Is My Faith a Joke?

IMG_1992The other night I was watching The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, a rerun from back in May, when he told this joke in his monologue:

“The St. Louis Rams made history on Saturday by drafting Michael Sam, making him the first openly gay player in the NFL. Yep, an NFL player who’s never been with a woman — or as Tim Tebow put it, ‘Eh, it’s been done.’”

After the first part of the joke, Fallon and the audience applauded at decision of the St. Louis Rams, and then laughed at reference to Tebow’s faith and belief.

I was fairly fired up, mainly because in a world today that raises the banner for “equality,” this joke was a microcosm of what reality is really like. I know, it’s just a joke on a tv show, but it got my gears turning. And then I got even more fired up, but this time it was directed at me.

This whole instance made me ask myself, “Is my faith a joke?” What does it say about me, other Christians, and the Church, when what we believe and so many have given so much for is the punchline in a joke?

What do others say about God because of me? Is my faith a joke?

Paul dealt with this very issue when he wrote the letter to the Romans. Actually, he was bringing up an issue that was a constant in Israel’s history. Their lives and actions did not match up with the God and faith they professed. Take a look at what Paul wrote in Romans 2:17-14:

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself area guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Verse 24 is a reference to Isaiah 52:5, when the prophet deals with the same problem. No one took God seriously because the Jews were no better than anyone else. Their lives reflected no difference, no desirable qualities.

Jim Putnam wrote about this idea regarding today’s Christians. In his book DiscipleShift, he looks at the fact that Christian marriages are just as likely to end in divorce, Christians are not healthier, in as much debt, are not more generous, and so on. Basically, overall, our faith really is a joke to those that look on. Many of us are trying to hold to the days when being a “Christian” was something that was respected or admired, but those days are quickly crumbling away.

Even though Christians are divided on issues in our culture today, the Bible is very clear on many things. It is also equally clear on how much the world rejects God and all that He stands for. We can never expect to tell the world that such and such is a sin and expect anyone to listen if our lives do not show that following Jesus is better than anything else in life.

Ask yourself, are people laughing at God because of my life? Is my faith a joke?

As long as there is sin in the world, people will always reject God – even if we lived incredible lives full of faith. But we must ask ourselves about the reality of our faith.

If we really want to change the world, we have to live in such a way that shows people that Jesus really DOES make a difference. Our lives at church and at home must be the same. We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Our marriages have to be better. Our business dealings have to be better. Everything should be better – because Jesus is better!

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“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – Matthew 17:14-21

This past week, I was in Colorado on a mission trip with my church. One day we took off and went to the top of Mt. Evans, which was 14,270 feet. We drove most of the way and hiked the rest to the top. Let me tell you, mountains are big. IMG_6831

In Oklahoma, we don’t really have mountains. There are a few really tall hills, and one even stops short of a mountain by just a few feet. But they are nothing like a 14,000 foot pile of rock.

At the top of Mt. Evans, my friend Aaron asked me, “Man, what do you think it would have been like back in the day trying to cross all this with a horse and wagon?” I just couldn’t imagine what it would have been like as a traveler to get that first glimpse of the mountains and think, “I have to the cross THAT?”

In your life, have things come your way that feel like crossing mountains? Sometimes the task just seems way too big for us. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just pick up the mountain and move it out of the way?

There’s an interesting story in the Bible where Jesus talks about that very idea: Matthew 17:14-21:

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon,[b] and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” [21 However, this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.]”

Jesus spent a great deal of time and ministry addressing several different crowds looking for him. This was no exception, as a father is desperately looking for Jesus, because his son suffers from seizures, possibly a form of epilepsy. However, from the passage, we see that this was brought on by a demonic spirit in the boy; it was not just a physical ailment. Evidently, he has already tried to ask the disciples to heal the boy, but to no avail.

The man still has faith in what Jesus can do though. He goes right to the source. But Jesus makes an interesting statement first. He seems to be troubled at the lack of faith of the disciples and people around Him. However, Jesus does not quit here or give up on these men. As we know, He continues on with them and patiently teaches them. He knows one day these disciples will change the world.

However, right now the disciples have a problem, and Jesus tells them in verse 20: their faith is too small. And evidently, it is VERY small. Jesus says that all they need is faith the size of a mustard seed, and they can move mountains. MOUNTAINS? And that’s not a lot of faith either.

mustard_seed1At the time, the mustard seed was the smallest seed people knew of, and that is why Jesus used that picture. If you have a second, go check your spice cabinet for a small container of mustard seeds and pick one up. It’s tiny!!!

But the dynamic we can miss here is where the faith really resides. Too often we place the emphasis on the disciples and what they can accomplish. If they only had a little faith, they could have healed that boy!

However, the problem was really where their faith was. They probably had faith, but faith in their own strength and power. But what we miss is that faith the size of a mustard seed is not about what we can do – it’s about what GOD can do!

And mountains are a peculiar picture. Is Jesus talking about moving actual mountains? What do you think it might look like if we could actually move a mountain. Maybe, something like this?

The theologian William Barclay says that Jesus was not talking about actual mountains, but rather difficult situations. This was a common metaphor to the Jews and used by Jewish teachers. A great Jewish teacher would be known for “moving mountains” by how well he taught. So, perhaps Jesus was really saying, “There is no situation too difficult for God to see you through. Through His power, you can overcome anything.”

Maybe Jesus was actually talking about mountains and trying to use that incredible picture? Probably a little of both. What is certain is that mountains are impossible for us to move, and many things in life are just too much for us to handle. However, when we trust in God and His power, ANYTHING is possible.

What does this mean for us today? There are several implications from this part of Jesus’ ministry that is relevant for us even today.

First, we are not perfect, but Jesus always is. These disciples failed the father, but He never lost faith in what Jesus could do. There are so many that turn their backs on God because of how the church or pastors have failed them. When we put our faith in what men can do, we will be let down some how, some way. But Jesus never fails. Never has, never will. Do you have faith in that?

Secondly, Jesus is so patient! How often did the disciples fall short, and yet He never gave up on them. How often do we fall short? Do you ever feel like He has given up on you? Having faith in Christ means knowing that even when we fall, He always picks us up.

Finally, how much do we really trust in God? I’m not saying that we have to always have a smile on our face and say with a southern accent, “Everythin’s gonna be alright!” Jesus did not say our faith had to be the size of a watermelon, although, maybe some people have that! We can think that things are impossible, but that’s God’s m.o. He loves the impossible! We just have to trust Him more than ourselves.

So what would it look like if we trusted in Jesus more? How would your life be different?

Maybe you are wondering, “How can I even do that?” There’s a verse that may show up in your Bible in this passage, verse 21, that does not appear in every translation. The reason for this is because it does not appear in every copy of the old Scriptures that we have, so it may have been added later, or maybe not. A similar phrase appears in Mark 9, so there has been some acceptance of it, although fasting is not mentioned there. But prayer is!

With or without the verse, prayer remains a vital part to our faith in God. Just look at how much Jesus, the Son of God, prayed! Prayer focuses our heart and trust on God. It draws us closer to Him.

I don’t want to minimize what mountains may be in your life, because if a struggle is hard enough, it’s like a mountain for sure! But I would like for you to take a moment and just write down what struggles or situations in your life may be like a mountain – something you can’t lift on your own.

Maybe there is also just a part of your life you know you need to trust God more in. Write that down too. Then we are going to spend some time in prayer, asking God to give us more faith. Just tell God you want to trust in Him and His power.

Put whatever you wrote down somewhere you can see it regularly. When you see it, just stop and pray. Ask God for a mustard seed. Trust in Him and let Him do the heavy lifting.

Fair Weather Fans? // Psalm 20:7-8, 23:4, 27:1

IMG_3952We all know that guy. Maybe you ARE that guy. When his team is playing, watch out. And if his team loses, don’t even try talking to him for a few days.

Do you know what I’m talking about? We all know someone who gets waaaay wrapped up in sports, and the balance of his or her life depends on wins and losses. And before you think I’m pointing a finger, I get right there too. When the OU Sooners or OKC Thunder lose, I’m not happy. When the Green Bay Packers got beat out of the playoffs this year, I was grumpy bear for a little bit. I was certainly bummed to see one of my favourite Packers, Greg Jennings, go to the Minnesota Vikings.

Many of us get tied to those things. And it’s not always sports either. It could be video games, our own performance in sports, work, or school, even fictional characters on TV shows and movies.

And I’m not saying it’s wrong to be a committed fan. No way! I’m going to be committed and root for my teams. My friend John and I were talking, and we both agreed it was good to not be a “fair weather fan.” Now, there are issues to be addressed if we get TOO tied to these things and then our behavior becomes destructive to others or ourselves. However, the point of this blog is not to address our commitment to sports teams or whatever, but rather, how is our commitment to being fans of God. Are we “fair weather fans” of Him?

How emotionally tied do we get to these people that ultimately we have no control of? We can’t do anything to help people win or lose. And even if the team is incredible, everybody loses eventually. And we put SO MUCH hope in things like these!

But then, there’s God. How much hope do we put in Him? It ought to be easy to “root” for God and be a huge fan, because HE ALWAYS WINS.

Psalm 20:7-8, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.”

Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

Job 42:2, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

Isaiah 40:28, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”

We could go on and on throughout the Bible to see just how powerful God is, and how He never loses. Even Jesus, who was crucified, rose again! And you can’t even call that a “loss,” because He won the victory over sin! You can’t call it a comeback because it was always there!

What do we do for these teams, people, or whatever it is that we support? We get all hyped up, put on clothes and colours, drive miles away, stand for hours on end, pay tons of money, and so on and so on. And there is always a 50/50 chance of the team winning or losing!

As followers of Christ, what kind of fans are we of Him? Are we just the fair weather fans who will “watch the game if it’s on,” or go to church if we feel like it? Do we serve others if it’s convenient? Do we give our offerings as long as it doesn’t take any faith? Do we share the Gospel only if it’s safe?

Again, I’m railing on sports fans or any other fans (as long as it’s healthy). I just want us to consider what kind of followers of Christ we really are. Do we get as excited and go to the ends of the earth for a God who never loses?

If we put as much hope in His victory, would our lives look different?

Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!

Leaders Who Love Success Use Others, but Leaders Who Love Jesus Serve Others.

Reality TV is somewhat of a paradox. It really isn’t as real as it appears to be. Clips are cut, manipulated. Characters are directed and plots are produced. Still, its unscripted nature is supposed to validate the “reality.”

I remember when the term “Reality TV” was starting to be coined. The first Survivor show was paving the way into a new realm of television. There had been other shows before it, but it was one of the trailblazers. Many people watched and became engrossed in the storylines of the show, and there was an interesting dynamic that rose from the interactions of the members of the cast: alliances to win.

You were “voted off the island” in Survivor. That’s how someone left the show. The idea was the weakest link of everyone would be the one voted off, but over time people started to form alliances with one another to assure votes would be stacked up again others and not themselves. These people did what they had to serve their own needs and stay in the game.

And that’s all it really was – a game. Donald Trump introduced us to “The Apprentice” and we saw an even more interesting dynamic as people were put in “real life” leadership positions. Still, it was a game where you had to whatever you had to do to win. Ultimately, success was about taking care of you first.

As Christians, we can get pulled in to this paradigm very easily. We want to see our churches, ministries, Sunday School classes, small groups, and whatever else grow and “succeed.” Some of us (mainly in the ministry) want to climb the ladder and get to bigger churches or be known as a Christian leader.

When we have this mindset, the people around us become tools to our success. They become numbers that we need to increase. They become strategies to develop and enact. They become the target of marketing and the validation of what we do.

But did Jesus operate this way? The time Jesus spent with people was not focused on building a ministry. He spent time loving the unloved, the sick, and the “unimportant.” And so often, He loved others that would not love back or give anything in return. These people were not beneficial in the way we might think.

Because of this, the “important” people sought Jesus out. They wanted to find Him. Nicodemus sought Jesus out in John chapter 3. A rich young ruler came to Jesus. The centurion came for healing for his servant. Christ did not neglect them either, but he was not focused on those who would help Him promote what He was doing. But when He lived His life the way He did, people came to find Him.

What was the motivation for this type of life and love? Humility. Jesus was so humble, even when He really did not have to be. But time and time again, He pointed to His Father and the Kingdom of God. Real success for Jesus that He showed to us was loving others and letting others see God through Him.

When we love others, people see Jesus through us. As Christians and ministers of the Gospel, we must lead people to love Jesus more than us. His love is what they (and we) really need.

Don’t love with an agenda to build yourself or your ministry. Love with the pure motivation to be Jesus to others. As Paul wrote in Romans 12, “Let love be genuine.”

We live in a world where we often do things because they will benefit us in some way. The alliances on Survivor were made because they would use people to get what they want. May it never even be close to that in why we minister and love people. Real Christ-like love is humble and expects nothing in return.

You know what is amazing though? There is SO much we get in return for loving that way. Loving others because we love Jesus, being the picture of Jesus to the world, is such a deep communion with the Holy Spirit. There is no greater place to be, no greater life than that.

If you love success, then you will use others to succeed no matter what it takes. And if you are leading people, they will live their lives in the same way. And some very big and “important” things may be built, but without love, they are meaningless.

If you love Christ, then love others because that is who we are and that is how He loved us.

Philippians 2:5-11, “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Trading the Kingdom for a king // 1 Samuel 12

Ever feel like you got a bad deal on a trade in? It always seems like cars never quite the trade-in value we feel like they should. I remember one time I had a nice acoustic guitar that I paid quite a bit for, and I wanted to trade it in a music store for an electric and an amp. In my head, I figured the values were about the same.

When I went in, the people at the store looked over my guitar (in great shape by the way), and after some time they offered me a price, which was WELL below what I had hoped. As much as I wanted that electric and amp, I knew this was not a fair trade.

The people of Israel wanted a trade – they wanted to make a deal with God. Picking up the story of the Hebrews in 1 Samuel, up to this point Israel had been led by the Lord, His Law, and several men and women who “judged” or helped the people live the law out. This didn’t always go like it should, for man is man, and several of these judges fell short.

Even before that the people had Moses and Joshua – great leaders but still lead only by the voice of the Lord and made it known that it was God who led the people.

But in the time of Samuel, the people of Israel were not happy being unlike the rest of the world, not having a king. Everyone around them had a king for their kingdom, and the Hebrews were not satisfied to have God as their leader.

Don’t we act the same way? The people of Israel had the Creator of the Universe leading them. They were HIS people and He wanted to be THEIR God, but time and time they rejected him. They “traded down.”

We will do that in different ways too. We will say we are God’s people, but our time, money, energy, and worship goes to things that are not worth it. Samuel, the great prophet who lead Israel until they had a king made this statement in his farewell address in 1 Samuel 12:20-21,

“Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the Lord. Instead, worship the Lord with all your heart. Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or deliver you; they are worthless.”

I know I’ve been there before. I’ve felt like I’ve messed up so badly that even God wouldn’t want me back, so what’s the point? And I have also spent plenty of time chasing after worthless things.

Any trade that we accept in exchange for God is a trade-DOWN. Make no mistake – you can’t get better than Christ and His Kingdom.

All the time in the Old Testament people would carve an idol out of wood, stone, or metal and worship it. And so many Scriptures showed how foolish that is. Habakkuk 2:19 says, “Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.”

Between people and idols, we far too quickly put our lives and loves in the hands of corruptible, lacking things. Take just a minute and read 1 Samuel 12 and Samuel’s words to the people. Look and see if there is any correlation you can see between our lives today and how Israel was acting.

Are you chasing after worthless things? Our time is much too short for that. The Lord is the One who loves us and will deliver us. Put your trust and faith in Him.

Don’t get the raw end of a lousy trade. Follow Christ, He will take you on a life of unending worth.

The Context of Jeremiah 29:11 // God Has a Plan Even in the Midst of Pain

Ever watch the A-Team? In summer of 2010 an “A-Team” movie was released, and the catchphrase from that movie was from the A-Team leader, Hannibal. He was an elaborate planner, and he would say, “There’s a plan in everything, and I love it when a plan comes together.”

A very often quoted verse is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It’s a great verse and a great promise, but I think we are quick to miss the fullness of the meaning if we skip the context of the chapter and the book. We may even miss it all together if we aren’t careful.

It would be easy to look at this verse and say, “God promises me nothing but good times and I will not be harmed,” but that is not at all consistent with the rest of chapter 29 or the rest of the Bible.

The chapter is a letter sent by Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon from Jerusalem. They have been taken to live in a land far away in a culture much different from their own. However, God assures them to live in hope, because their exile will not last forever. In fact, the Lord even tells the people to find peace in their current circumstances, which is a message for us to look to see how the Lord wants to use us where we are right now, no matter where that might be.

But verse 11 comes right in the middle after the promise of the exile’s end. What God is saying is that times will be tough but not impossible, and there is a great plan in all of this. And God’s plan is greater than any of the plans we could even make ourselves, so trust Him!

There is still another factor we have not considered, this letter is written specifically to the exiles in Babylon. It has an intended audience. When the Lord speaks through Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you,” he is referring directly to the exiles. The pronoun “you” is not speaking right to us. 

Now, am I saying God does not have a plan for your life? By no means! This verse shows us the love of God for His people and the power of His plans. Paul writes in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Paul really captures the true meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 in his writings in Romans chapter eight. Through the pains of this life, God has a plan. And his plan is not just another plan – it’s the perfect one.

My hope for this post was not to derail anyone’s hope in Jeremiah 29:11 or make anyone feel bad for having it as a “life verse.” My hope was to show a fuller and deeper meaning to a promise that so many hold on to.

God walks with us and leads us through life – the valleys and the mountaintops. When you find yourself in the dark of the valley, trust in God’s plan. When you find yourself with the wind in your face on the top of that hill, trust in God’s plan.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” –Psalm 23:4a

We Get Angry and Jealous When We See Others Succeed, but Our Delight Should Be in God’s Love and Will For OUR Lives // Psalm 73

Have you ever seen an athlete or celebrity rise to the top or win that championship and at the same time he or she is arrogant, spiteful, or just plain mean?

Reality shows LOVE to play on this. Producers and casting directors will search for people who are strong competitors and who do anything to anyone to win. You can also see it in any sport or music realm.

Many times, it leaves us asking, “Why?” Why does someone achieve success no matter how terrible he or she is? How do evil men become rulers of a nation? Why is Ron Artest still playing NBA basketball? (I kid, I kid! …well, maybe)

In Psalm 73, the author (probably Asaph or one his writers) asks these same questions. He has seen evil people rise up all around him, and how can God allow such a thing to happen? Here’s how it starts,

1 Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

We all get this way right? We all ask these questions, especially when things seem to be going well for those who could care less about God or His Kingdom.

Being a musician, I’ve experienced this plenty of times. How does that person get to have the resources to make an album? Why did he get the blessing of such an incredible voice?

It’s really petty and selfish when you get down to it. Basically, I’m asking God, “Why did you mess up?” or “Why did you give me the leftovers?” What I’m forgetting is that I have the most important gift of all.

See, success for most of us is all about security, or I should say, insecurity. If we don’t achieve a certain goal, then our self-worth is very low. What we all forget is how much Christ thought we were worth. In His eyes, we were worth more than His own life.

The psalmist also sees the slippery slope of “success.” What the world defines as “winning” is very temporary and temporarily satisfying. We may think being a star or winning it all is what life is all about, but in the end those things just fade away.

So don’t ever compromise your relationship with God to follow after some silly dream that you think will make you happy. It won’t. The author aptly says earlier in the psalm about what God had shown him,

18 Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!

The most important thing to any of us is a relationship with God. He is truly is everything we could ever hope for. In the end, He will be the One who glorifies us and brings us true everlasting joy. Notice what the psalmist said in verses 24-26,

24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Are you discouraged because you think someone else is getting to live your dream? Don’t be! God DOES have an incredible plan for you, and it is more amazing than you could ever imagine. Follow who God wants you to be. It may seem like others are winning when they shouldn’t be, but you’ve got the Creator of the Universe on your side!

You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This Blog Is About You // Ecclesiastes

“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”

These words were written by King Solomon, and they are from Ecclesiastes 1:2, but you will find them throughout the whole book. Ecclesiastes is such a good book for so many reasons, and the piercing principle we find is that our time is short, so we must focus on what really matters.

If you pull up your Twitter or Facebook feed, spend time with someone over lunch, or take a look in your neighbor’s garage, then you will probably find some evidence of what people think is important. We put our time, energy, and resources into what we value. Like Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

Solomon is an incredible figure. When God tells him that he can have whatever he asks, Solomon asks for wisdom. He doesn’t want money or power – he wants wisdom. So the guy is pretty sharp. Not only is he wise, but he also decides to do a living experiment and try everything in the world, looking for what really brings pleasure and happiness. And you know what he finds in this life that really brings happiness?

Nothing.

Yep. He had money. He tried every kind of food. He had women – lots of women. He had power. He drank and drank. After experiencing everything someone could possibly experience, he says, “Then I considered all my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there is nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Eccl. 2:11)

Why would Solomon do this, and why on earth would God allow such a lifestyle? What Solomon now has is the “been there, done that” card. When you read Ecclesiastes and what Solomon had to say, he is not merely speaking in theory or speculation. This guy knows because he lived it.

So maybe you’re thinking, “Well, what is the point of life at all then?” Good question. While Solomon made a great point to say, “All is vanity,” we have to really examine what he was saying. He is really talking things that are temporary and fleeting. What really matters are things that last – like joy, family, and our relationship with God.

The consistent positives of Ecclesiastes are taking time to enjoy life, enjoy our family, and enjoy our Creator. Solomon warns of not trying to save and build and never enjoying the results of one’s hard work. As we have all heard, “You can’t take it with you,” which is a derivative of what Solomon is trying to tell us.

My point in writing this is to urge to stop and think about what are you are pursuing with your life. Even if you are 18 or 80, we need to ask ourselves if we are putting our time into things that really matter?

Take a few minutes to read Ecclesiastes. It’s only twelve chapters, which are not very long. Solomon tried to live out mistakes and failures so that we could learn and maybe avoid wasting our lives.

The last two verses are really powerful and pierce the soul. “13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

God and Politics // Proverbs 29:26

2012. Election year and the end of the world. Coincidence? Just kidding.

Politics in America right now is so crazy. It always has been in different ways, especially when religion is involved. During the Civil War churches were divided over slavery. Then, there was prohibition. Now the issues we face are international policies and economic responsibilities.

I’m not here to take a side, define an issue with Scripture, or anything like that. However, I do have something to say.

God has always been involved with our lives, and He has taken a role in politics too. Jesus supported paying taxes in Mark 12:17, even when all His disciples wanted Christ to lead Israel in reestablishing their nation. Peter and Paul wrote in their letters to honor the authorities and government, making our best to live at peace with everyone. After all, their point was that anyone with any power at all only had it because God gave it to them.

Our society is much different than the one of the 1st Century. Those folks didn’t vote for anyone. Their leaders came to power in different ways, and the citizens had to live with it. Today, we have a much different approach. We can vote, we can campaign, lobby, contribute, and even run for office if we want to. Our political system is designed for changes, and as Christians we can do that in a very respectful way.

And we get so so so tied up in all of this. I’m not saying that politics are not important, but I think for us as followers of Christ, they can be very distracting. In that same verse in Mark, Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

We place our hope, and ridiculous amounts of money, into people that we think will “save America.” If we can only get this guy elected or reelected, then all our problems will be solved. But, will they?

In the same way we place our hope in the government, we also tend to place our responsibilities. We either want the government to help the poor, or we want the government to stop giving the poor money and make them get a job. For either perspective, are we giving the poor money or helping them find jobs as people or churches?

I’m not saying stay away from politics. I’m not saying don’t vote. I’m definitely not saying don’t have a different opinion from a president, senator, or other politician.

My point really comes from this verse in Proverbs 29:26, “Many seek the face of a ruler,
but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.”

We have to remember that while politics are important, they are not as important as the 24-hour news networks lead us to believe they are. I have great friends who are both politicians and work for politicians, and I believe they are doing great things, because that is their job.

Our job, as believers and followers of Christ, is to make a difference in the world around us. We have to remember that God is the One who will bring true change. What are we doing to support His campaign?

May your hope lie in Christ as the real Savior of our land, and may our lives shine that hope brightly.

How Could Something So Terrible Be Called “Good?”

Alone. Betrayed. Beaten. Bruised. Bleeding. Unrecognizable. Mocked. Mourned. Crucified.

The Crucifixion.

Today is Good Friday, but so many things about this day seem so terrible. Sure, many are out of school or off work, and a happy Easter weekend is upon us, but Good Friday is really about the day Jesus gave His life to save the world.

So why is it called Good Friday? The actual origins of the day’s title are unknown, but there are many thoughts as to why its name eventually developed into what we see on our calendars.

What makes it good? Jesus was betrayed by His own, beaten beyond recognition, and was separated from God for the first time in all eternity. Christ literally became sin for us so that we could be right with God (2 Corinthians 5:21). For hours Christ hung on the Cross, if not naked close to it, and died from asphyxiation, not being able to pull His body up to breathe.

But still, it IS Good Friday. It’s good because God is good. Our sin left us separated from Him, and yet Christ came to give up His life to bring us back. He gave up His life not because we deserved it or He had to, but because he wanted to. In John 10:18 Christ said about His life, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Jesus saved us when we couldn’t save ourselves.

Paul wrote so beautifully in Colossians 2:13-14, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

The Cross. A twofold picture of death and life. It really doesn’t make sense, especially when the story doesn’t end there. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Good Friday is so good because our hope does not end there. Resurrection Sunday, Easter, brings us a hope of all hopes – a living hope. Hope that Jesus is alive with us today, and one day all things will be made right – including us!
For those that have committed their lives to follow Christ, Good Friday is more than good – it’s great. It’s incredible.

If you have never given your life to Christ, today, Good Friday, is a perfect day to do that.

The Bible says in Romans 10:9-10, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

If you need to do that today, do it! Following Jesus is the most incredible, challenging, and fulfilling life. It’s what we were made for. If you make that decision to do that, tell someone! Go to church this Sunday and tell them what God has done for you!

If you’re a believer and reading this, today is a good day. Today we have hope, and we need to live like we have hope. We need to tell the world about the hope that we have. Too long have our lives blended into the rest of the world, not shining the Light of Christ. Let us shine, because He has brought us out of darkness into light!

May Good Friday always remind us of the great price that Jesus Christ paid, because of the goodness, mercy, and unimaginable love of God.

Colossians 1:21-22, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”