November 29, 2011

A Reminder of WHY

Lately I've been shopping, hunting, exploring, and giving thought to the idea of completely redesigning my blog - like hitting DELETE and starting from scratch. There are a lot of reasons behind this - mostly having to do with my inability to stare at the same thing over and over for too long without going completely crazy. Ideas are still on the table. I'll keep you posted. But one very good thing this has all caused me to contemplate is a simple question: Why am I writing this blog, again? Why do I spend my time with this? Why did I start this in the first place? Is that reason still the same reason I have for continuing on? And (thankfully) after much soul-searching and prayer, I believe the Lord has rejuvenated my heart through the simple reminder of the small seed of a thought that ignited this in me just a few years ago. Jesus put it this way: "The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'It's over there!' For the Kingdom of God is among you - in the midst of you - is IN YOU!" The Kingdom of God has arrived. Not with pomp and circumstance or through some mighty wave of military strength. Through the coming of His Spirit, God has strategically placed His Kingdom in the hearts and lives of His people. And wherever we goes with us. 

The thought occurred to me just a few years back that I'm called to see every facet and aspect of my life through the lens of the Kingdom that I'm living in - that's living in me. It changes the way I see things - the way I talk to people - the motive I carry into the relationships I build. And maybe my lens has gotten a little dirty and needed some cleaning. 

Kingdoms exist to advance a cause and to exalt a king. The Kingdom we live in - HIS Kingdom - overpowers them all! But not through physical might or force, but through the power of the movement of the Spirit of God in the hearts and lives of His people. And if you're a follower of Jesus Christ, that's YOU!

I want to see life through this lens.
I want my life to look different - like something has changed me. Not as a facade, but because it's actually changed me. HE has changed me!
I can't help but see things differently. 
His Word won't allow me to just keep looking at it all the same.

I love how the NLT phrases Matthew 6:33: 
"Your heavenly Father already knows your needs, and He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern."

Seek first the Kingdom of God.
Wherever you go...BRING THE KINGDOM!

November 22, 2011

Seeing Our Sin

Sin is blinding. Like a Chuck Norris knuckle punch straight to the eyeball.

Sin taints our view. It keeps us from seeing clearly. Like when my son borrows my sunglasses for 10 minutes. It's as if someone told him, "See how many fingerprints you can smear on those lenses. Hurry! And make sure, whatever you do, don't touch any other part of the glasses except the lenses! Your Dad loves fingerprints!" Forget about it. You're not going to see your hand in front of your face. This is sin. It completely distorts and corrupts the way we see things. Everything!

Sin settles. It removes us from the presence of a Holy God. It refuses to "abide in Him". Sin causes wandering sheep to run like cheetahs away from their shepherd. Although I would love to see an actual sheep in a dead 60mph sprint, when that sheep is you or me...and we're moving in the opposite direction of our Protector and's dangerous.

Sin excuses. It whispers excuses in my ear. It gives me multiple reasons and rationalizations - all of which are still, at the end of the day, sin.

Sin not only refuses grace - turning it's back on grace extended - but it also refuses mercy - turning it's back on extending grace. Sin blinds us to our own shortcomings, while magnifying everyone else's. Sin points fingers. Sin points very big, stiff fingers.

"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is a log in your own eye? Your hypocrite, first take the log our of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." - Jesus (Matthew 7:3-5)

"You know that He appeared to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him.... No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." (1 John 3:5-6, 9)

When sin blinds, distorts, excuses, settles, and corrupts our view, there's not enough Windex in the world to wipe those windows clean. ONLY the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient. 

Lord, help us to see our sin when it separates us from You. And to restore our brothers and sisters when they are led away. Transform us! Help us to see our sin...and to remember that Your Cross and Your resurrection wiped it away. Thank You, Jesus, that You have given us victory over sin and changed our view forever!

Dig Deeper
1 John 1:5-2:6
Hebrews 9 & 10
Romans 6 & 7

November 17, 2011

(More) Conviction Confusion

I think there's been some confusion. And if I'm being honest, I think I may have contributed to the confusion. When you come to that realization, there's really only one option: attempt to clear it up. Over the last weeks I've written several posts on "Convictions". When I use this word, I'm referring to the idea that as a follower of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit leads us and guides us into how we should act, speak, walk, and live. Decisions aren't made flippantly by rolling dice or flipping a coin like Two-Face on Batman. We've been given the Word of God and the Spirit of God to birth conviction in our hearts over certain matters. Not only in a recent blog post, but in previous posts and in sermons, I have made the statement that there are 2 clear biblical principles when it comes to the issue of alcohol and drinking:

1. Drunkenness is a sin.
2. Drinking is not a sin.

What I need to convey in this post is simple: Principle #2 is not always true!

Romans 14 begins with Paul telling us that some of us will be convicted not to eat or drink certain things and others will sense the God-given liberty to partake of those foods or drinks AND the one person should not judge the other for their abstinence or their liberty. So when your interpretation of the scriptures is that drinking is permissible for some, and your personal conviction is that God has given you the liberty to drink, you come to the conclusion that "drinking is not a sin". While that may be true for you - if you've actually prayed over the issue and sought out the leading of the Spirit - for the person who has also prayed over the issue and sensed clearly that they have NOT been granted that liberty, for that person, to drink would simply be sin. So to make the blanket statement, "Drinking is not a sin", is a short-sighted, sometimes UNTRUE statement. This is another great example of why ALL of scripture has to be taken into account. If you read on in Romans 14, Paul also says, "Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind" and that "each of us will give an account of himself to God". He goes on to say that "...whoever doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." 

Here's the skinny: If you've prayed over an issue like drinking - asking God to reveal to you what He is allowing in your life - and you sense a liberty to partake, do it with faith, and do it with sensitivity to those it might cause to stumble. But, if you have prayed over this and clearly sense a call and conviction to abstain from it, to partake of it is sin. Plain and simple.

Have you asked the Lord what He desires of you in these matters?
Are we respecting and trusting others to seek the conviction of the Spirit?

"So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding."
"So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up."
Romans 14:19

November 16, 2011

A Welcomed Warning

I love how life can often seem to swing things from one end of the spectrum to the other. Quickly! My last set of posts were addressing the issue of convictions - not only praying over our own, but trusting the Holy Spirit to speak to other Christians in certain areas. And understanding that my convictions are not always going to be everyone else's. It's not supposed to be that way. (Why am I going off on this again?) Back to the reason for writing today. I'm seeing more and more evidence that there's a clear lack of understanding with some Christian's that there's a difference between a brother or sister in Christ confronting sin in your life (&) someone simply being judgmental. I have a few thoughts about this and would love to hear your input.

First off, scripture makes it clear that if we call ourselves Christ-followers - if we claim the Spirit of God is living within us - we have opened ourselves up to the confrontation of sin in our life. Obviously our first desire should be that our life be rid of sin (Romans 6, 1 John 3). Along with that, scripture not only exhorts us (Hebrews 10) to "admonish one another", it even gives us clear instruction on HOW to approach and confront each other when sin has taken root (see Matthew 18:15-18). What kills me is when I hear someone, after being confronted over sin in their life, say, "Who are you to judge me?" or "Didn't Jesus say we aren't supposed to judge each other?" What this shows is not someone who's been immersed in scripture and being led by the Spirit, desperate to know the heart of God on in their life, but someone who's living in sin, possibly apathetic in their faith, and defensive from being called on it. There's a HUGE difference!

Jesus speaks clearly when He tells us in Matthew 7 that "with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged". Understood. But admonishing and confronting a "Christ-follower" to stop walking in sin is not judgment: it's (supposed to be) a welcomed warning! And we're called to usher this warning to our brothers and sisters in Christ. In 1 Corinthians 5:12, Paul says, "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?" In other words, when a person within the body of Christ is living in sin, the body of Christ is called to confront the sin. (Paul actually even goes further with it and tells the Corinthians that if there isn't repentance, "Purge the evil person from among you!") How's that for judgment?

Here's the thing: As a follower of Jesus Christ, if there is ever anything in my life that even resembles sin, I want to know about it. Because I want to purge it from my life and get as far away from it as I possibly can. I want to constantly have a heart like David in Psalm 139 as he cries, "Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test my thoughts. See if there is ANYTHING offensive in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. And if my response to a brother (or brothers) in Christ coming to me in love (which takes a TON of courage, by the way!) to confront sin in my life is to defensively cry, "Who are you to judge me?", all this does is affirm it loud and clear. That's not humility and holiness talking. That's pride and apathy. That's sin.

Do you want biblical instruction, correction, and exhortation in your life? Do you welcome the warning? This is a question - as Christians - we have to answer.

November 7, 2011

Conviction Confusion

My last 2 posts have dealt with our convictions and how we express them. I feel I need to clarify that this is NOT commentary on whether or not we should preach the Gospel &/or speak words of truth to others. That is our calling as Christians. But it is also our calling to "speak the truth in love" and to trust that it is the Holy Spirit that actually does the work. Sharing our faith and imposing our convictions are 2 completely different subjects. In this post, I'm focusing on the latter.

We could grab one of a hundred different issues: gambling, what movies or TV shows we watch, the music we listen to, dancing, and on and on and on.... These issues (and countless others like them) are what we can label GRAY areas of scripture. The reason for this is because there is no "Black & White" rule in the Bible that says you can or cannot participate in these things. What scripture does teach is that we have been given the Holy Spirit to discern what God desires of us in these matters. And because I believe it is probably the most sensitive subject in this area, let's taking drinking as an example. 

There are 2 major Biblical principles regarding drinking:
1. Drinking is NOT a sin.
2. Drunkenness IS a sin.

That's it. That's what we have to go on. And as Christians, we are to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us in knowing whether or not we have been given the freedom to participate or the conviction to abstain and refrain. But because this is not a post on Drinking, I'm not going to go much deeper into that subject. What I do want to look at is Paul's directive to us about our convictions and how we live by and share those convictions with others. 

There are 2 people in this world that will be subjected to your life and convictions: Christians and others (or "the lost", as we all them). It's important to understand that the idea of imposing our "convictions" - Spirit-led beliefs - on someone who isn't even filled with the Spirit is ridiculous. If someone is not even aware of their sinfulness, they're not going to see it as sin. And your convictions aren't going to get them there either. The message of Jesus Christ and the power of the Word and Spirit of God - the Gospel - are the ONLY thing that bring "many sons to glory"! But back to those 2 types of people, the others are Christians. And in Romans 14, Paul puts it this way: "As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand." To further expound, the NLT translates that last verse as, "The Lord's power will help them do as they should." Think about this for a moment: Often, when we impose our convictions on other Christians, it's because we don't trust them to make the right decision. If we're being honest, we think, "There's no way they've prayed about this!" And we might be right. But if Paul's statement is true - that the Lord is able to make each of His followers stand - that it's the Lord's power that causes us to do as we should - isn't it in all actuality that our imposition is exposing that we don't fully trust God? Isn't it that we really, in this person's case, just don't think He can handle bringing conviction into their life as He's done in ours? 

So again, let me make sure a few things aren't misconstrued:
  • If you're under 21 years old and drinking, you're in sin. (See Romans 13)
  • If you're providing someone under 21 with the opportunity/ability to drink, you're in sin. (Read Romans 13 with group 1)
  • If you're using your so-called "freedom to drink" to get drunk, I will go out on a limb and tell you that I don't believe for a second you've prayed about this conviction. You're just living how you choose to live. There are consequences! (See the whole Bible)
But, if you and I wind up at the place where we believe that everyone should hold the same convictions about every issue that we do...the bottom line is...we aren't trusting God. His Kingdom doesn't look like this.

Agree? Disagree?
Would love to hear your thoughts.

November 2, 2011

HOW Overpowers WHAT

In my last post I talked about the danger of our own convictions becoming a "hill to die on" - becoming our "cause" - which in turn leads us to believing that everyone else should share our convictions. Romans 13 says there is danger in this. If you missed it, read that post first: When Our Conviction Becomes Our Cause

Yesterday I talked about my neighbor's posted front-door protest: WE DO NOT OBSERVE HALLOWEEN! Which was followed by an explanation of why you shouldn't either. Some things just rile us up, don't they. We go from sensing that something is not quite right for us (or for our family) to believing it is our mission in life to convince the whole world that our conviction is most certainly what God intended for the whole of humanity. And sadly, we don't know how we even arrive at that place. We just wind up there. On a corner with a poster. In a free speech area with a bullhorn. Posting a sign of protest to our front door. And as I said in my last post, our motive and intent is nowhere near being rooted or grounded in hate. But - whether we intended it or not - that's how it's coming across. And this is why we have got to begin realizing that if HOW overpowers WHAT, our message will never be heard.

99% of the time a politician gets publicly angry...and it shows...I stop listening.
When I discipline my children in anger, I wind up hurting them more than helping them.
When we post signs of protest, 99.9% of the time...NO ONE reads them!

And when we attempt to communicate the love of Christ to the world through judgment rather than love, our message is never heard. More important, HIS message is never heard! Remember that Jesus himself said, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:17) Trying to communicate a message of LOVE in a spirit of ANGER makes no sense. ZERO! Yet, people do it every day. We stop paying attention to HOW we're speaking, walking, communicating, acting, living...not realizing that the most important WHAT in the history of the world - the love and redemption of God through His Son, Jesus Christ - is being buried, covered, and smothered. Lost in translation.

And all of this hinges on another vital question: WHO are we trying to communicate with? If we're hoping our message reaches the eyes and ears of the lost, what is the message going to communicate to them? More on that later....)

Have you seen HOW overpower WHAT?
Have you been guilty of this in your own life? (I know I have.)
What steps can we take to walk and live in intentionality to share the love of God and the message and hope of Christ with others?

November 1, 2011


Not many people thoroughly read and study Romans 14. I don't know this because I walk around asking or surveying; I believe this with great certainty based on the evidence I see in many of our lives - and moreover, our attitudes and reactions to other people's lives, habits, and convictions. I also strongly believe this because of the tendency with many to believe that their convictions should be everybody else's. And as this happens, our conviction turns into our cause. We move from personal (private) conviction to open (public) soapbox. And sadly, what is most likely our motive - defending what we think is right - becomes not only clouded and muddied, but invisible and completely lost in translation. Let me give you an example.

Last night Morgan and Libby went "Trick or Treating". (Already, someone has read this and winced.) In our neighborhood, they approached a house where the lights were on, the family was in the yard having a good time, but there was an enormous sign on the door that read: WE DO NOT OBSERVE HALLOWEEN! (followed by a descriptive explanation of WHY you shouldn't either.) My wife watched as a few very young kids approached and said, "Trick or Treat!", only to hear one of the family members mumble under their breath, "Can't you read?!" My first thought upon hearing this story was, "NO. They CAN'T read! They are 6 year olds!" But what's more painful in this story is the stark realization that I don't believe for one second that my neighbors' desire in all of this was to communicate hate or anger. But that's exactly what was coming across. And the plain and simple reason why this happened: Their conviction had become their cause!

Please hear me: I'm not saying that there aren't some things in this world we aren't supposed to speak out against. Standing up and saying that abortion is wrong - yes. Defending the orphan and the widow from oppression and hunger - absolutely. Doing everything in our power to eliminate slavery and human trafficking - without a doubt! But the lines begin to blur when our personal conviction over whether or not to dress up like a Power Ranger and roam the neighborhood in pursuit of sugar (or) to lock our doors, turn off our lights, and pretend we're not home becomes our mission in life. When we start thinking that everyone else needs to care about the environment as much as we do or that everyone else should give to the humane society or that every living breathing human being owes it to the world to protest gambling, prohibit the sale of guns and alcohol, or to publicly renounce Halloween, our conviction is no longer our conviction - it's our cause. And when we MAKE our conviction our cause, we begin to believe that it should be everyone else's conviction. And there is grave danger in this!

"Those who think it is alright to eat anything must not look down on those who won't. And those who won't eat certain foods must not condemn those who do. For God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn God's servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let Him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord's power will help them do as they should." (Romans 14:3-4

I've wrestled and struggled with this before myself. Have you?
Has your conviction become your cause?

More to come....