Mighty to Save

Posted: January 14, 2015 in Quotes

“Christ’s power does not lie in making a believer and then leaving him to fend for himself; but He who begins the good work carries it on; He who imparts the first germ of life in the dead soul prolongs the divine existence and strengthens it until it breaks every bond of sin, and the soul leaps from earth, perfected in glory.” – Charles H. Spurgeon

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Posted: January 12, 2015 in Quotes
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“Never contradict your profession.  Be ever one of those who’s manners are Christian, whose speech is like Jesus, whose conduct and conversation are so reminiscent of heaven that all who see you may know that you are the Savior’s, recognizing in you His features of love and His countenance of holiness.” – Charles H. Spurgeon

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“Not all the music blown from sweet instruments or drawn from living strings can yield such melody as this sweet promise, ‘I will be their God.'” – Charles H. Spurgeon

Quote  —  Posted: January 11, 2015 in Quotes
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Blessings

Posted: September 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

So, as I turn 30 today, I began to look back over the last 30 years and realized I have A LOT to be thankful for. More times than not, I get caught up in the mundane, every day tasks and seem to overlook these blessings.

First of all, thanks to two of the best parents (and family) a guy could ever ask for. Everything you guys have done over the years has not gone unnoticed even if it seems to be overlooked at times. You both are a HUGE part of me being the person I am today. There is no way I would have made it this far without the example that both of you have set in my life from pushing me to be independent to the example both of you have set for what a marriage should be after 40 years! Thanks!

Secondly, thanks to a pretty amazing church family who always pushes me to grow in my relationship with Christ and has helped make the opportunity of going to seminary a reality. You guys are appreciated more than you know!

There are so many other people and things in my life that I could list that I have to be thankful for, but my prayer for the next 30 years is that I don’t overlook these blessings and take them for granted, and I hope that each of you who read this will take some time out of your day to slow down and give thanks to God for all He has blessed you with in this life.

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion;
Greetings.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

There is so much good stuff in these four verses. Actually, a lot more than you would see at first glance. Here’s a little background: James was one of the half-brothers of Jesus (Joseph was not Jesus’ father). There are many different James in the Bible, however, Jesus’ half-brother is the one who penned this book. James was writing to Jewish Christians who were scattered outside of the land of Palestine. They were experiencing persecution and were struggling to live out their faith in Christ the way they were called to do.

In verse 1, James refers to himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. James must have been a pretty humble guy to have referred to himself this way. After all, he was Jesus’ half-brother! The gospels of Mark and John both state that James and his other brothers did not believe in Jesus while He was here on earth. Yet, in Acts 1, we find that his brothers are in the Upper Room with the disciples. The reason for this, I believe, is the fact that Jesus appeared to James after He was resurrected. Here’s my point: If my brother, or any of my kin for that matter, died and rose up again, I’m going to be bragging about the fact that I am related to them! Think about it. Jesus is crucified, stays in the tomb for three days, and is then resurrected. James could have very easily strutted around saying, “Hey! You know Jesus? The one who died and came back to life to satisfy the wrath of God for your sins…that’s my brother!” However, he didn’t. He humbly referred to himself as a servant. There’s a lot to be learned from this type of humbleness.

Verses 2-4 of this passage are referring to the twelve tribes of Israel. They were scattered because of persecution. Acts 8:1 states that a “great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout…”. James makes it plain here that it is not a matter of if but when we face trials. Jesus warned His disciples to expect trials in John chapter 16. However, it is how we look at those trials that determines the effect they have. We see later on in Acts 11 that the scattering of these Jews was leading to the spreading of the Gospel.

In verse 3 James states that the testing of our faith through trials produces steadfastness, or endurance. Romans 5:3-4 says, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” God uses these trials to produce endurance so that we may continue to bring Him glory when life gets tough. This type of endurance leads to spiritual maturity, which is made perfect only when Jesus returns. Spiritual maturity is God’s goal for our lives as believers (v 4). In life, we must mature in our ways. In the same way, we must mature as believers in Christ (Hebrews 5:12-6:1). Through these trials we learn how to endure, we learn what real faith is, and we learn patience. When the road gets hard, remember, through the testing of our faith, God will help us become mature believers and that should be every believer’s goal.

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Imagine this: There is this married couple. They have been married for a few years now and they have an almost two year old little boy. One day, they find out that they are expecting again and soon thereafter, realize that they will be giving birth to another little boy. As far as they and the doctors are concerned, the pregnancy is going as planned. Then, on the day the child was to be born, as the delivery is taking place, the doctors realize that the child is born with a severe birth defect. They presume to tell the couple that the child was born with a severe birth defect and that there is not anything they can do. IF this child lives, the probability of him never being able to do anything on his own and never amounting to much is very great…and all of that is IF, by chance, he lives.

Now imagine this: The couple, who are followers of Christ, tell the doctors that their child is in the wrong hospital and that if the doctors there were not going to do everything they could to save their child, then he needed to be transferred to another hospital in order to give him the greatest chance of survival…this child was me.

I was born with a birth defect called Spina Bifida. At the time, doctors did not exactly know the cause of this birth defect and the chance of survival was slim to none. However, my parents did not stop at chance. Being believers in Christ, and knowing that God was in control, they knew that I needed to be transferred to another hospital. In doing that, I underwent numerous surgeries during the first six weeks of my life and eventually got to come home from the hospital. If not for my parents decision that day to have me transferred to another hospital so that I could receive the care I needed, I probably would not be here today.

Here is the thing though; although there was a strong possibility of physical death at my birth, I was already dead spiritually. Scripture says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). We all inherited Adam’s sinful nature. Because of Adam and Eve’s actions in the garden (Genesis 3), we all are born with a sinful nature, and therefore, do not seek after God and are dead in our sin (Romans 3:10-18, Romans 6:23). But, there is good news. God shows His love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He did not wait for us to start acting the way we should. He sent His son, the Messiah, to be the propitiation (wrath-bearer) for our sins so that we could spend eternity with Him. He did all of that while we were still immersed in our sin with no way that we could get out on our own.

In the same way that my parents made the decision to have me transferred to another hospital on the day I was born so that I would have the best chance of survival, God made the decision to send His son to satisfy His wrath against our sins (which, by the way, was His plan all along. This was no sort of “Plan B”) so that we could be brought to life. Without the cross, I was dead, worthless and hopeless. With the cross, I am alive and rich…I am a child of God.

We are all probably familiar with “Peggy” from the Discover card commercials.  “Peggy” is a customer service representative for a company called USA Prime Credit.  However, if you have seen any of the commercials, “Peggy” is actually a Middle Eastern male who happens to have a very thick foreign dialect.

Most of the commercials go something like this.  The customer calls the customer service line and “Peggy” answers the phone with, “Thank you for calling USA Prime Credit.  My name is Peggy. What is problem, please?”  The customer answers this with a confused, “Peggy?!?! Sure.”  The customer on the other end of the line immediately realizes that “Peggy” is not who she says she is.

I am sure most of you are wondering where I am going with this.  The thing is, sometimes, I feel Christians are playing the role of “Peggy” in their walk with Christ. We profess Christ with our lips, only to turn around and do or say something completely contrary to living a life for Christ. Unbelievers can spot these kinds of actions from a mile away. Words from a quote by Brennan Manning were used in the song “What if I Stumble” by dcTalk back in the mid 90’s. Before the song starts, these words from that quote are read:  “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

So, what does the Bible say about how we should live? The most notable verses on this subject would probably be found in chapter 12 of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Halfway through the chapter Paul writes, “Love must be sincere” (Rom. 12:9).  Say what?!?! Sincere??? Well, doesn’t sincere mean “genuine” and “real?” Sure does.  A lot of us, including myself at times, have learned how to pretend to love others.  We have lost the meaning of love in a society where we say we “love” a particular TV show and we “love” our significant other.  Paul goes on to write, “be devoted to one another. Honor one another above yourselves. Put others first. If we put others before ourselves, with the right intentions, then the love of Christ can be shown through us.  Paul even goes as far as to write, “share with God’s people who are in need” (Rom. 12:13). Notice he did not say, “Ask someone how their day is going but keep walking as you say it so hopefully they will not start venting about everything going on in their lives.” We should listen and try to help people who may be having a bad day or going through a hard time.  Love is an action. Live it out.

The next thing Paul hits on in these verses is this: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Rom. 12:14). Really??? Yes. In a world of social media, it is easier now than ever to tear someone down, especially if they have wronged us.  More times than not, when someone wrongs us or does something we do not agree with, we take the matter to Facebook or Twitter for all the world to see. Even for those of us who do not take quarrels to social media, do you talk about that other person and degrade them to other people? Jesus says in Matthew 18, “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (Matt. 18:15). Go to that person and discuss it with them.  Do not degrade them to others. It just isn’t right. Watch what you say and do. Unbelievers watch Christians to see how they react to certain circumstances.

I will close with this. If we profess Christ with our lips, we need to live it out. We need to take these words in the book of Romans and live them out. There is nothing more transparent to an unbeliever than a spiritual “Peggy” who professes one thing with their lips and lives a life that is completely contrary to what they say they believe.