Archive for the ‘Christian living’ Category

On a morning and nightly basis I have a time with God where He and I deal with my sin. It’s not a long time, but it’s crucial. Last night as I laid down I asked the Holy Spirit to bring anything to mind where my heart was not right: any rebellion, any misaligned thoughts and motivations, any sins of omission (things I should have done, but refused to do.)

He quickly reveals any sin to me and I humbly lay it all down and repent. Many have the misconception that repentance is just telling God your sorry or that it’s just a one-time thing when you first get saved. Repentance should actually be a daily discipline so that our heart remains tender to God. I see Repentance as having four characteristics:

1. Confession: Whether verbally said aloud or acknowledged in the heart to God,  here repentance is acknowledging our sin before God. It’s owning it: “Yes, I did this. I’ve sinned against you when I _(fill in the blank_).”  This gets us past making excuses by either blaming someone else or our circumstance.

2. Spiritual: It’s not enough to say: “I was wrong, I feel bad, please forgive me.” Confession alone is not repentance. Repentance is truly coming to a place of removing our affections from our rebellion > hating it >betraying it > turning our back on it and walking out. It’s about seeing our sin in the light of Jesus and spiritually ripping it down from its place of prominence in our heart and putting Jesus back in HIS rightful place in our Heart.

3. Practical: So we’ve confessed, spiritually turned our back on our sin, now it’s time to reject our sin practically. If repentance is turning our back on sin what does that mean practically in our everyday lives? It means if there is anything of a tangible nature to it, we deal with it.  It can be easy for us to miss this third part of repentance and fall into the trap of managing our sin instead of killing it.

Tangible examples: Not going back to a “place” where we’re prone to sin, leaving a relationship that’s dragging you down (I do not mean a spouse here), getting rid of some phone numbers of people that we sin with, getting rid of any tangible items or resources that are an avenue of sinning. For example, let’s say that I’ve been falling into the sin of lust by watching inappropriate movies that I own. Should I keep them? Is it worth it if they’re causing me to sin? No! I trash them. Satan would love us to believe the lie that we can “repent” without having to change our lifestyle.

Listen to Jesus here:

Matthew 5:28–31 (ESV)

28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Tear your eye out???  That’s a bit over the top….right? Jesus is using a hyperbole. He doesn’t literally mean tear your eye out. He’s making an extreme statement to make a point. Be ruthless with your sin! Make war with it!

4. Relational: If in our sin we’ve sinned against another person we need to go them “own it” and ask forgiveness. This could also mean that you feel someone has sinned against you and you’re carrying an offence against them and they don’t even know it. Go to them right away. Do this in a timely manner otherwise you’ll end up making excusing and rationalizing about how “it’s not a big deal and I don’t really need go to them.” Go!

Keeping your heart tender through repentance should be a daily spiritual discipline. Allow this soul scrubbing in your life to be life giving as you turn your back on your sin and embrace the one who paid an incredible price so that you could be a new creation in Him.

What about you? What are some ways that you deal with your sin as a Christian? Would you share below?

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There are a ton of reasons you should pick up and walk away from your commitment to your church family. I’ve narrowed it down to the top 5. Be on the look out for these signs….if you see them get out!

1. Someone offended you.  At any point that you feel your feelings are hurt you should leave. Make sure you look for the subtle signs that people don’t like you: someone walking by and not saying “hi”, not being invited along with a group, not being thanked for something you did, a point in a sermon that made you feel uncomfortable, someone doesn’t notice that you weren’t at church because of the other hundreds of people in the room. If you’re offended it must be a good enough reason to leave. Go with that emotion.

2. You don’t “feel” like you’re being fed. This is really important. You need to purposely forget that your pastor is moving a large group of people from across a wide spectrum in their faith experience to maturity. Make an effort to avoid other discipleship opportunities like Life Groups and classes. It’s completely understandable that you would blame your pastor for your lack of discipline in feeding yourself the Word during the week. Make it a point to have a view that it’s really all about you instead of investing in helping others around you grow.

3. Your Son or Daughter isn’t happy there. In today’s child centered world this makes sense to leave your church if you’re child says they don’t want to go. What’s great about this one is it gives you an opportunity to model for your kids what you should do when something is not done your way: leave. Besides your child must know best….I mean they are the child. Whatever you do don’t teach them to adapt, appreciate the differences in others or model ongoing faithfulness. Get out before they plant roots.

4. Your area of passion is not being promoted enough. If the leadership team at your church doesn’t promote your area of involvement you should find the nearest exit sign. It’s obvious that the reason the pastor is refusing to do this is because he doesn’t like you and not because he has a million other important plates that need to be spun. Here is your chance to read sign #1 and be offended.

5. You made a mistake and a leader brings accountability. When you committed to follow the pastoral leaders of your church you certainly didn’t mean you wanted them to help you grow by holding you accountable. Who needs to submit? Not you! Don’t be sharpened by the experience or walk through restoration. Why should you when there’s another church down the street that doesn’t know anything about your issues and will welcome you with open arms.

(Important Note: If you decide to hit the door because of these valid reasons, make sure you share your reasons with as many people as possible. What’s better than leaving your church? Answer: Taking People with you!)

What about you? Have any other signs of when you should leave your church? Please share below.

I was a part of the rest of the collective world that sighed in sadness yesterday when hearing that the great inventive dynamo, Steve Jobs, had died. He is being called the “Thomas Edison” of our time for his tenacious vision for innovation, rightly so.

My first question upon hearing of his death was, “Was he a follower of Christ?”. Isn’t it interesting that we rarely ask that question of great innovators until they’ve died. To not ask this question is to value his personal accomplishments above him as a person. In doing some research I discovered that Steve was a self-professed devout Buhhdist. Unless in the process of dying Steve came to a point of faith in Jesus Christ (which is a real possibility) for the Christian  there should be profound sadness. Why? Because it means that Steve did not come to a saving faith in Jesus. If this is true he will not rest in peace.

Truly, Steve Jobs was gifted by God to be a creative genius. God’s common grace to all mankind was seen in what Steve Jobs gave to the world in advancing technology. However, I believe the greatest lesson Steve Jobs teaches mankind is this: Even great visionaries can be blind. Steve had the ability to see innovation on the horizon but he was blind to see Christ as savior and Lord. The only accomplishment and contribution that can save a man was accomplished on the cross through Jesus.

There are those that will find this post as crass and insensitive written so soon after his death. But I would say this: For the next few days his life will be dissected through article, documentary and essay. This to me is the greatest question: Did Steve follow Jesus?  It is the weightiest question that can be asked of any of us.

Recently, I’ve heard several people use the term “balanced approach” when they talk about their life and Christian walk with God. They’re referring to the many other things going on in their lives and the mission of Christ is among the “many.” This sounds helpful, but is it? Is it biblical?

Listen to  Jesus:

Matthew 10:35–39 (ESV)

35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Luke 9:57–62 (ESV)

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Does this sound like a “balanced” approach to life? Does it sound safe or “normal”? The temptation to make Jesus and His Mission one of the many things in our life (“balanced” approach”)  instead of “the” thing in our life is a real one that we must avoid.

Living the so-called “balanced” life means the cross we’ve been called to carry is one of the many pieces of luggage we’re trying to juggle because we wouldn’t want to get too crazy, radical or fanatical and make it all about Him.

This doesn’t mean we drop all of our responsibilities and stop working and taking care of our families. What it does mean is that we need to take a closer look at our responsibilities, time and resources and ask, “Is what I’m investing in helping move Christ’s mission forward or is it a distraction?”

Thoughts?

Last week while upstairs ironing a shirt I heard a pop downstairs followed by yelling and crying. My oldest son had hit my youngest son in the face out of anger. I sent him to my room to wait for me. He knew what was coming. I took my time. (I never spank my kids while angry.) Once in the room I shared with him my deep love for him and why he was being spanked. My 7yr old understood clearly that I loved him and because I loved him I needed to correct his behavior.

No one likes to be corrected. I know I don’t. Even if I know I’m wrong I can feel my pride invading every fiber of my being when someone points out a  mistake (even a small one) to correct me. Why is that my 7yr old can understand the idea of sowing and reaping, poor judgement and correction, but as adults we many times don’t have the ability to receive correction well?

Obviously, pride is the main issue and hardly needs explanation. A secondary issue that I believe is not addressed is motivation. Many of us cannot receive correction from others because we don’t honestly believe that the person bringing the correction truly loves us. Our insecurity shines through as we tell ourselves, “They’re just on a power trip”, “Who do they think they are?”, “They don’t have the right to….”, “Why don’t you come talk to me when you’re perfect!”

But what if they really love you? What if they truly want God’s best for you? What if God is speaking through them?

Hebrews 12:5–7  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?   (ESV)

Proverbs 12:1  Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,but he who hates reproof is stupid.   (ESV)

Experiencing dysfunctional correction by others in the past doesn’t make correction in the present bad. God many times uses people in our lives to bring loving correction to us: spouses, friends, pastors, co-workers and even strangers.

It’s such a beautiful thing to witness someone receive correction with humility and truly own it. God help me stay in that place.

What about you? How has God brought correction to you through others? Would you mind sharing below?

Even at 35 I still find myself constantly learning about myself.  Here is what I wanted to share with you:

I need alone time.  

I’m not talking about just my daily prayer and Bible study in the morning at my office. I need an extended time of solitude and prayer that happens on a regular basis where I make time for solitude in my life. You’d think that wouldn’t be a shocker to me as a pastor, but it was. After sharing this with me wife, she said, “Umm, I knew that.”  Apparently, I didn’t.

I thought because my pastoral role was so “people” centered that I wasn’t the type that needed to be alone much. I was wrong.  Here are some of the signs that I notice when I haven’t had that alone time: physically stressed, short with Erin and the boys, frustrated about inconsequential issues, easily annoyed by people and directed apathy toward things I usually value.

You might be thinking, “Nathan, who doesn’t feel that way sometimes?”. I agree, people have bad days, but am I feeling that way on a consistent basis? Those signs are merely symptoms of the real issue: I’m trying to carry life on my own. When I spend an extended time in prayer and meditation on scripture I come away from that time with my heart aligned with Christ’s heart. My circumstances might not be any different, but my perspective is.

Maybe like me you’ve told yourself,”My schedule can’t afford that kind of time away.”  The truth is that you and I can’t afford not to make the time. Pull out the calendar and make an appointment with yourself and God. Get creative on when and where you can have this time. Do it.

 

He’s Waiting,

Nathan

Over the last two weeks I’ve been thinking and praying through an upcoming series on Manhood that we’ll be doing in June. I’ve been wrestling with the simple question why is it that many men have a hard time asking for help. Now, I’m not talking about the stereotypical “can’t ask for directions” or “I can put this thing together without the directions” type issues. I’m talking about what is at the core of a man not wanting to ask for help with his life? Many of these points are found in women as well, but for today I’m focusing on men. Here are some points I’m seeing why we as men can’t say these words:

1. We don’t want to look weak: “If I share this issue in my life, I’ll look weak and people will put me in the “broken” or “freak show” category. There is a mentality that says because I’m an adult….I’m supposed to know what to do here. They have what I call the “I got this” disease. “I got this. I just need more time and more will power and I’ll pull this together.” Here the man refuses to acknowledge that if they could have fixed it by now they would have. They have a hard time saying, I have no idea what I’m doing.

2. We don’t know we need help: This would seem like a no brainer, but it’s worth saying. How many times have you encountered someone that’s had a huge “blind spot” in their life? They didn’t see the wake they were leaving behind in their life so they “didn’t know what they didn’t know.”

3. We Don’t Want Accountability: This one is straight forward. They don’t ask because they don’t want accountability. If you let someone in on the issues you’re walking through, all of the sudden you’ve let someone “in” and they’re going to ask how you’re doing in that area. Men that are in this place hide their issues because they’ve bought into the lie that they’ve got their secret freedom to do what they want, but deep down they wish they were free from that issue.

The loving gospel of Jesus speaks to everyone one these issues.

1. Level Ground:  Jesus through the beautiful cross exposed all men as being weak and in need of him. If all men are weak without God that means “your normal.” Jesus comes to give men his strength as they bring Him their weaknesses. Owning your weakness is the first step toward repentance.

2. The Divine Mirror:  The Holy Spirit points to all truth. If you ask for God to reveal to you area that you are not seeing. He will: through His word, through others and by His Spirit. Here’s the catch: what will you do with what he shows you? (See #1)

3. Band of Brothers: Every man needs an ally. Someone to be in the foxhole of life. Jesus not only brings men to himself, He brings men together. Allow God to help you step out in bold friendship with another guy to trust, to share, to encourage and to do life together.

Say it with me…”I….need….help”,

Nathan