Count the Cost. Follow Jesus

In the middle of last year, the verse that popped into my head upon immediately waking up was this one, “Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay its head.” Matthew 8:20

Why did this verse, seemingly, out of left field, come into my head? I literally opened my eyes, and as clear as day this verse was there rattling off in the forefront of my mind. I hadn’t been thinking of this verse or read this verse recently. My first reaction was, well that’s weird, “why did that verse pop up?” My next immediate thought was, “Ok Lord, I will make a point to take note and remember it.”

The next several months began a big journey into, what does it really mean to follow Jesus? Get ready! Following Jesus is costly but worth everything! When you start following him, the battle begins with the world the flesh and the devil.

Is there a spiritual restlessness here on this earth that we are more aware of when we choose to follow Jesus? Are we more aware of our alienation from this world and wanting to be rid of sin?

Augustine said, “Our souls are restless until we find rest in Him”I have always loved this quote, but something of what I was going through made me say “wait, I thought I’m supposed to be resting easy now. Why is the struggle so much greater now?”

So what is the difference between restlessness of not knowing God, not following Jesus as our ultimate fulfillment and, restlessness of our alienation in this world and longing for the next and the spiritual battle we face as followers of Jesus? Job said, “oh that my vexation were weighed and all these trials laid in the balance.”

There is a battle raging, and though we can have peace in the midst of the battle, we need to know what this looks like as a Christian soldier. Walking in faith as a Christian soldier requires courage, and what is the pre-requisite for courage? Fear. Do you think soldiers ever experience anxiety? You bet! A Christian soldier requires obedience. We have direct orders from our commander. We trust and we obey. What is the prerequisite for obedience? Submission.

A dog is the most happy, confident and content when it’s in submission to its master. The dog can even do the job it’s trained for such as a military dog or a police dog, the dog is not afraid to do the work and get in the struggle because the dog has submitted to his master and is confident. We have a master as well, a perfect, sovereign all powerful, all knowing master, and when we are in submission to Him, we can have full confidence that His providential hand is guiding us. We can face the battle courageously.

In war, I wouldn’t describe soldiers as comfortable, but they are steadfast. They are resolute. They are faithful. They are focused on the victory. They act in assurance that there is no other option to win the battle but to persevere. Our peace as a follower of Jesus in this pilgrimage is dependent on our response. Will we choose to be like Daniel saying, I will pray publicly and openly no matter the cost or like David, courageously facing the giant, or Abraham willing to sacrifice his treasured son. Or will we be like Jonah, who chose not to obey and in his restlessness ended him in the belly of a fish. Jonah tried to hold on to his own comfort, and the comfort he thought he had, that was taken from him. Our Lord said, “Whoever saves his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake will gain it.”

Biblical comfort and peace look different in light of eternity. Worldly peace and comfort is false security. Following Jesus is the only way. It will be costly but it’s too costly not to; your life depends upon it. Choose to follow Jesus no matter the cost. He reigns victorious and we can trust Him. He is making all things work together for good. Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus. If you have chosen to follow Jesus, nothing can separate you from the love of God! Nothing!

Glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Amen!

Freedom? Why the Weight?

Let me share my recent feelings and experience.

I haven’t been sleeping well at night. There is a heavy weight. I will doubt myself. I’m constantly examining everything. Did I say that right? Did I do that right? Did I have the right motivation? And usually it’s no, no and no and then I get depressed and feel like a failure. I start praying and praising and reading His Word to pull me out of it. I want to be like Jesus and I hate the sin I see in myself and just sin in general.

This is my response to myself…

The gospel doesn’t weigh us down. Our sin weighs us down. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus. Although, the true gospel makes us more acutely aware of our sin and the weight of it. The burden of sin is heavy, but the gospel is our freedom.

We have been justified by faith. His righteousness is counted to us. The debt is paid through the work of the cross, but this doesn’t mean all our troubles go away.

Pressing on through this life we are being purified. We are being conformed into the likeness of Him. We will go through fire. Just like a diamond has to go through the fire to become brilliant and radiant how much more do we? This won’t be always comfortable, and easy, but rest assured His burden is light in comparison to carrying the weight of our own sin.

Looking ahead, we await our final freedom from death and decay where the struggle with this weight of sin is no longer.

God’s grace is carrying us all the way. My identity is not in my performance. My identity is in Him. “My sheep hear my voice.”The Christian life is one persevering step after another. Be steadfast pressing on to the goal. The goal is the final glorification, being rid of sin and being in the presence of the Lord for eternity.

When our sin trips us up and our flesh gets the best of us, let us not waste a minute to run back to our Shepherd. He is a God of abounding grace and mercy. He knows our weakness. Ask Him for forgiveness and know that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Do you feel the weight of sin?

Rest assured that is a good thing. CS Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

Let our hearts and minds not become desensitized and comfortable with sin, but instead take that weight and lay it at the foot of the cross, where we will find our peace and comfort.

Press on brothers and sisters.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

Hebrews 12:1

I Love To Tell The Story

THE WALKING DEAD

The angels appearing to the women when they were at the empty tomb of Jesus said, “Why are you seeking the living among the dead?” Luke 24:5

One commentary had this to say, “The angels’ question made a point: the living are not to be found among the dead. We should not expect spiritual life among those who do not have it. Many look for Jesus in dead things—religious traditionalism, formalism, man’s rules, human effort and ingenuity. We find Jesus only where there is resurrection life, when He is worshiped in Spirit and in truth.”

CHAINS OR FREEDOM

Remember old Jacob Marley in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol? He appears to Scrooge as a ghost all bound up in heavy weights and chains. Our life without the resurrected Jesus is chains, but where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. The biggest lie, is that if I follow Jesus, He will take away my freedom and fun. Jesus is the only one who gives us freedom. When we are in rebellion against the One who created us, all we will produce is death. When we try to walk in any other way the puzzle piece doesn’t fit, it’s like putting a round peg in a square hole. Jesus is the chain breaker. When you taste the water of Life that Jesus gives, nothing else will compare.

ABUNDANT LIFE

This is offered through Jesus. He is the life giver. He is the way maker. He is the chain breaker. He makes the blind to see, the deaf to hear and the lame to walk. He removes the veil from our face. How can this be? We are conquerors because Jesus conquered sin and death by shedding His blood on the cross for us. That was our penalty and He took it upon Himself. He conquered death at the resurrection. No grave could hold him down. So, we are more than conquerors over sin and death because of the blood of the lamb, the word of our testimony, and because we denied our own way and life to follow Jesus. Revelation 12:11

EXAMINE YOURSELF

Where are you looking for Jesus? Traditionalism, empty religion, morality, trying to do good, going along to get along, the golden rule, mysticism? Have you experienced this resurrected Jesus? Are you weighted down in chains by your own sin? He died for you to give you life, you also must die to yourself to have this resurrection life. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die.” John 11:25

The old self has to be put to death. There is no other way. You can’t serve two masters. Jesus wants ALL of you. If you have trusted in Him as Lord, the old self has to be put down, your thoughts, your ways, your philosophies, your ideas, your vices, your pleasures, all your idols, your pride? The Lord will continue to work in us to kill all the things that are standing in the way of the abundant Life found only in HIm. Are you clinging to something that you are not willing to crucify?

“I have been crucified in Christ, it’s no longer I who live but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

He Will Bring Forth

We love because, He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

How can we love? Not by looking at anything we can do, in fact don’t even be concerned with how. Instead, focus on Him— His love for us. When I genuinely focus on how much Jesus loves me and the way he demonstrated His love to me, love will come as an outpouring that He brings forth in me.

Psalm 37:4-6 “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.”

I’d like to stop and look at this scripture closely. We do have key words that have promised results.

Delight! Get into His company, sit at His feet, learn of Him. We will find our desires begin to reflect His. Our heart’s desires begin to transform. We begin to desire the things we didn’t before and we let go of the things we once held tightly; all because He first loved us and we acknowledged and confessed this love. Christ’s love is brought forth in us.

Commit! Transfer your way to God’s way. Hold nothing back. Are you clinging to anything of your own? What have you not committed to God that may be holding you back from experiencing His love more deeply, and more abundantly? Is there a fear you are holding on to? Is there a resentment in your life? Was there a past wound that you are holding onto and you are saying “you can have all Lord, but that. I’d like my own way in this area, I know best.” Are you clinging to your intellect? your possessions? your health? your comfort? your pride? your status? man’s approval? The gifts God gave you? When He says “Commit” He means EVERYTHING!

Trust Him! We are in His company, and we have laid it all at His feet transferring our ways to His ways. Trust Him. “Faith looks away from itself to the object of faith, even to Christ” SpurgeonBy keeping our eyes on Him, our faith grows, not by looking at faith itself. We can’t look at faith itself. When Peter stepped out of the boat, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus he was able to walk without sinking, but as soon as he took his eyes off of him and started looking at himself and his circumstances, he began to sink.

He will bring forth! When we delight, commit and trust in Him, He will bring forth. I want to stop there, because He is the one that compels, He is the one that enables, He is the one who brings forth, not me. What will He bring forth? My righteousness because, I am covered in His righteousness and it becomes my righteousness. He will bring forth His light in me so that I can shine for His glory. Our acts of righteousness are a direct result of His bringing it forth in me. I will find that my love for God and others will be a direct outpouring of Him bringing it forth. I love because He first loved me. Hosea 10:12 says, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in steadfast love.”

Do you know this love that Jesus has for you? There is nothing you can do to earn it. You could never do enough. Our own righteousness is as filthy rags. Even though you were far off. Even though you were alienated from Him. Even though your heart rejected Him. Even though you rebelled. All have gone astray, everyone has turned to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). Out of love, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). He gave us a way back into relationship with Him, by His sacrifice on the cross. He took our sins upon Himself and paid our debt so that we could be rescued from the judgment of God. We now are free in Him and have peace with God. This is a free gift. Do you acknowledge and confess this gift?
God brings forth life and love.(John 11:25-26)Sin brings forth death.(James 1:15)
We were dead in our sins, BUT GOD! God in His great love for us made us alive (Ephesains 2:1-10). We were dead and He brought us forth out of death. He removes our heart of stone, and says, “Come forth” We can then give glory to God, I was once dead, but now I am alive! I am set free from death! Read the story of Lazarus( John 11)

He will bring forth!
Let us simply, acknowledge and confess Jesus as Lord of all. Delight, commit and trust in Him all for the glory of God alone! To Him be praised!

How To Have Joy Through Integrity

Joyful are the people with integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord” Psalm 119:1

“The meaning of “joyful” here may include happiness, but it’s deeper than that. It’s contentment, peacefulness, gratefulness, no matter our circumstances.

We all want this and we search for it in all kinds of things except nothing fits and satisfies that this world can offer.

St. Augustine said, “O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

We were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

The psalmist gives the solution to a life of Biblical joy.

“Joyful are the people with integrity”

First let’s talk about the word “integrity”

We say things about integrity, like “doing the right thing”, “he has honest character” Why do we makes these statements and on what grounds?

We all acknowledge in this statement that there is a right and a wrong, and there is a true and a false.

Integrity can’t live in a world of relativistic thinking.

Integrity can only operate if there really is an absolute truth that exists. There would be no logical explanation for it otherwise.

As C. S. Lewis showed us, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

The Psalmist doesn’t just say “Joyful are the people with integrity”

The Bible doesn’t leave open equations for you to figure out your answer.

The answer is, “who follow the instructions of the Lord.”

Which instruction manual are you following?

When you follow an instruction manual to build something, you know you can’t follow the wrong manual or else it is going to be a big mess.

God created us to worship and follow Him and Him alone and we have the instruction manual, His Word.

So how are we to be joyful? Have integrity. And how do we have integrity? By following God’s Word.

God With Us

God is holy and perfect and demands perfection. This may sound harsh, but the truth still remains.

Being good is not good enough.

No matter how much good we do, on its own it will never be good enough.

We are not better than the next person because of all the good things we do and all the bad things we don’t do.

So how in the world can we satisfy this perfect God?

This is how:

Philippians 2:5-7

Have this same attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus [look to Him as your example in selfless humility], 6 who, although He existed in the form and unchanging essence of God [as One with Him, possessing the fullness of all the divine attributes—the entire nature of deity], did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or asserted [as if He did not already possess it, or was afraid of losing it]; 7 but emptied Himself [without renouncing or diminishing His deity, but only temporarily giving up the outward expression of divine equality and His rightful dignity] by assuming the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men [He became completely human but was without sin, being fully God and fully man].

Ephesians 2:5-7

even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace—His undeserved favor and mercy—you have been saved from God’s judgment).(A) 6 And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus, 7 [and He did this] so that in the ages to come He might [clearly] show the immeasurable and unsurpassed riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus [by providing for our redemption].

The short answer is we will never meet the standard, but God in His great love gave us a rescue plan, a Gift and that Gift is Himself.

God entered into our humanity. In the beginning was the WORD and the Word was WITH God and the Word WAS God. The “Word” is Jesus. Read that again and replace “Word” with “Jesus.”

God entered into humanity becoming one of us, fully man, but He remained fully God. He was fully man but without sin.

He came for one purpose, and that is to die.

Because we could never be good enough or holy enough to meet the judgement that was upon us, God the Son sacrificed himself in our place to satisfy the debt we could never pay.

We just have to repent which means surrender and turn around, and accept the free gift and believe. We are then given abundant life free from the chains that bind us.

If you are burdened by trying to meet the standard of good to earn your way and you are tired and weary…Jesus said, take my yoke upon you and I will give you rest. Harness up to Jesus, He will lead you, you don’t have to go through this life alone.

During this upcoming Christmas season think on this:

In the words of the sacred Christmas carol, O come O come Emmanuel. Emmanuel means God with us.

Trust in Jesus today! He loves you.

Two Lenses; The Sacred And The Secular?

I am a Christian, Christ follower, and it’s not just a belief/faith, it is my identity—my whole self.

I hear some Christians talk as if there is a secular/sacred divide. For instance, I go to church and I do these things in my sacred life and than my work and play is over here in this secular corner. Even more concerning is Christians whose worldview is separated from God’s Word. For example, those that say politics, culture and what’s going on in the world is in my secular corner and should not mix with my sacred life.

How does this make any logical sense? This idea may be the main reason Christians can be ineffective in their influence in the world.

Yes it is true, we are Christians living in the world not of the world but that doesn’t mean that our view of the world is to be seen through a different lens.

C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.”

Our identity in Christ will shape our worldview. It is through this identity that we can discern and see everything else.

It would make no sense that the Creator of the universe would have us view the world through different lenses. The Bible(God’s breathed Word) is our guide.

The closer we align ourselves with God’s Word the more His Word is living through us, in our beliefs, thoughts, actions and motivations across our entire lives. It will help me to discern in all areas the Truth from the false.

When we stray from keeping His Word as the central lens then this is where we will easily be led astray from His Truth. Beware of adding to or taking away from the authority of Scripture.

If you are finding contradictions, and holes in your worldview, don’t let it go and pass that off as, “oh that must go in the secular corner.” Do the work. Pray. Wrestle. Let the Light of God’s Word shine His Truth on it.

His Word is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.
Seek and you shall find! Knock and the door will be opened. Seek Him first.

Quiet Sea and Submission

A fear of mine and somewhat of a fascination is the open waters and outer space.

It sends chills when I watch people going in a submarine miles below the surface or to outer space.

There is something terrifying about the deafening silence and expanse.

Why is this? I think it’s the fear of the unknown, the inability to see a beginning and an end. It requires a submission. It exposes our finiteness, our lack of ultimate control. It strips any notions of the world revolving around us and forces our submission.

We don’t like submission, so we don’t allow ourselves to be put in a position where this is thrust upon us, yet we inevitably can’t run from it.

Is this an intersection of the free will of man and the sovereignty of God? 

I can be afraid and choose not to go to outer space so I can stay comfortably in control, but even though I may believe and feel I’m in control by not choosing to go to outer space, outer space still remains and I’m still just as finite and not in control in my safe space as I would be in the expanse of the galaxy. We make choices, yes, but our choices don’t change truth and reality.

We can choose to take our own path, but really there is no other path. We are ultimately at the mercy of this absolute so our choices will ultimately come under this authority and we will find we had no choice.

Our freedom then is in submission to the Truth not apart from it. When we have submitted to our creator and trust Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith we can live in abundant life the way we were designed. No more fighting for something we weren’t designed for in the first place. 

A fish was designed to swim in water and not to live in the desert. No amount of choosing to try to make a fish live on dry land will change the fact that it was never meant for that. Only death will come from living out of God’s will.

Below is a poem written by Johann Wolfgang Goethe around 1795. It paints a masterful picture of the contradiction of the alarming deep dark silence and how this makes way for the joy of the sighted land.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6

“Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Job 22:21

Quiet Sea

Deep quiet rules the waters;

motionless, the sea reposes,

and the boatsman looks about with alarm

at the smooth surfaces about him.

No wind comes from any direction!

A deathly, terrible quiet!

In the vast expanse

not one wave stirs.

Fortunate Voyage

The mist is torn away,

The heavens turn bright,

And Aeolus unfastens

The bonds of fear.

There, the winds rustle,

the boatsman stirs.

Quickly! Quickly!

The waves rise up again.

The distant view draws close,

Land ho, I call!

—Johann Wolfgang Goethe

IT IS GOOD OR I WANT

America was founded on an authoritative objective morality outside of ourselves.

And though not all the founding fathers were Christians, The Bible was the foundation for this thinking. We simply can’t take this fundamental truth out of our history. You can try to rewrite history but all will fall apart when you rip away its foundation.

Some things are not meant to see through.

Lewis writes in the Abolition of Man,

“The whole point of seeing through something, after all, is to see something through it. One looks through a window in order to see the street or garden beyond. Similarly, it makes no sense to try to see through first principles. A world in which everything is transparent is an invisible world; thus, seeing through everything is the same thing as not seeing at all.

Trying to get beyond these principles results in the destruction of society as we know it. When we think we are seeing through foundational principles, we are actually losing our ability to see wisely at all.”

Lewis is inclined to believe that history does not show many examples of people who stepped outside of traditional moral structures and then used their power benevolently.

Lewis also says, “When there is no longer any objective sense of “It is good,” all that remains is “I want. This means that the conditioners are motivated only by their own pleasure. When there are no objective measures of value, then conditioners cannot value one emotional impulse over another, except by the impulses’ relative strength.”He further claims, “…they have sacrificed the sense of being part of traditional humanity in order to decide for themselves what “humanity” really is.”

So what does it mean to be human?

“…but when humanity has won the victory of making itself whatever it desires, what has it really won?”

A yard stick is objective. If my yardstick is 36” and yours is 42” whose measure should we use to determine a yard? What if someone comes along and says my yard stick is 24”?

If we have the right to redefine everything, how are we to communicate with each other?

If the founding fathers had not used an objective standard of morality, America would have never been founded?

We are on a slippery slope by trying to get away from an objective morality.

This is to our destruction because all our good and benevolent acts have no concrete authoritative basis and are left to crumble at our impulses and feelings. How can we live in agreement without boundaries and an objective standard?

So you say, my body, my rights, my feelings, my truth, my life?

This is the beginning of the end. This is the destruction of each individual and society as a whole!

There are absolutes and we are at the mercy of them.

CONVICTION

I have been convicted to say this. I believe God laid this on my heart.

I can tell you one thing, God’s kingdom is not of this world and though we should fight to always uphold the truth in love and stand up for what is right, we should take caution to get fixated on anything but the gospel of Jesus. This is the main thing.

It’s people’s souls, we are talking about. May we be careful to not boast in anything but the cross of Christ and our weakness and need for Him.

His authority and power is absolute. God’s got this all under control.

Let not your heart be troubled. Be anxious about nothing, pray about everything. May we humble ourselves before Him. Surrender to His will. His will is perfect. May we check in with our motivations and our hearts to see if we have our priorities in order. Love the Lord your God, and Love your neighbor as yourself.

You can be sure that whatever happens in this election, God is the only One that can be trusted 100% of the time. And even when things don’t seem to go the way we would like, He cares so much for us that He will do whatever it takes to bring His children closer to Himself. What have we been idolizing that He may have to pry from our hands?

Christians, it’s time to get real!

God is calling His people to wake up!! Declare to the world the love and hope and abundant life that is only found in Jesus.

This is of eternal consequence.

Don’t be discouraged of the circumstances. Don’t be cast down! Don’t let the cares of this world overwhelm you.

Stand up for Jesus!

Let His light shine in the darkness! Darkness has to leave when the Light of the World shows up!

Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty. The whole earth is filled with His glory! Isaiah 6:3