Journal Entry: October 9th 2016

October 9th, 2016

In some ways, I have allowed politics to become an idol. Maybe THE idol in my life right now. I follow it incessantly, yet hardly pray for my country, or open my Bible. I KNOW the truth, and the truth is that my country is not what I want it to be. Our values are not what I want them to be.

But doesn’t that miss the point? Is God not sovereign?
The answer of course is yes, but my idolatry and obsession over this election means that I am living more like it is a “no”.
Humbling indeed.

Both of our primary candidates are so deeply and fundamentally flawed. I recognize we are all deeply and fundamentally flawed, but can you recall a time where both candidates are such a far cry from anything resembling submission to the authority of God? This troubles me, but probably not for the right reasons as I think about it.

It troubles me because it means that the America that I have in my mind, that I believed would be present in my future, is fading rapidly. This America had strong Judeo-Christian values, was proud of what it meant to be an American and all that came with that.

This identity is dying and it breaks my heart. But it also means that (selfishly) my life will be harder. Prosperity will be threatened, my values will be of the minority and maybe even censored before too long.

So what are the right reasons for being troubled by this? Obviously the moral decline of our leadership is indicative of the moral decline of our nation. Wayward morality always has consequences. History has proved this time and time again. Heck, you don’t even need the Bible to see it but I believe Scripture provides the most coherent explanation.

Say what you want about the Founding Fathers, because many say they weren’t Christians. I don’t argue that here, I will say that they did view the world with a moral framework. There was a starting point, a foundation of morality that they looked to for inspiration and guidance.

We are losing this framework. We have no foundation or starting point to look to. And like a house without a strong frame or a body without bones, we fall in on ourselves.

There will be suffering and more suffering. Physical, psychological, social, economic. This is probably the saddest part of this, but also the greatest opportunity because suffering forces us to ask some pretty big questions.

What is the purpose of this?
Why do I suffer?
Is there any hope?

It is here that I return, because the answers to these questions, and the example of our lives is where the Church is indeed Salt and Light.

Salt prevents decay. Light shines brightest in the darkness.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16

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The Gospel: Watch, Hear, Experience

The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ and His redemption of our sins. I read this. I know this. I have said this and I believe this. But, what does it look like? Jesus arrived on the scene in human flesh 2,000 years ago, and has appeared in various mediums of art for the last 2,000 years. We have depictions of Him all over the world. What does the Gospel look like? What does it sound like today?

Change gears for a moment:

I appreciate artistic expression and I believe this is a manifestation of God in me. In all of us. The Creator of light, sight, sound, hearing, flavor, taste, colors and everything in between left his imprint on us. Being created in His image means so much more than appearance.

The art of communication is my preferred medium (those that have experienced the horror of me singing or observed my drawing skills will back me up on this). This art is increasingly robust in the Christian faith and with the technological advances of the last decade, we have access to SO MUCH great content. I have included some of my favorites below! I hope and pray you enjoy watching, hearing, and experiencing the Gospel in a whole new way!

John 3:16 – The Story of Love

G.O.S.P.E.L.

The Story of God

Comment below with some of your favorites and I will be sure to watch, hear, and experience the Gospel again!

Why We Need Community

I love golf. I have been playing for about 22 years now and the game has taught me a lot. Golf is unique because it is an individual sport. I have been on golf “teams” but even then we are just the sum of our individual contributions. This tendency to try and “go it alone” leaks into my walk with Jesus and the consequences are unsettling.

Here’s the thing: Following Jesus is not an individual endeavor. The Church does not function well when we fly solo. I do not function well as a member of the Church when I choose to fly solo.

I need community. We all need community.

But first, what is community?

One definition of community is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

A second definition is “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common

For our purposes, our definition of community is a combination and simplification that is best understood as “a committed group of Christ followers navigating life together.”

Seems simple enough, right? Yet I still struggle in isolation. We still struggle without community.

Why is that though? Why is it that I struggle when I am isolation? Why do I need community?

In Scripture we discover some answers to these questions –

  • Built for Relationship

So God created mankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

Being created in the image of God truly means something. We carry His imprint whether we like it or not. The thing about God is that He is relational. His relationship with the Son and Holy Spirit was always there.

Just think, the idea of relationship always was.

As carriers of His likeness, we are wired for relationship. Relationship with Him and with others around us. The context for this relationship is found in a community setting.

  • Better Together

Two are better than one,

because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,

one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

and has no one to help them up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 – 10

Allow me to share an illustration most of us can relate to – Have you ever gone to a theme park alone? Ever been to a movie alone?  I have done both and I can honestly say that my experience was not nearly as fulfilling as any time I went with someone else. Life is a lot like that as well. When I go to theme parks, my motto is the more the merrier because it is so much fun to experience theme parks with a host of friends! We are better together!

A life lived in community is fun, but it also has some other very real benefits.

Consider this illustration – Have you ever witnessed a friend making a bad decision that you knew would result in pain/suffering?

You know what I am talking about. This person is convinced they are making a good decision and are blind to any alternatives. Or maybe you have been that person. I know I have. I know I have had the blinders on and when I crashed I inevitably said “well I didn’t see that coming”.

But you know who did? The people that knew me best. My close friends and family in many cases.

We all have blind spots. A community can protect us from those blind spots and help us to make wise decisions.

  • Community Needs You

Though one may be overpowered,

two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

When I was in Basic Training, I learned very early on that I was no longer an individual. The Army has a way of beating that out of you. Any action that can be perceived as an individual action was met with swift punishment. We always did things as a team. The smallest unit was a group of two and your partner was called your “Battle Buddy”. My battle buddy was a guy named PVT Addison. We both learned early on that we had to rely on each other. I needed him, and he needed me.

The Church is like that.

I need community, and community needs me. There are blind spots that I can clear. There are bits of wisdom and insight that I can share to save someone pain and suffering. And then there are wonderful experiences that we can celebrate together!

You are the same. People need you. You are valuable. Jesus can and will use you.

Sin: the Great Enemy

There has been a resurgence like never before in my life to know Christ and to rest in His presence. While this has brought peace and rest, it has also brought struggle and pain. As Isaiah experienced God’s presence in Isaiah 6, his first thought was not, “Whoa!” but, “Woe.” C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, comments on this reality:

“The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object.”

One of my favorite passages of scripture, and one that I read daily, is found in Proverbs 7. As a follower of Jesus, especially as a man, sin tempts me from every angle and from every corner. This Proverb helps remind me daily of eight characteristics of sin and the consequences sin brings. This will not be a chipper blog post, but what I do hope it brings is an acute awareness of sin, its tactics, and its destruction. I contemplated posting Proverbs 7 directly below, but for time’s sake, I refrained. It would be helpful to read the chapter before proceeding (and I would highly recommend it!), but I have, in the subsequent paragraphs, included each portion of Scripture analyzed.

1. Sin is mis-positioning yourself (verse 6-11)

“For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home.”

Take the disciple Thomas for instance. Thomas was constantly doubting Jesus, but probably his most famous doubt comes post-resurrection when he exclaims, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25). Why did he doubt? John 20:24 says, “Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.” Likewise, David who commits adultery with Bathsheba is said to have remained in Jerusalem instead of fighting with his soldiers. A common theme develops here of men in the bible mis-positioning themselves and the result is sin.

2. Sin is everywhere (verse 12)

“Now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait.”

At every corner, at every turn, the devil is seeking to kill and destroy. Possibly the most dangerous place he lurks unaware is the church. Afterall, who expects an attack from the enemy while worshipping the Lord and fellowshipping with His bride? On the contrary, the church is filled with members that fight over theology, doxology, carpet-colorology while missing the mission and purpose for which we exist. Do not be fooled, our enemy is shrewd and cunning.

3. Sin is attractive (verses 13-17)

“She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, “I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian line; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.”

We live in a world that was created by God and deemed ‘very good.’ Through free will, it is our choice to bring about that which is evil. Evil is not a substance in and of itself, but a privation of something that is good. For example, rust exists only if a once good metal existed. Likewise, money, sex and fame (to name just a few) are all morally neutral things dependent on our choice as free moral agents to determine their goodness/wickedness. Therefore, when Satan tempts us, it is rarely with something that is purely evil, but with something that is created by God as good. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with wealth; but if wealth replaces God as man’s treasure, it ceases to be a good thing. Likewise, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with fame; but if fame becomes the pursuit of man’s life, fame becomes something wicked in the sight of God and detrimental to man’s life.

4. Sin is false promise (verse 18)

“Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love.”

The call to follow Christ is a call to experience life via death. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). Do you ever wonder why Satan shows his best (Genesis 3:4, Matthew 4:9) and hides his worst, while Jesus shows both his worst and his best simultaneously? Matthew Henry answers, “Satan shows the best, but hides the worst, because his best will not counterbalance his worst; but Christ’s will abundantly.”
In the end, the promises of Satan are death traps and can never bring the reward or fulfillment they promise.

5. Sin is secret (verse 19-20)

“For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.”

Sin’s nature is to hide, to cover up. Adam and Eve hid. David murdered to cover his tracks. Jonah fled to Tarshish. Sin and darkness are synonymous terms. That is why Christ is referred to the “Light that shines in the darkness” or, “the true Light that enlightens all men” (John 1:5, 9). A great self-probing question to ask yourself is this: if all my sins were displayed in front of the masses, would I leave feeling embarrassed? Better yet, do I have secrets, that, if discovered, would contradict the facade I am putting forward, and/or harm the relationships in my life? If the answer is yes, then you are probably struggling with sin.
Jesus’s message was just the opposite of this. He said instead of practicing righteousness outwardly, we should practice righteousness inwardly. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4). Instead of being a people who practice sin privately, let us be a people who practice righteousness privately and confess our sins to each other publicly (James 5:16). It is in this place that the grace and glory of God are displayed as supreme, not our own.

6. Sin is persuasive (verse 21)

“With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him.”

I think the best example we have of this is found with our first parents, Adam and Eve. When Satan tempted them, he used his cunning persuasive abilities. “Did God really say?” he asked. This point, centered around the most contentious question in history, “What is truth?” (also famously asked by Pilate), is what every believer stands before when tempted by sin. We see this in every sin. Did God really say not to lust? Did God really say not to lie? And so on we could go. The trick in recognizing sin’s persuasive power is justification. From my experience, the Spirit gives us one of two answers. He either gives us peace, or no peace. What happens more often than not, however, is when we are faced with a lack of peace, we justify ourselves into believing that an 80%, 90%, or even a 99.9% peace is good enough to proceed. Reality is, unless there is total peace, there is no peace, and Satan will use the trick of the non-existent “partial peace” to justify our position and to persuade us away from the truth of God and the direction of the Spirit. Do we really believe what God said?

7. Sin is near-sighted (verses 22-23)

“All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.”

The nature of sin is that it cannot see past itself. Sin sees only today, never tomorrow. Sin sees only the reward, never the consequence. For Samson this was also the case. The fleeting pleasures of sin Delilah offered were his vision, and once he gave in, it is recorded that, “He did not know the Lord had left him” (Judges 16:20). May our eyes be fixed on the Author and Perfecter of our faith, and not sinful passions.

8. Sin is death (verse 24-27)

“And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.”

When sin entered into the creation story, death, both natural and spiritual did too. From that point in history, all of the creation-order was disrupted, resulting in broken relationships, both God-man, and man-man. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” And the result of this sin? Death. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Now I know what you are thinking: dang, Matt, you are sounding like a fundamentalist! Whether that is true, I don’t know. But what I do know is that sin carries with itself no reward and infinite consequence; and, that sin brings pain, brokenness, and separation—both in our relationship to God and with others.

May we not be a people that flirts with eternal death by indulging in temporal sin, but let us put on the righteousness of God by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and run the race set before us, exhorting and encouraging each other in Christ Jesus.

Do not just flee from, flee to.

“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” -2 Timothy 2:22

Coming Down From the Mountain

Background- I wrote this over a year ago during a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. I wrote this to address the spiritual highs that are inevitably created during events like a mission trip. I call them “Mountaintop Experiences”.
Now, Mountaintop Experiences are wonderful. But so often they are temporary. It is difficult to maintain the high that we felt during our experience. We are often left disappointed and discouraged when we come off the mountain and  back to the real world, or the “valley”.
This particular journal became significant recently when the youth group at my local church came back from youth camp. Lives were changed and God truly moved. It has been dubbed the Revolution. I was given the opportunity to share with a Sunday School class, and God reminded me of this journal. The timing could not have been better. Students were energized and motivated, truly seeking the Lord. But they returned to a world that had not changed. A world full of challenges and doubt. Doubt from friends, doubt from family etc.
I want this to serve as encouragement to you. God does meet and change people on mountains. We just have to remember that our experiences cannot be driven by emotional highs and lows. They must be driven by a passion for the Lord. Remember, God will sustain the Revolution.
1 Corinthians 3:7- So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
Reference-
Genesis 22– Abraham
Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9- Jesus Transfiguration
Matthew 4:8 – Temptation of Jesus
John 17, Luke 22:39– Praying on Mount of Olives
Key Points
Mission trip was a mountaintop experience
  • Constant praise and fellowship
  • serving God actively
  • Away from normal lives
  • God met and changed men on mountains
    • Abraham
    • Moses
    • Jesus
  • Men were tested on mountains
    • Abraham- Isaac
    • Jesus- Satan
  • Were you tested this week?- yes
Questions-
  • How will we be when we come down from the mountain?
  • Will we be truly changed or will we return to business as usual?
  • When the challenges, comforts and stresses of life return, how will we respond?
  • We must return to the valley- no choice. Because,  Where are the lost?
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
         I will fear no evil;
         For You are with me;
         Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
Encouragement- Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.1 Cor 9:24

Welcome

Welcome to my blog. My name is Brian and it is my prayer that this blog will bless you in some way.  I am a Christian and I enjoy reading and studying the Bible. This blog will serve as a place where I will share my notes and thoughts on a wide range of topics.
Before I go any further, I want to make this statement-
I am not a Biblical scholar or anything like that. I have not been trained in any theological seminary. I do not know all of the answers. In fact, the older I get, the more I realize how limited my knowledge truly is. 
But I do know this- There is a God in heaven and He loves you.  He loves you enough to send His most beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross for you.  The only way to obtain eternal life is through Jesus Christ. Salvation is not by works. It is not about being a “good” or “bad” person.  The Bible makes this clear in Ephesians 2:8-9 .
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Everyone is seeking truth.  Everyone is seeking life after death.  The truth can be found in the Word of God. 
I hope by now you can see where I am coming from.  I am just a normal guy, who enjoys writing and is seeking to glorify God in any way possible.
Thank you and God Bless.
– B