Thursday, September 13, 2018
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Friday, July 20, 2018
One of my favorite songs recently has been "Walls", by Derek Minor. I think that he nails a lot of the issues going on in our country right on the head. You can find the song on just about every music site; itunes, youtube, spotify, etc. Below are the lyrics for the song, and I would highly encourage you to look it up to listen as well.
[Chorus: Jordan Frye]
We build walls
All around us, all around us
Try to keep what we don't know
At a distance, at a distance
We don't listen
[Verse 1: Derek Minor]
Now if I stood on a corner and asked you for $2 for a Whopper
Would you let your cynicism stop you? Would it stop you? Would it stop you? I mean would you?
I mean we spend $9.99 on Spotify, but hearing my stomach rumblin', not worth a dime?
Not worth a dime? Not even one?
Look, or if I had suit and tie, maybe I’d be worth your time?
Only money on your mind, cuz we are so selfish
Jesus walked with the poor
Are we too good for that?
Kissing up to God in our prayers to get a promotion
To make more money and buy more things, that we don’t need
That we just buy to show off for the next guy and still feel poor inside
Still feel homeless as the person that we just denied
By the way, how have you treated the least of these?
Pride and money, are you a slave to them?
Cause you ain't gotta be black to pick cotton off a shelf of an
[Chorus: Jordan Frye]
We build walls
All around us, all around us
Try to keep what we don't know
At a distance, oh, at a distance
We don't listen
[Verse 2: Derek Minor]
Pray to God for the day that we can
Put our guns down and see Him in all of our faces
Can't you see with the hands of the master we made?
But we don't enjoy the creation of art on display
So blind when we look at each other
I don't want you not to see my color
See our differences are not the weakness
And in this puzzles we gon' need the master's master pieces
Feel like we all conceited thinking you'd be better if you was more like me
Not knowing it was God that made you more like you
Made in His image, we are all His kids
I'm a sinner, you a sinner, what's the difference?
We all need love, joy, Jesus, and healing
We got a lot in common if we would just listen
Instead of building more walls, let's build more bridges
Let's build more bridges
[Chorus: Jordan Frye]
We build walls
All around us, all around us
Try to keep what we don't know
At a distance, at a distance
We don't listen
Thursday, June 14, 2018
As July 4th approaches, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be loyal or to have allegiance to someone or something. My mind continues to return to a piece of Scripture, Mark 12:13-17. It is here that we see Jesus' response to being asked if people need to pay taxes. But this passage speaks to much more than this. It helps us to see that whatever country we belong to, that country only deserves the things that are theirs. They are not owed the things that belong to other nations, or peoples, or are God's. They do not have the right over our thoughts, desires, and hopes. Whichever country we are a part of deserves to get what it is due, but not everything that we have and are.
When we look at what the Bible has to say about who Christians are called to be, we do not find instructions on how to be the most loyal subject or on how to hold allegiance to our country (though both of these things may be done when we are living out godly lives). However, what we do find is beautiful and simple, while also being deep and complex.
In Matthew 22:34-40 (just following the events from Mark 12) we see the Pharisees ask Jesus about what the greatest commandment is. His answer is very simple, but also so complex that He covers everything that could be thought of from the OT commandments. Jesus said, " You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (ESV)
Now, one may wonder why I would bring up these two passages when speaking about loyalty and allegiance. The answer is quite simple. If we as Christians do not have our priorities straight, we end up making an idol out of something else. If we do not love God first and foremost, then we are commiting idolatry. If we do not love our neighbors and fellow man second, we are failing to live in a Christlike manner.
We can love our countries and the unique aspects that they each have. We can spend the 4th of July celebrating the beginning of a land that tries to exemplify freedom and justice, though many times fails to do so. There are many times when our country shakes its fist at God and declares that it knows better than He does. It is for this reason that we must hold the first and second greatest commandments above our allegiance to any land or place. Before we pledge allegiance to a country, may we first and foremost devote our lives to the service of the One who instilled our country's claimed values in the minds of its founders. The ideals of liberty and justice are not merely the social foundations upon which this country has been built, but are rather divine truths taken from God's Word. God is just, and because of His justice, we should strive to see justice reign among all situations. God sets the captives free from sin and lives of misery, and only He can sustain freedom. Therefore, we should strive to bring freedom to those who do not have it, in any situation or experience, even if their experience and situation is not our own. God creates all people, and therefore we need to live in such a way as to reflect that truth. There is no one on earth that has been created less than another. We are all created equal. Not in the eyes of a country, but in the eyes of God!
This July 4th, my hope and prayer is that the Church in America would begin to reflect and display the glories of Christ that are uniquely written into our constitution. Not because our country is the fountain of these glories, but because those that wrote it saw the beauty and majesty of a God who redeems those who are unredeemable and frees those that are dead in their chains. To care about our fellow man is not politically based propaganda, it is the second greatest commandment given to us by God. And it can only be done when we are fully committed and faithful to the first commandment.
May the Church rise to the occasion and shine light upon areas of darkness and bring hope to those who have none.
Friday, May 18, 2018
What does it mean to rest? To live life contentedly? What is it that causes one to rest? Such simple and yet deep questions. The very thought of which can cause one to ponder and become lost in thought for hours at a time. Or, one may simply glance at the question and become bored with the realization that they do not rest and have no idea how to achieve it.
To rest, something that most people refuse to do even on the most basic of levels. They would rather be on the go continuously, rather than provide for a physical rest; even for a mere moment. However, physical rest is just the beginning. It is when we rest physically that we can begin to rest emotionally and spiritually. We cannot rest in the knowledge that those who have been called by God are firm held by His love and mercy, if we believe that our physical actions will carry us further and more true than God has already promised. How foolish are we. God declares that He will give us rest. Yet, so much of the time we spend trying to gain rest on our own. We fail to truly understand what it means to be firm held by the Savior.
 "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ( Matthew 11:28–30, ESV)
If we live in such a way to be content with every situation that we are placed in, would we not learn to trust God more? If He is the One who has planned our entire lives, knowing everything about us and forming us in the womb, should we not rest in His plan for us?
 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jeremiah 29:11–14, ESV)
However, the reason that we cannot rest is because we do not believe/trust in God's promises. He has promised to never leave or forsake us. Yet, we seem to refuse to believe this simple truth, even in its most basic forms. We doubt that we will be provided for, loved, nurtured, and even live another day. If God has not called those who love Him to His side, then He will provide for, love, nurture, and sustain us every single day. Many times we refuse to believe this, but its not because we do not see the evidence for it, but rather because we want to control our lives instead of surrendering everything that we are to our Savior.
 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:25–34, ESV)
The only rest that can be found in life is through belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is only through this simple surrender that hope, joy and grace may be found.
May we all surrender who we are in favor of resting in who He is.
Thursday, April 26, 2018
Over the last several months, I have felt burdened and heavy under the weight of life and the struggles that come from living in a world filled with sin. I have struggled to find the joy and desire to write, not only within this blog, but also in the book that I have been working on "A Land of Shadows". It is hard to know that while in the midst of trying to write about the shadows and pictures seen in this life that reflect God and His beauty that my eyes continue to find the taint of sin. The taint of sin isn't found anywhere in God, for He is just, pure, and holy. The taint comes when we begin to examine those who are supposed to reflect His glory and yet fail miserably to do so. I have been so discouraged that even the thought of beginning to write another chapter or refine an already established one sounded like the worst chore and burden that someone could lay upon me. How could I write about the glory of God when those who are supposed to reflect His love and grace display such horrid actions of hatred, contempt, self-righteousness, and a lack of mercy? How could I begin to proclaim the glories of God when my soul felt crushed by this world, by the actions and deeds of those who would attempt to proclaim that they are children of God? How could I express thankfulness, when so much in this life was bringing me sorrow and pain? How could I show others the love of God, when I felt so low and broken?
Over the last month, God has been good. He has been gracious and kind to me. He has provided me with comfort and care, and I want to be clear that in all of my struggles over the past few months, God has never been the one to let me down or fail me in any way. His mercies have been sweet, and are the only thing that has carried me through. God has used many things to carry me through this time, and I am so very thankful for that. He has caused me to become more reliant on Him and to understand how horrid we are on our own.
I am so thankful for music. It has always been one of my greatest joys in life. It can lift the soul to heaven, all while causing self to be laid very low. There have been several songs that have brought me peace and have been used by God to carry me throughout the past several months. I would like to share them, and to share the reasons that they have been so merciful to me.
The first song is, "Cry for You", by Lecrae. This song has been the perfect reflection for so many of my thoughts. If you haven't listened to it because you don't like rap music or just because you haven't had the chance to, I would highly encourage you to do it today. It is an expression of what God has been doing in Lecrae over the past year or so. It also reflects the brokenness that I have felt and also the peace that resting in Jesus brings. When we rest and cry for God to draw near to us, we draw near to Him. It is a very emotional song, one that often brings tears to my eyes as I think about how sinful I am, and yet how loving and merciful God is and has been to me. The second is also by Lecrae, entitled: "I'll Find You". It expresses the joy of knowing that we can't do anything on our own, but we have a God who will never leave us or forsake us. He fights for us, even when the pain is so deep that we feel like it would be impossible to carry on.
The third song is "Worn" by Tenth Avenue North. It expresses the deep pain and burden of living in a world filled with sin, but follows that by expressing the joy found by resting in the only thing that we can rest in; the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who sits on the throne and intercedes for us before the Father.
The fourth song, "After You", by Britt Nicole is one that continues to provide me with encouragement that all I need to do is seek after God and everything else will fall into place. When we hold Him first and foremost, nothing else can draw away our joy. For all true joy is found in Christ and only in Christ. It is a reflection of the truths expressed by Solomon, that nothing in this world is worth anything, that it is all vanity and worthless. The only thing of worth is found in Christ.
The next few songs have brought me encouragement and hope. Broke and 8:28 by Lecrae, Get Through, Bring You War, Sing to You, and Not Today Satan by KB. All of these songs have pieces that have helped me and given me strength. Broke speaks about the way that being brought low, physically and mentally can actually help us grow. 8:28 is from Romans 8:28, speaking towards that fact that God always works everything for the good of those who love Him. The songs by KB are anthems of hope and resistance to temptation and sin. Satan has no hold over us, for those who believe Jesus is God, because Christ has already conquered the grave and holds the bounds to what Satan can do.
So, to answer the questions that I posed at the beginning of this post, I have been blessed to be called by God. I have been given a gift, that only means something when used for Him. He is the one that carries and upholds His children, we cannot do it on our own accord. When we are weak, He is ever strong. When we are hurt, He heals. When others seek to destroy us, He fights our battles. When we feel crushed, He restores.
May we all seek to live in a manner that glorifies God alone. When others fail to do so, may we have an overabundant amount of mercy and grace, for have we not all been given much! The Lord is good and His love endures forever.
Friday, January 19, 2018
It has again been several months since my last post. It seems that life gets busier with each passing day. I have been trying to find what I wanted to write about and have been left pondering what it means to love those around us. In Scripture we have several examples of how we are to love those around us, not only those whom we love, but also those who are strangers or those who consider themselves to be our enemies. When the Bible speaks about the love that we are supposed to have, love that is meant to reflect Christ and His character, it is not given to us as a suggestion. Rather the love that we see throughout the Bible, is commanded of those who would proclaim Christ as Lord.
Jesus said to His disciples: " 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.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, ESV) Jesus is calling the disciples to live in such a way that everyone who sees them will know instantly that they deeply care for one another. This is not a surface love that is only seen one or two days a week. But rather this is more along the lines of the love that should be readily visible between a husband and wife. There are difference in the intimacy shared, but the love that Jesus is calling for them to share with one another is the same. They are to care for each other in a way that only a Christian can, by the Spirit and with grace and mercy.
Later in 1 John, God writes through John:
 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have 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.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.  By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:7–21, ESV)
These verses stood out to me and caused me to think about the manner by which we walk through our daily lives. Do those around us see the love of God? Can they tell that we actually love one another? If we fail to live in such a way that people can see that we love fellow believers, then how deeply have we sinned and failed to bring the gospel to them? Every day that we do not love each other, we are proclaiming to the world that God does not abide in us. If we claim to love God, we must love those around us. For if we do not we are liars. In verse eighteen it talks about there not being any fear in love. This is something that I have been thinking about a lot recently. What does it mean when it mentions not having fear? Is it referring to being physically afraid? I don't think that it is, it may be in part speaking about physical fear, but I do not think that it is the primary focus. Love is something that must be expressed or physically demonstrated, and therefore the fear spoken of in these verses would seem to not only concern physical fear, but also emotional. If we truly love one another, we should not fear slights, offenses, neglects, or the sins of others. Why? Because the love that we experience does not flow from another person, but rather from God. Therefore, if someone does something that may cause us emotional pain, we should not fear because that does not represent the love of God. God's love is pure and just, never the cause of pain. It is during these times that we must show the love of Christ working in us, forgiving without needing to be asked. For God's love for us does not change because we sin after coming to faith, but rather it remains the same, steadfast, holding us, caring for us.
Matthew 5 says:
 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:38–48, ESV)
We are to forgive anyone who mistreats us, let alone those who are among the children of God. Love that flows from the believer should be perfect. Not perfect when we are able, because we never are, but we should strive for perfection because He is able to make our love perfect. Again, there should be forgiveness and peace whenever possible, keeping no record of wrongs done against us, for did not Jesus suffer more than any one of us ever could?
 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12–15, ESV)
 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2, ESV)
 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.  “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21–35, ESV)
Matthew 18 does not say that we are only to forgive once a brother repents to us, but rather that we are to forgive, truly and sincerely. As Christians, we are not to hold grudges towards anyone, especially not one in the family of God. We are called to forgive readily and willingly, for have we not already been forgiven more than we can even comprehend?
Let us strive to live with one another in the manner and means that God has prescribed for us to live. Let us live in harmony, not with strife and pettiness determining our actions. Let us strive to love as He has loved us.