Aug 21

A Great Return on Investment

Anyone who invests is always looking for the best possible return on their investment. No one wants to invest hard earned money into something that is going to lose money. In the same way, before we decide whether or not we want to do something, in our minds we do a calculation on what will I get in return for what is being asked of me. This is generally how we decide whether or not we want to do something. We seldom think of it this way, but we say things such as, “I want to make sure it is the right thing to do” or “I don’t want to waste my time.” Those are cost-benefit analysis statements. By the way, we should really ask ourselves those types of questions. We all have a limited time in this life, and we want to have a maximum impact. Therefore, we have to make hard decisions about what will I give my time to, and what will I not? We see this cost-benefit analysis in the life of the disciples as well. Jesus had just had a conversation with a rich young man, who was only willing to follow Jesus to the point where he was comfortable. He wasn’t willing to sacrifice what he had to follow Jesus. This leads Jesus to teach about how difficult it is for those who trust in their riches to be saved. One important note, Jesus didn’t say it was wrong to be rich. Rather, He said it is wrong to trust in those riches, especially when it comes to your eternity. Peter then declares what he and the disciples have left in order to follow Jesus. Here, Peter is essentially asking, what are we going to get for what we gave up? Jesus’ reply was, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time–houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions–and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).

In response to Peter’s question about what would they receive in return for following Jesus, Jesus gives him an incredible return on investment promise. Jesus is saying, you really won’t be giving up anything of real value, instead you will be gaining an inheritance and a whole new family. Now, to be fair, Jesus did also warn the disciples here that it wouldn’t all be a bed of roses. He said that for following Him they would receive persecutions. However, in light of what they are receiving, even the persecutions are worth it. We can hold on to the things that we have in this life, and one day lose them as well as our eternity. Or, we can hold on loosely to the things of this life, and cling tightly to eternity with Jesus and gain both now and in eternity. No, these verses are not proof of the prosperity Gospel, which says God wants you always to be happy, healthy, and wealthy. Again, Jesus said this was going to cost the disciples, as well as you and I something. So, when we choose to follow Jesus what do we get that is greater than anything we could have on this earth? We get Him! We become a child of God, with His power living inside of us, His presence always with us, and assurance of all the promises He has given to us. What makes following Jesus worth everything in this life is Him. There is nothing we can do on our own to deserve a relationship with Him. There is nothing we can do to earn it. It is something given to us by His grace, and it is something that we can never lose. All the things in this earth are here today and gone tomorrow. However, as God’s child, we will always have Him and that is something that money, fame, education, or good works can never buy. That makes it the most valuable thing in the world.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Aug 20

Don’t Let Them Discourage You

I am a huge fan on baseball. I played many years, I have done some coaching, but now I am just a fan. There has been a lot about the game that has changed, especially recently. Change sometimes ruffles the feathers of some. One change in baseball that has ruffled feathers is the showmanship of some players. I tend to chalk it up to a different culture and youthful exuberance. I won’t say that I like it all, but I will say that seeing these players personalities and their love for the game is enjoyable. Two nights ago, we saw a change that has happened and immediately the “unwritten rules of the game” argument was thrown out to tamp down the way a particular player plays the game. For the record, I think some of these “unwritten rules” are ridiculous, and the one supposedly violated by Fernando Tatis, Jr. is one of those I classify as ridiculous. I won’t bore you with the details of it, but Tatis, Jr. simply did what he is paid to do. Immediately people were calling him out, including his manager after the game. Tatis, Jr. handled himself very well in the press conference calling it a learning moment and promising he will do better. While I respect him for respecting his manager, I’m saddened to see a youthful player’s excitement for the game tamped down.

In today’s text, there was a man who was blind. He was sitting by the road, probably like he did every day, trying to beg for money or food just to survive. On this particular day, he hears more of a crowd, more of a buzz being generated. When he asks a passerby about what is happening, he is informed that Jesus is walking down the road. Immediately, this man begins to shout, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” To the crowd this was undignified, and so we see an exchange between the man and someone in the crowd recorded in Luke 18:39, “Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!'” The crowd thought that Jesus wouldn’t have time for blind beggars, so they wanted to silence him. However, this man would not be silenced. Even though this man couldn’t see, he saw Jesus’ true identity while many who could see what Jesus was doing missed who Jesus truly was. The title “Son of David” is an Old Testament reference to the covenant God made with David that the true ruler of Israel would come from the line of David. This blind beggar was saying that Jesus was the promised Messiah sent from God. He never saw the miracles Jesus performed, up to this point He never heard a sermon that Jesus preached; yet this man knew who Jesus was. This verse is one of many that show that those that God calls will respond to Him.

I wonder if we see ourselves as this blind beggar, as someone who desperately needs Jesus? Do we know that without Jesus’ healing and help, we are in a dire situation? Are we willing to act in a way that some consider undignified in order to praise our Lord and Savior? For far too long, people have been told in church to keep their problems to themselves. I grew up in the era when the two things you never talked about were religion and politics. I understand how both can ruffle feathers, and cause contention. However, it is only as we admit our need that we will receive the help we desperately need. By sharing our weaknesses, it also opens up the door to publicly praise the Lord Jesus when He answers our desperate cries for help. This world doesn’t need Christians who act like they have it all together. This world needs to see Christians who admit their weaknesses, cry out to Jesus, and then praise God for His goodness, grace, and mercy. Don’t let people discourage you from admitting your weaknesses. Just make sure that you are just as vocal about telling how God has worked in your life as you are in talking about your need for God to work in your life. In our weakness, God’s strength is revealed, and God can be glorified. That is what we desire. Therefore, let us shout, “I need Thee every hour” and shout how Jesus has answered our cries and been our ever-present help in time of need.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Aug 19

A Little Leads To A Lot

Years ago, Lay’s potato chips can’t out with a genus slogan, “Bet you can’t eat just one.” It was genius because it throws down somewhat of a challenge of our willpower, but it is also brilliant because they are stating how good they believe their product is without being in your face about it. The truth is, Lay’s is right, we can’t eat just one. I know there is scientific evidence that shows that because potato chips are a dry food, it takes more of them to fill us up. That is why we start out saying we are just going to eat a few, and then when we finish taking out hand out of the bag, half the bag is gone. They are so good, and just a few won’t do, so we keep going not realizing what we are doing. There is something else that is that seductive. It is sin. Jesus in Luke 16, speaks of a particular sin. He speaks of the sin of unfaithfulness. Luke 16:10 says, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”

One character trait in humans that can either be good or bad is ambition. Ambition can drive us to work hard, and to strive to achieve things that most people won’t even attempt. However, ambition can also lead people to cut corners and take unnecessary risks that bring great harm. Speaking as a pastor, I don’t know a single pastor that doesn’t want to see the church they lead grow. There is nothing wrong with desiring God to bless the fruits of ministry as long as we understand it is His church, not ours, and we go about seeking the growth in God-honoring ways. The problem in the business world can also be a problem in ministry, in that you are judged by outward success, and in a desire to be seen as successful you may give in to the temptation to cut some corners to get the results. However, in doing that you are truly cheating yourself. You are missing out on seeing the faithfulness of God move in your life and give life to the church you lead. There’s a reason that God put a prohibition on a pastor of not being a new convert. Pride can very subtly creep in and derail a ministry and the minister. I heard Pastor Robby Gallaty say one time, “the only ability God is looking for in you is your availability.” It’s not about the size of ministry that you lead, it is about your faithfulness to God, your calling, and your family in the ministry you are called to lead. I had a professor say, “the assignment God gives you will match your character.” You may be tempted to think, “I don’t lead a ministry so this doesn’t apply to me.” However, I would say that you are very, very wrong. Pride and ambition are two things that lurk just below the surface in all of us. We must constantly ask God to check our hearts and reveal any unholiness in us. Whatever God is calling you to do in your life is no small task. You may never write a book or speak at a conference, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. Our faithfulness to God and His calling is a matter of stewardship. How are we using what He has given us to glorify Him and point others to Him? Don’t focus on where you want to be or think you should be. Start with where you are, and ask God to help you be faithful to Him right there, and then trust Him to move you if and when He desires to.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

Posted in Through The Bible in 2020 | 1 Comment
Aug 18

What Am I Missing?

Have you ever been doing a task and felt like you were missing something? You couldn’t figure it out, but something just felt or seemed off? This is how a rich young ruler felt who came to Jesus one day. The young man comes to Jesus and asks Him, “what must I do to have eternal life?” That seems like a good question to start off with doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it gives us a window into the young man’s heart. He thought salvation was about what he could do. To expose this, Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. When he asks which ones, Jesus gives him what are known as the horizontal commandments. The horizontal commandments speak of the Ten Commandments that deal with our relationship with other people. Here was the young man’s response, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” The young man’s response is very telling isn’t it? He was saying how he was treating people the way he was supposed to. If salvation was about what we do, shouldn’t he have felt secure in his salvation? But he doesn’t. He is saying, “I’m doing all those things but I still feel like something is missing. That was Jesus’ point. The young man didn’t love others the way he claimed he did. Proof of that was in that when Jesus told him to sell what he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him, the young man was unwilling to do it. Jesus exposed something in this young man that unfortunately is true for many people.

This young man “loved” Jesus right up to the point that it was going to cost him something. My guess is you have been in a relationship with someone like this. They “love” you, and everything is great until they have to sacrifice something for the relationship. Then what happens? They give up and walk away. That is exactly what this young man did. True love requires sacrifice. We know this because of Jesus’ example and His teaching. Our love for Jesus should mirror Jesus’ love for us. It requires us dying to our own desires, and instead desiring to do Jesus’ will. Our love for Jesus requires us to sacrifice our comfort to fulfill His commands. By the way, it’s not a sacrifice if it doesn’t cost you something. If we are honest, we change Isaiah’s words around. The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6 is having a vision of God in His glory and on His throne. Isaiah says that he hears the voice of the Lord saying, who shall go for us? Isaiah says, “Here am I, send me.” However, a lot of times our response is, “Here am I, send them.” We are ok with following God up to the point that He asks us to do something hard or something that we don’t want to do. Yet, true love sacrifices for those we love. Our love for God is also seen in our mindset of being a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we submit ourselves to God, we are relinquishing all control over our life. In this, God is glorified and our love is demonstrated. Is something missing in your walk with God? How is God asking you to demonstrate your love and obedience to Him today? What is stopping you from doing it?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Aug 17

Are You Seeking Him or His Hands?

Have you ever had a “friend” who only seemed to be your friend because of what you could give them or do for them? I think we have probably all had at least one friend like that in our life. Then, we would be able to understand at least partially what Jesus is saying in today’s text. The text in John 6 takes place the day after the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 men; therefore, it was probably a crowd between 10-12,000. Jesus and His disciples had gone over the sea of Galilee to the city of Capernaum. The next morning, the crowd is looking for Jesus, but they can’t find Him. So, they got into boats and came to Capernaum themselves. There they found Jesus. Despite their flattering words to Him, Jesus diagnosis why they were so desperate to find Him. Jesus says in John 6:26, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you at the loaves and were filled.” Jesus was saying they came looking for Him, not because they believed He was the Messiah, but because He could feed them. He could give them what they wanted. The problem is, they didn’t see or desire what they truly needed, what Jesus, and only Jesus could give them. This is why Jesus begins to teach what is commonly referred to as the “bread of life” sermon. I had a professor point something out about Jesus’ methods years ago, and I have never forgotten it. We were studying this text, and he said, “Have you ever noticed what Jesus does every time the crowd following Him gets big? He pulls out one of His hardest teachings, and that instantly thins the crowd.” His point was that it wasn’t Jesus was against big crowds following Him. Rather, He wanted them to know what it meant to follow Him. He knew it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. Being a disciple of Jesus was going to cost them something, in reality, it would cost them a lot. What about us? Do we know that?

Following Jesus today is the same as it was when He walked on earth. Being His disciple is going to cost of us something. He says in Luke that we must be willing to die to ourselves, take up a cross daily, and follow Him. In Matthew, Jesus says that we must be willing to lose our life for His sake in order to be His disciple. Those are hard words to hear sometimes. Unfortunately, they are not words that permeate much of the teaching we hear from pulpits these days. What we are used to hearing is this easy-believism, false Gospel that says Jesus wants you healthy and wealthy. This false Gospel says that if you come to Jesus, everything will be fine and life will be great. What we see is that this false Gospel isn’t something new. That is the exact thing we are seeing in the text. The people coming after Jesus were only doing so because of what He could give them. They wanted blessings in their life. They didn’t want to have to worry about anything. Yet, Jesus tells them how they can come to Him, but He is also clear on what it will cost them. I think it is worth asking ourselves, why do I love Jesus? Is it for who He is or is it because of what He can give us? Maybe you are wondering, how could I truly know the answer to that question? We can know the answer by how we react in difficult times and seasons of life. Anyone can love God when things are going well. Anyone can obey God when things are going well. The real test, the real proof is seen in our love and obedience when life is difficult. Do we still love God and obey Him, when doing so causes us to go against the culture of our day? Do we still love God and obey Him when it costs us friends or relationships? That is when we begin to see why we love Jesus. I want to encourage you to spend some time today or this week examining your relationship with Jesus, and answering the question based on concrete evidence of your life. It may be painful, but there will be blessing even in the pain, because God will reveal the truth to us. Why do we love Him?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Aug 14

Sitting in the Correct Seat

Very few things are as embarrassing as going to an event, struggling to find a seat, only to end up sitting in the wrong seat. I would like to say that I have never done that, but I can’t. For someone who is already shy and socially awkward, things got a whole lot more awkward when that happened. Fortunately, the person was very gracious, and since I was supposed to sit in the seat next to them, it wasn’t too big of a deal. As strange as this may sound, Jesus has something to say about sitting in the correct place. It was a teaching moment given by Jesus to some people who had invited Him to a meal. The Pharisees, as usual, were trying to trick and trap Jesus. I can see the scene in my head. Jesus is sitting at the table talking with the guests, and the Pharisees are on the other side of the table at the opposite end. They are whispering to each other as they give looks of disapproval towards Jesus. Then, Jesus begins to speak. He doesn’t start off by talking to the people in general, instead Jesus zeroes in on the Pharisees. He asks them a couple of questions, to which they don’t want to apply. Having successfully stopped their whisperings, Jesus begins to teach those at the table. Now, I won’t say that it happened 100% the way I have it in my head, but many of these things are facts as given in the beginning of Luke 14. As Jesus is teaching those there He says, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). He may not have been talking directly to the Pharisees, but they knew Jesus was referring to them. Jesus then begins to talk about when you are invited somewhere, make sure you don’t assume the guest of honor place, because you might be asked to slide down when the real guest of honor shows up.

Jesus wasn’t specifically talking about choosing the right seat at the table, as much as He was talking about an attitude of our heart. The Pharisees were all about appearances. They expected the best seats, the proper greetings and respect from the people, and to be treated as someone important wherever they went. They wanted people to be impressed by their education and ability to pray these long prayers and quote a great deal of Scripture. While we should be able to commune with God in prayer for long periods of time, and we should be diligent about studying, meditating, and memorizing Scripture; it shouldn’t be for show. Jesus was consistently teaching about the need for humility in our lives, and guarding against wanting people to know what we could do or have done. The Bible is clear on it’s teaching of pride when there are verses in it such as, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” in James 4:6. In fact, you could argue that the original sin in Lucifer and then in Adam and Eve was pride. We could take it a step further and say at the heart of every sin is an issue of pride. A belief that what we wants is all that matters or that we know what is best for us. Earlier in Luke 14, Jesus taught that people with that attitude were going to miss out on the kingdom of God. They would miss out on the kingdom of God, because they were already the king of their own temporary kingdom. Again, Jesus was clearly talking to the Pharisees at that meal.

Humility is often something that is difficult for us to explain, because when we start to think that we are humble, that is actually revealing some level of pride in us. Humility is an attitude of our heart. It is a recognition that life isn’t about me, that I was created by a sovereign God, and I was created for the purpose of glorifying Him. Humility is choosing to not demand the rights that you have, but instead deferring to someone else. Humility is choosing to serve, when it would be acceptable for someone else to serve you. In a word, humility is Jesus. The apostle Paul describes humility in action when he describes Jesus in Philippians 2:6-8, “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” What is interesting is how Paul picks up on what Jesus had said in Luke 14 in Philippians 2:9, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.” I would say that two words from Philippians 2:6-8 that sum up what it means to live a humble life are the words, servant and obedient. Again, this is about our attitude. We are not expecting someone to serve us, even though maybe we are in a position where it would be normal for someone to do that for us. Instead, we look for ways to serve others. We willingly relinquish all of our rights in a sincere desire to obey Jesus. Is that where you heart is? Is that your desire? How can you use your position or authority or things to serve others, and to obey God? That is what it means to be a humble servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what we should all be aspiring to achieve.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Aug 13

Being Intentional

Are you a planner or a “fly by the seat of your pants-er”? Ok, so that last word isn’t really a word. Are you a planner or a spur of the moment person? Everyone who knows me will quickly tell you, I am a planner. Some might say that I am an over-planner if there is such a thing. There is nothing wrong with either option, it is simply a matter of how you are wired as a person. Sometimes, being a planner makes me too rigid. As I have said and even written here before, if you want to fluster me, change my plans. However, sometimes being a spur of the moment person causes you to miss some important details. Therefore, the best option is to be somewhere in the middle of the two.

One thing that I love about Jesus is that everything He did was intentional. He didn’t waste time, but He also didn’t do something just for the sake of doing it. We see this in John 4, in what would be a mind-blowing event for the disciples. John 4:3-4 says, “He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria.” You and I see those region names, and we don’t really get it. We don’t really understand the significance of the fact that the text says Jesus had to go through Samaria. Hopefully a little context will help. Judea was south of Galilee. The most straightforward route between the two regions was directly through Samaria. However, the Jews and Samaritans despised each other. Therefore, if a Jewish person was traveling to Galilee from Judea, they would circle eastward and go through the area of Decapolis, and then swing back into Galilee. Why did the Jews and Samaritans not like each other you ask? It dates back to Old Testament times. God had told the Jewish people not to marry outside of the Jewish race, because the non-Jewish people would pull the Jewish people’s heart away from God. They would influence them with their false gods. By the way, they didn’t listen and God was proven right. Samaritans are actually Jewish people; however, they aren’t counted as 100% Jewish because centuries before this event, they married outside of the Jewish faith. Remember, Jesus was a Jewish rabbi. His disciples were Jewish. They would have grown up indoctrinated with the belief that they were superior to Samaritans. Can you imagine what must have been going through their mind when their Teacher went directly into Samaria? I imagine it like when Mufasa took Simba up on Pride Rock and showed him all his “kingdom.” Simba saw some places that were in shadows and asked about those, and Mufasa quickly told him that he must never go there. Sorry for the Lion King reference, that may only make sense to a small portion of you. Why did Jesus “have” to go to Samaria? It wasn’t because it was the shortest, most-direct route, even though it was. It was because Jesus wanted to show His disciples that the Gospel wasn’t just for the Jews. The Gospel was for everyone, even Samaritans.

One thing that has been dominating the headlines for months now is racism. I know things have been worse in this country, but that was before my lifetime. Therefore, I can honestly say that this is as bad as I have ever seen it. Whether it is racism, sexism, or whatever -ism, it really is prejudice, or what the Bible would call favoritism. It is a belief that you are better than someone else for some superficial reason. While we may not want to admit this, most, if not all of us have displayed some form of favoritism at some point in our life. As much as we would like to think this isn’t the case, we don’t always treat everyone the same. This is something that is as old as time, it is part of the sin nature we all inherited from Adam after the fall in Genesis 3. It doesn’t make it right, we certainly cannot tolerate it, but we also can’t act like it doesn’t exist, or as though only other people have this problem. When we “judge a book by its cover” we are guilty of favoritism. When we have two different reactions to the same treatment because one person who did it is a friend, and the other isn’t, that is favoritism. Maybe you are wondering, what then is the answer?

The answer is simple. The answer is Jesus and the redemption offered through His blood. Nothing less than this is going to rid the world of racism, sexism, and all of the other -isms in the world. All forms of favoritism is the fruit of a poisonous tree. That poisonous tree is our own personal sin nature. It is because we have a diseased heart, and only a new heart will cure the disease. No amount of “medicines” like trying harder, learning from each other, or re-education programs will fix this. It may put a temporary band aid on it, but it will not cure it. Only the shed blood of Jesus Christ applied to our life, and the Holy Spirit transforming our heart, mind, and mouth will fix this.

But this really isn’t what I wanted to write about with respect to what we see Jesus doing, though it may be the more important of the messages in this post. My original intent was to talk about the intentionality that Jesus shows in pursuing those who are far from God. He could have sent someone else. He could have bought into the beliefs of His day and avoided Samaria. But the love of God and His mission compelled Him to go where no other Jewish person would. Isn’t it amazing at the love that Jesus shows someone considered an outcast? By the way, this Samaritan woman wasn’t what people would consider a “good” person. She was on man number five. Yet, Jesus’ love for sinners and His mission of seeking to save the lost, sent Him to Samaria to this particular woman. So, the next time that you feel like you have gone too far or done too much for God to love you, I want you to remember this Samaritan woman. Other people may overlook you or write you off, but the sovereign God will not. To my brothers and sisters in Christ, are we this intentional? Do we see beyond the exterior, the superficial to the true need of a person regardless of who they are or what sins they may be committing? By the way, let’s not forget what sinful ditch Jesus found us in. Are we willing to go where others aren’t to reach those that Jesus desires to save? If we are truly saved, we will have that desire. Where is God sending you? It doesn’t have to be around the world, though it might be. It could be across the street to that neighbor that is difficult. It could be across the city to a place where the people living there don’t look like you. The point isn’t where will God send you, the point is will you in loving surrender say as Isaiah said, “Here am I, Lord, send me”?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

Posted in Through The Bible in 2020 | Leave a comment
Aug 12

Whom Shall I Fear?

A few years ago, Chris Tomlin put out a song titled the same as this blog post. It was a song reminding us as Christians of who is fighting for us. I don’t know Mr. Tomlin, nor do I know his thought process behind the song, but I imagine it was at least slightly influenced by today’s biblical text. The text talks about who we should truly fear, and who we should not be afraid of. Jesus said in Luke 12:4-5, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” Jesus goes on in the next couple of verses to say that mankind is even more valuable than the rest of God’s creation. This is because only mankind is created in the image of God. It is also because, it is for mankind that Jesus suffered and died. However, I believe we need to take time to truly understand what Jesus was saying in the text.

Right not in this country, there is a lot of unrest. There are daily reports of riots and violence. Many governments have been overreaching their given power, and when challenged they threaten punishment to get people back in line. This is not going to be a post about the place and power of government. In fact, what I have said is as far as I’m going down that road. The main point is that we should have a genuine fear of God. All man can do is threaten, torture, or kills us. I don’t say that lightly. However, that is Jesus’ point. Humans only have power over things on earth, God is the only one who has power over the eternal. While we are on the subject, it is truly God who has the power over things on earth as well, because He is sovereign. Nothing happens in God’s creation without God’s knowledge of it. When we think of the word “fear”, we think of something bad, something terrifying. The word certainly does carry that meaning at times. If you were to look at the Greek word used for fear, it is where we get the English word, phobia. However, the word also carries with it the idea of awe and reverence. In this sense, our reverence would lead us to obedience. I would argue that this is what Jesus is getting at in this text. The one that we have the greater respect for is the one that we are going to obey. Do we have a greater respect for human authority or God’s authority? Jesus is telling us that we should obey Him, because He not only has power over this life, but also power over eternal life. This is a power that no one else has. Why should we be afraid of someone that can never give us what we need nor can they take it away from us? Later in the chapter, Jesus talks about those who confess Him before men and those who refuse to confess Him before men. We can’t be closet Christians out of fear of what some may think of us, or what they might even do to us. If we truly love Jesus, then we will obey Him regardless of any potential consequences. This is one of the reasons that I believe God is giving the church as a whole an opportunity to shine the light of the Gospel and to be salt in our nation during this pandemic. Are we going to choose to live in fear, or will we live by faith knowing that God is in control of every aspect of our life, including the time of our death? This doesn’t mean that we act irresponsible or reckless. The Bible says that we are not to tempt the Lord our God. But the church also can’t cower in the corner when our faith runs contrary to the popular opinion of the day. We must boldly, yet lovingly and graciously stand up, and speak out on what the Bible teaches. Of course, this also means that we better be living it out, because the world will spot a hypocrite from a mile away. Now is the time for the church to lead the way by loving God more than we enjoy the comfort of this life. Maybe you are wondering, how can we do that?

  1. Prayer. If we really want to see lasting change in our lives, our family’s lives, and the nation; then we are going to have to be men and women of prayer. Remember, we are not fighting a visible war. Rather, we are fighting an invisible war according to Paul in Ephesians 6:12. We must daily pray for those who are far from God, that He will convict them, draw them, and by His grace save them. We must pray that we would have the courage and conviction to lead our family and to be a witness to those around us of the power of the Gospel.
  2. Living the truth. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep My commandments.” James 1:22 says, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” I could list many more scriptures about the role of obedience, but hopefully these make the point. People need to see Christians living according to the way Christ taught us and showed us how to live.
  3. Speaking the truth. There is a famous quote that is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. The quote is, “Preach the Gospel always, use words if necessary.” For what it is worth, there is no proof he actually said it. Second, it’s flat wrong. While our obedience will give evidence to the fact we have been saved by God; our obedience will not tell someone how they can surrender in faith to God’s grace. The apostle Paul in Romans 10:17 says, “So then, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” The previous verses, Paul says that God has sent us to proclaim the Gospel. How can I proclaim the Gospel when my mouth is closed? The answer is you can’t. We have to open our mouth and share the Gospel. Not only do we need to open our mouth and share the Gospel, but we need to also be vocal on biblical principles. By the way, we can’t just cherry-pick the ones we like or don’t struggle with. Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” Isaiah didn’t say, “Woe to those who only call some things evil.” If it goes against Scripture, we must speak up. The principles that should guide our speaking up are: prayer, humility, grace, logic, reason, and boldness. Nothing will defeat your argument before you make your first point like speaking like a crazed lunatic. Being loud doesn’t equal passion. We need to be humble enough to listen to the person, and respond in grace. At the same time, Christianity doesn’t mean that we check our brains at the door. It is logical and it is reasonable. This is why Paul tells us to always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks about the hope that is inside of us. We also need boldness to stand on our conviction, even if it isn’t popular. This goes back to the beginning of the post. Who will I lovingly obey? The world of Jesus?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

Posted in Through The Bible in 2020 | Leave a comment
Aug 11

Teach Carefully

As a father to four kids, I have become aware that my kids are always watching, and they are always listening. Sometimes, I have learned that lesson painfully. It can be argued that today’s text, is Jesus addressing not only the disciples but also condemning the Pharisees for their “do as I say, not as I do” attitude. But I would also argue that this is aimed at us as parents, and as Christians as well. Jesus said in Mark 9:42, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.”

Jesus is teaching His disciples about what it means to live like a Christian. He is also giving them multiple warnings in the chapter about sin, and the seriousness of sin. I can’t state this enough, parents, we are always teaching our children. Not just when they are young, but even as they have grown, they continue to watch and listen to how you live. Not only is this true of parents, but it is also certainly true for all Christians. Not only are the unsaved watching and listening to see if our walk matches our talk; but new Christians are watching and learning from us as well. Therefore, it is imperative that we vigilantly watch our walk with the Lord, because we are always influencing people. We are either influencing them for Christ or away from Christ. When you and I sin publicly, it doesn’t just hurt our relationship with God, and our witness for God. It can also potentially lead someone down the wrong road. They can see what we do or say, or even what we don’t do or say, and they can emulate our actions, and thus, fall into sin themselves. Before you start thinking that it all relies on you, we need to remember that God has given us the Holy Spirit to live inside of us and help us live a life that glorifies Him and draws others to Him. Therefore, don’t try this on your own. Instead, pray each day asking the Holy Spirit to guard your heart, eyes, ears, mouth ,and life and that He would help you point others to the soul-saving, life-changing Gospel.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

Posted in Through The Bible in 2020 | Leave a comment
Aug 10

If You Are So Good At It, Do It Then

Have you ever met someone who is an expert at what you are doing, or at everything so they claim? My guess is, we have all run into that person before. Unfortunately, it is probably true that at one point or another, we have been that person to someone. In sports terms, we call that person an “arm chair quarterback/coach.” They are the person watching on tv, who could absolutely do the coach’s job far better than the coach can. They exist in every line of work, not just athletics. It’s really easy for us to get upset, or sometimes even offended at this person. Sometimes, in our frustration we lash out, “if you are so good, then you do it.” Praise God that Jesus is more patient with us, than we often are with other people! There was a time in which the disciples forgot where their power and abilities came from. My grandpa would say, “they go too big for their britches.” Jesus had to lovingly, but firmly remind them of a truth, that I think we all could stand to be reminded of from time to time.

The disciples had gone out and done ministry as Jesus told them to. God had given them great success. When they came back, they were astonished at all they had accomplished. In another Gospel account it says, “they came back saying that even the demons were subject to us.” They were amazed. Whether, it was genuine shock or pride, I’m not 100% sure, and I certainly don’t want to throw shade on the disciples unnecessarily. However, here in Luke, Jesus seems to use this as a teaching moment, which leads me to believe they may have had some pride going on. Jesus was trying to take the disciples away. In today’s terms, we would say for a de-briefing session. You know, talk about what went right, and what could be improved on. However, a crowd started following them. This provided Jesus with a great teaching opportunity. Luke 9:13 says, “But He said to them (the disciples), ‘You give them something to eat.’ And they said, ‘We have no more than five loaves of bread and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.'” Remember, they had come back bragging about all they had done while out on ministry. Certainly, they would are able to then feed the crowd right? However, in that moment all they could see was their own inadequacy. They were no longer the disciples who had accomplished so much; they were the disciples who had a problem that was too big for them to fix. I would argue, that was Jesus’ point. We see this theme of needing to depend on Jesus throughout Luke 9. In fact, the chapter ends with Jesus teaching about the cost of being His disciple.

I think we need to really step back and ask ourselves, what was Jesus trying to show the disciples, and how does it apply to us today who are His disciples? I think the answer is pretty simple, we must depend on Him for everything. If we are able to accomplish something of eternal value, it isn’t because of who we are, or how gifted we are. It is because the power of the Holy Spirit is living inside of us, and working through us. We need to learn to depend on Jesus for everything. Jesus teaches on this in John 15, when He talks about Himself being the vine, and we are the branches. By themselves, the branches can do nothing to produce fruit. It is only as they are connected to the vine that the branches have life and what they need to produce their fruit. The same is true for you and I as Christians. It is only as we depend on Jesus, and allow His Spirit to work in us and through us, that we can accomplish anything that glorifies God. It’s really simple to become prideful, and think when things are going well, “look what we did.” However, it isn’t what we have done; instead, it is what God is doing in us and through us. This message flies in the face of what society tells us, and unfortunately, too often in ministry we can have a worldly mindset instead of a godly mindset. Think of those who get book deals or get invited to speak at conferences. They are the people who have large churches or are very successful. The world says, those are the people we should strive to be like, and we should emulate what they are doing. However, we aren’t called to look like the world or other Christians. We are called to look like Jesus, and to be dependent on Him for everything. I personally think that sometimes God allows us to get into situations that are way above our heads, to remind us that He is God, and that we need Him, not the other way around. There’s a reason that the Bible says in James 4:6 that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. One group thinks, look what I’ve done for God. The other is thankful that God saved them in the first place, because they know they are unworthy. Which group are you in? I know it is exciting to see great things starting to happen in ministry, and it is great that we share it with others. Let’s just make sure that we are giving glory and honor where it is due, to Jesus Christ.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

Posted in Through The Bible in 2020 | Leave a comment