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.

the gods of heaven and death part II

[originally “the gods of heaven & death” (please read) was not meant to have a part II but through further thinking I’ve decided to go into further detail.]

Heaven is not fire insurance (because it too will be destroyed by fire), a place where you will receive 40 virgins, or a place where spirits float with wings.

let me unpack that.

Heaven is not fire insurance

Heaven is a place where God resides. Heaven is a place where sinners are not permitted to enter. Heaven is a place where repentant sinners forgiven by Jesus are welcome (2 Cor. 5:8, Phil 1:21). Heaven is a place that is going to pass away.

Earth is a place where creatures reside. Earth is a place where sin caused a great fall for all creation. Earth is a place where Jesus came to die on a cross to forgive sinners. Earth is a place that is going to pass away.

[21:1] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. [2] And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. [4] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)

God made a promise to Noah that He would not destroy the earth by water ever again, but He didn’t say anything about fire.

2 Peter 3:10 (ESV)Then I saw ya new heaven and a new earth, for zthe first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw athe holy city, bnew Jerusalem, ccoming down out of heaven from God, dprepared eas a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, fthe dwelling place1 of God is with man. He will gdwell with them, and they will be his people,2 and God himself will be with them as their God.3 4 hHe will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and ideath shall be no more, jneither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (2 Peter 3:10)

This does not mean that God will obliterate the heavens & earth then start anew, but that God will do away with the present condition.

Remember those “RE” words?

Redeem, Reform, Resurrect, Reborn, Restore, Reconcile, & Regenerate. God does not merely Reject creation but seeks to make it whole again.

Resurrection means that when Christ died, he also rose to live forever as the first of many to rise. Jesus Christ rose in a perfect body as a cognitively thinking being who was able to eat. Please get this, we who die with Jesus’ sacrificial sin for righteousness exchange on the cross are given the right to also be raised with him by faith.

We do not merely go to heaven when we die but God & the heavens will one day come to us! Remember: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”

With that perspective I can agree with Paul and say, “To live is Christ, & to die is gain”. Death no longer creates fear because it is but a second compared to the reality of eternity. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

[here are some great resources that helped me derive at these thoughts:

What Happens When You Die? Glorified and Free on the New Earth – John Piper

Culture by Tim Keller

Difficult Truths & Deep Love: Pondering Sovereignty, Suffering, and the Promise of Heaven – Randy Alcorn]

the gods of heaven and death part I

I asked someone, “what do you desire the most?”

They responded, “heaven”.

The remarkable thing about her answer was that she doesn’t believe in the afterlife.

I asked another person, “what do you desire most?”

They responded, “heaven”.

The unremarkable thing about his response is that he believes in the afterlife.

Upon deeper questioning these people had the same motive for wanting heaven – materialism.

Heaven is not fire insurance

Heaven is not a place for people who fear hell, but a place for people who love & are loved by God. The first woman that I asked feared hell, but at the same time did not believe that anyone could definitively prove that the afterlife even exists. Quite a contradiction.

Before I knew the gospel I would have told her, “what do you have to lose in believing in Heaven besides living a good moral life free from the repercussions of sin?” (#fail)

Now that I’m learning the gospel I told her, “Eat drink, for tomorrow we die.”

If heaven is not a reality then why care? Why sit in school learning some stuff you could care less about? Why sacrifice your goods to help feed a homeless person? Why not go out & gratify your fleshly desires?

The gospel of Christ is that you get the desires of your heart now & after you die. The tragedy of that truth is that apart from being born again you have a desire for everything that is not God. The desires of man are to fulfill this God-shaped void with everything but God. No one seeks God, no not one (Rom 3:9-18).

Christ kidnaps our hearts and transforms our affections toward him. One of the greatest blessings from God is to be allowed to worship Him. If we are not worshiping God we are worshiping something (Rom 1:25). On the cross Jesus replaced our hearts with his perfect heart.

“The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” –Genesis 6:5

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” –Jeremiah 17:9

“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,” –Ezekiel 11:19

So now the desire of your heart is Jesus. You will get Jesus now & after you die.

How do I know there is more to life than this earth? Because Jesus rose from the dead & told me so, &  if it were not true he would not have told me (John 14:2).

Heaven apart from Jesus is hell

The other person I spoke to wanted the pearly gates & golden roads. Heaven basically became about material & being rich. Heaven was merely fire insurance & his moral living was a response to the idea of earning heaven.

It saddened me for a moment, but because I’m learning the gospel I knew how to respond.

I told him, “Heaven without Jesus is hell“.

“And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” – Revelation 21:23

Heaven without Jesus is a dark barren place with beautiful sights but no way to see them.

Desire Jesus & you will get him. Hell is simply the desire of your hearts, the unblemished wrath of God.

Jesus absorbed God’s wrath on the cross & is giving away his absolute peace with the Father as a free gift. Sadly there is no afterlife: There is only the here & now, but the here & now will last forever.

Forever apart from Christ is a long time.

Why You’re Screwed (?)

“Nobody’s Perfect”

We say this…a lot. And we should, as it’s true (mostly, but we’ll get to that later). We all know that each of us fall short of a standard we know we should be reaching. We mess/goof/[insert word] up everyday. But we reconcile our shortcomings with the statement “nobody’s perfect” and we somehow work ourselves to sleep for the night and repeat this imperfect process over and over….and (you guessed it) over again. We know we aren’t perfect, and consider that if we were to die, God will accept us because, well… “nobody’s perfect” right?

This is the Problem

The problem with this is that…God is Holy. Consider a white wedding dress ladies, or for the fellas a pair of those all white air forces. Would you still wear that dress or those forces if there was a small red spot on them? I’m going to guess not. Well in God’s economy, we’re those spots, but we aren’t small, we’re huge blots on God’s all whites of righteousness , so God really wants nothing to do with us. Let me park under the Christmas tree, sit down, and “unpack” it like this:

The fact that you are not perfect does not excuse the fact that God demands perfection to be in relationship with Him.

Do you see the problem? You’re not perfect, but the One true God demands perfection to be in relationship with Him. On your best day, God considers your good (avoiding “big sins” , praying, church attendance, helping at the old folks home) to be blackened bloody maxi-pads (Isaiah 64:6). You disgust a Holy God. So, it would seem as if…well…

You’re Screwed.

What is the answer? Well…it’s almost true that nobody’s perfect. There’s an exception to that  statement though-Jesus Christ.

He literally breathed perfection, not a stain on Him…ever, anywhere. And honestly, what does that have to do with you? He lived this perfect life, not you. But wait- He lived this perfect life on Earth…. for you, then died for…well you, if you believe in Him. Upon turning away from your old life and belief in Jesus, God takes the perfect life that His Son Jesus lived and gives it to you. Jesus takes your sin, and you take His perfection [2 Corinthians 5:21] so now in the eyes of a God that demands perfection, your are perfect.

Your life is now a lifestyle of being perfected and walking in that perfection, while being positionally perfect in God’s judicial system. It’s an amazing thing. All you have to do is repent and believe in Jesus.

Will you repent and believe in Jesus?

These are My Confessions….

So, I have a story:

On my daily excursion to a University of Houston Cafeteria (go coogs), I saw a young devout man praying to….well for the intensive purposes of this blog we will say his god.” As the picture shows, he had his head down, his rug laid out, and he was talking to allah for about 5 minutes.  I stood silent in the middle of the cafeteria with my mouth slightly agape.

May I Be Honest?

I was bothered.  I mean this person one minute is eating, then his timer goes off and he pulls out a mat in order to pray on it in front of everyone.  Afterwards, he gets up and gets on his cell phone…? I mean, come on! But then I felt #convicted. This is religion and make slaves of so many, and only by God’s grace am I free.

How is religion a slave master?

Religion is about doing things for the sake of being in good with your god, be it prayer, church attendance, avoidance of “big sins”, giving your time, money, talent…it is all a desperate, devout, serious and some times painful plea so that your god can say “well done my good and faithful servant.” There is no relationship, there is no love, there are simply rules that you do your damnedest to follow, so that you will not be damned.

So yeah, even though I know all of this, I did nothing. In my passive arrogance and hate took the picture, shrugged my shoulders and sat down and ate some food, probably some pork to spite this guy indirectly- I cannot remember (but I probably did).

What I Should Have Done

I should have told him there is a God (the true God) that is amazingly powerful. So powerful that He did the unthinkable, and  that  in that unthinkable power and love,  He sent Himself in flesh to live a perfect life for us to meet the standard of perfection that He Himself set long ago, before forever ago, by the simple nature of who He is. Not only did this God (the true God) do that, but also allowed Himself to be put under His own wrath for all the wrong that we have done so that we could escape punishment.

But wait, there is more: Remember that perfect life He lived? He gave it to those who turn away from their sin and believe in Him, so there is no more performance required because not only have you been forgiven, but you have also been given the righteous righteousness of GOD. So the good things you do are not out of fear or merit and demerit, but out of the love from the relationship you are now in, through Him.

*But remember, I did not say any of that, or anything like that.

I pray that I see him again, better yet I pray someone tells him about the True God. If I do seem him again, hopefully I will have the courage and love to tell him because this is truly Good News. I pray for those of you who know this Good News to tell folks about it. Also, I pray if you are in the same boat as those under religion that you see the God (again the true God) that loves you and sent Himself in flesh (#Jesus) to die so that you may not only live, but live more abundantly.

Grace. Peace.

Because He Lives

[youtube=] Written by Bill and Gloria Gaither, “Because He Lives” is a song that inspires hope in the listener because Jesus was able to conquer death and now is living in heaven close to His loving Father.  If He got through the pain, then it’s a guarantee that you can too.  The words of this song have been able to minister to me in many rough times in my life.  Savor these beautiful lyrics written about our Risen King! P.S.  This is a rendition of the song by one of my favorite singers – Fantasia!!