Tag: faith

God, Our Strength

Every now and then, I will sit at my desk, look at some website, news story, or social media post, and feel so helplessly, overwhelmingly disheartened. The surrounding world is rife with hatefulness. It is rife with ignorance. It is rife with malcontent. I listen to my fellow Christians berate each. I watch as they accuse others for lacking faith; for what? For utilizing universal health precautions. For using sound judgment in the face of global catastrophes. I have seen the non-believer and believer, alike, question whether God truly exists and, if so, why does He not seem to care about us anymore.

Confession. I have had a lot of anger towards God. I have felt His hands drop the weight of the world on my shoulders. I have begged for Him to take the cup and offer it to someone else. This year is hard. It sucks sometimes. At a church service I attended recently, the pastor communicated that God absolutely gives us more than we can handle. That’s partly why we’re to turn to Him, to use His strength when ours is lacking. Maybe it’s the whole purpose of faith. Believe, when there seems no reason to, because He is there and He is waiting.

1. God is bigger.

It’s easy to imagine our burdens as giants. They tower overhead, causing us to feel smaller and smaller. What is your giant? What burdens oppress you to the point you want to shut down? Is it a family member? Job? Health concerns? Is it society? How about any of the countless burdens we face in our lifetime? When we do not have God in our lives, or we’re not keeping Him where He belongs, life seems too much. Matthew 19:26 tells us: ““But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”” Likewise, Jeremiah 32:17 states, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” He encompasses us- including our burdens- in His love. We are incapable of enduring all our hurts; our strength is not infinite. God is. God’s is.

2. God keeps welcoming us back into his arms.

Remember the parable of the prodigal son? What about the lost sheep? How about the story of Jonah? Peter? Paul? David? Throughout scripture, God sees us turn away, ignore Him, and go about the world’s business. And yet, every time we turn back to Him, the Father welcomes us into His embrace. I can be angry at Him. I can want to do my own thing. But, God’s still there- the ever-patient parent- waiting for my return. That’s not to say we should live in sin and keep running to Him when we feel like it. No, we should always seek God. We should humble ourselves before Him. But, God knows our sin. He understands us in ways we never can comprehend ourselves. Isn’t that beautiful?

Keep in mind, that’s simply not saying that if we cry out for Him, God will welcome us back. Matthew 7:21 says, “”Not everyone who says to me, ‘LORD, LORD,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Faith and obedience. Living the Christlike life is important. Moreover, believing in it. Believing God sent His son to perish for our sins. Believing that Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father. Believing that God’s plan and His will is bigger than us. And better for us.

I think when we can return God to where He belongs in our lives, we can start seeing just how small our burdens and the hatefulness of the world really is.

The price of Evil: Wrath

” but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Now Cain]talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” -Genesis 4:5-9 (NKJV).

If we look around, if we look to social media or listen to the news, if we step out into the world and just listen, do we commonly witness goodness? Does brother love brother? Or, does he hate him? Do we love our enemies? Or, do we look at those who do not fit into the neat little boxes we’ve constructed around our lives with contempt, fear, or anger? Do we take God’s place as judge? What is the cost?

Here are two questions we should ask ourselves:

  • What harm does our wrath inflict upon ourselves?
  • What harm does our wrath inflict on our enemies?

Let’s unpack these and see what scripture says about it.

Photo by Evelyn Chong on Pexels.com

Let’s look at the following scenario. Imagine waking up, same as you’ve done every day, and after performing your daily routine, you head into work. Imagine that you’ve put in countless hours at the office, helping grow the business to what it is or, at the very least, doing your part to keep the bottom line in the black. Now, your coworker is a particularly unpleasant person, who is quick to underhanded actions and spinning events to suit their favor. Take this farther by imagining this particular person messes up a particularly important report. Instead of taking responsibility, this coworker passes blame to you and, for one reason or another, your supervisor does not believe you. Perhaps they are friends outside work. Perhaps you’ve made mistakes in the past. It does not matter. Your supervisor fires you. Then, as you’re vacating your workspace, the coworker gloats to your face. You lash out angrily in your hurt and are escorted from the premises.

Now, I know that’s a pretty unpleasant situation. Let’s return to our two questions. First, what harm does a situation like this cause to us when we’re in the midst of it? Proverbs 14:17 (NKJV) says, “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated.” Ecclesiastes 7:9 also states, “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” We become foolish when we let our tempers get away from us. In our scenario, we might argue that the person was justified in his or her anger. Until lashing out, no blame rested on the employee’s shoulders. And sure, because of the coworkers actions, this person is now without a job, a way to put food on the table or pay the bills, and will now have their permanent employment record affected. Until lashing out, however, there was no sin on the person’s part. Whether it was physical or verbal, the “victim” acted in such a way to warrant being escorted from the premises. When God tells us throughout scripture to get rid of our anger, how does acting out of it, no matter how justified we feel we are, serve Him? The consequences, beyond the legal and moral, are that we are sinning against God and defying His commandment. How likely are you to repent for anger you feel is righteously gained? How likely are you to repent when you feel your unkind words are justified? Especially when our legal systems back you up? God is not a legal system. God is not a man-made law. He is above all earthly laws. And he says in Matthew 5:22 (NKJV) “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

When we heap rage upon our enemies’ heads, do we serve God? If they are of the world, is it our place to condemn them? As in our scenario, we can agree there are plenty of circumstances where we feel the anger is deserving or our words should spew forth as venom. But, we are to show mercy and forgiveness. Jesus told us to turn our heads and let our enemies strike our other cheeks. Hey, I know it’s hard. I struggle with this myself. Our enemies can look like our friends, our loved ones, our coworkers, our leaders… as we are all birthed in sin, as we are all creatures who are removed from God until we step through the doorway that is Jesus Christ, we all look like the enemy to someone else. When we pass judgment, when we react so poorly, we stop showing Christ to others. We push our enemies deeper into their darkness. We help weaken the thread of spiritual life because we, as Christians, are behaving poorly. Justified or not, we are to discard our hate, our anger, even our hurt. We are to love our enemies. We are to minister to them, even as we bleed, and help guide them to God. The harm- the true harm- comes when we put our own misery above God’s command; then, we are serving our own agendas.

I’ve read that God is love. And I have read that if you hate your brother than you are not of God. We are all Cain. We are all guilty and only made innocent through the blood of Jesus Christ. So I’m going to end with a prayer. You can join me and use it for yourself if you like.

Lord, I come to you in humbleness. I’ve lived a life where my anger destroyed relationships and denied opportunities I might have been given. Lord, help me get past feeling like I have a right to be angry. Help me remember that though someone might slap me, your Son said to offer our other cheek. Lord, I don’t want my anger, my hurt, my feelings to draw me away from your glory. Here, in this moment, I’m leaving it at the cross as you’ve commanded me. I want to be of love, Lord. I want to be among your children at the feet of glory. Amen.

Go with God my friends.

A Travesty of Evil: Pride

Note: This piece was written by Emmanuel and myself as the first part in a series on evil. What follows is a combination of our thoughts to provide you on the concept of Biblical evil, as it connects to present day. This will be the first of a three part series I will be working on over the next few months.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. –Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)

For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. –John 3:20 (NKJV)

I’m going to start this a bit differently than usual…

Lord, during these troubled times, help us remember you will deliver us from evil. Help us to remember that, despite being undeserving of your grace, we still receive it. Help us remember that we are to stand firm in faith, to let the world see we are part of your army. Lord, we see such horror around us. We see crime. We see murder. We see men and women berate and demean others for their skin color, their sexual identities, their weight, their social class… for whatever they choose to justify their own hatefulness. We ask you, Father… we ask you to fill our hearts with love. We sorely need it. Help us remember why you sent your Son and why it is important to show Christ to the world. Give us courage Lord. Because we will not let evil stand. We will not surrender to the wicked. We will not turn a blind eye to wrongdoing. In your glorious name, we pray. Amen.

Lately, when we turn our televisions to the latest news report or hop on social media, we are blasted with the latest atrocity. People cry out only for their voices to drown in a vast digital sea of apathy. Merriam-Webster defines evil as being morally reprehensible and arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct. We are living in evil times, brothers and sisters. But, haven’t we done so since Adam and Eve first sinned? Haven’t we since Cain slew Abel?

Before we delve deeper into our study of Biblical evil and how it takes root in our modern world, we should remember the following:

“And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” – John 1:5 (NKJV)

“The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” – Psalm 121:7-8 (NKJV)

Within these two verses, we see that lines are drawn and forces are given names. As society has progressed, we grow quick to label areas of life gray and not easily defined. These days, even the word evil stirs the cynic in us; only in fiction or when we see truly atrocious behavior by our fellow man, do we wipe the dust off this old concept and grudgingly put it to use. The world, as we would have it, is very gray. But, as the verses above note, light and darkness cannot and do not mix.

Why, then, is there so much evil in the world? Where did it come from? Why is it still here? What do we even do about it?

When we talk about Original Sin, we often point to Adam and Eve, where the couple ate from the tree God explicitly told them not to take from. That is man’s original sin. But what was the original evil? People laugh at the concept of a devil and make light of the name of Lucifer. The spirit world is never taken to be a real place, just a fascinating setting for countless fictions we tell.

Some people believe in it, and some do not. But this does not change the facts: it is real, and things that happen there cause ripples that touch, bless, and destroy human lives.

Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV) tells states, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  It was in this realm of being, that the first act of evil, not yet witnessed by man, occurred. His name is Lucifer, the Morning Star. If Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith,” then Satan is the author of evil. Isaiah 14: 13-14 record his first offense, and the ‘you’ addressed here is Satan:

For you have said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’ (Isaiah 14:13-14 NKJV).

The first sin, before Adam and Eve tasted that fatal fruit, was the sin of pride, of trying to do away with the Creator in favor of creation. Or, perhaps it was the act of choosing self over God. That singular event spawned evil, whatever rises against God and what He stands for. And, my friends, it has been growing ever since then. We, sadly, are born into it. All the more reason to jump for joy at the saving grace of Jesus Christ! It was one, Satan, who brought evil into the world of man, but it is One, Christ, who will redeem any who believe on Him. One thing is certain; no matter how evil the times may be, Jesus Christ is still Lord. Cling to that; please do not forget it.

And let’s go back to that word from earlier: pride. As we illustrate how evil got deeper into our society, through Biblical passages, keep that word in your mind. Just how in the world did Adam and Eve, unaware of the very concept of evil, who walked with God like you walk with your own father by your side, fall prey to disobeying their Creator? After all, He was right there. As close as your breath. Humans long just to feel God’s presence, let alone be able to see Him as clear as sunlight. If we lived in a state of perfection, able to feel, touch, and hear God with all our senses, we would think “I’d never disobey Him.”

But…it happened. Why?

Let’s look at Genesis 3:1-6 (NKJV): Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’? And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

Sound familiar? Satan wanted to be on top, to outdo the Creator. Remember that word pride? Don’t get us wrong – pride is not bad in and of itself. But sadly, we often forget – or simply do not know – that even our accomplishments are the result of God allowing us to flourish or blessing us.

When a child bullies a former friend on the playground, thinking she is better than her. When coworkers laugh behind our backs for being fat and clumsy. When a man lynches another because he esteems him lower than himself. When a husband cheats on his wife or a wife on her husband, forgetting that a marriage is a sacred bond. When genocide is started to remove a supposed threat to a tyrant. If you look deep enough, squint hard enough, you will see the common denominator: the fall of man was (and is) the pride of man. Where are we? Are we standing upon a threshold of acceptance, where we turn a blind eye to evil because it is either too big or too small? There is a spectrum, though stemming from the original source, that seems to diminish evil. Thus, our response differs. Our acceptance differs. Far too often, pride is easier to ignore than it is to address openly. That in itself may be the power of current evil. We cannot address past sins in the way we can address those taking place in the here and now. Our rugs, under which we sweep many things, grow too high. Where is God in this? He is not the savior of brooms. He is a Living God, one who calls us to His higher standard. Can repentance without change truly be called repentance? Can we see eternity at His feet when we clutch to our pride? The point has been and will always ever be Jesus Christ. When armed with God, the Son, and Holy Spirit, how can we not combat the evils around us? And what power surpasses Him? None.  

The Apathy of Indifference

Would you believe me if I told you there was something horribly wrong with this world? A cancer, so malignant, that it’s caused many Christ-followers to lose sight of Him and to think God has abandoned the world? We are a nation of apathy. We are a nation of sin. We are a nation where good men and women wonder where their next meals will come from. We are a nation where parents fearfully wait for a phone call telling them their child has been slain. We are a nation where people are still fighting the race war in a post-Civil Rights era. We are a nation where men and women who are paid to protect and serve, mete out their own cowboy justice. Note, this is not all or even most, but it exists. Finally, we are a nation where hatred prevails and people only want to get involved when individual choice has been removed.

I had a friend tell me recently that those within the New Age movement and those who do not adhere to Christianity are performing the wonders, Christ-followers should be. They prophesize and perform miracles. They pursue the self above all things. My friend saw Christianity as weaker, as not having the strength these other religions have anymore. I understand my friend’s fears. But, let me be clear. God is not playing for spectacles. He is not the next sensational thing. He’s been playing the long game since the dawn of creation.

Let’s look at some scripture for a moment.

1 Chronicles 29:11 (ESV) says, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.”

Galatians 3:28 (ESV) says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

1 Peter 2:15 (ESV) also tells us, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

Basically, our Father has got this and we need to have faith in Him. God does not promise comfort. He does promise to shelter us when we have faith. And, we are commanded to love others. What I’ve seen lately is a lack of love. A lack of human compassion. I have seen men and women belittle others for using precautions. I have witnessed men and women spew filth because someone looked different than they do. Is this of God? Are we really of God when we let our fellow human beings perish beneath the boot of oppression? Ecclesiastes 9:3 (ESV) reveals “This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.”

We have a sin problem. We cannot just sit by and permit God’s enemies to take over. By following Jesus, we are called to a radical change. And if we are all equal in God’s eyes, if we all are flawed and must go through the Son to get to the Father, then there is no justification for the evil we see. So, I am urging you, my friends, let’s stand up for what’s right. Let’s not turn a blind eye until evil is poking us squarely in the chest. Let’s help turn things around so His kingdom overshadows the fear so prevalent in these troubled times.

I’m here for you. Let’s start a radical shift in mentality and imbibe our hearts with the holy spirit. Let’s devote our hearts and lives to God. Francis of Assisi once said, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Let’s start with faith. Let’s start with love. If we put our trust in Him and embrace Jesus’s presence in our hearts, we will see change. We will see hungry men fed. We will see a powerful shift in our public perceptions. We will see ourselves as the tribe of God and soldiers in the war against evil. It’s time to act. It’s time to arm ourselves with the Holy Spirit and shed our apathy. It’s time to take up the sword of Christ and smite our animosity. Live in love. Dwell in the Father. Amen.

Our Stumbling Block

Life presents each of us with a series of events, ranging from the mundane to the extraordinary, that defines who we are. We move from one day to the next, drawing on hindsight for clarity. Humans are incapable of absolute purity, absolute sinlessness, while we traverse this earth. So we get distracted. So we turn aside from the call Jesus has on our lives. The devil’s in the details, right? We are- we should be- better than this.
We are stumbling. As Christians, we know it is likely we will stumble off and on for the rest of our mortal lives. That’s why there is a need for repentance. It is not to provide an excuse- a spiritual loophole if you will. No, it is so we can honestly beseech the Father, our Lord and God, for His mercy and grace. It is our acknowledgement of wrongdoing and the desire to change. Now this is important to keep in mind as we talk about some ugly things.
But first-
Lately, the world has been plagued with a health pandemic that has affected millions, whether through death, economic hardship, social isolation, etc. People have reacted to this in numerous ways, not all of which are good. Regardless of whether you see it as a hoax or as legitimate. Regardless of where your concern for the health and well-being of others lies. Regardless of these, and ugliness has reared its thorny head. Galatians 5:13 tells us “For you were called to freedom brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Likewise, Proverbs 24:16 says, “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he will rise again, but the wicked stumble into calamity.” A much bigger crisis rears its head. It is the absence of human decency and compassion in many forums.
Let’s talk about social media. How often do you read the comments to an article, only to see hateful, angry rhetoric? How often do we see people belittle others because they do not see things exactly how someone else does? I’ll be honest. I have been a member of Christian groups, writing groups, art groups, gaming groups… you expect to see people who only want to stir the pot, just to get any sort of response. We call them trolls in this digital age. But do you know where I saw the most appalling dialogues? Christian groups. From self-professing Christians. I will not discount the good, but there is too much hateful dialogue and rhetoric present for anyone claiming to serve God.
I will not share what I have seen, as it is something you can see for yourself, but there are three things I want to communicate.

  1. No one has the authority to judge the depth of one’s faith. We are commanded to help guide people to Jesus, to make disciples in His name, but we can never know the full depths of someone’s relationship with God.
  2. Hateful rhetoric is not Christlike. Even if you are right, no amount of demeaning talk will make it good. Harshness is one thing. Jesus was harsh. Hatefulness is another. Do all things in love.
  3. We do not know God’s mind. He’s God. We aren’t built to fathom all the threads He holds to bring a given moment to fruition. We can guess. We can take His words that were laid out in the Bible, but we do not and cannot know all.
    James 1:26 tells “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
    Psalm 34:13 says, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”

Proverbs 10:19 also says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
1 Corinthians 2:15-16 says, “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
It is not wrong to hold people accountable. Through Christ, we are given more understanding into the mind of God. But we are held to a higher standard. We can disagree. We can discuss more Scripture-centered processes. We can question. We can even be angry. But we are not God and we cannot know every detail of someone. We cannot know just how much harm our ugly words do; whether they repel those who are not of the faith or they drive away those who are. Oh, I know these times are hard. We all deal with it in some way or another.
But if you think God’s body will not suffer because you belittled someone you disagreed with, if you got on your high horse and decided to mete out God’s judgement, well… maybe it’s time to open the Bible and get down on your knees. We are commanded to live lives focused on building God’s church. Not tearing it down. Throughout Scripture we are called to do things with love. Love can be harsh. Love can seem unkind. But love is not wicked. At least God’s love is not. So maybe, as we progress towards an uncertain future, we’ll draw on Him to better engage with others.

Who you are

  • 1 Corinthians 12:27 (ESV) – Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
  • 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV) – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
  • Genesis 1:27 (ESV) – So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female, he created them.

God knows who you are. He knew all of you before the first beam of light teased the horizon. He knew all your secrets before your very first breath. He doesn’t stop knowing because you stumble or turn away from Him. And, because He knows and loves – He loves you!– the person you are, the person you were, and the person He molds you into, take comfort. God loves all mankind; otherwise, He wouldn’t have sent His son. Remember John 3:16? It doesn’t say any one person or social group. No, God so loved the world. And honestly, that’s made all the difference.

But sometimes, we get lost in our own lives. We stop believing God loves us, because each of us strives to be so different from our neighbors. Or, we stop loving ourselves. Sometimes, we hear all the other voices screaming they know us, that we are this thing or that. To our fellow human, we are the whore, the cynic, the coward, the zealot, the narcissist, the prude, the- well, you get the idea. We adopt labels to make us palatable or pariahs to the surrounding world. When we focus on these, we often lose sight of who our Father knows we are.

Think about one of the biggest stumbling blocks Christians face when trying to connect with non-believers. Hypocrisy. There are numerous forms, but let’s address something- let’s call it the elephant in the room. We are all hypocrites. We are commanded to love one another, to show grace, and come to God with humbleness. But the truth is, we can often prove ill-tempered and graceless. We can interact with those whose presence simply irritates us and draws out unkind words. We may smash our fingers and vomit strings of profanity. We see a buffet and engorge ourselves. We are no better than anyone else.

Even so, Jesus called us to a higher standard; definitely a standard higher than the one the world would have us yield to. It’s because of this higher standard we are call to uphold that our hypocrisy becomes more apparent. Matthew 6:1 tells us to “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (ESV). Humans are fundamentally sinful creatures, who strive for the perfection found in Christ (well, if they have given their lives over to Him). Because we are sinful and prone to old routines, it’s occasionally possible to offend others, right? No. No, we offend quite often. With that being said, we should remember that only Jesus is blameless. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) declares, “For our sake we made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Romans 12:2 (ESV) commands, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed to the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” We will never be good enough by the world’s standards. There will always be some measure we fall short of. Our parents, partners, friends… they will not always approve of our actions, but it is not always due to any shortcoming of our own. People are flawed. People are not God. So, when we talk about how the world sees us, we are absolutely talking about people. That’s not to say we shouldn’t strive for our best. We definitely should! Instead, we need to remember that God and only God knows all of us. Don’t you think if we actually weren’t good enough, He’d have told us already? Do not misunderstand me. We are undeserving of the grace He shows us. That’s why it’s grace and not something we are owed or entitled to. We are loved by Him, despite our flaws. He judges our sin, but welcomes us into His arms when we choose to believe in His son. That’s not conforming to the world. That’s clinging to the higher standards He lays before us.

So here are my recommendations. When you look at yourself in the mirror and start to hear the multitude, remember that our Father knows you. Turn to His gospel. Pray. Live the Christ-fueled life. Hold yourself accountable and if you find that you’re doing things God’s words tell us are wrong, repent. Because in the end, who we are, who we should aspire to be, are the Children of God.

God’s Higher Standard

In Matthew 5. Jesus calls us to be better than the world. He says, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever releases one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (17-20 ESV). Moses laid out the laws in the Old Testament. Jesus made it so much harder to keep to God’s law with what he said in the text following verse 20. As sinful creatures, we cannot possibly keep God’s law 100% of the time. That’s where Jesus swoops in and covers us. We are held to this higher standard, but He paid the price when He died on the cross and rose from the grave.

It is infinitely more important to know and accept that Jesus died for us than it is to keep to the old covenant. That is not to say that following the standards laid out for us throughout scripture is not important. On the contrary, it is very important. But Jesus is the WHOLE point. His sacrifice was the fulfillment of prophecy and He is the only doorway to the Father’s kingdom. So don’t you think Jesus Christ is absolutely more important than… well, anything? I’d say so!

Ah, but we live in the world. We have social media and magazines emphasizing toxic self-image. Have we considered the damage things like Photoshop and SnapChat filters have done to our self-esteem? We hear we are not good enough. We hear that we aren’t smart, pretty, whatever enough. These are distractions. Were we not worth the Son of God dying for us? (The answer is yes. Yes, we were and are.) We are better than the world because we stand on the side of righteousness. We stand on the side of the highest standard – God’s standard – and so our individual shortcomings really pale beside the awesome might of our Holy Father.

And yet, we human animals constantly disregard this in favor of the standards we find in the world If we are great at our jobs, we can earn that bonus or higher salary. If we are pretty enough, we can attract that new romantic partner. If we are quick enough, we can get to the store for that last roll of toilet paper. Because the world has its own standard, we lose sight of God’s standard. Ever is the power of rationalization as present as it is when we have another bill to pay. God’s commandments don’t carry the same weight when we have to scramble to make end’s meet just to keep the air conditioning running another month. How about when we have seen loved ones abused by those who should look out for their well-being? The world says we can achieve any dream, but really, most people are merely looking to get by.

We forget the Lord is still with us. He tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Brothers. Sisters. I tell you this. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 ESV). God has not abandoned us. This world is our testing ground. Until our last breath, we shall find things to distract us from the higher standard that comes by living a Christ-based life. Time will chip away at tour dedication. Not always with that devil on our shoulder either. No, more often than not, it will come in perceived necessity and when all cards appear stacked against us.

Have faith. Recenter daily. Pray for direction. And above all, remember that Jesus Christ died for us, so we do not have to live the proverbial checklist. Just accept Him and allow the Holy Spirit to transform your life. Because God’s standards are worth banking eternity on.