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.
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
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 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.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
2 Corinthians 5:17
In the past few months, Southern California has been hit with the news of tragic suicides of several local pastors. Some were well known while others from small churches were not. The pain that their deaths left is unimaginable. As someone who suffers from depression, I had to ask, was I next? Could my depression bring me to the point of taking my own life? There are times when depression has paralyzed me. It is in those times that I have clung to scripture and Jesus to help me. I have done some serious soul searching and praying. There are steps that you can take to aid in your battle with depression. The first step is to recognize your depression. I outlined this in a previous blog: Depression and The Christian Faith. The next step is to prioritize your life and eliminate the distractions. I wrote about this in my second post: Depression and the Christian Faith (Pt. 2).
My family and my amazing wife have really supported me with my depression battle. They have reminded me to take my medication, focus on the pleasant moments, and helped me to change my routine when drowning in depression. The biggest area of support that they have provided is to ensure that I have significant amount of time to spend with Jesus. It is during my devotions that I became friends with David. He has quickly become one of my best friends. David understands me, he also suffered from depression. Yes I am talking about David the Psalmist. His Psalms clearly outlines the personality of one who battles depression. David clearly understands depression. He also gives us a spiritual method in which we can battle depression.
The first battle: Be honest.
Psalms 42:1-3 NASB “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?””
David is honest with God, he tells God that he wants to die, that he has done nothing but cry. His tears asked the question, “Where is God?” David loved God which is evident by his many psalms. He admits that in his darkest hour, he questioned if God was near.
In the midst of despair, we often question God. This does not anger God. It actually causes God to react to your prayers and pain. God wants us to communicate with Him. He desires intimacy. Admitting that you may harm yourself is not a weakness, it is a sign of strength. Tell someone how you are feeling. God puts people in our lives to help us in our struggles. Do not bottle things up! Expose them to the light
The second battle: Remember your Joy.
Psalms 42:4 NASB “These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.”
David reminds himself of the days when he had joy in his heart, when he was thankful and loved God with his whole soul. It is important to keep reminders of what brings you joy. Is it your children? Is it love of family? You need to know what brings you real joy, it needs to be something of substance and long lasting. When you figure this out, start being thankful for them. It is impossible to be thankful and depressed at the same moment. I keep a list and read them to God daily and thank Him. Ironically my list has grown quite large.
The third battle: Seek God’s help in righting your wrongs.
Psalms 42:5 NASB “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.”
David questions what has caused this disturbance in his soul. Is there unforgiveness that is eating you up? Do you feel shame for something that was not even your fault. Are you carrying guilt around as a baggage that weighs you down. Talk to someone, seek help. David thanked God for the help of His presence. His hope in God was restored because he knew God was there. David praised God for bringing him full circle to a place of restoration. We need to learn forgiveness. Each of us makes mistakes in life. Nothing is ever to big that God cannot forgive. He loves us. Allow Gods love to shine on you.
The forth battle: Allow God’s love to surpass your depression.
Psalms 42:7-8 NASB “Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. The LORD will command His loving kindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.”
Depression often comes in waves. David reminds us that as deep as our depression gets; God gets deeper. God calls out the deepest sorrows in our life. David encourages us, that with every wave and cycle that we experience, God’s love will be more powerful. Our Father in heaven commands His love to be poured over us in the daytime and He gives us a song for the night. David prayed to God for help and he trusted God with his life.
Do you pray? How often? Have you surrendered your life to Jesus? Give God your burdens. Let his love pour over you.
David was a great king. He had his lows and his highs. He referred often to God, as his rock. David often spoke of God’s loving kindness. He saw God as a father, a good shepherd and a friend.
But more important…
God called David, “A man after His own heart.”
In our weaknesses God sees our strengths. Isn’t it time that you see yourself the way God does? God’s love for us is greater than our faith.
Please leave a comment and if this post helped you, hit the like button below. God Bless you,
Old weary Me. A poem by Stephan Caraway. How do you view your percieved failures?
Are you conquering life or just surviving?
The response from last weeks blog post has been amazing. (Destroying the Message of Guilt and Shame) The emails that I have received and the private messages, from Facebook, Twitter to Tumblr, have moved my heart. God is doing something incredible. My hope is for healing to take place and for your identity in Christ to become clear. A few weeks ago I posted a poem, I Need to Know the Cost. Once again I am not a poet; with that said, the good Lord inspired my heart to write this a few months ago. I thought it was an appropriate follow up to last weeks post. I love to get your feed back, I will respond to your comments. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Old Weary Me
By Stephan Caraway
So weary am I for this life I’ve tried,
So clearly in strife, all hope is denied.
With failures to last, in shame do I live,
A haunting past, with nothing to give.
The chains are heavy for old weary me.
In pain, I cried could You break them free?
Then with a whisper I heard Your voice,
In love You gave me a heavenly choice.
Not just to survive; but in Christ I would thrive.
In joyful tears, you removed my fears.
God’s love so true, I surrendered to you.
Forgiven at last, from my sinful past!
Now I live a conquering life,
No longer living in sinful strife.
Raging a war at the devils gates,
Leaving behind those burdensome weights.
Fighting and praying to set the captives free,
Telling the story of God’s love for old weary me.
So I set my mind on Christ above,
Looking to God’s gracious love,
on the Holy things that are heaven bound.
To hear God’s call, His voice to sound,
Well done good and faithful son.
Your cost is paid by the crucified one.
Praise to Him who saved my soul,
In Christ’s bloody, loving toll.
The cost, I cannot truly bare,
His love I must surely share.
I rejoice and sing for that, which God did win.
Salvation from that virus sin.
One last note: Special thanks to insanitybytes2.wordpress.com. Her kindness in sharing my last blog post was amazing and heart felt. She demonstrated selflessness and love. Her writing does not come from vanity or a desire to seek fame, but from compassion and a desire to help others.
Let’s be honest with each other; the world today needs love and needs to know God’s love.
13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”Galatians 5:13-14
Everyday I hear the comments from liberals and conservatives wondering why we can’t get along. Interesting enough each group blames the other. Each side claims the other group is rude, angry, intolerant and full of hatred. I realized some years ago, what ails America is a lack of love. This is why we are a sick nation. I am not talking about tolerance, I am speaking about genuine selfless, patient, love. All sides of the hostile American political system are missing this. In the above passage, the word flesh is to be understood as your selfish desires. Paul, who wrote Galatians, was stating that all of God’s laws were directing us towards love. Those who love God, let His love fill their lives through Jesus. It is through His love for us that we are able to love one another. Christ demonstrated that love by willingly sacrificing His life on the cross for us. Those who really follow Jesus as their savior understand this and live by it. Yes, I am making a clear distinction between those who follow Jesus and those who claim to be Christians. Jesus also made the distinction.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
What does the love of a true Christian look like?
Paul makes that clear as well; we are to serve one another. It does not require a rocket scientist to figure this out, but love that serves does so without a self motivated agenda. It is compassionate, patient, forgiving, and gentle. True love never speaks a harsh word, it never responds out of anger or hurt. The one who serves others encourages and builds up. This was demonstrated to us by Jesus. This is how we, who claim to be Christians, should act. Study the death of Jesus. Show me the harsh words He uses. You will not find them, because Jesus came to serve. Jesus came to love.
45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
Paul does give a warning in the passage from Galatians. It is the warning that every American needs to hear. It is a message to every person who claims they are good. It is a warning to the prideful and the arrogant. Read it carefully.
15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. Galatians 5:15
There seems to be a push by many Americans for violence. Violence will not solve anything. It will result in the death of millions. Innocent people will suffer, especially children. Violence, anger, hate will consume and destroy us all. This is why we need to love. Love never fails. Love always wins. So love deeply and love often. P.S. To the people of Singapore I love you and am praying everyday for you. May the love of Christ fill your hearts with joy and peace. May you endure to the end. Run the race with everything you have until you fall into the arms of Jesus.
Reading the Bible needs to be at the forefront of what we do in life.
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32 NASB)
A while back, I posted The God We Should Worship . The purpose was to bring some clarity to the incorrect understanding that Muslims worship the same God as Christians. The central argument is that Christians worship Jesus because He is God, the Triune God. This is the core of Christian belief. We get this theology from the Bible. Jesus made this claim several times. Muslims view Jesus as a mere prophet whose teachings they regularly ignore. The differences between Islam and Christianity are apparent. One only needs to read the Bible to know that there is no grace of God in Islam. Grace is a character of God that he reveals in the Bible. Through the scriptures, God reveals Himself to us. I have found myself in awe of God as a result of seeking Him. One gets to know God by studying the Bible, memorizing scripture and praying. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. The more I love Him, the more I desire to be in His presence. I love him because he first loved me. For God is love. It is in His love for me that God reveals His Divine character of truth through His word.
Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him”.(John 18:37-38)
The whole world claims we want truth, honesty, integrity, and transparency. The fact is that most people don’t even seek it. They personally don’t want truth to interfere in their daily lives. They don’t want truth to destroy their misguided conceptions of life. Most people would rather believe lies about themselves. They live in the guilt and shame of their failures. They can’t comprehend that God could love them. The truth of God’s word, tells us that He loves us. Those who truly seek truth become doers of truth. The person who does not apply the word of God to their lives is failing to live a Christ centered life. If you are not reading God’s word, you can’t apply it. If you are not reading and applying the Bible to your life; your Christianity is worthless.
“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:21-22 NASB)
Are you of the truth? Do you hear the voice of Jesus? Jesus told Pilate, that everyone who is of the truth hears His voice. If you don’t read God’s love letter to you, how will you distinguish the truth from a lie? Are you listening to the stranger’s voice? Examine your life for a moment. Is your Christianity weak? Do you struggle with your walk with God? Are you focused on loving Jesus or are you living in doubt? There are things that you can do to draw closer to God.
Ask God for help. Seek His wisdom.
Read the Bible everyday. This is critical. It’s good to have a plan. Write down what you learn. I journal through my Bible Everyday
Memorize scripture. Take time while you are standing around and memorize scripture. (I use an app called fighter verses.)
Pray. Write down your prayers and your answers . If you have a hard time praying, pray through the scriptures. (Try the Psalms)
God loves you! Let God’s grace shine on you. Seek His truth.
The cross shows us our value to God. It demonstrates God’s love for us and how precious we are to Him.
We despised him and rejected him; he endured suffering and pain. No one would even look at him— we ignored him as if he were nothing. “But he endured the suffering that should have been ours, the pain that we should have borne. All the while we thought that his suffering was punishment sent by God. But because of our sins he was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did. We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received. (Isaiah 53:3-5)
I do not consider myself a poet, that word belongs to those who dedicate themselves to that art. This past year, I have had some amazing times with God and have been inspired to write some of my thoughts down. I am confounded by God’s love for me. It overwhelms me at times and leaves me drenched with love, understanding and awe. On one such occasion, I wrote the following poem:
I Need to Know the Cost.
I need to know the painful cost,
of the blood He shed upon His cross. So gruesome a price Christ did pay, His life, our sins He did slay.
Unworthy of Him who bore my sin.
All for love my soul to win.
His body so broken, His flesh torn to shred.
My life to be saved, with his blood that was shed,
I need to know the epic cost, of the life Christ gave upon His cross.
Lead me to the everlasting way; that my heart will never stray. Fix my eyes on the eternal one, so Christ can finish this race I run. So precious is your love for me, in Jesus name I am free. Grow your love in me; still more, so others will see the cross you bore.
Oh Holy Communion remind me still,
of the precious blood that was spilled. Repentance I need for my sorrowful sin.
His body so broken for my soul to win. How precious is the life Christ gave, by grace and love, my life to save. I need to know the painful cost, of the life we hung upon that cross.
Lead me to the everlasting way; that my heart will never stray. Fix my eyes on the eternal one, so Christ can finish this race I run. So precious is your love for me, in Jesus name I am free. Grow your love in me; still more, so others will see the cross you bore.
Christ took our sins and the sins of the whole world as well as the Father’s wrath on his shoulders, and he has drowned them both in himself so that we are thereby reconciled to God and become completely righteous.–Martin Luther
But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate,that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 6:11-14)
My life has been a series of struggles. I have always wanted to follow Jesus but for many years I just lived in failure. Then through a series of encounters with God I began to understand. A few years ago this passage revealed the hope of having victory over my failures to consistently follow Jesus. My hope was not found in my actions, but in the holiness of God and what Jesus did on the cross. It is all about God’s love for us.
The people of Ephesus struggled, like most people today, with doing right by God’s standard. The fact is that Christians are not perfect. We sin just like everyone else. The difference for Christians is Jesus. When we choose to have a relationship with Him and acknowledge our wrong doings, He wipes our sins away. Through Christ, God forgives us. It is all about Jesus, His love, the price He paid, His Righteousness and His Kingship. Paul understood that his disciple Timothy was not perfect. He knew that Timothy would struggle with his faith. The struggle is actually good. It is when we are not bothered by our sin that darkness prevails. God knows that we are flawed by sin. That is why Jesus came. God loves us and wanted us to have hope, the hope of being saved from our failures that separate us from God. That Hope is in Jesus Christ.
So why do Christians seem to struggle with repeating the same sins over and over again? It is in this passage that Paul gives Timothy some very important keys to overcoming the sins that abuse us and drag us away from God.
…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22)
The first key is to run from your old life. We need God’s strength to do this. Paul tells Timothy to flee from from wrong doing. He even advises Timothy earlier in the letter to avoid false teachers, people who lead you astray. This can be extremely difficult and even painful. This means that you need to allow the Holy spirit to remove everything that distracts you from having an effective walk with Jesus. Paul wrote in Romans:
Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8)
Think of it like this; while you were at work, if you took personal calls through out the day that kept you from doing your duties, would your work performance be effective? Could it possibly impede your production and lead to termination? Of course it would! It is the same for your Christian life. Confess to God, what you know is wrong. Get rid of relationships, habits and activities that keep you from God. Ask God what distracts you from him. Pray that God will break those habits and activities that drag you back to your old life. Rely on the Holy spirit to guide you.
Early in my marriage I realized that I had a serious problem with video games. They kept me from praying, reading my Bible and they were wrecking my relationship with my wife and kids. My video game friends and I talked more than I did with God or my family. I realized that I had put games before God and my family. I was selfish. Today if you walk in to my home you will not find a video game console. Every once in a while I find myself tempted by the illusion of that old life, but the fulfillment I have in Christ is far more satisfying. Run from your old self and pursue Jesus and what He has for you. Let Him Give you rest.
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)
The second key is to pursue the gifts God has for you. Paul gave Timothy the next key in overcoming sin. He says, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness”. Let’s be blunt here, if we could achieve these on our own we would not need Jesus. Humanity is flawed and depraved and we cannot achieve perfection. We are devolving into a crueler, more violent species. Society is imposing less restraints upon us, while encouraging our worst instincts and behavior.
This is why we need God. Throughout the world no matter the country or race people seek God. It is in our genetic code to desire a relationship with him. God wants us to be better than we are. That is why Jesus came and gave his life for us. It is God, through what Jesus did on the cross , who provides our righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. None of this can be achieved by us. It was achieved on a blood stained cross by the perfect Incarnate Christ. So Paul is telling Timothy to pursue Christ’s Righteousness, Godliness, Faith, Love, Perseverance and Gentleness. God gives them to those who follow Him, who pursue Him. They are the perfect gift and they only come from Him. Pray and ask God to help you! These gifts come through sorrowful repentance and prayer.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7-8)
The third key is to take hold of Jesus. This is where things get really exciting. Paul tells Timothy to “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called”. Eternal life comes from one source, Jesus. Jesus is eternal life. Take a look at the passage below:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-6)
From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He was calling people to follow him. We are not to follow some ideals, or a political leader or even a pastor. We are to follow Jesus. My dad always told me not to put my faith in him or to place my salvation in his arms. He warned me that one day he would unwillingly let me down. “Follow Jesus,” my father would say. “He will never let you down.” (Note: My father has yet to let me down, but my actions did hurt him quite a few times. I have always seen Jesus in him.)
Jesus is perfect. He is without sin. He experienced the violent, cruel world of humanity. He came into this world willingly, to give us life. If we want an abundant life that is eternal, then we must take hold of Jesus. Jesus is life. He can give life to our weaknesses. Are you following Jesus or are you just a fan? Are you leaving the old life behind like bad garbage? Do you really know Jesus? Ask your self, “Do people see the love of Jesus in me”? Take hold of Jesus grab onto him. Surrender everything to him. He is the one who defeats sin, not us. He is the one who raises us up when we fall. It is when we experience the power of Christ in our lives and his transforming love, that we should share what God has done.
The right hand of the Lord is exalted; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. I will not die, but live, And tell of the works of the Lord. The Lord has disciplined me severely,But He has not given me over to death. (Psalm 118:16-18)
The fourth key is to share publicly what God has done for you and be accountable.
Paul reminded Timothy about the confession he made publicly. There were many witnesses to the declaration that Timothy made, to follow Jesus. Testifying to what Jesus has done builds your faith up. It keeps you accountable. Yes it does put a bullseye right on your back, but that is the whole point. Jesus put your sins on his back and nailed them to a cross so that you could have life. Be bold in testifying to what Jesus has done. Let everything in your life point to Jesus, every word and every action.
But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. (1Peter 3:15-16)
** Authors Note: Sorry for this long post. It has been in the works for 4 months. This may sound like a doing and striving post, but it is not. It is all about Jesus and what he has done. It is His work on the cross. You may be exhausted with your life. Let Jesus take your troubles let him give you rest. May God bless you and give you the endurance to run the race! Take hold of Jesus! God Bless.
Today we face immense pressure to cave into political correctness and to sacrifice our values and faith in the misguided belief of human betterment.
How Blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! (Psalm 1:1)
She was only seven years old when the Nazi party official came to her home in Frankfurt, Germany. He was a foreboding man frightening in his demeanor. Her father calmly sent her to to her room, but concern caused her to listen from the hallway. The conversation turned ugly and the Nazi spoke these words,”Now the time has come for you to choose between Hitler and your precious Jesus.” The girl’s father replied with strength and confidence, “That decision has already been made a long time ago.” In a rage the Nazi threatened, “You fool that decision will cost you your lives.”
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.(Psalm 1:2-3)
When the Nazi official left, the girl ran to her father and cried, “Papa I will die with you”. Her father gently spoke with a heavy heart, “Sweetheart, it does not work that way. Each person must choose for themselves if they will follow Jesus. You are young and they will try to brainwash you, but you will have to choose.”
The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm1:4-6)
That little girl became my mother. The challenges of that day have never been forgotten by her. Courage in the face of cruelty is always a virtue we should uphold. I have alway kept the events of that day close to my heart. Their courage reminds me not to compromise but to stand firm in my values and in my conviction to follow Jesus. My mother had to overcome many obstacles in her life. Her trust in God’s authority has always pulled her through the most dire of circumstances. My prayer is that God will grant me the courage of my Grandparents and the devotion to prayer that my mother and father have always had. It is the knowledge of His love and grace that moves me towards having a more courageous heart.
Today we face immense pressure to cave into political correctness and to sacrifice our values and faith in the misguided belief of human betterment. Humanity is not getting better. We are not evolving into a kinder race with more tolerance. We are becoming more cruel, violent and ambivalent. We have become a race that cares more about the latest fashion statement, than the widow who is desperate to clothe her children. We close our eyes to rape and butchery, but scream at toy manufacturers for toy doll sexism. Hate has become popular on all political spectrums, with no one willing to police themselves. We forget the victims and want to punish “things” instead of those who kill, rape and maim. The follower of Jesus needs to Stand firm and be courageous in the constant siege upon our faith. Paul wrote:
Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
Paul is telling us to act like men to be strong in our faith and convictions. We are to be on alert and to be active. God wants us to be people of action and to perform our action with love and grace. This love is to be like Jesus, because this supernatural love can only come from Jesus. We are to live in a manner worthy of his name and of the message He sent.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel. (Philippians 1:27)
Be strong! Do not waiver! Live in the love and grace of Christ.