To Be A Witness

I do not know anything that would wake up Chicago better than for every man and woman here who loves Him to begin to talk about Him to their friends, and just to tell them what He has done for you.- Dwight L.

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them?”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:13-14‬ ‭NET‬‬

There is a lie that exists among people who claim to be Christians…

“I will let my actions demonstrate that I am a Christian, that will be my witness.”

That is not only a lie, but it is arrogant and cowardly. Was not Jesus perfect in all His ways? Did he not preach, share and testify?

“Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:17‬ ‭NET‬‬

Are any of us more perfect than Jesus? No, none of us are. Jesus is God. He is without sin. Since we are all sinners, then shouldn’t we all bear witness of what Jesus has done to free us from sin?

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – and not with clever speech, so that the cross of Christ would not become useless. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭1:17-18‬ ‭NET‬‬

Silence is the cowardly act of allowing evil to prevail. Silence allows the lies of misinformation to pervert the truth and change the narrative. Silence is the act of good people doing nothing, it grieves the Holy Spirit and prevents the changing of lives. Silence disengages you from relationships and enslaves you to a life of unfulfilling uselessness.

But to those who are witnesses, their lives are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Boldness embodies them. With boldness comes hope, the hope of God’s promises.

“because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel”
‭Colossians‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Happy are those who share the good news. The Gospel is only about Jesus Christ. It is the story of God’s redemption of mankind from sin and the freedom Jesus provides from guilt, shame and condemnation. (Destroying the Message of Guilt and Shame) It is God’s love story for humanity.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NASB‬‬

So if you love Jesus, share the good news of Jesus. If you really love your neighbor, share Jesus, because love is the proof of your faith.

When Prayer Becomes Authentic.

Do you speak to God with the clarity of speaking with a friend. Authentic prayer is empowered by the knowledge of scripture and guided by the understanding and wisdom of a loving Father.

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. “Give us this day our daily bread.”

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew‬ ‭6:7-13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

My earliest memories of my parents faith is their prayer life. Prayer was always at the top of their list of things to do. They would pray about everything and anything. It was such a normal activity, that even the family dog would act as if she were praying. She would sprawl close to my mom, with paws crossed during her prayer times.

My siblings and I were raised  on the numerous stories of answered prayer. These life changing accounts filled our minds with the belief that God answers prayer. It was not until I turned 12 that I saw with my own eyes the first of many miracles; my mother completely healed of the crippling disease, Myasthenia gravis. This forever doomed me to the knowledge that Christianity was real, Jesus was real and God answered prayers of righteous people. I could never deny that God was real, so I was left with no excuses. Although I rebelled often as a youth and young adult, I could not ignore where my selfish behavior was leading me. Sin can seem fun. It can also lead to destruction. We still have the free will to choose our path. I know that the tearful prayers of my parents worked.

Thank God, I finally straitened out.  Thankfully it was His goodness that allowed me to see sin as He does and bring me to repentance through Jesus Christ my Lord.

Now that I am older and wiser I return to those memories of my parents prayer life and the lessons I learned. Prayer should always be the first thing you do when facing a crisis or before making a decision. I wrote about this in a previous post: The Crazy Chaos of a Busy Life… It also needs to be persistent and enduring, which you can read in: Enduring and Persistent Communication…

Lately I have been asked, “How can my life change, so that I am really walking with Jesus?” “Why do I keep struggling with my faith?” These questions reflect a need in the church body to understand authentic prayer and Biblical based meditation on The scripture. Real changes come when people read the Bible consistently, meditate on what it says and add its understanding to their prayer life.

Isn’t it interesting that the Christian who prays every day, reads the Bible every day, memorizes scripture and shares his faith; never shows or expresses any doubts about his salvation. The knowledge of knowing the Father has given that Christian an assurance of salvation in Christ alone.

Do you want an authentic relationship with God?

So lets take a look at the example Jesus gave us on how to pray with authenticity.

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them;”

It is not the amount of words we use or the vocabulary, but the genuine heartfelt utterances that we speak to God. These are the words that matter to our Father. We do not pray mantras but sincerity from our heart and soul. We speak the languages of brokenness, honor, humility and we speak them with tears, thankfulness and praise.

“for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him”

We are to pray with the anticipation of knowing that God is paying attention to our lives, He knows every detail. We pray with the expectation that His will, will be done; because we know that He loves us. He is our Father, who is in Heaven.

“Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.

We surrender to His will, and offer thanksgiving and service to our Father’s Kingdom. We honor Him as our King, supreme in all authority, wisdom, knowledge and power. His understanding surpassing any situation we will face. We recognize that we are not alone, we belong to the Kingdom of God and are supported by the righteous right hand of God which is Jesus Christ our Lord.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

God wants us to express our needs, concerns and fears. He want open and honest communication from us. He is never busy, always ready to listen. We remind him of the promises of Jesus.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

We seek forgiveness for ourselves and for the grace to forgive and love others. Granted to us through the blood of Jesus.

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

We ask for deliverance from temptation and endurance to overcome the trials and tribulations of living in a sinful world. We pray for healing and for strength.

“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

We finish our prayer with praise, worship, and thankfulness, because God always wins. He is faithful and true, His love reigns supremely.

May your prayers be authentic and transforming. May people see Christ revealed in your life. May the proof of your faith be the Christ in you, the Hope of Glory.

God Bless,

Stephan

When God Grows Love…

The moment we respond in anger or hurt, we have dismissed love from our life. True love looks beyond the disagreement and builds a bridge that demonstrates the Christ with you.

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:28-33)

Two years ago I had the privilege of preaching through the Gospel of Mark in tandem with the senior pastor at the church where I was volunteering. It was a great experience for me. I was always a huge believer in expository preaching; but to actually explain the text verse by verse, was one of the most transforming experiences of my life.  My walk with Christ radically changed during this period. You may find this humorous, but most of the sermons I preached, affected me. It seemed that every sermon preached was at myself. I began to wonder if the passages assigned to me were done out of an intentional purpose. Did the senior pastor see something in my life that needed to be changed? I found out later that it was all the work of the Holy Spirit and the pastor was oblivious to what was happening to me. One of the passages that was life changing for me was Mark 12:28-33.

It has been over three years and that sermon still stirs within me. It convicts, encourages and transforms. This passage teaches us how to love. It gives us understanding of how to accept the love of God and where true love comes from. This may take a few posts to explain, so I plan on keeping each post easy to read. (Yes I am A.D.D. and feel your pain.) The subject of love is important for a number of reasons. Our society has forgotten how to really love one another and how to love God. It has forgotten that God loves us and what that love truly looks like.

Jesus breaks this passage down in two ways, surrendering to God and loving God. In this passage we learn that Jesus is making an absolute statement, that the greatest commandment is to live in total love and to live a completely surrendered life to God.

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”

For many, Christianity is a list of rules that no one one can live up to. Most people view us as hypocrites. They despise our hypocrisy because they view our moral code as changing in order to meet our own selfishness. This is not supposed to be the case. Some people try to live by a moral code. But even the best moral code fails when there is no love. The scribe was seeking righteousness through moral living. God wants us to seek righteousness through surrendered living.

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. (Mark 8:34)

So what does this mean?

Simply put, Jesus is asking us to deny selfishness in any form or behavior, lay your life down for others and follow His example of unconditional love. Think about how contradictory that is to what the world is telling us through social media and Television. Is it loving to be on your phone texting, when you are with someone else? Of course not! We have become so self absorbed as a society that we cannot even see when others are hurting. Self love is being promoted in the absence of genuine compassionate love for others. This is denying otherness. Jesus is calling us to deny oneness, selfishness, pridefulness and our egos. Our world has become so self centered, that anyone who breathes, must conform to the collective mindset or be destroyed. Selflessness allows others to foster opinions different from our selves; yet embrace those individuals with unconditional love. Jesus demonstrated that love to us, by dying for us even though our sins were contradictory to the nature of God.

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:8-10‬ ‭NASB)

Recently, after an online Bible study, a young man asked the question, “Am I really saved?” After spending some time asking questions, it became clear that he was living with guilt and shame over his personal struggles with sin. The more we love God with our total being; heart, mind, soul and strength, the more God’s love, grace and forgiveness strengthens our resolve to follow Him in righteousness. We don’t have to worry about if we are saved, if we live in committed love towards God. We do not need to worry about our salvation, if others see the light and love of Christ in us. If our mind is dedicated to His word, and our soul to worshiping God, then our strength is in Jesus. When our heart belongs to Him, then our love will be pure and faultless. This is not earning salvation. This is living in the works of our faith out of gratitude for what Jesus did on the cross. Our salvation was earned by Jesus, as a free gift for us, but we must have the free will to receive it. The choice we make either brings us life or it leads to death.

“There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief. The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied with his.” Proverbs‬ ‭14:12-14‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In the last eight years, the life I desire is to be a disciple of Jesus. I desire to be known by my love and not my anger, selfishness or tone. It is in my love for others that I demonstrate the reality of a fulfilled relationship with Jesus. My love is the proof of my faith.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ‭‭John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Maintaining Your New Year Before It Breaks Down.

Wise people set goals for themselves in the New Year, areas they want to improve or even change. Some people sabotage their goals before they even begin. How will you maintain your growth? Setting positive habits builds a foundation of repeatable success.

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭3:13-14‬ ‭NASB‬‬

A new year is upon us. The old year is past. This is the time to put away bad habits and start better ones. A dear friend, Jim Hogan, once challenged the sales team that worked for him, “Don’t be afraid to form good habits, everyone has habits, the best of us work from the good habits we already formed. Good habits create repeatable success.” — Crevier Sales Meeting 2008

Jim has always lived by example, he taught me the important value of doing things right from the beginning and repeating your good habits until they become one with everything you do. The highest compliment to Jim’s success is the fierce loyalty that his sales people had for him. Past employees often speak of his integrity, his character and the way he changed their lives for the better.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NASB‬‬

For the Christian, one who is committed to following Jesus, good habits are critical to your relationship with God and to your spiritual growth. In the passage above, Paul tells us that we can change our behavior through the renewing of our minds and that we can also know the will of God. So then how do we do this?

Like any good relationship, we need to spend time and make it a date. Yes, take the time to have a daily date with God. Read His love letter and talk to Him.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans‬ ‭10:17‬ ‭NASB‬‬

David, the psalmist understood how to change his ways and to draw closer to God. He knew that it would require his whole heart. It requires a 100% commitment to daily listening, studying and communication with God.

“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” Psalms‬ ‭119:9-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Recently, I was asked, “What methodology do I incorporate when studying the Bible? What habits have I put in place?” So here is my list of things that I do to have an impacting experience with God.

1.) Get a Bible you want to read. Each year I get a new Bible and I switch translations from the NASB to the NKJV. My wife and kids like the NLT. The important thing is to read God’s word.

2.) Get a quality Bible. Take some pride in picking out your Bible. I prefer goat skin leather and a binding that is called smyth sewn. The binding is critical, a smyth sewn binding will last and hold up over time. (Smyth Sewn Bindings) The paper should be at a 28 gsm or greater. The best Bibles made are by Schuyler, R.L. Allan, and Cambridge. (Evangelical Bibles) This year my wife bought me my first Schuyler Bible. It is such a beautiful masterpiece of craftsmanship.

3.) Develop a system to take notes in your Bible. Don’t just write notes, write with a purpose. One day someone else will read my Bible, I wonder how will my notes inspire their relationship with Jesus. I have developed a color code system over the years that works for me. Below is an example of it.

4.) Pray before you start and after. I always ask God to give me understanding and wisdom in comprehending His word.

5.) Get a book that corresponds to what you are reading. Get some perspective. Share what you learned with a friend.

6.) Get cozy. Find a quiet place, with a comfortable chair. Make this a place that you want to go to.

7.) Make the time you spend with God, consistent. Set a time to read your Bible. Keep your date with Him

8.) Keep a journal of your growth. Write down what you learned. Look back at it and see how you have changed.

God views us as exceptional. He loves us and created us each in a unique way. The one consistent trait, is that anyone can change. God gave us free will, the ability to end mistakes and to create better attitudes and behaviors. The only way this can happen is with God’s help and through having a relationship with Him. This year choose to make your new year exceptional; by maintaining a deeper relationship with God through prayer and the reading of His word.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”‭‭”Romans‬ ‭1:16-17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

God Bless and have a Happy New Year.

Stephan

The Bible, A Living Truth

The congruence of scripture, demonstrates the harmony of its writers with God’s plan of redemptive love. It flows throughout, singing of the joy of knowing a relational God full of grace and forgiveness, who has designed you with a purpose. God is love.

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In the past few months, I have been asked, “Do you really believe that the Bible is true?” The answer is simple, “Of course I do.” The two reasons for my knowing that the Bible is true are love and logic. Yes it is an emotional understanding, that is illogical; because, when is love logical? It is also a logical reasoning that causes me to accept the Bible as true, yet moves me into an emotional relationship with God.

When you super impose the Old Testament with the New Testament, you find harmony, agreement, and corresponding prophecy and testimony that all point to the loving redemptive, and unchanging plan of God. So let’s take a look at the truth of the Bible through love and logic.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John‬ ‭4:10-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The truth of the Bible is revealed in love.

There are many times in a marriage that one spouse needs to rekindle the romance by pursuing the other romantically. In my own marriage, my own wife needed to know how much I loved her. I pursued her by knowing her, anticipating her needs, understanding how she wanted to be loved, and being extremely patient. This describes God and his love for us.

The love of God permeates throughout the scriptures, like a sweet fragrance, scenting every verse and chapter with a reckless and illogical desire to be relational. God’s desire to know us is embodied in His loving plan to rescue us from sin and to restore us to eternal life and peace with Him.

It starts with Genesis and how God clothed Adam and Eve, even after they rebelled against Him. It is demonstrated through the love story of Ruth and Boaz. His love is broadcasted by the emotional writings of David in the Psalms. It is prophesied by Isaiah and Zachariah and boasted by the marriage of Hosea. It is fulfilled in the Gospels by Jesus His Son, who on His own, obediently sacrificed His life on a cross for the salvation of humanity. It is bound in the free will given to everyone, so that they can choose to love God or reject Him. God’s love is free.

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” 1 John‬ ‭4:15-16‬ ‭NASB‬‬

It is by this example of unconditional love, that in my own life, I have tested it and found it to be true. When I have put aside selfishness and loved others unconditionally, have I seen this Godly love transform lives, create forgiveness and produce healing. God is relational and has designed us with a purpose. (Read: You Have A Purpose!)

The truth of the Bible is revealed in logic.

“Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”” Luke 24:44 NASB

These words were spoken by Jesus after His resurrection and just before His ascension. Jesus wants us to understand, that He is the main Character in God’s love story. He came to be the sacrifice to mend the broken relationship. There are two points that Jesus is making. The first point is that all scripture is relevant, because of the second point; which is that not every prophecy and scripture corresponding to Jesus has been fulfilled, because the full redemptive plan of God is not finished. The Apostle Paul specifically instructed Timothy that all scripture was relevant. He even argued that the sacred writings of the Bible, provide wisdom and lead to salvation through faith. This Salvation is because God wants to rescue us from sin.

“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17 NASB

The disciple Peter also reiterated this, when he wrote: “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”2 Peter 1:20-21 NASB

It is because of this passage that we know that nothing in God’s word is irrelevant. The person who knows that the Bible is true and views it as an inspired love letter from God is a Biblicist. The Biblicist must examine all scripture as congruent, to be in harmony. The one who follows Jesus, allows God’s word to prove itself. He does not add to it, or take away from it. The real Christian lets scripture stand on its own merit. If done with humility and reverence, the life of the Christian will shine with God’s word, a Holy life, filled with the Holy Spirit, soaked with the blood of Christ and saturated with love. This is what a repentant person, joyfully changed by God’s love, looks like. The Psalmist understood this very well, when he wrote:

“The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.” Psalms 19:7-9 NASB

It is through scriptures, that the Christian, can align their theology with love. It is through this harmonic relationship with God and His love, that one can answer the question, “How do I know the Bible is true?”

Voddie Baucham Jr, a famed author, preacher and theologian, simplified the answer in a Biblical manner.

“The Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents. (Verified by Archaeology) It was written down by eyewitnesses, during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. (1 John 5:13, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Deuteronomy 6:6-9) They reported supernatural events that took place, in fulfillment of specific prophecies. They claimed that their writings were Divine and not of human origin.” (Deuteronomy 29:29, Romans 15:4, Revelation 21:5)

The Biblicist accepts the supernatural, because Christianity is supernatural. The true Christian believes in God, who is supernatural and unchanging in His nature. Christianity is supernatural; because through the scripture it changes the heart, renews the mind and transforms the individual.

“So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously” Colossians‬ ‭1:10-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The Christian does not just believe in the Bible, they know it to be true, because of the evidence that God’s word transforming their lives. They live with truth and love, choosing the way of a disciple. This is the proof of their faith.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”” John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Thank you for reading, leave a comment and share the post.

Love,

Stephan

Murder, Church and Jesus

In life, the distractions we seek are the very ones that lead us away from Jesus. With our faith diminished by these distractions, we feel empty and angry at God, who in His love, is trying to get our attention. We need to pursue Jesus and leave everything else behind.

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Colossians‬ ‭3:1-2‬ ‭NASB‬‬

It was a cold and frosty fall Sunday evening in the small town of Big Bear, California. The year was 1967 and parishioners were gathered together in the local Baptist church to hear the pastor, my father, preach. Like most of my father’s sermons; it was scholarly, full of the Gospel and centered around God’s love for humanity. Unbeknownst to the congregation and my dad, a dramatic murder was about to take place.

In the midst of the sermon a lowly church mouse began to stir from its nest in the warm kitchen and venture out into the sanctuary meeting, that was taking place. The mouse quietly scurried its way between the metal folding chairs of those listening to the sermon, until she reached the center aisle of the church. Expert eye witness testimony reveals, that the mouse was mesmerized by the fluid prose of the pastor’s preaching. The mouse moved up the aisle and stopped to the side of the communion table, listening to every word of the sermon.

Having concluded the sermon, my father gave his trademark Gospel invitation for redemption. No one in the church stirred, except for the church mouse, who according to witnesses, moved forward and bowed her lowly head. With no one else coming forward, my dad gave the closing prayer. No sooner had he uttered the word, “Amen,” when a deacon with a callous heart threw his shoe. The shoe flew through the air, slamming the repentant mouse into the hard floor. In a moment of horrific evil, the saintly, praying, church mouse was dead.

Shock and disbelief spread through the church. Questions quickly arose: Why didn’t the deacon have his eyes closed during the prayer? How could this happen in a church service? My grief stricken brother, turned to the hardhearted deacon and hissed with contempt, “Murderer!” Tears flowed from other young children as the bloodied corpse of the saintly church mouse was removed.

This event took place a few years before I was born and before my birth restored peace and joy into my family’s home. (Actually, I came in like a hurricane, according to my older brother and sister.) Although this story is tragic and true, it points out the ease in which we are distracted as Christians. Tragically the focus of that Sunday night service was not supposed to be a mouse, but rather Jesus. This story points to three areas in a Christian’s life that we can lose our focus. We are easily distracted in our relationship with Jesus, in our prayer life, and when we face tragic or life altering events.

“I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.”                1 Corinthians‬ ‭7:35‬ ‭NLT‬‬

OUR RELATIONSHIP: Sadly, no one in my family actually remembers what my dads sermon was about and I am sure neither do any of those parishioners. The great thing about my dad is that every sermon he preached always pointed to Jesus. Everything in our lives, every action we take, should point to Jesus. We should love like Jesus and live for Jesus. Our lives should be saturated with the hope that Jesus brings. We need to draw closer to God to fall more in love with Him.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

IN TRAGEDIES: In life we will always face tragedies; but those tragedies should never interfere with our relationship with Jesus. Every trial we face builds a play book on God’s faithfulness. We review that play book to build our faith and to remind ourselves of His love and goodness. When Satan throws a “shoe” into our lives, our response will be seen by those searching for hope. How will this response define their view on Christianity?

The true Christian follows Jesus when things are going well, but also when life goes wrong. The followers of Jesus need to always exemplify the characteristics of kindness, compassion, love and selflessness. We need to be a light in the darkness and a hope in a world of tragedies. When others are distracted by fear and anger, we can provide the hope, love, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. It is in this behavior that we emulate what Christ did for us.

“But I called on your name, Lord, from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried, “Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!” Yes, you came when I called; you told me, “Do not fear.” Lord, you have come to my defense; you have redeemed my life.” ‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:55-58‬ ‭NLT‬‬

IN PRAYER: My sister once asked the question, “How could a deacon of a church, plot a murder of a sweet mouse during a time he was supposed to be praying?” It is not a childish question. Ask yourself, how is your prayer time, could it be better? One of my favorite quotes on prayer is from Abraham Lincoln. In the midst of war, chaos and the stress of a presidency, nothing could distract him from prayer.

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” – Abraham Lincoln

In a previous blog post, The Crazy Chaos of a Busy Life…, I mentioned some of my own struggles with making Jesus a priority. Chaos, change and distractions will always come; but so will the grace of God. Focusing on Jesus is the only choice for a Christian.

Let me hear from you,

Stephan@proofofyourfaith.com

Fatherhood: The Reflections of Wins & Losses.

Fatherhood is a reflection of wins and losses. It reflects the changes you made to become better or worse. How will God view the way you raised your kids.

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭127:3-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In the next few days, my family and I will be celebrating the birthday of my daughter, Rebecca. For my daughter, this is an exciting time. In a year, she will be going off to college, where she will be forging ahead on her big plans and even bigger dreams. For me, I will put on a brave smile, and hide the heartbreak of letting my baby girl go into such a violent and cruel world. With each passing day comes the constant questions tormenting my soul:

“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.”             ‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Is she ready? Have I done my best in preparing her? How do I keep her safe? Am I ready to let her go? Did I fail her as a father? Do I kill her college boyfriend before or after I meet him? (Ok, I’m kidding on the last one, it will definitely be the dog who “accidentally” eats him.)

Any father will confess, that fatherhood is a series of successes, failures, and guilt ridden contemplations. The joys come in between the guilt and the perceived failures. The insanity of being responsible for the life of your child is enough to drive anyone to the brink of a mental break down. Being the parent of nine kids, it would be a miracle if I didn’t suffer from depression! (How my wife makes this look easy is beyond any rational understanding.)

When you bring your baby home from the hospital, there is no owners manual, to help you navigate through the pitfalls of being a parent. A good father does not rely on his own instincts, but looks to his Heavenly Father for guidance. Many times I have cried out to God for help, in small things, like how to snap a baby into one of those sleepers. No one thought of a man when they designed that complicated piece of clothing.

I have also gone to Jesus in the big things. When frustration sets in, and you just don’t know how to calmly approach a situation with your kids. Thank God, that He answers prayer and provides wisdom.

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” ‭‭James‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Rebecca

When I first held her in my arms, I wept. It was a particular hard time in my life. Rebecca was a joyful distraction and a healing to my soul. God knew that I needed her. From the moment she was born, she was a great kid, rarely a problem. (There was the one time that she traumatized her classmates in kindergarten by announcing, “Santa does not exist! He is a fat old fraud.” The tears that flowed from that class, could have solved a water shortage.) She sought the truth and questioned the ridiculous. God gave her a built in owners manual on how to deal with us, which surprised us with a few uncomfortable conversations about life, politics and faith.

During the early days of her life, we all endured some hard times. I was clueless or in denial about my depression and it was making everyone miserable. She suffered through the loss of her uncle and grandfather; while dealing with grieving and emotional parents. During that time I was a typical, obnoxious, casual “Christian”. It was a religion that I abused and twisted to my benefit. It is in those early days of her life, that I have my biggest regrets. I was selfish, arrogant, and oblivious to the way I treated people. I was a religious Pharisee. (See my poem: The Hypocrite)

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In spite of that, Rebecca drew very close to God, she became a Christian at a young age. She developed a keen understanding of moral behavior; blooming with compassion, forgiveness and kindness. It was through her devout love of Jesus, that I began to change. I slowly began to move from being a fan of Jesus to a committed follower. I would see this amazing girl beam with Jesus, praying, reading her Bible and influencing her friends to be positive role models. This convicted me, and brought me to truly surrender my life to Jesus.

God does not judge you on your wrong doings, He judges you on the ones that you arrogantly refuse to repent over. Humility before God, opens the hearts of your children to a loving and forgiving God.

In her older years, I have been a much better father. I have let her see what a repentant life looks like. I’ve owned my mistakes, apologized for wrongdoing, and humbled my self before God. I have strengthened her value system, encouraged a closer relationship with Jesus, and taught her the beauty of God’s grace and goodness.

“Corrupt people walk a thorny, treacherous road; whoever values life will avoid it. Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” Proverbs‬ ‭22:5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As I release Rebecca into God’s hands, she will enter a world, knowing that she is loved and prayed for every day. She confidently knows that any mistakes I made as a parent; are mitigated by her relationship with Jesus Christ. She learned first hand from me to trust in the Lord Jesus and to lean on Him. Trusting in God will give her the peace of mind to know that Gods grace will be with her when she messes up, as long as she is humble and repentant. Living that way will also help me, as I lessen the mistakes I make with her brothers and sisters.

“God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”   1 Corinthians‬ ‭1:30-31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Thank you all for the wonderful emails I have received. Your likes, comments and emails are much appreciated. God Bless you all.

Jesus, The Personal Savior.

Intimacy is important in relationships & in our prayer life. Do you know Jesus? Is your Christianity defined by the tattoo inked on your body? God wants more. He wants to engage us in a deeper relationship.

Have you ever been asked the question, “Are you a Christian?” This is a common question; that is asked to determine religious affiliation. Many Americans casually call themselves Christians, as if they are fans of the religion. The question that should be asked is, “Do you know Jesus?” or “Are you a follower of Christ?”.

“Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:29-31‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

As we look at the beginning of this story we are reminded that there was an intimacy in the relationship between the disciples and Jesus. The disciples knew Jesus, followed Jesus and spent time with Jesus. They had just finished visiting the synagogue and were heading to the home of Simon Peter and Andrew, where they planned to fellowship and eat. Here is where the story begins to develop into an intimate portrait of what having a relationship with Jesus can be like.

According to Luke, a doctor, Simon’s Mother in law was with high fever. (Luke 4:38) In those days a fever was deadly. There was no Tylenol or Advil to help with the reduction of fever. In fact the rituals of the time were quite barbaric in dealing with a high fever. She needed a miracle.

What separates the fans of Christianity from the followers of Jesus Christ, is spiritual intimacy. We should know our Savior beyond “Just Faith”. There are two lessons on intimacy that we can learn from this passage of scripture.

1. The disciples knew Jesus well enough to know that He would hear their petition and that He would respond to their needs.

Do you know Jesus like this?

2. We need to go immediately to Jesus with everything.

Most people go to God only when they need something. The scripture tells us that the disciples immediately went to Jesus and told him about Simon’s mother in law. Notice that they did not go to others and ask them to talk to Jesus, they went to Jesus directly. I am not saying that you shouldn’t ask others to pray for you. What I am saying is that you need to go to Jesus first and immediately. The relationship with Christ is a personal one. One that is not hung on a banner or wrapped around a cross on your neck. It is a daily communication between you and your savior. It is one of intimacy. The Disciples knew Jesus, because they spent time with Him and listened to His teachings. This is why we must spend time in Gods word, the Bible. Everything we need is in the love letter that God has given us. Read His love letter!

Another example of prayer is from Daniel:

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Daniel 6:10

and Ephesians:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18

When communication is constant and direct it leaves little room for wondering if that person is real, and what they want. The same is with Jesus. Relationships that fail usually do so because of a lack of communication. When we purposely draw near to God, He draws near to us. A transformation comes when we move from faith to believing and from believing to knowing. When we know God, we will be filled with understanding and peace. We will know His will because we are constantly dwelling in His presence. Do not be afraid to go to God with your pain, your grief, your sins and your needs. Let God know your suffering. King David did this better than anyone, The Psalmist often shocks me, in how he confronts God. It is reverent but very direct; yet David with all of his sins and crimes was called a man after God’s own heart.

Once we go to God in prayer we learn from Mark that Jesus is there to comfort us. Notice in verse 31, it says that Jesus took her hand. The taking of the hand is a sign of comfort. When we go to Jesus immediately with our daily concerns and needs, He comforts us through the Holy Spirit and guides us. Jesus gives us the ability to endure any situation.

When my daughter Hannah was younger, she loved to sit in the front seat of my car and hold my hand. I once asked her, why she did this and she told me it was because it made her feel safe and good. When you pray, ask Jesus to take your hand and walk you through your prayer life.

Jesus is always with us. The Holy Spirit is our comforter. God is the Father that we need. So reach out to Him and pray. A prayer life is a #proofofyourfaith.

The Hypocrite

What lies do we tell ourselves? Are we judging others, mocking them, do we see our own failures and hate what we have become?

In life, we love to point the finger at others. We love to judge others, but maybe we need to look at ourselves. Jesus spoke against hypocrites, He said:

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:3-5‬ ‭

We live in a world full of hypocrites, myself included. God loves us and will forgive us if we seek forgiveness and turn away from judging, name calling and hypocrisy. We must learn to love one another, as Christ loves us.

Hear is another of my poems to go along with these two:
I Need to Know the Cost
Old Weary Me

The Hypocrite

By

Stephan Caraway

Oh what a hypocrite that I be,

To live in the sin that pleasures me.

It’s not on the outside that you see,

It’s the hypocrite inside of me.

I go to church and sing the songs,

Knowing that I don’t belong.

You might catch a tear in my eye,

But it’s sin where I choose to lie.

Oh what a hypocrite that I be,

To live in the sin that pleasures me.

Maybe I should, maybe I would,

To live a life that might look good.

Narrow and hard is the way;

But pleasure is the road I stray.

One night I had a frightening dream,

That I stood before our God Supreme.

Oh the hypocrite that I be, in my heart God could see.

The lies that I lived so burdened me.

The God I mocked began to scold,

To hell I would go, for the sins I sow.

Just as the flames began to heat;

Awaken I did, my death to beat.

Oh the hypocrite that I be,

No longer a desire found in me.

I fell to the ground on bended knee

That Jesus would set me free.

My heart He did change inside of me,

No longer the hypocrite for God to see.

Oh the hypocrite I used to be,

Washed in the blood that set me free!

© 2018 Stephan Caraway. All Rights Reserved

Thank you for visiting this blog. I am grateful to all those who provide comments and feedback. Once again I am not a poet; with that said, I was inspired to write this poem. Please provide feed back, I will respond to your comments. Thank you for visiting proofofyourfaith.com

Why are we failing Millennial’s?

We need to disciple. Millenials want authentic mentoring that pours out your life into theirs. It denies selfish agendas, gives love & anchors their life to a living Christ.

It continues to baffle me when I hear that churches do not understand why they can’t reach young millennial’s. They continue to disregard them by listing their flaws but fail to see their real potential. This is not love. Love is viewing people as God does. God see’s the potential in us all. Young people today are wanting to be apart of a real movement of change. They want to do something that will change the world. God wants to change the world. Millennial’s desire transparency and truthfulness. God calls us to live a life of righteousness that reveals Christ and His truth. This generation wants to have deep, meaningful relationships. God is relational. So what seems to be the problem? These ideals are great! The problem is not millennial’s, the problem lies with the abandonment of Biblical principles.

Churches have abandoned discipleship. Discipleship is the process of reproducing the life of Christ that is in you, into the life of someone else. It teaches self denial and the reproduction of the fathers love to others.

Luke 9:23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

One reason the world laughs at us is because of our hypocrisy. We love to quote scriptures but we fail to follow them. Many Christians condone behavior that God is against. We claim to love God, but relish in disobedience to His commandments. The biggest argument against the Church is that we love to sin to much. The world looks at our hypocrisy and laughs. We must deny the lusts of the world. This is not just sexual lusts, but any area that leads to selfishness. Our selfishness leads to our own deception; in which we cling to worldly things instead of Christ. We must deny ourselves, follow Jesus and prepare to die. When we truly live in Christ it leads to selfless love for others. This love changes the world.

John 13:34-35 New King James Version (NKJV)

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The second way we fail millennial’s is that we do not reproduce the love of Christ in others. The best way to influence and inspire is to genuinely love and care for the person that you are trying to reach. Find the common ground, demonstrate your love for them and shine Christ brightly. True love puts aside an agenda and invests time and energy necessary to cultivate an authentic relationship. To demonstrate Christ’s love, it requires a soft and gentle approach that meets the person where they are in life. This requires the Christian to remove all judgmental attitudes. Jesus always had compassion and reached people specifically to their needs and understanding. To truly love someone; you must be patient with them. After all, hasn’t God been patient with you? Discipleship is a #proofofyourfaith.