New year, same God…

13 01 2014

This will be brief. It is 2014 and I am overcome with hope. It all began with my New Years celebration with friends down at the beach. It was your pretty typical celebration. Shiny hats and noise makers abound, loud music, embarrassing dancing, and to my sad amusement, a number of drunk individuals. We were at Pier Park for the “beach ball drop” at midnight. All the way up to the last 5 minutes of 2013 I managed to simply enjoy myself and the company of friends. However, during that blasted last 5 minutes I stopped dancing a stared down the countdown clock and the tens of thousands of people surrounding me. I became quite contemplative, reflective, and yes even emotional. Such is life inside my mind.

As I stood there literally watching the year tick away, gazing across a sea of people, I became overwhelmed by the Spirit of God. I instantly became repentant for numerous failures(many of which I am sure I don’t even know) in the past year. I also began thanking the Lord for so much growth and numerous blessings in my life. The most important probably being him blessing Kristina and I beginning our relationship and the subsequent beauty it has brought into my life. I remember my one thought that was cycling through my head and occasionally escaped my mouth that last 5 minutes: “Lord, let 2014 be yours!” Now I believe it was his long before I decided it should be and let’s be honest every moment is his. I simply wanted to come into agreement with the Father in this truth in my life. In fact, I began to pray far beyond my life. I thought about the sea of people around me. So many surely saw New Year’s as merely a reason to have a good time. The full beauty of newness cannot be imagined outside of the reconciliation God is working with his creation(Col. 1:19-20). I began to pray for the masses around me for eyes and ears to be opened by the grace of God to his redeeming love. I prayed that these wandering souls would know what it is to be a new creation in Jesus(2 Cor. 5:17).

I rejoiced because I remembered that the Lord is still in the business of making things new. He is reconciling all of  creation to himself(2 Cor. 5:19). That means me. That means you. That means every tongue, tribe, people, and nation! Let us pray with this goal in clear view this year. Let’s work, pray, and trust the Lord to this truth in 2014. I am believing that by the grace of God I will move to a new level of glory this year. I am believing this for you as well. I am believing that he will call the lost and unreached multitude unto himself and that he is going to use us, the Church, to accomplish this. What a privilege to participate in God’s mission. Rejoice with me in these things, brothers and sisters. Pray with me. My hope abounds as we move into a new year. The glory of the Lord will shine and his kingdom will advance. Lord, let our year be yours. Happy New Year and God bless.





Doubt, discipline, and 10,000 reasons…

29 05 2013

When I look at some people or peoples in the Bible I have a tendency to shake my head and look down on their faithlessness. However, the Lord often suffers the same faithlessness in me as I stumble down the path he has laid before me. He is full of grace, freely given and undeserved(Rom. 6:23). I really just want to challenge you all not to doubt the Lord’s provisions and his will. This sounds so cliché and elementary, yet that thinking forgets the depravity of our hearts and minds(Psalm 53:3). I can only speak for myself in this and I sincerely hope that none of you that read this can relate.

I forget so easily with each new step of glory that I have no good except the Lord in me(Psalm 16:2) and that my salvation and renewing occurs in and through the grace freely given(Rom. 12:6). The second pride creeps in is the same moment when I must repent of my sinfulness. In this state of self-righteousness is where I lose my faith. The Lord reveals a part of his will, yet because of my pride I doubt the possibility of accomplishing the task or the goodness of his way! How ignorant and faithless I am to assume such absurdity. I recently received a prompting from the Lord to do something that sadly met me in my pride.

I have to return home for an indefinite period of time to get some necessary work done and I fly out 4 June. I have struggled with this trip. I will not be able to return here until I complete the work I have before me which realistically could take me anywhere between 2 to 6 months! When I first received the news that I couldn’t return until the work was done, I immediately doubted the Lord’s ability to accomplish the task in my arrogance. I just as quickly repented of this faithlessness, but that sinful reaction was still my default! I shortly there after received the amount of work I have to do. Ashamedly, I doubted his provision and will in my life yet again. And again I immediately repented. Nevertheless, I clearly lack sufficient faith and am completely dependent on his grace. As I dwelt on my sin and how it was so second nature to see such a feat and doubt the Lord, I began to think about the Israelites in the wilderness. They were constantly given grace and miraculous provisions(Ex. ch.13:17-ch.14; ch.16-ch.17:3), yet when they came to the land promised to them by the Lord and the spies returned with their report, all but Caleb and Joshua doubted the Lord’s provision again(Num. 13:25-14:11).

And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have done among them? I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”  -Numbers 14:11

As I thought on this verse and my own doubt I began to remember the provisions I have received in my own life. I have seen the manna fall, the quail delivered, and the water spring from the rock, yet I still doubted him to provide in this new situation! Lord have mercy on my soul! The beauty is that his grace is sufficient(2 Cor. 12:9) and he is merciful! If you know the story in Numbers, Moses interceded for Israel and God pardoned his people according to that intercession(Num. 14:12-20). What vigor that should stir in us to pray for both our brothers and sisters caught in sin and for the lost around the world. Amen?

I have come to a place where my prayer is not ultimately for the provision of God in the task at hand, but rather for more faith in him and his will for my life. If the Lord’s lot for me is to stay in the states for 2 months then praise Jesus, and if he has me stay for a year then praise Jesus. His timing is perfect and so much better than my own(Isa. 55:9). Alleluia! I must learn to trust in this truth. I must remember the provisions of God I have experienced in my life. I must never forget that the Lord’s gifts are extravagant! We must remember these things. They must draw us in to obedience and fervent prayer for his presence and will in our lives.

Practically speaking, what can we do to increase our faith? Prayer and fasting are the first things that come to mind, but we must make requests rooted in the Holy Scriptures. Our participation in these disciplines can be taken by the Enemy if we are not rooted in the Word. That said, let me share the thinking and scriptural promise that I lean on for my request for more faith. This is an issue existing in the depths of our hearts. The only thing capable of changing our hearts is the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ(Eph. 2:8). This faith grows as we seek Jesus and revere him. Our reverence grows as we act in the spiritual disciplines such as the study and meditation on the Word, prayer, fasting, worship, confession, simplicity and so on. It is here that I lean on the promise of the Lord in his Word.

“The Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” -Hebrews 12:6

Let us pray for the discipline of the Lord! He disciplines the ones he loves and he withholds his love from no one. I am in prayer for deeper obedience and discipline as I attempt to “abide in him”(Jn. 12:14). He is faithful to give me this according to his Word. As we work and he increases our discipline, we inevitably will increase in our reverence of him. As our reverence and knowledge of Him increases and as we remember the provisions of times past our faith in Jesus in the present will increase. When we come upon a test of faith we will not be ashamed in sin and doubt, but rather we will glorify God(1 Pet. 4:12-16).

Let us be vigilant and honest about our doubts that they may be confronted in the light of Jesus where darkness and evil can never prevail. I hope that you all will bring to the front of your mind the constant need of more faith in Jesus. I pray that in difficult times, you would recall the countless provisions and blessings the Lord has poured out on you. If you are struggling with doubt or just desire more faith I pray that the Holy Spirit would teach you discipline in your abiding time with Jesus. May his presence increase your lives and may his will overtake you all. He is so worthy. Amen.

Here is a song I have been listening to in relation to this post. We truly have 10,000 reasons. Remember them. Enjoy.





Step into the Light…

29 04 2013

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

I have been speaking to friends and colleagues lately about sin and how our whole life is a constant battle with it. The conversation moved toward our inability to fight sin on our own. Of course, Jesus is the only way that we are forgiven of sin and in Him we have victory over it, but as anyone even mere days into their walk with Christ knows this is not some magical shield to sin and is certainly not the end of temptation. I would argue that the deeper into Jesus’s will for your life you go the more violent and frequent the temptations you face become. Why would the Enemy spend his time and energy tempting those already under his will. No, he wants to see those that have seen the truth of Jesus to fall back into his kingdom of darkness. This leads to the practical way we can combat our temptations whatever form they take.

When people think of combating temptation to sin they often exasperate themselves in inadequate techniques of self-discipline. I fully advocate for discipline, but use it wisely. Discipline yourself to the study of and meditation on the Scriptures (Joshua 1:8, Matt. 4:4). Many victories over temptation have come from the recitation of scripture involving the current temptation. Memorization of the scriptures is nothing new, and certainly not of little importance. Jesus did it! So many of His responses to inquiries and temptations were recitations of God’s Word. Discipline in fervent, effectual prayer is also good and many do this. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible is a short, top-notch lesson on this particular discipline. The list of things go on and these disciplines are good and effective and needed. However, when it comes to sin we often forget about the corporate disciplines. What role does the Body have in my personal battle of temptation? That is what I want to emphasize in this blog. I don’t wish to waste my breath on my personal reasons supporting confession. My word and opinion holds little authority. However, the Word of God is the authority for all realized or not, so let us draw from it.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. -1 John 1:5-7

I do so love the Word.  This passage isn’t talking about a general following of the Lord. It is speaking specifically of bringing sin into the light in confession. And it is putting a heavy emphasis on confession at that because in the following verses there is a parallelism. Specifically verse 9 calls us to confession as well. This is not speaking of confession to God alone as there are clear communal implications as the writer says “But if we [confess]….we have fellowship with one another.” Even further it speaks of the discipline of confession allowing our sins to be washed away by the blood of Jesus. Let us stand on this promise as we confess to one another our struggles in temptation and sin. May we “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” that “Christ may shine on us,”(Ephesians 5:12-14).

I in no way want to dwarf the importance of our confession to the Lord Jesus. This is a crucial step in the forgiveness of our sins. In Psalm 51 David says, “Against you and you alone have I sinned,” and “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” according to Paul in 1 Timothy 2:5. So please do not hear me saying that confession to Jesus is of no concern. It is of the utmost concern to any that wish to receive salvation from sin and death. That being said, confession to Jesus is not mutually exclusive with confession to one’s brother or sister in the Body. In fact they compliment each other in their own beautiful relationship.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. -James 5:16

The Word of God doesn’t get clearer than this. We are to confess our sins to one another and pray for the grace of Jesus to cover those sins. The same can be applied to temptation as prevention of sin. My brothers and I that are here sharing in life’s adventures and joys together also share our burdens. As we feel temptation of any kind come upon us we go ask a brother for prayer or if we are alone we text to bring to light before our brother that we are struggling so that they can pray, and what is great is that you can’t take back a text message. Later we will be ask how we handled said temptation. Put into a simple analogy, if someone else’s cookie is sitting next to you, you are far less likely to take it if they can see you. That was a sad attempt so here is a better explanation from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“A man who confesses his sin in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.”

In this statement we can see the relationship between confession to God and our brother. All that we do and think and have not yet done or thought is already known to God. Our brother’s presence is what allows us to bring temptation and sin into the light. Let us now recall that “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” Confession to one’s brother very tangibly proclaims that sin has no power in the realm of the spirit or on this Earth. Alleluia! The only question I have is why aren’t we doing this? What is it that keeps us from the freedom found in confession? I can only speak from my life, but first to the Scriptures.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you. -Psalm 16:2

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. -Psalm 14:3

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,… -Romans 3:23

The primary hinderance for me has been and is my pride. My flesh says, “Don’t be that weakling that still deals with sin.” I return to the discipline of scripture memorization proclaiming that I am not alone in my temptation. Jesus himself endured every temptation we face and came out victorious (Hebrews 4:15). Also according to the above scriptures there is none good but the Lord and all have sinned and fallen short of His glory. I need not exalt my brothers to some erroneously perceived perfection, but rather go to them knowing that they can relate to my sinful nature and pray victory in Jesus over me. Please don’t allow the prideful lies overtake your thoughts. My pride will say, “You can beat this sin or temptation on your own. Don’t ruin your reputation over this.” Lies from the very mouth of the Evil One! Do not be deceived: God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7). As Paul suggested in 2 Corinthians 12, if I must boast I will joyfully boast in my weakness, for it is in my weakness that Christ is made strong in me. Any sin or temptation our pride keeps in the dark is given, in the darkness, a power over us that no amount of hard work or stubbornness can overcome. Dear friends do not fall victim to this I pray. This allows for the transition to the other hinderance I face in the discipline of confession.

 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. -John 13:34-35

The Evil One lies to me, “They will reject you.” A great fear of any honest Christian in the dilemma of confessing sin or temptation is the potential rejection by their brother. This is a risk we face with imperfect beings such as ourselves. I do recommend that your confession be limited to a close brother, sister, or a spiritual authority in your life. I pray that none of you would face judgement from a brother. However, do not confuse judgement with exhortation and correction. Quite frankly your feelings are not as important as you obedience to Christ. By judgement, I mean condemnation for your shortcoming. This could be elaborated over thousands of word and with numerous passages of scripture and exegesis, but I will refrain. Simply do not let the fear of the rejection of men inhibit you from obedience to the Lord in confession (John 12:42-43). In John 12 the authorities even believed in Jesus, but they remained in darkness because their hearts were set on the praise of men. My dears, turn your eyes upon Jesus. Release any relationship held in higher stature than the Lord. As we seek His kingdom and righteousness we bring ourselves into a position to bring forth our struggles into the light with our brothers ultimately understanding the desire of God to forgive and redeem us. After all, that is why He sent us His Son. Alleluia!

Sincerely I ask this, brothers if you are receiving confession remember the previously mentioned verse from John 13. We are to love one another as Jesus did and does. This means an open ear and if necessary loving, stern correction. Those adjectives aren’t mutually exclusive. I pray that no matter the issue of sin or temptation that your first response would be the earnest prayer for your struggling brother that James called us to in chapter 5. I also pray for biblical responses to all issues. Let us never forget the grace we have received or the grace that is offered freely in Jesus (Romans 3:24). Let us never grow tired of forgiving and ushering through prayer another brother into the light of the Lord and the freedom therein.

Finally, as long as we leave our struggles in the darkness their power over us increases. Step into the light my brothers and sisters! Step into the freedom of disciplined confession to God and the accountability or spiritual authorities in your lives. If you are not in a place of accountability or under any authority I pray you would seek this out in your church. Jesus was clearly a man of authority, but He was also a man under authority (John 5:19 & 31-38). If we are to seek his likeness(Phil. 2:5) then we must also be men and women under authority. May the victories over temptation you experience in confession one to another with faithful prayer abound. Above all may Jesus, who alone is worthy, receive all the glory and honor and praise.

May His presence increase and His will overtake you.