My family just got back from vacation yesterday. One of my favorite things to do is to rise early and catch at least one sunrise during the trip. I got two in this week and each one had its own personal flair. I once got up before 5AM in Lithuania to catch a sunrise (this one may of been jet lag and that the sun rises earlier in that part of the world).
I love that each sunrise and sunset has its own distinct characteristics. I waited half an hour today for the sun to peak over the clouds after barely making an appearance below the clouds. The beauty of God’s creation never disappoints.
Do you prefer a sunset or a sunrise? Let me know in the comments below!
We have had a great family vacation this week staying in the “Red Cabin”. For Luke, he thinks that we have been camping all week. While we are staying in a cabin, I have the bug bites to reflect being outside a lot. I would be scratching right now if I was not typing this post.
It surely has been a relaxing week for our family! We have watched Stuart Little more times than I can count (no reliable cable which has been a good thing). Luke has thoroughly enjoyed digging and driving his monster trucks through the sand. He would live outside if we let him.
The time away makes me grateful for a season of rest. We surely do not rest enough. Find some time to get away or stay in and rest and enjoy God’s beautiful creation. Grab a bowl of Blue Bell ice cream and kick your feet up. You deserve it and you need it! Okay, maybe I don’t need the ice cream, but I will enjoy that anyway.
What do you do to relax? What do you like to do to get away? How do you rest?
Bulldozers, excavators, and dump trucks tend to follow me around. No, I am not a contractor giving orders. I see construction everywhere I go. While I am thankful for it, it does come with its inconveniences. A few of my tires over the years have required some construction of their own after passing through.
We often do not appreciate the construction while we are sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. Nor do we appreciate having to leave earlier or spending more money to avoid the construction all together. However, when the finishing touches are completed and the road is smooth, we appreciate all the inconveniences that brought us to this moment. It is a joyous experience driving on a smooth road. Walking into a new building, school, or stadium quickly fires up our jealous genes. Construction is often not fun while it is taking place, but the end result is always worth it.
Christians, we are called to a life of construction. The beauty of the Gospel is that Jesus grants us salvation based off of what He did for us. Be thankful that we do not have to measure up or be a finished project prior to salvation. Jesus accepts us into the family when we ask for forgiveness as He grants us grace and mercy. At the moment of salvation, we are saved. Our life is not intended to be the same. The Gospel changes lives. To put it another way, we are living a life that is being daily constructed by the power of the Holy Spirit as we grow in our faith. Our old fleshly desires have faded and we are given new desires that seek to bring honor and glory to the Father.
Ephesians four and Colossians three highlight this construction that takes place in the life of the believer. We are urged to walk in a manner worthy of the calling of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:1). The church is designed to carry out her mission of making disciples and sharing the good news faithfully. Christian community is part of God’s process of placing us under construction. The Holy Spirit uses other believers in our life to probe and help us through our construction. Christian, never think that your construction is complete. Thankfully, roads have to be repaved and houses have constant repairs that need to be made. We do not enjoy them in the moment, but constant construction is necessary for continued growth.
The second half of Ephesians four discusses this imagery of putting off and putting on. The construction process for the believer is a life of taking off the old clothes and putting on the new clothes. This can be a painful process, but the process is essential as we continue being molded back into God’s image. Take a look at a few of the constructions in the life of a believer:
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you uspeak the truth with his neighbor, for vwe are members one of another. 26 wBe angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and xgive no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather ylet him labor, zdoing honest work with his own hands, so athat he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 bLet no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give cgrace to those who hear. 30 And ddo not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, eby whom you were sealed for the day of fredemption. 31 gLet all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 hBe kind to one another, tenderhearted, iforgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:25-32).
The Christian life is a life of construction. The Holy Spirit probes and guides us towards following Christ. The new life, a saved life, is a life meant to bring honor and glory to the Father for the great things He accomplished through Jesus. Jesus enables us to be saved and transformed. A believer ought to be growing and learning. The evidences of being under construction portrays a changed life. Unlike the construction we see in our world, our construction will be completed when we are reunited to Him. Jesus came to recoincile sinners and to redeem what was His.
Have you begun your construction journey in Jesus? What areas of your life need to be under construction? What is the hardest thing about being under construction?
Covid-19 appears to not be going anywhere. For months, the news and media have been flooded with statistics and theories. Our whole world has been flipped upside down by this virus. If you are a true believer in Jesus, nothing can turn your faith upside down. In fact, your faith in Jesus may be the only thing sustaining you during this season. While not exhaustive, here is a list of five things that a Christian needs for continual growth.
1. The Gospel
Christian, you will never move past your need for the Gospel. You cannot grow in your Christian faith without access to the Gospel. Preach the Gospel to yourself daily. Remind yourself of your need for the Gospel. Hold fast to the promises of salvation that can only be found in Jesus.
2. A Gospel Preaching Church
The church has looked different during a Covid-19 world. The function of the church has remained the same. You need a church that faithfully will point you to the Gospel. You need a church that will not stray from the Gospel. We need Gospel centered preaching and teaching in our life. God wants to use to the church in powerful and mighty ways. Join a Gospel centered church and be involved in its mission of reaching the lost. Join online or in person, the church needs you and you need it.
3. Gospel Accountability
The chances are high that Covid-19 has englightened you to a new sense of struggle. Christian, you may be struggling with a different sin from your pre-covid struggles. You need other brothers and sisters in your life who are willing to ask you the tough questions. Do not let isolation and social distancing be the cause of sin tearing you and your family apart. Whatever the struggle, fight it in Christian community.
4. A burden for the lost
People are dying without a Savior. We do not need Covid-19 to tell us that. With an unsturdy world, people are more likely to be open to the message of hope. A Christian ought to have a burden for the lost. Be faithful to share the message of Jesus. This world needs hope and hope can only be found in Jesus.
5. Prayer and the Word
I have heard it said, “We cannot expect what we do not inspect.” The Word of God has the power to change lives. It is sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). God’s Word should challenge us daily. God’s Word will mold us back into God’s image if we allow the Holy Spirit to do a work in our life. The truth of the Word is the truth that our souls need. When we inspect our life against the Bible, we are reminded quickly of why we need Jesus. Christian, know that you have a God who is accessible through prayer. Christian, know that God speaks to you through His Word. Trust Him during this season. Do not lean on your own understanding, but trust in Him (Proverbs 3:5).
You have heard it said, “Have faith and trust God”. We do not need to know the ends and outs of everything in this world. We are not called to have a full understanding of the sufferings of this world. However, we do need to know Christ and the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10). Our world needs to know this too.
What would you add to this survival kit? Are you involved with a Gospel preaching church? Do you have a burden for the lost? What has God been teaching you in His Word during this season?
As I write this, the east coast is being pounded by Isaias (the Spanish/Portuguese name for Isaiah, which means YAHWEH is Salvation). Tornadoes are touching down in surrounding areas. Wind is gushing and area chairs and debris are blowing around the campground. A squirrel is even taking refuge above our car tire. Every strong gust of wind has me looking up to see what’s happening. All the while, my almost three year old is sleeping as if nothing is happening. My wife and I are not sure how he does it, but he sleeps so well, even during a storm.
This storm is just another part of 2020. I imagine many people are wishing to turn the page to 2021. 2020 has seen the likes of a world wide pandemic, rioting, and school closures, just to name a few. With loss of life, jobs, life experiences, and much more, the storm has quickly altered present and future plans for all.
We see a quick synopsis of the storm that Jesus calms in Matthew chapter eight. The middle of the storm was not the place the disciples wanted to be (based off of their response) nor is 2020 the year you thought it would be. The question for us is this: Would you have jumped into 2020 if you knew all that was coming? These disciples jumped into the boat without any doubt or questions. Jesus got in and they followed. Had they known that a storm was coming, I am not sure of what they would have done, but I’m sure there would have been some doubt.
Here are three quick lessons about being in the middle of the storm from Matthew chapter eight:
1. Following Jesus is Not Contingent on Everything Being Perfect.
Our world appears to be in turmoil. In fact, it is because of this thing called sin. Sin dramatically effects our world because of its consequences. Broken relationships, illnesses, and all other evil is a result of sin. America has been blessed with our religious freedoms, but that is no guarantee. The Disciples were not promised safety on the water, yet they followed Him. Likewise, we are not promised religious freedom, yet we can find our ultimate security in Him. Life is not going to be perfect, but Jesus is. Trust him and be willing to jump on the boat at all times, no matter the cost.
2. Following Jesus Requires Faith and Trust.
We do not know how long these disciples weathered the storm before waking up Jesus. There were seasoned fishermen on the boat, so they had some experience on the water. Even still, they were afraid. Jesus reveals to these disciples their need to have faith and trust in Him, even when they are afraid. You may be afraid of what is coming, but have faith and trust in Jesus.
3. Following Jesus is a Marvelous Life.
The Disciples marveled at the end of this passage in regards to this man named Jesus. They followed Him and dropped everything including their jobs and in return, got to see the beauty and goodness of God. Following God is what mankind was designed for. We were created as worshippers who worship. Sin has dramatically altered the direction of our worship. Directing our worship back to Him is a marvelous decision. It is the only decision that brings forgiveness and salvation. Salvation in Christ is a marvelous grace-filled life.
As you embrace the storms of life, remember that Jesus is in control. Remember that Jesus has authority over everything. Remember that you are called to faithfulness, not perfection.
The Flash (Barry Allen) has a wide array of skills that make him the Flash. The world’s fastest man can do more than just run fast. One skill that he had to master goes by the name of phasing. Barry Allen changes his molecular vibration frequency to pass through spaces. For example, Barry can phase through glass walls or brick buildings by vibrating at a specific frequency.
Some of you may be wishing that you can phase right out of 2020. Unlike the Flash, the phases we are experiencing are not for show and tell. The earth is still rotating and tilted on the same frequency that it was in 2019 and every year before. Humans are having to adjust our frequency of life in 2020. While things are picking back up, much of our world vibrated at a far different frequency than ever before. We were forced to slow down. Many transitioned to working from home. A lot of people lost their job because of a world-wide pandemic.
Phases of reopening are developing at different paces throughout our country and the world. Get familiar to this word “phase” because you likely will hear it for quite some time. Christian, do not miss what is at stake here. While we would love to get back to normal, let me remind you of what this season of life has taught us.
Christian, you may have experienced sabbath for the first time. The world likely had full control of your calender prior to Covid-19. Between school activities, sports, leisure, family, and a wide array of other things, you likely were busy. This phase of life has taught me that sabbath is good and necessary. I need to slow down and so do you!
Christian, many of you have seen your family in a manner you never thought possible. Family dinner and movie nights became the norm for your family. Maybe you talked more and shared more of your burdens. Families joined in praying together and worshipping together online. Maybe your family worshipped together for the first time in a long time. I do not want to discount that this season of added stress may of pushed families apart. I implore you to fight hard for unity. This season or phase does not need to negatively define your marriage or family. Pray and ask God for help.
Christian, this season of life may have strengthened your faith journey. Maybe you were slipping away and getting drawn into the things of this world. Maybe you stopped going to church and you got enlightened by the beauty of the Gospel on Facebook Live. Praise God for the great things He is doing in your life.
Christian, do not take life for granted. Many people have lost their life or a loved one during this season. We are given one life to live on earth. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. The world is lost and many need the saving blood of Jesus. People are open to hearing the truth as they wrestle with the emotions of dealing with a Covid-19 world.
This season of life has taught me much. It has also drawn me closer to Him. Personally, I would eliminate the word Phase immediately. However, I am reminded and thankful that I have a God who loved me enough to provide a phase three. God created (phase 1), man sinned (phase 2) and God promised a Savior who would be phase three (Genesis 3:15). The world needs to hear about phase three. The world needs Jesus. Phase four will be a beautiful site for those who are in Christ Jesus as this world is made new and restored to its original design. Phase four is coming, but many of our friends and family are caught up in the attraction of phase two (sin). Be bold, be faithful, and share the message of hope that can only be found in phase three (Jesus).
Driving can and usually is a lot of fun! A peaceful drive through a curvy mountain road overlooking the valley can provide sights like no other. I have seen some amazing sights while driving this year.
Driving can produce a ton of anxiety though. The windows are down and you are cruising at fifty-five miles per hour and then a yellow light appears. While focus is paramount throughout the whole driving experience, the yellow light may be the hardest split second on the road. That moment requires in instant decision of should I stop or should I go. The decision is up to you, what will you do?
Christians are called to make disciples and to share the Gospel with all people. I imagine that this may be the hardest split second a Christian faces day in and day out. It is likely that you at times have experienced stop light anxiety when it comes to sharing your faith. Opportunities arise at an instant and our split second decision is either to share or run away. Our driving mentality should never be I can always make that light, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, our evangelism mentality ought to be God has got this.
Do not leave these split second evangelism opportunities up to you. You will likely turn the other way or stop. Ask God daily to help you to turn split second opportunities into Gospel conversations.
What is the hardest thing for you about evangelism? What split second decisions cause you to wander from Gospel opportunities?
Blue Bell, Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Halo Top, or some store brand, it does not matter to me. Give me some ice cream and I am a happy man. In my professional opinion, ice cream should and can be served at Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Unless you are eating an ice cream sandwich, you likely will need a spoon to accomplish the task. That spoon is meant for a specific task, eating the ice cream.
Give me that same spoon to dish out ice cream straight from the freezer and we may have a problem. I have bent many spoons trying to accomplish the task of serving ice cream. I am using the wrong tool to complete a task that needs a different tool.
The body of Christ is composed of many members with different skills and abilities (Ephesians 4). Far too often, believers are not maximizing their skill-set for the Kingdom. What if the church focused on equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4)? The body of Christ needs you to teach faithfully. The body of Christ needs your hospitality. The body of Christ needs your generosity. Maximize your skill-set, but utilize the God given tool that He has gifted you with. The Church needs you and your willingness to let the Spirit use your God given talent in its mission of making disciples of all nations.
What talents and abilities can you use for the Kingdom? What tools or talents do you realize you need to complement your skill-set? Are you willing to use your tool for Gospel growth?
This time last year, I had my first taste of international culture. My first experience and opportunity was adventurous and life changing. Perspective really changes when you get out of your comfort zone and into a new culture. A year later, I’m thankful that I finally had the opportunity to experience an international trip.
Sharing the message of Jesus should not be confined to a trip (whether local or international). In fact, our life is called to be one that is on mission. Wherever we go, we are to share the saving message of Jesus. A COVID-19 world does not negate our mission of making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28; Acts 1:8). Our strategies and efforts may look different, but our message stays the same.
The world, with or without COVID-19, needs Jesus. Here are five ways that you can go to the nations during a COVID-19 world:
I love maps! I’m the guy who looks at maps in detail and looks at satellite images to familiarize myself with areas prior to going. Some may think it is a waste of time, but I have never felt that way. Prayer walking was a huge part of my time oversees. Prayer walking should be in our daily rhythms of life. We absolutely can do nothing without the work of the Spirit.
All you need for this is a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Download Google Earth and prayer walk the nations. If your church is partnered with a particular part of the world, maybe now is the time take another step in your involvement in your church’s mission effort of reaching the nations. Visually look at places they go and roam the streets online praying for those who need Jesus. Ask your missions coordinator to give you places to look at and pray through. I guarantee they will be thrilled to show you!
The chances are high that you interact with some form of social media. If you do, I guarantee you have friends on those platforms who need Jesus. Take advantage of your screen time for the glory of Jesus. Share the gospel in messages. Comment gracefully on posts that leave opportunity for Gospel truth. Share Gospel truth! How will people hear if you do not (share) tell them (Romans 10:14)?
I started this blog with the intentions of providing pastoral perspectives on all things. It amazes me that my simple posts are seen by people in other countries. Make the most of your online engagement for Gospel proclamation.
Missionaries are in a difficult season right now. Many are unable to travel to see friend and family. I have friends who are commissioned to go, yet they are currently not able, but they are still commissioned to go where God still has them. None of this catches God by surprise. Continue to pray for the work of the Gospel to go forward through these missionaries.
I do not need to get on a plane to experience different cultures. The nations have come to us. Maybe God wants to use this time for you to share at your local grocery store or restaurant. You do not know how God wants to use your faithfulness. Maybe someone who can’t go “home” will hear the Gospel because they are “forced” to stay.
Let me echo what I just mentioned. Your city is flooded with people of many tribes and tongues. While you may have to be socially distanced while sharing, the Gospel changes people who are distanced and close. Be faithful and on mission everyday. The nations need to hear about Jesus.
God wants to use you to reach the nations. COVID-19 appears to be making that more difficult. Honestly, the effect is far different than you can imagine. If you need to see it, just pull up Facebook on a Sunday morning and see the Gospel continuing to go forward!
How are you going to the Nations? In what ways is God calling you to be faithful? Who will you pray for during this season?
Maybe I am alone, but I rarely go out to eat and order something new! If I have been to a restaurant before, I pretend to look at the other options (and even say I’ll try something different this time) before resorting to my go to dish. I occasionally will change the side dish out, but generally, my wife could order for me! Going to a new restaurant is always challenging, but even then, I order something similar to what I would get at a comparable restaurant.
Last October, my pastor and I attended a conference together and one of the preachers challenged the attendees to try something new. We were challenged to think outside of the box with goals and dreams. I know the word “bucket list” is admired by some and looked down on by others. Part of our “homework” was to spend time creating a bucket list. Generally, a bucket list will require you to be willing to try something new. The question for us is “are you willing to”?
This blog was one of my bucket list items. I have always wanted to write, but never took the time to come up with a plan. Quite frankly, maybe I was afraid that I would not provide content that competes with other writers (I got over that fear as I realized I just want to write for fun).
Fear is a crippling effect that leaves rippling waves of doubt in the heart of an individual. Show me fear without a case of doubt. There were doubts about how I could sustain writing posts along with the rest of my life. I started off strong and I let COVID-19 derail my plan. Doubt will eventually come to fruition or be squashed like a bug heading towards your picnic.
I imagine that there is something you want to try today that’s new. Maybe you have a bucket list that needs some checking. Do not be afraid of trying something new. Trying something new may produce results you were not expecting. For example, blog writing has become something I do to relax and reflect.
What are you afraid of trying? Is there something new that you can do for the first time today? Try something new! If you fail, get back up and try again!
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