Reckless!

One word that has entered my mind over and over for the past few weeks when thinking about the Christian walk is ‘reckless.’

Why?  I am not really sure, but what I do know is that I have always heard that we should live our lives with reckless abandon…putting aside anything that could hinder us from being who we should be in Christ.

This is something that has been shifted even more-so to the front of my mind with the summer months here.  The thing that our Christian walk reminds me of most is Elk River Falls; and how a number of people each summer head down to swim and many find their courage and take the leap from the top.

What it takes to take this type of leap is courage…courage to approach and eventually bound from the edge as you plunge toward the water below.  There is a moment where you are scared…a moment where you question what you’re doing…a moment that if improperly placed can mean devastation.  That moment comes just before you leave to just after you leave your feet…the difference can be life threatening however.

The questioning will come, the bigger question though is, are you 100 percent committed?  Are you in this for the duration, or are you doing it because everyone else is?

You had better be 110% percent in it if you are taking a leap from the top of Elk River Falls…and if you are taking a leap of faith within your Christian walk as well.  The lack of total commitment can be the difference in how you come out on the other side.

If you are not committed before jumping from the falls, you will find that once you’ve left your feet you didn’t jump far enough, but you are too far to turn back…the same is true for someone who is not totally committed to the Christian faith.

You can run to the edge, start to leap, but are you 100 % committed?  You must go into each day with Reckless Abandon as a Christian…with hopes of making a difference in the world; but mostly to effectively exemplify the life that Christ lived, you must live life without worry of the enemy.

Being a Christian requires you to go all out, just as Christ did.  He NEVER shortchanged his effort; Christ always gave His all…best exemplified by a death that none of us could have experienced.  For Christ to die on the cross for our sins took 110 % commitment to the call that was on His life from His Father in heaven…had Jesus not taken that step, or leap, we would not have the promise we have in Him today.

Today…you must make the choice…are you ready to be reckless for Christ?  Are you willing to leap from the edge…and know that you will have support?  Are you willing to go all-out for the call that is on your life?

Diamonds in the Rough

A diamond is the hardest known natural material in the world and is formed over a period of years when the right conditions are met. The word diamond comes from the Greek word adamas, which means unbreakable. Diamonds are formed under great pressure and extreme heat and out of unlikely material when looked at on the surface.

Many diamond bearing rocks come to the earth’s surface from volcanic eruptions and the stones that contain a diamond are often black and not as attractive as what is known as one of the most beautiful and precious stones you can find.

Thinking about this got me thinking about our Christian walk and the type of things we face in this life. Many of us find ourselves feeling as if we aren’t as good as others because we don’t have the financial standing or possibly the outer appearance that many seem to have. I would remind you that the diamond is not the prettiest when it is still encased in the stone from which it comes.

A diamond is formed under extreme pressure and in high temperature situations. The same can be said of us with many trials that we go through in our lives. Jesus reminds us that we will face trials in this life in John 16:33 when He says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV).

He tells us there will be pressure and that the heat will be turned on for us in this life, but it is in those times we can realize that God is working in us to create something beautiful that will be treasured. Jesus is a master jeweler in this knowing where to cut the stone to perfect His work in us.

The pressure of this life works to form us into a diamond in the rough, and when the Savior is at work in us to shape us and cut away the outer shell we find that we have a beautiful heart that is free from impurities and can withstand anything the world throws at us. We are formed clean and clear, able to shine the light of God and reflect it beautifully for others to see our shine and sparkle.

Today, look at your life and let the Lord work in you because he can help form us into something that can withstand the pressures of the world. With Christ, we can be “unbreakable” just like a diamond.

They will Hate You!

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.” – John 15:18-24 (ESV)

These are the words of Jesus to the disciples as he begins to finish out his earthly ministry and continues to prepare the disciples for the ministry that they would undertake after his departure.

These words can be very important and helpful to us in today’s culture that we are facing.  True followers of Christ, those who are daily undertaking the battle on the front lines can find comfort in these verses as we face the adversity that is around us.  There has always been persecution of Christians worldwide, but in America we have not necessarily seen it, but we may be in for a wakeup call in the coming days due to decisions that are being made.

This should excite us as Christians, but also put us on guard…in Jesus’ own words, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” Plain and simple, are we exempt from persecution? No, not at all! In fact, Jesus reveals here that part of his purpose was to come and set the example of what is right…he came so that we would not only hear, but SEE how to live.  He says to us, “If I had not come to show the way, they would not have been guilty of their sin, but now they have no excuse.”

Jesus tells us not to expect an easy walk, because the world will hate us, because the world hated him.  The world will not like what we stand for, how we carry ourselves, the message we bear…they will hate everything about us because of how it makes them feel…persecution comes from guilt, it comes from the guilt that is felt when someone knows what is right and sees it in someone…it makes them feel guilt for what they know is wrong and drives them to hatred.

Today, I want to encourage you with the words of Christ…to encourage you that we are not alone in this battle that we will face…one we are facing.  Jesus said that we will be hated because he was hated, and that hatred is of God because he was sent from God and we, in the Great Commission, were sent by him.  His comfort to us is this, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (John 15:26, ESV)

The Holy Spirit will come to those who believe and accept…those who are not of the world…the world will not love you if you are not of the world…but the Helper comes so that you can boldly proclaim who you belong to…go out today and claim who you belong to!!

The Banner of Christ

I skipped over this for a week for a bigger conversation that needed to be addressed, but there is a rather large issue that we have also been bombarded with that I feel we need to look at.  This is not going to be a conversation about whether or not the Confederate Flag needs to be flown or not.  I am not trying to stir a pot that has already been stirred too much, but rather want to address this from a perspective that echoes something that Pastor Brent Snyder of Minneapolis Baptist Church shared.

Brent stated in a Facebook Post, “I am confident that if people were as passionate about defending the Banner of Christ as they are a flag used during the most divisive time this country has seen, then the Body of Christ would be much larger and much more successful. ‪#‎BeAWitness ‪#‎PromoteChrist”

I agree with Brent in this statement, and wanted to elaborate on the idea that he is sharing with us. I also want to take it a step further in stating that this could cover a number of banners that we put ourselves under.  His statement was made in regards to the outcry over the Confederate Flag, but as we saw just a day later that another banner made its way into our vision that also has a huge following and pride attached to it.

Here is my problem with how we are beginning to carry ourselves as a nation, separating ourselves under these flags and seeking to glorify them and fighting to protect what they represent.  I’m not saying that fighting for what we believe in is wrong, but I am saying that if we do not adopt an even greater passion for the Banner that we are called to carry daily and that is the Banner of Christ.

It is unfortunate that as we sit here today we are faced with some of the most adverse times we have faced as God’s people in this country and yet God’s people seem to be silent on many issues and in many cases because of a choice for fear of what will be said to them or brought upon them.  I want to encourage God’s people to take a stand! But what would this look like?

We can see that example in the scripture.  The disciples lived out their lives amidst adversity and discord, but yet they fought, and even died, for the freedom that can be experienced in fully knowing Christ as your Lord and Savior.  Today, we must take this same fire and go out.  The Great Commission led us all into this mission field, we have been sent out, ordained to share the Gospel to the Ends of the Earth, and today we must take that stand and carry that banner.

We can no longer afford to sit back and wait on someone else to do what is needed, it will take all of us as ONE BODY to accomplish this, but as Brent said, “The Body of Christ would be much larger and much more successful” if we only took this approach.  Stop getting so fired up by things that are material and begin getting on fire about the one thing that can save your life!  Look to Christ for the answers and begin to carry the Banner of Christ to all peoples; after all, he does promise to be with us as we go.

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

Declaration of Dependence

Declaration of Independence34Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

— John 8:34-36 (NIV)

On July 4, 1776 there was a group of men who met to approve the final copy of the Declaration of Independence.  Prior to this a committee had been formed, comprised of 5 men, to whom the task fell to compose one of the most influential documents this world has ever seen.  Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston were the five men who were given the charge to pen a document of independence…a document that would shape our country.

The task of authoring the document fell to Jefferson however, who was deemed by the five selected as the best writer of the group, and the document then underwent 86 different changes between the drafting committee and congress prior to approval.  The Second Continental Congress met on July 4, 1776 and approved the document as a Declaration of our Independence from the oppressive rule of Brittan.  One story even states that as they signed the document on July 19, 1776 that John Hancock, the first to sign and probably the most notable signature in the history of the United States, turned to the others and said of his signature, “King George should be able to see that!”John Hancock Sign 01

So, Jefferson penned one of the most powerful documents, and had many changes that the committee he was a part of made, as well as the many changes that congress then proceeded to make; but there was a section which was left somewhat untouched…a section that identified this nation…a section that at some points it seems we are trying to change.  That section is the first couple of paragraphs:

”When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

— Declaration of Independence, 1776

The forefathers of this nation felt that they were under oppression, so strongly that they sought, and gained, independence from the tyranny they were facing with Brittan.  Jefferson reflected this in the open of the Declaration…when it becomes necessary for a people to dissolve the political bands that have connected them to another country and to assume their own leadership.  They were searching for a freedom that could only come from breaking away from the strings that had so long tied them down…they were declaring our independence.

The second paragraph opens in a way that is key for us as Americans, and as Christians, to understand what our ties now are.  Jefferson made a profound claim – a claim that we were a nation being formed on Christian Values…a nation devoted to God; a section that passed congress, without change, to show us where our true loyalty as a nation was…so why now are we being proclaimed as “no longer a Judeo-Christian nation”?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

These words bring to light three points that our forefathers were trying to convey, not only to the country they were separating from, but to the world…Three TRUTHS.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident…” – Truths implies that the next statements were considered factual in the eyes of our forefathers…facts that are held as self-evident (meaning they show themselves without needing proof).

# 1 – All Men are Created Equal

No person was created to be considered greater than another, with the exception of slavery, our forefathers seemed to grasp this point, stating that true freedom comes from considering each other as equals.  The reason this works is because people stop viewing each other as social outcasts, as less than they are…that is how we are designed by God – to be considered equal with each other.

Look at the story in Mark 9:33-37 where Jesus and the Disciples are speaking with each other:

33They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

36He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

— Mark 9:33-37 (NIV)

Jesus addressed this issue of the inequality of man by stating that if you want to be first, put yourself as the very least…the only way to fully understand what reward is, is to become the smallest in your own mind, do not seek your own gain.  Jesus puts the image of a child into play as well…why?  Because children know no friendship boundaries; they seem to accept each other without basing decisions on race, religion, social status, etc.  Children seem to understand that true friendship is more than just skin-deep.  Jesus then says, accept them, you accept me; you accept me, you accept My Father.

# 2 – All Men are Endowed by Their Creator

Not creators or gods, but all me are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.  The adoption of this by our forefathers exemplifies that they had a faith in the One-True God.  They didn’t look elsewhere for the explanation, because they were in full belief of ONE God.  Not only is there only one God, but He has given His people certain rights.

So, I guess the question here is one of this, “why we are not/no longer a Christian nation?”  It sure seems to me that is how the forefathers viewed it; we had a belief and basis of God when this country declared its independence.  We were founded on Christian principles and beliefs, and the statement of their Creator implies one God, not many.  Something doesn’t add up today when we look at the congress and presidency, and view the changes they are trying to make based on “religious freedom”…

# 3 – Certain Inalienable Rights

We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights… Inalienable means that it is not transferable to another or capable of being repudiated (dictionary.com)

In other words we are given rights that no one can take away from us, and those rights, according to our forefathers, are from God.  Among those are “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” So again, why is our country trying to force us to accept others and take God out of things when God seems to be the reason we are together as a country today…at least according to the founders of this nation…my how things can change in 239 years.

The three Rights mentioned – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Life:

Life is given to us by God alone.  In Genesis 1:26, God says “Let us create man in our own image.” Genesis 2:7 tells us that, “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” So what we see here is that life was given by God himself, to those he created in his own image…God gives life…God breathes life into us…without Him we would not exist.

Jesus then states in John 14:6, “I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus claims to be the Life…the one who offered his life for our eternal life…Jesus not only gave life, but offered life.  Life is an inalienable right…Life is a gift, and is not for any of us to take from anyone, or to take our own…We are given a life to live by our Creator and that Creator sent His Son to give us eternal Life.  Life is an inalienable right, and our forefathers list it as one of the most important, if not the most important right that we each have.

Liberty:

Plainly put, Liberty is Freedom.  Freedom from arbitrary control (the US from Brittan); the right and power of someone to act, believe, and/or express oneself in a manner of one’s own choosing; or a condition of being physically and legally free from confinement (Dictionary.com).  Liberty is something we seek, something we continually strive for both as an American and a Christian.

As a Christian we seek to break loose from the chains of sin, from the stronghold that sin can have on our life.  As an American, we seek to obtain the Liberty and Freedom that we have been promised from the inception of the Declaration of Independence…the Freedom our forefathers promised.  Here is where we best see this concept of a Declaration of Dependence come into play…for us to declare independence from the things that tie us to the world, we must declare dependence on God.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

— Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

It is for FREEDOM – the reason Christ set us free…the reason he died on a cross.  Christ died to give us freedom…our Liberty was/is dependant on Jesus.  Go back to the first verses I shared, “If the son has set you free, then you are free indeed!” If Christ sets you free, you are truly free.

The Pursuit of Happiness:

Happiness is a state of wellbeing and contentment, but to receive happiness we have to grasp the concept of Dependency…

11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

— Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)

Paul explained it best in this section of his letter to the Philippians, telling them that he knew the hardships of life; he knew what it was like to be on both ends of the spectrum…what it was like to have everything, and lose it all.  Paul also shows that happiness is a choice that is made on a daily basis by each and every one of us.  The key of this section, however, comes from verse 13, where Paul discusses his Declaration of Dependence: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Can you say that about your life?  Have you made that choice?  Basically it all sums up in this way:

Life – You have to give it to get it

Liberty – Freedom only comes through Christ

Happiness – a choice we each must make

The only One that can offer all three – GOD!  His Breath gives us life, He has given us free will to choose the path we take, and we get all we need if we choose to be dependent on God for the life that He has provided.  God planned it all out, and sent his son to fulfill a plan…

“16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

— John 3:16-17 (NIV)

God didn’t send Jesus to condemn, but to save – to offer life through Him.

“7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

— 1 John 1:7 (NIV)

What do you depend on?  What do you try and be independent from?  Hopefully you are dependent upon the one who gives you true independence from the bonds of sin, and the bonds of hell.  Where does your heart find rest?  Make your Declaration of Dependence today!  Pray for our country, that we may find our way back to the nation who still believes God is in control.  Pray that we get back to what the forefathers seemed to declare, that we get back to moving forward in the eyes of God.

#LOVEWINS – What is Love?

#LOVEWINS – Now if you are like me you have seen this until it has burned a constant image into your brain, and honestly I want to address it, but I want to mention something first – If you are looking for an article that will rip apart those who are in support of the decision that was made last week by the Supreme Court, you won’t find it here.  If you are looking for me to rip apart those who oppose that decision, it will also not be found here.

What I am here to say is this…

We today as Christians are in a very unique situation.  We are now looking into the meaning and struggle that was faced by the disciples…the struggle to have a voice that is not being silenced by the media and leaders.  This may be hard for some to swallow, but I will do my best to explain this in a way that best exemplifies what I am saying without attacking anyone in the process (I know, a novel idea).

Let me start by explaining that scripture is the basis of our belief as Christians, and the biggest struggle that we are now facing is the fact that so many claim to be “Christian” but would never darken the door of a church or even pick up the scripture and read it for themselves, but will take what others say as Gospel and it then becomes opinion based on someone else’s interpretation…WE CANNOT DO THIS!

I would encourage everyone to pick up a copy of the Holy Bible and read it for yourself…first and foremost, seek out what God is saying to you, not what He said to a self-help author who is seeking to influence an opinion based on what they believe it is saying to them (this includes ranting Facebook status updates).  But Phillip, you are writing about this and want us to agree with you…NO, I am writing about this, but I want you to seek God and find what HE is saying to you!

Now, with that being said (for those of you who have not turned me off and stopped reading), I want to approach this topic of Love in a way that has really been laid on my heart over the past few days…that is that this #lovewins mentality is not new…Love did win 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ went to the cross and died for our sins….all of our sins…every last one of them…from the lies to our adulterous mentalities and actions…from deception to any and every sin that is mentioned in the scripture (Revelation 21:8 gives us a list of those in case you’re wondering, but sins are not limited to that list).

The unfortunate thing that I think we can all see is that love today does not mirror the Love of God in our society.  We are constantly berated with what the world considers “love”, but I don’t think we truly see real love in the presentation we get from things around us.  How can I say this? Divorce happens in 1 of 2 marriages in this country today…there is a “’Til death do we part…or something else comes along” mentality.  Our children are growing in a society that tells them that sex is love and love is sex…really? Love is NOT sex…sex is NOT love.

We all have this God-Shaped hole in our heart that cannot be filled by something other than what it was put there for.  We can find true love, but that comes at the foot of the cross of Christ when we realize that we are all sinners and fall short daily, but Jesus Christ died as a sacrifice for you and I to be able to make a decision that would change us…and that decision is to accept His sacrifice  and believe in the power of His blood to wash us whiter than snow…to cleanse us from the inside out.

Regardless of where we stand on the issues today, nothing can replace the feeling of experiencing the Love of Christ in our own lives and own relationship with the King of Glory! But I want to take it a step further…no issue is so big that God cannot overcome and cleanse the heart from ALL sin!  This does not give us the right to judge others and condemn them to hell because they don’t have the same view as us, but rather gives us the responsibility of allowing them to see true love in action in the way we carry ourselves and present our responses to the adversity we face around us.  The only way that love can win is if we stop with the hateful speech and move forward looking to share CHRIST with the world.

There are too many today who are turning and running from the church because of the hypocrisies happening inside those doors…but let me tell you this, those hypocrites are the reason the church even exists!  The Church is made up of broken people and if we push aside people because of a differing view they will never know the love that Christ has to offer.  This because all they will ever see is hate coming from those who claim to love…Church, WAKE UP! Love them to Jesus is an active love, a love that regardless of the sin, the sinner is loved and offered the same opportunity that you were the day you came to know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior…and the rest will follow.  If we can’t love them without condemnation they will never darken the doors of the church…if we can’t offer them love with NO conditions we will never be able to offer them the love that God wants them to know!

Today, all I ask is that we make a difference by showing the same love that we were offered and love them to Jesus.  Let’s show what true love is today and ensure that the love that won 2,000 years ago continues to win today and in the future…because God will win, and his love will be the final part of the story.

“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.” – 1 John 4:8-10 (ESV)