7:25 states this perfectly. As we as sinners draw near to God, Jesus intercedes for us and shows his Father the holes in his hands and feet as payment for our sins. What a picture! Christ going between the sinner and God interceding on the sinners behalf. What love produces this? God's love for us and his appointment of Jesus to this role. It is because of his being our intercessor that we need to go through Him to have salvation. We must accept his death on the cross. John 14:6 is clear on this. There is no way to heaven except through Jesus Christ. There is no alternate method, no other intercessor and no other so-called deity that can make us perfect before God. Your own personal Jesus just will not do! The Jesus of the Bible is the only way.

Nullification – God's love for us provided a nullification of our sins. When Jesus died on the cross he didn't die for a few of our sins, he died for all of our sins. Jesus death did not die for a few of our sins and we have to make up the rest through our good deeds. If we look at 1 John 4:10 again we see that Jesus died for our sins, all of them. We must understand that our works are as filthy rags to God (Is. 64:6).

Obedience – When we accept Christ as our Savior the outflow should be our obedience to scripture. Our culture would tell us that time has passed the Bible up, that it is not culturally relevant and that it is something that we can take what we like and leave what offends us. 1 John 2:3-6 would tell us different though. We must follow His commandments if we say we love him and call him Lord. We must see that when the Bible calls homosexuality, abortion, pornography or adultery sin then guess what….it's sin. We cannot say that because this aspect of scripture offends our conscience it is wrong. The whole and entirety of scripture is true. Our love for God should be seen in our obedience to Him and to His Word!

Recently my knowledge of love and the practical application of that in my life has been challenged. I would hope and pray that I could be a Godly example of love to the people God brings across my path, but for some reason I have a feeling that the love this person desires me to emulate is not the love expressed by God. I have a feeling that the love that this person wants me to live out is his version of love, through his version of God. More than likely it is a type of love that is devoid of obedience to what God commands and is only filled with the mushy love that gives you butterflies and puts you on n emotional rollercoaster due to the fact that it is based on mans feelings and not Gods commandments. I know that the love that is expressed above and the one that I am called to model is one that brings me joy all year around, even in times of trial and persecution. The love that I hope and pray to live out is one that loves the sinner and hates the sin. This type of love is the type that will cast God in light He is intended to be seen and not a false light with a false hope. This love is devoid of denomination and does not require you to go to my church or even a church of my liking, but only requires that you live a life that knows the Security of salvation, understands that God required an Atonement for our sinful lives, knows that we have been Vindicated by Jesus Christ's death on the cross, understands that we only have one Intercessor in Jesus Christ, understands that the cross Nullified all the sins we have committed, are committing and will commit and that Obedience is required as an outflow of my love of God and what He has done for me.

Please know and understand dear reader that I do not claim to live this out perfectly each and every day and do have my flaws. My knowledge of the above makes it that more convicting, because it is not like I don't know how I should live in light of the knowledge of God's love, but that at times I live the way I want to live in disobedience to Gods Word. I hope that as God constantly refines me to be the man He desires me to be that my heart would be known to all men and that they would see God's love through my words and actions.


August 6, 2009

An Edwards Minute

"Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life."

In the movie "Last Holiday" the main character played by Queen Latifah is told that she has days maybe weeks to live. She like most people figure that if I'm going to go I might as well party like a rock star on my way out. A friend of mine from work once told me that his philosophy of living is to party while I'm here, because you just don't know when you are going to go. I want to say that I wouldn't do the same. In fact, I have often wondered if I went to the doctors office today and he were to tell me I have so many days to live would I change the way I act? Would I change the way I talk? Would God have more importance in what I do and say? I think if we were real with ourselves for a minute we would realize that there are things we would change. For those of us who live in Southern California or the United States for that matter, would you change your philosophy on sharing the Gospel message with those around you? Would we take another look at our actions in the workplaces, the classroom and in the home? Would we look to see if our actions matched the words we speak?

Edwards in this resolution poses this question to himself. He states here that no matter what day it is, no matter what time it is, whether he is fully alive or on his death bed, he should be about the Gospel. Just because we are dying we should not gain boldness. It's almost like most Christians feel that "I'm going to die in a few days anyways, so it really doesn't matter if people are offended by what I have to say." In actuality we should be thinking to ourselves all the time about how we can get the Gospel message to as many as possible. Our desire should be to see people die with the knowledge of who Christ is and what he did for them on the cross. Our desire should be to prosper the Gospel message. I know for some there is fear involved and for some we rest in our shyness.Could you imagine if the person who shared the Gospel with you was afraid or to shy?

Biblically we should act like today is our last day anyways. Look at Matthew 24:44, we are called to be ready because we do not know  the day in which our Lord will be coming back. Luke 12:35 tells us to keep our lamps burning and to stay dressed for action. The idea in behind these two verse is that we do not know when the end is coming. The idea here is that no matter what age you are, teen or adult, 20 something or 60 something, young or old, single or married, rich or poor, we do not know when the end is coming. I believe that at the young age of 16 when Jonathon Edwards wrote this he fully grasped this text and tried to live out the implications of this text. Can we say the same?

As I sit here and meditate on this resolution I am asking myself these questions. Am I ready for the end? If I knew the end was coming is thee anything I would change in my life? Do my actions match my words right here, right now? Am I afraid to share life with those who are dying around me? Is my fear keeping me from sharing the Gospel?


August 4, 2009

Verse and a Quote

Verse: Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:2-4)

Quote: “Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” C.S. Lewis

In a world in which you can not bank on anything, in a world where athletes break contracts daily, in a world where most people do not honor their word and in a world where people see love as ........well as Janet Jackson so aptly put it, "What have you done for me lately" we can rest assured that God's steadfast love abides. Our culture has misinterpreted love for this emotional feeling that gives you butterflies in the stomach and roses every other week. Our culture has taken love to be something measured by what people do for you, instead of what you do for them. Love has become something we fall in to and out of just like a person may change his clothes. I am so thankful that God is not that way.

Our God is described as having a "steadfast" love. The word steadfast here means enduring, long suffering and continual. God is described as having a love that forgives our sins. God is described as having such a great love that He sent His son to die for us. God is described as waiting for us to come to Him, He loves us that much.

As I meditated on this thought of steadfast love I couldn't help to think if I model my heavenly Father in that same steadfast love. Am I the type of person that forgives when people do not understand what I say and get angry? Am I the type of person that loves no matter what is going on in a persons life? Am I the type of Christian that loves sinners, hates sin and models Christ before those around me? For you see if I had this steadfast love that god is described to have in the above Psalm, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!"  As I meditated on these words that the psalmist wrote I couldn't help to feel like my love is deficient. I couldn't help to feel that I expect others to show love first so that I can return the favor. I couldn't help to think about what it would be like if our God loved the same way.

I pray that my love would emulate my father. I pray that my love would emulate Christ. I pray that my love would not shame the Gospel message.


August 3, 2009

Early Marriage: Are Christians Missing the Point?

Last week I read an article by Mark Regnerus from Christianity Today titled "The Case for Early Marriage". When I read this article my initial response was, "It's about time!" I have long thought that Christians put to much emphasis on the age you get married at instead of looking at the couples spiritual maturity and can they financially make it work. Now in that I want to clarify a few things that most Christians would say prove the point that these young couples should wait to get married.

First, by spiritual maturity I mean that the couple is growing in their relationship with our Lord and Savior, both individually and together. I mean that they both are active participants in the local church. They both are being discipled and are seeking to disciple those younger than them. In other words, they are walking the walk.

Second, by financial well being I do not mean the ability to purchase a home or condo. I do not mean the ability to afford a new car. I mean that they can support themselves and that they have a financial plan in place. I would be looking for their ability to think realistically about future events such as a baby, completing a degree or career plans than their ability to buy the perfect home in the perfect neighborhood.

My wife and I married when I was 20 and she was 21 and because of the grace of God and not the ages at which we got married, because of the grace of God and not our financial standing and because of the grace of
God and not someones fears about early marriage we will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary on August 5th. I believe that many believers take God out of the equation of marriage and insert their experience or personal belief into the mix. We as believers need to look realistically at marriage and it's intent. We as believers need to be realistic with our children and the youth of our churches and realize we may be harming them more than helping them in making them wait till they are older to get married.

Another good article on this topic was published today by Dr. Albert Mohler, titled "The Case for (Early) Marriage". I hope more people see this topic in a new light.


Verse and a Quote

Verse: "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." (Philippians 2:3)

Quote: "To be humble to superiors is duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors nobleness.” Benjamin Franklin

Humility the one thing that once we think we have it, we have lost it. The whole idea of humility is to act in a way that sees others as more significant than ourselves. This is an area of the Christian walk I believe quite a few believers struggle. When we get criticized, our first reaction may be to defend ourselves or to act in anger like "that person knows nothing about they are talking about." Many people think, "if only you could spend one day in my shoes, boy, then your outlook would be different."

There are other places that humility is seen though, like, when we serve at church, do we see certain duties below us? Do we think that cleaning the bathrooms and taking out the trash is something that a new convert or someone who is new to the church should be doing? Do we think of ourselves as having ascended to a position that affords us ability to only serve in the choice positions at church?

How about in our homes? How do we model humility before our family, husbands, wives or roommates? Do we clean the house without being asked? Do we clean the dishes even if they are not ours? Do we take out the trash when it is full? Do we do all these things with a humble heart, not counting how many times we have done it in the past?

Humility is the act of putting all others above yourself. Humility is the ability to see a need and fill that need irregardless of your position at church or in the family or how much rent you pay. I find myself many times thinking to highly of myself and questioning why I have to be he one to do things. I tend to justify my thoughts by my position, my knowledge or if the act itself is below me. Humility can be a midst in our lives. In the morning before the sun hits it, it's everywhere, but when the sun comes out it burns off quickly. I pray that humility in my life would be evident to all around me and not evident to me.


July 31, 2009

Verse and a Quote

Verse: They are all adulterers; they are like a heated oven whose baker ceases to stir the fire, from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. (Hosea 7:4)

Quote: "First we make our habits and then our habits make us." Charles C. Noble

As I studied Hosea 7 this morning this verse stuck out to me. In the time that Hosea is writing and saying this to the nation of Israel the people would constantly have to stoke and stir the fire when cooking. This would create the desired heat to cook what ever was in the oven. The verse here speaks of unleavened bread being in the oven. So when Hosea here writes that Israel is a heated oven that does not need to be stirred, what is he talking about?

In Israel's case it was a lack of self discipline, a lack of self control and a total giving in to it's sinful lifestyle. They had so given in to the pleasures of the world that they really needed no temptation at all, they would see something, desire it and whether or not it was right they would give into it. In today's culture we would say, "If it feels good, do it" or as a co-worker of mine so aptly put it, "party like a rock star because you never know when your time is up". This is much like the attitude of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21.

I believe that many in the church today have given into some of the things of the world and have lost their ability to discern. I see people who attend churches looking for their pastor to be the next great entertainer. I sometimes feel like we are looking for our evangelistic pastors to be like Bob Barker from The Price is Right and say "Come on Down" when there is an alter call. In many ways our churches have turned into that oven that needs no stoking. We live in an entertainment driven culture that has to be entertained or they are bored. I struggle if I see the church that way. If my pastor isn't teaching and the guy up front isn't entertaining me with his sermon, am I bored or am I listening to what God's Word has to say?

I like this mornings quote, because it states that the habits we sow are the habits we reap. If I sow entertainment in my life, I reap entertainment. If I sow sex and pornography in my life, I reap sex and pornography. The question I asked myself this morning is "what am I sowing and am I a fire that needs not stoking?". I also asked myself, "do I exercise self-discipline and self control or do I give into my hearts desire?"

I pray we all would learn fro Israel and the example Hosea gives us here.