Tag: radical faith

I, Disciple

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 20: 18-20 NKJV)

We’ve gotten off track. We’ve blinded ourselves to God’s truth and to the commandments he’s placed on our lives. We’re too busy getting by to realize God is trying to settle the bill on our soul. We’re too self-involved, trying to build our kingdom, so we’ve forgotten we weren’t called to rich and fame. No, we were called into the discipleship.

I wrote this piece a few years back. Curiously, I felt God putting this back in my heart. Not as it’d been, but more, better, bigger. I’ve been struggling with faith lately. As many know, 2020 has been a hard year. We have a major pandemic afflicting the world. We Americans had an election. There have been mass killings. There has been so much evil. And many of us have just given up. But, if you believe in God, if you want to follow the teachings laid out in scripture, I’m here to tell you God knew this year was going to be like this. He knew and still called us to serve.

If you were ever told following Jesus was easy, someone lied to you. It isn’t easy and it isn’t supposed to be. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be the GREAT commission. Faith requires fire to temper it and hardship to test it. So, how do our lives really serve God? Sure, we go through our hardship, but the end goal is not a closeness with Him; it’s the paycheck at the end of two weeks and a few days breathing room. That’s not putting Christ before ourselves. Christ wants our discipleship, not adherence to our daily idols.

But, what is a disciple? A disciple is a follower of Christ. Jesus laid out the requirements to be a disciple in Luke 14:25-35. You have to love Him more than anyone else. I love my wife more than anyone on this earth. Except for God and his glorious son. Next, you have to deny yourself and take up the cross. Our comforts, ambitions, and perceived necessities pale in comparison to doing His work. You have to forsake all you have. That’s not a call to live in squalor. It’s more that our material possessions have become our idols and the gods we sacrifice to. Finally, you have to count the cost; do you truly have what is needed to follow Him? Are you in a place where you’re willing to let the frivolous go and set out on a truly great adventure?

Discipleship is not easy. To truly follow Jesus, we must understand that our priorities need realignment. We spend our free time playing video games, existing on social media, socializing with friends, and just going through the grind. It’s a daily struggle. It’s easy to get bogged down and forgetful. It doesn’t always seem like things are preventing our pursuit of God. We go to church, maybe even join a community group or Bible study. We talk about Jesus and His love from time to time. But our passion and devotion fixates on the lives we are living. It’s on accumulating things that will make our existence on this planet just a bit more bearable. So what do we do? How do we really follow Jesus and throw away the things that shouldn’t matter?

I think it comes down to realizing that nothing outside Jesus Christ can save our souls. Sure, having money, friends, and things to do improve the quality of life. Being able to pay our bills ensures comfort we’d not have on the streets. But, having faith in God’s Son ensures our souls enter into the holy doorway so we may join Him in the kingdom.

I am not saying we should not take care of our responsibilities.  Bills won’t stop coming- boy, we wish they would! But, we have to decide where the glory goes and who we’re really seeking. Are we seeking God’s glory or our own well-being? Now, I’m burdened by the sheer apathy we see in Christians. We want His blessings, but we’ve formed gods out of the day to day things. We have lost true discipleship and many have traded true discipleship for getting by. Are we any better than Judas, selling Him out for our 30 pieces? Christianity is not about our convenience! It is not. If we waited for our time, if we waited until we felt ready, then our new gods and idols will have won. And, if we keep waiting, we’re not talking to others about Jesus. Or, to use a phrase I’ve heard recently; we’re not sharing our Jesus story.

Faith isn’t just a battle. It’s a street fight. We are going to get bloody and wounded. The world is going to be at our throats. Its god will scrabble for your soul. Who will win? Jesus? Or, these things you sacrifice to every day? When we’re living a life based on our own needs, God tends to tumble- no, we shove Him- to the wayside. Don’t have time to talk about Jesus today, have to pay the power bill! I understand. I really do. I’m sure God does too.

However.

Name one time when He tolerates putting anything above Himself. Remember Luke 16:13? You cannot serve two masters. Now, I don’t want to sound preachy and patronizing. I’m not telling you that life is fair and you can do better. I’ve worked sixteen-hour days to put food on the table only to realize it just isn’t enough. I have woken up angry because I didn’t know what to do about bills due several days before a horribly insufficient paycheck. It isn’t fair. It’s easy to put these things first, to hope something better comes along. When you’re weary and miserable, do you really want to read your Bible and give thanks? Do you really want to tell others about how loving our God is? Not always.

To make disciples, we must first be a disciple. We must talk to our Father. We must talk to our spiritual leaders. We must pray. We must read our Bibles. We must strip away the excess. We must submit to His authority. And we must not let our sin get in the way of bringing others to Him. Friends, we live in a world that’s hellbent on crushing us, on distracting us with pleasure and pain, so there are no real warriors for God.

To be a disciple, we must first love God. To love God, we must first know Him. To know Him, we must read His word and pray. Also, we must risk looking foolish for His glory. I think it’s a perfect time to turn this around and give our lives back to Him. That way, it’s not just God’s Great Commission. It’s ours too.

A Convicted Pursuit

“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12:47-48 ESV).


It is easy to wake each day and play make-believe, to pretend we can just get through the day with our heads tucked between our legs. It’s easy to pretend we do not need God, that He isn’t in control of this domain. When we turn on the television and see violence spread across every news report… when we log onto social media, we’re immersed in hateful rhetoric and comments that are decidedly not Christlike. However, God sent Jesus down among us to save the world. I repeat, to save it.

Christian Evangelist and author, Leonard Ravenhill once said, “Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?” Where do your convictions lay? Merriam-Webster defines conviction as the state of being convinced or a strong persuasion or belief. Do you believe God so loved the world He sent His only begotten son? Do you believe we all fall short and are saved only through grace? Or, do you feel He has abandoned us? Do you see these horrendous events and doubt His imminent domain? I hope you haven’t lost the conviction our Father is here, reaching out to take you in His arms.

It saddens me when men and women are so beaten down, they resort to looting and rioting in the streets. As it saddens many of us. Remember that we should be, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 2:2-3 ESV). Many grow hungry. Many fear this breath will be their last. Many are afraid for their lives when they walk through their own communities. But, hallelujah! Christ is risen from the grave. No matter what hurts we endure in this life, He has paid a higher price than any of us.

Matthew 20:28 (ESV) tells us, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Likewise, Hebrews 2:9 (ESV) says, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Our savior laid down His life on the cross so we could be saved under the new covenant. When we are convicted to live a Christ-led life, these evils we see in the news stop having power over us. We show compassion to our brothers and sisters, because Jesus died for them, for us, for all.

There is no color code for God’s grace. There is only light and darkness. Throughout the centuries, people have laid down their lives for one cause or another. People have fought against oppressive regimes. The holy Father has been present for all of it. He directs us back to scripture, to the words of love. When we condemn others to suffering, are we living a convicted faith? I do not believe we are. When we remain silent in the face of evil, who wins? Surely, it is the great enemy, that clever ol’ serpent.

I want you to remember this from 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV): “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” We’re all going to get knocked down. We’re all going to lose more often than we win. But, when we put Jesus in our hearts, when we let go of the hate, we will only ever win the battle that truly matters. The battle for our soul.

Now, as we press forward, brothers and sisters, know I am with you. You have a friend and ally in me. No one should live in fear.

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.

Hope in God’s Domain

It’s important to remember one thing. This is God’s domain. If this is God’s domain, then we know He is in control. Perhaps that is something we all should keep in mind. But we keep forgetting in these trying times. I get it. Times are scary. Some of us are isolated. Some are forced into interaction with others, risking onset of COVID-19. I am sorry for whatever you’re going through, but remember, this is God’s domain.

In Isaiah 41:10 we’re told, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Psalm 46:1 also says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” How about this from Philippians? “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Far too often, we try to put ourselves on tier with God. Hey, I’m guilty of trying to exercise my own sense of control when the world- when life- throws another curveball. We cannot wrest control from our Father’s hands. No matter how strong we think we are, He is stronger. No matter how capable we are, He is so much more capable. Trust me when I tell you I know how hard it is to accept there is anything out of my control. But I am not God and when I submit to His grace, then I cannot truly claim helplessness. Do not be anxious. Do not hold to the might be’s and what ifs.

Many of us have plausible excuses for holding to news reports and social media posts. We need to know what’s going on in the world around us. We are social creatures who feel a compulsion to stay plugged in. I ask you this. Is it drawing us closer to God? Does berating others in the comments section that’s present pretty much everywhere showcase God in our life? God allows the negativity, but He does not condone the sin.

I think during these times we really need to focus on God’s word. We need to think on what is good and true. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Is God good? Nahum 1:7 says so. Mark 10:18, 1 Peter 2:3, Psalm 86:5- I could go on, but you see, He is so very good! And true. And noble. All these things. Certainly God and His Word is praiseworthy? In Revelation 4:11, we hear, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” He certainly is praiseworthy!

When we start to grow restless and decide to venture out into the world, God is still deserving of our devotion. He doesn’t lose sovereignty simply because we are sick or going a bit stir crazy. We do not give God His sovereignty. It is and always has been His. He hasn’t lost control just because we can’t stand the way things are anymore. And you know what? When events settle down to where they seem less turbulent, He will still maintain just as much control as He does right now. Complete control.

That is what is good and right. He is our constant. He is our North Star. But it’s up to each of us to wade through life’s murky waters and clutch to Him. We’re in His domain, remember?

On burdens and testimony

Do you wake up each day, only to feel the weight of yesterday pressing down on you? Do you feel alone? No one can possibly understand how you feel? Do you wish you could go back to sleep or never wake at all? Do you cry, scream, or maybe just linger in unmoving catatonia? Do your burdens make you older? Do they steal vitality from your body and vibrancy from your being? Are they your shield against God and the rest of the world?

Thomas Watson once said, “The more the diamond is cut, the more it sparkles: the heavier the saints’ cross is, the heavier will be their crown.” At no time has God promised us an easy life without burdens. In fact, life pursuing Christ is- and should be- rife with suffering. Romans 5:3-4 tells us, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.” 1 Peter 2:21 says, “To this you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” The world hates Christ and, if we are truly afflicted with the desire to follow them, it hates us too. A Christ-follower endures great suffering in His name. Romans 8:17 says, “and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

It is easy to get lost in our burdens, to think we suffer for no reason. Whether we wish to acknowledge it or not, everything happens for God’s reasons. It’s far easier to get lost in drink and drugs, television, or any number of distractions to avoid the growth desired of us. Yet these hardships are necessary.

Point 1: Our burdens are necessary parts of our testimony

Our testimonies are important. Understand though, they pale in importance to the Gospel. The Gospel is the point and the message we absolutely must share with everyone. For the longest time, I only saw the testimony as our story. Nothing more significant than that. Yet, what if I posited that our testimonies are tools to forge perspective to the Gospel? Scripture is a wonderful pathway to the heart and mind of God. For many people, they are just words. The nonbeliever struggles to see the gravity in those words. Sure, they can tell the Christian believes- or should be able to see- but it isn’t the same. It’s knowing of without really knowing. 2 Timothy 1:8 tells, “Therefore never be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, his prisoner. Instead, by God’s power, join me in suffering for the sake of the gospel.” The perspective comes when we realize our scars show the depth of our commitment. It is easy to claim faith, to profess love, when life seems so much smoother. But when there are more reasons to give p and run from God, but you still cling to Him… the testimony becomes sharper, the image clears. The testimony is not just backstory, it is the living, the doubts, the joy- all things- that push you from and pull you to God. It is a living thing. And in that way, we may connect to the Gospel as the Living Word. Our testimony is not lessened by the doubt and hurt. No, it is strengthened by us intentionally turning to the Father. Our pain is necessary. It make sour need that much greater.

Point 2: All to the Glory of God

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Philippians 1:12 tells us, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” When things go wrong, people watch how you respond. It serves God when we lay our burdens at His feet. We show our trust. We show our surrender. We show our love. There is more power in belief when we don’t feel reason to have it. Matthew 5:14-16 reminds us “You are light for the world. A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven.” Christ-followers must take hold of their hurt, lay it at His feet, and adorn the armor so they- so we- can take His word into the dark and set a beacon. We cannot flourish in the shadows; its easy to wallow in our burdens and let the shadows flourish. Nay, we must take the Gospel and let God’s glory batter the shadows into submission.

So, I’m going to end this a little differently. I started writing this with the need for catharsis. My own burdens threatened to overwhelm me. At first, being a sinful human, I wanted to wallow in my own anger. I wanted to wrap myself in the hurt and deal with things on my own. God will let us try, but He has the strength to help us deal. My testimony, my life, my hurt… it’s not for me. I had to acknowledge this before I could really start writing. Turning it over to God isn’t always easy. It’s not second- nature. It runs against our sinful, self-important natures. Life is meant for God’s glory and we never have to carry the burdens alone. So I started writing. And I’m ending with this. We can carry our hurts for as long as we choose to and, in some respects, we will always carry them with us. But, if we are to follow Him, we must stop hiding in our suffering.