The Gospel: Getting Back To What Matters

Please understand that these words come from a place of brokenness. The words that are on your screen are something that I am still working through. My prayer is that we can come together and work through these things together as a family.

I am a bible college student. Being at bible college is a lot like being at any other college. We tend to hate our lives, eat sleep for breakfast, utilize coffee as a meal, procrastinate on all of our assignments, and all the other things that go along with the pain that is higher education. There are some differences though. For instance, when we gather around the couches in the library with our soul cleansing coffee, we don’t have typical college student conversations. Instead of talking about the latest sport event or the latest development in Hollywood, our conversations go kind of like this, “So, do you ascribe to Federal Headship? What about supralapsarianism? What about sanctification? Monergism v. synergism? Do you believe in a limited atonement? Who limits the atonement? Free will or irresistible grace? Calvinist, Arminian, Traditionalist, Pelagian?” These are the typical phrases you’ll hear around us theological nerds. Now talking about this stuff is fun. I love getting deep in to a conversation about our faith. But more often than not, at least one party will leave those discussions saying this word: “Heretic.” A heretic someone who believes in or practices a religious heresy. Now more often than not the person that was called this is in fact not a heretic. They just simply stated a view on a specific doctrine of the faith that differed with someone else’s.

A trend that I’ve picked up on (and has been brought up to me) is the fact that these doctrinal conversations tend to be what our conversations are fixed on. “Our” being us young theologians. We tend to spend all of our time debating others on their doctrinal beliefs. And something has just been rustling within my soul these past few weeks and I’ve finally been able to put it to words. What I want to do is deviate from all of this talk about who does what, limited atonement, man’s free will, and all of that stuff. Let’s just talk about the beauty that is simply the Gospel.

I’ve been stuck on this phrase, “I got saved” or “Christ saved me” or however you want to word it. I don’t think we define well enough for new believers, or heck even old believers. We simply say it and move on. We treat it like it was some cool event in the midst of other cool events and leave it at that. Someone will come forward during an altar call, “get saved,” we affirm them by clapping, dude will get baptized, and that’s it. We don’t illustrate the impact of the decision being made. We just pat them on the back, tell them good job, and load them up with church membership classes. Also, we have a ton of people who have been in our churches for so long that they, as a friend of mine would say, “…look like they’ve been baptized in pickle juice.” It’s also as if they’ve lost the joy of their salvation! And I think it’s because they were never properly informed of the joy because there was never any real time spent on it. Christ literally died to save us. That’s something worth spending time on. So, that’s what we’re going to do. Starting with  the severity of the situation.

Look in Genesis! We had everything we could have ever needed! But we still chose to rebel against God and man died spiritually (Genesis 3). Man had everything he ever needed and still chose to rebel against God. And from then on out it only got worse and worse. Our trespasses grew even more rampant and in severity. Murder (Genesis 4:8), incest (Genesis 19:30-38), adultery (2 Samuel 11), the list goes on and on. Time and time again we rebelled against the perfect creator who gifted us with life and we blasphemed His name, belittled His glory, and thought our ways are better then His ways all while doing so with the brain He gifted us with and the air He breathed through our lungs. The biggest slap in the face ever. We. Were. Dead. In. Our. Transgressions (Ephesians 2:1-7).  There was nothing, absolutely nothing we could do to bring ourselves back to where we used to be. And God, being a just God, couldn’t afford to let sin go unpunished. He cannot contradict Himself. There had to be a penalty paid. God is just, but He is also love (1 John 4:8). We all know John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” He SO loved the world. He didn’t just love it, He SO loved it. There’s an indication of the massive volume of love that God had and has for us. In that love, He sent Christ. Someone who was perfect, blameless, selfish, a servant, everything that we are not. He sent His only begotten Son…and crushed Him on the cross. He poured out His wrath onto Him and killed him. He became sin who knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). While we were still yet enemies of God (Romans 5:8), God demonstrated the greatest act of sacrifice and mercy ever in the history of creation. If that doesn’t move you, then I don’t know what will.

But there was beauty in the tragedy.

Christ arose from the dead! REJOICE! He resurrected! Through that resurrection we now have hope, our only hope! We’re offered forgiveness! When God looks at us He no longer just sees us, but Christ in our place! Our slate has been wiped clean! It no longer matters if we cussed or didn’t cuss, drank or didn’t drink, did this or didn’t do that, because Christ paid for those sins in full! When I say we don’t have to worry about them I mean that in the sense of they will no longer condemn us to hell. We no longer have to worry about the false idea of making our way to heaven on our own strength and we no longer have to worry about dealing with sin on our own. We don’t have the power to do so. We don’t possess the power of life over death. Christ does. We can’t resurrect anything. Christ can. He’s won that victory. Through that victory, we are able to receive the Holy Spirit who enables us to be convicted of our sin! He helps us become more and more Christ-like each and every day! He helps us put sin to death in our lives! We get to be adopted into the family of Christ! God calls me His child! We get to be co-heirs with Christ! He seals us with His Holy Spirit and we get to dwell with Him forever! The Holy Spirit dwells within us! Let me say that again, THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST, THE SAME POWER THAT IS AT WORK IN RAISING THE DEAD IS AT WORK IN ALL WHO BELIEVE! How freaking amazing is that?!

This, my friends, is what we need to be focusing on. I love unpacking our theology in full with brothers and sisters in the faith. But if I am not continually blown away by the fact that God, who owed me absolutely nothing, saved my life then it’s time for me to get out of the ministry and get out of the Gospel’s way. Because when I encounter people who are suffering, dealing with hardship, on their last thread, and looking for salvation then the last thing they are going to care about is the extent of the atonement. They’re going to care about the sacrifice and resurrection of the One who made the atonement possible. We don’t always have to explain all of our deep theological concerns – just tell people what Christ did for you.

I leave you with this bomb quote my friends. God bless.

wesonlyhope.jpg

 

Carry Your Brother

lending-a-hand-photo

I want readers to know that the words you are reading come from a place of brokenness. The things that will be discussed here are things that this bearded Christian still struggles with. My prayer is that we will be able to assist each other during this process.

The topic that I wish to discuss today is one that I believe plagues the church. It’s something of a disease that runs rampant in all of our lives. And it’s putting a cap on who we are as the church. It’s the topic of burdens. But first I would like to paint you a story.

There’s a man named Rick. He’s at church every week. He serves every week. He’s fun, he’s the life of the party. He’s the first guy there and the last to leave. But all of a sudden, you start seeing less of Rick. Time goes by and eventually you don’t see him at all. You decide to call him up to find out what’s going on. After talking with him, you find out that he had tons of questions concerning God, his faith, and things of that nature that he just couldn’t answer. Ultimately he became discouraged and decided that he wouldn’t come back to the church until he could work things out for himself. Nobody knew.

There’s a beautiful married couple, Steven and Michelle. They’ve been married for longer than some couples have been alive. Steve’s a great guy with a ton of advice and Michelle is always ready to lend a hand wherever it is needed. All of a sudden you start to only see one of them at a time. They’re never together. This goes on and on. You finally get the gusto to ask one of them about the situation. They reveal that they’ve been separated for months and are on the tail end of a nasty divorce because there were things they thought they just couldn’t get past. Nobody knew.

And then there’s Tommy. He’s grown up in the youth group at your church. He loves Wednesday night youth services, thinks the youth pastor is the next big thing, and loves going to all of the social events that are offered. Tommy graduates and starts the great and scary adventure of college. On his breaks when he returns home, he’s never at church. People worry, but they don’t seem all too concerned. Finally, the youth pastor that Tommy though was the bomb diggity takes the initiative to call. Come to find out, Tommy no longer believes. He no longer believes that there is a God. He says that the church made sure he had fun while in youth group, but they never made a case to prove and live like God exists. Nobody knew.

The worst part of all 3 of these (fictional) stories is this: nobody knew. Nobody knew that these people were having struggles, doubts, insecurities, and the list goes on. Nobody took the time to ask the simple question, “How are you really?” They were left to carry their burdens alone. While the 3 stories above weren’t real, the problem is. Let’s look at a passage of scripture that I think can begin to help us out:

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2

Let’s first establish that bearing one another’s burdens is a biblical concept. We cannot work our way around that. So, the writer (Paul) is informing the Galatians of this important practice. He sets the stage. There is a brother who has transgressed or sinned. What do they (we) do? For those who are “spiritual,” for those who are in Christ and have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside, are called to restore the brother who has transgressed. How? Gently and cautiously, so that others will not be ensnared by the same sin. Now, this statement goes way against what the legalistic Judaizers of that day would say. They probably would have judged the brother harshly. “Do the crime, pay the time” kind of mentality. But Paul rebukes that idea. He commissions his brothers to, when they see a brother who has transgressed, to restore him! Instead of leaving him where he is at, they should make an intentional effort to bring that brother back to proper fellowship. Heck, he takes it further. He says to “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” He says to get up and go in to the desert that your brother is struggling through and help him carry his load. Get your hands dirty. Heck, seek out the opportunity. Now the context of this passage is speaking on carrying the burden for brothers who have sinned and need restoration. But it certainly does not stop there. We can carry each others burdens in all aspects of life.

So why don’t we do this? Why don’t we practice this biblical concept? Because let me be very blunt and very clear about not carrying each other’s burdens: it’s dumb. It’s idiotic. Here are a few reasons why I think we don’t tell people about our burden’s and why we don’t try to carry each other’s.

1.) We’re individualistic and crave security.

We as people are very individualistic and we crave security. We only want to rely on self because we know that we have our own  best interests at heart. Having to rely on others means we have to relinquish some form of control over to them. We have to do that trusting that someone else will take care of us, keep us safe, and have our interests at the forefront of their minds. That’s scary to us. And being scared is the exact opposite of feeling secure. We build up walls around ourselves in order to maintain a sense of security because we’re afraid to feel vulnerable.

2.)We’re afraid to be vulnerable.

Being vulnerable means that we have to let our guards down and tear down the walls that we have constructed. It’s saying, “I am weak and I cannot do this alone.” We hate that! We absolutely loathe having to admit that we cannot handle something on our own! It’s especially hard for us men who struggle with pride. To say that I’m vulnerable as a man is hard. Which is why I am adamant about letting you all know that this is something that I struggle with daily. We hate being vulnerable and allowing other people in our lives because, more often that not, it’s going to be a messy process.

3.) We’re afraid of the mess that bearing burdens brings along.

This is something that I believe is a problem in both aspects and ties it all in. On the one hand, we’re afraid to be vulnerable and allow people in to our lives because it’s going to mean that people are going to see the mess in our lives. When I was younger and still living at home, my mom would go berserk trying to get the house clean and tidy before we had company over. Now as an adult when people come over, my wife goes in to a frenzy trying to make sure our home looks hospitable. We don’t like for people to see our mess. And on the other hand, it means that we who are going to bear a brother’s burden will have to willingly put our hands in the mess. We don’t like being dirty. If we can avoid a mess, we typically do. But this is not the life of the church. This is not who God called us to be. There are tons of people in our churches, in our families, in our lives that our struggling with things that we will never know about until we start allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and start intentionally going to people and asking them how they are and more importantly how are their souls. Because after a while, we become desensitized to the problem. We get this idea in our heads that when we’re going through a desert, that it’s okay to not talk about it. People ask, “Need prayer?,” “Are you struggling?,” “Do you need any help?” And the answer remains the same: “Nah, I’m good.” And we allow ourselves to start going through the motions. “This is the part where I raise my hands, and this is the part where I bow my had to ‘pray’, and this is the part where I go to small group and not be honest about the struggles that plaguing my soul.” Allow to be very clear once more – That’s dumb! That is not what God has called us to. We are not called to pretend that everything is alright and that the pain, struggles, and trials are something that we shouldn’t talk about. Because after a while, we become so desensitized, we pretend so much that the pretend becomes our reality. And we stay there. We rob ourselves by doing this. We rob ourselves of broken, yet beautiful conversations with fellow believers that are marked by confession, repentance, and encouragement. And even worse, we rob the church. When we refuse to engage with the rest of the body and deal with things ourselves, we’re not allowing the church to live out its purpose and therefore cause it to not function at maximum capacity. And if that doesn’t bother you then I don’t know what will. So, how do we start doing this? We know there’s a problem and we know there’s a solution, but how do we apply this into our lives?

1.) Get over ourselves.

This sounds harsh, but stay with me. We have to get over the fact that we’re not going to be okay all the time. Not every part of our lives is going to be great. Life is going to suck. But guess what! Other people’s lives will suck too! We’re not the only people who have garbage in our lives. The church has been redeemed and is being sanctified, but it’s far from perfect. So, why not be with people who are going through struggles just like us, be vulnerable together, and encourage each other? It’s okay to not be okay.

2.) Find people who are willing to listen and pray.

I have a great group of friends on campus. We just recently came to the realization that we were not praying for each other how we should. So, we decided to renew our fervor for carrying each other’s burdens. It was absolutely beautiful. We spent at least an hour or two telling each other the things that we were struggling with. And some of the things were pretty heavy. And each of us took time to pray for each other. Many of us have set reminders on our phones or downloaded prayer apps (Echo for example) to make sure that we have no excuse to not pray for each other. It is so vitally important that we find that group, a couple of friends, or that one person that we can go to and just lay ourselves bare before them in love and trust and have them help carry our load.

3.) Intentionally find people that you can help to carry their burdens.

Getting poured into is great as long as you’re pouring into someone else. We have to be willing to go to people and ask the simple question, “How are you?” And sometimes we’ll have to ask the harder questions. We need to be there for each other. We have to be willing to get our hands dirty and help each other grow. We never know when God can use our experiences and our strengths to speak life in to a brother that is hurting and going through a desert.

God bless,

The Bearded Christian

Wives: Let Him Lead

I would very much like to encourage readers to go back and read the previous post. You won’t be able to fully appreciate this piece without reading the other. It serves as a companion and this post will also help to conclude the marriage theme. Thanks!

familypicmeandtab

(Once again, I apologize for the lack of beard in this photo)

Now, last week we talked about the role of a husband. I’ll attempt to recap just a bit. A husband is, biblically, called to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.”(Ephesians 5:25)  A husband should be in the practice of dying to himself daily in order to serve his wife. There’s no longer any “me time” when it comes to being a husband. We’ve died to ourselves. We now live to nourish and cultivate our wives just as a farmer does with his land. All for the sake of the gospel. Now I would like to address the better half of all marriages: wives. You may be thinking, what gives me the right to write (see what I did there?) about what wives should or should not do? You’re right. I have absolutely no experience when it comes to being a wife. I’ve never done it. I won’t ever will. With that being said, I have brought a very special guest to write this piece with me: my very own wife. She may not have a beard, but she’s so awesome that she doesn’t even need one to write for The Bearded Christian. While I may be able to speak on the biblical model of being a wife, Tabitha will be able to do far much more when it comes to dealing with practical application. So I’m going to start us off and then my bride will take over. So, wives, let’s talk bible:

Ephesians 5:22-33, “(22) Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. (23) For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself the Savior. (24) Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (25) Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, (26) that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water in the word, (27) so that He might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (28) In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. he who loves his wife loves himself. (29) For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, (30) because we are members of His body. (31) ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ (32) This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (33) However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Taylor: Man, that is a beautiful passage. Wives and future wives, I want to stress that the husband portrayed in this passage is the husband that men should strive to be. Do not settle for less. Do not settle for a husband that is not sacrificing himself for your sanctification in order to present you as spotless before Christ. But you are also called to a submission, to a sacrifice. When we submit to God, we turn ourselves over to Him. Our lives our no longer our own. We do this trusting that God knows what is best for us-this is the same when you submit to your husband. I implore you, women of God, to have a gentle and loving spirit when approaching your husbands. Because we’re supposed to be Jesus. And we are so very far from it. We are going to mess up continually. We are going to say the very wrong thing. We’re also going to be discouraged. And your support will be so incredibly vital in order to keep us going. I don’t care what any man says, if he truly loves a woman then her encouragement is so very important to him. It means the world to him. So please do not try and step into the role that God has called your husband to. Let him do what he has been called to do. I know that with the rise of Hollywood heroines and feminist marches that the role of men has been downplayed, but as women of God you must allow your husband to be the spiritual leader in your house. Let him lead. Let him do…stuff! Let him get it wrong. Let him get lost (which is a joke because we never get lost). Don’t push him into the passenger seat. That’s not your job. Your job is much more important than that. Be a wife that draws a husband in. Let your love and encouragement strengthen. Let your love make him want to be like Jesus for you. Encourage that, trust that, and even when he is wrong, trust that. You get to portray the church, the true bride of Christ, in this gospel depiction. You get to show the world the beauty in submission. And I know it’s hard, I get it. It’s hard to submit when the world is full of a bunch of boys instead of men. But I urge you to keep the faith. Encourage your husband. Stand by your husband. Love your husband. More importantly, love Christ. Always remember that this is a window into which the world gets to see the gospel through your marriage. You, as the church, sees what your husband, as Christ, has done for you. You see the sacrificial love that he puts in to giving himself up for you. And just as the church submits to the will of Christ, you submit to and respect your husband. Not because it’s the  ‘thing to do ‘, but because you are so overwhelmed by the love that is displayed that your natural response is to submit and serve in love. Once again, none of this is easy. The false truth “happy wife, happy life” seems so satisfying. Take into account that keeping you happy is not your husband’s job. His job is to present you as Christ’s bride without spot or wrinkle. He’s here for your sanctification. So that means there will be stuff that your heart desires that may make you happy, but ultimately will not aid you in your sanctification. Your husband, in his spiritual leadership, may make decisions that won’t make you overwhelmed with happiness. Just know that he is doing what it best for you. Trust him. Submit to him. The gospel is at stake. I will now turn it over to my much better half and allow her to tell you how she works these biblical truths out in our marriage.

Tabitha: Like Taylor said, that is such a beautiful passage of scripture! When I first read it, as a “baby Christian”, I didn’t understand it at all which in turn made me not appreciate it fully. I think for all of us ladies the word submit is what stops us in our tracks and keeps us from striving to understand this passage. The word submit has been so construed by our society and been given a negative connotation.  The word submit in its original context in this passage means basically to willing give yourself over to your husband within his spiritual headship. Did you catch that ladies? Willingly! Your husband cannot make you submit to him, but you must because that is what God has commanded you to do. Why? Because being “the head of the household” is not what our society makes it out to be. My husband is the head of our house just like Christ is the head of the church. Do you know what Christ did as Head of the church? He delivered her from death, from the danger of sin, from hell itself! As Taylor is the head of me he protects me, provides for me, sustains me, and loves me sacrificially. With that being said, everyday I willingly love on my husband and encourage him. I willingly do the dishes and do my best to keep the house looking decent. I willingly cook him dinner and do the laundry. I willingly ask him how his day was and give him a kiss when he comes home from work/school. I willingly ask him before I make plans (something I’m still working on) and willingly accept his answer whether it’s a yes or a no. I willingly allow him to make all of our minor and major decisions. I willingly trust him every day to love me and serve me because I trust that God is working and moving Taylor to make decisions to glorify Himself. Taylor is not Jesus, so he does fail… a lot. I am not perfect, so I fail a lot also. But I love my husband so much that I trust that he will learn from his mistakes and that he will love me and allow me to learn from my mistakes. I love serving my husband. It brings me joy to know that he needs me almost as much as I need him.

While we serve our husbands, we must be showering them with love and encouragement. Our husbands are not perfect and whether they like to admit it or not, they need our love and encouragement just as much or maybe even more than we need their love and encouragement. While you are loving and serving your husband, be sure not to idolize him. Be sure to love and serve Christ more than you love and serve your husband, because Jesus is the one who actually died for you to live holy and blameless before God.

So, wives, we pray that you will continue to love your husbands and submit to him, as to the Lord. Be strong. Keep the faith. Love Christ.

Much love,

Taylor & Tabitha

husbandblogpic

 

 

 

 

Husbands: Step It Up

weddingselfieI love being married. The picture on the left captured one of the happiest moments of my life (I apologize for the lack of beard). I’ve been living the married life since May 23rd, 2015 (and I still have no idea what I’m doing and probably never will). It has been the most fantastic thing that has ever happened to me. My wife is the most amazing woman on the planet. There are sometimes when I am just completely overwhelmed by my wife’s love for me. I can see it in how she looks at me, how she smiles at me (I know it sounds sappy, but you can get over it). She cares so much for me, it’s almost unfathomable. She takes care of me when I’m sick, she feeds me so well, puts up with my garbage, and she just simply loves me. Without her, I honestly don’t know how I could get through my day. Marriage is just simply beautiful. It reflects the message of the gospel. Sadly, marriage has been construed in our day and age. We spout unbiblical sayings such as “Happy wife, happy life.” We don’t get it. We don’t understand it. Husbands don’t know how to be the husbands the bible calls them to be. Marriage is beautiful. Especially in light of the Gospel. Let’s look at a passage that my wife and I actually used as our wedding vows. Ephesians 5:22-33:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

My fellow brethren, verses 25 – 29 are what we are charged with as husbands. If you think that it doesn’t sound hard, then it’s a good thing that you’re reading this. Scripture clearly gives us a perfect model to go off of in order to be a proper husband: Christ. Paul says in verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” Let’s ask ourselves, what even is a husband? The English word for husband comes from the fourteenth century term husbandman which means “farmer.” A farmer is a hard worker. I, personally, have never known a farmer that was lazy. Farmers have to put in work from dawn until dusk every day of the week. It’s their livelihood. They have to invest their very lives into producing and cultivating a crop. It’s a lifetime of work. A farmer no longer gets to just be himself. He’s a farmer. He has to use the majority of his time to nourish the land that he is cultivating. Guess what? It’s the exact same way in marriage. In marriage, our wives do not exist to simply be there to “please” us. They’re not there for us to manipulate for our every physical and emotional need. Our wives literally exist to be nurtured and cultivated by us just as a farmer does with his land. That’s what a husband is. Now, as husbands, what is our specific job description? It says “…love your wives…” Sounds easy enough, right? “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” Dang. Gentlemen, we officially get to die. We get to play the role of Jesus in this depiction of the gospel. This is radical for two reasons: 1.) It’s a lot & 2.) We will fail every single day. So, what’s the “a lot?”

First off, Jesus literally (and I mean literally) died for the church. Now we are called to sacrifice our lives for our brides. This means that our flesh can no longer have a say. We’re dead. We’ve died to ourselves. This means that after I come home from work and class, that I don’t get to just sit back and have my wife attend to my every beck and call because I’m tired. I’ve died to myself. I don’t ever get to “clock out.” I am a husband 24/7. If my wife needs me I have to be there for her. If she needs me to take out the trash, I need to take out the trash. If she needs to vent about her day to me, I need to listen. If she needs a foot rub, I need to give her the best foot rub of her life. If she needs me to wash the dishes, I’ll have to pray about it first. Let’s be honest, washing dishes is of the devil. I would go so far as to say that washing dishes is a product of the fall of man. But anyways, I have to do these things for my bride. I am no longer entitled to “me time.” There’s no longer just “me.” When Tabitha and I said “I do” we became one in Christ. There’s only us. This train of thought radically changed my way of thinking. I used to be fascinated by the idea of a man cave. A sanctuary that I could use to escape the dreariness of everyday life. A stronghold that would be reserved for me and me alone. No wife and kids allowed. But after further examination of scripture and having great mentors, I saw the flaw in this. Watch HGTV. You’ll be able to tell very quickly which husbands are sacrificing for their wives. They’ll go through house after house after house, all beautiful, and the entire decision will come down to one thing: the man cave. The house will have everything on the wish list. With the exception of the man cave. This is ridiculous. Why would a husband ever require a place where he could go and shirk away from his God given responsibilities? I don’t see any biblical reason for me to have one. Any extra space I get in the future will be for my wife and our future ministry.

I’m also called to be the head of my household. The job of spiritual leader is mine. But what does being the head of the house even mean? I can tell you this, it’s not domination of the household. And it’s not God saying that men are smarter than women (it’s usually the opposite). Inside the head resides the brain (for most people). The brain is responsible for sending signals to the rest of the body for its safety. For example, when your wife throws a hair dryer at your face, your brain then sends signals to your legs to get on out the way. That’s what the head is for. It’s not just there for itself. It’s there to initiate safety. It protects the rest of the body. It takes care of it. Spiritually, I am responsible for taking care of my wife. I am the one who is supposed to lead my family to honor Christ. I am responsible for discipling my wife. I am responsible for putting on the armor of God daily for my wife. I ensure that we are connected to the body of Christ. I am responsible for modeling Christ-likeness for my wife. My goal in life is not to make sure that my wife is happy so that we can have a happy life. Leading my wife spiritually is not always going to be a happy task. We’re two human beings who are tainted by selfish sin. The majority of our lives have been spent seeking after our own interests. Then, we decided to get married and live together and be in close proximity to each other most of the day and now we have to live for each other. That’s brutal! It isn’t easy! But what could we expect based upon what marriage reflects? Marriage is this window into which we see the picture of a God who loves us so much that He sends His only Son to die. This Son, Jesus, submits Himself for these people, the church, that are wrecked by sin and he willingly dies for them. He cleanses them. What an amazing love.

There’s something else to think about. My bride is not just my bride. She’s Christ’s bride. God is merely tasking me-no-he is blessing me with the task of taking care of His bride. He gives me the opportunity to love Tabitha. And I can’t thank Him enough. How will I present Christ’s bride to Him? With spot and wrinkle? Or holy and without blemish?

I don’t deserve all of the wonderful things that my wife does for me. Why? Because most days I fail as a husband. I drop the ball so, so many times. I don’t always love my wife the way I should. I don’t always serve her the way I should. Sometimes, I just simply fail. We as husbands need to take hold of this. We will not be perfect. We will not be able to fix everything. We will never be Christ. But we must never stop trying. We have the perfect example to follow. Our greatest reassurance is in the fact that we have an amazing God who will strengthen and empower us to do the job He has called us to.

Stand strong husbands. Die to yourself daily. Trust in the Lord. God bless from me and my beautiful bride.

husbandblogpic

“A Life Worth Dying For”

As I am writing this, my heart is filled with conviction. I need readers to know that this is coming from a place of brokenness. The words that are on your screen are things that I myself am continuing to struggle with. My hope is that you and I can assist each other in moving forward. So let’s get started.

We crave security. It’s just simply who we are. We live in a culture that puts self on a pedestal. We abide in a place that screams, “It’s all about me! It’s what I want! I have to do what’s best for me! Me, me, me!” It’s the product of the American Dream. We build up a life of shelter. We ensure that we have what we need in order to be self-sufficient and then take it further and ensure that we’re comfortable. And in that comfort we sink deeper and deeper in to ourselves. We get to a point where emerging from our cocoons of safety is a foreign thought. Why would we ever want to leave them? What’s in it for us? We think, “Will I be safe and secure if I leave? Will I be promised safety? What if something bad happens to me?” Let’s refer to a lengthy, yet great passage of scripture that I believe rages against the heartbeat of our society. It’s Philippians 1:12-26:

(12) I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,  (13) so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. (14) And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (15) Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. (16) The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. (17) The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. (18) What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,  (19) for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, (20) as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. (21) For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (22) If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. (23) I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (24) But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (25) Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, (26) so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

The writer, Paul, was in a pretty dire situation. The man was imprisoned. He was subjected to societal shame. He had been taken and ripped away from any comforts he could have had. But did he sit there and pout about it? Nah. The brother went and made the best of pretty awful situation. Better yet, God took an awful situation and used it for His own good. Too often we hear teachings that promote false gospels such as those that condone the promise of “health and wealth.” I’ve heard “pastors” say, “When someone sees you with your blessing of a brand new car and your big bank account, they’ll want what you have! They’ll see God being glorified in that!” How about God being glorified in a man who has lost it all? A man who has to feed his family with a minimum income. A man who just cannot catch a break and yet still looks up and praises God for simply who He is. A man who preaches the gospel and then gets thrown in to prison. How about that? I have to stop and ponder: When problems arise, will I see them as chores or as mission/ministry opportunities? Paul’s persecutors and the others that were there came to know Christ, or at the very least heard the Gospel. Heck, those who knew Christ were BOLD in proclaiming the gospel because of how God used Paul. These were, in the eyes of man, his enemies. They persecuted him. Here in the American church, we don’t really have a true concept of persecution. Sure, we may be seeing a trend that could develop in to persecution. But we are definitely not there yet. Some view our “religious rights” being stripped away (but brace yourselves because you’re not gonna like this: what is the point in having public religious liberties and Christian governmental control if we’re not going to practice the very things we’re preaching and fighting for in our own homes and with our own families? But I digress). In reality, we’re just not as comfortable anymore. And that bothers us. As previously stated, we crave comfort. Being messed with or “persecuted” doesn’t sit well with us. The people who are doing the persecuting especially do not sit well with us. But Paul, a man who knew trials and persecutions, shared the most amazing news with his captors. How am I impacting those around me? How am I impacting my enemies?  Paul even had some, what we would call, haters. These guys were trying to slander him for some unidentifiable reason. They wanted to bring him down. But once again, did Paul care? Nah. He didn’t care about his name and his interests. He only cared about Christ being truthfully proclaimed. What interests of mine are taking priority  over Christ being proclaimed? Paul also knew that the continuation of people’s prayers for him and the work of the Holy Spirit would deliver him…but from where? For us, the logical answer is from being locked up in the joint. Was Paul focusing on the temporal or the eternal? Perhaps both. But you see Paul wouldn’t have wanted deliverance for his own life’s sake. He would want deliverance for the benefit of the churches he had planted. He would love to be in the fellowship of his brothers and sisters in Christ. He longs for them, “with the affection of Christ.” (Phil. 1:8) But Paul didn’t just want that. Paul would rather depart from this life to be with Christ. What a dude! He doesn’t even care if he dies! He cares more about his faithful witness to Christ! What do I care about most? 

Now, I want to bring us in on verse 21 of this passage. Paul: life=Christ, death=gain. Like, what the what!? Paul yearned to be with his savior. He wanted to be close to Christ! It was his heart’s desire! What do I want most of all? But verses 24-26 tells us that while his heart aches to depart and be with Christ, he knew it would be more beneficial for him to stay because he knew that the church would need him. What a call to disrupt our common culture! Live for Christ and live for others before ourselves! Sacrifice and surrender our wants and needs for someone else. Tear down our walls of security that we’ve built up and expose ourselves to a life of radical living. Heck, view dying as something to gain.

I want to live like that.

I want to have that mindset, no matter what my circumstances are. I want living to be like Christ. And when I die, I want it to be nothing else but gaining. I leave you with a lyric that spoke to me and still does, “Death is only the beginning of everything I’m living for.”- (Pariah by For Today)

God bless. May you continue to live as Christ.

 

“Merry Christmas” Is Not The Gospel

It’s that time of the year again. The temperature has dropped, the lights have gone up, the caroling has begun, and now it’s almost time for us to wake up and open presents with our families from underneath the tree. It’s Christmas folks.

Image result for christmas

I’ll admit, I love this time of the year. It’s one that is usually accompanied by family gatherings, church services, and a general attitude of joy. It is, after all, the “most wonderful time of the year.” But deep within me, there is something that gnaws at my heart. There is a deep seated issue that I see prevalent in the church of America. The issue is Christmas itself. We’re doing it wrong.

Now this is not a post that is going to condemn Christmas, speaking out saying that it isn’t biblical and it is a pagan practice. While there is no command in scripture to have a day to observe the incarnation of Christ, if you want to you are more than welcome to partake. My problem with the situation is the fact that we are taking a day and saying that we’re celebrating the birth of Christ, God in the flesh, the Savior, and then turning around and making the day about something else entirely. There are 3 main problems that I observe when it comes to the practice of Christmas:

1.) Christmas is not a battleground. 

Apparently, there is a war on Christmas. Go to your local Starbucks during the month of December and you will most likely hear this offensive and hateful saying, “Happy holidays!” (Gasp! Even worse, I hear that they have Satanic red coffee cups!) After hearing that dreaded phrase, you may hear a sharp and bitter retort that sounds something like this, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” The retort probably comes from a bitter “evangelical” who is weary of his religious rights being “taken away” and now wants to prove a point and insists on being overly hostile to anyone who says happy holidays because if he does that, then he has done his part in the kingdom of God. Guys, saying Merry Christmas is not the gospel. Going out of your way to ensure that people say Merry Christmas, regardless of their religious beliefs, doesn’t make you an evangelist. It simply makes you a jerk. The gospel is already offensive to and exposes sin. Stop getting hung up on such things and start preaching the gospel.

2.) Christ back in Christmas? How about Christ back in Christians?

My wife read that statement to me from a post she saw on Facebook. I couldn’t agree more. We are so eager to make sure that Christ is on the forefront of the Christmas charge and we use Him as a main battering ram. But when December 26th comes around, everything changes. The same people who cry out for putting Christ back in Christmas are probably (more often than not) forsaking to put Christ in their everyday lives. We cannot scream and petition for our Christian holidays to be put on the main pedestal of society once or twice a year and then not differentiate from the world the other 364 days a year. Exalting Christ is not something that happens once a year. It is the sole purpose of our existence.

3.) Christmas on a Sunday.

This year, Christmas has presented a unique problem – it’s on a Sunday. When do we have church? Sunday. This brings up the dilemma: do we have church on Christmas or do we cancel? Now, personally, I believe that we should still have service on Christmas. Because when it comes down to it, Christmas is just another day of the year. BUT in cases such as the church that we attend, it is much more difficult to make that decision. Our church does not own it’s own building. They must rent out and set up every single Sunday and Wednesday. At the end of the year, they typically do not have the building due to the busy holiday season and therefore they do not have service at the end of the year. This year, Christmas falls on the last Sunday of the year. So they are not having service on Christmas day because it would be too difficult to relocate and communicate effectively. Which, I believe, is totally  understandable. Now on the other hand, there are many churches who do own buildings and do not have to go through the troubles of set up and/or relocation. Now once again, this is personal opinion. You do not have to take my words as truth. But I believe that there’s too large of a ministry opportunity  on Christmas for the churches who can be open to miss out on. My home church, for example, has a kitchen facility. Their building was once a fully operational sports bar (now it is a Christian cafe called Cafe Agape). Their plan on Christmas day is three-fold. They are going to open up early and provide a Christmas breakfast for people who are either homeless, can’t afford to make the meal, or are perhaps lonely due to the lack of family being around. Also, they are going to give out stockings full of toiletries and hygiene supplies. In doing all of this they are hoping that those they minister to will stay for the service and see Christ exalted among the church. I think that is fantastic. What better way to celebrate Christ than to show the love of Christ to those in need?

This Christmas, let’s start doing things right. Preach the gospel. Minister to those in need. Celebrate his birth on Christmas and when the next day comes, continue to celebrate Christ. Let it become a lifestyle. Merry Christmas.

You’re A Theologian

We live in a post-Christian America.

It’s true. Whether we want to face that hard truth or not, it is still truth. Slowly and surely, biblical references and content are being taken down in the public sphere. Many are concerned about this. Some would say that Christianity is under “persecution” in American now. I would disagree, but that is another topic for another day (you’re not being persecuted, you’re just not as comfortable). While we should be concerned about the secular world’s rejection of biblical Christianity, I believe there is a much bigger problem at stake here – biblical illiteracy in the church.

The lack of biblical knowledge among secular America should not come as a surprise. As previously stated, biblical content is being stripped away from the public sphere. It should be assumed that the post-Christian America would be ignorant towards the bible. Much more scandalous is the biblical illiteracy that has arose in the church.

We have implemented this system of religion that merely allows us to go to church on Sunday, here a message from the pulpit, hopefully feel good about the message, go home, never open our bibles throughout the week and uncover its timeless truths, and then repeat the process the next Sunday. Many people believe that “God helps those who helps themselves” is a bible verse. The majority of adults think that taking care of their families is the primary goal of life. A Barna Research Group poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. People who are either about to enter the work force or go and pursue higher education sincerely believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were married. Let that sink in. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. This is a problem and it needs our immediate attention. While we revere the bible, we don’t know the bible. So often we hear things like, “Can’t I just love God and love people? It’s not about “theology” and “doctrine.” This statement sounds sincere and it may sound harmless, but in reality is it contradictory. In order to know God, we have to learn about Him. How do we learn about Him? By studying the very thing that He gave us so that we may know Him – the bible.

How do we fix this problem?

First, we establish that the Word of God is the primary building block that defines what we believe about God. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching (or doctrine), for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Secondly, we need to make “scary bible words” less scary. Most people don’t care about theology and doctrine mainly because they don’t understand it. They may have heard the words before, but they were probably never really explained to them. They remained “Christianese” terms. In reality, a lot of Christians already have a general understanding of their definitions. Theology is broken down in to simply two parts. “Theo” meaning God and “ology” meaning study of. Theology is simply the study of God. If you’ve partaken in a bible study then you have engaged in a theological study of sorts. You dove in to scripture to learn more about God. Get this – that makes you a theologian! And the word doctrine simply means “what is right.” We seek to learn more about God (theology) so we can know and teach what is right about God (doctrine). Not so scary is it?

Also, leaders in ministry, we need to start teaching our congregations: A.) that the bible is a book from God, about God and for God, B.) That scripture is not simply about them, and C.) Start teaching them how to study the bible. As a bible college student who is training for ministry, I see the importance of training up the body of Christ. I see the importance of taking what I am learning on how to study the bible and reproduce that in my family and in my future flocks.

And for the church, we need to start realizing that while our pastors are responsible for shepherding their flocks, they are not responsible for spiritually spoon feeding us like children for the rest of their lives. How strange would it look if your pastor was cradling a 30 year old man and feeding him a baby bottle? I’d be pretty freaked out. But that is what’s happening today. Too many come to church seeking their “spiritual yum-yums” but never sit down and enjoy their spiritual steak. Baby food is only good as long as you remain a baby. There comes a time when a man has to have steak. Every believer has a responsibility to study scripture and uncover its great truths.

Want to know a really cool trick? You don’t have to do it alone! An amazing part of being in the body of Christ is that you never have to go through life alone – even in bible study! Some of the greatest growth in my life came out of a season of discipleship where I was able to sit down with a great friend and mentor of mine and go through scripture together. We would meet up at a coffee shop (because we’re hipsters, we can’t help it) and would talk about life, church, and go through a book in the bible and study it together. It was amazing. It’s as simple as that folks. All you have to do is do it.

Lastly, don’t give up. It may seem daunting. There’s 66 books in the bible. It’s not a small piece of literature. But remember – this is the tool that God has given us to reveal Himself to us. Take your time. Don’t rush. Don’t get caught up in learning that you forget to worship the God you’re studying about. While this isn’t an all encompassing list of solutions, I do believe it’s a good start. And remember what a good friend of mine, Jordan Grimsley, once said,

“Biblical illiteracy steals from the glory of God.”