Do we care about having our sins forgiven?

During a time of his ministry where Jesus was actively healing lots of people, a paralytic was brought in. Of course, the expectation is that Jesus will heal the man and he will walk again. But what Jesus says catches him off guard.

So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” Matthew 9:1-2 NKJV

Here is a guy that has been paralyzed for who knows how long, being told of the amazing healing that Jesus is doing in others, probably excited and nervous, wanting to be healed but not completely sure if this is all true or not. And then Jesus says to him, “be happy! Your sins are forgiven.”

I wonder what that man’s thoughts are at that moment. The story goes on to tell us what those around Jesus are thinking, but not this man.

Was he excited? Or was he bummed that he couldn’t walk? Maybe this whole thing was a fraud, or maybe God just didn’t want to heal him.

We don’t know what he was thinking, and can’t really speculate, but I bet his response was completely dependent on this man’s view of his own sin. And this is where we can take a lesson and apply it to our own lives.

If this man saw sin as something that “everybody does,” a part of every day life that, yeah, maybe it sucks, but we just have to deal with it because “I’m only human” then he was likely disappointed at this news that Jesus shared. Sin can be seen as a bit of an ephemeral thing, something we know happens but don’t see the effects of so we don’t take it seriously. And since “everyone does it” we assume it’s a normal part of our daily lives and move on. In this case it is only our physical needs that we really care about. “Who cares about my sin! Just make me walk again, that’s what matters!”

On the other hand, if we see sin as God sees it–as a horrible act of disobedience that severs our relationship with our creator–then at that moment we would break down in joy. Our sin has been forgiven! That which should never be forgiven, that which can never be made up for, is gone! Who cares about physical healing, or if we will ever walk again, or have perfect health. Our relationship with God can be restored! Isn’t that an amazing thing?

You can tell a lot about a person’s spiritual health by how they treat sin. If sin is something they tolerate and are okay with, then something is wrong. The person is spiritually sick. But if sin is something that they hate, something they want no part of and are eager to give up, that person will be shown mercy from God.

He who covers his sins will not prosper,
But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. – Proverbs 28:13 NKJV

Yes, we are all sinners, and will continue to sin until we shed these bodies, but sin is not something we are to tolerate as believers. We have been set free and saved from sin, not so we can continue living in that filth, but so we can experience redemption and a restored relationship with God, our father. It isn’t just about being sorry we sinned, or sorry we got caught, but wanting to forsake sin completely!

Not Good Enough to Talk to God

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t pray or help someone out spiritually because you’re not living as spiritually as you think you should?

I recently overheard a conversation where one person confessed that he doesn’t pray anymore because He isn’t as close to God as he used to be. He feels that God isn’t going to listen to him because he is not doing what he knows he should be doing.

You might think this is silly, but I can completely relate.

There are times in my life when I feel like I’m being a strong Christian. I’m reading my Bible daily, praying constantly, and fasting regularly. I’m doing everything a “good Christian” should do and avoiding any obvious sins. It’s in these times when things are going well that I feel closest to God. I feel like God and I are best buds. I talk to Him and He listens, because I’m being such a good little Christian.

But those times only seem to last a few months. Before long I end up going down the same road as before. I stop reading my Bible, stop praying, and fasting is way out. I start fighting temptations more often and I get argumentative with my wife for no reason or start spending money selfishly putting us further in debt.

During those times in my life I know I can’t help others spiritually. Why would anyone listen to a failure who can’t even follow God for more than a few months at a time without sliding back into a worldly routine? Praying will be pointless because there is no reason God should listen to me. People want help from those who have been in their situation and overcame it and God only listens to those who are following Him in everything. Right?

In those seasons where I feel spiritually strong I know God will, of course, listen to me. Need prayer? Come to me! I’ll help, because I’m close to God so He listens to me. Need spiritual advice? Come to me! Because I’m reading the Bible daily so I have special insights and can tell you exactly what to do.

Because I am awesome enough that I can draw close to God. It’s all about Me.

I’m a puny spotted sheep in a flock of other puny spotted sheep thinking that I have an inside relationship with the Shepard because for once in my life, I’m actually doing what I’m told.

How arrogant can I be?

In 2010, I was going through one of those spiritual valleys. During this time I felt overwhelmingly called to write for ETM again and to resurrect this ministry.

Immediately my response was to say “NO!” How could I possibly tell others they should follow God when I wasn’t even doing it?

That’s like someone telling me – an un-athletic, overweight, couch potato – to go play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche! I would quickly be found out to be a fraud and would do nothing but humiliate myself and the team.

In the same way, I can’t possibly represent God or help others when I’m in my spiritual couch-potato mode. If I wanted to play on the team then first I need to start an intensive training regimen.

Only after getting back into spiritual shape by reading my Bible daily and doing all of the things I know I should do, would I even be able to consider trying to help others or be used by God. Only then will I be strong enough to… to go help God? Because the creator of the Universe who has infinite power and wisdom, He, really needs me and my spiritual beefiness.

God didn’t call me to start a spiritual weight training routine, He called me to write. Not later, but right then.

When we are spiritually strong we tend to get prideful. Pretending it is our own ability that makes us close to God. We feel like we can lead others to follow God closer because “look at me, I did it!” We tell others how we are following God and encourage them to do the same things we do.

But this attitude is an offense to God. We have to realize that all of us are horrible sinners before God. None of us are good (Romans 3:10), all of our best works are nothing but filthy rags.

But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭64‬:‭6‬ NKJV)

Casting Crowns gave some good imagery for this verse in their new song “All You’ve Ever Wanted” they sing:

But all my deeds and my good name
Are just dirty rags that tear and strain
To cover all my guilty stains
That You already washed away

All of our good deeds are dirty before God. During those times when I’m feeling strong I’m really just dressing myself up in filthy, oily, blood soaked rags and acting like I’m wearing a tux. And then I approach God to show Him how amazing I look in my rags.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭1‬:‭4-5‬ NLT)

The only reason I can ever be spiritually strong is because God gives me the ability to be. It isn’t about me taking spiritual steroids and weight lifting to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s about me, being a quadriplegic and being strong only because God is my Iron Man suit. It’s all about Him. I am nothing.

God wanted me to write for ETM, not because I was good and in a position to lead others, but because He wanted to use me. I was to write because He had things to teach me. I was to write because He wanted to speak to others through me.

It’s all about God. Our works don’t make us a better Christian, only God does that.

When you are in a spiritual slump, don’t stop yourself from praying. That’s when you need to pray the most and when you are the most honest with God. A prideful and arrogant heart that thinks it deserves God’s respect is in fact disgusting to God, while a humble heart that recognizes it’s need for God brings Him honor.

A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭29‬:‭23‬ NKJV)

It’s never about us and our ability to follow. It’s all about God.

Have you ever used the excuse that you are not spiritually strong enough to avoid doing what God is leading you to do?

Should Christians celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden?

Big news has hit the media, Osama (or Usama) Bin Laden is dead. With that news people are rejoicing a lot. My facebook page is flooded with messages celebrating the death of the Al-Queda leader.

But personally, as a Christian, I have mixed feelings on it…

Which leads me to ask, is it okay for Chrisitans to celebrate the death of Bin Laden?

Why all the celebration in the first place?

The first thing that needs to be asked, is why is all the celebration happening in the first place?  Osama Bin Laden is the leader of a terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, according to the FBI most wanted poster.  For this reason, I think it is a good thing that Osama was taken out. This is not to say that this will stop or even slow down terrorism, but the fact that someone who would take the lives of innocent people, or command others to take lives, overwhelmingly shows that such a person must be stopped.

In the Old Testament we even see God ordering the death of the unjust and declaring judgment on those who are against God.

Because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you. (Proverbs 1:25-26)

Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her! (Revelation 18:20)

As the Lord took delight in doing you good . . . so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. (Deuteronomy 28:63)

So yes, the celebration is called for.

Does Osama deserve Hell?

Now for the tough question which I am sure will stir a lot of emotions up, but bear with me for a minute.

Does Osama deserve hell, any more than you or I?

Our instinct is to declare “Yes, he does! I am not like Osama, I am not a terrorist!” but that is side-stepping the question.  Osama committed horrible crimes against humanity, and for that he was dealt punishment by human hands. But when it comes to acts against God, you and I are no better off than Osama.

Every single time you or I tell a lie, look with lust, hate someone, or covet what we do not have, we are committing a sin against God.  Romans 3:9-20 states:

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
10 As it is written:

“ There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
13 “ Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;

“ The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “ Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “ Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “ There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

When it comes to our standing before God, we are all guilty. The only reason we have been forgiven, is completely because of the works Christ did on the cross, and completely because God called us. Not because we are any better.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. – Romans 3:23-26

We need to be careful when we try to pass judgment on someone eternally. We should be praying for our enemies and hoping for their repentance more than trying to destroy them.

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? . . . For I do not pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live. (Ezekiel 18:23, 32)

So yes, we are thankful that a terrorist can no longer harm others and thankful for the American troops who did their job to stop this criminal who acted against humanity, but at the same time we should be sorrowful that another person must spend eternity in hell. And no matter how much we think that person deserves hell, we must stop and realize that we, you and I and our loved ones, deserves hell just as much as Osama Bin Laden.

How Should Christians Deal With Suffering?

WHY WE AS CHRISTIANS MUST SUFFER

John 16:33 – This world is full of suffering, we are not exempt. Suffering is a sign that we are alive.
1 Peter 1:7 – Tests our faith to prove it is strong and real faith that gives glory to Jesus.
James 1:3 – When faith is tested Endurance can grow.
Proverbs 3:11-12 – God, being our Father must discipline us to show his love for us. Discipline is a sign of his love.
Hebrews 12:7-8 – God disciplines his children, we are his children.

WHAT SUFFERING DOES TO US
James 1:4 – Develops perseverance.
Perseverance – perseverance = makes one steadfast.
Steadfast = firm in belief, determination, or adherence : LOYAL.