Visiting Rome!

For many of you that are new followers, my family and I have been roadschooling our kids and traveling full-time for four years now. The Lord opened the door for us to world school our children and travel throughout Europe. So far, we have been living in Rome near the Coliseum for two weeks. We just wanted to share some of our pictures of exploring the immediate area. As we venture out and meet new people in new locations, I would love to share our experiences with you. So far, the food has been amazing and the people have been friendly. We have truly been enjoying our surroundings!

Clean your house!

Matthew 12:43-45

Whenever an unclean spirit goes out of a person, it wanders through waterless places looking for a place to rest but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will go back to the home that I left.’ When it arrives, it finds it empty, swept clean, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and settle there. And so the final condition of that person becomes worse than the first. That’s just what will happen to this evil generation.

In this piece of Scripture, Jesus is describing the heart of Israel. If you clean up your lives but do not fill the void with the love of God, it will be temporary. If that void is not filled with God you leave room for Satan to come back and fill it sevenfold and it will be even worse than before. Ridding ourselves of one sin is the first step towards the right direction, but we can’t go further than that without the strength of the Lord.

One example of many is dealing with issues of lust and greed. If you get rid of everything that makes you want to lust, but never fix the root of the problem and ask “why” you are committing this sin, your fix will most likely be temporary. Now if you clean your house, but don’t fill it with the love of the Lord, allows room for other bondages to come back into your life. You may go from fantasizing about adultery to actually committing adultery. Then from adultery to constantly lying to cover up your sinful actions. However, if you would have fully given the issue to the Lord, you would not have compounded your sins. Now where there was one form of bondage, you have three or four. If you filled that void with God’s love you would not have room for anything else in your life. This is a powerful message that we all need to be reminded of every now and then.

I pray that everyone that reads this message is reminded to clean up their hearts and minds. I pray that we can have the strength and courage to give up all of those little things in our lives that is causes a wedge between us and God. It is these small wedges that keep us from having the fullness of God’s blessing in our lives, and we should want every blessing the Lord wants us to have. Amen!

Being a good ambassador

Out of all the apostles and biblical characters, I can relate the most to the apostle Paul. Like Paul, I used to be a sinner who chased away Christians left and right. I spoke ill of Christians and whenever a Christian spoke of Christ, it used to make my blood boil. I honestly think the reason why i reacted like this was because of the way people spoke to me that was supposed to be representing Christ. I was either going to burn in hell or I was being spoken down to like I was a lessor than them. Honestly, it was not until I married my wife and met her family that I knew what being a Christian was all about. Being a Christian is not about words, it is about the way we walk, talk, and think. Being a Christian is something that we actively do. We fight hard against our sins, we try to be above reproach to be an example to our children, our spouses, and our families.  We have to represent Christ in everything that we do as Christians. Paul understood this more than anyone I think and I want to share some of his wise words with you all today.

Paul wrote, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21, NASB). 

Our outlook on how we interact and speak with people should always be one of humidity. As Christians, we are ambassadors for Christ. That means that every fiber in our body should be trying to emulate Him. As Christ reconciled us to God, we are trying to help guide others to do the same. We are only made righteous through Christ and yet we some of us can accept that truth but not share it out of a Christ-like love. This makes me think about the days when I disliked Christianity because of the people, not because of Jesus. I think about how much faster I would have come to know Christ as my Lord and Savior if those “bad ambassadors” would have been reflecting the humility and love of Christ with their words.  

I am only bringing this piece of my past up because I was lucky. I eventually found Christ and I am here today. However, what about those who are not. My heart saddens of the thought that so many others were once pushed away from Christ because of bad ambassadors and are suffering for eternity because of my very own brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the very reason why I am writing this message today. We should never forget two simple truths to guide our daily Christian walk.  

First, we are all Christ’s ambassadors! We are not all called to evangelize or preach, but we are all called to live out our faith. We are called to love others like no other. We are commanded to forgive those who trespass against us because we have trespassed against God himself and He forgave us, so who are we to not forgive the sins of others? We are commanded to holy. Being holy carries the connotation of moral purity. This means that we are set apart or have been dedicated to God. When we are set apart and belong to someone, we represent them in everything that we say and do. This is what it means to be an ambassador. 

Secondly, through our words and actions, God is making an appeal for others. What this means is that people who do not know God will come to know Him by us first. Therefore, we need to always have the mindset that we will represent God every day. It is not a suggestion, as Christ took our sins and exchanged them for His righteousness, we are now committed to doing something with that righteousness. This “doing” is appealing to those around us for God. God does not want people to die without knowing Him or His son Jesus Christ. Therefore, He has us as His servants. It is up to us to make the appeal to others to come and get to know Him. This cannot happen without the heart of humility and love. We are only here to help reconcile others to God and share His truth through Christ. It is that simple.

For today, I pray that we all reflect on our actions and if we have been a good ambassador for Christ. If we have, keep fighting the good fight. If we have not been, this is the chance to adjust our lives and seek forgiveness. This is the chance to change the impression others have about Jesus because of our past actions. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen. 

Standing Firm

My wife and I often speak with one another about how easy the world can sneak up in our lives. When you turn on a television episode, there is nudity and sexually explicit language on almost every show. When you change the channel, there is someone else committing adultery or otherworldly behaviors. However, when did this become OK? It is not OK, we just have been blinded by the worldly influences in our lives and simply have learned to tolerate them as we continue watching the television screen. For unbelievers, this is fine but not for Christians. Paul speaks to this situation as the “god of this world blinding the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the Gospel of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4, NASB). For unbelievers, the world continues to blind them. Their environment has total power over their lives, whether it is on television or social media. However, Paul did not say “also for believers.” There has always been a separation between believers and unbelievers.

We live in the day of age where you cannot share your Christian values and love without being called names. When we do not accept the sin of others, we are the problem. When we do not conform to the current culture, we are left isolated and alone. This makes us vulnerable because people naturally want to fit in. Our culture does not allow us to show the glory of God through the image of Christ but it is fine to push the ways of the world on our children. However, I am not saying this to make us feel doomed. No, on the contrary, I am trying to allow my readers to understand the harmful situation the Christian culture is currently facing. We are called to not preach about ourselves, but to preach Christ as our Lord (2 Corinthians 4:5). We may not be popular with the crowds but it is what we are called to do. For it is written, “The light shall shine out of the darkness,”(2 Corinthians 4:6). This cannot happen when we are too busy trying to conform to this world. Ultimately, the physical must conform to the spiritual. This cannot happen if we continue to allow the world to blind unbelievers.

We have the knowledge of the truth, however, we are too scared to share it with others. This is a common conception held by many Christians and I just want to encourage us all today to stand firm in our faith. Do not tolerate sin in your lives. If the television series you like is going south, turn it off. If someone is speaking down on our faith or our beliefs, stand up and defend our faith, and pray for discernment when it is time to walk away. Sometimes walking away is not weakness, it is showing the strength of God in your life. Christians have always been called to be different. There is no difference between when Paul wrote this letter and the time that we currently live in. We have the light in us to help others find Christ. Use it! Don’t let others dim your light, because if it not for us to help guide unbelievers, then who is supposed to? Be different and be strong.

I want to pray today for encouragement and strength. I pray that we can all have the courage to stand firm in our faith and our beliefs. I pray that we can all identify any worldly influences that we may currently have and give it to the Lord. I pray that we stand out so brightly that people will be attracted to our Gospel like a moth to a bug zapper. This is what it means to be the light and I pray that we all have this ability in our daily walk. Amen!

Don’t forget to lift your veil!

For today’s devotional, I wanted to remind my readers that we are under the new covenant. What I mean is simple, being under Christ in the new covenant means that we are no longer to be hidden under the veil of the Old Testament. We are no longer under “The Law” because Christ fulfilled it. Yet, what is turning more people away from the church today is the church itself. More specifically, the body of believers that have become legalistic and their hearts have hardened just like the early Jewish people.

In 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, Paul is speaking to the church in Corinth. He was reminding the early church that the law of Moses hardened the hearts of the people and was of condemnation. What he meant by this is that “The Law” opened the people’s minds to know what sin was and how to act, however, it also hardened their hearts because they were always judging one another. This led to so much legalism and the creations of so many laws that no man could honestly be found righteous. So, the people grew cold towards one another and to outsiders. Paul called this having “a veil over their hearts.” Their minds were free to see the Lord and know His commands but their hearts kept them from feeling the love through His Spirit.

Paul then continues to explain to the church that through Christ is liberty. There is freedom no longer living under the veil of the Old Testament because we are all provided the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our sins are forgiven and we are able to exchange that sin with Christ’s righteousness. This exchange allows for the transforming power of Jesus Christ to work in us and through us. However, why are so many of us forgetting to lift the veil over our hearts? Our covenant is not one of condemnation but of mercy, grace,and forgiveness. Yet, I keep seeing believers just as legalistic as the Jewish people in Paul’s time. We as a church body have placed so many rules and regulations on the people that have led them feeling so short that they won’t even grace the doors of a church building. We judge, we gossip, and we condemn others in such a manner that I wonder if we truly lifted the veil over our hearts when we said “I do” to Christ. Why hasn’t our change taken place? We are no better than we were without Christ if we do not allow Him to work in us.

The reason why I am writing this is not to condemn people but to bring this real issue to light. Our Gospel is not one of legalism, ceremony, and tradition; it is a Gospel of the glory of our savior Jesus Christ and His sacrifice that allowed us to be in fellowship with the Father once again. It is a Gospel of the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faith, modesty, self-control, and chastity). Our Gospel is not one of condemnation and judgment, and we need to remember this simple truth. When we can do this, our actions will reflect the Gospel instead of our words. This is what it means to be a new covenant believer. The old is dead and gone, and we are made into a new creation. This can not happen if we continue to allow our hearts to stay hardened. We need to be able to walk out our faith instead of speaking about it with others. This is what Paul was telling the early church and this is what I want to share with you all today.

So for today’s prayer, I just ask for the Lord to remove the veil that covers many of our hearts. I pray for the Holy Spirit to allow us to share our personal transformation in Christ with others. I pray that the same mercy, love, and grace that we hold dear in our hearts to be mirrored to those around us. I pray that we can be the generation to stop allowing our own legalisms (traditions) from keeping the church pews from growing, and people from being reached. I pray that we can all come together in prayer and live out our faith instead of just talking about it. This is how we can change this generation for the better. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen.

A Lesson on Character

It is written, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame,” (1Corinthians 15:33-34, NASB).

For today’s lesson, I would like to cover this important piece of Scripture with everyone today. There are two applications being taught in these words, however, I only hear people preaching about one application being brought to light. So, I would like to briefly explain the implications of the character of the people we subject ourselves to, and our own personal character. However, before we start, I must go over the biblical definition of character. A person’s character is based off their disposition thoughts, intentions, desires, and their actions. Godly character is the work of the Holy Spirit working in a believers life. The Holy Spirit, oftentimes by trails and tribulations will mold us to become morally stronger. A believer can not be sober-minded, nor can they stop sinning without the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit in their lives. With this understanding, I would like to continue.

When it comes to our company, Paul was not speaking about the people we work with or the people we are trying to minister to. What Paul was speaking of was our own personal inner circle. The people we rely on and trust in our daily needs. If we choose to surround ourselves with the wrong type of people (company), their bad habits can stain our character. What that means is how they act and speak will rub off on us. If you are around people that gossip every day, over a period of time you will find yourself gossiping. If you are around people who are prideful and angry, you will find yourself eventually getting prideful and angry over small things. This principle is as true now as it was when Paul was writing this message. We have to be mindful on our relationships with others. If your inner circle is a bunch of unbelievers, how is that helping you grow in character and strength? If you are going through difficult situations, who will pray for you and provide you with wise biblical counsel? If the answer to both of these questions is no one, then find yourself a new company that will not stain your character but who will refine it.

Secondly, Paul is having his readers look inward at themselves to answer the question “why is good character important”? In verse 34, Paul identifies that we must be sober-minded and ought to stop sinning. Why is this so important? It is because he continues by saying that“some people have no knowledge of God.” When Paul wrote this he had shame in the church of Corinth. Their words and actions were not correlating with the Gospel. The reason why it is so important to have good character is not for our personal growth but to be able to share the gospel with others. People do not care about how well you speak or how educated you are. People only care about if your actions line up with your words. If you call yourself a Christian, and you are prideful, angry, and gossip; then your actions do not line up with the Gospel you are preaching. That my friends will turn more people away from Christ than Satan himself.

I pray that we can all take a deep look in the mirror today and absorb this piece of scripture and its two applications. I pray that if we are surrounding ourselves with people of bad character that we can have the strength to cut those relationships and have the courage to build new godly relationships. I also pray that if we are the ones with bad character, I pray that we can repent of them and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to continue to mold us to be a better version of ourselves. I say this frankly because if we cannot be the biblical examples of a disciple of Christ then we should not be proclaiming his Gospel in hypocrisy, and this takes the discernment that only the Holy Spirit can provide in our lives to do so. So, Father, I finish this prayer with a petition for an extra portion of your Spirit in our lives so that we can walk in a manner that is becoming of the sacrifice of your Son. Amen.

The Proper Foundation

I was reading today, and something jumped out of the page at me. I was reading 1 Corinthians chapter 13 and Paul is speaking to his audience about love. I enjoyed the reference that if he had the power to move mountains but did not have love, he was nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). He also spoke about giving everything he had to the poor but without love he was nothing (verse 3). Paul then goes on to explain that love never fails (verse 8). However, what jumped out of the pages and grabbed me was when Paul made the statement that spiritual gifts can come and go but love will always remain. 

Paul is teaching that love never fails. Our talents and abilities may come and go; however, we should be using them to glorify God and to advance His kingdom. Since God is love (1 John 4:8), everything that we think, say, and do should be founded on that love. Therefore, it will never fail. My wise wife always tells me that people will always remember how you made them feel instead of what you did for them. I believe her statement encompasses what Paul is trying to say to us all. If love is not the reason why you are moving mountains, then you should not move a mountain at all. The motives behind our actions is the key to determining if we should be using our gifts and talents. 

If you are using your gifts and abilities to glorify yourself, you are not only fooling the people around you but yourself as well. Once people get what they want from you, they will soon be out of your life. However, if you spend the time to lay a foundation of love, and people know that love is the reason for what you do, they will always be a part of your life. Therefore, love is foundational for everything. Without love we are nothing because we are empty. We cannot call ourselves Christians and not love others as we should love ourselves (Mark 12:31). 

So, I just want to pray with and for anyone reading this today. I pray that the same love that died on the cross, conquered death, and dwells within us all will overflow in our hearts. I pray with this love, we can treat others with the love and respect that we demand for ourselves. Amen.