Should we as Christians celebrate Ash Wednesday or the season of Lent?

While it has become a popular thing to celebrate among Evangelical Christians, Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Season is not something we should be too keen on celebrating. Most do not know that it is a medieval ascetic practice. An ascetic practice is when we try to discipline our body by putting major restrictions on it in order to achieve a higher spiritual state. With Lent, we are to fast for 40 days, or as it has changed in modern times, give up something that may be hard to give up. Lent in it’s original context as given by the Catholic church calls for very specific areas of asceticism.  (CCC § 2043) The fourth precept — “You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church” — ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts.”

While I am not saying to practice Lent is a major sin, you need to see what the New Testament says concerning how we should proceed. It is important to weigh any and all “church tradition” against scripture and hold fast to scripture far and above what man tells us to do. What I am calling for is a “take back” of what it means to “take out” Satan in an area of our lives. There are things that the world has bastardized and I feel strongly about redeeming things when necessary. This may be an instance of redemption of terms. Let’s take a look at what God says:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5)

The Bible also states:

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:16–23

Taking back Lent really only means we are considering the original intent of why a group of men decided to ask their congregation to practice this in the first place. We must also consider these passages:

for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8)

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27)

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

CONSIDER THIS: Jesus came and lived among us as a man. Think about that for longer than a second or two. Would the President of the United States ever decide to go live in the slums of New York? Or would the Queen of England give up her comforts in the Royal Palace to live with the servants? NEVER! But God did just that. He gave up everything, EVERYTHING, to live a life we could never live and die the death we deserve. This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Not every Christian group observes this season, but this year I am encouraging you to look at what it means and why so many people “give up” something for the Lent Season (40 days leading up to Easter, technically 46 counting Sundays). People give up things for various reasons based on self-denial, penance, fasting, reducing sin, etc., etc. I often hear of people giving up things like chocolate, favorite foods, sugar, alcohol, procrastination, lying, gossip, road rage, and all sorts of other “things” that tend to spike sin or give us pleasure. While I suppose these are good ideas I’d like to look at some ideas that may be a better consideration to bring you closer to God.

As I mentioned, Jesus came and gave up everything. Satan tried to tempt him over 40 days with all sorts of things. He is the great deceiver. For us Christians he is no longer the great deceiver, but is most definitely the great distracter. He has figured out how to get us distracted from our work, distracted from our first love, distracted from serving God only. What is your distraction? TV? Facebook? Instagram? Strava? Sports? iPad Games? General Cell Phone Use? What takes your time? Look at your days and your week. You sleep 8 hours, you work 8 hours or are a full time mom, you do other life things like commute, eat, shower for about 2-4 hours. What do you do for the other 4-6 hours a day? Only you can answer the item that is a thorn in your side at this moment. What is your distraction? What do you tend to get sucked into? OK, do you have it? Write it down right now. Stop reading and write it down. (PAUSE)

I challenge you to give that up now. Don’t consider it a Lent activity, but commit to break the hold Satan has on you in this area. But don’t just give it up and replace it with something else. Replace it with time with God in prayer, reading His Word, serving or in outreach. If you are giving up a large chunk of time, like 3 hours a day of TV, then break it up. Read your Bible for an hour a day, read a book about theology, and pray more. If this is too large to handle, then take the 3 hours and give half to God. Watch TV for only an hour and a half, and spend the other time with God. Same with athletic training. If you still need to train, consider taking a portion of that time and giving it to God. Figure out something that is doable but that is still a sacrifice to you. It should not be easy. Then do it! Constantly remind yourself of all the things Jesus gave up for all of us. If you are brave, I encourage you to comment below with the item that you want to give up. The benefit is that we will all be praying specifically for you to stay strong. Let’s do this together and honor God in our sacrifice. Let’s not allow Satan to win his war on the saints of distraction warfare. Place God first! Resolve today to become a better ambassador, a stronger believer, a more faithful Christian.

White Space and the Imaginary Trophy Case

I’ve chosen to live my life with a lot of white space. I see my friends rushing around like crazy people always busy busy busy. The idol of the American Soccer Mom is her family’s imaginary trophy case. Trophies such as: How many after school activities can my kids participate in? How many meaningful classes and programs can I fit into my life to show the world I have purpose? Forget keeping up with the Joneses, I want to be the Joneses. This seems like the battle cry, or rather exhausted sob, of practically everyone I know. Depression is rampant, child medication is necessary, and anxiety over a self-conceived world that is spinning dangerously close to the edge seems the norm these days.

I’ll have none of that, thank you very much. I’ll take lazy mornings reading and praying. Days spent in my most comfortable clothing working in a career that I’d do for free if I could. Enjoying long bike rides and talks with my best friend and husband. The ability to be home to emphatically greet my child as he rushes in the door from school to give me a big hug. Afternoons spent hearing about the happenings of the day and being read a night time story by my 8 year old. Being available to my community. Going to bed when I choose and sleeping like a baby without any stress of the days to come because I’m free. 

All this is because I look at all the white space in my calendar as a gift. That space is precious. It affords me peace. It allows me time to be able to help someone in need. Living counter to what culture has dictated I should be doing, allows me to do the things I want to be doing. Give yourself a little more white space this season. Look at every “yes” you want to commit to and reconsider it. Is it your best yes? Edit your life. Ruthlessly cut out the things that are not your best yes and fill up your calendar with as much white space as possible. Pruning can be painful, but the beautiful growth that occurs afterward is worth it!

Misguided Passion and Zeal

I can be overly zealous about things; seriously passionate. Why is it that being passionate about other religious traditions or our careers is acceptable, yet being a complete sold out Jesus freak is not? Paul writes about his own misguided passion and zeal to the Galatians in verse 1:14 when he talks about his former desire to uphold his ingrained education and tradition. He states, “And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.”

The Galatians were being reprimanded by Paul because they were turning back to their old customs. They were living in bondage again to the Hebrew customs rather than living free under the grace they obtained through the gospel. Paul needed to tell his story rather than just point the finger. Sometimes it is very helpful to others to understand we understand what they are going through because we went through it ourselves. The passion and zeal is not bad, but where it is directed may be. Today, anything done with passion surrounding the true gospel is risky, even within some church groups.

My jealousy for Jesus in a group setting of other “Christians” has been asked to be tempered several times. Perhaps it could cause someone to stumble or perhaps it upsets the “come enjoy our casual church” feel they are trying to promote. Some Christians are looked at like fanatics, lunatics, and freaks, but people who are passionate about any other religion or thing on this earth are praised as driven, passionate, and are applauded for their efforts. The temporary ruler of this world has only one desire and goal, to get us to turn from Christ and turn to anything and everything that is a false hope or false pursuits in hopes of never allowing anyone to see the Truth. Be on guard, Christian, in every situation, and keep your eye trained on the One who is Truth.

My Obsession

How often do we become obsessed with something, someone, or some purpose in our lives? We become highly convicted that it is right; we are right. We hustle and chase after a big dream only to find out that, in reality, we are chasing after the wind. We may not figure this out on this side of heaven, but our hope should be, as Christians, that the Holy Spirit inside would reveal when an obsession becomes an idol. The obsessions in our lives are the very things that have the potential power to take our eyes off of what is truly important. 

Paul was obsessed with keeping to his Hebrew scholarly convictions until Christ revealed otherwise. Paul needed to remind the Galatians how fervent his dedication to Judaism was and how he was wrong. Admitting when you are wrong is a big thing in Christianity. He needed to lead by example just as Jesus did. In Galatians 1:13 Paul writes, “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.”

I can relate to Paul. I am so super opinionated and sometimes violently uphold my position. I am so enamored with Christ that all I care about is his glory. I say that with a bit of trepidation because that is how I would like to see myself but my spirit knows I fumble every day. That is the beauty of sanctification. I try to be bold for Jesus. I want to violently destroy the works of Satan. I also need to admit when my fleshly desire to be right gets in the way of the gospel message. 

Father help me to be an excellent ambassador for you. Help me to help others see You; to see You in your magnitude. Lord you are everything and I am nothing. I am your slave — your fully sold-out-to-you slave. I want to be excellently obsessed about you, for you.

Heartbreaking: Have you tried to put God on his knees? The Bible says MANY will try and be shocked at the outcome.

Paul was one of God’s chosen men to share the true gospel. He was one of the original first converts in a very different way than the other apostles who walked with him for 3 years. Paul wanted to be clear, when he wrote to the Galatians, that what was revealed to him was not of man but of God. In Galatians 1:12 Paul states, “For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ himself gave it to him. 

In today’s world anyone who says God spoke directly to them, as in they heard an audible voice, we usually deem as not true. Why? There is no reason for God to be showing up in that way since we already have everything verified. Throughout history you will see God showing up in miraculous ways and audibly speaking to prophets, yet only at specific times, with sometimes hundreds of years passing without a word. We are living in possibly the longest length of time that there have not been major breaks in natural law, so of course we are skeptical when someone says they “heard the voice of God.” 

What about back then? I wonder how they felt. Were they skeptical? They must have been dealing with massive disbelief. It was so radically different from their foundational and traditional beliefs. To hear the gospel back then, breaking of natural law would be a benchmark to prove its veracity or truth. I wonder what ever happened to the other men who were with Paul on the road to Damascus? Did they become converts too? They all fell on the ground and the other men with him experienced something too. They saw the drastic change in Saul (Paul). They must have been dumbfounded. 

Are you saved? Have you been plucked out of the grip of Satan and given a new life in Christ? If so, then God chose you too! Not in the miraculous, blinding, way He approached Paul, but in a life changing way none the less. If you think about your conversion and then think about your life now, if you do not see any radical change, especially if you have been a “Christian” for a long long time, I encourage you to consider something important. The Bible says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old self has passed away and the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) This has to happen. Jesus himself said you must be born again to new life. (John 3:3)

If you have passed that off by saying “We all have a different conversion story and not everyone’s is a major shift,” I encourage you to take a step back and read your Bible again. I hear this time and time again in the American Christian circles. “I’ve always been a Christian.” “I got saved when I was 5.” “I grew up in the church, my dad was a pastor.” I am not saying for sure you are not saved, but you may want to check to see if you actually are bearing fruit. Do a fruit audit. Check to see if you are in the faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Work out your salvation with massive respect for who made you and the simple fact that you cannot put God on his knees before you and decide if and when you get saved. It is up to Him to call you. It is up to Him to bring the dead to life. God is sovereign. Study what that means. The magnitude of the importance of this is too huge. The ramifications are too important to let this slide. Yes it is scary and hard, but a blessing none the less. 

Can I do something as loving as I can think of for you? If you grew up in the church and were saved at an early age, may I be so bold as to throw a red flag on the play? Spend time to evaluate yourself. My heart breaks for the many, not the few, but the many who will some day stand in front of Jesus calling him a good friend, thinking they are saved, only to hear him tell that person to get away from him, and that he never knew them. (Matthew 7:21-23) Heartbreaking. Just heartbreaking. Don’t be one of the many. Be among the few. Ask the Holy Spirit to do a work in you, ask Him to reveal the absolute Truth to you. You will be blessed!

What is Truth?

Man’s gospel is not God’s gospel. Be careful to know the difference. Moving forward Paul is clear that the gospel he teaches is not from the false teachers, but only from God. In Galatians 1:11, Paul writes to the Galatians, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.” God and God alone has given him the Truth. Paul again is asserting that he was given authority by God. He wants them to know it is counter to what man would have them believe. While on the surface it may seem easier to be saved by grace and not works as the false teachers were trying to get them to believe, the gospel Paul is teaching is a harder truth and more difficult path. The Truth of the gospel is nothing that could have been conceived by man. Based on what they were believing in they were having a hard time letting go of old customs and living in the freedom of Christ’s grace. 

It is easy for us to get sucked into the world view of Christianity. There is a desire to add to the gospel as “Jesus and”. Our minds may still have a hard time, even after conversion, believing it is “Jesus alone.” Ultimately, we are under Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Our spirit entwined along with His Spirit fully understands that it is a life lived by faith alone, but also knowing that faith is not alone. We see the proof of this in our spirit’s desire is to obey His commands. This, however, is where a pure desire from Christians could become a heresy to those who only identify with Christianity as their religion.

Consider a person who identifies with the Christian faith. On the outside they look the part, and they even feel the part. They are a part of everything Christian: church, service to others, they give offerings and read the Bible. They pray and wear a cross on their neck. They are in with God, right? Interestingly even if they have all the right check boxes checked, the one that is the most important is the Holy Spirit. If that person is not truly saved, the Holy Spirit will not be actually guiding their steps. Their hearts desire would not be to please Jesus in full. The motive behind their obedience is like gross used diapers to God. In essence and in reality, their “good deeds” are considered worse to God than if they did nothing. 

On the other hand, a truly saved person, filled with the Holy Spirit, cannot wait to fulfill the desires of God. Yes, our flesh scratches at the surface often, but the Holy Spirit trumps all. We ultimately desire God’s will above our own. A life lived in step with the Holy Spirit is a life honoring to God. A life that becomes angry at a lack of respect toward Jesus and cannot bear to see Him slandered is a life honoring to God. A life lived with conviction to learn more about Christ and to be ever more sanctified month by month, year by year is a life honoring to God. A life truly lived with a desire to be an ambassador to God and not to self, to glorify God and not self, to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” is a life honoring to God. 

Honor God my friend. Pray that God would reveal Himself to you. Pray for wisdom to do His will. Pray for more faith. Pray for more of His Holy Spirit to guide and protect your steps. Man’s gospel is not God’s. Man is fallible. If you want to be certain you are not believing in the wrong gospel, you only have but one thing to do: read the entire Bible, cover to cover, as often as you can.

People Pleasers are the WORST and I am the front runner! 

How often do you run around all day doing things for your kids, your husband, your mom, your friends, your church, and your kid’s school, only to land on the couch at night exhausted realizing you really did nothing in that time to serve yourself. We live in a world where it is honorable to give give give but then we hear our self-help gurus trying to remind us to put the oxygen mask on first before we help others get theirs on. If mom isn’t well, no one is well. Fill up your cup so you can fill others. The inspirational quotes are endless. It is interesting that they are missing one major point. They are all very short sighted. It would be like telling your cell phone to charge itself before it can help you. How could it? It is not the source of energy. Neither are you! Focusing on yourself first won’t really help all that much. In the short term it can help, but over the long run your self-help books, self-service in the way of reading a book, getting a massage, taking time our for you, will do nothing for you unless you are plugging into the Source.

Paul states in Galatians 1:10 “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” The more you focus on man, whether others or self, you will not be focusing on Jesus. By trying to please people, we by default, will not be pleasing Jesus. You cannot serve both. The rub comes when we start to live this out. By simply trying to please Jesus and do what He wants, others will get their feathers ruffled. You will start to experience in a small way what religious persecution feels like. Paul could have very well gotten persecution from both sides. The Jews were mad at him for hanging with the Gentiles and teaching them that the old customs were no longer necessary. The Gentiles were mad at him because he was telling them they were following false teachers. He was Truth with a capital T everywhere he went and humans who are not the children of God didn’t like it. 

Sadly today we try to be a slave to everyone and anything. Many of us are natural people pleasers. People pleasers usually have an interesting double edge where they don’t want to upset people, however in their eagerness they end up upsetting the people they only wanted to help. We need to look to the Source and remember the only One to please is God. Ask yourself this simple question every day: is everything I am doing today something that brings glory to and is pleasing to God? If the answer is no, then reset. Redirect your intentions and rework your schedule around the pleasure of God… not you, not man. Pleasing your husband or serving your kids is something that can be pleasing to God. The key is motive. If your motive is to please God, your intention and attitude will drastically change. Do everything as if you are doing it for Jesus! (1 Corinthians 10:31)

The Sad Reality of Churches in America Today

Heresy is drastically on the rise across America. Mainstream media and some “Biblical Pastors” such as Joel Olsteen and Benny Hinn show us just how easy it is to create a “feel good” gospel centered around self rather than Christ. Man-centered theology is an oxymoron and should not be tolerated by any Christian. We must diligently watch out for heresy in your church and in ourselves, too. In Galatians 1:8-9, Paul was making his condemnation doubly clear, when he states basically the same sentence twice, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

By stating the same thing back to back, two times, he is in effect giving them a harsher condemnation. He was making certain that the Galatians knew there was no fudging on this area. We see this in scripture only a few times. Like in Philippians 4:4 where he says “Rejoice in The Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” His repetition also implies that having false pastors (preachers and teachers) in our church is something that could and would happen often and without notice. It seeps in so insidiously.
It is so hard to decipher if we are under sound preaching. We assume our pastor went to seminary and was taught only Biblical truths. We assume, and rightfully so, that they should know more than us and that they have our best interest in mind. However a look at the path the American mainstream church has taken, we ought to think twice and take another look at our own church. We must be good Barreans and do the work ourselves. But how would we know if we have placed ourselves under a pastor who is unknowingly teaching a false gospel?

Sadly many do not. They just go to church and bible study and let others tell them what they should believe. We assume that verses such as Acts 20:29 couldn’t apply to our pastor (a “fierce wolf”). This is why it is so insidious. It seeps in through self centered behavior that comes with power. Man craves it and it is one of the easiest ways Satan gets into the heart of man (even the elect!) Think about it. Does your pastor teach directly from the Bible or does he teach topically on every-day issues then throws a verse or two in? He may even throw 20 verses in, however you can always tell if what they are teaching is man-centered or God centered. How?

Are you ready for it? Be honest with yourself on this one. When you go to church are you interested in what the pastor has to say? Do you like what he is preaching? Do you feel good after the message? Did he give you sound advice on how to be a better person in society? The time has come my friends, where people want to hear from teachers about things that they need help with to feel good. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” 2 Timothy 4:3.

Men behind pulpits will rise up, preaching with passion using the Bible as their cloak. “And from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Read my books and do my studies they tell their people. Has your church turned into a self-help program? Many have. The monster churches (mega) of today are frightening. Yes, there are a few that are mega and still uphold the true gospel, but again, they are few. You can tell by the conviction they teach. A God-centered message is full of conviction, not ear tickling.

Consider Jesus’ own ministry. He did not say, “Come, hang out, I’ve got a bounce house for the kids, and we will be doing a carnival for the family, and oh, by the way, follow me, it’s fun, I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life.” Nope, I still can’t find any of that in the Bible. He said things like, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53) Jesus also said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

Jesus also said things like, be overjoyed when you are persecuted on His account, and when someone hits you on the face, turn and allow him to hit your other cheek, and how about loving your enemies, or that all other religions are false (no tolerance from Jesus on this one), or that your pursuit of money is a pursuit against God. People should be up and leaving right in the middle of a sermon! That is the mark of a good pastor: teaching the truths Jesus taught might just cause people to leave. It weeds out the flock. It is a good thing! Jesus’ ministry had MANY people leaving from teaching that were too hard to hear. Man gets too hung up on staying in the black, filling the pews, having more “amens” during the sermon and more pats on the back after.

John 6:60 states “When many (MANY, not some) of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” And again in verse 66, “After this many (again MANY, not some) of his disciples (not just random people listening but his DISCIPLES) turned back and no longer walked with him.” {!!!!} This should knock the breath out of you. They turned back! They NO LONGER FOLLOWED HIM! Wow! Do you understand now? Take a good hard look at who you are placing your soul under to teach you about God’s Truth. They are just men. Not only do you need to make sure you trust your pastor and make sure you find a good one who is above all else humble to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, but also become a student of God’s word. Not a student of commentaries, but a student of the Bible. Read it. More now than you ever have before. It is THAT important!

Swing that bat!

Anyone, no matter who or what they are, should be handed over to God for destruction if they are preaching a different gospel other than the one from Jesus. Paul, to the Galatians in chapter 1 verse 8, states, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Paul is holding this so seriously that he says that person should be cursed if he or she preaches a false gospel. Even if they are an angel from heaven. The idea behind being accursed is that the person would be handed over to God without any hope of redemption; they would be committed to destruction. This was a bold and harsh statement but it was the reality then and is the same reality now. 

Paul is my kind of person. He does not sugar coat things. He tells them the truth with boldness and shocking reality when needed. The letter to the Galatians is written with a sense of urgency and no time for pleasantries, and Paul’s eagerness to get his point across is intensified because of his love for them. He had a right to come at them with such power because he already built a relationship with them and knows that they know the Truth because he was the one who shared it with them. 

How often has our passion as Christians been right, however directed at the wrong people. I remember when I first became a Christian, I literally could have written the name Jesus on a bat and hit people over the head with it and that would have been less intense than what I was doing. I was so intense for Jesus and wanted everyone to know, but I was directing it at the wrong people, in the wrong way. Taking Paul’s direct approach would only work with people you have a strong relationship with and who already received the gospel of Truth. 

When I look at Christian’s today, the pendulum has swung drastically the other way. They take the world view of Christianity and apply it to their brothers and sisters in the church. They don’t judge. They don’t get involved. They don’t want to ruffle feathers. Take a play out of Paul’s playbook and find your courage! Be bold and speak up if necessary. If a sister is in sin, is in your church, and claims Christ, you have a duty to talk to her. We read Matthew 7:1 and think it applies to us but fail to continue to read on through verse 5. Read it now! Really. Go look it up, then come back… We are commanded to help take the speck out of our brother’s eye after first taking the plank out of our own. We misread this passage to simply mean we should leave it all alone. That could not be further from the truth!

The only way we are going to bring on a greater revolution is if we clean up our acts. Start reading the Bible thoroughly and often. Meet with a group of Christian friends with intentionality. Give each other permission to call each other out. Meet once a week and share a personal weakness. Become accountable to each other. I cannot tell you how often I meet with women who do not even know what to say when you ask them “How can I be praying for you this week?” It is as if no one has ever asked them that question before. It is too personal so they give you some general request for their child or their husband. Ladies! LET EACH OTHER IN! Share in one another’s burdens. Be each other’s strength as Christ has called us to do. Three chords are not easily broken. Do not forsake meeting together. Pray for one another. Be together, be one in Christ, be strong, and we will all fast become a modern day revolution giving glory and honor to Christ alone!

Do you really know the Gospel message?

God created everything. He created this earth and everything in it, including you and me. He created us in his image meaning we are smart, we are willful, we have emotions, and we have an internal compass that helps us intuitively know right from wrong even if we were never taught these things. God created us to be holy too, because He is holy. Holy means to be set apart, to be pure. We once were fully 100% holy and pure. But remember, God made us willful and smart in his image. Even though he created us, we somehow decided we knew better. We were deceived into thinking we could control our lives without God; that we were right, and his commands to us on how were were to live our lives were optional, so we did our own thing. We went left, when God clearly asked us to go right. 

That one decision to live outside of God’s will (the rules he set for us) caused us to no longer be pure. We were now on our own. No longer able to be with God. We willfully separated ourselves from God in a selfish act of desiring to be our own master, our own god. Through this departure from God brought massive consequences of sin. No longer were were following the righteous will of God, but the sinful will of our own flesh. Sin became the outpouring of who we are. Sin, while often thought of as an act, is the essence of who we ARE. Sin is our state of being. Sin means we are no longer holy, we are separated from God, on our own, living for ourselves 100% of the time. 

This sin state of being has horrendous ramifications. It manifests itself in different ways for different people. For some, sin shows in big ways that we all know and hate such as murder, rape, and grand theft. However, for the majority of us it manifests in small ways, such as white lies to get out of a parking ticket, stealing office supplies from our work, “borrowing” music and movies illegally on the Internet, cheating just a bit, or a lot on our taxes, making false insurance claims to get a better outcome, gossiping about a friend to make ourselves look better, all in an effort to live a life that seems to be free but is full of bondage. Sin is a lifestyle marked by self-serving behavior. Again, sis not an act, but it is who we are. It is the very fiber of our being.

If you were to vote for a new judge for the Supreme Court Justice, I would bet you would not vote for one who uses the slogan, “Vote for me, All go free!” That would defeat the purpose of a judge. We want the most impartial judge. Our souls still cry for justice when we, or a fellow human being are wronged. God is the ultimate Judge. He created you, He created me. Because He created us all, that means He has ultimate ownership, authorship, and He can do what he likes with us regardless of what we think because that is fair. When I create art, a meal, a child, I am in charge. I am the authority over that creation. I decide where it goes, what it does, and how it moves forward. I am in an authoritative position over anything I create (within moral reason with a child, but I hope you get where I am going here). 

It is the same right of God. If you agree that God is the Creator of this world, including you and me, then we must agree that God has an authoritative right over all of His creation. Ultimately that is why sin is considered, by the vast majority, to be a bad thing. It must be punished. Sinful acts are an outpouring of our sin nature. Our desire to be in charge and our desire to do what we want rather than what God, our Creator has asked us to do, deserves punishment. We do not deserve a get-out-of-jail-free card simply because we are “pretty good”. He is holy, yet we are no longer holy. We cannot be in the presence of God without judgement. There needs to be a reconciliation in order for us to be right before God again. A created thing that goes rogue, deserves to be found and put down. We deserve death, which would be our jail sentence. That is what Hell is all about. Hell is our prison cell. We get a glimpse of what it is in the Bible, and believe me, you do not want to go there. Just a few descriptive words about it are enough to make your skin crawl: eternal damnation, weeping, gnashing of teeth, eternal fire, unquenchable thirst. This jail cell is where we are all headed for eternity because of our separation from God. 

Here is where the reality of our state gets wildly interesting and almost too incredible for words. God is love. He is not just loving, He does not just love us, but he IS love. He is the very source of love. He knows we are weak. He knows we need Him. He knows our flesh is strong. He stepped in and did the one thing we could never do. He came down to live among us perfectly. He sent his only Son, Jesus, God in the flesh, to live a perfect life. Something none of us could ever do. He lived literally a perfect, sinless life. He was our proxy. Then, in an inconceivable act of mercy and grace, He died the very death each and every one of us deserve to die. He was guiltless. He lived the life we never could only to die the death each of us should. Death on a cross. A horrendously humiliating, excruciatingly painful and draw-out death. He reconciled my life, He reconciled your life to God through His death. He paid our penalty. He satisfied the Judge. He stepped in for us!

As if that were not enough, Jesus came back to life. He defeated death. He defied nature. He is a living proof of what we get to experience some day. It almost seems too good to be true! It seems like a great fairy tail. But it is real. The veracity of the Bible, the actual life, death, AND resurrection of the man Jesus has been documented and proven even by those outside of the Christian faith! So why are there millions upon millions of people who still don’t believe and may never give their live to Christ? Our sin nature is so deeply rooted and woven into the fiber of our souls that we want it not to be true. God still gives us a choice. He still gives us our will. Our will wants to satisfy ourself. Our soul cannot and will not bow to another. The throne room of our hearts already has someone firmly seated on it’s seat: ourself. There is hope, however!

God calls His children. One by one, His Holy Spirit convinces and convicts us of our sin, of our need for holiness and righteousness, and He presses on our heart the very heavy burden of our sin and need for judgement. The Holy Spirit works in us, quickening our heart to desire after God’s heart. He shows us the reality of our sin and the glory and splendor of what it means to be free of that burden. The simple yet profound act of placing our life in the hands of the Almighty God becomes a 180 degree shift from self to God. We must turn from our idol of self and turn to a life where Jesus is the only One able to sit on the throne of our heart. We must raise the white flag, admit that we were wrong, seek forgiveness from our sin, and admit that ownership is not ours, but our Creators. We must trust fully in Jesus. We must follow hard after Him knowing others will despise us. As a follower of Jesus, we now recognize the futility of living for our “self” and realize the beauty of a grace and mercy-filled life of living for God. 

Friend, if you are on the wrong side of this, I implore you, by the mercy of God, to get reconciled to God. Place your trust and faith in Him alone. Turn away from your sin and yourself and turn to God. The peace and love and mercy and grace will wrap around your heart and give you courage and strength to follow hard after Him. There is no magic prayer. There is no “ticket to Heaven” only to go back to a self-serving life. If you have raised the white flag, read the Bible. That is how God speaks to us. Pray all the time, talk to God, ask for Him to forgive you of your sin. Ask Him to give you faith and wisdom to do His will. Share with others what you have found!