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Spiritual Growth

Am I Allowed To Prayer About That?
Spiritual Growth, Time With God,

Am I Allowed To Pray About That?

Tell me if this sounds familiar to you. You’re sitting in your car waiting for the police officer to come back with your license and registration.

Whether or not he gives you a ticket is a toss-up. At the moment, based on the fact that he didn’t smile when you attempted a small joke, you would put your current odds at around 80/20 you’re getting a ticket.

bible-reading
Spiritual Growth,

How You Can Read The Bible From Cover to Cover in 2017

I want to help you read the Bible cover to cover in 2017.

For years I tried to stay committed to a yearly Bible reading plan but fell behind on the weekend when my routine changed. After a few weeks of trying to catch up but falling farther behind, I would eventually quit. Finally, I created my own plan and take the weekends off or to catch up if I fell behind #brilliant. 

boxing-face
Spiritual Growth,

Why My Pride Is Worse Than Your Sin

Recently, while someone was praying for dinner, my daughter peeked her eyes open to find me staring back at her.

A shocked expression came over her face, and as soon as the prayer concluded she announced to the group, “Daddy had his eyes open during prayer!” I’m sure you’ve had this happen before, and you’ve responded the same way I did. “How do you know I had my eyes open? Did you have your eyes open?” When you’re 7 years old, you don’t realize publicly shaming your dad incriminates yourself. At what age do you learn that lesson?

I was reminded of this while rereading the story of Job recently and came across these verses that caught my attention differently than previous reads.

Job 19:3-5
“You have already insulted me 10 times. You should be ashamed of treating me so badly. Even if I have sinned, that is my concern, not yours. You think you’re better than I am, using my humiliation as evidence of my sin.”

Why do Christians believe God needs enforcement officers? We feel this desire to look down on and insult people who are struggling with sin, and whether we say it or not, we believe we’re better than “them,” and we assume it’s ok to humiliate “them” since they’ve made bad or sinful choices. In the tabloid industry, they call it a “takedown piece,” in the church we call it righteous indignation. Don’t get me wrong; Jesus humiliated people too, but never the adulterer or devil worshipers, only the guys who had memorized the Bible, strange right?

I have a friend who recently posted on Facebook his disdain for churches bringing Santa Clause into the church (he was referencing churches doing events where kids could get their picture taken with Santa.) He is entitled to his opinion, and I believe He loves Jesus, but here was my problem, his assessment was that we were doing harm to children’s faith by promoting a “false” character and kids would connect that disappointment to God. I disagree, but I’m not upset by the theory, what upsets me is my friend dips tobacco and curses. Why isn’t that harmful to children’s faith? To be clear, I don’t believe dipping or cursing is a salvation issue, I sometimes curse (unless my dad is reading this in which case I only say darn and shoot), but you know what else isn’t a salvation issue? Santa Clause. My point is, why such passion about harming children’s faith and Santa Clause, and the blatant disregard for his issues? Our passion for righteousness usually starts far enough in front of our noses to keep us from seeing ourselves doesn’t it?

I have another friend who cheated on his wife and lost his family. Some would say he deserved it, and they are entitled to their opinion, but statistically, 7 out of 10 men cheat on their wives and 5 out of 10 wives cheat on their husbands, so somewhere between 50%-70% of my friends are appalled by his actions and are either doing the same or will. I hope I’m wrong, but my point is, I have friends who disowned my adulterous friend while at the same time masturbate to pornography when their wife is not home or already asleep (not figuratively, I mean they told me.) Is adultery and porn the same thing? Not in divorce court but at the cross, yes.

I could keep going, but the truth is I’m a broken mess, and you are too. We’re like the angry mob giddy over the opportunity to stone a sinner assuming Jesus will be as excited as we are, but Jesus always takes the position of a defender to the humiliated. Don’t skip past that.

When I use my faith to humiliate sinners, I am putting myself in direct opposition to the side Jesus stands on.

[Tweet “When I use my faith to humiliate sinners, I am putting myself in direct opposition to Jesus”]

Humiliation is all the rage today. The leading candidate for president mocked a retarded person, and his numbers went up. We love to feel superior just like the man in Luke 18

Luke 18:10-14
“Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

You would think a people saved by the undeserved grace of God would be more graceful, but we struggle to share what we’ve received. Jesus knew our struggle, that’s why he kept telling stories like the parable of the vineyard workers; that’s why he kept having lunch with Zaccheus, and the woman at the well. You can examine your struggle with grace by asking yourself if the last second salvation of the thief on the cross makes you happy or disappointed.

I start out almost all of my prayer times the same way now, and I would encourage you to do the same. I start praying with “God thank you for not disqualifying me when I disqualified myself.” The only difference between the scandalous and the saint is whether the public has found out yet. I’m not telling you to ignore people’s sin. I’m not even saying you can’t be disappointed or upset, what I am saying is remember the exalted will be humbled. Any time you find yourself looking down on someone else you’re standing too tall. Take a knee and thank God for mercy and grace.

2 Corinthians 12:9
“My grace is all you need; my power works best in your weakness.”

regret-sketch
Spiritual Growth,

The Difference Between Remorse and Repentence

I can’t count the number of times I have prayed and told God, “I will never do ______ again,” only to reenact my old errors not long after my prayer.

Luckily God has helped me to find freedom from the sins of my youth, but now new sins are fighting to find their way into my life, and I face the same battles I did early in my faith: fighting to live a life of freedom?

All of us have sworn never to commit the same error again in the middle of paying the price for our current mistake, but after the dust settles and the crisis has been averted we slide back into our old habits and patterns. Why do we do that?

Often we stay active in our habits and sins because we’re not truly sorry for our sin, we’re sorry for the consequences of our sin. There is a difference between regret and repentance, but in the middle of our sorrow it’s hard to know my true intentions, Do I truly intend to turn away from my sin and embrace God’s ways for my life, or do I just want God to intervene with a drastic rescue to get me past my current sorrow? It’s only when I look back that I can identify my true feelings about my sin.

2 Corinthians 7:10
“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”

We experience sorrow when our choices cause us pain. It may be a lost relationship, public humiliation, or a season of misery, but sorrow is the indicator that our ways were not better than God ways, and our “idols” did not save us, they only let us down. But according to 2 Corinthians 7, there is a form of Godly sorrow that “leads us away from sin and results in salvation.”

Here are 2 questions to help you identify if you hate your sin and want to embrace God’s ways for living, or if you just hate the consequences of your sin and want to continue living life according to your ways.

1. Am repeating the same sins, at the same speed, with the same regularity?

Sin will always be in your life or lurking right around the corner of your life, so I’m not implying that you will arrive at a place of complete “sin free” living, but if you find yourself repeating the same sins, at the same speed, with the same regularity, it may be an indicator you still believe ________ is better than Jesus. As long as we believe that our way is the best way to be happy, we may repent out of guilt or hopes to avoid lightning bolts from the sky, but we can’t truly turn from our sin because we believe it holds our satisfaction and joy. It’s only when we are convinced that God’s way is the best way for the best life that we can let go of the sin we have gripped so tightly and embrace God’s ways because we count “everything as a loss” to know God.

Philippians 3:8
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ”

2. Am I willing to do whatever it takes to remove this sin from my life?

As a pastor, I have the opportunity to counsel and talk with people often who are facing challenging situations because of the circumstances of their sin. I can never no for sure, but there are times when you can hear in someone’s voice they want a drastic miracle to avoid consequence more than they want freedom from their sin. One of the biggest ways we can tell in our life if we are ready to repent and turn away from our sin is if we are willing to whatever it takes to find freedom. Am I willing to change jobs, get rid of my tv or cell phone, cut up the credit cards, forgive someone who hurt me, or end a relationship? If we find ourselves claiming to want freedom but aren’t willing to sever the attachments that draw us back to our sin, it may be an indicator that we aren’t convinced that Jesus is better than_______.

Mark 9:43
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell…”

When we sin, we’re just admitting that we aren’t sure Jesus is better than whatever we think we’ll make us happy. We won’t be able to find freedom until whether through misery or revelation we become convinced that God’s way is the best way for the best life, and our ways only lead to spiritual death.

Let’s put down our sin and our idols to embrace the incredible freedom and plans God has for us.

You can listen to Pastor Jason’s sermon “The Difference Between Regret & Repentance” by clicking here

woman-with-fingers-crossed-copy
Spiritual Growth,

Making A Deal With God

Have you ever made an “if/then” deal with God? I’m sure you have.

At some point in life, all of us are so desperate for divine intervention we’re willing to agree to any terms.

I’ve prayed with spouses who needed God to save their marriage, they’re agreement with God usually sounds something like, “God, if you will save my marriage, then I promise always to keep my family in church.” I’ve prayed with people weeks away from a court date who make deals that sound like, “If God keeps me out of jail, then I will never do those things again.” I’ve agreed in prayer with countless people who claim, “if God gets me this new job, then I will start tithing.”

If God will give me a husband, if God will give me a child, if God will heal me, if God will help me… When we’re desperate, we’ll agree to anything.

In 1 Samuel 1, a women named Hannah made an “if/then” deal with God. She told God, “If you will give me a child I will give him back to you.” and sure enough she became pregnant, had a son, and named him Samuel which means “God heard me.” Even though Hannah hesitated a year later, she did eventually give Samuel to Eli just like she promised God she would.

Peter one night, around 3 in the morning, told Jesus, “If it’s really you, then call me to walk on the water” and Jesus’s next words were “come.”

If you’re anything like me, in the moment of desperation my promises are sincere and filled with good intentions, but after God has faithfully interceded again, I slide back into my old ways. I’m glad God’s promises for my life aren’t as fickle as my promises to him. I’m glad He knows me intimately enough to know I lack the discipline to be the person I fully want to be.

I’m glad God’s promises for my life aren’t as fickle as my promises to him.

God is patient, loving, and gracious to me. He provides for me even knowing I lack the faithfulness He faithfully displays in my life, but it still begs the question, “Are there any promises I made to God that He is still waiting on me to fulfill?” It’s never too late to get started. If Jesus said, “Come” the invitation still stands, and who knows, you just might walk on water.

man-journal-copy
Spiritual Growth, Time With God,

3 Reasons Why I Journal, and You Should Too

When I say I “journal” you may get an image in your mind of a grown man sitting on his bed writing to his “dear diary” but that’s not what I mean by journaling.

Did you know that successful, manly men, all throughout history have kept a journal? George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, and Gen. Patin, are just a few of the men who have realized the power of taking the time to write down their thoughts.

I started journaling about 2 years ago, and it has changed my spiritual life. Let me give you 3 reasons why you should start journaling today.

1. To remember the important things

Have you ever had a great idea, only to not be able to recall it when you needed it later? Our minds are always running a 100mph and by writing things done we can make sure the important things aren’t forgotten. I’m not talking about grocery lists or phone numbers even though writing those things down isn’t a bad idea; I’m talking about deeper things we shouldn’t forget. Thoughts and ideas after spending time in devotion with God, or spending an important day with your family. How incredible would it be at your kids wedding to be able to pull out what you were thinking the day they were born or the day they started kindergarten?

2. To find your inner voice

You’re not going to believe me, but underneath your surface level is an intelligent, thoughtful, author. I don’t mean that you will write a book one day, but I mean that you have the ability to write words that will surprise even you. Something happens when we write instead of talk. We have perfected our “speaking” language, so we tend to use the same words over and over again. But magically when you begin to write you express yourself in ways you would never express yourself verbally. You can’t help it, it’s the power of pen and paper.

3. To record God speaking

I believe that God is constantly speaking to you and me, the question is, are we listening? I’m not implying that you will hear the audible voice of God like Darth Vadar through your ceiling, but I will make you a promise. Write down prayers or thoughts you have after reading the Bible or listening to a sermon, and when you go back and read them later, you will be amazed at how spiritual your words are. It’s true! Most of the time when I’m writing I don’t think I’m writing anything extra special or spiritual but 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 years later when I go back and read what I wrote I see God was moving the pen in my hand. I can’t tell you how many times I wrote down something I was thinking or feeling having no clue what was going to happen in my life 48 hours later. When I look back now, I can see how God was speaking to me before I even knew I needed him to.