In this episode, we are asking the question, what is better…to minister from a place of strength or a place of weakness? This is an examination of Paul’s encouragement in 2 Corinthians 12. Click on the link below to listen.
You are called
In this episode of the Everyday Jesus podcast, we look at the subject of calling. Is everyone called to do ministry or is it something just for pastors and missionaries?
Ministering From Weakness – Everyday Jesus
The Christian Conscience and Mandates
We are living in a time when the government mandates many things – from health insurance to certain shots. And while many may take the stance that Romans 13 addresses how the Christian should respond to such mandates, I believe that is a blanket statement in which the blanket has far too many holes in it to keep anyone warm.
Now, to be clear, most of the people I personally know that have been faced with the more recent mandate, have actually gotten around it by applying for an exemption. Some of the exemptions have been medical and some have been religious. And it seems that there is a controversy as to whether religious exemptions are biblical.
Those in charge in many places were expecting people to apply for religious exemptions, specifically tied to the fetal cell argument, so they sought to obscure the truth, (see link here). My thoughts today are not to talk down that line of thinking for applying for a religious exemption because of the deeply held belief that abortion is wrong, but to also offer another train of thought in regards to exemptions – namely the idea of a Christian conscience.
Many have seemingly forgotten one of Christianity’s deeply held ideas, that every Christian has a conscience and to go against one’s conscience is sinful. On October 31st, the church across the world celebrates Reformation Day, which is the anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Chapel.
As history taught us, the ruling powers in the church at the time did not take kindly to what Luther thought, so they started persecuting him and asking him to take back what he had said against the pope and the church. It is in that context that he is reportedly to have said: “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
Christians today could learn a lot about the sheer boldness and fortitude possessed by Luther, because the conscience is an important part of how we are to live out our lives as believers. Deep within our souls we know right from wrong and God expects us to do what is right.
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17
James does not hold back here, it’s sinful to go against your conscience. The Bible doesn’t address every area of sin. It doesn’t mention how much time we should spend on Facebook or in what ways we should use computers, but it does say that the law of God has been written on the hearts of men. And James draws from that, the idea that we know the difference from right and wrong and we must do what is right. Where the Bible is silent, in other words, we must follow what God has put into our hearts.
Now we know according to Jeremiah 17:9 that the heart is exceedingly deceitful, so how does this play into our conscience? Well the Bible answers that in the New Testament. Hebrews 9:14 says, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
Put simply, because of Jesus and his atoning work on the cross, our conscience is being purified. Now this doesn’t mean it’s perfect and we should certainly pray over our responses in critical situations, but as James said, we can’t go against our conscience as that would be sinful.
Now I’ve said all of that to say this, when it comes to government mandates, the Christian must search his conscience and do what is right to him, for to do anything other would be sinful. The Bible is clear that government has its place and it is to be God’s servant for your good (Romans 13:4). It should be honored and respected. But the Government is not God and when the government tells you to do something that goes against God or your conscience, then you have a duty to do what is right before God.
This line of thought was summed up perfectly in the early church when Peter and the apostles were brought before the local authorities and were instructed to stop preaching the gospel. Now they could have obeyed the principle in Romans 13, but instead, they understood the principle in James 4:17 and chose to stand up for what they believed and said, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
So I’d like to encourage you in a couple of areas today. First, if you are facing a mandate and it goes against your conscience, stand strong. Secondly, if you are having discussions with friends and family on this subject, and their conscience is telling them something different than what yours has told you, please love and respect them. We are free to disagree with one another, but we are not free to hate on one another. Christians should be known for their grace, not their vitriol, even in times like these.
WHICH GOD DO YOU SERVE?
This is a story almost as old as time. As a people, we were created to worship. Now some, possibly those who are atheist, would say that we are not created to worship and that they are choosing not to worship any god. They would however be wrong.
When we think of worship, a lot of times we think of it as kneeling down before our chosen deity. Yet, worship is more than that. It’s really about what do we give reverence to or to put it another way what do we make the highest authority in our life.
Whatever is our highest authority or whatever we give the most reverence to is what we are worshipping. We may never sing songs to it and we may never physically kneel before it, but make no mistake, we are worshipping it.
At any given times, multiple things or people are vying for our worship. One of these easiest gods to point out is the god of money. Jesus never says that money is evil, it’s fairly neutral, but it’s the “love” of money that is evil. Or to look at it another way, it’s the worshipping of money that is evil. That’s why Jesus also says that you cannot serve two masters – god and money.
That’s a principle worth noting – you cannot worship two gods. You might think you are worshipping God and money or God and popularity, but in truth one will always take the place of the other, meaning you will always hold one in higher esteem and if you are holding one in higher esteem, then the other isn’t really being worshipped. Jesus is essentially saying that if you are choosing between God and anything else, then God is the one who will lose out. You must determine that He alone is God and that nothing else is worthy of your worship.
One of the seemingly shared characteristics of all gods is their ability to save us from hell. I heard a preacher say years ago, that if being poor is hell for us, then of course money will save us. If being being single is hell, then of course a spouse will save us. If being rejected is hell, then you will worship popularity. We worship the god that we think will save us.
This brings us to our current state of affairs. Sometimes you will see that certain entities will create a “hell” so that it can also save you from it. Today governments all across the world are creating a “hell” for people so that it can offer salvation. This hell is the inability to enter restaurants, stores or even work at certain jobs without having the proper “medical credentials”. The government now has the ability to save you from this hell by offering you salvation in the form of a shot and the proper paperwork. The reason for this is simple, the government is demanding your worship.
Some will say that Romans 13 is an open checkbook for us to obey any and all demands of the government, but they fail to take into account several instances in the Bible where people didn’t obey the ludicrous claims of the governing authority, especially when those demands went against their faith. The Apostles never stopped preaching the gospel, even though they were commanded to under the threat of death.
“But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”Acts 5:29
Look at the stories of the midwives in Exodus 1 or Rahab in the Book of Joshua. Look at the life of Daniel and the three Hebrew boys. There are many examples of defying tyrants in the Bible. In fact, some would say that it’s one of the hallmarks of being a God-fearing person. You fear God more than you fear the government.
“Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God”John Knox – Scottish Reformer
Again, we worship whatever we hold in the highest regard. If it’s God, we will certainly attempt to live quiet lives, seeking to love others and to love God. But don’t expect the government or money or whatever not to fight for your worship. I believe every Christian will have to face the question, which god do you serve? You can only choose one. Which one do you serve today?
Pregnant With The Wind
In this episode we are discussing what it looks like to be pregnant with the wind, or to put it in other words, to labor for something that never comes to pass. Have you ever worked hard only to find yourself in a fruitless situation several years down the road? Have you ever had a dream that never came true or didn’t amount to what you thought it would. We hit on all those things and more in this episode.
Pregnant With The Wind – Everyday Jesus
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Seek And You Will Find
In this week’s episode of the podcast we look at the encouragement to seek. “Seek and you will find,” Jesus says. What does that mean? How should we seek? When should we seek? What will we find? All of these questions are answered in today’s episode.
Seek And You Will Find… – Everyday Jesus
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Our Sufferings Make Us Like Jesus
On Easter Sunday, I preached a message about olives. Not your typical message by any stretch of the imagination, but something I felt strongly about after diving into the text. I was preaching on the fact that Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray on the night before his crucifixion. Gethsemane in Hebrew means “oil press”. And since it was located on the Mount of Olives, it was literally the olive oil press. You can listen to the sermon below by skipping to around the 30 minute mark of the video.
One of the things I wanted to tease out a little more was about how when we are pressed by the circumstances of life, like an olive in the oil press, what is truly happening is that we are sharing or taking part in Christ’s sufferings. We are actually identifying with him in the oil press.
“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Paul wants to identify with Christ in his sufferings. What does that mean? It means he believes that as he suffers in this life, he is becoming more like Christ. Now, this is the opposite of how we believe. We believe that if we are suffering, God must be against us. Paul says, no. If you are suffering, you are becoming more like Christ through your suffering.
This concept is so foreign to us. Every time I suffer from something – a sickness, a setback, a broken relationship – God is working in me. He is trying to produce something through me. I may try to fight it. I may want the suffering to end, but God is doing what is best for me in that situation. He is a good father and is trying to get me to produce something for him. The question is what is He trying to get me to produce?Continue reading “Our Sufferings Make Us Like Jesus”
Palm Sunday Reflections
Have you ever felt on top of the world one minute and in the lowest depths of the earth, the next? I often think of the wild swing in emotions that were in Jerusalem during the passion week. It went from Jesus on palm Sunday riding into Jerusalem on a donkey with the crowd shouting “Hosanna!” to Jesus being beaten and killed on a Roman cross by the end of the week.
Jesus and his disciples started a week filled with just about every emotion in the book. The joy that came on Palm Sunday would be replaced by grief on Friday and then joy again on resurrection Sunday. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. No wonder his disciples struggled with how to respond properly. I would have likely responded just a they did – bewildered at the week’s events.
The Triumphal Entry, as it is labeled in my Bible, was a culmination of three years of teaching and miracles surrounding Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had been working many signs and wonders among the people for years and his reputation was growing in popularity. The zenith of his three year tour would be found in this passion week and it all started with a parade.
It’s interesting in some ways that this is called the Triumphal Entry. Jesus certainly had not won a war, which is what this tradition sometimes calls back to, but like Solomon (1st Kings 1) he was being anointed king and this was his coronation parade (and his enemies were to be defeated after his victory parade). The people recognized this as well, for they ran ahead of Jesus and shouted “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
The issue was they didn’t see the kingdom in the way that Jesus had been describing it over the years. He had painstakingly took the time to detail this coming kingdom. It wasn’t going to come with a massive battle where he would cast out the Roman army. No, it was coming like a grain of mustard – small at first, but growing into a giant tree. Yes, the king was here and yes, the kingdom had arrived, but it wasn’t what the people thought it would be. That’s why they could sign the praises of Jesus on Palm Sunday and yell “crucify him” just a few days later.
It’s interesting how quickly our attitude changes toward God when He doesn’t do things exactly as we want Him to do. The kingdoms of this world were falling, but they didn’t fall over night. Many thought Jesus was going to tear them down immediately and this march in the Jerusalem was going to be the start of the revolution. It was, but not they way they pictured it. Jesus was going to use the kingdoms of this world to bring about his purposes. He would use them to achieve his greatest victory.
The kingdoms of this world were being cast down, but they didn’t know it. As a matter of fact, they would participate in their own demise. Rome would nail its own fate to that tree on Calvary. They thought they were mocking Jesus by putting a crown of thorns on his head, but in reality, they were crowning him King of the World, not just King of the Jews. God is not mocked.
So while the world mocked, the disciples mourned. While the rulers of this world divided his bloody clothing, Jesus was clothing us in new garments that made us white as snow. While they were beating him and leaving stripes across his back, He was healing our sicknesses and diseases. The cross is a glorious paradox of victory in defeat. Yes, Jesus died, but the story doesn’t end there. Death was not the end, it was truly a new beginning.
A rollercoaster of a week, started and ended in triumph.
Deny Yourself or Deny Jesus
Our society is backwards. We are told constantly that we need to look after ourselves. We need “me” time. We need to “find ourself.” You have to focus on you, because nobody else will, the saying goes. But this is all backwards to kingdom thinking.
In the kingdom, Jesus is asking us to deny ourselves. He is commanding us to take our focus off of ourself and put it on the cross. While others are feeding into what your flesh wants to hear, Jesus tells us that our flesh has to be crucified.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Jesus didn’t cut corners with his disciples. He told them exactly what they needed to hear and that message was simple, if you don’t deny yourself, you can’t follow me. Jesus knew that the denial of one’s own interests, hopes and dreams was a difficult ask. He knew that our flesh would fight against that line of thought. After all if you don’t look after you, who will?
Denying yourself is more than just saying no to yourself, it really is a death sentence as Jesus describes it. We deny ourselves and then we join him in his crucifixion by taking up our cross and following Him up the hill to Calvary. Denying yourself means you have to die to everything. And if you don’t deny yourself, you will most certainly deny Jesus.Continue reading “Deny Yourself or Deny Jesus”
Leadership 101: Leaders Are Tested
One of the things I’ve said before is that all of us are leaders. Some are leaders in the family, others leaders in their employment. Even if you don’t have a “title” or “position”, you can still be a leader.
Leaders are those that take initiative and keep going when everyone else stops. Godly leaders know that it’s not good enough to simply know the truth, you have to put the truth into action. You have to be a doer of the word, not just a hearer only, as James writes.
What I have found in my life is that when I put a biblical truth into action, I am tested. It seems like it’s almost immediately in most instances. I grab a hold of a new truth that God has given me and suddenly, there I am in the furnace of testing. God wants us content with his truth, but not complacent with it.
So we are tested.
When we enter into a time of testing, most of us think that we have done something wrong. For myself, I immediately start taking inventory of my life. “Where have I sinned?” But God doesn’t need us to sin to test us. He tests us for our own good. He already knows how we will respond when the furnace is turned on; it’s for our good that he flips the switch on us.
I am reminded of God’s servant Job. Job had it all, but it was all taken from him. You want to talk about being tested? Job was tested. His family, his friends, all that he owned…Job was being tested in every area of life. Most of us would not survive a testing like Job went through. But Job went through it, so we could learn from it.
“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth like gold.”
Job understood testing better than anyone and I love his bold statement here… “I shall come forth like gold.” Job understood the purpose of testing. He understood that God wants to refine us in the testing. He wants to get the impurities out. These impurities are thoughts and actions that only bubble to the surface in the refiner’s fire, in the testing. Job understood this.
Where are you today? Are you being tested? Do you feel like God has abandoned you? Take heart. God has not abandoned you, even if you feel like it. Job knows how you feel. In the midst of the trial it can feel like you are alone, but you are not alone. God is with you.
This is the life of all of His leaders. If you desire to lead others, you will be tested. You will have times where things don’t go the way you want them to, but it’s only a test.
I recently came out of a time of testing and I wasn’t sure I would make it through it. My emotions were all over the map, one minute I could sense a victory over the situation and a few minutes later, I felt nothing but defeat. When you are in the fire, you cannot trust your feelings. Lean into His word. God assures us that He doesn’t leave us. Hold on to His promises. True leadership is forged in fires like these.
The best analogy that I can come up with is that of an airplane flying into a storm. When the pilot flies into the storm, he can’t trust his gut. He can’t trust his feelings. He has to trust his instruments. Those are his guides. He can’t see where he is going. The storm is all around him. It’s easy to get turned upside down if you don’t follow your guides. The instrument cluster on the plane tells you where you are going and how far off the ground you are. As the pilot you have to trust those gauges. As a godly leader, your instrument panel is the Word of God. When the storm rages, check your instrument cluster and make sure you stay the course. God gave us these tools. Use them!