Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Not my will

Mickey Connolly's message on Sunday was one that I won't forget quickly. Every time I hear/think about what took place on the road to the Cross, I'm just amazed. Each time I think about what Jesus endured with me in mind, I'm freshly aware of how much he loves me.

Have you ever gotten really anxious before doing something? Maybe it's going to the doctor...but you know that weird feeling in your gut right before you have to do something you don't want to do. Imagine that feeling and then think that you never had to face the unspeakable horrors of Calvary, or the depth of God's wrath toward sin being heaped upon your shoulders. The night of his betrayal, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed. This moment in time is probably one of the best examples of obedient faith expressed in history...pause for a moment and reflect on the agony and the lessons from the Garden.
Mark 14:32-42 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch." And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand."
At this moment in time, Jesus was experiencing great anguish...he was greatly distressed and troubled...very sorrowful. It was an incredibly extreme emotion...horror, appalled reluctance, hopelessness...these might summarize the emotions surging through his entire being, but I'm sure don't come close to describing what he was feeling on this night. What he did feel, he felt so heavily that he believed it literally could kill him - "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death."

How is it that this particular man could be feeling such deep pain and anguish? He was the man that throughout the Bible had been more courageous than any man...resolutely calm even when facing the devil himself! Other men had faced death with more courage than this...how are we to explain?
JOHN STOTT (The Cross of Christ, 73) - "Here something takes place which, despite the sober way the evangelist describe it, simply cries out for an explanation, and begins to disclose the enormous costliness of the cross to Jesus."
The weight of emotion in this moment literally overcame him and he couldn't stand...he fell on the ground and poured out his heart to his Father. What would cause this strong man to fall faint? It wasn't the fear of physical pain...it's a much greater pain that he is about to endure: (v.36 And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."). The cup he speaks of is the wrath of God poured out on all evil. This cup...it is to be poured out on him.
Isaiah 51:17  Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.
Ezekial 23:32-34 Thus says the Lord GOD: "You shall drink your sister’s cup
that is deep and large; you shall be laughed at and held in derision, for it contains much;
you will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow. A cup of horror and desolation, the cup of your sister Samaria; you shall drink it and drain it out, and gnaw its shards, and tear your breasts; for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD.
Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

In these verses it gives us a clearer picture of the cup...what he was facing. Jesus had a holy aversion, a holy hatred toward sin for his entire life, and now that horror was to be laid on him, in its entirety. All the big sins, all the small sins, the known and unknown sins, past, present, future...all we've ever done and ever will do was to be placed on him...he who had never known sin. He'd never experienced it...and now he was to become sin and drink the entirety of the cup of God's wrath against him...the cup without mercy.

The verse in Isaiah 51 says he would drink it to the dregs...meaning that he had to drink every last drop. If even 1 of my sins had been left out, that 1 sin would be enough to send me to hell for eternity. He drank the cup of poison willingly, so that we wouldn't have to.

Jesus cries out to his "Abba Father" - a most intimate name. It means Daddy God. Abba Father expresses the eternal love they had for one another...a love that had been felt forever. When he becomes sin, he will experience separation for the first time in eternity. The one whom he loves and the one who loves him will completely forsake and abandon him.
SINCLAIR FERGUSON (Mark, 239) - "Jesus was about to be exposed to the one thing in life he really feared: not the cruel death which would end it (he knew he would rise again), but the indestructible experience of feeling himself to God-forsaken. He felt he could not live - indeed, that life was not worth living - without the consciousness of his Father's love for him. Yet the fact that he entered that darkness and experienced such grief is the source of all our comfort. It assumes us that he understands our darkest hours. But more, it means that he has drawn the sting from our darkest hour for he has entered our God-forsaken condition so that we might share his God-accepted relationship to the Father!"
This should be our source of unbroken joy in our lives. Not even the worst sinner on the worst day of their lives has ever or will ever experience being completely forsaken by God. We casually use the phrase, "hell on earth" but what Jesus was about to face - complete abandonment by his Father - was literally hell...on this earth...complete and utter forsakenness. And yet, even as he sat staring into the cup, anticipating abandonment and becoming sin, he still is able to say, "not what I will, but what you will." He asks for the cup to be taken away - is there another way around this - but he was still 100% willing to face this. In this moment, Jesus is saying that nothing was more important to him than obeying his Father. To stare into that cup and still say yes reveals the depth of Jesus love and submission to his father.
SINCLAIR FERGUSON (Mark, 240) - "Everything in Jesus longed to escape from this terrible experience, seen in its own light; yet everything in Jesus also longed to be obedient to the Father - in that light he bowed before him praying 'not my will, but your will, be done, Father'."
He became our sin-bearer.  We cannot comprehend the depth of the cross without the Garden. If it were not for this glimpse into the Garden, we could not see how deep Jesus love for the Father and for us goes.

The Garden also helps us to face our own tests. Turn your attention to the disciples for a moment. They were to keep watch and to pray, but they were sleepy. Many times in our lives, our spirits are strong...but our flesh is weak. We end up sleeping like the disciples. It is important for the disciples to watch and to pray...not that Jesus would be rescued...but so that they would not enter into temptation. Jesus knew what they would encounter in the near future and his command is simple, yet their flesh was weak. The scene repeats 2 times before the hour of betrayal is at hand. When Jesus says "Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand." - he isn't saying "hurry, let's get out of here" he's saying "I prayed, the Father spoke, it's time to fulfill my Father's will."

There are 3 lessons we can take away from the Garden:
  • When tests and trials come - temptations follow.
    • Watch and pray...be prayerfully dependent upon God, not just when you think you need him.
    • Every day there are temptations to complain, stagger, dismay, despair, be depressed, be selfish, be fearful, and be unbelieving.
    • Also make note that Jesus took others with him in his time of need to pray with him. This is how we are to live our own lives...when trials and temptations come, bring others along side of you to lift you up in prayer.
    • Watch.
    • Pray.
  • Jesus' example of submission to the Father.
    • Every trial comes from God's sovereign hand for his glory, purpose, and kingdom. When you face a trial, don't respond, "Get me out!" - God always has a loving purpose even if he doesn't tell us why...his will is in no way capricious.
      • Isaiah 53:10-11 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
    • God's will, his purpose, was loving and redemptive even in crushing his own son. It wasn't just because his Father "said so" that Jesus obeyed...it was because God's purpose is loving, sovereign and redemptive.
    • Because he obeyed, we are declared righteous.
  • Jesus' example of intimacy with the Father
    • Where are we to turn in trials except to the Father?
    • He is committed to our good
    • He went to the cross so that we could call him Abba - Daddy
      • JOHN CALVIN (Institutes, ch.16, p.508) - "And here was no common evidence of his incomparable love toward us: to wrestle with terrible fear, and amid those cruel torments to cast off al concern for himself that he might provide for us."
    • He faced fear, stared into the cup...and did it anyway.
There are also 3 things the Garden helps us realize we need to be grateful for:
  • This horror that Jesus faced - the wrath of God, the cup...it's a horror that I will never face.
  • I will never face the wrath of God against my sin.
  • I will never be forsaken or abandoned by him.
These things we can be grateful for because Jesus loved us enough to face these things for us. He faced unspeakable horror so we could have unspeakable joy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Let my words be few

Thursday night, Michael Byrd did a great job speaking at C4's midweek service. It's been really great to see the guys stepping up and teaching!

Luke 18:9-14 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
There are 3 things to take notice of in this parable:

1. Position...in this passage, you have a tax collector...someone who was despised and known for cheating people out of money...and you have a Pharisee...someone who is pretty well known and honored. 
Position affects our perception of how others see us and how we think God sees our righteousness.

2. Physical Presence...the Pharisee stands, boldly...but the tax collector stays at a distance, trembling, ashamed and broken.

3. Prayer (v11)...the Pharisee basically prayed to himself...kind of just said "I'm awesome!" while the tax collector beat his breast in remorse and said "God have mercy on me, a sinner!"
If you look up breast-beating in the dictionary, it is defined as "A loud, self-conscious demonstration of emotion, especially of remorse." The tax collector was remorseful and couldn't even hold his head up.
 
When you pray, you can't come to the feet of God all puffed up. In Ecclesiastes 5:2, it tells us how we should approach God:
"Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few."
If the Pharisee had stopped after, "God, I thank you." it would have been a far better prayer, but he came puffed up with pride...the tax collector's words were few and he came in humility.

In C.S. Lewis' book Mere Christianity he calls Pride the great sin and writes: " How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound's worth of Pride towards their fellow-men."

We have a tendency to measure ourselves by the people around us, thinking we are better or worse than our peers. The true measure of our righteousness is found in God.
2 Corinthians 10:12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.
We get so wrapped up in our busy lives that we forget why our lives are so busy and we forget why we are able to do the things that we do. God is our sustainer and provider and he is the one who keeps us going. When we come to God in prayer, we need to take a page from the tax collector's book...it doesn't matter our position, how our friends see us or how we think we measure up, it's about coming to God face down and being humble and praising His great name.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Perfect Collision

When you were a kid, what did you want to be? Most of us would say something like fireman, president, ninja...something that we perceived as great.

Overtime that perception changed and along with it what we aspired to grow to be. Even in that change overtime, we still want to be great and happy...that's where Christ comes in.



Christ's complexity corresponds perfectly with our lack of simplicity.

First: Our lack of simplicity(The "I want to be a *fill in something great*) is our desire to be something great...to make a difference...to have our lives be worth something. To be able to sustain and provide for the life we want to live. The only problem is that we start with something great, but we eventually over time lower the standard because we don't have what it takes. We desire much but we tell ourselves that we'll never make it. It's like being on a roller coaster...we aim high...but eventually come down...desire much, but weary easily.

Secondly: Christ's complexity...he is the lion-like lamb and the lamb-like lion. You're probably reading this and looking all confused...like "how does that even work? it's a complete oxymoron." Hold with me here....now, if you've ever seen the movie Gladiator, recall the clip when Maximus introduces himself. That scene is one of the most powerful in the movie(at least what I thought).
What I'm trying to get at here though, is the role that Maximus represents. In that moment, he is fierce, he is there to execute justice...but he's also there to bring hope. Christ is very much similar to this.
Matthew 21:12-14 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you make it a den of robbers." And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.
Basically Jesus came into the city and was honored and revered because of what he has done for us...and then he goes into the temple and throws everyone out! He has the power to execute perfect justice and would not stand for evil in his house. He is our Lion-like Lamb and our Lamb-like Lion...he was the sacrifice, just a normal man...but he brought hope...his justice is perfect and he has no mercy on evil.

Now...put the two together, our lack of simplicity and Christ's complexity. They correspond perfectly and mesh together. When we desire much, Christ says "I am much"...and when we weary easily, he is there...our sustainer and provider. He meets us where we are, we are to rest in his power and acknowledge him.

Our Lamb-like Lion:
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
He has ALL power...and he is with us always!  But so often we just ignore him...even when we need him most. We spend our lives trying to find fulfillment in all the wrong places.

At times we can be stuck in passivity - we don't want to be uncomfortable, we don't want to be judged...and we don't want people to think of us as "that Jesus freak."

Sometimes we are stuck in self worth - We need to be approved of and need to be loved.
Jesus loves you perfectly all of the time, he won't let you down. Our worth is found in Jesus and not what sinners think. Don't waste your life trying to find your worth in the eyes of a sinner.
We can be stuck in control...we feel like we have to be in control...all authority in heaven and earth was given to Christ.  There isn't room for 2 people with all authority...give it up to him.

Often we get stuck in selfishness and greed...we want what's best for us. Our comfort..."What do I get out of it?" We judge things, people, situations based on what we want...what's good for me. (In short...me-ism)

When we get stuck, we can't turn our backs on God...he has all authority, all control...all we need.

Our Lion-like Lamb:
Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
He was on trial...many people had sat before him screaming "crucify him!"...but he was silent. He drew near to us when we didn't acknowledge him...he died, he was murdered so that we could draw near to him.

When we get stressed or tired or feel like we can't do it on our own...stop ignoring him when he's right there to help you through it! Pray, give it up...he is our strength...so stop pretending to be strong on your own. Are you going to turn toward him or away from him? Do you claim him on Sundays but forget about him the rest of the week? Claim him every day...acknowledge him. Christ's complexity corresponds perfectly with our lack of simplicity.

From the Inside Out
by Hillsong United


Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise, become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame

My heart, my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out, O my soul cries out

My Soul cries out to You
My Soul cries out to You
to You, to You

My heart, my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out, O my soul cries out

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out, O my soul cries out
From the inside out, O my soul cries out
From the inside out, O my soul cries out. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Impossible


The impossible...sometimes it seems as if our lives are filled with things that are impossible...sometimes good impossible and sometimes bad. Just remember that God loves the impossible...even when we feel like giving up, God moves towards our need. In those times of impossibility, God reveals to us his character and his promise...there is nothing impossible through him.
Joshua 10:12-14 At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, "Sun, stand still at Gibeon,and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon." And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel.
Joshua prayed to God...he prayed that the sun and moon would stand still and believed that God could accomplish something impossible. God responded to his faith and caused the heavens to stand still. He fought for them. When you step out and believe that God can do the impossible...he will respond. His response sometimes isn't what we want it to be, but he always responds. Impossible doesn't exist in God's world.
Isaiah 6:1-4 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
The circumstances in your life might seem impossible to us...but they aren't impossible to God. In the time of Isaiah, when two kings battled, the triumphant king would tear from the robe of the fallen king and attach it to his own robe to show his triumph. Now think about Isaiah's vision...the train of the Lord's robe FILLED THE TEMPLE! Woah! This is not a make-believe story...God has conquered over death, hell and the grave! He is victorious, undefeated, triumphant and an overcomer...nothing is impossible to God!

Just by the word of his mouth he created everything. He didn't have to touch...just his word alone makes it happen. He doesn't have to touch your impossible situation...just by his word things will change. He has no limits...there is nothing impossible to him. Nothing holds or stops him, except us. You and I are the ones who determine impossible. He can do anything but we limit him...we say that God can't...or God won't.

Check back on Joshua 10:12...Joshua believed. Our faith initiates the impossible. God responds to our faith...we have to stop limiting him. The world tells us that we can't and that He can't...but I dare you to believe that God can take you where you can't take yourself and he can accomplish what you can't accomplish on your own.

The earth is the temple of God, and we are the temple of the Spirit...his dominion and victory is alive in believers. His power resides in you.
Matthew 8:1-3 When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Leprosy was a horrid disease...it meant that you were socially and spiritually unclean. You were cast out and had no hope. But this leper was crazy enough to believe that God could heal him. He came with worship, adoration and faith. He knew that if it was God's will...then he would be healed.

We have to stop running and trying to do it on our own. The situation might be impossible but God can do anything and if we'd stop hoping and wondering and actually approach God and know that he can accomplish anything, then things might actually start to change.
Matthew 9:20-22 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, "If I only touch his garment, I will be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well.
This woman had a chronic condition...she was terminal. Her situation was worth giving up...but she had faith! She had perspective and didn't limit God's ability to accomplish the impossible. She pressed through and approached God for only a touch, knowing that that could heal her. God already overcame the world, he overcame sin and death and the grave...she wanted to touch the hem of his robe.
If you look at the leper and the woman...they have something in common greater than being in an impossible situation. Neither of them waited for God to notice them or come to them...they RAN to him knowing, expecting and believing that he could accomplish anything.
John 16:5-12 But now none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
If you look at verse 9...it says that the Helper will convict our sin. Not sins...sin. The sin it's speaking of is unbelief. If we don't believe then it's impossible for us to be saved...but when we believe, nothing can stop us...nothing has power over us. Don't give up on your dreams or visions...your friends or your family...because even if you can't do anything about it, God can. There is hope worth pursuing!
Romans 4:18-25 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, "So shall your offspring be." He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead ( since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness." But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. 
For Abraham and Sarah this seemed like an impossible situation, Abraham was well over 100 years old and Sarah had never ever been able to have children. But God said that Abraham was to be the father of many nations. Abraham believed and God caused a barren woman to have a child. "He grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised."
When God calls you, he often calls you to a vision that's impossible to accomplish on our own. He calls us to the impossible to demonstrate his power to a world in need. If we stop limiting him, God can do anything through our lives. Don't listen to the world or society when it says that our generation is hopeless...don't pay attention to statistics or the impossible situations all around us. Don't stop praying, reaching out, and believing...don't give up. Walk by faith and not by sight because our faith can move mountains.
Believe that he really is God and he is not unaware or blind to your situation. He is closer than any brother and he has experienced everything that we are going through, he knows pain, doubt and temptation. God is for you, even when everyone else gives up and says you are crazy...he's still there. Nothing is impossible for God.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Glory

This past Tuesday night at Campus Crusade was really amazing. I can't think of any other word for it. God really spoke through Matt who brought the word and it was honestly exactly what I needed to hear that night. It's so cool that God speaks so boldly sometimes.

Darren Russo started the night off by introducing Matt and then he made 2 statements that really made me think:
1. Your lives are shaped by what you think is great.
2. Your hearts will run after what you think will satisfy.

Definitely spent a lot of time this week on those two statements.

Matt began by saying that we are busy and distracted people. We were created to bring glory to God but we often get distracted and don't carry out our purpose. So what does God's glory even look like?
Hebrews 1:3a He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. 
This verse is talking about Jesus...he is the radiance of the glory of God...radiance is a reflection of a brilliant light. Glory is a bit harder to describe...but a synonym would be perfection or splendor. For Jesus to be the exact imprint of the nature of God means that even when he was in human form, he was still ALL God. He is the glory of God and he reflects the glory of God.

He didn't create us because he was lonely or needed someone...he was full in himself (the trinity is a perfect and complete relationship). He created the world to invite us to share in his perfect relationship.

John Piper says that "Christ is the Ultimate reality"
Hebrews 1:10-12 And, "You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end."
So what exactly does this look like in our lives? What does God's glory mean to me?
Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
God is big, but he is also loving and he suffered and died when he didn't have to.
Hebrews 2:14-15 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
If you aren't in Christ, you are like an orphan. An orphan never has enough...not enough food or love or encouragement or anything else that a person needs. An orphan takes it when it's there...learns to look our for himself. Has an "eat, drink, and be merry" attitude about life. If I can, then I will sort of mentality.
Ephesians 1:18-23 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. 
You have a heavenly parent who knows exactly what you need and provides above and beyond our wildest imagination. God knows what we need...but sometimes it seems like we don't get what we think we need. It's in those times, that we need to be patient and wait for God. An example of this is found in
John 11:28-44 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?" Then Jesus, a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."
God loves us individually. Jesus loved Lazarus and Mary and Martha. In this story, they had a need for healing...and all seemed lost when Lazarus died...but it was all a part of God's plan.

When Jesus arrived, Mary ran to him. She trusted him when she was hurting...she told him that she didn't understand but she knew he would help her through it. Sometimes we don't understand why God seems to withhold what we need from us...but if we just trust him, and run to him...he will show us where we are to go.

You aren't an orphan in Christ, not even death has power over us. (John 11:4 But when Jesus heard it he said, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.") Lazarus DIED. He was dead. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that was present that day....they were even worried about him smelling. But Jesus knew all this...and he set the stage.

If you think about all the epic stories or movies, there is always tension and always a time when you aren't sure if the hero has what it takes. In this story...Jesus could have healed Lazarus when they first called for him to come. But he waited. He waited so that his glory would be magnified by what he was going to do. If he hadn't waited, then people wouldn't ever know that he was truly sent from God...they would just say "Oh, he's a great healer" just as they try to say of Jesus that he was just a great teacher.

In our world, sometimes we go through times of deep despair and brokenness...but even in that, remember that God is in control and sometimes he waits. Remember that if you are in Christ, you have the guarantee of eternal life...and anything that happens in this life is for his glory.

If you were paying attention in history class...then you remember reading about World War II...D-Day. The war was over, but if you remember correctly, the bloodiest battle occurred after the war was over. This is just like our lives. The war against sin is over...Jesus died on the cross and broke the strongholds...but the enemy continues to try to fight in the last days.

Remember that even when it hurts...even when you think you can't go on...remember that God is in control and sometimes he waits until his glory will be magnified. He knows when to act so don't worry about trying to do it on your own.
"When you stop trying to control your life and instead allow your anxieties and problems to bring you to God in prayer, you shift from worry to watching. You watch God weave his patterns in the story of your life. Instead of trying to be out front, designing your life, you realize you are inside God’s drama. As you wait, you begin to see him work, and your life begins to sparkle with wonder. You are learning to trust again."
– Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life, p. 73
Worry happens when you feel out of control, when you realize you don't have what it takes. But in that moment, remember that God is writing his story and it will get told through you and in you one way or another, so enjoy seeing his story unfold and stop trying to overwrite it. God is glorious, and even when he waits for his glory to be shown in your life, remember that he is always there and he will always take care of you and give you everything that you need.

The Gray Area (Part 2)


Our mind often times tries to trick us. When you take a good look at this picture, our brain tries to convince us that the circles are moving...rotating, when in reality...they are stationary and flat. Sometimes we try to convince ourselves that some things are a certain way when in reality they are far from our perception of them.

This past Sunday, on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Tyson made the comment that if the enemy can use 19 hijackers to change history, how much more can God do with 19 people who take a stand for him? There is a tragedy bigger than what happened ten years ago in New York. The real tragedy is that this world is FULL of people who are far from God.

It is because of this great tragedy that we are meant to live a life of urgency. We weren't created to just sit around and enjoy salvation...we were made to set a fire. An entire generation running from God on our watch is a greater tragedy than anything this world has seen. We will all come to an end one day and we will all be judged...there are only two places you can end up, heaven or hell. The Bible tells us these things clearly but we still try to smudge the edges into what we want, especially on topics like Forgiveness, Gossip, and Unity.

Forgiveness
Luke 6:27-36 "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
When we are unforgiving, we prevent the world from seeing God. You might say, "Well Chelsey, you don't know what So-and-so did to me or said to me." I just have to say that I don't care what they said or did. We are called to FORGIVE them...but not just that, we must go above and beyond and love them and pray for them.

Forgiveness is not saying that what they did is okay. When you forgive someone, you aren't condoning their behavior...you're saying that you are moving forward with your life. We believe that God forgives us, he forgives even the worst of the worst, no matter what your past or mistakes, he still and always will love and forgive you. But how can we believe that and turn right around and say "I'm not going to forgive you and I'll never forget what you did to me."? If you want to be like Christ (as we are called to be) and to show God to the world through your life, how can you be unforgiving? We have to lay down our strife and anger and bitterness so that the world can see him. No one can see God if all they can see is the bitterness we are holding onto.
We watch shows about people who hoard things and shake our heads at the mess, all the while holding onto so much spiritual stuff that no one can see God in our lives. We become spiritual hoarders when we are unforgiving...and then you turn around and wonder why you can't see God at work in your life. Let go of the baggage that you are holding so tightly to if you want to enter into his presence. God calls us to forgive...he doesn't say forgive unless they did/said ____________. Forgive them, love them, and pray for their well-being.

Gossip is a HUGE issue in our lives.
James 3:2-12 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 full of deadly poison. 9 who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
We are inclined to gossip. Our sinful nature makes it easy. But when you gossip, you tear other people down. Your tongue/mouth/words is the most difficult battle we will ever fight. It's out of the abundance of the heart that we speak. Even what we say in "secret" is a reflection of what's in your heart. Do you build up or do you spend hours nit-picking?

Gossip is a nasty and dangerous thing...it's a tool the devil uses for division amongst God's people. You have the power of death and life in your tongue. You are called to build the kingdom and not destroy it. You are called to speak life into the broken. Jesus blessed those that we judge and condemn. We are not the judge of humanity...we have no right to tear others' down with our words. A good rule of thumb that we've heard all of our lives...if you can't say something nice, then don't say it at all...aka shut your mouth. Gossip divides...and those who are quick to gossip are those who are disconnected from God. We are called to be warriors...to have each other's backs...not to only be there in the good times and tear them down when something goes wrong. We have the power to uplift, encourage, unite and mend the broken because He lives in us. Show people the love of God by not gossiping...by stopping it when you hear it...by speaking life into people and situations and keeping your mouth shut when it needs to stay shut.

Unity
John 17:20-24 "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
The number 1 lie that the devil tries to tell us is that we can do it on our own. That we've got this. The enemy wants you isolated and separate from any positive influence. Only when the church unites as one, will people truly see God. It's not about you or me...it's about us coming together. We can't accomplish anything without like-minded people there to support us, love us, and pray for us. Don't allow yourself to become isolated. 

To unite doesn't mean that everyone is doing to be best friends. It means that we love each  other in the good and the bad...when you see hurt, you run to the need and not away from it. The church is famous for being clique-y. Where in the Bible does it say that you should have 5 best friends who are all really good looking and everyone else is weird and you aren't supposed to talk to them? Unity isn't exclusive...it's where you(as a whole) find the broken, and run to provide for whatever the need happens to be. Together...If you really have a passion to see this world changed, then let the church unite. Come together and walk together towards that goal. We need to care, and declare the truth with our mouth, lives, and actions.

Sometimes to build, you have to tear down...tear down the walls and sin in your life. You are greater than the baggage you carry around. You can't be who you were created to be if you are holding onto everything. The greatest tragedy this world will see is this world without God. Forgive - let go of the baggage so they can see, Don't gossip - build up don't tear down, and unite...become the body of Christ that will show this world who God really is.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Questions...

Questions...Lately it seems like I have so many of them, and I'm not sure where they are coming from or how to answer them. Sometimes it seems like no matter what I do, it only creates more questions rather than give me answers.

Its hard feeling pulled in a million directions and questioning things that you never even thought twice about before. It almost feels like everything I have known my whole life, I'm not sure about anymore. I'm not questioning my faith at all, just gaining new perspectives on the best way to share and grow.

Those new perspectives are creating questions about my old perspectives and it can get confusing at times. Sometimes I feel like I know exactly what needs to be done but I can't do anything because I'm just one person...and sometimes I feel like I'm just totally lost in a sea of questions and confusion.

It's really hard to go through a season of life like this...but at the same time, I know that it's just God at work in my life, drawing me closer to him and training me for what comes next. I'll never be prepared for what he has for me if I don't go through this time. So even as hard and as confusing as it is, and how much I don't want to question things or be confused about where I'm supposed to go or what God is calling me to...I know it's all part of God's plan for me and someday I'll look back on this time in my life and be so grateful for everything that's going on right now. Even though I can't see the bigger picture, God can...and I'm confident that He is going to use me in ways that I'll never know.

Prerequisites


Sunday, I visited Elevation Church (Blakeney) for the first time. It was the launch day for 2 new campuses in Rock Hill and University. It's really cool to see so many people worshipping God.
Anyway, Pastor Steven Furtick taught a message called Prodigy Prerequisites. Our generation must take a stand and prepare ourselves because one day we will have to train up the next generation. We are building and rebuilding great things for God.
Nehemiah 6:15-16 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.
This scripture is significant because it took them only 52 days to build a wall...something that should have taken that many weeks. Don't think small about your life when God has called you to great things! When people look at our lives (just as they looked at that wall) they should only come to the conclusion that it has to be God at work. Just because you're young or no one else has the vision that you do...that shouldn't stop you or tell you that you can't do it.

When you think about what God has called you to...see if you can answer these 4 questions.
  • Will you embrace your misery and make it your ministry?
    • The two go hand in hand, Proverbs 14:4 says Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. - meaning that if there is nothing troubling your heart, then you have no ministry. If there is nothing that weighs upon your heart...nothing that stirs you into action, then you won't take action.
      • Nehemiah 1:1-11 is an excellent example of how to take your misery and make it your ministry.
    • What is the misery inside of you that God wants to turn into your ministry?
      • Whatever the trouble in your life, it's a clue to the solution of how God wants to use you.
      • What makes you miserable? What pains your heart?
    • Are you brokenhearted to see a world in need of God?
    • Shake the culture, touch the world
  • Will you exchange your comfort for your calling?
    • Nehemiah 2:1-8
    • Take the risk and make a move...
    • Courage is when you feel the fear, and you do it anyway.
    • The King of kings presides over your life and asks what you want. Build for God. Be Bold.
    • Are you more concerned with your comfort or your calling? You aren't necessarily dealing with life or death, but you're dealing with complacency and mediocrity.
    • Leave a dent in the world showing that God is in your life.
    • Take up your cross and follow him.
  • Will you put the wrong ones out and let the right ones in? (talking about people)
    • Make a decision to let the right people influence you
    • You have to have the right voices to make the right choices
    • Nehemiah 2:11-20 - a few men...like a small group
      • You can predict the direction of your life by looking at the 5 people closest to you.
    • You may have to put people out of your life
      • That's not saying you don't love them, but you're drawing a line and saying who is going to influence you.
      • I can't hang with you anymore
      • Love the sinner, hate the sin
    • Surround yourself by the right people...be a part of the church
  • Will you take your stand against the enemies of your God?
    • When you are a Christian, there are things you should never cheer for. (sin, compromise, injustice, the devil)
    • Nehemiah 6:1-3
    • If you are going through "hell" in your life, that means you must be close to what God has for you.
    • Temptations will try to call you away from "the wall" (your calling) but don't come down for just any passing pleasure...it's not worth it.
Take up your cross and follow God...follow him to where he wants you to be. You are called to great things, so don't put limits on what God can do with you.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Gray Area (Part 1)

Take a close look at that picture. If you stare at it long enough, you will start to see gray. In reality there is only black and white...but our minds automatically create areas of gray. This is a lot like how we live our lives and even live our our spiritual walk.

Last night, Tyson confronted some of the biggest gray areas in our lives...it was powerful, it was straight-forward, it was truth...

He also made a point of reminding us that often we read the Bible and say "Oh, that doesn't apply to me." or "That's for that person over there...or those sinners out there." But no, the Bible is relevant to your life as a believer. The Bible is black and white...and it's our sinful nature that creates gray areas.
Without God we have no power, no hope, no promise...but because he lives, we can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
Proverbs 28:1 The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.
When you live for yourself and in the world, you are constantly running, unsure and scared. But when you live for God...your life is characterized by boldness. He created us to be bold, the enemy is the one who wants us to be confused, beat down and discouraged...but confusion is not of God. "Bold as a lion." It's impossible to be bold if you don't know what you stand for. God tells you in black and white...the Bible is the flawless, inspired word of God...it doesn't steer you to back down and be defeated...he tells you everything you need to know. The only way to be bold is to stop living in the gray areas...you are to hunger and thirst for righteousness...seek his face.

Your life should change the atmosphere of a room when you walk in. You should be so full of his presence that people can't help but notice Him...not you, Him.

We live our life in the gray...we don't know for sure what we believe. It's human nature to see how close to sin we can get without getting caught. Joshua Harris did an excellent example of this:


You can't live your life in the world and follow God. You can't live in the middle because there is no middle.
Romans 6:16-18 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
You are a slave to something...you have to decide what you are going to be a slave to...sin or obedience. You have to actively fight the battle and choose to put off your sinful nature and put on righteousness on a daily (sometimes moment to moment) basis. (Check out Colossians 3, Ephesians 4:20-5:2, Galatians 5:13-26, and 1 Corinthians 6:18-20)  The gospel to unbelievers is a message of hope and freedom and conviction...not telling them don't do this, don't do that...you're going to hell. The gospel to believers is a message reminding you that God freed you, he made you new...and you have to choose to follow him rather than go back to your old ways. Sort of like the Israelites, God brought them out of slavery but they complained because freedom wasn't what they thought it would be and there was still strife and trials...so they wanted to go back to slavery. We have to choose not to be like the Israelites...even though we are free and made new, it's still easy to fall into the trap of sin.

Alcohol is an easy and sometimes attractive form of temptation. Many people question where the line is...some say that consuming any alcohol whatsoever is a sin, others say only if you're completely wasted...but in reality, the Bible tells you plainly.
Proverbs 23:29-35 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. "They struck me," you will say, "but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.
To be drunk is a sin. Don't take it to a legalistic view though, to have one drink isn't a sin...but to be in any state of drunkenness is a sin. You wake up emptier than when you went to bed.
Romans 13:11-14 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Don't look for ways to indulge your evil desires (don't try to get close to evil). Our lives should not blend in. Wild parties and being drunk is not what you were called to. The world should not be able to confuse us with themselves. When has alcohol ever done anything for you? When was the last time you woke up and said to yourself, "Wow, I'm so happy that I got hammered last night!"? No! That's called a hangover! You're still empty and still searching.  Jesus is the only thing that will fill you up once and for all. He's a lot better than alcohol. Some people are reading this and thinking "You don't know anything about me or what I've gone through...alcohol helps." Some people drink to dull the pain and the hurt...they don't want to feel the sorrow and the brokenness. But in reality, pain comes into our lives to turn us back to God...not to send us to the bottle. Pain is there to make you realize that nothing in this world can satisfy or heal you like God can.

Premarital Sex is another thing that we make into a gray area. It's probably one of the easiest things to fall to...it's something that the world tells us is okay, it's no big deal and no one will know.  The Bible is very clear about this subject and tells a very different story from the world (which it usually does...being that the Bible is God speaking and the world is sin speaking)
Ephesians 5:1-14 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
Sexual immorality has no place in God's people. Sex is designed specifically for one man and one woman under the unity of marriage. Just because your pastor or parents don't know about it doesn't mean that God doesn't know. What you do in "secret" might be secret to other people but it sure isn't a secret to God.

Remember when Jesus was tempted by the devil? The Holy Spirit led him to be tempted. If Jesus wasn't tempted then he wouldn't have been human. He was tempted exactly like you and I. The devil led Jesus to the highest point overlooking the land. He told Jesus that all he had to do was bow to him and he would give Jesus all the nations. Um...stop...rewind...the devil, is promising Jesus the nations. Sounds pretty crazy right? Well it is. Jesus already has all authority and dominion over all the nations. He is the author and finisher of our faith and the creator of all! The devil was trying to sell something to Jesus that was already his! That is exactly what the devil tries to do when you feel tempted in this way. He's trying to sell you something that is already yours. You don't have to follow satan to have a sexual relationship that is already yours when you are within the parameters that God set for you! (One man, one woman, only in marriage)

Don't just give yourself away...
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
In the words of Beyonce...put a ring on it.

It's not just about the actual act of premarital sex...it's also about your thoughts.
Matthew 5:27-30 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Yeah...it's pretty intense, but Jesus never was seeker-friendly. He always told the truth. The truth is what sets you free...even if you don't want to hear it sometimes. Here he's talking about lust. To even look at someone with lust is adultery. Our flesh lusts for the world and wants to drag us down. We have to crucify our flesh.  This isn't just about telling you what not to do...it's about focusing on what we were created to do. When you look at the problem, it gets overwhelming...but if you know the way to get the answer (worship, study the Bible and draw close to God), it's easier to solve the problem. If we focus on what we were created to do, then it becomes easier to crucify your flesh. It's still a daily battle don't get me wrong, but God is near. The closer you get to God, the easier it is to put off sin and to put on righteousness.

Homosexuality
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
We as Christians sometimes get so judgmental and homophobic...yes it's a sin, but in reality, it's no greater than your sin of lying or cheating or lust or adultery. If you take notice, homosexuality isn't the only sin that is mentioned in that passage. No sin is worse than any other sin and we have to realize that this is an area of gray that we create. You cannot stand for him if you are standing in the gray.

We were all born with a sinful nature. Some of us are tempted in ways that others aren't. You might argue that you were born that way...and I'd agree...yes, you were born a sinner. BUT!!!! You do NOT have to be a slave to your sin! It is your choice to give in to your sinful desires rather than battling it and putting on righteousness. Jesus didn't reject the world...he embraced it as it was and he died to make it new and break the shackles that bound us to sin. No relationship could ever satisfy you the way that Jesus can. He will make you new. Turn and run to him, don't run back to your ways like the Israelites.

This next one might surprise you a little...but hang with me.

Worship If you get the chance, check out Genesis 22. It's the first time the word worship appears in the Bible. Originally, worship wasn't lights or sound or music, worship was a sacrifice. Giving what you had and not expecting anything in return. Worship is not an experience...worship is a lifestyle. Worship with your life. Worship when you feel like it and even when you don't because God is worthy of your worship every single moment.

If you want to be bold like a lion and not live in the gray areas, if you want to know what you stand for...then pick up the Bible. The Bible is what God gave you to help you live your life and discern his will for you. If you don't read the book then you are spiritually dead...don't believe me? Then try eating once a week and see how fast your body fails. The Bible is our DAILY bread, not our weekly bread. 66 books, 40 authors, 3 continents...but 1 theme - the restoration of humanity through Christ...only God could do that. If you want to see change in your life, if you want to know how to live, then pick up the book. Know God, seek his face.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Read God...he tells you right there in black and white. There's no gray when it comes to God.