Break Free: is He your Daddy? (Galatians 3:26-4:7)

How do you gain your status as a son of God? Is it by your own merit? No. Is it by the religious rules you follow, your education, your job, or your social standing? Again, the answer is no. You become a son of God only through faith in Christ. Becoming a son of God is a privilege we are given when we recognize our sin and repent, then put our faith in Jesus Christ. Second-class citizenship is dead & unheard of. You are now a heir in Christ, dressed in Christ, with a new relationship with God through Christ.

In week 8 of our Break Free series, P.T. Ngwolo poses the question, “is He your Daddy?” Listen in!

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B.asic I.nstructions B.efore L.eaving E.arth

I used to sleep with a bible under my bed, because I thought it gave me safety to have a black pleather bible that I wold read on some Sundays and special occasions.  There was security in knowing that it was under my pillow.  No bad dreams could get me and every sin committed would not come back to me. Crazy: that I would put so much trust in pieces of folded paper.   Bad as that sounds, it’s not unlike what we do when we open the bible today.

The bible for many of us is the book that we go to to get nuggets of good wisdom to get us through our day.  A magic amulet that can ward of all evil and give us all knowledge.  It is B.asic I.nstructions B.efore L.eaving E.arth.  While it does have tremendous wisdom for life and living, the bible is more than just the “B.I.B.L.E.”  The bible is a book that from cover-to-cover is a book about Jesus.  The Old Testament is Jesus concealed.  He is the good news prophecy made in Genesis 3:15.  He is the fourth man in the fiery furnace.  He is the Wonderful Counselor spoken of in Isaiah.  He is where the temple and all the pieces of furniture in the temple point.  The Old Testament is about Jesus.  The New Testament is about Jesus.

That is what separates the Bible from any other book such as the Koran and the Book of Mormon.  The Bible isn’t a Good Book amongst many.  It is God’s progressive revelation about the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.  No other book was designed to grow your faith in Jesus and his ability and desire to save people.  When you pick up other books you may read good things and get good principles.  When you pick up the Bible you read about a good God-man, Jesus!  The bible was designed by God the Spirit to help us see Jesus as God and grow our faith and dependence on him.  “Faith (in Jesus) comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”  Romans 10:17. Stop reading it for good sayings and good quotes, begin to prayerfully read the bible to see Jesus and watch your faith in Him come alive.

Break Free: “One in the Gospel” (Galatians 2:1-10)

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Confessions of a Preacher

*preface* This may be too transparent for some of you. If you have an image of a crispy clean young man who’s “on fire” for God, read with caution if at all…

There are many times (really all the time) when I just pause at the idea of me being a Christian. I’m so much more morally bankrupt than those unsaved people around me. I stumble into pride, lust, hypocrisy, gluttony, laziness and foolishness often…there are folk who if they had my shoes would be doing much better morally, I know it. I know it because they are in situations much worse than me and are much more moral than I am. The fact that God’s mercy is new every morning is still not fully grasped in my heart, which is a lack of faith, another testament of my shortcomings and God’s grace in spite of myself.

I really don’t NEED to hang around folk. My desire and idolization of acceptance pushes me to hang around folk, but my other idol of self dependence and secrecy push me to be alone. Even when I play spades with folk, often my aim is to win and big up myself, not simply enjoy community. A thing as simple and seemingly innocent as spades becomes a prop to the idol of self preservation and improvement… I glory in being a winner, in being right, even in a stupid game of cards.

As much as I rail against the unloving self righteous pseudo Christian, I am extremely unloving to those people, or people I self-righteously judge to be so, making me just as bad as those I tweet/preach/facebook against. “Oh, I get on your nerves? Then don’t talk to me, it’s not like you’re adding anything to my growth. You don’t like how I preach? Well forget you then, if you knew the Gospel you’d like it. I don’t need your community or your love, I do well just by myself.” The same arrogant, entrepreneurial, hypocritical Christianity I preach against I myself find myself living in with sprinkles of “Gospel-centeredness” on top.

I work hard. Very hard. 3-5 jobs hard. I justify it by saying I’m giving it and saving it to plan for a family that will glorify God. I hardly give to the local church as much as I budget initially, and even when I do I battle a fierce beast of pride and self righteousness. I don’t look to the fact that Jesus has established me through His work on the Cross because I look at my own work and think I am established, or at least close. I fail to work out my salvation with fear and trembling and instead work to fill my pockets with fearless pride. I justify who and how valuable I am through the jobs and money I have saved, the things I can afford on my own, failing to realize God is the one who gave me everything to earn what I don’t even give back to Him.

….I could go on. But pause and think about this: God through Himself saved me knowing I would be where I am and loves me enough to continue to not leave me or forsake me, but in fact sanctify me. He continues to reign down on my life…mercies and grace. My life doesn’t make any sense in a karma sense. In fact, I deserve death, but God in the blood of my own menstrual rags of righteousness said live…I am so nobody. No..body. But Jesus is Somebody and was Somebody for me on the Cross dying and raising for me…freeing me from living up to the expectations presented by my parents, society, even the expectations set by myself. Those character flaws listed are not up to me to correct because they have been paid for on the Cross. Even me re-realizing my identity in Jesus and submitting to the Spirit is done through the mind of Christ given to me by Christ. Thankful.

Please pray for me. I want to love more, submit more, lead more….die more to live more.

I love you.

exhaustion.

do you see , what i see –
a body , exhausted – almost lifeless.
can you feel what i feel , a point of surrender.
stripped , his body is unclothed and explicitly exposed
to the world , for the world to see.

beads of sweat dripped , traveled down the side of his face
rolled down his expanded ribcage , as he lay there.
and all people could do was walk passed , shake their head , some laughed.
as his body laid there , helpless , hopeless
in front of the world , for the world to see.

when you’ve got nothing left to live for , do you surrender?
do you give up , let go because you have nothing left to hold?
are you afraid of what they may say or think?
if you lay your life down before the world , even further , before the Lord?
in front of the world , for the world to see how
lifeless your life has been – now that you’ve discovered
you’ve got nothing else to live for.

he did.

Geepers Creepers…Who Opened Your Peepers?

I started reading a new book this week and it prompted me to re-read the story of the fall. It prompted me to re-visit the opening of man’s eyes. The day that man’s eyes were open to the knowledge of good and evil.

In Genesis 2, God commands Adam to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because on the day that he eats of it, he will surely die. In Genesis 3, the serpent slithers his way into the story saying, “You will surely not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

With the promise of becoming God-like, believing they deserved this higher knowledge and higher understanding, they ate.

As sin entered the world, our eyes were opened. Opened to death. They were opened to shame. Adam & Eve looked down for the first time to realize they were naked. “Who told you that you were naked?”

Self-righteousness is as smooth and slippery as a serpent. It sneaks up on you, it strikes deep, its poison is infectious, or it wraps around its prey hoping to restrict life. In self-righteousness we claim to have sight. We claim to see good and evil. Mainly we see ourselves as good and others as evil. And since we are so sure that we can discern between who or what is good and who or what is evil, we begin to judge others. We act harshly in the name of justice, our justice. We reward foolishly, because we only reward those who meet our standards of what is ‘good.’

According to His rich mercy, God did not leave us in this state of blind sight. He sent Jesus Christ, the greater Adam, the perfected Son of Man, to open our eyes to life.  If we are so good at deciphering between good and evil, then how can we not recognize the evil in ourselves? There is none who does good, no not one! (Romans 3:10) There has to be recognition of who we are. We are not the standard of what is good. The recognition of evil in ourselves has got to lead us to seek out a higher goodness in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, God who came down to this earth, was tempted in every way yet maintained righteousness. The recognition of evil in ourselves has got to lead us to seek a higher justice than ourselves.  God is just because in being just He knew that He had to punish sin. Yet instead of punishing those who deserved to be punished, He allowed His son to bear the wrath of the punishment that we had earned. So as it stands in the record books, the payment has been made, and while the originators of the debt were not made to pay, justice was done because the wrong was righted.

But if we were not made to see good and evil what were we meant to see? We were created in His image. Designed for His glory. Engineered to worship Him. We were designed to know His will. The one who lives moment by moment according to the will of God, being lead by the Spirit does not concern himself with who or what is good and who or what is evil, he immerses himself fully into the knowledge of what is God’s will.

Judge not, so that you will not be judged. I pray that we are so unconcerned with shunning evil that we never turn our backs on those deemed evil, remembering that grace reaches all. I pray that we are so ignorant of good works that when we receive our reward in heaven we will respond saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?” Because we will have kept no record of our good deeds, we only strived to conform to the will of the Lord. What a beautiful picture that will be.

Toe to Toe in the Ring

It’s arguable which was greater, Muhammad Ali’s fists or Ali’s mouth. His trash talk was epic, it rhymed, it was dramatic, he name dropped, and most of all, he backed it up with colossal fists. His fighting became legendary and he was coined (mostly by himself) as ‘the greatest.’

I went through a week where I felt I was going toe to toe with The Greatest, the Divine Greatest. Let’s just say I had issued somewhat of a challenge.  And I expected Him to come at me like ‘the greatest’ would have. I was waiting for the trash talk, I was ready for taunting, I was ready for Him to drop me. With a challenge like this, I expected to get knocked out.

Life had been feeling like a fight lately. Not just for me, but for everyone around me, everyone around me seemed to be dealing with some sort of struggle in their lives, some sort of fight. So as we made our way to the ring I decided if He wasn’t in the taunting mood, I would get the ball rolling. ‘Don’t you wanna just knock me out? Yeah good things are still happening, I have Your peace and Your joy, but I’m still fighting. I’m gonna stumble, is that what You want? How bout I let it all fall to pieces? I have Your eternal satisfaction, but what if I told You I wanted something right now, something temporarily satisfying right now? What are you gonna do about it?’

I noticed He wasn’t putting His gloves on. ‘I told you to wait for Me, that I would show you that I am The Greatest, but not like this.’

There’s a span of Psalms from about the 27th Psalm through the 37th and even into the 52nd Psalm where the word ‘wait’ is used too many times for us not to notice it. David is the author of a lot of these Psalms, and looking back on his life, David is definitely someone who learned to wait on the Lord. And all the while he waited, David fought. He’d faced lions and bears in the field, he’d even fought a giant named Goliath. He was a warrior, slaying his ‘tens of thousands.’ He was anointed and chosen by God as the rightful king of Israel, yet because Saul the current king pursued David with the intent of killing him, He was forced into hiding. He lived in a cave, sneaking around, living amongst Philistines as a servant to their king and fighting in their land. He was always fighting. David was presented with more than one opportunity to kill Saul, yet even when the chance to do evil was right in front of his eyes, he held back. He waited for the Lord, knowing that when the time was right, the Lord would be faithful to him and he would be given his kingdom.

In the Psalms, the word wait seems to be tied to faith. To wait on someone, implies to be at their call in order to do their will, to wait for their direction. There’s a sense of Lordship. To wait for direction is to keep your ears ready believing that in due time a word will be spoken. To wait for someone is to remain steadfast in one place, believing that they are going to return.

I am fighting, I know I am fighting. And because of the faith that I have put in Jesus Christ, I am His chosen, an heir, you could even say an anointed one, but the kingdom has not fully manifested itself… so will I wait?

In the haze of the fight when I can’t hear anything, will I be steadfast in His word, believing that if I wait, He will speak. In my weak point in the fight, will I hold to righteousness, waiting for His strength, believing that I will attain His perfection when He returns. Will I wait on Him everyday ready to do His will even in the midst of battle, believing that He is my reward.

By the grace of God, I never made it to the ring that day. God is The Greatest, not because of the size of His fists or the level of His trash talk, but because of the size of His faithfulness. Because of the manner in which He backs His claim to faithfulness up. I had come to a point where I was struggling in my waiting, but I have a God who has always waited on me and even when I had dang near asked Him to stop being faithful to me, to stop keeping me and let me get a little beat up, He didn’t do it.  His only reply was ‘I am faithful.’ What else can He be?  For the believer there is nowhere else to turn, there is nothing else to lean on but His faithfulness. Turn to sin? He killed it in my life. Turn to sorrow? There’s too much joy in simply knowing Him. He took all of my suffering on the cross.  Let the anxiety of life consume me? He keeps on working it all out for my good. And He did and does all of these things because I’m so good at waiting for Him? No, but because He is faithful. God doesn’t want to fight with us, He longs to fight for us and through us. This isn’t even our battle. History has never recorded a fighter being K.O.’d before even making it to the ring. But God’s love is so piercing and humbling, it will lay you out. It’s supernatural. Great. Great. Great is thy faithfulness towards me.

Pen Therapy

I loved Adele’s last project, 21, its still in pretty heavy rotation. I was listening to her single ‘Someone like You’ and for some reason the words just seemed to stick with me for a couple of days. The tale that her words told was sad, but it was real. Then I began to realize just how many times her exact sentiments had been voiced over the past few years. Check out the quotes below, these quotes are lyrics from a variety of songs from a very diverse cast of artists. Keep in mind that all of these artists are singing to an ex-lover that is either engaged, married, or has moved on with someone else:

‘Hoped you’d see my face and be reminded that for me it isn’t over’  -Adele

‘Does she know that you told me you’d hold me until you died’  -Alanis Morsette

‘Do you ever think of me?’  – Ne-yo

‘When you see my face I hope it gives you hell’  -All American Rejects

‘In my mind I’ll always be his lady’  -Heather Headley

‘What we had don’t need no words…I know I should be your lady’  -Jill Scott

Their words express regret, anger, sadness, curiosity, and a kind of sad persistence. And for me these songs go hard because on some level the artist has captured exactly the way I’ve felt at some point. And when you hear lyrics as powerful as some of these, you’re forced to wonder what happened in their relationships? Surely they must have been done really wrong, or they must have had something really special, so special that they just can’t seem to let it go or get over it.

I’m going to take a step out, and just express how I feel about these lyrics. When I look at these words, I see the result of someone giving too much of themselves over to another individual in the wrong context. And now, it hurts entirely too much to see that this person has moved on. So all we have left to do is grab our pens and proceed to therapy.

The first time the small box that I had put sexual immorality in was blown up, I was listening to Eric Mason preach on the subject. He taught that most Christians only put sex in their box of sexual immorality, yet in all actuality sexual immorality has a very mental and emotional aspect.

Man, we are so quick to attach ourselves emotionally to someone, we get off on the good morning texts and late night phone calls, not even considering if this person we are giving our emotions to will even be in our future. Because we aren’t observing this person as a long term fixture in our life, we’re observing them as eye candy, attention, or stability. The fact of the matter is we may have never been between the sheets with someone, but unbeknown to them, we’ve mentally worshiped them day in and day out, giving ourselves over to them in our minds. We even go as far as giving ourselves away physically. And when it’s all said and done, no matter how it went down, physically, emotionally, or mentally, we’ve given a piece of ourselves away, and when the beneficiary leaves, we never get that piece of us back and that cuts deep.

In my mind there was so much to say or ‘preach’ about these lyrics. I thought about saying something like ‘Guard your heart,’ ‘Date with the purpose of marriage,’ ‘Don’t think on impure things,’ and ‘How are you gonna give away that which belongs to the Lord.’ And while all of that is Biblically correct and needed, I think my sentiments can be best summarized in two commands- Love God. Love Your Brothers & Sisters.

We get so hurt by this so called love, failing to realize that our actions have completely neglected love all together. Love God. Love Your Brothers
& Sisters. Do we thirst and love after God enough to completely surrender our minds, body, and soul as a living sacrifice? Dow we love our brothers and sisters enough to not take and abuse their emotions with no true intention? Do we love our brothers and sisters enough to not take from them in the bedroom? Do we love God enough to honor our brothers and sisters?

Christ’s love was a love that put us first, it was love with long term intentions, He loved us with a purpose, His love can be tough, but it always aims to build us up. He’s a lover who gives more than we could ever repay. It’s only because of Him that we can love and it’s only through Him that we can give love. He is the perfect example of love, because He is love. Outside of Him, our ‘love’ is leaving mental and emotional scars and until we can understand that, our only hope is to find an understanding pen, a melancholy beat, and a listening page of paper.

Facing Giants

Everywhere I go these days, I’m greeted with the same question. “So what’s after college?” And I give an answer, but usually it’s vague with no specifics. Not because I don’t have any plans, but because I have a fear of verbally expressing in detail exactly what I truly want to do with my life. Maybe I feel like if I actually say it, then people will hold me to it and will be disappointed if I don’t actually do it. Maybe I don’t say it, because I will be disappointed if I don’t do it.

It’s actually a point of frustration for me. I see my strengths and my attributes, and I see in my mind’s eye what I could actually do with my skills. I see how I could incorporate ministry and how I could create something special, and it’s a beautiful picture, but I get frustrated because I’m not sure I’ll ever get to see that beautiful picture in reality.

When God led the Israelites out of Egypt, He brought them to a land, they saw the land, and they saw how good the land was. God told them to go in and take possession of the land. Now they had seen some giants in the land and even though God had commanded them to take the land and had told them that He would go in before them, the Israelites started shakin in their boots. Moses recalls how they responded in Deuteronomy 1:26- 27…

“Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. 27 And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.”

Before truly reading this verse I would have said that the Israelites just had fear, they had a trust issue. I never saw their failure to ‘go in’ and ‘take possession’ as an act of rebellion also. They were in direct disobedience of a command from God.

Then there’s this murmuring part and I know exactly how that goes. “If God loved me he would make this happen for me!” “If God loved me he would take the challenge of pursuing my goals away!” “Why would God give me the desire to do this with my life, if He was gonna make it impossible for me to actually achieve!”

Rebellion & trust issues. Moses spends the rest of the chapter rebuking the people. He tells them to remember the awesome works that God had already performed in their lives. He reminds them that their swag is on one hundred thousand trillion, because God has been rolling with them the whole time. God has allowed us all to have gifts and talents and way back in Genesis, He told us to cultivate-develop, learn, and progress our talents to the fullest- and subdue-use our talents in the world to the glorification of God. That’s a command!

We see the fields that we can apply ourselves too, and we see how good it could be, and the Lord has told us to go into those fields and own them for Him. But then we start seeing giants. Big scary giants like the giants of hard work and the giants of impossibility. At the sight of these giants, we decide to blame God because we feel frustrated or restrained thinking that our dreams and goals are out of reach. As a believer, God’s hand has been too mighty upon my life for me to not trust in Him. I know He has my back so the only thing truly frustrating about my future is my rebellion or failure to cultivate and subdue. I know that in order to feel unrestrained I have to surrender all to God, giving Him the controls and trusting that He will provide. Whichever land I go in, there’s for sure gonna be a fight, a struggle. The giants aren’t going anywhere, and sure I’m only 5’10” but my shadow reaches beyond the heavens.

3 Minute Devotional

Let’s eat:

Psalm 84:10-11 (emphasis added)

10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly

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The writer of this Psalm was a king. He had many many great things. Women, land, money, whatever. It was his. In light of that fact, he writes this. One day as a doorkeeper (a servant, a non ruler, a slave) in the house of God is worth more than a 1,000 days anywhere else. Why? Because simply, God is good. He’s the source of life and a simultaneous protector. His worth outweighs whatever the world offers thousands of times over. The writer understood the weight of God and His Goodness by way of a promise. For us that promise has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Is a day in and with Jesus Christ worth a 1,000 days anywhere else for you?

Grace.