The Price of Sin

We are peculiar creatures. We do odd things like point out the faults in others. The funny thing is that we often point out the very things that are wrong in us. Kinda like how the liar is often the one to point out when someone else is lying…. What’s up with that? Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism within us that we automatically point out the faults in others so people don’t see the faults in us…. We like to hide. Perhaps this harkens back to Adam and Eve hiding from God after they left the front door open and invited sin to enter the world. 

It’s quite absurd actually… hiding from God… just the thought makes me chuckle. Funny how one thought can make you chuckle and at the same time shake you to the core. What a terrifying thought…. You can’t play hide and seek from God. It’s not possible. We have this scene in the Garden where Adam and Eve are hiding and God asks, “Where are you? ” However, it’s not because He can’t see them…. It’s because they have left his presence. 

We need to understand the relationship that God had with His creation at that time. God had this incredible relationship with Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2:25 we read, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” The relationship between God, His creation, Adam and Eve was so true, so pure that they felt no shame in the most vulnerable state a person can be in. 

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Let me pause for a moment here before we continue…. Right about now you’re probably feeling insecure and awkward and that’s ok. That’s to be expected. Anytime we hear the work NAKED we get uneasy. When we go to the doctor and they instruct us to take off our clothes and put that skimpy ¾ of a gown on, we start looking for ways to escape! Am I right? The thought of anyone seeing us completely vulnerable in our natural state is absolutely terrifying! Some of us avoid medical attention for that very reason! However, for God and His creation this was not the case. 

Adam and Eve had nothing to hide. Their nakedness represented the intimate relationship they had with their creator, God almighty. So, when they disobeyed God’s command that closeness that they had with God was, well… broken. 

I’m reminded of the relationship between parents and children. At first there is pure joy and freedom between parent and child. Separation is virtually nonexistent. You always want to be with each other. And as the child grows, they begin to develop independence and start doing things on their own, which is absolutely normal. And if everything goes well, the child will make the right decisions and maintain that closeness they had with their parents. It’s when the child makes bad decisions that walls are built and unhealthy separations begin to take place. 

It’s when we, the children, begin to make decisions that go against God’s command that we find ourselves far away from His presence. Hiding in the shadows. Hoping that we won’t be found out. That’s the separation. And sin, no matter what it is, separates us from our creator who so desperately wants an intimate relationship with us. 

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As you read the story of the Eden crisis, you can feel the disappointment in God’s voice. He knew what happened. Yet He still asks, “‘What is this you have done?” (3:13a NIV). What a heavy question. God knew exactly what happened; however, this question isn’t for His own clarification… This is an accountability question. He’s asking them to take responsibility for their actions. This is profound being as though Adam had already thrown his bride under the bus when he was called onto the carpet to take responsibility for their actions the first time. When God asked what happened,  The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it’” (3:12 NIV). Eve fesses up. She tells God exactly what happened. And God issues the consequences for their actions. They are kicked out of paradise to labor and toil in the wilderness. Their closeness with God has been violated and now they are separated from what they once had. 

But there is something else going on here. Many read this story and miss the biggest truth about it. The truth is that what they deserved was death. Isn’t that what God told them would happen if they disobeyed Him and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? In Genesis 2 we read: “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’” (vv. 16-17 NIV). Not only does He give the command, but He warned them of the consequence as well. And yet, they did exactly what they were told not to do. 

You can’t blame them really. And I’m sure they didn’t wake up that morning thinking to themselves, “Let’s put God to the test today and disobey His commands. Satan, played by the serpent, gave a compelling argument as to why they should. In Genesis 2:4-5 we read: “‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman.  ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (NIV).  I mean, that’s pretty solid…. It’s a lie, but it worked. They bought it hook, line, and sinker. But, here’s the thing…. Satan didn’t make them do anything. He simply made the suggestion. 

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We are notorious for blaming Satan for our sins, but guess what?  He can’t make us do anything! He can’t do anything to make you sin against God that you don’t already want to do. We see this here in the Garden and we have another great example when he tries to persuade Jesus to sin in the dessert in Matthew 4. Here Satan tries three different times to persuade Jesus to give up His messiahship and follow him instead of God, and Jesus doesn’t buy into the lies. This shows us that sin is a choice that we make, not something that we are forced to do. Now I know that we aren’t anything like Jesus, but aren’t we supposed to strive to be more like Him? Jesus is more than a savior, more than our King. He is to be the example of how we are to live each and every day!

God gives us a beautiful picture here at the very beginning of our story. Sure, we lost life in paradise and a division between God and humans was created, but God provided a way for us to reconcile our relationship with Him… Through His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. You see, because sin entered the world, man had to endure death. A physical and a spiritual death. A price had to be paid to atone for our sins. So, God, the creator, got creative. He put into motion a plan for our salvation. A way to pay the debt of our sins. At first this was done through burnt offerings and animal sacrifices. This was the way our sins were atoned for until Jesus hit the scene and God’s salvation plan came to fruition. 

Jesus gave His life so that He can save ours. When Jesus was crucified and rose again, the price was paid for the sins of all humanity. 


Speak, for your servant is listening

Lord, I’m here. Speak, for your servant is listening. What a powerful prayer to pray. Simple. Direct. And yet so deep. With these few words one is literally taking on the posture of the humblest of servants. With these words we hear the very call for every Christ follower. We see an image of one’s own heart bowing to the creator of the Universe. These words reveal the very message of God. This is a picture of not only a humble person…. But a person responding to God’s call out of simple obedience. 

Those aren’t my words. These words come from 1 Samuel 3. This is the story of Samuel’s call into ministry. In 1 Sam 3:1-10 we read:

“1 The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. 

2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel.

Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.

6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”

7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening”’ (NIV).  

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I think most people read this and think, “That’s a nice story, but what does that have to do with me? I’m not called to be a minister or a lay-leader, and I’m most certainly not called to be a prophet!” To be honest, there is a lot of truth to thoughts like this. And it’s perfectly normal to respond in this way. If this is you… that’s absolutely ok. Not everyone is called to ministry in a way that most people view ministry. However, we are all called to serve. 

That’s right. We, every last one of us, are called to serve. We are called to take part in God’s great mission of reconciling His creation back to himself, His mission for redemption. And get this…. Serving happens in everyday situations…It doesn’t have to be planned. In fact I would argue that there are more unplanned opportunities to serve than there are planned opportunities. 

Along with this, serving others can be as simple as holding a door open for someone. It’s more about looking for those opportunities to help someone. You know, when that person in front of you drops their wallet and you stoop down to pick it up for them…. Not a big deal, but it was an opportunity to be Jesus for someone, even for just a brief moment. 

I remember one Christmas season Beccy, my wife, and I were walking through a crowded mall one Saturday afternoon. As we were shopping, I noticed something fall out of a women’s trench coat. I remember quickly picking it up, and then Beccy and I were chasing the woman down until we could give it back to her. I know it’s not a big gesture, but to this woman you would have thought we saved her from being hit by a moving train. Now I can’t say whether or not the woman went to church or accepted Christ because of our kindness, but this is an example of a simple way to be Jesus in everyday life. 

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Let me give you a better example of what I’m talking about. 

I remember another time when I was out to lunch with our pastor and a few of the staff members. We were having a great time of fellowship and bonding, and as always we would include our server in our conversations. As the meal was winding down and the checks were being paid, I heard our pastor ask our server if there was anything that she needed prayer for. Turns out that this young woman’s car kept breaking down, and as a result she had been late to work on several occasions and was given her last warning that very morning. Our pastor began to make some phone calls, and by the end of the conversation he, along with some of the other men from our church, met the young woman at her work and gave her a well running vehicle! As a result she began to attend the church and gave her life to Christ! 

The point I’m trying to get across here is simply this:  acts of service happen in the big and small moments. The opportunities are all around us to simply be Jesus to those around us. If we are to be followers of Christ, then we MUST take the posture of the humble servant willing and waiting for those moments when God calls, and we must respond like Samuel… “Speak, for your SERVANT is listening.”

Be the Leader You are Called to Be

Every pastor and lay leader has been called by God to lead or assist in leading God’s people. This call is different from any other call, as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 12:7-1:

“7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”

Sure, you might be reading this and think, “Ummm, those are gifts not a specific call.” And you’re right; they are the gifts of the Spirit. However, the gifts of the Spirit often go with one’s call. When considering the call to pastor or lead God’s people, many of these gifts go hand-in-hand with being called to pastor.

But there is more to our call to ministry, and it all lies in the spiritual gifts that we have been given. There are two truths to this statement. The first is this: Not every pastor is the same. Right?! This should be obvious; however, it is far too easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to other pastors and leaders and think, “Why can’t I pastor like him or her?” Or we buy into every “church growth” and “affective pastor” program that comes down the pike hoping that we can finally start looking like all the other pastors that we often compare ourselves to.

The reality, though, is that every single person that is called to ministry, pastor and lay leader, is called specifically to use the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit has given them. It’s easy to see from the list of gifts identified by Paul where you fit. You already know! You know because it’s what you do naturally and because it’s where you easily excel. However, it’s just as easy to disregard our own gifts because we get so caught up with comparing ourselves to each other that we lose sight of the amazing gifts that God has given us.  

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The other truth that I would like to point out is that every pastor or lay leader has been called to use the gifts we have been given, but we have been called for a specific purpose. Some pastors are called to show people exactly how to spread the good news to the world around them. Some are shepherding pastors, called to care for people. Some are called to minister to those in need in the community, and others are called to pastor the forgotten. The underdogs of society. 

If you are in ministry, regardless of what that looks like, be the leader that God has called you to be. That’s it. We are not helping people grow in Christ by disregarding the gifts that He has given us and trying to fit into a mold that we were not made to fit in. 

So, you’re probably wondering what kind of pastor I am.  I believe that I am a pastor to the underdogs. I find myself naturally looking into the margins of life to find those people that are overlooked, and I naturally work to empower and equip them to use the gifts that God has given them. 

So, the big question is this: What kind of pastor or lay minister are you? 

Finding our Identity in Christ and who we were made to reach is a vital component to our call as ministers. I encourage you to take hold of the gifts God has given you and use them. I also encourage you to BE THE PASTOR GOD HAS CALLED YOU TO BE. There is little time to be comparing ourselves with one another. Celebrate with your brothers and sisters in ministry and rejoice in the fact that God is doing a great work in you and through you!

That’s all for now. I look forward to hearing some feedback and starting a discourse on this week’s topic. 

Peace and blessings to you all, 


The Holy Spirit’s Power to Change Us

Acts 8:14-17 

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Luke 9:51-56 

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.  And he sent messengers ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them[b]?”  But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village.

One of the things that we don’t always understand when we read Luke 9:51-56 is the hatred between the Jews and Samaritans. The animosity between the two groups was so great that those traveling between Galilee and southern Judah would purposely travel around the Samaritan territory. And I mean they were willing to add days to their trip just to avoid one another. So, it should be of no surprise that the residents of this Samaritan village refused to welcome these weary Jewish travelers. Jesus, however, held no such animosity toward the Samaritans. The residents of the village, however, had absolutely no problem turning Jesus and his disciples away.

When the Samaritans refused to welcome Jesus and the disciples, James and John, the “Sons of Thunder” weren’t amused. And in true fashion for two dudes with anger issues, they wanted to retaliate.

“Lord,” they said, “do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

Wow, talk about animosity

They wanted to release destruction on this village just because they were turned away and not given lodging and rest for the rest of their journey. 

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It seems silly to us now, but this was their response. How dare you refuse the King of the Jews! The Messiah! Emanuel! Fine! Be that way! Lord, just say the word and we’ll take care of it! 

The sad reality is that this is often the response that we have today. Oftentimes we get entangled in conversations that get under our skin and get our blood boiling. For the Christ follower this is often when we hear people slandering what we believe, and we go into this “protection mode” thinking that we have to defend God.  We get offended so easily when people of the world reject Him.

When we are rejected or hurt or offended, our initial response might be to hold a grudge or even to retaliate. However, we must remember that judgement belongs to God. We need to allow Hm to handle those who have offended us. Not only do we need to allow God to handle those who oppose us, we need to allow Him to handle those who oppose Him as well.

Believe me, I think God can handle His own affairs.

These two passages in Luke and Acts are connected because we get to see an amazing transformation in the character of Peter and John. In Acts 8, we find Peter and John, being sent to a Samaritan village to see if they had in fact become followers of Jesus Christ.

Keep in mind that up to this point Christians were not sure whether or not it was even possible for a half-Jew or a Gentile to receive the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t until Peter’s experience with Cornelius in Acts 10 that the apostles were convinced that the Holy Spirit was for everyone to receive.

Typically the Holy Spirit enters into a person’s life at conversion. We call this initial sanctification. However, this event in the Samaritan village was special. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit would happen again with Cornelius and his household in Acts 10:44-47, signifying that the Holy Spirit is for Jews, half-Jews and Gentiles alike!

What can we pull out of these two passages?

One could look at these two passages and conclude that the overarching themes boil down to one key word… CHANGE

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Luke highlights the animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews, a deep hatred that caused them to avoid each other at all costs. In the passage in Luke 9, we deal with rejection, retaliation, and grace. The Samaritans rejected Jesus and His disciples. James and John seek to retaliate, but Jesus shows grace and mercy on the Samaritans by rebuking Peter and John.

In the passage from Acts, Luke paints a picture that is vastly different from the Luke 9 passage.

Here we have Peter and John after they received the Holy Spirit.The Apostles had received reports of a Samaritan village accepting the word of God, so they commissioned Peter and John to go and investigate the situation.

Keep in mind what we know about the Samaritan and Jewish relationship. It was not good, not good at all. So, the fact that these two were sent to Samaria was astounding in itself!

Now, I want to pause here for a moment because I think that there is some significance as to why John went with Peter. John along with his brother, James, wanted to destroy a Samaritan village in Luke 9. There is no proof that these two passages are talking about the same village. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are. After all, it was Luke that wrote both accounts.

So, I love that John is chosen to go along with Peter. Could you imagine what might have been going through his head? Surely this can’t be right. It’s a trap. That most definitely might have been the case had they not received the Holy Spirit.

However, I have found that the Holy Spirit has the power to change hearts. To change our perspectives, the way we think and view the world. I believe that the Holy Spirit got a hold of John in such a way that everything about him changed. He went from a Son of Thunder to a Son of Peace.

If we are to understand and believe that the Holy Spirit has the power to change a man known for rage to a man known for love, then it appears to me that John may have gone to that village with a very different perspective than when he and his brother wanted to destroy the Samaritan village that refused to help them back in Luke 9.

This should give us all great encouragement that God can change anyone. James and John wanted to destroy who they thought were their enemies in Luke 9. However, through the infilling of the Holy Spirit, their hearts were changed. This allows John to minister to the people in Samaria, changed and ready to spread the Gospel message to all in need.

The same is true for us today. The same Holy Spirit that filled the early apostles is the same Holy Spirit that fills us today. This same Holy Spirit changes us from sinners to saints and allows us to extend the same grace that has been extended to us.  

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There and Back Again

Retrieved from the Notes From PG blog archives… first published 07/2015

It used to bother me whenever someone would step into a ministry and within the first two years they would announce that they were leaving to accept the call to serve somewhere else. I never understood why anyone would do that. Right when I was really getting to know them they would up and leave!

Then I found myself suddenly resigning my position as the Student Ministries Pastor at Oakdale Family Church of the Nazarene to pursue my call as a Lead Pastor! You could probably imagine how conflicted I have been over the last month. Here I was doing exactly what bothered me most about ministry! But, over this last month God has given me a new perspective that has helped me to understand what being obedient to His call really means and how He blesses His people when we step out in faith.

The story that relates to me the most right now is the story of Phillip in Acts 8:26-40.   

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,

   and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,

   so he did not open his mouth.

33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.

   Who can speak of his descendants?

   For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea. (Acts 8:26-40 NIV)

I love how Philip responds to the Holy Spirit in this passage. He responded out of obeisance to the Lord. And then at the end of this passage, after Philip baptizes the Ethiopian, the Holy Spirit suddenly takes him away! So, Philip leaves his comfort zone and steps out in faith to preach the Good News to an Ethiopian, and then after he has accomplished his task, God calls him somewhere else! Through this I learned that sometimes God leads us somewhere for just a brief moment for us to do His will in the lives of the people around us, and then He leads us somewhere else to even greater work than we did before.

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About a year ago my family was loading up the last of our belongings into a POD and getting ready to leave our Virginia family to answer God’s call to serve here in Central California. At the time we had no idea all that God had in store for us, nor did we know how long we would be here. Over the last year God has stretched me more than I could have ever imagined and has continued to prepare me to answer my call. He used Oakdale Family Church of the Nazarene to confirm my call and and encourage me to take ahold of it. In a sense you could say that the people of Oakdale sang in harmony with the Holy Spirit and what He is calling me to.

Over the past month we have had prayer warriors worldwide lifting us up as we step out in faith to answer this call. We didn’t know the destination. We didn’t know how we would get there. We didn’t know where Beccy would work, nor did we know where Tate would go to school! But, we did know that God had all the pieces worked out and in place ahead of time. He knew when to reveal them to us and He knew how everything would work out.

It has been amazing to see God work everything out in a matter of weeks! And how He is still working out the logistics as I write this blog! A few weeks ago I sent out my last resume and was contacted within twenty-four hours to talk about some churches that were open and asked for God’s leading in pastoring one of those churches. God made it very clear which one He wanted my family and I to interview for. At the same time God led Beccy to resign her teaching position at the high school where she was teaching. Later that day two positions opened up in the same town where I was interviewing. Within twenty-four hours she was contacted to set up an interview and a few hours after that interview she was offered the position! GOD IS GOOD!

This morning I had my interview and just a little while ago I received the phone call to be appointed to serve as Lead Pastor of Hope Community Church of the Nazarene in Culpeper, Va.  I am honored and blessed to step up and lead this church! I pray that God will use me and my family to the fullest! Thanks for all the prayers, encouragement and support over the last month! I will miss my Central California family greatly and I am blessed to have had a small part in what God is doing through Oakdale Family Church of the Nazarene! Continue to pray that we get all the moving and housing logistics worked out as we need to be out there some time next week!

I Know You Mean Well

Retrieved from one of my other blog sites…

One thing that I have learned through the years is that words matter. With just a few short words, we can either build someone up or tear them down with little effort at all. And at times, what we believe to be words of encouragement can actually do serious damage to the person that we are trying to help.

Over the last few weeks, we have been discussing some of the dangers that may come out of common phrases that Christians often say. Things like: God won’t give you more than you can handle, God hates sinners, God helps those who help themselves, and everything happens for a reason. Some of these sound like encouraging words of wisdom taken straight from the Bible; however, they are not. Many well meaning followers of Christ use these phrases (and others like them) thinking that they are quoting scripture. However, when we examine the scriptures, they are nowhere to be found. As a result what ends up happening is that we ultimately end up painting an inaccurate description God and His character.

So what’s the point? Before I get to that, let’s take a look at James 3: 1-11. To be completely honest, I think that there’s a little more depth to James’s call for followers of Christ to control our tongues. In James 3 we read:

1. Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

That’s a pretty heavy truth right there! Most people read this passage of scripture and apply it to the use of foul language and they’re right. James is talking about that, but there’s more to it. What James is talking about here is how we talk to each other. How we communicate with those around us as followers of Christ can either point people to Jesus or point them away from Him. Truth be told, I have found that may well meaning brothers and sisters in Christ do more damage with what we believe to be words of encouragement, like the phrases discussed through this series, than actually encourage those around us.

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Often phrases like these are a mere misunderstanding of what scripture is actually saying. For example, scripture says nothing about God only giving you what you can handle. In fact when we examine scripture we see evidence that He will absolutely give you more than you can handle. If He didn’t, we would have no need to come to Him in our time of need and would have nothing to sing praises to Him about. This goes along with the phrase “God helps those who help themselves.” If either of these were true, then there would be absolutely no need for God. And not only are they not true, but they are not found in the Bible at all.

Many of us have heard or have said the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason.” The problem with this phrase is that, as encouraging as it might sound, it has the potential to lead a person to fatalism – why bother- and excuses – why try because God is in control anyway- type of thinking. But scripture tells us that God CAN weave his purposes IN all things. NOT that He causes all things to happen.

Many of us have seen “followers of Christ” on TV picketing with signs stating that God hates sinners. 😑This phrase isn’t even close to scriptural. It’s not the sinner that God hates; it’s the sin that He hates. Many who have raised their children in the Church and according to the Word of God have seen their children leave home and leave their faith as well. Do the parents hate their children after this happens? No! They still love them regardless of their decisions, but they may not love the decisions that their children are making. The same goes for God. He still loves the person, I would argue that He loves them even more, but He doesn’t love the sin that we CHOOSE to hold on to. If God hates sinners, then what was the point of sending Jesus, His one and only Son, to pay the price that was needed for our salvation?

My hope in sharing this is that we all begin to think through some of the common words of encouragement that we tend to offer people and ask ourselves if they are actually Biblical and if they are painting an accurate picture of God and His character.

Peace and blessings until next time,


Worship Is…

Taken from another one of my blog sites….

Over the last two weeks we have been talking about worship. We began our discussion by taking a look at the importance of worship to the ancient Jews and how worship changed through the Centuries. From Abraham’s altars to when the Romans destroyed all the temple buildings in 70AD, worshiping God changed. It changed in physical location and through unfortunate circumstances.

We talked about how worship for the ancient Jew was not only for the Individual, but for the Home and Nation as well. We discussed the Mezuzah that the Jews would mount on the gates and door frames of their homes that contained a scroll with scripture inside. We discussed the importance of passing down the worship rituals to the next generation and the different festivals that were held throughout the year. All of these were ways for the people to worship God.

The main point of week one was that despite all the changes that worship has gone through throughout history, the very foundation of worship remains the same. Much like how the foundation and the Western Wall still remain after the Romans had all the Temple buildings destroyed in 70AD.

In week two we took a look at 4 different aspects of worship.

The first aspect is that worship is both vertical AND horizontal. We discussed the fact that it is fairly easy for people to understand the vertical aspect of worship. After all it,  revolves around our adoration of God and praising Him for His love, mercy, hope, saving grace, and so on. And in doing this we strengthen our faith. The horizontal aspect of worship is when we worship together or participate in corporate worship. When we worship together two things happen: 1) the church is fortified and 2) it is edified. In other words, when we join together in holy worship of our Lord, the Holy Spirit is stirred within us and our faith is strengthened. In Ps 40:9-10 David tells us that he hasn’t “concealed” God’s love and faithfulness from the assembly or congregation. When we share our testimonies with each other, the entire body is edified.

The second aspect of worship is that it isn’t always pretty. We get a great example of this when King David brings the Ark of God back into Jerusalem. This is where David is so overwhelmed with joy that he literally worships God with his entire body, and his wife, Michal, was embarrassed by his behavior and David responds to her in an epic way. He says, “21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this,…” (2 Sam. 6:21-22a NIV). Let’s not allow ourselves to be concerned with what the person next to us is doing or what we are doing when we are worshiping. The only one that we should be concerned with is God and how we present ourselves to Him. The behavior of people who have a real, sincere relationship with God doesn’t always make much sense to others, and guess what? That’s OK.

The third aspect that we discussed is that worship is constant. We see this in the incredible picture that John paints of God’s throne room in Revelations 4:5-1. In this passage John points out these heavenly creatures that are praising God constantly singing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:8b NIV). No matter what time of day it is, they are bowing before the throne worshiping Him. And these Heavenly beings praise God without any persuasion from God. They’ve experienced God face-to-face, and they can’t stop choosing to worship him. Know this to be true: when we worship God we are taking part in a daily, heavenly reality.

Finally, we talked about how worship requires both humility and obedience. In Romans 12 Paul writes: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Rom. 12:1 NIV). Unfortunately, we have done worship a great disservice by limiting it to what we do for a few hours on Sunday morning. True worship requires a humble heart. There is little room for the arrogant heart in true worship. And along with this we must be obedient. Every sacrifice we make to glorify and edify God is a true act of worship that truly pleases him. When we are truly following Him we are worshiping Him. One of the calls that God has for his people is to, well, reach out to people. Serve them. Love them. Be the guiding light for that lost soul, and you will find true worship.

Peace and blessings until next time,


An Experience To Remember

When I was in my mid 20’s I convinced my wife to travel down to San Diego for an overnight trip just to get away for a bit and leave our worries behind. The next day we decided to go walk around and window shop at one of the malls. This is one of our favorite things to do because we would dream about the future and things we would have as our little family grew. That’s when we found the Warner Brothers store and decided to go “check it out”.

As we were walking around the store we noticed a table set up in the back and a line forming with comic book geeks. Turns out that four of the animators from the Batman and Batman Beyond animated series were there to sign autographs and meet the fans! As you can probably imagine (my fellow comic geeks) our true geeky identities came out in full force. We bought some merchandise and joined our Batman brothers and sisters in this joyous occasion. On our way out we were invited to the next year’s Batman signing event with the the man who gave the Joker his voice… MARK HAMILL!!! (For those of you that don’t know, that’s Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars franchise) Immediately we began to make plans for that weekend and as that weekend approached our excitement grew greater and greater. 

Even though it was almost 20 years ago I still remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the excitement of getting to meet one of my childhood heroes. I remember going directly to the WB store, picking up our Joker maquette, and joining our comic book brothers and sisters as we were all waiting to meet Mark Hamill. I remember just wanting to stay in that moment for as long as I could. 

When it was finally time for us to meet him it felt like it was a dream, like it wasn’t real at all. Here I was standing in the presence of Luke Skywalker! The little boy in me was jumping for joy, but the adult just stood there mesmerized I didn’t know what to do or say! We had a little conversation about my Charlie Tuna shirt and then…. well, it was over and we were led to the front of the store. I wanted to get back in line… I wanted that moment to last as long as possible… If only I had something better to say besides, “Hi” and, “Oh that’s cool.” But, it was over. Archived in my memory banks forever. 

So, you’re probably reading this and thinking, “Nice story, but where ya going with this?” That’s a great question. Yesterday was Transfiguration Sunday and we discussed Luke’s account of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) In Luke’s account we read:

“28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)

34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.”

So, Jesus invites Peter, James, and John on a little spiritual retreat, or mountaintop experience,  and while they are up on the mountain they are joined by two old friends, and when I say old I mean dead. Like, dead dead. They are joined by Moses and Elijah who begin discussing Jesus’ departure from earth. And while this was happening Peter offers to put up some shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. This was a moment that He and the others didn’t want to leave. Then God crashes the party to announce that Jesus is His divine Son and that He has authority over all the Earth. There are a few things that we can pull out of this. 

First, we must understand that we all need mountaintop experiences.Just like Beccy and I needed to get away to recharge and have that experience meeting one of our childhood heroes, we need mountaintop experiences with Jesus because it is in those moments where we are renewed and strengthened for everything that life has to throw at us. And, it is in those moments up on the mountain where we grow into the spiritual giants that God calls His people to be. 

But here’s what happens when we don’t get away and have those mountaintop experiences… We can become a spiritual couch potato. Our drive to do God’s will tends to fade away and before we know it we begin to feel spiritually depressed, and we can’t even get up off the couch. We might be able to  go through the motions of Christianity at first; however, there is no depth to what you are doing and sooner or later you just stop following all together. Do I need to remind you that following Christ requires action? 

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Secondly, no matter how much we want to stay up on the mountaintop, we must come down. Just like Beccy and I would have loved to stay in that moment with Mark Hamill we couldn’t. We had to leave that incredible experience and return to reality. Peter, James, and John had an incredible experience that day up on the mountaintop. And, like any of us, they probably didn’t want it to end. When we have experiences like this it is tempting to want to just stay there. In that place. In that moment. Leaving the reality of our daily lives behind… escaping all our problems, our stress, and our anxieties. Knowing what awaits us in the valleys of our life isn’t really a good selling point for wanting to come off the mountain. However, despite our deep desire to stay on the mountaintop as long as possible. we must return to the valleys of life. If we stay up on the mountain top for too long we miss the opportunities to minister to those that desperately need it. 

Know this to be true… if you are a follower of Christ you, yes you, are called to be the spiritual giants of society…. not the spiritual couch potatoes… Staying up on the mountaintop for too long can lead to a spiritual self-centeredness that is absolutely toxic to the mission of God. This is deadly to the Church. It is a cancer.

Finally, we need to understand that Jesus, the Messiah, the Divine Son of God, extends invitations for you  to come up to the Mountain Top! Much like that invitation that Beccy and I received to come back to the WB store to meet Mark Hamill the following year, Jesus invites you back up to the mountaintop! Jesus loves spending time with you especially when He can pull you away from all your daily distractions for just a moment, and He wants to invite you to the mountaintop so that He can reveal Himself to you in new and exciting ways. But, here’s the thing…. The mountaintop can be anywhere, and it occurs when we pause for a moment and simple say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Sam 3:10b NIV)

Peace and Blessings to you all,

The Underdog Preacher