Post’s

Put Christ back in Christian

I have been hearing a lot of people lately say that “We need to put Christ back in Christmas”.  This got me thinking… I have a problem with this statement.  To be a true Christian is to be a disciple, and we don’t just need to put Christ back in Christmas, we need to – Put Christ back in Christian!  

For the 30 – 40 days (depending on the year), between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, every Christian puts their “God” on.  We all talk about housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, helping the needy, and in general… saving the world.  We show greater tolerance for people who are different than us.  Diseased, addicted, promiscuous, other faiths; all these people seem to receive just a little more “acceptance” from us during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.  My problem with this is that this is what Christians should be doing everyday, all year.  Put Christ back in Christian!  

In Matthew 25: 31-46 Jesus is telling His disciples about the Final Judgement: 31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ In the rest of the chapter, Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that when we …refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ 46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”  Nowhere in this teaching does Christ say “do this for only 30 – 40 days a year.”  Christ was teaching a lifestyle; a lifestyle of discipleship, a lifestyle of servant leadership. Christ was not teaching a month long fad!  Put Christ back in Christian!

How do we know Christ was teaching a lifestyle not just a fad?  Fair question.  In Matthew 4: 18-22 we see how Jesus “recruited” his first disciples.  In verse 19 Jesus says: “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”   In verse 22 Jesus calls to two brothers who are in a boat with their father.  When Jesus called them, the left the boat AND their father behind.  You don’t leave your profession or your family forever for a fad. There is no definitive time that Jesus’ ministry lasted, some say three years, some say as few as one; however even after Jesus was crucified and risen, His disciples continued His teachings for the rest of their lives.  Day in, day out, all year long.  This is not a fad – Put Christ back in Christian!

In Matthew 28: 18-20 Jesus gives His disciples “The Great Commission.” 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  “…I am with you always, even to the end of age.”  This does not sound like a short term, month long job, this sounds like a life long event.  Additionally in verse 19 Jesus says “… make disciples of all nations…”  Jesus doesn’t discriminate or single out a certain type of person, He says “all nations”.  If you look at Jesus’ ministry, He interacted directly and loved the diseased, addicted, promiscuous, and other faiths.  These were the people he came to save. We see a few examples of this love and interaction in Mark 1:34, Luke 8: 26-35, John 4: 1-26, and Luke 10: 30-37.  In Matthew 22: 36-40 Jesus tell us the Greatest Commandment: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”  “… love your neighbor as yourself…” This command is only second to “…love the Lord your God…”.  There is no wiggle room here; #1 Love God, #2 Love Others.  Jesus doesn’t want us to do this only from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, He wants us to do this every day, all year long, all life long.  

Put Christ back in Christian!

 

 

Legalistic or Relational

This past week I have been blessed to have had my father visit for the first time in over a year.  Additionally, since my walk with Christ, I have not had any real time to spend with him.  My father has only known me as a cynical, selfish, arrogant man; and this week has posed a unique set of challenges and opportunities for me to trust God and to be the man He is calling me to be.  I have a great deal of love and respect for my father, however, I learned this week that we have very different world views.

I learned that viewing the world with a legalistic perspective is very contrary to viewing the world with a relational perspective.  These weren’t the “words” used for our many discussions; however these were the underlying tones.  My father posed many moral or ethical questions and opportunities that the “old Dan” would have answered quite differently.

My father has never met a stranger, and he will be the first person I know to offer a cold homeless person, the coat off his back.  He loves and cherishes his sons and grandchildren, and I was able to witness this more than ever during this last visit. And although my father is an amazing man with a very large, generous, and loving heart, he sees the world through legalistic eyes.  What I have observed is that a legalistic view of Christianity allows a great deal of wiggle room in a person’s actions and opinions.  This is not to say that my father is any less a Christian than the next man, this is to say that legalistic and relational Christians see and act differently in the world.  During our time together and our discussions I learned and gained some insight into my childhood lessons and upbringing.  I was able to see firsthand how a legalistic view of Christianity allows you to compartmentalize Christ into different areas of your life.  Like my father, I am a sinner; we are all sinners who fall short of God’s love.  However, during our time together this past week, I saw several areas of “Godly Compartmentalization”.

I believe compartmentalizing God is due to a lack of understanding repentance.  The root word of repentance is repent.  Merriam-Webster defines the word repent as: to feel or show that you are sorry for something bad or wrong that you did and that you want to do what is right.  …you want to do what is right.  Not just wanting to turn from sin, but turn towards Christ – That is what it means to repent.  In Hebrews 6 the author talks about maturing in understanding – not needing to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds…  In Hebrews 6:4-6 it says: 4 For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come— 6 and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.  

If you go back to the beginning of the book of Hebrews, the writer is warning believers who have fallen out of relationship with the Lord and returned to their legalistic ways.  He is trying to impress upon the Hebrews that returning to their Old Testament (OT) Judaic ways of rules and regulations, was not why Jesus Christ came and died for our sins.  God saw in the OT that His people were getting wrapped around the axle trying to follow His commands.  The OT Jews took the 10 Commandments that God gave to Moses and created 613 commandments (or Mitzvot).  These were primarily for the priests but some were also designed for men, some for women, and some were only for a certain point in time or for a certain situation; and some were “forever” as indicated in the verses that say “do this forever”.  The Jew’s of the OT didn’t understand that from the beginning in Genesis, all God wanted was for a relationship with His people.  We were created in God’s image Genesis 1:27.  We were perfect.

When it became clear over and over throughout the OT, that because of our fall and inability to stay in relationship with God, He sent His Son to earth to be a living example of how that relationship should look.  Perfect obedience, perfect love and perfect trust in God.  The problem is our humanity.  We are sinners by birth and our only salvation is the through the acceptance of God’s grace.  God gives us grace whether we deserve it or not (prevenient grace).  Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19). And in the book of Romans Paul wrote: But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).  These verses demonstrate the (justifying grace) of God. They point to reconciliation, pardon, and restoration. Through the work of God in Christ our sins are forgiven, and our relationship with God is restored.  Justification is also a time of repentance — turning away from behaviors rooted in sin and toward actions that express God’s love.  As in the book of Hebrew, we are called to grow and mature in our ability to live as Jesus lived (sanctifying grace).  Salvation is not a one-time event, it is a lifelong pursuit of God’s will for our lives.  Legalistic Christians miss this whole message because they are stuck in the prevenient grace stage of the message.

Legalistic Christians believe that regardless of their actions, regardless of God’s will, and regardless of how often they continue to repeat their sins, they are still forgiven.  In part they are correct, however, for true salvation, you must have repentance. You must press on, with God’s help, in the path of sanctification toward perfection. Although perfection can never be obtained in this lifetime, Relational Christians understand that it is a continual process.  A process of being made perfect in our love of God and each other and of removing our desire to sin.  This is the life of a Relational Christian.

God has a plan for all of His children.  All of our stories are unique and designed for His glory.  God transforms each of us in His time and way, so that our lives can be a living sacrifice to bring glory and honor to Him. As Disciples of Christ, our job is go out and make disciples of all people. (The Great Commission – Matthew 28:16-20).  We do this by following the words of Christ in Matthew 22:37-40: 37 Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”  This means God first and everyone, everything, and every action you do should be second in your priorities.  This is Relational Christianity.

What type of Christian do you want to be, a Legalistic Christian or a Relational Christian?  Do you want your will over God’s or God’s will over yours?  Are you willing to tell God ‘No, my desires over yours’?

Boasting about Weakness

When was the last time you admitted you were weak?

Prior to accepting Christ as my savior, I never would admit weakness.  Ask any man: What makes a man a man?  Most men will give you a stock answer like, “providing for my family”, “being a good father”, “being successful in my profession”, or maybe even… “the ability to overcome any obstacle placed in front of me”.  All of these are probably pretty typical answers you might get.  I can say this with confidence because I know that prior to salvation, these would have been my answer.  For a man to admit weakness is unacceptable in today’s society.  Our society doesn’t want weak men.

The bible tells us different.  In both the old and new testament God reveals to us that admitting our weakness is critical to our salvation.  In fact, our weakness is why God sent his Son down from heaven to save us.  We had become slaves to the law.  In Romans 8: 1-17 Paul talks tells us about this.  In these verses, Paul teaches a very confusing lesson to the casual reader.  What Paul is talking about in these verses is Transformation. Transformation of our sinful hearts to our Godly hearts.  Transformation from sinner to saved.  For years I heard sermons about these verses, I read these verses, I even attended bible studies about these verses.  My problem was that I wanted to understand these verses with my mind and apply worldly, sinful logic to them.  This can’t be done.  These verses from Romans are meant to be understood with our hearts, not our minds.

A couple of years back, I sustained a traumatic brain injury that changed my life.  I couldn’t drive to my own doctor appointments because of the effects of my injury.  In fact, I couldn’t even stand without losing my balance.  I was now dependent on my wife, family, and friends to help me with routine daily tasks.   To a “man” who had control of everything in his life, this was humiliating and emasculating.  Depression set in and thoughts of suicide were serious considerations at that point.  Then God stepped in and opened my eyes.  One night I had a dream so realistic and bone chilling, my life changed.  I was walking along a path with God and passing different times and places in my life.  Times as a teen, a young adult, and even recent times in my 40’s.  I was mortified and embarrassed. God was standing there with me watching all my sin-filled actions.  Every one of them. He just kept walking with me, never saying a word, just watching me commit act after act of deed’s I knew were wrong.  When I woke up, I was sweating and humbled beyond words.  I fell out of bed and knelt down next to it and wept.  I cried like a baby.  I begged for forgiveness and a second chance.  I knew I could do better if He would just let me prove it.  Then it happened, a sudden calm.  I understood that there was nothing I could do to “prove it”.  I just had to accept my sinful nature and surrender my will to His.  He helped me understand that if I let Him, He would take care of not only me, but every thing. It was a scary peace.  I was transformed.

Fast forward to today.  Due to circumstance and weather issues, my wife was left stranded at an airport in NC with no way home.  God stepped in and she was put on a flight back to Washington Dulles airport. Unfortunately, her departure airport was a different airport in our area, so once she was there, she would be stuck.  Dulles airport is about an hour from our home, and with my limitations, for me to drive at night in the rain was a less than desirable solution.  I prayed for God to take care of her and our family and to help her not be stressed out.  I knew we would be OK even if we had to wait until the morning for me to go get her. Unbeknownst to me however, my wife had posted our situation on social media.  She summarized her situation and my willingness to pick her up; but due to my diminished abilities, her concern with that solution.  To the glory of God, people came out of the woodwork to help. So many offers from friends (even friends we have not spoken to in a while) came in to offer to drive over an hour from their homes in the rain at 11:00 pm to go get her.  What a blessing.

I am telling you all this because prior to my salvation, I would have never let this happen. I would have driven tonight in the rain despite the risk because that is what a man does to take care of his family.  A man steps up.  Bologna!!

A man acknowledges his weakness and his position as a child of God.  A man surrenders control of his life to his Creator and trusts that His perfect will, will work things out for His glory.  In 2 Corinthians 12:9 God tells Paul that His grace is all he needs.  Paul then tells us that he celebrates his weakness so that the power of Christ can work through him.  Paul has been transformed to understand what a man is.  A man is not what society, even then, dictates.  A man is someone who surrenders his will to God and understands that His grace, mercy, and love are all he needs.

Have you admitted you are weak?

Listen to that Little Voice Inside You… It’s God!!

People often ask… “How do you know if God is talking to you”?  For the longest time, I was one of those “people”.  I did not understand how Christians could hear God talking.  

The answer… Stop listening with your ears and listen with your heart.

For those unfamiliar with my story; I grew up in the Catholic church, I went to church regularly as an adult, and even when I was my farthest away from God, I still believed in Him, I just didn’t want to acknowledge Him.  I have often wondered how true Christians could say they hear God talk to them?  Do they have a special phone number? Does God appear in front of them in the form of a burning bush?  Maybe they have to be someone really special like a pastor, priest, or minister? I  didn’t understand.  Hearing God speak to you is not as hard as many think.  Once you make that 18″ journey from your head to your heart, from revelation to transformation, it’s not if you can hear God, it’s when you hear God.

Being transformed into a disciple is a heart condition.  From the book Transforming Evangelism, The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith, authors Henry H. Knight III & F. Douglas Powe Jr. tell us this about being transformed: Some may be disappointed that holiness does not mean life will be defined on their terms, but it does mean a life participating with God. This life is lived differently because we are no longer held captive by the brokenness that so often defines our being.  This is transformation. Once you surrender control and start letting God define, not only your actions, but your entire life; then you will hear God talk to you.  Coincidences no longer exist, there are just “God Moments”.  

I know this sounds hard to believe, in fact two years ago I could never have believed or understood this. However, God’s plan is undeniable and once you surrender your will for His perfect will, you are able to understand.  Imagine the finest orchestra conductor, marking time, waiving his baton, and signaling exactly how and when he want’s the different instruments of the orchestra to sound in.  It is a seamless movement of beauty. God work’s in much the same way, just on a much greater and impressive scale.  He controls everything from the wind in the trees to the waves in the ocean, from the moment your born until the moment you die, from the sounds that you hear to even the next breath you take, these are all under His divine and perfect control.  Once you understand that, coincidence and worry disappear.  In Matthew 6:31-34 Jesus himself tells us: 31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today”.

I have come to see many instances in my life where God was speaking to me, I just either chalked it up to coincidence or didn’t want to hear it, whichever suited best in those moments.  We all hear that “little voice” inside us.  Call it a conscience, call it intuition, call it whatever you want, but I tell you this; I believe that “little voice” is God talking to you.  I will share one recent example of that “little voice” when God spoke to me.  A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine from church invited my wife and I to a local professional hockey game.  He and his wife know we are hockey fans and came upon some last-minute tickets and invited us to go.  We graciously accepted the offer and headed out for a night of great fun and fellowship with another couple of believers.  When we arrived at the game and found our seats, I felt very blessed.  We were right behind the goaltender about 8 rows back off the glass.  If you know anything about hockey, you know these were great seats.  

Until recently, my only professional hockey game experiences, at this particular arena were with one of my pre-salvation friends.  A great man and friend, and one I am proud to call brother.  To my shame however, all of our trips to hockey games were filled with alcohol induced frivolity and less than christian behavior.  Once I was saved, this friend and I sat down to discuss the heart changes I was experiencing and where it left us as friends.  I didn’t want to lose his friendship, but I also knew that God had other plans for me than the lifestyle of alcohol induced behavior he and I enjoyed.  Through discussions, my friend came to the self-realization that he had a problem with alcohol and stopped drinking.  We still meet for lunch or dinner to hang out and visit, but we stopped getting liquored together.  

Back to the game! So my wife and I are with this couple from church, in these amazing seats, and all I can think about is sharing it with my old drinking buddy.  I ignored the thought for a while writing it off as “it’s because I’m at a hockey game”, but I kept feeling like I needed to share with him where I was.  I took a picture of our view from these great seats and texted him “thinking of you buddy”.  Less than two minutes later I am getting slapped in the back by my old drinking buddy.  He was also at the same game about 5 rows up and 1 section over with another friend of his.  We were literally within 50 feet of one another and had no idea.  

After the “are you kidding me’s” and the “unbelievable’s”, we sat and started chatting.  It didn’t take long for me to realize he was a bit less than sober.  When I called him on that fact, he looked at me a little embarrassed then acknowledged and admitted to his current condition.  After a little discussion, he agreed to change his behavior and before the end of the game, he was sober and in control of his actions.  Because I listened to that “little voice”, because I heard God; I was able to impact another person in a positive way.

To me this is an example of a God Moment!  Why would I be out with another couple having a great time and want to text my old drinking buddy?  What are the odds that he would be at the same game within 50 feet of our seats?  I believe that God orchestrated that entire evening to his perfection, so that I could witness to a fellow believer who is in a different place in his walk with Christ.  I was able to show my buddy that you can have fun at a hockey game without imbibing.  I was able to take a person who many are too intimidated to stand up to and tell him to change his behavior.  I was able to listen to God tell me to act.     

Hearing God is not always a passive act.  In 2 Corinthians 3:11-12 Paul tells us: So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. Quite often when you hear God, it will require your active response.  Because this is uncomfortable for us, we often ignore or even disobey God.  We stop listening to the “little voice” inside us and do what we want to do.  Remember the journey from revelation to transformation is only 18″, but once you make that trip, you no longer live life on your own terms.  You are to live a life in active participation with God. 

Idolatry

Idolatry
noun idol·a·try \-trē\
: the worship of a picture or object as a god

The root word of idolatry is Idol defined as:                                                                                     1. – a greatly loved or admired person                                                                                                 2. – a picture or object that is worshiped as a god

Today I start this message with these definitions because they have been on my heart a great deal lately. Exodus 20: 1-6 lays out a very clear instruction regarding idolatry.

Ten Commandments for the Covenant Community
Then God gave the people all these instructions: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. “You must not have any other god but me. “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.

Discussions I have had recently tell me that many in our world believe that idolatry does not exist in America. The argument I have heard made is that we don’t have churches who make physical idols to bow to and worship. Really? In Ephesians 5:5, Paul spells it out clearly. He minces no words and describes exactly what idolatry is: You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. In fact, all of Ephesians 5 is about living as Christ lived. Elevating or worshiping nothing above Christ. Even husbands and wife’s are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Not to elevate or worship each other above Christ.

When people pick 1 or 2 verses from a book that has 31,102 verses and take use them as literal support for their argument, it amazes me. I am not the smartest man in the world, but even I know to cross reference and fact check before I start making absolute arguments. This is important about any argument, but especially when arguing a basis for religious foundation. I believe that any thing that is elevated to a priority in your life above God, automatically becomes an idol. Facebook, TV, Football, Electronic Devices, Alcohol, Vehicles, Any Thing – It is an idol. Having a church built to worship something is not the only criteria for qualifying an idol. Elevating any thing to a position that it becomes between you and God is what makes it an idol. Sadly, based on that criteria, people can even make the Word of God (the Bible) an idol.

Where is your priority and focus?

My Prayer Today                                                                                                                           Father God, cleanse my heart and forgive my sins. Lead me to You in everything I do. Help me to trust You always and put nothing between us. Make me Your hands and feet to the world, and let Your Light shine through me in everything I do.

In the name of Your Son, Jesus,

Amen.

Short Time with God This Morning

About 3:00 a.m. today I woke up and wrote this down. I don’t remember if I was dreaming or not, but this was on my heart, so I felt it was important…

Dan, keep your focus on me! When you get emotional, take a second or two to slow down and control your tongue. Words hurt. (James 1: 25-27) I am the judge, and only I. Go out of your way TO NOT judge others (James 4: 11-12), it damages OUR relationship. It tells Me that you think you know better than Me. 

I showed you Grace and Love at your worst moments. I accepted you where, when, and how you were, no questions asked. I loved you unconditionally even when you turned your back on Me. Do you think you are any better than all the rest of My children? Do you think deserve more than all the rest of My children? (Acts 15: 8-11)

Loving and accepting Me into your heart was not the first step in our journey together. I have been with you the whole time, even when you didn’t think I cared. Keeping Me in your heart and at your side means humbling yourself on a minute to minute basis. It means making Me first, others second and yourself last. I sent My Son as an example of this journey. As one of my disciples, it is your job Dan to show all of My children grace and love. Whether you think they deserve it or not is not your concern, leave the judging to Me. If you want to be My hands and feet to the world, a beacon of Light, a reflection of Me, then humble yourself and keep me First. (1 Timothy 1: 15-17)

Father God, please forgive my sins and transgressions. I long to be your servant and to glorify you. You have blessed me in so many ways that I can’t even count them all. I am not worthy of all You have done for me, but through Grace, You have redeemed me. Thank You for that gift. Father I pray that You help me keep my focus on You. That You continue to transform me. That You bring me peace in emotional times so that I may temper my tongue. I pray that I can see everyone I encounter through Your eyes and extend them the grace and love You have given me. Not because they or I earned or deserved it, but because You loved us first.

I pray all this today in Your Blessed Son’s name, Jesus.

Amen

Short Time with God This Morning

Father help me. I am a sinner and need Your grace. I want to guide and lead like You have guided and led me, but I am not perfect. I want results now. Please God let me have and show the patience, love, and grace that You have shown me. Please help me to keep my focus on You and Your will, not my own. I know our time lines don’t always match up, please Father, help me remember that. Help me to press on even when the Enemy makes it easy to quit and let it go. Help me to honor You and find my joy in every thing, whether I like those things or not.

In Your Son’s Holy Name,

Amen!

Dan, your task is to honor Me, not change others. Even when my own Son didn’t like the task I had given Him, He asked for that task to be removed. When I refused, He went through with it and honored Me anyway. He honored Me. He made Himself an example, so that you can see it can be done. Luke 22:41-43 (NLT) Be patient, your heart change did not happen instantly, why should you expect someone else’s heart to change instantly. You are to trust me in all area’s of your life, I will work them for My good. James 5:9-11 (NLT) Be quick to forgive and slow to anger. Forgive others even if you are 100% in the right and they are 100% in the wrong. Don’t fight against their push back, it’s not your fight to have. Trust Me. Colossians 3:12-14 (NLT)

It Is Only 18″ to Salvation

A good friend once told me that the 18″ between your brain and your heart is the longest 18″ you’ll ever have to travel.

In my church and small group there is a saying: “Information leads to revelation which leads to transformation”. Essentially this means that just knowing and understanding God is not enough. You have to LIVE (like) God.

In the book of Philippians, Paul was writing from prison to the people of Philippi. He was writing to encourage them to continue their growth in Christ. Paul suffered many trials for being a disciple of Christ and he wanted the people of Phillipi to understand that there are bigger things going on than his struggles.

Throughout the book of Philippians, Paul talks about “Joy”. The joy of prayer, the joy of faith, the joy of new believers turning to Christ… Despite all the hardships Paul has endured, he still finds joy in everything. In Chapter 4 verse 4-5 Paul says this: 4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Paul tells us this after he reminds us in Chapter 2 of the importance of having the attitude (or mind) of Christ. This my friends is the transformation that I am speaking of. For me that transformation took my total mental, physical, and spiritual breakdown.

I was raised in the Catholic church and going to Catholic schools. I knew who God was, because they practically beat the knowledge into you. I had information. I also understood who God was, because of my morality. Once you know about God, you have an understanding of right and wrong, you have morality. The problem was that I had MY morality and that was not the same as God’s. I had revelation. 

So here I am, walking around with the training and confidence of the United States Marine Corps, my own sense of morality, and a heart filled with pride. I was a very scary and dangerous weapon for the Enemy. Your own sense of morality combined with pride allows you to justify almost any action. You believe that you have control of almost every situation, or at least the belief that you can gain that control when you want it. This is completely and wholly contrary to the mind of Christ. Paul describes the goal best in Philippians 2:3-8.

3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.  6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Until your revelation travels that 18″ from your brain to your heart, you can’t have transformation. Transformation like Paul is speaking of in the above text. Christ describes it to the extreme in Luke 14:25-35. In this text Christ is speaking to a large crowd that has been following him and he decides to let them really know the cost of transformation. Christ say’s:  “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. Christ goes further to explain that to be a disciple it takes more than just knowledge, it takes commitment. The kind of commitment that can only come from surrendering your will to God’s Will. 

What Christ is saying in Luke 14:25-35 is that as humans we will never be perfect, and we should hate that fact. Our goal, our yearning, should be Godly perfection. The only way we can achieve perfection is through dying to God. A popular way of saying this today is “Love the sinner, hate the sin”. This is easy to do intellectually, but very hard to do purely or spiritually, like Christ. Christ loved everyone, regardless of their position, actions, past, or even future because that is what God does. Christ just did these things as a human so we could see that, it is possible. I didn’t understand this until I was broken. God had to strip me of all my confidence and pride for me to understand that I was human. God had to break me to save me.

This doesn’t mean I am perfect, I fail everyday. However, now I hate that fact. I hate that I am human and susceptible to the temptations and enticements of the Enemy. I hate that I sometimes lose my temper, that I swear, that I covet nicer things, that sometimes I am not a good steward of the gifts God has given me. I hate all these things, but I know that because I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I am forgiven. I know that as long as I continue to turn towards God, I am saved and God is directing my heart. I know that I have been transformed. 

Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Are you turning towards God and letting him direct your heart? Have you traveled that 18″ to Salvation? Have you been transformed?

If you would like to discuss this, please contact me. I am no preacher, but I can tell you my story and maybe that will help make your 18″ trip a little easier.

Short Time with God This Morning

It’s 1:00 a.m. and the pain in my head, is again keeping me from sleep. Doctors are at a loss and medications that work, wipe me out and make me feel like a zombie. Some days are worse than others, and yesterday and this morning have been particularly rough.

As I lay awake in this early morning, it is hard to keep my mind focused but I try to pray and the Lord lays this message on my heart:

Dan, be patient and trust in Me, I am always here for you, don’t ever forget that. Continue to seek Me first above all else, that is what pleases Me. Make time to spend with Me in prayer, it is important to Me. I long to be with you, to look into your heart and mind. It is in these moments that I will refresh you and open your eyes to My plan for you. Psalm 37:3-6 (NLT)

You are limited by your earthly body, but your soul know’s no bounds and that is where I am living and working in you. So take time and rest when you need to rest. Patience and trust are what will make your path clear. I will give you all you need and when you trust in Me, I will multiply your blessings beyond your dreams. Luke 12:27-34 (NLT)

Unexpected Blessings

I have written quite a bit about my life before salvation. I spent a great many years “on the wrong side of the tracks”. Even with that as my mindset, my heart was always ready to help others. Over the years, my wife & I, in spite of my selfish, angry, hateful self; have always been blessed enough to help others out. We did this in many ways, outreach and charitable giving are just a couple. I always did these things for selfish reasons though, never because it was my blessing as a son of God to help others.

I think one of the the most significant and relevant ways my wife and I helped others; was that we have let many people live with us during difficult times in their lives. Some were family, some were friends, and some were friends who became family. Some stayed with us for a summer, some stayed with us for a few years. We did this because we enjoyed helping others, but I seemed to always find a way to make the situation benefit me. Since I have accepted Christ as my Savior, my heart has undergone some drastic changes. Until that time, I was always expecting payback or some sort of reimbursement for our help to others, especially when I could get no direct benefit from their presence in our home. Like I said, I always wanted to benefit from our generosity.

Now I celebrate my ability to help others when I can, with no ulterior motive. The resentment I felt for the people we have helped but received no benefit from, has melted away. I now understand that every breath I take is a gift from God, and for me to be selfish or expect payback from anyone for my generosity is not only unreasonable, but ungodly. I don’t know if it is because God has humbled me or if because my wife and I are no longer able to help others, but my mentality and my heart has changed. Since my injury (and subsequent salvation), I have been unable to work, however, God has always provided us with enough to meet our needs. God is so awesome, He even occasionally exceeds our needs. None the less, due to a drastic reduction in household income, we struggle more than thrive. It is funny though, because of our hearts for God, the struggles seem small and manageable. I know that He will meet our needs as long as we are faithful to Him.

I am writing all this because recently I was contacted by one of the previous tenants who stayed in our home. In reality, I was less than “good” to this particular tenant. Someone who based on their past experience with me, has every right to punch me in the nose. None the less, this person contacted me and said they had been following my blog and wanted to help. They told me that they knew times were tough financially and they were now in a position to help me like we helped them. I was flabbergasted. In my mind, I am so undeserving of this person’s help because of my treatment of them, that at first I didn’t understand. I prayed and discussed this with my wife for some time. Finally, I heard God tell me that His love for me is boundless and sometimes letting others bless you, is His way of blessing them. Wow! God is so amazing that while he worked on me, He was also working on someone I had wronged. This person told me that they too had learned about the love of God and wanted to help us. Not so much because we helped this individual, but because God had blessed this individual. Ultimately, my wife and I graciously accepted the offer of assistance and today I am filled with love, admiration, and respect for this person. This person reached out to me to show me God’s love. How awesome is God!

Jesus talks about this in Luke 6:33-35 (NLT):

33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. 35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.

Trust God – He is good!

MercyMe has a song called Flawless. One part of the song lyrics is: No matter the bumps, No matter the bruises. No matter the scars, Still the truth is, The cross has made –
The cross has made you flawless. No matter the hurt, Or how deep the wound is; No matter the pain, Still the truth is The cross has made – The cross has made you flawless!

God has sent His son Jesus for us. Jesus died on the cross for us. Leave your bumps, bruises, scars, hurts, wounds, and pain at His cross. He will bring you peace and amazing, unbelievable things.

Forgive yourself and others – God does!