What Does it Mean?

What does it mean to be saved and why do you believe in the death and resurrection of Christ? What makes you think it’s true and what difference does it make?

Saying that you were, “…brought up in a Christian home,” doesn’t really answer the question. Nor does it mean much when you say that you’re “Catholic.” You’re not explaining anything as much as you’re just labeling yourself with a generic sticker and perhaps hoping that no one asks you any more questions.

Maybe?

Here’s the thing… 1 Peter 3:15 says:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)

In other words, be ready to sound intelligent if someone asks you what you believe and why you believe it.

So, what does it mean to be saved?

Executive Summary

In order to ensure we’ve got something we can easily remember when we’re done, let’s break this down into four segments:

What Does it Mean?

You’ve been changed. The thing that drives the way you think, act and feel has been fundamentally altered. A relationship with Christ is not an add-on or a plugin. It’s an entirely new Operating System. This is what Paul was referring to in 2 Corinthians 5:17:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Cor 5:17)

How Do You Get it Done?

You believe.

That’s it.

It’s a gift (Rom 6:23). You don’t earn it (Eph 2:8-9). You simply accept the Reality of Christ’s death and resurrection and His Identity as the Son of God (Lk 23:41-43).

You see that in Romans 10:9-10:

9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

It’s important to realize, though, that the “belief” the Bible is referring to is the kind that goes beyond just forming the words on your tongue. It’s the difference between saying you’re in love and actually being in love. When you believe something in your heart, it affects your behavior (Lk 6:43-45) and the way you think. So, in this instance, the kind of belief that’s being referred to here is that the empty tomb isn’t just a historical event, it’s a personal reality.

What Actually Happens?

When you cross that line and you believe that Christ’s tomb is empty, God takes all of the intangibles that constitute Who and What He is (the Holy Spirit) and integrates them into your character.

That’s what happens when you believe:

Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:13-14 [see also Ezekiel 36:26-27; Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19])

And this is just a part of what it means to be redeemed! The long and short of it is, you have been made alive.

As a sinner, you are a spiritual corpse:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Eph 2:1-2)

You are dead, spiritually (Rom 8:8). When God forgives of your sin, at that point you become alive.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Eph 2:4-5)

You can’t hope to justify yourself by suggesting that “I’m not that bad. (Is 64:6)”

You’re dead.

This is so much more and at the same time so much simpler than what’s represented by your record of wrongs (Jas 2:10).

From a spiritual perspective, you’re not breathing.

What makes sin so heinous is that it’s not just the physical consquences of the sin as much as it’s Who you’re sinning against (2 Sam 12:13; Ps 51:4; Rom 3:23).

Every sin, regardless of how serious or incremental it may appear, requires you to go up to God as He’s sitting on His Throne and telling Him to get out of your chair (1 Sam 15:23 [all sin is a rebellion against God’s Authority]).

It’s belligerent, outrageously rebellious and, ultimately, lethal (Rom 6:23).

It’s not something you can offset by trying to be more noble (Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Every human being, apart from God’s grace, is a lifeless body from a spiritual standpoint (Ps 143:2; Ecc 7:20; Rom 3:9-20).

The only thing you contribute to your salvation is the sin that makes it necessary. By forgiving you of your sin, you’re now not only blameless , instead of being a spiritual corpse, you now have a spiritual pulse which is indicated by the Holy Spirit now residing within you (Eph 1:7; Acts 2:38).

And that’s what it means to saved.

What Does it Look Like?

From an eternal standpoint, being saved boils down to being confident. From a practical standpoint, being saved gives you access to a collection of Divine Resources that enable you to be excellent in everything you do, think and say (Ps 19:14).

Confidence and Excellence.

Now let’s do a little deep dive into all this!

Here we go…

I) What Does it Mean?

The bottom line is that you’ve been changed. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Cor 5:17)

Everything that drives the way you think, act and feel has been fundamentally and permanently changed by God having integrated His Character into yours. While there’s a lot of practical theology that can be unpacked in order to fully appreciate just how amazing and transformational God’s grace truly is, that’s the bottom line. You have been changed, you are not the same person. It’s not that you’ve changed your mind as much as Christ has changed you. Whereas before you processed yourself and the world around you according to your personal experiences and life lessons, now you have access to the same Perspective and Strength that raised Christ from the grave (Eph 1:17-21).

But how do you get there? How can you experience this change?

II) How Do You Get it Done?

A) The Best Place to Go

The best place to go looking for the answer is the Word of God. Otherwise, you risk being told something that may be in line with someone’s tradition, but not necessarily consistent with the Truth. So, let’s start with Romans 10:9-10:

9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Rom 10:9-10)

The first part seems almost too easy. “If you declare with your mouth…” How many times have you heard someone claim to be a Christian by simply saying, “I was brought up in a Christian home,” or “I’m a member of the Baptist church down the road.” While being a part of a church is certainly a part of  an active relationship with Christ (Heb 10:24-25), simply forming an affirmative disposition when it comes to your regard for Christ’s death and resurrection is only a part of what’s involved.

Consider what it says in James:

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (Jas 2:19)

Now why is that important?

Because if the demons believe in the death and resurrection of Christ – and they’re obviously not going to heaven (Rev 20:7-10) – paying lip service to the first Easter morning as a historical event doesn’t qualify you as being a Christ follower in that the foot soldiers of Satan believe that Christ rose from the grave as well.

It has to show up in your actions and your mindset which is represented in the second part of Romans 10:9-10. You need to believe it in your heart.

B) Your Heart

However you want to envision that part of you that drives the way you think, act and feel – whether you want to think of it as your, “personality,” or your “soul” – the important thing that needs to be established is that it’s more than just a mindset or a mood. It’s what makes you the person that  you are. The Bible calls that your, “heart.”

When you believe something in your heart, you are not just agreeing with a particular truism. It impacts the way you spend your time and your resources. It’s kind of like being in love. Saying that you love someone and actually being in love with them illustrates the difference between merely forming the words on your tongue and being passionately committed to the welfare and happiness of the one you adore.

When you acknowledge the death and resurrection of Christ in that way, it’s no longer just a historical event as much as it’s a personal reality. He’s not just the “King of kings.” He’s your King. Nor is He just the Savior of the world as much as He’s your Savior. You’re not just seeing Him as a distant deity, you’re like Thomas when he took a knee and said, “My lord and my God.” At that point, God responds by installing His Character into your heart.

Remember this too: Satan believes in God. He was there to see Him die and the devil saw Christ rise from the grave. This is why believing in your heart is so crucial. Even thought it may sound a bit poetic, it’s an absolutely crucial aspect of your approach because Satan isn’t going to heaven. Believing something to be true doesn’t really mean anything unless you it manifests itself in your behavior.

I can believe that eating right and exercising is important, but it doesn’t really resonate as a “truth” if I never go to the gym or pay attention to my calories.

Your can’t “pose” as a Christian. You’re not going to put on a godly looking expression and drop something in the offering plate and qualify as a godly man if you’re thinking that appearances alone can merit God looking at you and seeing someone who truly believes.

It’s when you cross that line that separates what’s purely academic and it suddenly becomes “real.” At that point, you’re no longer posing in that you’ve got the Power and the Perspective of the Holy Spirit working as both fuel and a filter through which you’re now processing yourself and performing in ways that go beyond what you’re capable of on your own.

C) Just As I Am

Over the years, a number of traditions have surfaced that attempt to give form to the exchange between the repenting sinner and his Messiah that translates to being saved.

Whether it’s the idea of, “asking Jesus into your heart” (Rev 3:20) or being publicly baptized (Acts 19:1-7), the only thing the Bible specifies is a fully engaged belief in Who Jesus Christ truly is.

That’s not to suggest that the various evangelism techniques or the countless Billy Graham Crusades that played, “Just As I Am” as thousands of people came forward to give their life to Christ represents something fundamentally flawed.

Not at all.

But the thief on the cross did not ask Jesus to, “come into his heart,” nor was he baptized (Lk 23:38-43). When the jailer asked Paul how to be saved, Paul responded by saying, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household.” (Acts 16:29-34) Again, no ceremony or scripted prayer – just a heartfelt belief in Christ and the rightful place He therefore occupies as Savior and King.

It’s not a specific phrase or a special ceremony. It’s just like Thomas where you take a knee, either literally or figuratively, and accept the Lordship of Christ as the magnificent, personal Reality that it is.

Once you flip the switch and embrace the empty tomb, not as a general piece of non-fiction, but as a defining moment where you embrace both the Substance of Who Christ is and your need for His Grace, the mindset and the Strength of God become what inspires your mind (1 Cor 2:16), your behavior (Ezra 1:5; 1 Cor 12:6) and your emotions (Gal 5:22-23)…

Your wrongs have been permanently forgiven, you are utterly transformed and the Purpose, Peace and Power of God is now working in and through you.

That’s what it means to be saved.

III) What Actually Happens?

A) The Holy Spirit

A moment ago, we talked about how God responds to someone who embraces the cross and the empty tomb as a personal reality by installing His Character into their heart (Eph 1:13-14). That “Character” is the Mind of Christ, the Joy of the Lord and the Power of God. Again, there’s a great deal of theological substance that needs to be unpacked in order to fully appreciate the Holy Spirit – what we’re calling the “Character of God” – but the bottom line is that it’s more than just an incremental coat of “godliness” applied to your personality.

The Holy Spirit is the intangible dimension of God Himself that gives you access to His Attitude and Ability.

  • It’s Power (Acts 1:8).
  • It’s Perspective (Rom 12:1-2).
  • It’s Purpose (Phil 2:13).

It’s awesome!

But it’s also the defining characteristic of someone who’s born again…

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Rom 8:9 [see also Eph 1:13-14])

“If anyone doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ…”

That’s what James was getting at when he talked about how the demons believe “…and shudder.” The change that God accomplishes in you manifests itself in observable actions that are consistent with God’s Agenda and Preferences. In other words, a valid salvation experience shows up in what you do as well as what you say. If your belief is nothing more than a verbal exercise, your status before God is no different than that of a demon. If, on the other hand, it’s a true belief, you’ve got the True Muscle of Christ living in and through you and your faith will manifest itself in deeds and not just declarations (Jas 2:17).

  • you have a legitimate reason to be optimistic regardless of your circumstances (Ps 119:114; Rom 8:28)
  • your future is founded on more than just your abilities (Phil 2:13)
  • your will to excel is powered by more than just your resolve (Is 41:10; Phil 4:13)
  • you have the capacity to be wise and not just smart (Jas 1:5)
  • you needn’t be concerned about falling into temptation (1 Cor 10:13)
  • you have the Mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), the Power of God (Acts 1:8) and the Fruit of the Spirt (Gal 5:22-23)

In short, you’re enjoying and participating in the “kingdom of God.”

Jesus makes mention of this throughout His Ministry in ways that refer to the Second Coming as well as what’s happening presently. Bottom line: It’s God’s Activity and Authority.

Nelson’s, “Illustrated Bible Dictionary” defines it as:

God’s rule of grace in the world, a future period foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament and identified by Jesus as beginning with His ministry.1

The point, here, is that while spending eternity in Heaven with Christ is obviously a part of the Salvation package (Jn 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:50–54), your relationship with Christ is to be deployed here and now in every nuance of the human experience (Col 3:17). To process your Redemption as something that only comes to bear after your funeral ceremony is to ignore the way Christ presented the practical mechanics of a relationship with Him. It’s not merely a “pass” to get to Heaven as much as it’s the Government and the Moral Perfection that exists in Heaven personified in you right now.

It’s now, it’s here and it’s Real!

IV) What Does it Look Like?

A) Confidence

My father was being treated for Congestive Heart Disease when he had a heart attack that put him in the hospital where he would stay for the better part of a year.

His heart was so weak, that they had to install what was called an LVAD into his chest. It’s a mechanism that keeps your heart beating and requires what amounts to open heart surgery to put it in place.

The surgery didn’t go as well as they would’ve liked. They had to go in three times to get it right which meant three open heart surgeries in 36 hours. In the aftermath, my Dad was in a drug induced coma for a number of days before he finally regained consciousness.

The patients on my father’s floor were all dealing with life threatening scenarios. No one was at a point where they could relax, knowing that their situation was stable and they would be going home soon. Everyone was facing an formidable collection of physical obstacles that would have to be overcome in order to be healthy once again, and some would not make it.

When you’re looking at a group of people that are all falling asleep every night wondering if they’re going to see the sunrise the following morning, it’s amazing to see the difference between those who are confident that when they do close their eyes for the last time, they will be looking into the face of their Savior…

…and those that are intimidated by the thought of dying to the point where they are scared and resentful.

One evening my Dad’s surgeon came into the room and asked him if he would be willing to give up his place in line for a new heart. By this point, a heart transplant was the only way in which he would be able to survive and a heart had become available. But there was another gentleman down the hall whose situation was so precarious that it was doubtful he would last the night. My Mom was in the room when the doctor was explaining all this. After he finished, my Mom and Dad looked at one another and said, “Sure.”

The doctor teared up. He was amazed at how willing both my parents were in making that kind of a sacrifice. My Dad’s situation was by no means stable. He needed a machine to keep his heart beating. But both my Mom and Dad knew that death was a door and not a wall and they were willing to put their trust in something other than a scalpel.

My Dad would get a new heart, but he would pass away not too long afterwards. My Mom has since gone home as well. Both of them faced their trip home with a calm that cannot be achieved as a result of any kind of comfort or counseling that comes from a human dynamic.

You can’t quantify death. You can’t take pictures of what happens on the other side of the grave and educate yourself on what to expect. You’re looking at something that goes beyond a human being’s ability to measure or understand. Hence, when you encounter a disposition that is certain and at ease, you can’t dismiss that as irrational or ignorant simply because it makes more sense to be frightened.

But here’s where the reality of the “peace that passes understanding” becomes evident and not just proclaimed (Is 26:3; Phil 4:7).

The Bible makes it clear that when you die, you go to heaven. You see that Truth communicated when Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be in heaven that very day:

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Lk 23:43)

Paul reinforces that in the first chapter of Philippians:

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Phil 1:21-24)

According to Paul, he’s got one of two options which is to be alive here on earth or to be with Christ. Jesus taught the same thing when He told the story of Lazarus in Luke 16 and how when Lazarus died he was immediately taken to heaven  (Lk 16:23).

When we die, we go to heaven. While death is a mystery and and can be an intimidating conclusion, we can face it with confidence knowing that it is not the end, but the beginning of something far better (Jn 14:1-3).

Do the Math…
Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank. (Prov 22:29)

Pursuing a standard of excellence in everything you do, think and say will ultimately have a positive impact on your performance in the workplace as far as improving it to the point where it’s potentially worth more in the mind of your employer or customer.

Being able to earn and afford more only becomes a problem when it translates to greed. Greed, like pride, can only happen when you’re focused on yourself. Matthew 6:33 provides the perfect vaccine against the virus of selfishness by admonishing the believer to stay focused on God’s Activity and Authority (His Kingdom). By doing that your possessions are prevented from possessing you and you’re able to enjoy the benefits of obedience without losing sight of Who it is you serve and what it is that you’re ultimately trying to accomplish.

B) Excellence

Colossians 3:17 says:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:17)

When you’re born again, because you have the Holy Spirit living within you, you now have access to a collection of Resources that enable you to be and to do more than you would be capable of otherwise (Jn 14:12).

You have the Mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16; Jas 1:5), the Power of God (Acts 1:8; Col 1:29)  and the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) standing by at any given moment to be used in a manner where you’re able to make a difference and not just an appearance (Eph 2:10).

You see this in 1 Corinthians 10:31:

So whether you ear or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Cor 10:31)

…as well as in 2 Corinthian 9:8:

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Cor 9:8)

Jesus Himself said as much in Matthew 5:16:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt 5:16)

There’s a couple of things that need to be understood in order for these verses to be processed and applied correctly.

1) He’s the Filing Cabinet…

The first thing is to recognize the all-inclusive nature of what’s being addressed.

The word, “deed” as well as the word, “work” are both translations of the Greek word, “ergon” which means:

…any product whatever, any thing accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind.

In other words, these verses are not referring to church related activities only. What God is saying, here, is that even if you’re just mowing your lawn, you want to be doing it in a way that makes Him look good.

Your relationship with Christ is not a mere file folder that you reach for in those moments where there’s a spike of spiritual activity in your mind. Rather, He’s the Filing Cabinet where everything you do, think and say is adjusted and enhanced so the final result is representative of what God can do in and through a person who’s fully committed to Him.

2) True Quality

While the word “good” can sometimes mean a level of quality that is genuinely noteworthy, it can also be interpreted to mean something that is more or less acceptable.

The word, “good,” as it’s used in Matthew 5:16 and 2 Corinthians 9:8 refers to something that is far more than a mediocre rating.

Matthew uses the word, “kalos,” which means:

beautiful, applied by the Greeks to everything so distinguished in form, excellence, goodness, usefulness, as to be pleasing; hence (according to the context) equivalent to “beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable”

The word, “good” in 2 Corinthians 9:8 is a translation of the word, “agathos” which means:

excelling in any respect, distinguished, good. It can be predicated of persons, things, conditions, qualities and affections of the soul, deeds, times and seasons. To this general significance can be traced back all those senses which the word gathers from the connection in which it stands;

So, it’s similar to “kalos,” but it takes things a step further by it’s being used to describe something as being morally excellent and not just admirable from a practical standpoint or aesthetically pleasing.

The Virtue of God is the moral perfection that is within you because of His Holy Spirit being a part of who you are (Eph 1:13-14; 1 Pet 2:9). The Power of God includes the Divine Ability He gives you to restrain those attitudes and actions that prevent you from being able to perform in a way that translates to the best possible outcome (Rom 6:18).

When you choose to deploy those Resources, not only do you benefit (Josh 1:8; Ps 1:1-3; Jn 15:5), but so do those who are impacted by your obedience (Gen 39:5; 1 Sam 18:12-16; Job 42:7-8; 2 Cor 1:3-4).

3) A Position of Strength

The bottom line is that God is saying that you now occupy a position of strength as far as being capable of doing everything in a way that resonates, not only as a job well done, but something that inspires those on the outside looking in to want to know more about how you think and who you are.

Mind you, your relationship with Christ does not equate to a magic pill where the moment you’re saved you suddenly become more talented than you were a moment ago. Rather, you’re approaching the challenges and opportunities that cross your path with a different kind of energy (Col 1:29) and purpose (Phil 2:13). You’re now allowing the Virtue and Power of God to affect a result through you that can be accurately labeled as “kalos” or “agathos” and it’s then that your referencing Christ as the Source of your Strength and Resolve comes across as both compelling and appealing (see sidebar).

i) The Words that You Say

You see it with Joseph in the book of Genesis. When he appeared before Pharaoh, he was in a great spot to bargain for his freedom in exchange for interpreting Pharaoh’s dream. Instead, he replied to Pharaoh by saying:

“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” (Gen 41:16)

Joseph’s words had to resonate with Pharaoh in ways that went beyond being impressed with Joseph’s confidence to discern his dreams. In verse 14, it says that Joseph had to shave and get cleaned up before he met with the leader of the most powerful empire in the world. Pharaoh had to know that his quandary gave Joseph an advantage. This is a man that was in a prison cell an hour ago. But rather than press his advantage by offering to interpret the dream in exchange for a commuted sentence, Joseph directs all the credit and attention to his heavenly Father.

Joseph’s words reflected a character that inspired Pharaoh to ask his officials in verse 37, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”

It wasn’t just Joseph’s insight, it was his whole bearing. By resolving to funnel every aspect of his presentation to Pharaoh through the filter of God’s Spirit, in the context of one conversation, Joseph’s status goes from inmate to second in command over the entire land of Egypt.

Now, not every conversation you have carries with it those kinds of ramifications, but the power of your words is substantial and how you speak can make a very real difference.

A job interview. A heated conversation. An emotional appeal. A sales presentation…

A conversation about the death and resurrection of Christ.

Whether it’s Joseph or Nehemiah (Neh 2:4) or Peter before a crowd of several thousand people in the 2nd chapter of Acts, the evidence is conclusive that God can work through the words you say in a manner that can make a big difference in any and every situation (Ps 19:14; Prov 25:11; Matt 10:19).

And you can do it! You have a choice. You can fly solo and ignore God’s Counsel, or you can take your cue from His Spirit and be like Joseph who was able to speak in a manner that ultimately saved Egypt as well as his own family.

Neither Joseph nor David had a relationship with Christ, but they were nevertheless impacted and guided by God’s Spirit. Pharaoh notices it in Joseph when he says in Genesis 41:37-38, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” David refers to himself not as the one who will kill the giant, but as the one whom God will work through to get the job done (1 Samuel 17:45-47). In both cases, you have men who subordinate themselves to the Guidance and the Power of God and are able to accomplish great things. It’s His Spirit that makes the difference and we have access to the same Wisdom and Strength!
ii) The Things You Do

Not only do the words of your mouth When David stood before Goliath, he made it clear that the contest was more what might’ve appeared to be the case in that he was coming against Goliath in the name of the Lord (1 Sam 17:45). The moment the giant started towards him, the Scripture says that David ran to the battle line and while he was running, he launched a stone with his sling that struck Goliath in the forehead.

The sling was a common weapon in Israel and while David may not have been as skilled as some of his counterparts from the tribe of Benjamin (Jud 20:16), given the fact that he was able to hit a moving target while he was moving himself, David obviously has done this before.

How many times do you think David practiced with his sling? How many times did he miss before he became consistent enough to be combat ready?

The point here is that God was directing David’s daily routine that included several hundred failed attempts with the sling, not to mention numerous encounters with the Divine that shaped David into a dangerous and godly threat to a nation that thought a giant would be enough to intimidate the God of Israel.

It wasn’t just that moment that he let go of that stone, it was the countless hours that David spent at the feet of His King living his life seven days a week. It’s not that David was “in church” all the time, as much as he chose to recognize the Presence of God in every nuance of his existence (Ps 139:1-6) and he saw himself as being capable of great things, not because of what he could do, but because of what God could do in and through him (Ps 18:32-36).

It’s because of that approach that David was able to take a skillset that may have struck him as something that applied only to guarding sheep and found himself using it to guard the entire nation of Israel. And you see the same thing in several of the key figures in Scripture: Moses, Gideon, Peter, Paul – all were able to turn in some great performances because of the way in which they allowed the Power of God to effect their actions in a way that translated to an “excellent” result.

ii) The Way You Think

Romans 12:2 says:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom 12:2)

There’s a difference between “positive thinking” and “profound thinking.”

You can cheer yourself up sometimes by being selective in what circumstance you focus on. That’s “positive thinking.”

“Profound thinking,” however, is a different animal altogether because you’re focusing on the One Whom your circumstances answer to.

Sometimes, “positive thinking” doesn’t do the trick and you need a Substantial Truth to clarify the difference between fact and fiction.

Take for example Joseph, the husband of Mary.

Imagine your response when your bride to be tells you that she’s pregnant.

Back then, it wasn’t just an inconvenient circumstance nor was it viewed as a mere immoral accident. It would’ve been perceived as an adulterous act and therefore punishable by death, according to Old Testament Law (Lev 20:10; Dt 22:23-24).

And then there’s the issue of you being betrayed and humiliated in a way that’s difficult to put into words.

It says in Scripture that Joseph was a righteous man…

Because Joseph her husband  was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her t public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Matt 1:19)

He’s going to do the right thing and do it in a way that gives Mary the opportunity to deal with her disgrace without being stoned.

He’s hurt, he’s angry and probably amazed that Mary was capable of doing such a thing. And anybody who’s close to Joseph probably feels sorry for him and views Mary as being utterly despicable. They may even question Joseph’s decision to not make things public and let Mary’s actions be known and publicly condemned.

Now, imagine the reaction of those same people when they find out that Joseph has decided to believe Mary’s story after all and go ahead and take her as his wife.

They’re probably thinking that he’s so in love, he’s not thinking straight if he’s thinking at all.

But he is thinking.

It’s just now he’s considering the situation in light of the angel having told him in a dream that Mary’s situation was legitimate – she was going to give birth to the Son of God and he should feel completely confident that he’s marrying an honorable woman.

However nonsensical it may have appeared on the surface, he was nevertheless processing his thoughts according to God’s Purpose and Perspective and as a result, he was able to be the earthly father to the Messiah.

Thing is, it probably wasn’t the last time he had to adjust his thoughts according to Something and Someone greater than himself. In addition to moving his new family to Egypt and then to Nazareth to keep them safe, Jesus was always referred to as the “son of Mary.” He was never called the “son of Joseph” which was probably due to the fact that most knew Jesus to have been born under some questionable circumstances which most likely manifested itself in the context of ugly comments and being made to feel like an outcast (Mark 6:3 [he’s referred to as the “carpenter’s son” in Matt 13:55, but nowhere in the Bible is Jesus addressed according to what would’ve been a normal naming convention).

But Joseph’s thought processes were subordinated to a Truth that allowed him to perform his role as Jesus’ father with excellence. However logical and understandable it would’ve been for Joseph to put some distance between himself and Mary, not only did he marry her, he stayed the course and raised his family which included at least two daughters and four sons in addition to Jesus – two of those boys would go on to write their own epistles (James and Jude).

Joseph did well and he was able to do so because of the manner in which he used the same Resource we have access to, which is a mindset that intentionally processes things according to the way in which God sees them (1 Cor 2:16; Eph 4:23).

V) Conclusion

Once you flip the switch and embrace the empty tomb, not as a general piece of non-fiction, but as a defining moment where you embrace both the Substance of Who Christ is and your need for His Grace, the mindset and the Strength of God become what inspires your mind (1 Cor 2:16), your behavior (Ezra 1:5; 1 Cor 12:6) and your emotions (Gal 5:22-23).

Your wrongs have been permanently forgiven, you are utterly transformed and the Purpose, Peace and Power of God is now working in and through you in a way that translates to a standard of excellence in the way you live and a confidence in the way you process death as the beginning and not as the end.

That’s what it means to be saved.

 

 

1. Nelson’s Bible Dictionary, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1986, p616-617

Three Questions

I believe the way you answer the following three questions do an excellent job of revealing the “practical reality” of your walk with Christ (Col 3:18). By “practical reality,” I mean either those times when “ministry” includes working alongside dynamics that aren’t agreeable or safe, or… you’ll see what I mean.

Here we go:

1) If you had to create a billboard that promoted a relationship with Jesus Christ and you couldn’t mention anything about heaven or hell or how Christ helps you with your problems, what would your billboard say?

2) You’re the Good Samaritan. But instead of encountering the victim after they’ve been beaten and robbed, you encounter him as he’s being beaten and robbed. What does your ministry look like?

3) Your neighbor’s house is on fire. You’re working alongside several people put out the blaze when all of a sudden you realize that among those you’re working with, there are several whose lifestyles you seriously disagree with. Do you keep working to put out the fire or do you walk away believing that it’s wrong to be a part of any effort involving people who don’t believe as you do?

If you had to create a billboard that promoted a relationship with Jesus Christ and you couldn’t mention anything about heaven or hell or how Christ helps you with your problems, what would your billboard say?

It’s not “positive thinking,” it’s “profound thinking.” And you’re not using Him or His Word to forward your agenda as much as you’re following His Lead in order to accomplish His Purpose, know His Peace and wield His Power in way that translates to a game winning strategy regardless of what race you’re running.

Pray Big!

Your “ministry” is not just what you do at church. It’s the way you excel and achieve by doing the right thing at the right time in the right way for all the right reasons regardless of where you are or what the circumstance may be. That includes the way you show up to work on time, the way you love your family, the way you vote, the way you work out and even the way you mow your lawn!

Paul says in Colossians that you need to be doing everything in a way that merits Christ’s Signature. When you make a point of doing everything “…with all your might” and couple that with the moral excellence that characterizes the believer who’s on top of his spiritual disciplines, you’re not the kind of employee that people hire, you’re the kind of person people promote (consider the story of Joseph).

Do it right and you are perpetually poised on the threshold of great things as a believer because you’re processing every moment as an ordained opportunity and not just another task to get done. He created you to make a difference and not just an appearance. Put that kind of approach into place and you won’t look at a Monday morning the way way ever again!

How does Jesus help you succeed? That’s the question you need to answer in this exercise. It’s not just how you “deal” with life, it’s how you “succeed” in life. Messages like:

  • Don’t just be smart, be wise (Jas 1:5)
  • Don’t just be happy, be fulfilled (Ecc 12:13; Jn 4:32; Gal 5:22-23)
  • Don’t just be right, be effective (Lk 12:11-12)
  • Don’t just be confident, be certain (Matt 7:24; Phil 2:13; 1 Jn 5:13)
  • Don’t just prosper, succeed (Josh 1:8)

You have the Mindset, the Manner and the emotional Muscle of God cruising through your veins. In other words, His Spirit lives in you. That’s the Divine Trademark that’s been stamped on your life (2 Cor 1:22)! You have the ball! Move it down the field and put some points on the board!

He’s not just a Divine Emergency Kit. He’s also a Divine Tool Kit. He doesn’t say you’ll never be broke, nor does He say you’ll never lose or be sad. What He does say is that if you stick with Me, I’ll make you wise (Jas 1:5). If you make Me your priority, I’ll make your Strong (Is 41:10; Phil 4:13). And if you follow My lead, I’ll make you the kind of person who lights up the room when you walk in (Job 29:11; Matt 5:16; Jn 5:35; Phil 2:15; 4:8)!

There are times where something tragic has happened or you’re up against the wall and, apart from God, you have absolutely no other options. In those times, should someone come alongside you and suggest that if you had more “faith,” you wouldn’t be as concerned or as sad, you’re not listening to someone who’s sensitive as much as you’re hearing someone whose approach to Scripture is based on a handful of verses as opposed to the Bible as a whole.

We are to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Rom 12:15) Denying yourself or others what amounts to a healthy emotional response to a loss or a threat is neither holy nor compassionate. We don’t grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13), but we do grieve. Courage isn’t the absence of fear as much as it’s the strength and the confidence to do the right thing regardless of how scared you may be.

We have access to that Strength and Confidence  in Christ (Is 41:10), but Jesus wept just before He raised Lazarus from the dead and He also sweat just before Golgotha.

Yes, there’s rest and healing to be had and it’s important to remember who you are apart from Him and how utterly dependent you are on His grace (Jn 15:5). But He’s created you to make a difference and not just an appearance. Because of Who He is in you, you lack for nothing as far the resources needed to achieve and excel (1 Tim 4:8; 2 Pet 1:3).

What we’re talking about here is not the minimizing of the holy compassion and the divine charity that is needed to strengthen and comfort those who are hurting. What we’re emphasizing is the fact that you are more than your wounds and better than your sin because of Who it is that lives and moves within you. That said, yes, there is a time to hurt and a time to heal, but there’s also a time to win and you don’t want to let yourself become more preoccupied with what you can’t do instead of what it is that He can do through you. That’s motivating and that’s the kind of thing you want to have on your billboard! Things like:

Don’t Just Try. Win. Do It Right Dream Big, Pray Bigger Don’t Just Make an Appearance, Make a Difference

 

Your situation is not something to be processed merely as a random collection of walls and warnings. Rather, it’s nothing but doors and directions when you allow His Truth to shape your perspective.

Do it right and you are perpetually poised on the threshold of great things because you’re processing every moment as an ordained opportunity and not just another day to get through. Put that kind of approach into place and you won’t look at a Monday morning the same way ever again!

Go God, boo devil! Make a Difference!

For more reading on one’s “billboard,” click here.

You’re the Good Samaritan. But instead of encountering the victim after they’ve been beaten and robbed, you encounter him as he’s being beaten and robbed. What does your ministry look like?

Life isn’t always sectioned off in a way where the resulting shapes are characterized by straight and even lines. In order for the Truth to make an impact, you have to follow Christ’s example and communicate it in a way that addresses, not just the situation in general, but the unique “shape” of the situation to include the personalities that are involved, the topic being addressed and the setting that you’re in.

Rarely are you going to be in a spot where only one verse applies. Instead, there will be several verses to consider which is why it’s so important to be taking your cue from God’s Spirit and His Wisdom as opposed to a collection of guidelines and techniques that you manufacture on your own based on a portion of God’s Instructions as opposed to the whole Handbook .

Standing up for what is right is not always done in the absence of a physical / violent altercation. There is an evil out there that doesn’t respond to a gentle rebuke or even a stern warning. And to twist Christ’s admonishment to “turn the other cheek” or God’s command to not take revenge on someone for a wrong they’ve done to you in order to justify not standing up to Goliath or to insist that Jesus was talking about a pocket New Testament when He told the disciples to go purchase a sword, is an irresponsible and inaccurate application of God’s Word.

‘Turning the other cheek” is the biblical response to an offense, not an assault…

As in much of Jesus’ teaching, pressing his illustration the wrong way may obscure his point. In fact, this would read Scripture the very way he was warning against: if someone hits us in the nose, or has already struck us on both cheeks, are we finally free to hit back? Jesus gives us a radical example so we will avoid retaliation, not so we will explore the limits of his example (see Tannehill 1975:73). A backhanded blow to the right cheek did not imply shattered teeth (tooth for tooth was a separate statement); it was an insult, the severest public affront to a person’s dignity (Lam 3:30; Jeremias 1963:28 and 1971:239). God’s prophets sometimes suffered such ill-treatment (1 Kings 22:24; Is 50:6). Yet though this was more an affront to honor, a challenge, than a physical injury, ancient societies typically provided legal recourse for this offense within the lex talionis regulations (Pritchard 1955:163, 175; see also Gaius Inst. 3.220). (“Avoid Retribution and Resistance”, IVP Commentary, accessed April, 2 2009)

And to suggest that the New Testament somehow nullifies every Divinely sanctioned use of force in the Old Testament is to suggest that God changes His mind when it comes either swinging your fist or firing a weapon.

He doesn’t change His mind.

Ever (Num 23:19).

Judges 3:1-2 makes it clear that God placed a premium on making sure that the Israelites knew how to fight. It makes sense, given the number of times Israel was called upon to strap on their swords and do battle with the enemies of God.

In the New Testament, while Jesus does make it clear that to be reckless and hasty in resolving to remedy any and all disputes with a weapon is foolish (Those who live by the sword, die by the sword [Matt 26:52]), and He encourages believers to respond to insults and offenses by “turning the other cheek,” the context and verbiage of His admonishing the disciples to arm themselves taken along with God’s obvious endorsement of military force in the Old Testament compellingly demonstrates the Truth and Biblical place of “sanctified violence.”

So, if you were to come on a scene where bandits were beating and robbing someone, you’re doing the right thing by stopping them however you need to in order to stand up for what is right and protect those who may not be able to protect themselves.

Your neighbor’s house is on fire. You’re working alongside several people put out the blaze when all of a sudden you realize that among those you’re working with, there are several whose lifestyles you seriously disagree with. Do you keep working to put out the fire or do you walk away believing that it’s wrong to be a part of any effort involving people who don’t believe as you do?

Solomon followed the example of his father in that he contracted King Hiram of the Phoenicians for laborers and building materials. David used the cedar logs, stonemasons and carpenters provided by King Hiram to build his palace (2 Sam 5:11). Solomon used the same resource for the cedar needed to build the Temple (2 Chron 2:3).

King Hiram resided in Tyre and ruled over a people who were descendants of Canaan. Canaan’s father was Ham  who was the son of Noah that had demonstrated an outrageous disregard for God in the aftermath of the flood. Noah saw the same belligerence in Canaan and rightfully prophesied that his descendants would go on to become perverse idolaters and wind up being the object of God’s Wrath in the context of the Israelites conquest of the Promised Land.

Tyre, however, was a boundary and not a target (Josh 19:29). It’s not that the Phoenicians were a God fearing people (Ezekiel 26:2; Lk 10:13). They were descendants of Canaan, but those that resided in Tyre were able to somehow distinguish themselves in the sight of God as being undeserving of the punishment that was doled out to Sidon and other neighboring Canaanite cities. Perhaps that was one of the contributing factors that allowed for a friendly relationship between Hiram and David and then, later, Solomon.

Their true, spiritual colors would be revealed later when they cheered as Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Israel and for that they themselves would be destroyed, as Ezekiel prophesied in chapter 26.

The point being, however, that God can, and often does, use unconventional means and a variety of spiritual dispositions to do His work. In those moments, you want to support His efforts and not question them any more than you would refuse the cedar coming from Hiram simply because he was a Canaanite. Yes, he was an idolater, but he was used by God to do good nevertheless.

At one point, the disciples were agitated by the fact that some people were casting out demons in the Name of Christ, yet they weren’t a part of Christ’s inner circle of disciples…

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. (Mk 9:38-40)

However petty the disciples may have appeared to be –  as far as feeling like they were only ones capable of doing any good, being that they were a part of Christ’s inner circle – it’s not an uncommon complaint.

Appearances can be distracting. A person’s manner, their background – if it doesn’t line up with tradition or convention – it can be mistaken for something sinister.

Fact is, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Ps 24:1). Everything that was created was made by Christ and for Christ (Col :16;Rev 4:11), so however dirty or different the glove may be, it’s the Hand inside the glove that’s doing the work and you don’t want to be so preoccupied with appearances or qualifications that you fail to appreciate how God uses different people to do His bidding.

That doesn’t mean you throw caution to the wind and assume everyone is reading from the same page of music. 1 John 1:4 says to test the spirits, but that’s not always accomplished by focusing exclusively on a person’s checkered past or a vulgar outburst.

King Cyrus is a great example of how God can use someone that doesn’t have a relationship with Christ and may even be a little offensive in their manner to do God’s bidding.

The Jews were in exile and their city was a mess. The Temple was a heap of rubble and the walls were completely torn down (see 2 Chron 36:15-19). God had said that the Jews would be allowed to return, but if you were to look at an aerial photo of Jerusalem, you’d be pretty skeptical – especially given the very unlikely scenario of your enemy permitting the reconstruction of your city let alone financing it.

King Cyrus of Persia would put things in motion by paying for the rebuilding of the Temple and issuing a decree that would allow any willing Hebrew to return to Jerusalem to get it done.

Here’s the thing:

Cyrus is addressed by name in Isaiah 45. God refers to him as someone He has anointed for the sake of his people. He also says of Cyrus:

For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor,  though you do not acknowledge me . I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you,  though you have not acknowledged me  so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is note beside me. I am the Lord, and there is not other. (Is 45:4-5)

Cyrus didn’t believe in God, but that didn’t change the fact that God used him to accomplish the reconstruction of Jerusalem.

The same thing applies to us be it a politician, a doctor, a contractor or any kind of service provider. No, you don’t applaud their sin but you do support them in whatever role they’re playing in accomplishing God’s Purposes. In other words, you vote for King Cyrus, you make the appointment, you go with the best option and you don’t sneer at the cedar that’s being delivered to your doorstep for the construction of whatever God is building because its being delivered by a bunch of idolaters (see sidebar).

Conclusion

There’s a difference between compromise and wisdom. Basing your convictions on personal preferences seasoned with some carefully selected Scriptures that can be taken out of context and made to sound like a solid biblical reinforcement of your prejudices is not the same thing as basing your outlook on Scripture as a whole and refusing to allow your life’s experiences to replace the Word of God simply because you’re more comfortable with your opinion than you are with the Truth.

Discipleship is not being accurately presented if it’s taught as something that only applies in the context of a crisis. Standing up for what is right is not always accomplished by a mere rebuke. David defeated Goliath with a sanctified response that included both a weapon and a word (1 Sam 17:45-47). And however rough around the edges God’s human instrument may be, Scripture proves over and over again that your focus needs to be on the Plot and not the players in order to determine who you should support and who should resist.

There is, and always has been, an aggressive campaign in place to exchange the Truth for a lie (Jn 8:44; Rom 1:25; 1 Peter 5:8). If the author of that campaign is to be defeated, not only can we not afford to be petty, we don’t have the time to watch our countermeasures fail because they were based more on tradition than they were on the Substance of God’s Word.

And even when your convictions are on point, your delivery has to be just as Inspired if the end result is going to be a legitimate win (Prov 15:23; 25:11; Mk 13:11; Titus 2:7-8).

The bottom line is this: You’re here to make a difference and not just an appearance. Christ is the Filing Cabinet and not just a file folder and to restrict His Instruction and all the advantages that accompany obedience to those times that line up with your traditions is to gut His Word, kill your witness and give the opposition all the more opportunity to do some damage.

On the other hand…

Be the kind of workman referenced in 2 Timothy 2:15 and you’ve got a winning strategy in place that will benefit you and everyone He puts in your path because instead of you working without Him, He’s now the One working through you.

Because That’s What You’ve Been Told

toldFor the last four years, you were convinced that regardless of what President Trump accomplished or said, he was a fool and a fiend. Therefore, anything he did was suspect and could be comfortably categorized as either irrelevant or detrimental…

Because that’s what you’ve been told.

His election wasn’t credible. He colluded with Russia. We spent two years and 32 million dollars investigating a claim that turned out to be untrue. But in your mind, he’s still guilty and the 2016 election wasn’t legitimate…

Because that’s what you’ve been told.

He should’ve been removed from office. He made a call to the President of the Ukraine and you sat glued to the TV watching a parade of unelected officials insist that Trump was guilty of abusing his authority. The Ukrainian President himself insisted that the call in question was devoid of any such conversation, implied or otherwise. But you still believe that Trump was guilty and the only reason he wasn’t removed from office is because the Senate refused to do their job.

Because that’s what you’ve been told.

COVID-19 has a 98% recovery rate and of those that have passed away as a result of the virus, 94% had, on the average , 2 potentially life-threatening pre-existing conditions. The CDC has said it’s not an airborne disease. Yet, you still wear a mask and support the idea of staying distant, closed and compromised and believe anyone who wants to get the vaccine and move on is reckless, selfish and even cruel.

Because that’s what you’ve been told.

There’s over 1,000 signed affidavits and sworn testimonies testifying to the fact that this past election was fraudulent. The State of Texas has a publicly accessible pdf that details why Dominion’s software is not a secure voting mechanism. President Trump delivered a speech that detailed several instances of suspicious activity. It wasn’t aired on any major network because several courts and attorneys insisted that none of what had been submitted constituted any real evidence. You’ve not read any of the testimonies yourself, you weren’t in any of the swing states to observe what went on, but you nevertheless believe that President Biden’s election was honorable and accurate.

Because that’s what you’ve been told.

President Trump said nothing that could be construed as a call to violence on January 6th. A transcript of his speech is available for public review. Anderson Cooper from CNN interviewed someone posing as a cameraman merely filming what was going on in the Capital. It turns out, however, he’s part of a BLM group and was caught on film agitating the crowd and urging people to “Burn this sh** down!” Yet, any questions pertaining to the true political convictions of those who broke into the Capital and evaluate them on an individual basis as opposed to labeling the entire crowd as insurrectionists is dismissed as pointless. This would be a healthy and logical step to take to find out how multiple peaceful rallies held both in Washington and throughout the US suddenly took a violent turn. But it doesn’t matter. You believe Trump and anyone who supports him is violent, godless, racist and a threat to Democracy…

…because that’s what you’ve been told.

Freedom of Speech is now determined by what party you support. Arguments are won not according to the substance of your content, but on the effectiveness of your methods. American interests and security concerns are prideful restrictions that only people who lack compassion would even consider. Moral Absolutes are cruel and antiquated traditions that need to give way to open dialogue and the right to be happy. And you heartily agree with all of this..

Because that’s what you’ve been told.

With few exceptions, none of us have actually worked with Trump, we’re not on a first name basis with Biden, we’re not experts in viruses and even when we attempt to google things and seek out additional information, we’re still drawn to those sources that possess a philosophical bent that leans in our preferred direction. In other words, we are what we eat and we’re hesitant to listen to anything or anyone that doesn’t agree with our worldview.

When you think of the current political climate, then, it’s not so much about what’s true as much as it’s about who we believe is telling the truth.

Is it Anderson Cooper or Rush Limbaugh? Is it Newsmax or NBC?

Are we listening to media committed to informing public opinion or are we listening to resources determined to shape public opinion? How can we tell?

One thing that can used as a good indicator is to ask the question, “Am I being presented with a commentary on what’s being done or who’s doing it?”

For example, Moral Failings are heinous. But the public reaction to those indiscretions is bound to be different if one instance is presented as a misstep and the other situation is displayed as grounds for dismissal. If the activity is the same, but the reporting is completely different based on the personality involved, you’re not listening to “news” as much as you’re listening to a “campaign.” You’re not hearing topics as much as you’re hearing tactics, regardless of what the headline says.

In that moment, you have legitimate cause for concern. Reason being is that among the strategies typically used by sinister elements who are promoting an agenda is to silence their opposition by casting them as villains. By doing so, anything that person champions is now associated with something reprehensible and whatever platform is being proposed as an option now looks far more appealing regardless of how toxic it may be.

Does this sound familiar?

How many times have you seen a person been excoriated for their behavior while their political counterpart isn’t even criticized? How many times has a particular issue been promoted by implying that anyone who doesn’t agree doesn’t just have a different opinion, but they are immoral?

Truth is not how certain facts are manipulated, it’s how all the facts are evaluated. And you don’t arrive at the truth without seeking both sides of an issue and dismissing those accounts that are focused more on personality than principle.

We’re at a point where we can no longer allow our convictions to be dictated by media outlets that are focused more on who said something as opposed to what was actually said. We’re all dependent on the headlines to some extent. But we can choose who to listen to. We can seek out second opinions and we can resolve to filter out those voices that are more preoccupied with assaulting someone’s character than objectively examining their content.

You’ve got to be like the Bereans that Paul talks about in Acts 17 – people who examined what was being said to find out if it was true and not let the personality speaking be more of a priority than the point they’re making. That’s how you arrive at a legitimate bottom line.

Now, you may not agree with any of this and if you’re determined to trade truth for accuracy and gossip for substance, chances are you’re doing so because you’re convinced that any news or information coming from anything or anyone other than those who share your worldview are bogus.

And why do you feel that way?

Because that’s what you’ve been told.

College Entrance Exam Part I (Answers)

college_entranceThese are the answers to the questions posed in the “College Entrance Exam Part I” questionnaire.

1) If you had to define the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament with one name, what would that name be?

Answer: Jesus

The Name is Jesus. Everything about the Old Testament is ultimately a tension that builds and is finally resolved with the arrival of Christ and His death and Resurrection (Jn 5;39)

2) What’s the difference between understanding and believing?

Answer: When I understand something, it changes my mind. When I believe in my heart, it changes the way I live.

I can “understand” that a healthy diet is a good thing, yet never moderate my intake of excessive sugars or saturated fat. I might be able to tell you how important it is to exercise yet never go workout myself. “Understanding” means that I can comprehend what’s being discussed and I can agree that something is true. “Believing,” on the other hand, will show up in the way I live and in the choices I make (see Rom 10:9-10; Jas 2:26).

Now, that doesn’t mean that I can’t “fake it.” I can go through the motions and look authentic, but in the end that will be come evident and the results will testify to the same. That’s part of what Jesus was saying when He said that you will know a tree by its fruit (Matt 12:33). From that perspective, it can be somewhat subjective since that “fruit” may not be evident right away. However, you can get a pretty good idea by considering the actions that should inspire remorse instead is greeted with indifference (see 1 Jn 3:6). If the “lights aren’t on,” then there’s going to more concern about getting caught then there will be in disappointing one’s King (Eph 4:30; Jas 4:7-10)

3) Is it just your discipline that gets things done, or is there something else that’s driving you?

Answer: It’s the Holy Spirit that provides both the will and the strength to obey.

It’s God Who works in you to “will” and to “act. (see Phil 2:13)” On top of that, when it comes to putting aside all those things that would otherwise incline you to drive on the wrong side of the road as opposed to being able to stay in your lane, you’ve got His Spirit to give you both the awareness and the resolve to do things right (see Prov 3:5-61 Cor 10:13). So, its not just staying “strong” in the midst of being tempted, it’s about being able to avoid compromising situations altogether.

By the way: It is His Spirit in you that qualifies you as someone who is truly born again (Rom 8:9). It’s the genuine desire to obey as well as the sense of conviction that you experience when you fall short that you can interpret as proof that God’s Spirit does, in fact, live in you (Matt 7:16; 13:20-21; 1 Jn 3:6).

4) What’s the best way to win friends and influence people?

Answer: Follow Christ’s example by making them feel good about themselves.

Jesus’ Name showed up on a lot of people’s guest lists. Matthew 11:19 quotes Jesus as describing Himself as someone who’s frequently seen, “…eating and drinking.” Consider also the Wedding Feast of Cana (Jn 2), the home of a Pharisee (Lk 14) and the occasion where He dined with Zacchaeus (Lk 19).

It’s interesting to note how in many cases, the people that felt the most comfortable around Christ had the most to be ashamed of. In Matthew 9, not long after Matthew had accepted Jesus’ invitation to come join Him as one of His disciples, Christ is dining with Matthew along with a number of “sinners and tax collectors.” How is it that those whose track record was so tainted with bad decisions that they would feel at ease in the Presence of Moral Perfection (Heb 4:15)?

People are drawn to excellence (Matt 5:16; Col 3:17) and they respect strength (Matt 7:29; 8:27). In addition to all this, however, Jesus had a knack for making people feel good about themselves. Not because there weren’t things in their life that represented obvious infractions and moral shortcomings. Rather, they felt valued because Christ made them feel legitimately appreciated. And why not? Jesus created them and they were among those that He was willing to die for. You talk about a vote of confidence (Ps 139:13; Jer 1:5; Rom 5:8)!

Matthew was a Tax Collector – someone who was despised by the Jewish culture as a spiritual and cultural traitor, yet Jesus made Him one of His disciples. Mary Magdalene did not have a great reputation, yet Jesus affirmed her to the point where she was among the first who saw Him alive (Jn 20:10-18).

It’s not about flattery as much as it’s a genuine resolve to see someone the way God sees them – someone who has worth and incredible potential to do great things (Jn 14:12; Phil 2:13). See them as the “poem” that they are (Eph 2:10) ! Do that and you will find yourself and appreciated and pursued because, not only are you respected in the context of the strength and talent you possess, but more importantly because of the way you light up every room you walk into with a spirit of affirmation, optimism and enthusiasm (see also 1 Thess 5:16-18).

5) What’s the difference between success and prosperity and, if there is a difference, can you have both?

Answer: To succeed is to “win,” to prosper is to enjoy the opportunities and resources that proceed from being “winning.” And according to Scripture, you can have both by studying and obeying the Word of God.

While you can do an in depth word study on Joshua 1:8 which talks about how by meditating on the Truth of God’s Word you will be both “prosperous” and “successful,” the bottom line is that “success” is to be victorious. You might be “successful” in completing a marathon or passing a test. That’s “success.” “Prosperity,” on the other hand, is being able to use victory to build and grow in all the right ways for all the right reasons (click here for more detail about those two words which are frequently used interchangeably throughout Scripture).

To succeed and prosper are guaranteed outcomes when your focus and your fuel is God’s Word. You see it in Joshua 1:8, Proverbs 3:5-6 and Matthew 6:33. The great thing about these promises is that by keeping things between the lines, you’re able to experience the best of both worlds without having to make any compromises (Prov 10:22) and’that’s the kind of success and prosperity you want!


Theodore Roosevelt once said that a through knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education. He’s not wrong. However successful you may be in acquiring the knowledge you need in order to engage the workforce with a marketable skill, in the end, it’s not so much the money you make as much as it’s the person that you are.

What matters most is what outlasts you long after the dates on your tombstone have faded and your accomplishments are forgotten. It’s the impact you make that resonates in eternity that is your priority- and every bit of that stems from your relationship with your King.

Seize every opportunity and engage your college experience as a transformational and enjoyable time in your life! But do so in a way that incorporates the Wisdom that comes from One Who sees you both now and a decade from now and has your best interests at heart like no other. Do that and you’ll have more than a degree on your wall…

…you’ll have a life that’s worth living!

College Entrance Exam Part I

college_entranceKnowing what you believe and why you believe it is important, regardless of what the issue may be. How you vote, the way you navigate the waters of compromise, how you think…you always want to be able to explain why you believe a certain way as opposed to something akin to “that’s just the way I grew up.” Or, “I read something somewhere…”

No where is that more important than your relationship with Christ. Not only does the Bible command that you be able to elaborate on the substance of your creed (1 Pet 3:15), it’s a very practical strategy to have in place so you don’t unwittingly miss the strategic advantages represented by being on top of your spiritual game (Josh 1:8).

With that in mind, see how you do on this “College Entrance Exam!” It’s a series of questions designed to “pop the hood,” not just on what you’ve memorized but, more importantly, the extent to which you’re “working out your salvation” (Phil 2:12) and growing in your understanding and appreciation for all that Christ brings to the table.

The questions are listed below You’ll find the answers by clicking here.

Here we go…

1) If you had to define the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament with one name, what would that name be?

2) What’s the difference between understanding and believing?

3) Is it just your discipline that gets things done, or is there something else that’s driving you?

4) What’s the best way to win friends and influence people?

5) What’s the difference between success and prosperity and, if there is a difference, can you have both?

 

Did They Practice?

snareI taught for five years at the Armed Forces School of Music. You can provide a student with the instrument, the curriculum, the encouragement and every resource and facility they could possibly need or want…

But did they practice?

Today’s Socialist / Activist wants to insist that every student is a studio quality musician. They believe that if the government provides a Concert Grand Marimba or Yamaha kit, the sounds coming from those two mediums is going to be exceptional.

But that’s not the case, because the hardharger in question doesn’t know the difference between the Musser Grip or Matched Grip and couldn’t tell you what it is to prep and kick a big band.

They didn’t practice.

So, the government takes another step and adjusts the definition and the standard of a “studio musician.” Now you don’t have to worry about the metronome or the key you’re in. Just hit something and you’re going to be applauded.

Still doesn’t sound good. They didn’t practice.

So then they say the audience needs to adjust their musical sensibilities and criticizes anyone who doesn’t give a standing ovation for what amounts to a performance that is fundamentally lacking. Excellence is demonized and anyone who has worked and prepared is categorized as corrupt and guilty of having somehow exploited others in order to get to a place where they can deliver a quality performance.

And then it gets even worse.

That Socialist now comes back to you and me and insist that we change the way we grade and the way we teach. They introduce an “approved” curriculum in the name of “equality” and “compassion.”

But what if they don’t practice?

Here’s what happens…

You have a paradigm in place now that processes everyone according to their “group identity.” However they practiced doesn’t really matter – it’s not what an individual strives to achieve or fails to do. Rather, all absolutes are now dictated by the Socialist – they “achieve” equality by changing the Standard by which excellence is gauged.

And, inevitably, that Standard includes Truth and even God Himself.

In this country, the issue is rarely whether or not you have “opportunity.” Saying college is impossible is not true. I can testify in that my father went to prison my senior year in High School – there was no money for higher education. But I was able to complete my degree while serving in the USMC. It’s not whether or not you “can,” as much as it’s about whether or not you “will.” And that doesn’t mean it’s easy, but to twist what’s difficult into a form of systemic oppression is to adopt a disposition that is as cowardly as it is nonsensical especially when every systemic criteria you would point to as being responsible for an individual’s situation is inevitably revealed as an emotionally packaged strategy to distract from the one question that Socialists in this country will not tolerate…

Did they practice?

Being Wise and Not Just Aware

COVID-19-Card-3Here’s my problem…

It’s a common tactic for a guilty party to assault the character of a person who’s asking some direct questions they don’t want to answer. The idea is to distract people from what’s inside the box by getting them to focus on the packaging. (Mk 9:38-39).

At this point, I’m not interested in “facts”- the packaging –  as much as I’m interested in “truth.”

What’s inside the box?

And it all boils down to some basic questions – questions that are often buried beneath a new round of statistics that seem to be designed to intimidate rather than inform.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

#1) Where did the virus come from?

Was it a natural phenomenon that originated in the wet markets of China or was it manufactured in a lab? If it was manufactured, why?

#2) Who benefits from this virus?

Is there money to be made from vaccines? Can it be politicized in way that benefits a particular political party? Is there room for corruption and has that impacted the way this virus has been presented to the public?

#3) How many COVID-19 deaths are fatalities that were actually caused by Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome?

In order to die because of the virus, you have to choke on your own fluids (ARDS). Many fatalities are being documented as Coronavirus fatalities when the cause of death was pre-existing health conditions. Why? Every day we hear about the “death toll.” How can that number be ethically published if it’s not a true reflection of what the virus is doing?

#4) Is your immune system being strengthened or weakened by withdrawing from society?

Is remaining in your home or wearing a mask every time you go out in public helping you or hurting you in the long run?

#5) The medical advice we’re being given is justified only if you’re focused on a handful of heavily populated areas in the US. Why?

Over half of the counties in America have not had a single COVID-19 death, yet we’re all being advised according to the some of most unhealthy and crowded areas in our country. Why?

Regardless of how we move forward, these are some of the basic questions that need to be answered. The fact that those answers are not being volunteered let alone published is bothersome, especially when the only news you ever hear is what justifies yet another wave of panic and more justification for greater government intervention.

Dr Fauci and whoever else with comparable credentials, you have the floor…

 

God’s Definition of Success

whiteboardI was stoked! I was listening to an excellent teacher deliver a sermon on the discipline of meditation. He elaborated on the word “hagah,” which is the Hebrew word for “meditate” as it’s found Joshua 1:8:

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Josh 1:8)

While it’s interpreted as “to meditate,” it also is used to describe the contented growl a lion makes as it consumes its food.  The idea being that you’re not just studying content as much as you’re enthusiastically embracing what you perceive to be something that’s going to make a huge difference in the way you process yourself and the world around you as well as in the way you perform.

I had memorized this verse a while back and when I first came in contact with it as something that immediately resonated as a Biblical mandate to pursue a standard of excellence in all things at all times – something that’s reinforced throughout the Word of God.

And what’s so motivating about all this is that when you make a point of ensuring that everything you do, think and say merits the Divine Stamp of Quality that we’re all commanded to strive for, the benefits are both practical and profound.

  • Joseph was an amazing administrator (Gen 39:23). The warden knew it and so did Pharaoh (Gen 41:38) and they both attributed Joseph’s ability as being the result of the Spirit of God.
  • Moses was able to accomplish all he did because of the way God worked in and through him (Dt 34:10-12).(Joshua was given the spirit of leadership and wisdom – again, it was the Spirit of the Lord (Dt 34:9).
  • Gideon lead an incredibly successful military operation against the enemies of Israel because of the way the Spirit of the Lord directed and empowered him (Jud 6:34).
  • Samson was able to tear a lion a part with his bare hands because of the Spirit of the Lord (Jud 14:6).
  • David defeated Goliath and became king of Israel because the Spirit of the Lord “came powerfully” upon him (1 Sam 16:13).
The ability to produce wealth comes from God (Dt 8:18). The wisdom necessary to keep your priorities in line (Matt 6:33), to administer, to lead, to prosper and succeed – all of this comes from God.

Some might want to argue that there are plenty of examples of individuals who have done very well for themselves and could care less about Christ. But their success still comes from God whether they want to acknowledge Him or not (Job 21:16-17; Ps 73; Prov 21:1; Dan 2:21). And however they may seem to have it going on, theirs is a house of cards measured by a collection of goal posts that never stop moving (Ecc 5:10).

Fact is, life is measured by more than your business card and your bank account. If you want to be both prosperous and successful, you best bet is to align yourself with the One Who offers wealth without tension (Prov 10:22; Is 26:22; Lk 12:20), love without compromise (2 Sam 12:8; Prov 5:18) and power without pride (Jud 7:2; Zec 4:6; Phil 2:13).

Who wouldn’t want to sign up for that?

But here’s where it can be both disappointing and frustrating.

The speaker’s content is building to a crescendo and he’s got the attention of most of the males in the room right up to the point where he qualifies Joshua 1:6 by saying that by mediating on God’s Word you’re able to realize…

What?

The military strength of David and Gideon? The sanctified pleasures described in the Song of Solomon? The status, position and abilities of Joseph? The ability of Christ to stare down an entire mob determined to kill Him (Lk 4:30)? The craftsmanship of Bezalel (Ex 36:1)? The money making work ethic described in Matthew 25 (see also Dt 8:18)? The kind of talent that earns you the attention of kings (Prov 22:29)?

Remember: All of this comes from the Spirit of the Lord. The things that a man uses to define himself based on the way that he was created – his reputation (his name [Gen 5:2]), his occupation (Gen 2:15) and his appeal (his bride [Gen 2:22-25]).

But what does the speaker say?

He says we meditate on Scripture in order to realize…

“God’s definition of success.”

At that point, most of the guys in the audience that probably exceeded a couple thousand people all checked out.

A lot of times, “God’s definition of success” assumes a life that resembles the caricature of Christ Who is portrayed as a celibate pacifist who is broke, weak and quiet.

Rather than acknowledging Him as the Creative Agent that invented romance and intimacy (Gen 1:27-28; Col 1:16), it’s assumed that because Jesus didn’t have a wife and a family, celibacy therefore equates to righteousness. You may be more independent than someone who is unmarried (1 Cor 7:32-38), but you are not more righteous than your married companions. And while Paul provides a biblical endorsement for those who choose to be single, both Genesis and Song of Solomon makes it abundantly clear that a healthy marriage is a Divine Institution and sex is something that God created as something to enjoy in the context of healthy relationship between a husband and wife.

Industry, creativeness, ambition, wisdom – these things were deployed by multiple individuals throughout the Scriptures and the result was both profitable and profound. Making money only becomes a problem when profit takes precedence over Principle. The Bible tells of numerous individuals who were wealthy. Piety is not synonymous with poverty any more than abundance equates to corruption. When Christ said, “Blessed are the poor,” He was not congratulating those who were impoverished, nor was He suggesting that a nominal income was something to be pursued. He was assuring that those that society had labeled as cursed because of their meager cash flow were just as qualified to receive the Kingdom of God as their wealthy counterparts. The bottom line is, and always will be, obedience (Josh 1:8; Dt 28:1-14; Rom 12:1-2; Col 3:23). When your commitment to excellence is based on your work environment and / or your paycheck, your performance is subject to fluctuate should either one of those dynamics prove to be less than inspiring. But when you’re looking at your Redeemer as the One who both justifies and empowers your personal best, the results are both consistent and substantial – the kind of results that motivate employers to promote to a position of greater influence and with that greater compensation.

No, Jesus didn’t fight nor was He here to lead an armed rebellion. But His Purpose was to destroy the thing that prevented mankind from being able to rate the perpetual favor of their Creator. To do that, He had to voluntarily and willingly submit to a death that was as excruciating as it was humiliating. He had access to the military of Heaven and would’ve been both Just and Moral had He chosen to use it (Matt 26:53). Violence is only wrong when it’s deployed in the context of something sinister. When it’s utilized to either protect or advance something noble, that’s heroic and you see that throughout the Word of God.

Wealth, Violence and Sex are all well within the sphere of godliness when they’re engaged according to a holy paradigm. They can be easily twisted, however, into something dark and even lethal. While it’s easier to adopt a legalistic approach and dismiss them altogether as sinful, that is not the approach that is expected in the context of a saving relationship with Christ (Rom 8; Titus 1:15). We have both the responsibility and the privilege of recognizing the opportunities represented by being obedient. God’s definition of success is not a specific dollar amount or any one particular victory as much as it’s a mindset that looks beyond tangible trophies in order to live out a holy existence that facilitates the character and the ability that produces BOTH spiritual maturity and material blessings (Matt 6:33; Jn 10:10).

Christ is not a means to an end. He is the Filing Cabinet and not one file folder among many. Nor does He represent a “spiritual” line item that somehow cancels out the consequences of poor decision making. He is, rather, True Muscle, True Love and True North.

What If…?

bible-with-boots-on-colorWouldn’t it be great if there was a resource out there that got your entire congregation genuinely interested in studying the Word of God, spending time in prayer and being genuinely engaged and not just present when it came to church attendance?

I want to believe that what I’m getting ready to propose could do just that.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…

You’ve been leading long enough to know that campaigns and strategies rarely deliver when it comes to facilitating an enduring commitment to spiritual maturity.

I know.

But let me ask you a question: If you were to create a billboard that promoted a relationship with Jesus Christ and you couldn’t reference heaven or hell or how Jesus helps you with your problems, what would that billboard say?

Most people find it hard to come up with something right out to the chute. Intuitively, they know there’s more to Christianity than just a “go to” Resource when you’re at the end of your rope. But conventional church culture typically predicates everything it does in terms of evangelism and discipleship on the assumption that you’re in desperate need of Divine Assistance.

And we are.

Anybody with even a rudimentary knowledge of God’s Word can reference Romans 6:23 and John 15:5 as far as our being destined to eternal damnation and the fact that, apart from Christ, we can do nothing.

But more often than not, that’s where our “marketing” stops. And while it’s absolutely needful to recognize our spiritual and practical destitution apart from our Redeemer, it’s just as crucial to embrace the Purpose, Peace and Power He makes available to us that’s designed to be applied in a way where we reek of excellence in everything we do, think and say.

Everything.

If you were to apply Colossians 3:18 in the way you perform at work, you would be more than the kind of person an employer would hire…

You’d be the kind of person they would promote.

Second Corinthians says that God is able to make available to you all that you need so that you can knock it out of the park in “all things at all times.”

Salvation was never intended to be relevant only in the context of your funeral arrangements or as a Divine Emergency Kit. You want to be on top of your spiritual game so that at the end of the day, you’re…

  • …not just smart, you’re wise
  • …you’re not just busy, you’re productive
  • …you’re not just moral, you’re excellent

You’re the kind of person people want to work with and work for. You light up every room you walk into and it’s not because of who you are but because you’re given the One Who lives inside of your free reign over every aspect of your life.

Do you see where this is going?

Christianity is not just playing defense where you’re constantly bracing yourself for the next temptation or the next attack. It’s about moving the ball down the field, putting points on the board and not being satisfied with merely being “nice,” but being stronger, deeper and better than you could ever hope to be on your own.

And that is how you get the masses fired up about reading the Word of God and drawing nearer to their King! You show them the Practical Result of Discipleship so they’re perceiving prayer and Bible Study as invitations and not just obligations. Show them that billboard that has things like…

  • Prepare to Win
  • It’s All Good
  • He Will, He Can, He Does and He Is
  • More Than You Know
  • On Your Feet

And mind you, this is not a “prosperity gospel!” In the end, it’s not about you. It’s about Him in and through you and it’s that ever increasing desire for more of Him that translates to a greater degree of excellence in the way you perform, the way you speak and in the way you think.

And that’s what Muscular Christianity is all about.

It’s not just fitness. It’s a paradigm.

We’re not looking at diet and exercise as yet another means by which we can gratify ourselves. We’re establishing a Source of Inspiration that motivates us beyond that point where we would otherwise make concessions.

We’re making a point of ensuring that everything we do, think and say rates the Approval of our King and that’s going to apply both to the gym and to the dinner table.

We’re going to surround ourselves with Accountability Partners and in that way deploy a Biblical strategy that applies to every discipline we engage and not just our workout schedule.

And we’re going to pop the hood on the Word of God and get to a place where we can explain what we believe and why we believe it. We’re going to develop a perspective that intentionally blurs the lines that would otherwise distinguish the sacred from the secular and we’re going to unpack the Reality that says we become and we accomplish so much more when we realize that it’s not about us and it’s all about Him.

You ready to do this? You want to fly solo or do you want to do this in a group setting? You want to kick this off with an introductory session, or how about a Sunday morning service?

Click on any of the links for more information.


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You Are Responsible For Your Actions, But…

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Good Will Hunting | “It’s Not Your Fault”

I’m a firm believer in that you are responsible for your actions, You can play the victim card as convincingly as you want, but in the end if you do the crime, you do the time.

But…

There are a couple of videos that make me weep because I see in them a sinister seed that takes root in a young person and it just grows and grows. It never stops sapping the life out its host and it surfaces in behavior that is as nonsensical as you can imagine.

That’s part of what makes the actions of a punk or a thug so hard to process. You want to understand what it is that drives them so you can better refute their argument or talk them down off the ledge before it gets ugly.

But you’re not going to “figure them out.” Because lurking in the shadows, a million miles away from the situation, yet close enough to hear it breathe is a monster that started out as a seed but is now a fully matured beast that whispers lies and smiles as its victim just goes along with what it says.

It’s just like math.

I’m talking about Dads who abandon their sons and daughters.

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Kelly Clarkson | Piece by Piece

I was listening to Larry Elder being interviewed this morning. He’s called every name in the book by the Black community because he insists that the biggest problem facing African Americans today is the rate at which the single parent family is growing. And by “single parent,” I mean a single mom because Dad has moved on.

And it’s not just the Black community, it’s everywhere. And Dad doesn’t have to be gone, he can just be absent in the context of being a loving, selfless father who places the needs of his family above his own.

It doesn’t sound that significant, does it? We live in a society where the headlines are constantly touting the idea that there are no real absolutes. Homosexuality, Transgenders, the Rule of Law – even the idea that a person is responsible for their actions – is constantly undermined while the notion that man is his own deity is aggressively promoted.

You won’t hear it articulated that way, but that’s the bottom line.

And it sounds good! No restraints, no consequences, no responsibilities. Just your passions and the ever ready excuse that you’ve been somehow denied or violated is poised on the tip of your tongue with a thousand reporters and activists ready to agree with you and publish your story on the news.

Of course you’re responsible for your actions and there are moral Absolutes. Yeah, Jesus did die and He did come back to life so the Bible is not merely the topic of some debate show that wants to sell you on some garbage that says the Middle Ages equates to the gospel.

But put all that aside for a moment and take a moment to appreciate the fact that there are some truly tragic souls walking around today. Whatever their disposition may be, as far as their politics or their definition of social justice, there’s that “seed” that was planted several decades ago and there’s no way you can ignore it and there’s no way you can separate it from their rhetoric or their behavior.

A solid father figure is irreplaceable. However noble or effective a woman may be as a single mom, there’s a gap in a person’s psyche that is designed in such a way where the only thing that can authentically fill it is a responsible, loving father.

It’s that person that’s going to love and encourage you. He’s going to set an example and he’s going to show you what strength and honor looks like. He’s going to be a reflection of your Heavenly Father and it’s the combination of your mother and your father that you’re going to embrace the Truth of Absolutes and benefit from the way those Absolutes provide a psychological and emotional foundation that will allow you to love yourself and others.

There are no substitutes.

And this nonsense that says it’s all about being happy and that you can create your own game board and play however you want?

Well…

Happiness is more than a mood. And if everything you’re depending on to make you happy represents a collection of goal posts that never stop moving, then you’ll never be happy. You’ll just be distracted.

And as far as making up your own rules?

If Jesus had never died and come back to life, you might have a point. But the Resurrection qualifies everything. If you’re going to be truly happy, you have to follow the instructions on the box. And that’s not another list of rules and restrictions as much as it’s a couple of quality guardrails that prevent you from driving off into the gutter and getting hurt.

And the thing is, you know all of this. Deep down, you see the stars in the sky, you see the evidence of Something and Someone greater than yourself but there’s a hole in your heart that aches and it’s hard to believe that there can be a happy ending to virtually anything because you’re caught up in a plot where where the monster seems to always win.  You’re just so accustomed to it that you don’t think about it until something triggers a memory. It could be a song or maybe a scene from a movie where art suddenly becomes a shaft of light that shines on the beast and you’re reminded of how all that should be in place is desperately absent.

And it hurts.

A therapist can’t fix it and a good cry isn’t going to settle it.

It’s only the problem solving, life transforming Power of God’s grace that changes the way you see yourself and the world around you that breathes new life into your heart and the monster that was looming large in the corner…

Is gone.

Here’s the thing: In some instances, life is a lot harder than it needs to be because of the Dad that was never there. But you do have a Father in Heaven and the more you know Him, the more you can take what would otherwise be an ever present mountain of pain and let it go.

Weakness is exchanged for Power, fear is exchanged for courage and angst is exchanged for true and enduring peace.

And while the memories are still present, there is now an eternal Perspective that allows you to process it and move on rather than be crushed by it and never heal.

You are responsible for your actions, but…

Before you attempt to assume responsibility, take attendance. Look to see if that monster is present and tell him that his lease is over and he needs to leave. He’s not going to listen to you, but he will bolt the moment you invoke the Name of Jesus and allow the Power of the One Who put you on the map to begin with cure, solve and heal all those things that would otherwise weigh you down and ultimately destroy you.