Today, I am talking about the importance of context. I relate this subject to scriptural understanding, but really it can be translated into any area of our lives. Check out the recording by clicking on the link below.
Evil is all around us. Most people agree on this subject whether they are a Christian or not. When we see a child brutally murdered or a government horribly oppressing its people, we can see darkness and it is blatantly obvious.
The Bible uses different words to describe evil. We see synonyms like “wickedness” or “malice” among many others used to convey this intention. When these words are used, scripture goes on to describe details that include a wide range of activities. Many times, in fact, we see the perpetrators seeming to have a great time and falling into very comfortable patterns when they are called out in this way.
Sometimes, it is easy to throw the word “evil” around at our own discretion. For instance, if something inconveniences us enough or someone behaves outside of our understanding of “goodness” then we may be tempted to use this significant word to describe the event.
The Word is clear that we are to stay away from evil of every kind. It also indicates that we should avoid associating with those who practice evil. Yet, in even more places in scripture, the example is given that shows us we are to come alongside the sinner and even serve them. We see healing, teaching, feeding, loving, and caring for these people who are living lives directly opposed to God’s law? So, how do we reconcile these thoughts? Do we avoid these folks, or do we love on them? Do we stop at praying for them? Or, do we get into their lives?
These are thoughts I am still tossing around in my mind, but I do know that people will not accept or follow the life-giving message of Jesus if they do not hear it in our voice and see it in our lives. Granted, we are never the ones who convert people, but we can still convey a message of hope and show that there is a way out.
Evil is born from a full embrace of sin. When we reject God and His abundance, we begin to look at the world in a way that was never intended through the process of creation. We also begin to look at ourselves as the one true authority in the universe.
Here is something interesting to ponder, though. So many times, when God comes down hard on sin in scripture, it is in response to the actions of people who claim to follow Him. Sure, people who don’t know Him are mentioned, and even rebuked, but often they are being spoken about in third person. Essentially, they are referred to as the mission and part of the purpose of believers.
So, what are we to do with the verses that tell us to avoid evil and those who promote sin? Well, in many cases these things are being said to believers who are very immature in their faith. A mature follower of Jesus has grown and prayed for the mind and heart of God. He or she has established in their own heart that their deep passion is to see that the lost are found, and the wicked are made clean. Also, their mindset changes as they begin to see these “evil” people through God’s compassionate eyes.
I can’t say that I fully grasp God’s grace and mercy, but I can make assumptions based off what I do know. Here is the way I see it. While sin and evil are synonymous, I think God’s perspective is much deeper than simply writing off transgressors.
Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life…The question, I have is “what are we doing to offer people life as an alternative to death?”
We need to stop looking at people as evil and instead start looking at them as hurting, dying, and in need of rescue.
That man who is on his third drunken binge this week…is he sinning? Yes
That single lady caught up in promiscuity…is she sinning? Yes
That person who abandoned their family…are they sinning? Yes
But…before we call them evil let’s ask ourselves if…
that man is trying to medicate the memories of a past abuse,
this lady has never seen a healthy relationship…
if this person went through a crisis that they never worked through in a healthy way.
Leading people out of sin means investing in them. It means sometimes getting dirty. God wants us to be a living sacrifice, and while we are never called to participate in evil and sin, we are called to help mend broken hearts.
Be someone’s way out today.
Love you all
On this blog, I have filled many pages with stories and illustrations involving the relationship I have with my son. I think it is easy to see, through my writings, that he and I have a special bond (as one could imagine between a father and son). He lights up my life and gives me mountains of material for writing. Today, however I want to mention my daughter. She is my princess and we also have a special bond that is different from the one I have with my son (not better or worse…just different).
In my house the men adore the ladies. Mommy and sister are approached with a special gentleness (most of the time) and protection. When my daughter Lynae wakes up from her naps or from her beauty sleep, my son and I have a silly routine…We go, together, into her room and sing a short song to her while dancing. We have so much fun doing it. Not only is it fun, but she also wakes up smiling and lays still in her bed until the performance is over…knowing full well that she is adored. Not only is this silly, but it is deeply personal for us, because in my house the ladies are adored…
After our musical number, my son usually shuffles out of the room to go play or resume what he was previously doing. This is my cue to get her out of bed and change her into her clothes for the day. Sometimes, I stall a little bit and lie in bed next to her. A few days ago, we had a moment that I will never forget. As we were still and silent next to each other, she just stared into my eyes. Time went slowly and neither one of us felt the need to say anything (she is limited on her linguistic skills anyway). After a moment of stillness she reached up and grabbed my face. I was practically hypnotized. I felt bad for breaking the silence, but all I could say was, “I love you baby.” She smiled, leaned in for a quick kiss and her first words of the day came springing forth. “Daddy…cereal.” So, that ended a deeply meaningful moment with the woman I love the second-most in my life. It ended with a request.
As I thought about this moment, my mind went off into a tangent. I thought about the emails, texts, inbox messages and one-on-one conversations I have had with so many people recently regarding their relationship with God. There is a common theme among many right now. It is this issue of silence. When I hurt. When I fear. When I am running out of time…Why does God seem silent?
There are many answers to this question, and even more unknown possibilities. Today, I think, instead of fully answering this (which could be impossible), I want to offer up some ideas in the form of reflective questions. Here are 7.
1. Could God be waiting for you to act on what He told you most recently?– Have you obeyed His most recent instructions yet? Sometimes we yell out requests to God but do not act when He calls us to join Him in His mission. It is completely possible that you have not done what He has asked of you since the last time you spoke.
2. Have you recently prayed for a closer relationship with Him?– Odds are you have prayed this recently, because you know that getting closer to God brings blessing and abundance. Like in the illustration above, sometimes a closer relationship means silently being in each other’s presence. Just like two dating teens saying absolutely nothing on the phone, it is possible that simply being together is what is required right now. Don’t take this time for granted.
3. How much time are you spending in prayer and scripture?– It may be important to note that God has many things to say to you, and the answer to your specific prayer is somewhere on the list. He could be speaking to you, but not necessarily about what you are asking Him about this moment. Open yourself up to be spoken to by God…On His terms; not yours.
4. Have you recently prayed for peace in the midst of the storm?– Of course you have, and this is a common thing to pray. How many times, though, do you picture the concept of peace being accompanied by hyperactivity and fanfare? Never, right? In other words, if you want peace then you must accept that peace often means that we must slow down, be silent, take a breath, and trust God’s promises. He may be waiting for us to choose peace before proceeding.
5. Did He already say no?– This question hurts to even think about. How many times, as a parent, do you have to repeat yourself with your children? Tons. In my experience, God operates a little differently. Even though we do not like to hear it, “no” is a valid answer from God. He may have simply said no…and it could be time to move forward.
6. What have you done in faith?– Often, I am guilty of simply providing God with my list of wants or needs during my prayer times. To an extent that is okay, but how many times do I take moments to intercede for others or even get out and take risky steps of faith for the kingdom? Not doing so won’t silence God, but it makes you wonder what the implications of our relationship with Him is if we always talk and don’t act. Take a big fat step of faith today. Serve someone, and you will find that God’s voice will become louder.
7. Are you clinging to sin?– As harsh as this sounds; it is a valid question. It is not the case for everyone, but some. With this being said, it doesn’t mean that God is not speaking, but rather that our distractions are too loud. If we invite Him in to cleanse us then we will hear, see, and experience more than ever before.
Overall, silence from God is not a bad thing. Just like there are natural pauses in beautiful music; our relationship with God can go through times of growth and times of hyperactivity. Let go of your fear, and during the times of silence; soak in His goodness. These are just some of the questions that come to mind…and obviously there could be many more reasons.
He loves you. Don’t ever forget that.
Do you ever reflect on the person that you once were and confusingly scratch your head? “What was I thinking?” you may ponder to yourself, but we all know we can’t go back in time. What if we could, though? What if we could hop in our time machine that we just purchased at Target (I love that place) and give our past self a tiny nugget of wisdom.
For me, I could have taken myself to a really long lunch and laid out thousands of “truths” that would have proven handy. BUT, as the famous female scholar from YouTube once said, “ain’t nobody got time for that!”. Regardless, as I was thinking of this concept, a few things came to mind. I wish I could visit my past self and tell him a few things that I hope he would remember (you would think that meeting the future you…in all his hairless glory would be memorable to say the least).
Here are 5 things I wish I could tell my past self.
1. Give more– Here is the first thing you need to know. I am not going to spoil the surprise for you, but when you get older you are going to see the miracle of God’s provision so many times that it will amaze you. God doesn’t give you things because you give, but blessing is a natural byproduct of generosity. The math with never add up on your earthly calculator, but I am telling you…giving will bring joy.
2. Being cool doesn’t matter– It’s true. Those people that you think are so cool and “popular” will some day work for a call center or have a record of misdemeanors. Don’t worry though…you will never be the cool type, so you are safe. I can also tell you that no matter how “cool” you are you are being watched and you can decide now whether or not God will have an influence on your behavior. Drop the need to impress…it is a waste of time and energy.
3. When you find “the one”– Ok…I really don’t want to give away the surprise, but I promise she is out there. You will have kids too, and they will be great. Look for the girl of your dreams in the fall of your junior year of high school. You will know…trust me. Oh…and treat her like a queen. All I can tell you is that she will be royalty and worth every ounce of energy you have…AND I know your hormones are wondering this so I will just put them at ease. She is a babe.
4. Go all in– There will be many times in your future in which you will question God and His plan. You will be glad that you stuck with His will. Go all in. Don’t give half or even a small part of yourself to your call. He will bless you and your family if you do so. Obviously your family will be your first ministry, and being a father will be your most rewarding pastorate… Don’t give up.
5. Stop worrying– You are such a wimp when it comes to worrying about your future. Stop it. I can be that blunt with you because I am you. You will give countless hours to the artful craft of concern when, in actuality, it will earn you nothing. So, when you feel an anxiety episode coming on…remember that the one who created the universe can handle your puny little problems. I know that sounds harsh, but I have skin in the game here pal.
All in all, you are doing all right kid. Keep on desiring to draw close to God and you will never regret it. There are going to be really tough times, but make sure that your suffering is never wasted or lost in the sea of bitterness. Don’t forget to kiss your wife and kids every day too. They need you.
Good luck! Oh…and put down that doughnut please.
I can only imagine that many of you veteran pastors out there are opening this blog post to read it, and you are thinking, “Hey…wait a minute…you are a young pastor. How are you qualified to say any of this?” You are probably right, but these are things that I have observed as I have seen pastors at work, and as God has guided me through His word. I think many pastors can relate to the following thoughts as well as those who consider themselves Christ-followers. More than anything else, I hope young pastors who have not yet stepped into professional/ vocational ministry will read this and prevent their hearts from being overtaken by these ideas.
When I entered formal ministry, I made sure to read the full content of dozens of books, and I even read the back synopsis of many more (oh c’mon pastor…you have done the same thing) and assumed I knew the gist of them. Pastors, by nature are lifelong learners and students of God’s word as we all should be, but I wish I would have known a few more things before entering ministry. I know others should know these things too. I say these things because I observe so many pastors that fall into the same habits and thought processes as their collegues. These thought processes seem like a great idea, or are very convincing, but I think we began to lose the point of who we are supposed to be…
So, here are 6 Things I Wish Pastors Understood (Including Me).
1. It’s okay not to have all the answers– It is true that pastors are designed and called to be resident theologians. They study for many years, and read many books to understand scripture better so they can be a resource for their congregations. Sometimes, it is okay to be stumped. You are human, and it is okay to admit you do not have the answers…but you know where to get them. God’s word is a living organism, and the people who seek you for advice or thoughts will respect you if you give time to research specifically regarding their inquiry.
2. You are not as hip as you think– So you just got a new tattoo, you are not afraid to say a curse word from time to time, and you are lenient on social drinking? Bravo pastor, you are as cool and hip as they come! Ok…so I do not know many pastors that are setting the standards for “coolness” in our society, but there are so many that try. You do not have to be hip…you just have to be there. No, not one just preaches on Sunday morning, but a person who desires to sit with, and comfort those who are away from God or even those who know Him…those that are broken. We are in the mending business. God can use you even if you do not have a v-neck tshirt and frequent coffee shops.
3. You are not as lame as you think– Many pastors can relate to this one. If you are like me, you find yourself accepting the negative self talk that you are not relevant and that people are looking for someone more exciting. You are called to be obedient, and attentive to the Holy Spirit. It’s great to feel young and vital, but if God has called you to ministry, you can guarantee that He will resource you with the skills needed to get the job done. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking no one will listen, because God can open ears, hearts, and minds.
4. God has better ideas than you– You have so many good ideas and your church marketing pieces are beautiful. I get so excited and pumped up when I am listening to your church’s music, and when I watch all of the clever videos you make. Is this what ministry has come to though? All of our time (and I am now speaking to me) is now caught up in things that give glory to us, and our creativity, than the pure word of God? I will let you wrestle with that one…because I am still struggling with it.
5. Put down the leadership book for a minute– You have read every book that has the word “leader” in it and you perhaps have given leadership workshops. Excellent! Now…slowly put the book down and look around you. Imagine people that are lined up in front of you and all they need is an infusion of hope that will get them through until tomorrow. Granted, we all know that they need to know Christ more and grow in Him…but take a little time to listen. Oh…and grab a bucket. One of the kids just threw up in the nursery. Books are vital, but being a servant should be your first posture.
6. Your role matters– Whether you believe it or not, the art of pastoring is not going anywhere. What is looks like in a practical sense may change drastically over the next several years, but there will always be people that are called to lead, guide, and shepherd. Not a CEO of an organization. A pastor. One who hurts with people, prays for them, and has the resources to be ready for the collapse of society. A person who is not a politically driving mastermind, but a prophetic voice to the culture.
Pastor, you matter, and we are called together to storm Hell. Thank you for being my coworker…now let’s get back to work.
There is an epidemic that is spreading throughout the world. It is one that every human being has experienced and will continue to experience until they enter their eternity. This epidemic is the ailment we call pain.
For the most part, humans try to avoid pain, or when they are in the midst of it, attempt to find some sort of sedation. I see this every day in my day job (a doctor’s office). People call every day wanting their pain medications and depression drugs so that they will not have to feel what is affecting them.
People are in pain….I get that. It hurts….I get that too. Pain is not always a physical malady that we can treat with medication, but often hits us in our emotional center. This often hurts us the most. It feels better to alleviate it….It is easier to concentrate when it is gone.
I think we often misunderstand the interplay of God and our perceived archenemy; pain. We assume that God’s main job in life is to take away our pain, and even prevent it. I tend to agree, mostly, with these assumptions but I think there are times where pain is a necessary tool to use to guide us to holiness.
In ancient times, when a lamb would wander away from its shepherd, the shepherd would break a leg of the lamb and carry it on his shoulders until it is healed. The pain for the lamb would be trememdous and the shepherd would also experience turmoil for the pain that it inflicted on the lamb. The point? The lamb’s leg was going to heal and simultaneously this delicate animal would learn to fully depend upon its master. The nature of the relationship changes for the two characters in this story and, at the same time, the lamb’s leg is stronger than ever.
Why do we equate pain with evil? God never said that pain didn’t exist before the fall of man…He just said that the fall would be painful (childbirth, death, etc).
God cares about your pain and truly desires to heal you……Just don’t allow any suffering you experience to be wasted.
Walking up the mountainside with my father that day felt very natural. We were traveling there to make a sacrifice to the god that my father called Yahweh. This was the only god that my father worshiped and he seemed to act as if he really spoke to this god. They actually had an intimate relationship…like they were best friends that had been through so much together. Father seemed a little upset and even nervous while we were heading to the altar site that day. He would not look me in the eye and he would answer my questions with short replies. He was talking to Yahweh the whole way. At first the conversation with Yahweh was friendly but then the mumblings sounded more frustrated. Nevertheless, my father seemed determined to give God honor.
After a long walk we finally made it to the site and set up the altar. I soon realized that dad forgot the offering. Obviously we were going to have to go back and get it. This happened one other time before and it was a long day. We had never been to this site before and I was looking at the two servants that were with us and they didn’t seem to notice. I should have said something before we left but I wasn’t paying attention. When I was about to mention the lack of a sacrificial animal my father turned to me and I noticed something alarming. His eyes were puffy, and his beard was soaked with tears. I could tell he had been crying for a long time. My memory went back to the night before when I was awakened by the sound of violent sobbing. Father was upset about something, and he was even pounding the walls…So, EVERYONE was awake.
I then mentioned the fact that we did not have a sacrifice and he looked as if he was angry that I mentioned it. Rather rudely he snapped back at me “God will provide a sacrifice”. Ok then, remind me never to mention something like that again….he was obviously in a bad mood that day. He picked me up and put me on the altar. I wasn’t sure why but I imagined it was to test the sturdiness and how much weight it could hold. Then he raised the knife with his hand shaking. Wait……what was happening? Was I about to be the sacrifice?
Just then we heard a rustling sound. After that, a wimper… It was a beautiful and majestic ram caught in a bush. I then heard a booming voice and I could tell that it was God but I couldn’t understand the words. Dad did though… My father jumped higher than I have ever seen him jump and started laughing as if he were crazy. He kissed me and tossed me to the side like we were wrestling around at home. God provided a ram for us to sacrifice.
Later I found out more than I ever wanted to know about that day. I was the one that God asked my father to sacrifice. His beloved son. I can’t imagine the pain that my father was feeling after God asked him to take this step. Looking down from my current perspective, and knowing what I do now I have made one main observation about this current generation. I have noticed that sometimes God asks us to do things we don’t understand. If we are obedient, blessings always follow. It’s rather simple really…but applicable to all generations.