Like Paul, I Found Joy Amidst Devastating News

Joy From Philippians

One of the greatest types of joy I have in life is being a husband and a dad. I’ve told my wife from the time that I saw our relationship growing deeper that I guess I was the odd teenager growing up. We did not have much as kids but I also never wanted for anything either. So when I looked at what goals I wanted in my life, it was simple. I wanted to be a good husband and a good dad. That’s it. Simple goal but hard to obtain. Anyone can father a child that is a biological process but to be a dad it takes so much more.

That is a saying I have seen and lived. I come from a household where my dad is not my biological father, but he has been there since I was two. My father was an ephemeral figure in my life as a kid. We would spend a night there randomly and once we went on a vacation to Ocean City, MD. It was not until I was older and had my car that I spent significant time with my biological father. I worked at Burger King, and after we closed, I would drive to downtown Baltimore and hang out at the place he worked at as a cook.

Fast forward to today, I am married to an amazing woman who is my soul mate. She drives me to be a better man, a better husband and the best dad that I can be. She had two children from a previous marriage when we met, and now I find myself in the same position my dad was in when he and my mom got together.

This was unintentional on my part, I had given up hope on finding someone and having a family, but God knew better than that. He knew like he had known before I was formed that being a dad was my dream in life. In that moment where I had in my heart decided that if this next date did not pan out, I was done. I would live as a bachelor and just throw myself into my career and tuck away all notions of romance.

God’s Providence

God desires to show His power through your storm, but is your lack of faith keeping Him from doing so? God brings storms into your life to show His strength and to gain glory from His providence.

Paul Chappell

Before I get into the devastating news I had earlier this year, part of which made me unsure of continuing to write here; I want to talk about what we mean by God’s Providence. Providence is a combination of two Latin words; the first is  “pro” which means “forward” or “On behalf of” and “vide” which is Latin for “to see.”

So when we think of Providence, it should mean “to support, or to supply what is needed.” If it is God’s Providence, then we are proclaiming that God has provided support, sustenance or what it is we need for the season we are experiencing. Sometimes that providence is his non-action because of the learning and growth we get from difficult but not impossible trials.

God’s providence in my life starts with Jesus. He’s given the ultimate sacrifice for my reconciliation with him. That providence began with the fall of man in Genesis and does not end, ever. He supplied Israel time and time again in the Old Testament. He supplied the world with unending grace through the bloodshed of his son. We can lose sight of that Providence in the day to day grind of life, but it has never been more clear to me than it has been lately. I would not have a better understanding of this providence were it not for Ryan Huguley, and the time he was at Harvest Bible Chapel in Hickory. I’ll get into that in a moment. This next part is me peeling back the armor, exposing my heart to you in a way I have not done before.

Devastating News

We have two amazing kids and were considering a third because we felt our hearts and family could certainly expand to love more. So we began trying and spent time making sure we were doing things at the right time etc. Adult stuff. After 8 or 9 months I decided to go to a urologist and see if there were any issues. What I was told after examinations and several tests is that I have a condition called necrozoospermia. Necrozoo-what? Yeah, me too. What that meant is that my body manufactures sperm, but they are all dead. Their tails don’t wag, and so they can’t swim.

So what is the rate for complete necrozoospermia? 0.2-0.5% of men have it. An almost infinitesimal chance and I hit the lottery in the worst kind of way. I had thought about this many times as an adult and my desire to have a family, would I be able to? The doubt was from an incident when I was playing Little League Baseball, back before kids wearing a jock strap was a thing. My cousin was mad about something I had done and came up to me and kicked me as hard as he could in the genitals with a pair of baseball cleats on. I was taken to the hospital for that, and my whole region was black and blue for weeks.

Back to now, the doctor told me that incident caused primary testicular failure. I can’t have children without assistance. It would cost roughly $15,000 for even a chance to harvest sperm and egg then perform In Vitro Fertilization. We are nowhere near that well off to be able to afford that so my chances of having a child with my wife are zero. I was devastated. I left the urologist and did the ugly cry in the car before I called my wife to tell her something I did not want to talk about.

Paul’s Joy and Content

I cannot express the gratitude I have for Ryan enough. He was the first pastor in a long time that inspired me. When you meet Ryan, you will find a man full of God’s word, Jesus’s love and the compassion that only the Holy Spirit can provide. It is through his preaching that I know the means of finding joy in dire circumstances.

When he was at Harvest, he went through a series titled, ‘Everyday Joy – A Study of Philippians’ you can find it here on Vimeo, Everyday Joy Series. It was and has been my retreat when things look stormy, or I am suddenly in the midst of something that challenges my faith. To suddenly discover that I could not have children was both of those. The whole, testing and waiting and eventually finding out. It was hard to come to terms with it.

Consider Paul’s situation as he writes to the church in Philippi, he has spent almost four years in prison (Philippians 1:12-18). Why? Because he was preaching the truth and following Jesus. Yet, in that time he rejoices and proclaims that even if he is sentenced to death, he will rejoice (Philippians 2:17-18). Why? Because Paul learned to be content with his condition, whatever it may be (Philippians 4:11)

Coming to Terms

I know that I have been given grace beyond measure and certainly something I do not deserve. I try to teach that to my children that humanity is the cause of Christs’ death. If I am given this grace and freedom in Jesus, why am I focusing on not being able to father a child biologically? Am I not an adopted child of God? Yes, yes I am. I did not know that I could never have children, but God knew. That is where his providence comes in and becomes completely humbling.

Is it sad I cannot have children biologically without assistance? Absolutely. Did I feel less a man? Yes, I did. The information I received did not cause me joy it was the exact opposite, but when I take a step back from my immediate emotions, I see something that even as I write this brings water to my eyes.

God knew.

He knew that my life goals were not money or cars or women or drugs. He knew that I would become a man some day and I would want children and provided that in the most spectacular way possible. When I took that view, I became at peace.

It is things like this that leave no doubt that God exists. The cost to have another kid is extraordinary, and there are so many children that need homes. I hope that I can continue to provide a haven, a home that follows Jesus for my children and maybe…just maybe a third that God will put in the path that Bethany and I walk in this life.

This has easily been the most difficult thing I have written to date, but I hope that you can find how God’s providence is present in your life. It is easy to get caught up in the negative emotions that Satan wants us to embrace. That does not mean that you are in a sandpit of despair. God is there, just grab on to him and those trials become contentment because through it all you have Jesus and the salvation he provides.

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It’s OK to Leave a Church…Sometimes

Leave a Church

This is a bit on the nose for my family and I at the moment since we are going through this decision to leave the church we have attended faithfully for 15 months. It is not something that we have taken lightly or out of anger (James 1:19-20). It is something that has lingered in our minds for months and has been discussed over and over with by my wife and I. It is OK to leave a church, you are not trapped and it isn’t always something that is going to burden you with sin. I write this for those seeking an answer to a touchy question but I also write this for myself and the ones I walk through life with that have angst right now as much as I have.

[Leaving] graciously means you refuse to speak evil of those who remain in the church. Look forward, not backward. Focus on your new church, not your old one. Think carefully before you speak about your former congregation. Don’t say anything that could be remotely construed as criticism. Even casual comments could stir up needless controversy. Let the Golden Rule guide all your comments public and private.

Ray Pritchard

Why are you leaving?

This is the most crucial question that must be answered because parting ways with a church is a serious event for any Christian. We are not meant to be in isolation. We should be seeking community (Ephesians 4:11-16). The answer isn’t a simple one and even after we determine why we feel we need to leave we need to ask ourselves if it is righteous.

Leaving because someone hurt your feelings is a great example of why you should not leave a church. We are fallible and a lot of times we are going to capitalize on that ability to fail. Even if we had no intention of doing so. This is part of being human and if a few people hurt your feelings at the church and you leave, it will likely happen again at your next church. Instead of running off you should give forgiveness and seek to reconcile the confrontation.

We should be seeking unity as Christians so pull yourself up by the bootstraps and seek reconciliation. If the door is closed by the other parties and they are unwilling to even discuss what happened that still doesn’t mean run. Instead, serve. Serve in spite of their behavior and do so graciously.

Reasons people leave

There is a loss regardless of whether we determine the reason as “good” or “bad” when someone stops attending a church or seeks another church. Some of the reasons below apply to why we decided to leave and some do not. Some are good reasons in my opinion and some are bad. I’d love to discuss this with others so please feel free to reach out. People have been known to leave a church because;

“Good Reasons”

  • Moving too far away
  • Long-term Missionary Work
  • Escaping false teaching
  • Openly committed and unaddressed sin
  • Power-drunk Leadership
  • and more

“Bad Reasons”

  • Church Size
  • Hurt Feelings
  • Lack of ways to Serve
  • The Church is changing
  • The Church refuses to change
  • You’re leaving/giving up Church entirely

This is a big topic, isn’t it? I hope you weren’t expecting a snack for today, it’s a banquet. There are a lot of reasons and way too many for me to cover because I can’t even think of them all. I just know these are things I have personally used before as reasons, justified or not. Reasons I have come to reconcile with their validity or whether I was just needing a scapegoat.

Don’t Give Up and Leave God

Of all the bad reasons giving up on church entirely is the most dangerous of them. God created us, Jesus commanded us to be a community and leaving that community opens a Christian up to the enemies power. It is open season on a soul.

Change can be positive or negative. How the church handles it really can affect how you are going to feel about whatever that change may be. There are still churches today that believe wholeheartedly that a woman’s place is at home, rearing kids and in a kitchen. If you’ve been at a church for over a month and that wasn’t evident to you. Please open your eyes. They will likely refuse to change that and if you are uncomfortable with that it is even more imperative that you move on.

Leadership

Leadership is hard and changes to leadership are even harder. The morale of a congregation can be shaken when a pastor who has their heart turned so fiercely to God leaves suddenly that people become hurt, angry, afraid and betrayed. Questions are asked, people are shouting, and fiefdoms can form because of it. This is when leadership must step up their game and be honest , opening their heart to those who attend their church. Non-answers to tough questions force your people to question things even more than they already do.

We cannot forget the Pastor who may be leaving the church. As an outgoing authority they are called to gracious exiting. God’s work takes providence over their personal feelings. This is not some cop out but is in fact extremely self-sacrificing because they could stay and fight. They could blast the leadership out of the water over Pharisee-like polity and power mongering. They could. Yet, a man going through God’s great work of sanctification seeks to live as Christ. And that alone is why a Pastor won’t.

Jesus could have lay waste to those who persecuted him. Effortlessly, they could have been gone, nothing, a bookmark in God’s work. Yet he submitted not out of fear but because his mission was of peace and love and forgiveness.

By God’s design, leadership in the church is a position of humility and selflessness. Church oversight is ministry, not management. Those whom God designates as spiritual shepherds are called not to be governing monarchs or slick celebrities, but humble slaves. In submission to Christ, they must exemplify sacrifice, devotion, submission, and lowliness.

John MacArthur

I have struggled with that realization of peace-seeking because of the affection I hold for a Pastor who affected me deeply. The messages that God allowed him to share with us always left me convicted. I never walked out of church feeling like I had heard the same thing by someone else just said marginally different. I am in no way putting a man on a pedestal because he is too humble for that.

What God did do is show me what a Pastor is. Something I’ve sought for over fifteen years. Something I lost and did not know how to find again. I am forever thankful and changed because of that season in my families life.

Leaving Ain’t Easy

When we choose to leave a church we are choosing to leave a portion of the body of Christ. That’s big. Leaving is a lot like a relationship coming to an end. It sure feels like it doesn’t it? There are two perspectives I want to address this final part through. That is the member and non-member of a church but one who attends regularly.

Non-members go through phases just like relationships. New church and it is so exciting! I want to be involved. What can I do to make this greater than great?! It is a lot like you meeting someone on a date you like and decide to continue dating. You start building your life on this and thinking how to show commitment to it. You start serving and getting involved, it’s a lot like you are now engaged. And that is where non-membership ends.

You could leave at any time. Whether it is a righteous reason or something that eventually proves out to be petty. While you committed yourself to the church in many ways, it was not like a membership. I am not placing non-membership in a serving role as less than a member but only highlighting there is a certain level of commitment that is missing from a non-member.

Members of a church have gone through the same steps of excitement, engagement and increased commitment but they took that last leap. They’ve married their desire to serve to that particular body. The church has poured in to them knowledge and trust that their lives meet the church’s barometer for membership.

Members parting should seek leadership and talk about it. Let them know why and pray they seek God’s authority in their leadership and not their own. When you part, do so graciously. Don’t burn bridges and cause a disturbance out of anger. There are people staying there after you are gone.

It’s Not Always Running

If you’ve come to that heart rending decision to part a church and you’ve prayed, given the decision due diligence, prayed some more, discussed it with the leadership, prayed with them. They will need your prayer and if Christ can pray for those murdering him, we surely can swallow our unjust pride and pray for them as well as the situation in general.

Leaving a church for a “good reason” is not running or “going out with a whimper” it is a walk by faith and not by sight.

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Men to Know: Jephthah – A Tragic Vow

Jephthah

We are taking a look at another judge this time (last time was Barak and Deborah). This time we will have a look at Jephthah and his life as he was judge over Israel for six years. The history of Jephthah begins in Judges 10:6 and goes all the way to Judges 12:7 where he dies and is buried in Gilead.

Israel

Oh Israel, you never learn. You continue to forsake God and when you do He allows you to be crushed beneath the heel of many enemies (Judges 10:7-9) and then you cry out and God gives you salvation in the form of a Judge. You right yourself and for awhile you walk with God only to forget Him in your hearts and then you fall again. The book of Judges is a clear example of not only the failing of a nation but a showing of how we sin and get comfortable in that sin. Like Israel we get complacent and we forget God in our hearts only to call out to Him during tragedy and need.

Yet every time, God is there showing us the way. Judges is an uncoated display of the forgiveness and patience of the Father who deals with a child consistently testing it’s boundaries and willfully disobeying the words (law) of the Father. This is something any father can understand because our children, like Israel are amazing and loving for a time but they have their spells where there is no way but their own. Dad does not know what he is talking about and he has way too many rules so we are just going to do everything we can to not listen to him. Yet, that is who is called upon when fear or pain sets in and we, despite our displeasure with our children comfort them and love them. There is nothing wrong with that relationship, it is an emulation of our own with God and one of so many reasons we refer to Him as Father.

Jephthah

We know some things about good ol’ Jep thanks to God’s word. He was a Gileadite meaning he came from the land Gilead. He is the product of a forbidden union between his father whose name is actually Gilead and a prostitute. His father’s wife also bore him sons who once old enough drove Jephthah away to the land of Tob. (Judges 11:1-3)

Eventually the elders of Gilead begged for Jephthah to return and help save them from the Ammonites. Jephthah in his anger condemned their actions towards him but he did accept their request. He was raised up above all over Gilead and tried to resolve the war with the Ammonites peaceably. This was refused by the Ammonite king and he continued to attack Israel. (Judges 11:10-27)

The Vow

We’ve done this, we’ve probably all broken them as well. You get worked up or try to show sincerity by words and you say things like, “I swear to God…” or “I swear on my Grandmother’s grave…” and other forms of vow taking. We do this as a way to show we are being genuine and as a way to illicit a favorable response form whoever we are talking with. We do this as a way to get something we want, “If you do this, I will do this.”

This is the very mistake that Jephthah made. The Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah (Judges 11:29) and he made a vow to God that if he delivered the Ammonites in to his hands that whatever came out of the door to his home first to meet him would be the Lord’s and that he would sacrifice it as a burnt offering.

Tragedy

God did deliver the Ammonites in to the hands of Jephthah and his army. He subdued twenty towns and then returned triumphantly to his home in Mizpah. As he approached his home his only child, his daughter came from his home to greet him while dancing to the sound of timbrels. Jephthah was devastated and he tore at his clothes. He told his daughter of the vow to God that he could not break.

Despite his misstep for making a vow he really did not need to make, his daughter said that she had only one request. She wanted to go to the hills for two months to weep with her friends. She showed great courage in God’s plans by returning and allow herself to be given up as sacrifice. In a way she was the antithesis to his actions. She did not make a vow to return, she did not try to persuade for better circumstances or plea for her life.

What We Learned

I would like to say that we learn things and not forget but that would be untrue. We must consciously make an effort to remember the things we learn from men in the bible like Jephthah. There are some key things we can learn from this judges tragic mistake;

  • You do not need additional assurance from God that He will do what He promises. To ask for more than what He has promised is a failure in faith.
  • God is not a bank, you cannot bargain with Him.
  • Making rash vows to God can lead to grave consequences.
  • Think about the outcomes of your words before they depart your lips.

A Commandment on Vows

One of the things I stressed to Bethany during our dating, our engagement, and will continue to do so in our marriage is that I am a man of my word. What I mean by that is that I will not tell you that I can and will accomplish something you ask of me unless I am certain I can complete the task. Marriage is a sacred vow. It is a serious proclamation of love and devotion that God endorses and allows man and woman to create a covenant with Him. This is why a vow is not a promise and a promise can never reach the importance of a vow.

A promise being not the same and something we often confuse with a vow. It is important to give an example; I can promise that every night until my death I will rub my wife’s feet before bed. There may be mitigating circumstances that force me to break that promise. I could be sick, away on a business trip or even paralyzed.

Understanding that, we can see why Jesus told us in Matthew 5:33-37, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

The vow of marriage is a specifically God endorsed vow that we are granted to take because it is the symbol of union between man, woman and God. The commandment that Jesus was giving during His sermon on the mount was against the practices that the Pharisees were using to control the people. There were vows being made on the heavens and earth, on the creatures of the sea and the land etc. Yet, none of those vows were truthful. They were being used to sound impressive and to subjugate the people of Israel under the hand of the Pharisees.

In short, if you say yes, mean it and allow it to be sufficient. If you say no, mean it and allow it to hold it’s own weight. You do not have to promise the heavens or the earth. Frankly you can’t. You do not own them, you have no sway over them and you never have. Only God has that authority and if we find ourselves doing that we are putting ourselves on the level of a Pharisee. Repent and allow yes and not to be enough.

Jesus told us it was enough. Jephthah did not take God’s word for what it was and faced dire circumstances because of it.

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Men to Know: Barak

Barak

Sometimes I find it helpful to reiterate why Men to Know focuses on uncommon men. We get so lost in the men we commonly associate with the Bible. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and the Apostles. The exception to that of course is Jesus Christ because his life was without blemish where other men have failed. He is an uncommon man in every good sense of the word. Not to diminish that I have to ask what about Barak? Barak who? No, I do not mean our current President Barack Obama but Barak from the Old Testament. Barak appears in the Book of Judges because, well, he was a judge. God put him there for us to learn from him, a man of faith.

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Our Conflicting Nature

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” – Genesis 1:26

This is one of my favorite parts of scripture because it sets apart man from beast. The way that God created man is different than how he created everything else. In Genesis 1:11-25 while God is creating the flora and fauna, the birds and fish, and all of the land creatures He is doing so with His will and creating them in “their likeness” which is important. God created man and woman differently as we can see immediately in our reference verse. Man was created in God’s image, in His likeness, in His nature. That doesn’t mean we are god’s or have the power that God wields, it is about character.

Man’s creation was not simply the will of God. When He created man He touched the dust that was the Earth and formed man with His hands and then He did something that was not done with any other creation. He breathed life in to man. God gave a portion of Himself, his nature, for our life (Genesis 2:7). Man’s creation was serious and done with great care and solemnity. Man was created to intentionally be the ruler over all that God had created on Earth. God imbued in us His character. We were created pure because God tells us He cannot commune with sinful beings (Habakkuk 1:13) but before the Fall man communed with God. We were, for a time, everything that God expected of us. Even though He was aware of what we would do.

Our Nature

It is any parents dream, at least in my thoughts, that their children be wise, good and as sinless as possible. God did not even give us knowledge of sin at our creation. That knowledge was given to us through the Fall when man ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The one thing we could not touch or have, one fruit. Yet we could not stop ourselves. Adam stood by while Eve was deceived and then he partook willingly of the fruit. We certainly have a curious and independent nature.

Adam and Eve then did just like my kids do when I ask them that terrible question, “Who did it?” Adam blamed Eve who in turn blamed the serpent. From this one choice, Man did all the things we try to do when we are sinning. They hid from God like we think we can hide our sin. They blamed someone else for their iniquity when they realize that God would find them wherever they go.

God who is always just, did exactly that. He punished the serpent and cursed it, He punished Eve and cursed her and finally He punished Adam and cursed him. I cannot tell you how many times my own father did this when something happened and no one would fess up. In fact, “I don’t know” was a troublesome person in my home as a child. Our nature since the Fall seeks sin because it is gratuitous and immediately rewarding just as eating the fruit was to Adam and Eve.

Final Thoughts

God’s intention was for man to commune with Him always but as a Father we must allow our children to make their own choices. Even if we know they are sinning they must make the choice not to. What is important is that as a parent we are there to teach them the ways of the Lord and not the ways of the world. We are all born in to sin but that doesn’t mean we are hopeless. Jesus gave us a clear path to God so we must guide our kids to make the right choices. We hope that their knowledge and love of God will dictate how they live their life. What we put in to their education of God will reflect what they get out of it. Praying every day and explaining why something they have done is a sin and why God does not love sin. These things reinforce the Christ-like embodiment we strive for. Our nature is to seek God because that is what we were created for but because of our desire to do our own thing, we fall.  We get up and learn that God was right. He welcomes us back and loves us. We have a conflicting nature in that we do want to pursue God but we stumble often. He will forgive us of that if we accept the Gospel and then take meaningful steps towards living a God-centered life.

God’s Plan of Restoration

God's Restoration

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

We start this devotional with the great commission. What has happened is that Jesus has died, taken humanities sin with Him in to death and then in His resurrection has conquered death. He then spent forty days (Acts 1:3-5) with them preparing the disciples for His departure. It is in this time that Jesus laid down his plans and revealed to the disciples God’s plan of restoration for all people. It is where the separation of Jews and Gentiles is wiped away by the words of God’s Son. Salvation was intended for all peoples since God’s plan began with Adam and Eve and we have all sprung forth from them.

Our Responsibility for Restoration

We do have a duty as Christians in the restoration of humanity. Our Testimony helps fulfill that duty as we are obeying the Great Commission. Every time that we allow our distaste for anyone not Christian to take over it sends the message that Christ is not for them. It sends the message that Christians are an elite group unwilling to listen to a broken heart. And that is not what we are, it si not who we are. We are just as broken as they are, our iniquity is just different. When a man of the faith wanders and it wrecks his family because of his sin it sends a terrible message. Compounding that by ostracizing that man propagates that elitist image. Men, reach out to him and offer the strength of faith through Christ for this brother that has went to the wayside.

Our duty for restoration is not limited to Christians but to the lost as well. At Harvest Bible Chapel Hickory we are taking a class in Christology and Adam Ashoff walked us through a part of Ezekiel that makes that very very clear (Ezekiel 33:1-9) this comes from the Old Testament (OT) and then we have Christ in the New Testament (NT) giving the Great Commission that reiterates the total inclusion of every person in God’s plan. It is really amazing to see how the OT and NT were so well laid by God. We as the Watchmen are duty-filled to tell the people and the lost.

It may be hard to do that given whatever the sin may be. I admit I would have a hard time reaching out to someone who had hurt a child or raped a woman. Those things are my weakness in being forgiving but I pray that God gives em the strength to be like His Son if I am ever faced with those realities. Ultimately our responsibility for restoration lies in our testimony of who God is, what God can do, why Jesus died for us and how we can find redemption in that shed blood so that our salvation is secure.

Final Thoughts

God has given us an invitation to be part of His plan. His work of restoration for humanity has not ended and will not end until the Rapture. If the Father’s work, the one who has given everything to redeem us, does not end with Christ’s resurrection then why should our work end with our salvation? Our salvation is our resurrection, our life beginning and we know this because Ephesians 2 explains it with perfect clarity that we have been dead spiritually. Our story ends when we are with the Lord and are in eternity with him. That is the true plan of God’s restoration of humanity.

Full Assurance

Assurance

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. – John 1:1

Light does something unique, it eradicates darkness. It is not a gradual thing but an immediate desolation. When you walk in to a room and turn a light switch on the room brightens and everywhere the light reaches darkness cannot overcome. No matter how much it may want to it simply cannot exist at the same time. Light provides assurance that darkness cannot overcome it because it is a fact we can see and observe.

So why is it we let the enemy win and cause doubt when God is the light? The very first words God spoke during creation were “Let there be light…” and then immediately darkness was separated from the work God was doing. His word commands the universe and move things just by that alone. We can see the light He created, the darkness of night, the air and land and sea He spoke in to existence. We have all these awesome tangible proofs that God exists and that God’s word can literally move mountains. Still we question his omnipotence. God is not as simple as a light switch but we get more assurance from a light switch than God and there is something wrong with that.

The first five verses of John 1:1-5 are the introduction of Jesus to the world. God not only gave us the Bible, His word and history put to paper but His Son as well. Jesus was with God from the beginning and through God all things have been made. Jesus is life for the dead souls buried in sin, the light in Him is given to us when we recognize and submit to God’s will for us. Believing in the divinity of Jesus and that His suffering has absolved us of sin on our judgement day is the assurance that God has given us freely.

Christ is Assurance

Sin is equated with darkness because that is where the serpent hides. Salvation through Christ is equated with light because of what light does. It is the simplest way God can show us the change that happens when you are redeemed. Light removes darkness and as such it removes sin. Light can make the serpent slither away because it prefers dark warm places where it can continue it’s work against God. These visualizations help us better understand why Jesus lives in us. He is the light and our hearts are dark and full of sin. The assurance that light eradicates that darkness is why we should be placing more faith in God than a light switch. God is eternal, the switch will eventually wear out or the bulb will blow. Jesus isn’t going anywhere. He is here and always has been.

The Consequences of Sin

Consequences of Sin

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. – Genesis 3:17

Prior to the Fall man lived in harmony with God. So much so that we had direct communion with Him. That’s amazing isn’t it? Speaking directly with the Creator. No mediator is how God intended our relationship with Him because of all animals man was given the ability to speak and think on a level higher than any other creation. Given that God is omniscient can you see how sad it would be to know your creation would fall from grace and turn it’s back upon You. That their actions would have dire consequences. That You would give Your own son to adopt multitudes more through His bloodshed.

We see some of that with our children don’t we? These children are created from us and they grow and become independent. They will sometimes test boundaries we put them within and other times they will flat out ignore them. As parents we want our children to love us eternally and to always follow the rules because we have been children, we know the consequences of our actions and the potential punishment that comes with ignoring the rules. We also set those rules to keep them safe. Not just from others but from themselves. Still, what kind of joy is it to have a child that does not do for themselves and think for themselves. I can build a robot if I want something entirely submissive to my will. Our children choose to obey because they love us, because it suits their wants or because they understand the wisdom of our boundaries. We have to be okay with the times that they don’t agree with them as well.

What are the Consequences of Sin?

It’s easy to think that our sin is minor. Something no one will know or care about as long as we are good at keeping it hidden. The sins we commit hurt us, look at the unfortunate circumstance of Uzzah from 2 Samuel 6:1-7, despite his good intentions he touched the Ark of the Covenant and was killed immediately. David was angry at God for that but the death of Uzzah happened to be a mixture of David’s fault since he ignored God’s commands on how the Ark was to be moved and Uzzah’s disobedience of touching the Ark. This includes a second of several consequences of sin, David sinned by ignoring God’s instructions but because of that sin the Ark was not carried properly and when the oxen stumbled Uzzah sinned by touching the Ark to steady it. Uzzah paid the consequences of sin by death. Sin hurts you and it hurts others.

Sin brings spiritual consequences with it as well. We become separated from God when not following His laws and it can be a slippery slope. Sin begets sin, first it starts with a wandering eye and then flirting and oftentimes coveting and ultimately adultery. For the believer we have the Holy Spirit there to reign us back in and convict us of our transgressions (John 16:7-8) but for the unbeliever they will need help and that my friends is the good news…

Final Thoughts

Sin does not have to mean death. Sin does not have to mean eternal separation from God. It can be those things but it can also be the catalyst that shows you how broken you are. The consequences of sin can be nullified by the salvation Jesus offered us when He willingly came to earth and was slain as the lamb only to defeat death like the lion of Judah that He is. God has done all the work for us to rise back to grace. We have to choose it. He chases us without remorse.

Sometimes we have to draw a line in the sand about things and for me, it’s time I do that. If you sin and proclaim that you have salvation upon your heart then you should be convicted by the Holy Spirit to repent. If you don’t then you should take a step back and consider if you have been redeemed. Jesus can save us but it takes a willing heart, an intentional mind and a soul on fire for God. Asking forgiveness just to avoid Hell doesn’t secure our place, it takes faith, it takes grit and a broken heart only Christ can mend.

What Does God Mean to You?

What Does God Mean to You

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. – Genesis 3:6

Last time I asked ‘Who is God to You?‘ but now I am asking you, and myself, ‘What Does God Mean to You?’ they really are different questions. One inquires in to the title we give God which are many because He is everything.  Today though we ask what does He mean to us ultimately. Genesis is an interesting book because it shows us several things that are important to our existence and to our relationship with God as it is now. Humanity was pulled in to sin because we have a weakness for thinking that the grass is greener on the other side. I’ve heard Christians say that woman caused man to fall from grace because she ate of the fruit first, bluntly put, that is hogwash. Adam was with her and he was from his creation, charged with leading his wife and protecting her from harm. That does not mean just physically but spiritually. Adam failed to do that, sin came by man’s inability to follow God’s command. The sin of eating the fruit is a byproduct of Adam’s failure which is why you’ll see referenced in 1 Corinthians 15:21 that death came through man, not woman. To give that some support Romans 6:23 tells us what caused man to be yoked with death, sin. Now, we have these creatures that God created who have turned from Him. What does God mean to them?

What Does God Mean to the World

God means hope. God means love. Great and powerful things but what does God mean that is greater than both? Redemption. Even though God was angry with Adam and Eve, He did not kill them. Instead he sent them from the Garden of Eden and warned them that life would be extremely difficult for them compared to how they had lived before. I find it compelling to point out that Jesus promised us hardships as well (John 16:33). It’s like man just doesn’t get it. We are a stubborn and spoiled lot. Basically poking God in the eye by disobeying and yet He gives us his son for our redemption and we slay Him. Yet He turns the other cheek waiting for us to cause Him strife again and is waiting to forgive us, again. It’s like that with my kids some days, they just don’t want to listen. So I correct them and I correct them again but I still love them either way. God is just like that but better because He provided a path to allow us to find His grace once more so that we can walk beside Him once again. God is redemption, the only redemption you can use and the only redemption you need. That is what God means to the world.

Final Thoughts

God is the world’s only chance at redemption. That means that God is salvation to you, to me, anyone. While we are free to receive the holy spirit within us we must make a commitment to Him. It’s simple, in order to have been forgiven you must accept the truth of the gospel of Christ. It is only by Him that we can find redemption and have salvation. So, what does God mean to me? Everything.

Who Is God to You?

God to You

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1

If you are Christian you know the creation story and even if not many people are familiar with it. It is the accounting for how everything that exists was formed. Other religions have similar stories such as the flood that Noah lived through but is seen in Sumerian text and in Babylonian historical accounts, albeit the people differ. God has been there since the beginning of it all because he created it all. We literally would not exist had he not wanted it. Our reference verse shows us where creation began. Which is great for a Christian but what about someone who has no idea about God or Christianity, what if they ask who this God is?

God’s Story

As with any story you start from the beginning because where else would you start for a lost soul? Salvation doesn’t begin somewhere in the middle and God didn’t just appear during Jesus ministry on Earth either. His story began before we were created and will continue long after we have been judged. It is something the Bible tells us continually from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. His story is one creation, rapture, anger, judgement, forgiveness and love. The facets that are who God is are uncountable to our language but his character is woven throughout the Bible. He is Qanna (Jealous, Exodus 34:14), Adonai (Lord/Master, Genesis 15:2) Jehovah Shalom (Peace, Judges 6:24) and most importantly to our afterlife Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord who Sanctifies You, Leviticus 20:8). I know I used a lot of Old Testament references there and for good reason, we are starting at the beginning. It is proof that God has been all the things we normally tell those who don’t know about God when they ask.

What We Say

I’ve been asked plenty on what He is to me and I have always used canned responses, not because I am lazy, my responses are genuine. I truly believe all the things I say such as Lord, King, Creator, Alpha and Omega. I’m sure I am not the only one, these are correct terms we learn as children and as new believers in the truth that Christ spoke. What we say determines how people understand God and those who are lost are particularly sensitive to this. Speak your testimony and not what you just were taught. Share Him in all the ways you can, I don’t see anything wrong with expressing how you may doubt or become frustrated with Him. The easiest way to appeal to someone is to find common ground. If they have a preconceived notion that all Christians are arrogant and look down on non-believers then strip away some of that wall and show them how broken you were and still can be inside, then show them the light you carry with you.

Final Thoughts

Instead of beating a dead horse, tell me, who is God to you? Is He the shield as He told Abraham in Genesis 15:1? Is He faithful (Hebrews 10:23) and loving (John 14:21)? Is He, like David proclaimed in Psalm 19:14 as his rock and redeemer? He is all these things and more and we know this because it is in His words put to paper for man to find Him. The Bible is more than just a collection of writings found and put together. It is the words of God himself and it is also an exposure of His heart. All that God wants us to know of Him can be found in those pages if we are willing to read, study, learn, chase and exhort others to do as well. We grow as they grow and we walk closer to Him in sharing the truth.

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