Jesus Changes Everything

As a kid, I heard the story of Jesus often. For me Jesus was like Abraham Lincoln. He was a historic figure that did good things to help people. Then one morning the realization of my evil heart overwhelmed me. I felt shame and guilt for my lies and my lusts. I remember walking into my parent’s room before it was light outside and waking them up to talk. That morning Jesus moved from being a historic figure to my Savior and Lord. My parents helped me to understand and believe that Jesus changes everything. This is the Good News:

  1. All have sinned.

Romans 3:23 tells us that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Every person that had ever lived has done evil things. We rebel against God. We live with selfish motives behind even our selfless actions.

  1. The penalty for sin is death.

Romans 6:23 says that “The wages of sin is death.” Wages are what one earns for their actions. Because God is good, He must act justly in the face of the evil in the world. Our sin must be judged by a good God.

  1. Christ died for you.

Romans 5:8 explains that a “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is why Good Friday is Good News. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus took our sin on himself and died for us. In addition, on Easter Sunday, Jesus overcame death by rising again. Jesus then appeared in resurrected form to hundreds of people. Their lives were radically changed and most died because they knew, shared and wouldn’t deny that Jesus was the Savior of the world.

  1. You can be saved by grace through faith Jesus.

Ephesians 2:8–9 summarizes the Good News: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Grace is undeserved favor. We deserve death. Jesus gives life. How? We are saved or rescued through faith in what Jesus has done.

Faith is believing. Faith is trusting. Faith is transformational. Jesus changes everything.

If you were honest, are you trusting in your own doing or in what Jesus has done? Do you believe getting into heaven is the result of your works or the work of Jesus? When you pray do you find yourself boasting or praising with a heart of thankfulness?

If you are afraid to approach God because you know the evil in your heart… If you are ashamed and feel guilty because of your lies and your lusts… I want to invite you to read the bolded points above again. It is true. Jesus changes everything. He has transformed my life and the lives of billions of people.

I’ve got good news! You can be saved (rescued, delivered) right now by grace (undeserved favor, one-way love) through faith (believing, trusting) in Jesus. Talk with God like you would a loving father and thank him for Jesus.

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Should Christian’s Celebrate Halloween?

As a Christian dad, I’m often asked, “Are you going to take your kids trick-or-treating?”

Yes, our Christian family does the Halloween thing. Here are three reasons why:

  1. It gives our family opportunity to talk about Spiritual heroes.

Many Christians have run from the holiday because they see it as sebeatanic and focusing on demons and witches. Interestingly, the history of the holiday is the opposite. Halloween is a conjunction of the words “Hallowed Eve.” In 835, Pope Gregory decided to take a Romanized Celtic holiday to honor the dead and connect it to a three day festival to honor martyrs on November 1st and all who have died on November 2nd.

At Halloween, talk as a family about the many martyrs who have given their lives for the Gospel. How can someone say? “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). Then talk about death and the hope we have in Jesus. “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Cor 5:6–9)

  1. It gives our family an opportunity to love our neighbors.

On Halloween, many will turn their lights off and pretend not to be home. Going door-to-door to collect treats is a tradition that began in Ireland hundreds of years ago. Farmers would knock on doors to collect food for a village feast and bonfire. It was a community event. During the 1800s, many people migrated from Ireland to the United States and they brought the activity with them.

Christians go out of the way to show love to our neighbors. Halloween is the holiday on the calendar that most encourages our culture to knock on our neighbor’s doors. It also gives us an easy way to show love to our neighbors’ kids by putting candy in their hands. At Halloween, talk about how Jesus taught that all Old Testament could be summarized in the Great Commandment to love God and love your neighbor. If you want to go further, In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan to elaborate on how we should go out of our way to love our neighbors.

  1. It gives our family an opportunity to have fun.

OK, so maybe that isn’t a “spiritual” reason, but I’m serious. We look for opportunities to laugh together. Getting dressed up is fun. Serving our neighbors is really fun… It is better to give than receive. Our kids love handing out candy and watching mom and dad get into it.

What will your family do tonight? If you have a thoughtful response, please share it below.

Note: Today, is also the 500 year anniversary of Luther’s Ninety-five Theses that helped to launch the Great Reformation. Take some time to read my friend, Jeff Warren’s outstanding blog on it here: http://www.pcbc.org/jeffsblog/

Did not our hearts burn?

Luke 24:32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?”

What is God saying to me? Two disciples spend the afternoon on the road to Emmaus with the unrecognized Jesus. At dinner Jesus reveals himself to them by blessing and breaking the bread and then vanishes. As they reflect on their lesson from Scripture with Jesus, they share how their hearts were kindled. Literally, their emotions were on fire.

How will I obey? I am wary of emotionalism. However, like the 80’s worship song “Light the Fire” expresses, there is nothing that compares to the passion that God can give (specifically here through seeing Jesus in Scripture). I often go to my marriage, my job, my hobbies, my kids, sports, exercise, etc. to excite and satisfy my heart. Today, I am going to pray “Lord, light the fire in my heart again” and then go to Scripture for the kindling.

Who will I tell? Clint

Finding Freedom Through Forgiveness.

Psalms 32:1–2 “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

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What is God saying to me? I have two people in my life who have recently shared the burden of guilt they are shouldering. I am reminded of the many times I have sinned and battled shame. Psalms 32:3-4 describes that feeling: “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.”

How will I obey? Confession… Psalms 32:5 David tells us how he found freedom: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

Who will I tell? The two people in my life who have recently shared with me the guilt they are shouldering.

Why A Bible Reading Plan Will Change Your Year.

I had been a Christian for 18 years. I had grown up in a home that showed me how to have a personal Bible study, attended Bible teaching churches, gone to a Christian university and was most of my way through my Masters in Divinity… and I had never read the Bible cover to cover. Yep, I had tried many times and gotten bogged down in Leviticus or in better years in the 2 Chronicles range. I loved Jesus and loved the Bible, but could not figure out how to get through it.

Bible Reading Plan

In 2005, I was engaged to Rebecca and had been watching as she used The One Year Bible as her devotional book. I liked that her devotional was not someone’s interpretation of scripture but was scripture itself. She shared with me how it divided the Bible into 15 minute a day sections of OT, NT, Psalms and Proverbs. In a year you would read through the entire bible once and Psalms and Proverbs twice.

I decided to try it. I loved it. I read through the Bible in a year… and have done it every year since.

My second year through it, I had a mentor, Jim Leggett, encourage me to take a nugget each day and journal on it using the SOAP format. S – Scripture (one verse) O – Observation (what does it say) A – Application (how can I live it out) and P – Prayer. This was HUGE. I was now seeing the Word of God direct my life.

A few years ago, I tweaked the above journaling format to my church‘s three questions. Each day I still watch for a verse that jumps out to me. I write the verse down and then I ask: What is God saying to me? How will I obey? Who will I tell?

I cannot overstate the impact it has had on my life. I can now say that I have read through the Bible, cover to cover, ten times. But just saying I have done it is not the benefit. It is watching God direct my life through His Word. It is incredible to look back at my journals and see how my Bible Reading has guided me. Daily, God is speaking into my life and showing me how I can follow Jesus.

Several years ago a friend of mine was touring Israel. He asked his Jewish tour guide if he believed in a historical Jesus. The man answered: “Yes.” He then asked if he believed if Jesus was the Messiah. The man answered: “No.” My friend then followed by asking how he could believe in Jesus but not that Jesus was the Messiah. The tour guide answered with words that I have never forgotten. He said: “If Jesus was a true Rabbi, his followers would live like him. I have never seen a Christian that is living like Jesus.”

We are called to follow Jesus everyday. That is what it means to be disciples. How do you know the way Jesus wants you to live? You know because He tells you through His Word. I want to invite you to follow Jesus everyday by starting a Bible Reading plan.

Last year I tried a new plan, the Chronological Bible. It was good, but the first nine months were more difficult because they were all Old Testament. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Old Testament, but holding all New Testament reading until the end was hard at times.

I invited many yesterday at our church to join us in reading through The One Year Bible in 2017. I’ve been encouraged to see so many jump in already. Some are reading with me on You Version – The Bible App. The One Year Bible is one of You Version’s free reading plans. You can highlight verses and make notes that friends can see. You can pick it up at any time during the day. You can even have the app read you your plan as you drive to work or workout.

Are you trying to live like Jesus? Have you struggled to read through the Bible. I want to challenge you to start a Bible reading plan and begin to ask yourself these three questions everyday: What is God saying to you? How will you obey? Who will you tell?

If you do, it will change your year… your life… and your eternity.

How Jesus Prioritized Time

Matthew 11:1 “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.”

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What is God saying to me? Even with a busy ministry schedule, Jesus prioritized discipleship. Before He physically ascended, Jesus commanded that His followers do the same: “Go and make disciples of all nations…” Cultural Christianity has changed Jesus’ command to “make disciples” into “make converts.” Mathematicians will tell you that Jesus’ strategy is better. If you convert 1,000 people to Christ a day, it will take you 16,000 years to reach the world’s 6 billion people. If you disciple 1 person a year who will in turn disciple one person a year, it will take you 32 years to reach the world for Christ.

How will I obey? Small group and one-on-one discipleship has proven to be the most fruitful and most fulfilling part of my ministry. In my church we refer to it as Multiplying: http://www.pcbc.org/multiply/. Today, I am going to invite someone I know into a discipleship relationship.

Who will I tell? Pat

What step can you make to pursue a discipleship relationship today?

I am reading the Blue Letter Chronological Bible in 2016 and asking each day what God is saying to me, how should I obey, and who should I tell. Occasionally I will blog my journal. You can find the plan in print and on You Version. Join me.

Where A Nation’s Pain Begins

Ezekiel 22:4 “You have become guilty by the blood that you have shed, and defiled by the idols that you have made, and you have brought your days near, the appointed time of your years has come. Therefore I have made you a reproach to the nations, and a mockery to all the countries.”

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What is God saying? With the pain that is evident in the USA, Ezekiel has been especially challenging for me to read this year. God is clear with Israel that He is going to discipline His children. “As one gathers silver and bronze and iron and lead and tin into a furnace, to blow the fire on it in order to melt it, so I will gather you in my anger and in my wrath, and I will put you in and melt you” (Ezekiel 22:20) What stood out to me this morning in 22:4 was the word “therefore.” The pain that Israel will experience is “there for” a reason. They are being disciplined because of their sin (violence and idolatry in 22:4 and promiscuity other places).

*It is important to note that the NT makes it clear that the church is the new Israel. We cannot say that God deals with all nations like He dealt with Israel. It would be more accurate to say that God deals with His people like he has always dealt with his people.

*It is also important to note that the wrath of God was fully laid on Jesus.

How will I obey? Praise God for Jesus and the unconditional forgiveness we have by grace through faith in Jesus. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Spend time as I drive this morning, asking God where I personally need to repent and also asking God how I can engage my community to bring about corporate repentance.

Who will I tell? Justin

How can you engage your community to bring repentance today?

I am reading the Blue Letter Chronological Bible in 2016 and asking each day what God is saying to me, how should I obey, and who should I tell. You can find the plan in print and on You Version. Join me.