Tripping on Pride

Have you ever had those proud moments in life? Moments when you made the team? Or got the job? Or when she said “yes”? Maybe when you first child was born and you got to take him or her home? There is no issue with having proud moments in life.

However, there are moments when Satan whispers in your ear how life is all about you and you take the bait. It’s in those moments that God takes issue. In the moments when you really want to exalt yourself and there is no care or concern about others.

When we look at the broad stroke of King David’s life (1 & 2 Samuel), we end up realizing what David struggled with is also what we struggle with…PRIDE. If asked, most of us would say David’s greatest stumble would be his adultery with Bathsheba. But 1 Chronicles 21 shows us he really struggled with pride.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, says in James 4, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” In our culture, humility is characterized as weakness. This is just not true. When we follow Jesus and allow him to reign in our life, we realize we are actually empowered greater then we ever could be on our own. James goes on to say in that same chapter, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up in honor.”

It’s a powerful way to represent Jesus Christ in your family, your workplace, and in your neighborhood. So, start today allowing the Spirit to convict you to walk with a humbleness that looks like Jesus. Start today surrendering to God and allow his Spirit to flow through your life. Say “good bye” to comparing yourself to others and just be Jesus to those around you. Humility is not weakness—your strength is God in you. Blessings on your journey.

Who's accusing who?

There have been moments in my life when I’ve been accused of something I did not do. Of course, there have also been moments I was accused and stood guilty. Like the time in fifth grade on Signal Mountain, TN when it had iced and snowed. At school, we were told NOT to run and slide on the ice but several of us did so anyway. When we lined up after recess, the principal asked who had been sliding. Several came forward but I was not saying a word until the class bully, Andy, pointed me out and said, “Tim was sliding!”. I got a spanking that day at school…I stood guilty.

You know, that’s what Satan does to you and me. He stands before God and accuses us of the guilt of sin in our lives. The sad thing is, we are guilty.

Satan whispers in our ear and lies to us about sin, encouraging us to give in to our carnal nature and do things our way. “God will understand.” “He would want you to have a good life and this (fill in your sin) will make it good.” But after we sin, we tells us we are worthless, pitiful, unlovable, unforgivable. While that is true, we are also loved beyond measure!

The apostle John tells us in 1 John 2:1, “…if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.” What an exciting realization!! Yes, we’ve made some poor choices but Jesus loves us so much that he gave his life for us. We have forgiveness and a relationship with God because of our advocate, Jesus.

So the next time you hear the voice of the enemy whispering you’re unlovable and unforgivable, remind him that he’s wrong. God loved us so much that while we were sinners, Jesus died for us. We have every reason to rejoice. We are brand new in God’s eyes, no longer guilty but his sons and daughters. Blessings on your journey.

Unmask the Deceiver

We’ve all had those Halloweens where we were out trick-or-treating and saw the many costumes kids were wearing. Almost always, there is someone wearing what we would call a “devil” costume…some renaissance version of what we think the Devil looks like. The look usually includes a red suit, horns, and a pitchfork. But that is not really who he is.

You see, the Devil’s greatest trick is convincing us that he really doesn't exist. But he is very real. The story of the Bible, God’s tireless chasing after his creation (humankind), reveals that he is the prince of darkness, bringer of death, and the father of lies. While Jesus on the other hand is light and truth and life.

The Devil hates God and hates humankind since we are made in God’s image. He’ll do anything to take our focus off of Jesus. He’ll whisper anything in our ears to make us feel unworthy and that God cares nothing for us. But we know that to be just the opposite. God cares for us so much that he sent his only son to die for us.

So, as followers of Jesus Christ, we have to arm ourselves against the father of lies in order to know the truth. How do we do that? By putting on the full armor of God: helmet of salvation, belt of truth, the sandals of peace, the breastplate of righteousness and draw out the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6). Making sure that God’s Word is firmly planted in our hearts will be the difference between standing firm and falling for the lies the evil one tells.

So, make it a habit to attend a gathering of believers on the first day of the week. Fast the first of the year in order to discern God’s will for you in the coming year. Give your first fruits to God acknowledging that it is God who blesses you in all things. And finally, start every day with God, reading his Word.

The Devil wants to pull you away from your relationship to Jesus. Know what he’s up to. Know whatever he’s telling you is a lie. Trust in God. Surrender to Jesus in order to have that abundantly bright life that Jesus offers. Blessings on your journey.

No Opinions

Everyone has an opinion. They are as common as belly buttons. Life happens. Decisions are made. Choices are given. We all live and learn and along with that opinions are formed. Unfortunately, many times poor opinions are created and related as if it were the Gospel truth.

Maybe you go along with folks and then regret it later because you don’t want them to have a bad opinion of you. It could be that you change the way you think because of who is in the room. You possibly read into what other people say or do as if it is in direct judgment of something about you. Maybe you have a hard time asking for help because you don’t want others to think you’re weak or not knowledgable. Maybe you are critical or judgmental of others because that’s what’s been done to you and you’re tired of getting hurt.

But Paul addressed this type of living and thinking in Galatians. He starts out that letter by saying he wasn’t appointed by a person or a group to spread the message of Jesus. He was chosen by the Spirit and because of that, people’s opinion of him do not matter.

What we discover in the Gospel of Jesus is that we have been set free not only from the Law but also what people think of us. We are called to live out Jesus in our everyday life no matter what folks think. Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “Christ has truly set us free.” What an exciting story to live into!! We are free from anything the world throws at us. We don’t have to believe what other people might say about us since Paul reminds us of what God thinks about us.

Paul says in Galatians 3:26, “for you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ…there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Wow! We are sons and daughters of the Most High God! Praise be! May I always listen to his voice and none other. Blessings on your journey.

No Chains

Have you ever felt tied down, incapacitated, chained? That moment you felt you had no freedom at all (other than the way you felt your teen years)? Religion does that to a person. But there is a different between religion and Christianity.

Paul was emphatic about the Gospel of grace as am I. He had visited at least 4 towns on his first missionary journey (see Acts 13-14) where he established churches and reminded them of the grace and freedom Christ has given (see Galatians). But after a while, those churches went back to the Jewish Law system. Oh, they still believed in Jesus and our need for him but they continued to be chained to the old law.

There are reasons we as humans tend to lean in to this type of living, spiritually speaking. One, it offers a method of measurement. I’m a list guy which means I like knowing what needs to be done, making a list and marking it off as I accomplish things. Religious people like that too. But Paul reminds us it’s not what we do, it’s what Jesus has already DONE!

Another reason we tend to add things to Jesus is it makes us feel superior. As humans, we naturally compare ourselves to others. Spiritually, we are no different. If I can go to “church” more, read the Bible more, memorize more scripture, go on more mission trips, well, you get it. I think I’m better than you. But adding anything to Jesus is not the Gospel of grace. It’s not what we do, it’s what Jesus has already done.

Finally, we like a Jesus-plus gospel because in our small thinking, we believe we control our eternal destiny. It ends up giving us a false sense of comfort. But Paul reminds those churches in Galatians and us today, Jesus plus nothing equals everything! There is no way to work our way into salvation and grace. It is a free gift from God. Jesus has done everything needed to gain a positive spiritual outlook. So, stop working and trying to earn your salvation. Jesus + nothing = everything!

Blessings on your journey.

Burden of Debt

We live a country that encourages us to carry debt. Banks, credit card companies, and retailers make it easy to obtain a piece of plastic that enslaves us. Proverbs 22:7 says that the “borrower is a slave to the lender.” I don’t know about you but I don’t like that wording. “Slave” doesn’t sit well with me unless you are talking about serving Jesus Christ.

So, let me encourage you to sit at the kitchen table and create a budget for you. Get your spouse and get real with your income and what you’re paying out. Don’t let you money or your bills master you…you be the master of the financial direction you want to go. Here are some core principles that might help you navigate the culture of debt America advises.

Curb your appetite. Greg Laurie says “If your output exceeds your income, then your upkeep will be your downfall.” So very true. Paul says in Philippians 4:11-12 that he’s found how to be content whether he’s well off or in need. That can only be found in Jesus. Stopping seeking what the world offers and start looking to Jesus to guide your life.

Discipline your eyes. Ever notice grocery stores know right where to put the sugared cereal? Yep. Right where the 5 year old can see it. That’s what the world does. It tries to pull our vision off of Christ and on to the things that just don’t matter. The half-brother of Jesus, James says “We don’t have because we don’t ask God.” Maybe we need to refocus on the abundant life that only Jesus can offer rather than the latest gadget.

Finally, guard your pursuits. Jesus says in Matthew 5, we can’t serve both God and Mammon. Anything that pulls us away from God is Mammon. It’s more than just money. We should be pursuing a life that radiates Jesus and not a garage full of stuff. Pursue that kind of life that is focused on looking like Jesus and give things away rather than collect them.

Remember, it’s not what’s in your wallet but who’s in your heart. Blessings on your journey.

What's in your Wallet?

When I ask that question, instinctively we reply, “None of your business!” It’s uncomfortable and seems nosey. We cross our arms because we feel we’ve worked for our money, our ability to have credit and our assets. We really don’t like anyone checking on how we are financially, especially when it come to our finances and God.

But I believe we have a misunderstanding of ownership. While you did put in the hours at the workplace, and you earned that paycheck, you did not create the hands and mind that allow you to do that job. God did. You did not create the opportunity to earn a living. God did.

You and I have to come to the understanding that God owns everything. You and I are simply stewards of how we have been blessed. The Psalmist says in Psalms 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.”

So the question should not be “How much of my money do I give God?” but rather, “How much of God’s money do I keep for myself?” See, just rephrasing the question let’s everyone know where your priorities are.

Secondly, we have misunderstood Lordship. You see, Jesus is not just your savior but your Lord. When you publicly declared you wanted to follow Jesus, you said He was Lord of your life and that should mean something.

God doesn’t want more and more FROM us; He wants more FOR us. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So, live in such way, spend in such a way, store up in such a way that your life screams “Jesus is Lord and I own nothing.” Jesus is our treasure, not stuff. His desire is to give you the abundant life but you’ve got to surrender fully to him. Blessings on your journey.

But I want that...

Did you ever want something so bad you could taste it? I remember as a young guy watching Magnum, P.I. He drove that Ferrari Deno. It was sweet. I even hung a poster of it above my bed when I was at Harding University. I always wanted one of those and it is on my bucket list to at least to “rent” and drive one day.

But there are moments when what we want gets in the way of our relationships with people and God and our health. Jesus warns us in Luke 12:13-21, “Beware. Watch out…” Our selfish desires can sneak up on us. With sexual sin, the Bible tells us to “run”. But greed and selfish desire sneaks up on us. There are some things we learn from the story Jesus tells in the text.

Greed can confuse your self-worth. We have to remember “things” do not define us. Jesus does! We are sons and daughters of the Most High God. Jesus is our King and brother. We are made in his image. Nothing on earth compares to that.

Greed can ruin your relationships. Some of my closest friends and even relatives have ended up focusing on money. Every time we were together, it was always about money. And if I didn’t give them money or what they wanted in the moment, I did not love them. At least, that’s what they told me. So, because of greed, I’ve lost many relationships and some have turned into very shallow interaction.

Greed can harden your heart as well. If you’ve seen The Return of the King in the Lord of Ring series, you saw what happened to Gollum. He was a Hobbit that started out fishing with a friend. Before the day was over, they had found the ring and Gollum’s friend was dead. He lost everything after that because he only cared about himself and the ring. If we aren’t careful and live life with open hands, we’ll end up with a closed heart.

But what if your identity was all about what and how you give in your life, not about what you keep? Jesus says at the end of Luke 12, “Your treasure is where your heart is.” I’m not always good at it but I gave my heart to Jesus a long time ago. He is my treasure. Won’t you make him yours? Learning to let go of stuff is a tough one but as followers of Jesus, we learn to let go in order to hang on to him. Blessings on your journey.

The Death of Death

Death: the topic of conversation we are taught to avoid. Labels like ‘glum’ or ‘morbid’ or ‘dark’ are dismissively applied to someone who even brings up the topic. Nevertheless, through the plethora of these labels, I can hear the stifling of a revelation.

My curiosity with our greatest enemy has led me to at least one conclusion: the depths of God can only be approached when we are comfortable with the fragility of our own existence.

Death is a massive creature that swallows young and old, rich and poor, powerful and weak. The more I read God’s Word and other non-canonical writings, the mystery of our indescribable God renders death nothing more than ordinary.

Through my story death has surfaced with varying intensity: when I was 16, my grandfather died of a massive heart attack; when I was 21, my friend died in a motorcycle accident; when I was 26, my mom received her first diagnosis of breast cancer and the scare of the unthinkable but she conquered it.

In different ways and with varying intensity, death has made an appearance in my life. And you have experienced it as well. It seems like death has been a central piece of all of us.

In our fallen state, ‘Time’ is accurately defined by the master we submit ourselves to: but if death is our master, then time is merely a measurement of death’s invasion into our individual lives; However, if God is our master, then time and indeed eternal life, is a miraculous gift by which we receive him and influence others around us.

So, who is our God?

Our God…is a God who weeps. Incredibly, our God is a God who weeps. At the tomb of Lazarus in John 11, as Jesus stares into the eyes of death, he reveals to us a God who weeps.

He already knew what was about to happen; he already knew that he would call Lazarus’s name, the stone would be rolled away, and the dead would raise to life. He already knew how the story would end, and yet, we see Jesus, God in the flesh, confronting our brokenness with tears. For our God is a God who weeps.

We serve a God who is not satisfied with the pain that we feel; He is not satisfied with the sting of death; he is not satisfied with the taste of what is. Our God is a God who sobs over broken creation, who mourns over lives cut too short, who cries when we, his beloved children, cry. Our God is a God who weeps…but our God is not a God who sits idly by.

He does not sit and allow death to claim the ultimate victory. For even now his Spirit is moving, even now his love is growing, and even as the enemy is raging, our God gives life. Our God gives hope. Our God is a God of resurrection. Our God is a God who keeps hope tucked into our hearts.

For the sole desire of our king is to destroy the victories of our enemy and to embrace us in his arms for all eternity. As Revelation 21:4-5 promises: “He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’”

Indeed, Our God is a God who will set all of the wrongs right. This moment included. For our God is a good father. And good Fathers do not allow wrongs to go unaddressed, good Fathers instill hope in the most difficult of times, good Fathers stop at nothing to provide for their children. Rejoice that we have a good Father…one who will make all things new!

Blessings on your journey.

Buried Treasure

The 1985 movie, The Goonies, was incredibly fun, adventurous, and well worth the money spent on the movie ticket. It’s a story about some kids who find a map to buried pirate treasure in Oregon. The treasure is guarded by one-eyed Willy, the captain of the pirate ship. The kids need to find the treasure to pay off the foreclosure on their house so they stop at nothing to find it. Everything they do indicates where their treasure is located…on that pirate ship and in their home.

You’ve had moments when your heart was set on something. Maybe it was that first date with that girl or guy you just couldn’t stop thinking about. Or maybe it was the certain college you had to attend to get the degree that would launch your heart-felt career.

Jesus talks about our treasure as well in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6. He says, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth…Store your treasures in heaven. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be as well.”

Jesus tells us truth about what we already know deep down. But if you’re a disciple of Jesus, it asks us to truly consider what we are pursing. Like the goonies who left everything to find the treasure, are you willing to give up everything, sacrifice everything, let go of everything in order to discover the treasure that Jesus wants to give you?

The write of Ecclesiastes reminds us in chapter 3, everything is meaningless here on earth. So if that’s true, and I believe it is, it calls us to set our mind on things above. It calls us to let go of any earthly treasure we are pursing to embrace the eternal treasure that Jesus calls us to hold on to. In the end, we’ll discover what Jesus offers is more valuable than any treasure we considered on earth. Blessings on your journey.