Being Transparent

It is written, “since all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God, and are being justified [declared free of the guilt of sin, made acceptable to God, and granted eternal life] as a gift by His [precious, undeserved] grace, through the redemption [the payment for our sin] which is [provided] in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly [before the eyes of the world] as a [life-giving] sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation (propitiation) by His blood [to be received] through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness [which demands punishment for sin], because in His forbearance [His deliberate restraint] He passed over the sins previously committed [before Jesus’ crucifixion],” (Romans 3:23-25).

As I read this Scripture, I am reminded about a big problem in the church that needs to be corrected. This problem is transparency. What I mean about transparency is the underlining message of this piece of Scripture, and that message is that we have all sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God. We are all sinners, and the only difference between a sinner that has not known God yet and a Christian that commits a sin, is that a Christian should know better. Often times Christians can act worse than sinners and they forget that the person they are speaking to does not know about the transforming power of Jesus Christ or that they used to be just like them. Their struggles, their pain, their sorrow are all things that we dealt with before in the past and we left it at the foot of the cross where it belonged. It was Jesus Christ that released us from the slavery of our old sins, and to be honest, we will always be fighting against our old sinful nature. We are all equal and we all fall short, period. This message of transparency and equality needs to be spoken about as a reminder to us all.

It is upon the lack of transparency with one another that leads us to be ashamed of our past and who we used to be. If we are ashamed of where we once were how could we share our testimony with another? How can we share the transforming power of Jesus Christ in our lives? The simple answer is that we cannot. If we try to position ourselves in a manner that we are better than someone else because we are saved and they are not, or if we gossip about someone’s past, how are we living a life of victory and humility? When we can come to terms with this simple truth the overall body of Christ would be in a better position then what it is currently in now. We have not only become a stumbling block for our fellow believers (Romans 14:13-23) but we are robbing the salvation of others because of our lack of transparency with them.

When we don’t let unbelievers know that we were once like them, they will not have the essential thing to bring them to Christ. This essential thing is “hope.” Our testimony brings hope in the lives of those who believe and are struggling with a problem or an addiction, or it brings hope for an unbeliever that thinks that they are too far gone to receive the love of Christ in their lives. So please, take Paul’s message to heart and understand the simple truth that we as believers we are not better than anyone else because even we all fall short. But remember that the foot of the cross is what unites us all. It allows us to see where we were and where Jesus has taken us. This is something to be joyful about and shared with everyone, regardless of how they may see you. This is what it means to be transparent with people and that is how the Gospel of Christ is shared.

Father, I pray for a movement of equality to come into the church and our lives. I pray that we can all understand that we are all equal and this message is clear in your word. Father, I know that we all fall short but I thank you for the gift of Jesus Christ in our lives and that you love us so much that you keep forgiving us of our trespasses against you. I pray for the discernment of the Holy Spirit within the church, I pray that this discernment can help bring the dry bones alive again and that a fire can be rekindled in our hearts. I pray that this fire can help us understand that without the foot of the cross we are all doomed and deserve condemnation, and upon this understanding that we should want to help and guide those around us that do not know Jesus yet. Let us break down any boundaries that we have placed in our hearts and minds and fully submit to your glory. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen!

A Kingdom Divided

It is written, “Knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom that is divided against itself is being laid waste; and no city or house divided against itself will [continue to] stand. If Satan casts out Satan [that is, his demons], he has become divided against himself and disunited; how then will his kingdom stand? If I cast out the demons by [the help of] Beelzebul (Satan), by whom do your sons drive them out? For this reason, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you [before you expected it]. Or how can anyone go into a strong man’s house and steal his property unless he first overpowers and ties up the strong man? Then he will ransack and rob his house,” (Matthew 12:25-29, AMP).

In the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they were thinking that Jesus was casting out demons in the name of Beelzebul (a Philistine god/ major demon in the Abrahamic faith) instead of God. This caused Jesus to rebuke the Pharisees and he explained how can a house divided succeed if they are fighting against themselves. This rebuke is just as important today as it was for them at this time. The reason why I am stating this truth is that too many of us have become religious just like the Pharisees were. They were prideful, jealous of others accomplishments, and they separated anyone that did not do and believe exactly as they did. Doesn’t this sound familiar?

We have established so many denominations and have separated the Body of Christ from each other. When a fellow Christian is being successful, we point-out their shortcomings or how their doctrines are not as good as ours. We are missing out on the miracle that God is moving in our world today because we have been too caught up in widening the gap between each other. We have our salvation through Christ and Christ alone, not because we are in a particular denomination. We need to stop dividing our house and start bringing it back together. I strongly believe that Satan has infiltrated our churches to separate the body by allowing false doctrines to be taught, and we have fallen into his plan and now our house is barely standing today.

The Holy Spirit placed this message in my heart because He is mourning. We need to remember what Jesus was teaching in this Scripture and apply it! So, if you are having issues with another brother or sister in Christ, fix it and place those issues at the foot of the cross where they belong instead of separating yourself from them. When we all can start to remember that we are stronger together than alone can we start to correct this issue within the Body of Christ today. I challenge my readers to not only get involved within their church but to reach out to another church or denomination and start to build relationships with them. Get involved in your community and remember that what brings us together is bigger and stronger than what separates us. Christ did not hang on the cross for us to not do everything in our power to spread the gospel and expand His kingdom. This cannot happen if we try to do everything alone or if we are divided. Christ up and move the church forward my brothers and sisters!

Father, I pray that the church of today can realize that we all have a common mission and this mission is to love each other and to spread the gospel of your son Jesus Christ. I pray that we can all apply the lesson that a house divided will not continue to stand. Father, we come to you and leave our pride, our jealousy, and our biases at the foot of the cross so we can move forward and fix what has been broken for too long. In Jesus name, we pray, Amen!

Our Motives Matter

The Bible teaches us that there is a direct correlation between the outcome of our prayers and the motives behind our prayers. It is written, “You ask [God for something] and do not receive it, because you ask with wrong motives [out of selfishness or with an unrighteous agenda], so that [when you get what you want] you may spend it on your [hedonistic] desires. You adulteresses [disloyal sinners—flirting with the world and breaking your vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend [that is, loving the things of the world] is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God,” (James 4:3-4, AMP).

How many times have we prayed for something and asked the Lord to speak into our hearts and nothing happened? I know it has happened to me many times in my past, however, if you stop and truly think about the motives behind your prayers, were they righteous or were they selfish? Were our prayers for the expansions of the kingdom or ourselves? The reason why I am asking these two questions is that it is important. Before we lift our hands in the air or bow down on our knees in prayer we should have a full understanding of the motives and possible emotions behind our prayers. We know that our God is a God of righteousness and where there is darkness, He will not be there. The same goes for the heart behind our prayers. The Bible is clear that God does not listen to sinners, but He does listen to godly people who want to do His will (John 9:31). God has also revealed to us in His Word that He listens attentively to the prayers of the righteous (1 Peter 3:12). Lastly, the Bible teaches us that a righteous person can have confidence that if we ask anything according to God’s will He will listen to us (1 John 5:14).

Now by identifying these truths behind how God responds to the motives behind our prayers when our prayers are not being answered maybe we have to look inside ourselves to see if we are the reason why they are not getting answered. Are we seeking to glorify ourselves in this world or are we asking the Lord for something out of selfishness or an unrighteous agenda? Every time we pray, we must focus on why we are praying. Are we praying according to the will of God or are we praying according to our pride or selfish motives? If our heart and prayers do not align with the Word of God they will never get answered. God listens and blesses those who live and act according to His will. This is why the Bible teaches us that the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective (James 5:16). If our prayers are not getting answered we really need to take a step back and think about them. What are our real motives behind our prayers? When we can start to do this and identify what we should truly be praying about what we should be praying for, then we start to lean towards walking in a righteous manner and God will hear us.

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that you open the hearts and minds of all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray that you allow us to seek your righteousness and will first before we seek our own selfish agendas. I pray that you give us the discernment to know the difference and to do something about it. Father, thank you for your Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives to continuously work on our hearts. In Jesus name, we pray, Amen!

Forgiving, even under hardships

It is easy to forgive someone for small trespasses, however, when it comes to the big, emotionally scaring situations in our lives we tend to turn a blind eye. We walk away from the people and cut off others. For many situations this may be needed, especially in abusive relationships, however, we must always be able to forgive those who persecute us. The Bible teaches us that being able to forgive others allows us to keep our hearts pure and worthy of our offerings to the Lord. This is why Jesus taught that a believer must leave their offering to the Lord until they reconcile and forgive those who have wronged us (Matthew 5:24). This is not something simple to do though but it must be done to purify our hearts and our minds.

During my short lifetime, I have had to forgive those who hurt not only me but my family. I grew up in a very abusive household. My mother was emotionally abusive to my sisters and me, and my father was an abuser. One of my sisters and I were almost miscarried because of the beatings my father gave my mother while pregnant. Then, my mother took her hurt and anger out on us after she left my father. Hate and unforgiveness was bread into me and my sisters and it has truly scared us for many years. To this day we still carry our scars from our battles. These scars kept me from being a good husband, father, and Christian for many years.

Then, an amazing woman (my wife Amy) told me that until I completely forgive those who have hurt me I cannot fully grow. I would stay stagnant in all my relationships because the room in my heart and mind that held on to my anger and hurt has made me have a lot of defense mechanisms that keep me for having an honest relationship with others. I learned then that I had to leave my issues at the foot of the cross, however, to be honest, it has taken many years and at times I still struggle with things because of my past. Then, as I was reading my daily devotional I was reminded of the truth that we cannot have room in our heart and mind for negative emotions and for the fruits of the Spirit. There cannot be in light and darkness at the same time, we must choose either to be filled with love, mercy, and grace or not.

A perfect example of this is found in Acts 7:59-60. Stephen was being stoned to death for being a believer. He was tied up and was being struck repeatedly by large rocks because he was a Christian. Out of anyone in this world, Stephen could have yelled and cursed at these people because he did nothing wrong. Then falling on his knees [in worship], he cried out loudly, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them [do not charge them],” (Acts 7:60, AMP). If this man of God could forgive and pray for his enemies while being stoned to death, what is holding us back from forgiving someone who trespassed against us today?

This piece of Scripture reminded me about the years of anger and unforgiveness that kept me from being happy. My parents continued to live their lives as nothing happened but it was me that lived unhappily. I gave power to my anger, anxiety, and my unforgiving heart instead of giving power to the Lord in these areas of my life. For this reason, I am writing this short message for you all. Give power to God instead of the things that hold you back from giving yourself fully to Him. It has taken me many years to understand this simple lesson from Jesus and all those Christians that lived and died before my time, however, maybe my history can help you change your future. Choose to forgive and leave your sadness, anger, and hurt at the cross where it belongs. Then, allow the Holy Spirit to lift you up and fill those voids with Christ’s love, mercy, and grace. This is why it is so important to forgive others, especially during our most trailing times.

Father, we come to you together bent down on our knees. I pray that you give us the courage and strength to forgive and pray for those who persecute us and who have hurt us in the past. Father, I pray that you take their power over our lives away from us and allow us to leave these burdens at the foot of the cross where they belong. Father, sanctify us and exchange our hurts for the joy and happiness that can only come through your Spirit. For this exchange and many more blessings that we cannot see in our daily walk with you, I say thank you and in your Son’s name, we pray, Amen!

Uneducated and Untrained

There have been so many times in my life where I felt that I was falling short as a Christian. I did not want to share my faith because I felt unqualified and untrained. As a Christian, I lived a life of defeat when I should have been living a life of abundance and victory. I started to care more about what other Christians said that I should be doing (going to Bible college, ministering, and leading), instead of simply understanding who I was in Christ and fully accepting the gift of the Holy Spirit. Over time, I went to seminary twice and earned multiple degrees in religion, chaplaincy, and biblical studies. However, what has made the largest impact in my faith and Christian walk is two simple things. They are knowing who I am in Christ and the fact that I stopped getting in my own way and let the Spirit lead my life. This walk that I am on did not come fast or easy, I can assure you, but through my faith in Jesus Christ, it was possible.

I was reminded of this when I was reading the book of Acts with my family. We were reading how Peter and John were performing many miracles and healings through the power of the Holy Spirit, and their foundational faith in Jesus Christ. Many felt convicted because of their boldness and many felt jealous because they were given the same power as these men of God had. The Scripture tells us that these two men were having to stand against the Jewish High Court to defend themselves for doing good (Acts 3:1-12). They healed a man through the power of the Holy Spirit within them and they were proclaiming Christ. However, the important thing that I want to address is what happened next. The Jewish High Court saw their confidence and boldness, knowing that they were “uneducated and untrained” men (Acts 4:13). Then, the Scripture continues to state that this Jewish High Court was astounded and began to recognize that Peter and John had been with Jesus. This High Court saw the fruits of their faith when they saw the healed man standing there with them and they had nothing else to say (Acts 4:14).

When I read this with my family, I started to think back about all those years I spent in seminary and the most effective tool that I have in my ministry and life is the guidance of the Holy Spirit. These two apostles did amazing things during their lifetime, however, their training and power came from their faith in Jesus Christ. They were untrained and uneducated, yet the Lord used them in mighty ways. They preached the Gospel and shared the only way to salvation, which is through Christ with everyone they met. The reason why I am writing this message is to remind not only myself but everyone reading this that we can do nothing without the power of the Holy Spirit. You can go to seminary for many years, you can study and earn multiple doctorate degrees, however, you will never be fruitful in the Body of Christ without being lead, strengthened, and covered with the Holy Spirit. It took me many years to get to the point where I am now, and I pray that this short message can help someone today. Remember who you are in Christ, and let the Holy Spirit do His job. Do not worry about what others say you should be doing, worry about what the Bible tells you to live. The rest will fall into place in your Christian walk. Do not put yourself down because you are uneducated or untrained, God can and will use you! So, give thanks for the life you live and keep moving forward!

I would like to end this message with a small prayer. Dear Heavenly Father, please allow us to see ourselves through your eyes. Help us understand that regardless of our condition, education, and training, you can use us to do your will if we are willing to do so. Father, guide and strengthen us and protect us from ourselves, our pride, our insecurities, and any lack in our faith. We know that you have always used the least of men to do many miracles and blessing, and I simply pray that you can continue to use people like us to do the same today. Amen!