Category Archives: Christianity

We Need To Kill The Noise

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these, and to tell you the truth– the reason why it’s been so long is because I’ve failed to do what I’m about to share with you in this post. We live in a world of distractions with people to see, things to do, and technology everywhere. We define productivity by how many tasks we can complete in a given time period– but have we become too distracted? Suppose productivity was only defined by whether or not you met with God.

As a product of this generation, it’s easy to quickly answer “No” and move on with our day, but before doing that I want you to reflect on a few questions: What does your prayer life look like? Have you ever struggled to make time with God in your day? Have you ever found yourself struggling to focus solely on God while you pray? Are you desperate to talk with our Creator?

It’s my greatest fear that our generation will lose sight of the awe, wonder, and importance in having genuine encounters with God. I’m not talking about going to a church service to “feel the Spirit” as the band plays or pastor preaches. I’m also not talking about attending more Christian/Church events. What I am talking about is a distraction-free time with just you and Jesus, in your own tent of meeting (more on that later).

We’ve become distracted… and I admit I have too (that’s why I’m writing this). Please– if you’re reading this… fight to never lose the awe in giving because we have the convenience of making automatic deposits from our paychecks. Your giving is not toward a cause, but to people who have souls. Fight to never lose the awe in your worship because some of us have been blessed to hear world-class worship bands every Sunday. Instead, I hope it’s equally amazing when we’re in a room worshipping with a few friends who can barely play the guitar. I hope it’s even more amazing for us to be alone with God and in His word. What makes worship awesome is the object of our worship– it is God and His presence; not the noise going into our ears.

We have become a generation that questions God when it comes to boundaries and then soften things by saying to ourselves, “Well… God didn’t really mean that.” But what if God really did mean what He said? How different would our lives look? I want us to focus on a small passage in Exodus:

The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear when I speak with you and will always believe you.” Then Moses reported the people’s words to the Lord. And the Lord told Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. They must wash their clothes and be prepared by the third day, for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put boundaries for the people all around the mountain and say: Be careful that you don’t go up on the mountain or touch its base. Anyone who touches the mountain will be put to death. No hand may touch him; instead he will be stoned or shot with arrows. No animal or man will live. When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they may go up the mountain.” (Exodus 19:9-13)

Picture that scenario. Do you believe that anyone who touched the mountain would be killed, or was God just being sarcastic? Whether or not you do, it’s obvious that God found time with Moses should be holy & set apart. Let’s continue a little later on in Exodus:

Now Moses took a tent and set it up outside the camp, far away from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. Anyone who wanted to consult the Lord would go to the tent of meeting that was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would stand up, each one at the door of his tent, and they would watch Moses until he entered the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and remain at the entrance to the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. As all the people saw the pillar of cloud remaining at the entrance to the tent, they would stand up, then bow in worship, each one at the door of his tent. The Lord spoke with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend. (Exodus 33:7-11)

Moses setup a tent outside of the camp away from all distractions where he could meet and speak with God. It’s my fear that our generation feels that time with God is burdensome and we are always needing to squeeze Him into our schedule. Some of our pastors plead us to spend just five minutes a day in prayer or read a chapter of our Bible… but where did our zeal for the Lord go? I urge you– set limits and boundaries. Make your own “tent” to meet with God! Don’t let anything get in the way of your time with Jesus. God wants to meet with you.

In this age, we have a dangerous advantage with technology where we can listen to countless sermons from our favorite pastors. I’m not saying it’s dangerous to listen to these podcasts… what I am saying is that we can get too caught up in people. As a side note, we have a big issue if we leave our services and conferences talking about the worship, speaker, musicians, how someone talks about Jesus, how someone sings about Jesus, etc. Church-goers should be there to meet with and put the focus on Jesus– not be entertained. There’s only one person that saved us, and that’s the name we are to be lifting up. Instead of truly delighting in time with our Creator, we sell ourselves short and meet with “Moses” instead. Listening to sermons doesn’t change you; only being in the presence of God can do that. If we’re not careful, distractions can enter our quiet time too as we take selfies with our open Bible and cup of coffee. When we seek the presence of God, we need to fight to get all other thoughts out of our minds. Jesus reminds us, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” Love Him with not part of your mind, but ALL of it.

Distractions are everywhere, and we need to fight to keep our minds clear. The devil will do everything in his power to keep us distracted. Prayer is a highly effective weapon against him and he will do whatever it takes to keep our minds from being completely focused on God. So how do we fight this?

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. (1 Peter 4:7)

Peter reminds us to be self-controlled and sober-minded– having minds that are free of distractions. He is exhorting us to be self-controlled and sober-minded so that we may have great prayer lives. All of the things we can see are fading away. Paul tells us to take our minds off everything that we can see and focus on what we cannot see, so maybe it’s time for us to take God at His word and pursue Him with all we’ve got. Don’t give up the fight. Pitch your tent. Kill the noise. Jesus is ready to speak.

Flyin’ Solo – The Core of Evangelism

Last year around this time I presented what I consider “the” core Christian evangelism message. It only took me a full year before realizing I should be sharing this to encourage my other brothers and sisters, so here are my notes; let His spirit fill in the blanks for you:

Flyin’ Solo – 7/29/2014

You ever try to fly solo… do something COMPLETELY on your own? “Bro- I got this…” But you really don’t… and then after hours of struggling, a friend helps out and whatever you were trying to do, is now taken care of in no time… We weren’t made to do everything on our own! If you often find yourself in that kind of situation, you might need to change something. (The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.)

Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs of two… (Eccl. 4:9-10) because working in couples or small groups allows for encouragement, accountability, and efficiency!

I want us to look at a passage in scripture where a man tries to get something done, escapes town to go do his own thing, has an encounter with God in the process, and finds his solution in the place he least expects it.

The problem: Exodus 2:11

Years later, after Moses had grown up, he went out to his own people and observed their forced labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people.”

The failure: Exodus 2:15

When Pharaoh heard about this, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian, and sat down by a well.

The solution: Exodus 3

Exodus 3:10

I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.

God gives an order to Moses… He sends Moses on a mission. Don’t confuse law with mission. I know people know of old testament law (levitical law) and [hopefully] learn that BECAUSE of Jesus we are free from it now. Tattoos, shaving your sideburns, etc. (Leviticus reference here) [Galations 3:23-25] (Obviously could go into a much deeper technical study, but that’s not the point)… When God sends you on a mission, there are no “laws” to follow… in fact, you might have to break some rules to get God’s mission accomplished. Going against the grain of society. When you break the rules, you might even offend some people. And that’s OK. (Martin Luther broke a rule because you couldn’t put the Bible in the hands of the people… Now everyone has a Bible! Society said the Gospel couldn’t reach Celebrities… Judah Smith and Carl Lentz reach out to Justin Beiber and Kevin Durant)

Exodus 3:11

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

MOSES knew he had NO power or experience to accomplish the mission God was sending him on, so he tried to tune out God’s request because he knew only what he (Moses) could do. How often do we tune out the missions God tries to send us on because we consistently rely on our own abilities? Something inside of you wants to have a conversation with that homeless person (It’s the Holy spirit knocking on your heart)… You want to have a conversation with your classmate about faith but it just doesn’t happen. Christians have excuses MASTERED! I used to say to myself “I can’t do that until I’ve read the entire Bible… I won’t be able to answer every question… I need to finish this study first… I need to learn more… or BEST yet… “IT’S NOT FOR ME.””
Here’s ONE truth to set you free from excuses: (John 14:12) – If you have placed your life in Jesus’ hands, then you are now a people reaching vehicle. The method (how you accomplish a task) can and will change but the mission (reaching people) remains the same. The SAME spirit that conquered the grave LIVES in YOU. It’s NEVER been about what you could do- but the moment you accepted Jesus, your life has changed to be ALL about him AND what He can do THROUGH you.

Exodus 3:12-14

He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name? ’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “ I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you’

As a Christian, you surrender your name for ONE name that is greater than all others. You know what’s awesome? We don’t need to have it all together either- in fact, Paul encourages us to acknowledge and WORK WITH our weaknesses. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) So if you feel unprepared for the task God has set before you, here are TWO reasons to work with your weaknesses: 1) God is WITH you. What was Jesus to be named? Emmanuel- which means God with us. (verse 12) Jesus has ALWAYS been on your side and with you WHEREVER you’ve been & will be. 2) You are PREPARED. Whether you’ve been a Christian for 3 minutes or 30 years- both are JUST AS **ABLE** to reach people. Got a ticket? Oh- I know officer Ed. Need to get hooked up with VIP access? Tell ’em Tom sent you. (Verse 14) God hooks Moses up with His name.
There is another verse that many of you are familiar with and it’s found in Matthew 28, verses 16-20. Here, Jesus sends his disciples on their life mission… (verse 19-20). Jesus reminds us the SAME thing He reminded Moses about back in Exodus. ALL authority has been given to Him and He is with you ALWAYS. You don’t need to have established a name for yourself, you go as “I AM” because his name has already been established. What’s interesting too, is that verse 17, after they see him and worship on the mountain, some STILL doubted. Some were ALREADY tuning out Gods request.

ONE warning if you find yourself Flying Solo: Don’t be so absorbed in LIFE that you MISS or don’t even get to take part in the miracles happening around you. Luke 6:11 man w/ shriveled hand… The Pharisees were FURIOUS because Jesus just HEALED the guys hand. The reality is that these men should have been celebrating instead of muttering.

A word of encouragement: You know where you should be and what Jesus has commanded of us… To go out and make disciples… 1 Corinthians 15:58 says this: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always ABOUNDING [overflowing] in the work of the Lord, knowing that IN THE LORD your labor (whatever you do for Jesus’ cause) is not in vain.

So this isn’t the traditional message about evangelism and going door knocking, as much as it is about embracing and DOING the mission of Jesus. Make friends with strangers, start a conversation with someone on the subway. There WILL be awkward moments, but you are already prepared.

In closing- 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. If you don’t have LOVE and share it, your belief in Jesus going to waste. We can’t reach people if the only place we can be found is in our sanctuary (surrounded by other Christians, in bible study, etc).

Addtl scripture: 1 Cor. 9:16

Dating & You

The topic of dating is one that peaks virtually everybody’s interest. It’s a conversation that becomes more and more necessary as we advance in singledom, not because society places the expectation of marriage on us, but because it’s what God desires for us (with the exception of those He has called to celibacy) and we want what He wants for us [Psalm 37:4]. God has a plan and a purpose for all of His creation which is made clear in His word. In addition, He has outlined different roles in life— the roles of men and women, and in our conversation— the roles of single and married life.

Marriage is something God wants us to experience. In Genesis 2:18, God creates woman for “it is not good that man should be alone”, and in Genesis 1:28, He commands mankind to “be fruitful and multiply… to fill the earth & subdue it.” Contrary to what many teach, when Paul encourages singleness in 1 Corinthians 7, it is for the purpose of enhanced ministry; not just for the sake of being single. Men— If you are single for the sake of freedom, flexibility, a lack of responsibility, or have a worldly view of the “perfect woman” and are waiting for “the one”, then are you approaching manhood biblically? The role in being single isn’t to squander your days of complete independence, but to actually prepare yourself for married life [Titus 2:2-6].

Why Date?

What is your goal in dating? The world tells us that the purpose in dating is to test the waters and see if your match will last a lifetime. It also tells us that intimacy comes before commitment— that we should act married before we actually get married. God tells us otherwise. Dating the way the world tells us means we date to find the right person. Dating the way God tells us puts the focus on being the right person. In conversation about this with a friend of mine, she put it this way— “There are many people out in the world that could be fit partners for marriage, but every one of those relationships are going to take work. You have to work at it…” Instead of simply “testing the waters”, we date with one goal in mind— marriage. So if you can’t foresee yourself getting married, then you aren’t ready to date either. After all, Jesus’ model of marriage was that of sacrificing himself for His bride (the church)- not finding “the best” bride. Your choice in dating someone isn’t an immediate “I do” to marriage, but a statement of being intentional in determining whether you two should consider marriage.

Find Someone

What is your criteria? A drop-dead gorgeous model— blonde hair, blue eyed, petite woman? Keep on dreaming. While physical attraction is an important thing to have in your potential spouse, it shouldn’t be your primary criteria. Your spouse isn’t going to look young forever. Instead, consider those who fit the criteria found in God’s word— a follower of Jesus, exhibiting the fruit of the spirit, selfless. Women— can you see this man as the leader of your family? Men— can you see this woman as the mother of your children, willing to support you in whatever ministry you do? The bible describes these characteristics as unfading beauty. While I know it is tempting to search for a perfect match who shares your every interest, you can trust in God’s word that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)


Part of the role of men means being the initiator. If you choose to follow the path of biblical manhood, which includes being head of the family, it also requires that men make the first move. For the women, this means your role is to respond. It does not mean you lead men on or even hint at being interested in him. (I’m not saying you should start giving your brothers in Christ the cold shoulder either!) It also means you either give him a yes, no, or let him know that you need some time to pray about it (and potentially seek council from those who are wise around you). If you say no, what is your reasoning behind it? This is not to say you should pretend to be interested in him, but you should evaluate if your ‘no’ is based on biblical principles or worldly desires. If you want a man who is going to lead you, don’t tempt him in his decision but let him demonstrate boldness by making the first move. This kind of boldness is going to involve rejection (and risking it all), but it’s also part of being a leader. Men need to be as clear and up-front as possible, and women need to know that if at any point they feel the need to break it off, then they can and should.

Actually Dating

So what does it mean to actually date someone? In the context of actually dating, we shouldn’t imply something that doesn’t yet exist (ie. marriage). In dating, your goal isn’t to grow in intimacy with the other person. Intimacy will only make you more vulnerable, leaving a much larger window of opportunity for temptation, as well as a greater chance of hurt in the case where things don’t work out. That’s not to say you won’t grow in intimacy and there will be no hurt if things go awry, but this person shouldn’t immediately become your spiritual, emotional, and physical confidant. That is a role reserved for your spouse. So what are you to do? Talking about life in general, things you’re interested in, what you value, where your priorities are, and what’s going on at church are a few examples. The depths and intimacies of your heart are meant to be reserved for marriage (which is part of what makes marriage so unique). You are brother & sister in Christ before you are husband & wife. In the early stages, avoid spending 1-on-1 time together over candle-lit dinners; instead do things in groups. You can get to know a lot about a person by seeing how they interact with others, while also having accountability to avoid becoming emotionally intimate too quickly. All the while, prayerfully consider whether this person is the one you marry.

Drawing the Line

Consider both of these verses: “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” (Song of Solomon 8:4) “Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.” (1 Timothy 5:2) Notice in 1 Timothy 5:2, we are to treat younger women as we would our own sisters with all purity. This means physical intimacy does not exist. Ok— so if you live in a culture where a kiss on the cheek is a form of greeting, then fine. But remember, this woman is your sister, and God tells us, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”” (1 Peter 1:14-16) If you disagree with this and are interested in how far you can go without crossing the line, then I exhort you to consider why. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15), which means we put His will above our own desires. In Romans 13:14, we are to “…clothe [y]ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”

Tying the Knot

So you’ve  reached that point in your relationship and established that you are willing to sacrificially love this woman and want to marry her. (The same goes for the woman establishing she is willing to sacrificially love this man and wants to marry him.) You bought a ring and proposed to her. She said ‘Yes!’ Awesome! Guess what? You still aren’t married yet. There is now an even greater opportunity for temptation in light of what lies ahead. There is no need to begin fantasizing about your sex life either. Seek marriage counseling from your pastor and make sure you have solid and reliable accountability. Also be careful to not neglect your relationship as you determine wedding logistics. As you plan your wedding day, remember that it’s not about the ceremony and after party— it’s about God.


Much of what I have told you about is contrary to the way the world dates. When God tells us “Do not conform to the pattern of this world” in Romans 12:2, that includes all aspects of our life… even dating (this is implicitly called the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture). Is this call from God because He wants to make our lives harder? I don’t think so. But I do know that in order to experience complete fullness in Him, in order to experience the abundant life He has for us [John 10:10], we need to begin by putting Him first in all that we do— which includes seeking His counsel as we date— primarily through His word.


In the earlier section “Why Date?”, I gave some bold advice— “If you can’t foresee yourself getting married, then you aren’t ready to date either.” My justification for this is simple: The longer the time period between when you start dating and when you tie the knot will introduce greater temptation to sin. Seeing how long we are able to resist temptation instead of focusing on how we can live our lives to glorify God is foolish [Proverbs 28:26].

I know there will be many people who will disagree with the things I have written, but I encourage you to leave comments and email me your questions so I can answer them. I pray that as a body of believers, we can grow in unity, and in every way into the likeness of our Lord and savior, Jesus.

Welcome to the Family

I’ll be honest… I’m not a huge fan of writing, let alone… writing blog posts. But, if there is something that gets me fired up the most, it’s the things that Jesus has put on my heart which I believe He has called me to address. Before I begin, if you are reading this and don’t yet consider yourself a follower of Jesus*– I strongly encourage you get to know Him by reading the Bible. Really, it’s that simple. Read it with an open heart and mind, expectant to receive blessings as you read, study, and get to know Jesus through it. Then come back here and read this. Aside from everything else I’m about to say- I want to remind you that the terms ‘follower of Jesus’, ‘Christian’, and ‘perfect’ are not synonymous.

Welcome to the Family! Even though we may have never met before, you are part of the family. This isn’t some kind of gimmick; what you are a part of is worth more than you think. You are part of the family. The one and only body/family of Jesus Christ. In Mark 3:35, Jesus declares: “Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.” Granted you are a follower of Jesus, then you are a part of the family. So what does it look like to actually be a part of this family, and what is your role as a brother or sister?

I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. May they all be oneas You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. (John 17:20-21)

As members of this divine family, our Father desires oneness and unity. Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane is not just for his 12 disciples, but “for those who believe” in Him. That means you. That means me. That means all of His brothers and sisters. Luke even recorded the earliest evidence of Jesus’ prayer being fulfilled:

Now the large group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. (Acts 4:32)

You’ve probably been reading this, saying to yourself… “Tom, I get that. What you are saying is true, but what’s your point?” Well, I’m glad you asked. I believe that the church as a whole needs to be closer together than it is. In some of our churches, we’ve boxed ourselves out of genuine, John 17:21 fellowship, for a fake, watered-down idea of fellowship. You see- Jesus didn’t pray that we would be ‘ok’ with and simply tolerate one another. He prayed that we would be one as Him and the Father are one. He prayed that we would be so close together, that people would notice something about our relationships together as brothers and sisters and it would freak them out. Okay, the “freak them out” part might be an exaggeration… or is it? But He did pray that through our unity, the world would know God sent Him. That kind of noticeability takes more than being just friends.

Consider this: Paul outlines the mission of leaders in the church as: “attain[ing] to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God… to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13) Simply put, the primary goals for leaders in the church are to lead brothers and sisters toward the unity (or oneness) of the faith (that is, the oneness our Father desires) and for all members of the body to know Jesus intimately.

Brothers and sisters- have you felt restricted in experiencing the oneness Jesus desires with your brothers and sisters? I’m not talking about having a few close friends. I’m talking about being close with all of the people in our family.

“Brotherhood and sisterhood is not a synonym for just friends.”
– Professor Kammerzelt, Moody Bible Institute

All of us as members of the same body are called “…to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). To further emphasize this, Paul writes to the church in Philippi:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 2:1-2)

What are you hiding? I’ll be the first to admit- I have a fraction of my life together. If I, as your brother, never expose myself or open up to my brothers and sisters, then I’m putting on an act that no one will ever witness except God. Which, ultimately means that I’m living a lie*. I’m also more likely to remain in my sin and remain less in Him. Try being honest and open. John put it this way:

But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin… If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7,9)

Walk in the light. Have genuine fellowship (no “fake ID’s”). Confess your sins to brothers and sisters. Expose your faults. We need to be closer together. Paul tells us to “speak the truth with… [your] neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Ephesians 4:25) We are members of the same body. There was no deceit in the fellowship that Jesus had with the Father and there should be no deceit in the same fellowship we have as members of the same body.

One of my sisters recently asked me the question: “Who are you closest with from the fellowship?” (Referencing the Christian fellowship on campus) I struggled to come up with a response, not because my relationships are flourishing and it’s hard to choose a few people, but because I didn’t even know how to define ‘close’. “Close in what way?” Do we hangout aside from at weekly meetings?  Do we talk often? Do we know each other that well? If there’s something that negates genuine fellowship, it’s the fake kind.

  • Fake fellowship says: “You’re a friend from church.”
    Genuine fellowship says: “You and I do life together.”
  • Fake fellowship says: “We’re friends.”
    Genuine fellowship says: “We’re brothers and sisters.”
  • Fake fellowship says: “I know some things about you.”
    Genuine fellowship says: “I know your struggles and am here to help you through them.”

So as I write this, I’m thinking that maybe what we struggle with as a family of believers is our detachment from the world (Romans 12:2)- a lack of knowing how God describes we should live and see things. Maybe you’ve turned something God has commanded into a personal conviction. Have you combined your opinion with the infallible Word of God? It’s like water and oil. It doesn’t mix and will never mix. Are you afraid to get close with your brothers and sisters? Have you put up barriers in your life that are preventing the unity Jesus wants among us? I’ve heard brothers and sisters suggesting we put up barriers in our relationships and above all- guard our heart (Proverbs 4:23)… but is God really saying we should prioritize our own agenda over His? (Future post about guarding your heart to follow) We are to be easily moved to love; compassionate toward one another. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted…” (Ephesians 4:32)

If you’ve made it this far, then I commend you. I know there are still many points I haven’t touched in this post, but my goal in writing this wasn’t to create a guide on genuine fellowship either. I pray that through the things I have mentioned, God will open your eyes to the desperate need for unity as brothers and sisters in Him and we will make a point to experience it.

Feel free to email me or leave a comment below to open a discussion.

* Some people use the terms ‘follower of Jesus’ and ‘Christian’ interchangeably. I specifically chose to use the former to emphasize the point that what makes you a Christian is not your claim to Christianity but your choice to believe in the works of Jesus and follow Him.
* Before reading something I didn’t say… I’m definitely NOT saying to immediately go and confess your deepest, darkest sin in the center of your city

A Problem Called Grace

Below are the notes/semi-verbatim transcript to a message my Pastor Carl Lentz preached (HillsongNYC). I pray this message blesses you and opens your eyes to how amazing our God’s grace truly is.

Ephesians 2:1-6 (MSG): It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Carl first comments about translations of the bible… He uses the Message which is a paraphrase but if you want to know which version of the bible is more spiritual… It’s the one you actually READ!

So first: “It wasn’t so long ago you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin”… EVER met anyone with selective amnesia? “Oh I miss the good ol days!”  Well if they want to do that they should miss it all! Miss the pain of horrific relationships that were godless, miss the DUI’s…

If you ever think you’re helping out God… you’re not!!! (verse 5-6) It’s all God, all the time. He doesn’t need your help. It’s not a collaboration, it’s not a mixtape.

Ephesians 2:7-10… Call it A PROBLEM CALLED GRACE…  I don’t know your problem but I do know your answer… It’s always grace- the grace of God.

As a Christian if you can grab hold of GRACE, it can be a problem for your problem! It can be a problem for what we call LACK because when you grab hold of his grace you will see what you DO have and not what you don’t. Grace can be a problem for your “works based Christianity” because when you wake up in the morning and REALIZE its NOTHING you ever did, you do things for God because you know HE already loves you.

If you have a marriage problem, grace is your answer. If you have an unemployment problem, grace is your answer. If you have a disease that every doctor in the world says u cannot get healed from, GRACE is your answer.

OUR world is in danger of overlooking the only thing worth looking at! It’s Jesus. It’s his grace.

Paul later goes on to say that the only thing he lives to do is preach about Gods grace. Everything else in his life is worthless in comparison. This grace is so good that the devil is doing everything he can to cover it up; to cloak it… This world is about producing so much pain and heart ache with the hope the people will not know what grace is even if it walks right by them.

Gods grace can save lives but people like to chalk it up to some HOROSCOPE or “man I got lucky”… NO!!!! Do you see how much of Gods grace is on YOUR life tonight?

Don’t EVER get used to the grace of God… If that’s you, PRAY that he would open up your eyes every day so you can be in awe of it and aware of it every moment of your life! Grace should produce GRATITUDE not grumbling! (if you’re too used to it, BE WARE!)

The gospels are full of Jesus doing things for NO REASON… Going to find religious bloggers & leaving comments, etc… In Mark 3… The Pharisees were hoping to catch Jesus in an infraction…. Can you imagine being so immune to the good things in this world & the greatness of God that you’re hoping for people to fail?

Jesus says for the man with the crippled hand to stand up because he shouldn’t even be in the temple… he’s unclean, yo! Jesus wanted to make everybody mad, he wanted everyone to see this man stand up… If he wanted to be could have “telepathically” healed him. But Jesus wanted to make a SCENE because that’s what Gods grace does.

You know what religion does to people? It keeps them away from the GRACE of God and keeps them looking at religious law. (Mark 3:5-6)… And when they see the grace or a relationship with Jesus all they’ve ever known is religion law and they can’t even let go and let God.

Imagine this… You’ve got Jesus walking into a temple and he heals a guy who is in desperate need for help and the peoples response is #1 I wanna see if he does so we can kill him and #2 were definitely going to kill him and now let’s go plot out how we can lynch this guy. It’s unbelievable that these people didn’t go “WOW! how great is our God!”… “This guy must be the real deal”… They were so blind to grace and so caught up in other things. Grace is a PROBLEM for your problem.

COULD there be some joy in your journey, some goodness in your marriage, some miracles in your life, that all you need to do is open your eyes to? Make it your prayer that God would open your eyes.

Grace is a problem for your mirror– what you see is no longer what you get. So you can start to get out of your own way. What you see is Him in YOU now… What I see is no longer me, I am a NEW creation! Grace is a problem for the self esteem issue, grace is a problem for what you see now… You might see NOTHING in your future but please believe that doesn’t mean ANYTHING because what you GET is what Jesus says. FULLNESS in Him.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10… ever feel like you don’t measure up? Ever look in the mirror and think “if God really knew who I am…” (LOL)… The apostle Paul goes through this moment… Paul realizes at his weakest, God is at his strongest. Can you let the GRIP of GRACE be STRONGER than the power of your past? Some of us need to be reminded that no matter what we’ve walked through, doesn’t necessarily indicate what we’re about to walk into because of the GRACE of God.

If you don’t know what God’s doing in you, you can’t look at somebody else and encourage them to have a look at Jesus because if you aren’t walking it theres no way you can be talking it with any power.

Do you know that there is more that God has done in your life than you have given Him praise for? God’s GRACE is better than you think it is, it’s more powerful than you know it to be, it’s more magnificent than anybody has wrote about. Some of us need to wake up and practice not believing what we see. “If you remain in me and I in you…” When you start seeing a lot of YOU in the mirror, you need to go back to looking at a lot of Him.

What if you woke up tomorrow instead of saying “God what can I do for you”, you said “God… how much have you already done for me!” #GraceRevelation That’s a Christian who’s in the grip of Gods grace.

Get out of your own way! So many people are busy eliminating themselves when God already eliminated their reason for eliminating themselves. You want to know how to change the bondage cycle in your life? You can change your own mind. As a man or woman thinks, so they are. Most of the problems we face are not with this diabolical devil outside w/ big grim reaper thing… we’re not going to always give the devil the microphone when we should be the ones saying “everything is Good… Jesus took the keys to hell & death so we’re gonna be alright.”

Know where bondage begins and BREAK the cycle. Most Christians will attack an issue in their life symptomatically- not understanding the root that you need to go after. People are trying to change their behavior when Jesus is about transforming their SOUL. #rootissue.

How the bondage cycle works: issue becomes a 1. Mind hold, then 2. Heart hold, then 3. Foot hold, finally a 4. Strong hold that dominates your whole life. If you have habitual sin, fixing the foot issue isn’t going to work… but you can start by renewing your mind and doing what it says in Philippians by fixing your mind on that which is Holy, think on what is RIGHT… it is by Gods GRACE that he will pull me through and some of these bondages that have been so bad will start to go away because it’s not you fighting the bondage… it’s you leaning into WHO Jesus is.

So when reflecting and trying to apply this message, find that thing in your life that you’re not happy with and don’t try to change it… say JESUS I’m running to you. You change the mind hold, and then your heart has no hold and theres nothing to stand on because you’re standing on the cross and then the strong hold is Jesus and the devil gets NO HOLD on your life. His grace has SET YOU FREE!!!

Set your mind right and your life will follow. Don’t hide the worst of you because it shows the best of Him. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10…. If you can remind yourself that you are always weak and God is always strong… most people spend their life trying to hide all the bad stuff hoping no one finds out… but the joy of knowing Jesus is that you get to turn yourself in! It’s FREEING.

If you ever feel weak, remind yourself that God is still strong! Former losers who became leaders: Adam -> Easily swayed by women, Abraham -> depressed all the time, Samson -> loved the ladies, Job -> unemployed, Noah -> drinking problems, Paul -> murderer, Peter -> angry issues

If you think God can’t use you… there is not a soul on this earth that God can’t use!

Going Against The Grain

Before I start, I’d like to pose a question: How do you evangelize?

Many of us affiliate evangelism with door-knocking and handing out fliers about Jesus on the corner of our city streets. But is this how Jesus evangelized? Did Jesus hand out fliers about himself, or did he meet people where they were at and love them? Lets jump straight into a passage that gives us a clear-cut picture of how Jesus pulled off such a feat:

He [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. There was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but he was not able because of the crowd, since he was a short man. So running ahead, he climbed up a sycamore tree to see Jesus, since He was about to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today I must stay at your house.”

So he quickly came down and welcomed Him joyfully. All who saw it began to complain, “He’s gone to lodge with a sinful man!

But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord! And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much!”

“Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

If your definition of evangelism is separate from how you would describe your daily life, then please take heed. While Jesus was on earth, He resisted the temptation to separate ministry from daily life. While Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem he encountered Zacchaeus. He was passing through town. He didn’t make a special agenda for outreach, because loving other people was his life. Can I suggest that as followers of Jesus, we prioritize love over personal agenda?

In the dialogue, Jesus tells Zacchaeus “…today I must stay at your house.” Why am I pointing this out? Because religion puts up borders that say ‘don’t go there‘, ‘don’t do this‘, and ‘that’s unclean‘, but I’m writing this to remind you that there was no border that Jesus didn’t crossHe associated with sinners- the: sick, rich, poor, disabled, liars, faceless (unpopular), famous, and diseased.

The truth is that the challenges we face as THE church are not from “the devil.” Satan has been defeated. The challenges we face are from “Christians” with a religious spirit. Even during Jesus’ days, the religious put up walls. While Jesus accepted Zacchaeus, the religious rejected him. “He’s gone to lodge with a sinful man!” The great tragedy of the church is that we see ourselves as enlightened and people who are in sin as “them.” Let me remind you that there is no “them” and “us”, it’s just “us”- because without the blood of Jesus, we’re “them.”

At the end of this encounter, Jesus makes his purpose plainly known- “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” Church- if the living God lives within you, are you seeking the lost like Jesus? Your hands should be dirty; your clothes should be ripped. Not literally, but seeking the lost is going to be messy. You’re going to have to climb through thorn bushes and mud. Jesus went against the grain of religion to reach people.

Even in the earliest days of Christianity, the Apostle Paul was very familiar with going against the grain. He explained to the church in Corinth:

Although I am a free man and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law. To those who are without that law, like one without the law—not being without God’s law but within Christ’s law—to win those without the law. To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel, so I may become a partner in its benefits. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

Friends- You need to know that God is incredibly more powerful and much bigger than to be contained in anything with a Christian label on it. He can speak to anyone through a secular song. He can love anyone through their brokenness. Paul didn’t choose to become like others in vain. He knew that God was able to reach people no matter where they were at in life. If you are building a wall between yourself and others in the world, then take this as a warning that you need to knock it down. Jesus went against the grain, and so should you.

Breaking the chains of “The Daily Grind”

Elijah. One of the most well known Old Testament prophets. Elisha. One of the lesser known ‘Joe Schmoe’s because all we know is that he’s just a guy plowing a field. We don’t even know if he was holy. This is all you need to know as background information.

Now, I want to share a story found in the book of Kings with you…

So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!”

Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.”

So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant. (1 Kings 19:19-21)

Can someone please tell me that what Elisha did wasn’t the least bit shocking?! God wants to do AMAZING things in YOUR life. It says in John 14:12 that because He has ascended, that we will do even GREATER things through Him and His spirit. Are you hooked yet?

So back to Elisha… he was like you and I- stuck in the daily grind of doing what we do with our lives: make money to pay the bills, plan/raise/feed the family, go to Church, etc. These things can become routine for many of us and eventually we will get locked into a set life. Is that really what God wants for us?

As a second thought- perhaps our lives are constantly changing but we can’t seem to find the flame that’s going to truly ignite God’s vision for our lives. In that case we need to slow down. Like Paul says in Corinthians, don’t even bother going to consume solid food if you aren’t ready for it yet. As a matter of fact, research has shown that it takes us 15 minutes for our brain to register that we are full. If this is one of the reasons there are issues with obesity, imagine how we could apply this to our spiritual lives and improve our spiritual health. With that being said, are you going to let God speak to you before ‘the damage’ (whatever that may be in your life) is done?  Just a thought.

Elisha. Stuck in the monotony of “The Daily Grind”. Do you feel trapped in your workplace? Trapped in your life? Does your life seem to be caving in around you? God has even GREATER things planned for you- but are you ready?

Take note of what Elisha did when Elijah threw the cloak onto him as he was plowing. He left the oxen and ran after Elijah. Crazy, huh? Are you prepared to leave your daily grind, pick up your cross, and follow Him daily?

Now- what I didn’t mention to you in the background information was that God had actually spoke to Elijah and told him to anoint Elisha to replace him (Elijah) as His (God’s) prophet. Just read 1 Kings 19:10-18. You see- Elisha was just going about his daily business when Elijah gave him a sign. He threw a cloak on him. Wow. Really? I could use a sign like that from God. But seriously- what does that even mean… it was just a cloak. He didn’t say “Hey, wanna be my successor as a Prophet?”. Nothing. Elisha had no idea that God was going to use Him for greater things. But he had to make a choice. Is there a message that seems to be hitting you on the head over and over again? Otherwise, if you don’t seem to notice anything try surrounding yourself with God-centered people. Eventually it will break through- just maybe not as obviously as you think. Did the cloak really make it that obvious?

We jump to the next verse and notice something important. Elijah didn’t force Elisha to do or say anything. He only threw a cloak on him (as I said earlier- and I can’t stress the importance of that seemingly insignificant event enough!) Elisha went to bid farewell to his mother and father, and Elijah warns him to think about what he has done to him. Is God going to coerce you into making a decision? Probably not. Actually- never. Is God going to try and lead you to a greater life? You bet’cha! The question that remains now is how do I get to this greater life?

Pay attention to what Elisha did after he was called on by God (through Elijah). As crazy as it sounds, he killed his oxen and used his plows as firewood to cook them. Then he fed the meat to his neighbors. And left and went with Elijah. Absolutely INSANE if you ask me. But I believe this is exactly how God wants us to approach a greater life. God wants us to forget about routine life. In fact, you should be willing enough to COMPLETELY disconnect yourself from any remote possibility of going back to your old way of living. And this is precisely what Elisha did. No more mules, no more plows. Ready to go.

Before I sum this all up, let me ask you- what is acting as a plow in your life? Here are a few ideas:

  • A life that’s a little too safe
  • A lifestyle that’s a little too comfortable and doesn’t focus on God
  • A monotonus, boring job thats not in-line with what God wants for you
  • A bad habit / routine living
  • A not-so-bad habit but acts as a stumbling block in your life

The list goes on… but this is the take away. God tells us to trust Him with whatever outcome we face. That we should act faithful to His word and follow it carefully. He won’t tell you how He will do things, only that he will do it. (Go back and read John 14:12 if you forgot!) When Jesus says to go and make disciples, does He then hand them a how to manual or a step-by-step guide? I don’t think so. He will be faithful to his end of deal. He will do the showing if you will do the going. Don’t think too far ahead about where you may end up, just go. If he told you the whole plan, you might freak out. (Take a look at the book of Habakuk for that one).

He’s trying to teach you how to walk by faith and into greater things.

The Cost of Faith

I read this today on my Verse-A-Day app on my iPhone and felt the need to share it on my website… so here it is:

So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t worry about a thing—except what kind of food to eat! Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, and Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully. “Come and sleep with me,” she demanded. But Joseph refused. “Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household.  No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.”  She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possible. (Genesis 39:6-10)

In the process of being faithful where you are, trials and temptation will come your way. It is not a matter of whether or not they will come…they will come. The man who was sold into slavery by his brothers is entrusted with an entire Egyptian household, and is now wrongfully sent to prison. Joseph must be wondering, “When will it end?” What have I done to deserve this? Sometimes, we don’t do anything to prompt what happens in life. God just wants us somewhere special, and he’s willing to do something drastic to get us there. God cares for us as He leads us.

Celebrating Something Special

While most people may see today only as day of exchanging gifts, spending time with family, or football, it is really about something infinitely greater. Today, we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the fact that he walked on this earth as the only perfect human being. He suffered and died on a cross to give us hope that we may one day rise again, forgiven for all that we have done wrong, to live in eternity.

When you realize what this means, you will find that no Christmas present can even compare to this gift from God.

In light of this, when you may have to deal with unfavorable relatives… keep this verse in mind:

Love for Enemies

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”

“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 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.”

“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. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”

– Luke 6:27-36

When it may seem hard to extend a hand or love those around you, remember this and share your love. When you do, your reward will be overwhelming.

Merry Christmas!

In the Spotlight: Christmas

Christmas is hastily on its way and everything about the season is wonderful! The sounds of the season, the brisk cold air, happiness everywhere. Take a moment to think what (or who) the season is all about. God. Before you forget who this season is really about, stop worrying about all the chores you need to accomplish (cooking for guests, buying presents, etc) and focus the season on God. Rest assured all of the things you need to do will get done, but let God handle your stress; he is there for you!

I like to remind myself every day to be stress-free:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28)

I have a note in my room that reminds me this every morning:

Good Morning, This is God! I will be handling all your problems today. I will not need your help- So, have a good day.