“Childlike” Faith

In Matthew 18:3, Jesus tells us, unless you are converted and become like a child, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. This verse may sound sweet and encouraging, or it may sound slightly misleading. We all either know children, have children, and were at one point a child ourselves. Anyone who knows a child certainly understands the immature, careless, and undeveloped mind of a youngster. The question rises when we realize Jesus calls us to become “like” a child. If we are called to be mature Christians who obtain knowledge and passionately seek after the Lord, then why should becoming like a child fit anywhere in the picture? 1 Corinthians 13:11 says, When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. Though the verses seem contradictory, one verse focuses on the intentions of behavior while the other focuses on the intentions of the heart.

First, let’s define childlike versus childish. Childlike means, “having good qualities associated with that of a child. Childish means, “resembling the actions appropriate to a child”. One term intends to concentrate on the strengths a child has to share while the other focuses on the average standard upheld by children. It is essential to understand the two before making a quick negative judgement on the words of Jesus. So what is Jesus saying?

Dr. Gail Gross says a present and supportive father gives the child a strong inner core resource, sense of well-being, good self-esteem, and authenticity (Huffpost). Think about the nature of child. Children are weak, insecure, fearful, and always in need of something. Now ponder the nature of a father. A good father desires to protect, provide, and discipline his children in love. When we see the comparison between the two it is only sensible to understand that children have a deep need to surrender their fears and insecurities to their father. In the same way, we should “become like children” and surrender it all to our Father, God.

In the same passage Jesus continues in saying, whoever humbles himself like this child- he is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. I believe Jesus admires the humility of the child and desires for us to take notice. Jesus understands how easy it is for pride to fester in our hearts over time. As we grow, we learn more and more about life, encounter crazy experiences, and meet tons of unique and interesting people. Through the process of living we begin to believe that we have it all figured out. I once heard an older man say, “Blake, I’ve been everywhere but prison and seen everything but the wind.” The heart behind such a catchy phrase is exactly what Jesus is pointing at. Jesus desires for us to redirect our earthly knowledge and gravitate towards His heavenly wisdom. Scripture tells us that knowledge on earth is foolishness in the eyes of God. Society tells us age equals wisdom. Culture says that children are insignificant to society because they are weak and lack experience. However, Jesus says no matter what society or culture says, we will always be children in the eyes of God. Therefore, be humble. Humility must take place on the inside before it can become evident on the outside. The only way to humble ourselves before the Lord is to become like children, and surrender to the Father.

I’d like to leave you with a thought…

Here on earth everything is advanced. Society wires us to think for ourselves and not rely on anyone. What if I told you God doesn’t work by our earthly standards; God ways are much higher than ours. As I study scripture it has become self-evident that spiritual growth starts with surrender. In God’s eyes, becoming childlike in our Faith defines maturity by His standard. One day we will all meet God face-to-face and His standard will be the only one that matters. The question worth asking is this: “Am I a child of God.”

Generalization of Scripture

 

I recently received the question, “should a person live by the Bible generally or by the letter?” Essentially what this person was asking is, should we just look at the big picture, or focus on the minor details?

My answer to the question is this: we should study every minor​ detail of what seems to be the general​ concept. Honestly, there is nothing “general” or basic about the Bible. Every detail speaks deeply when deeply studied, which is one thing I find so fascinating about scripture. Nothing in it’s text has zero purpose as, all scripture is God-breathed which is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16) We may not always completely understand God’s word, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless. It simply gives us incentive to further our faith in knowing God’s ways are higher than our own.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you understand the main idea of our faith; For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son; that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal Life. (John 3:16) If you are reading this and you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, this verse simply means God sacrificed His only son to endure the punishment for sin so we would not have to. Essentially, this verse is the heart of what we believe as followers of Jesus. It can also be described as the foundation of our faith. Here’s the issue; simply understanding the general idea of scripture does not produce fruit, discipline, and closeness with the creator God. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. How can we correctly handle the Word of truth (the Bible or God’s Holy Word) if we do not know what it says? God tells us in Matthew 11:29 to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him. We can not learn from God if we do not hear from and study God. Do you walk into your math class on the first day of school ready to take the final exam? No. Preparation for the final exam takes an entire year of listening, studying, and intense effort in order to fully understand the subject. I am not trying to relate Christianity to Math. In fact, I personally don’t care for math. What I am trying to point out is, just because someone knows that math exists, doesn’t mean they understand it. Likewise, just because you write John 3:16 on your bathroom mirror does not mean you have cultivated a deep understanding of God’s word.

Keep in mind the topic of John 3:16. Jesus taking on death so we would not have to. What this verse screams is, “I LOVE YOU.” We serve a God that deeply loves us. Because He loves us, He desires a deep and personal relationship with us. If John 3:16 means exactly what it says, then why in the world would we not desperately seek to further our knowledge on the One that loves us so deeply. I believe it is impossible to legitimately understand the “general” concept of the Bible and not have incentive to dive deeper. When we begin to zero-in ON​ the big picture, we grow a desire to zero-in ABOUT​ the big picture.

Really think about that last sentence.

My goal for this post is not to beat you up or cause you to feel conviction. My goal, is to
encourage you to soak up the details about our faith involving attitude, prayer, health, sex, marriage, wealth, parenting, discipline, and many other areas of life. Allow those details to soften your heart and transform your life. Everything you read in scripture points back to the cross of Jesus Christ in some way or another. The general idea of the Bible may produce faith, but it’s the small truths that produce growth; both of which are vitally important.

“The truth produces faith; faith produces incentive; and incentive produces growth.”

 

Fruit of the Spirit

As a person who has grown up learning about the Bible, it is easy for me to roll my eyes and think lightly of the fruit of the Spirit. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about- the fruit of the spirit is a concept Paul discusses in his letter the the church in Galatia. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul writes, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. All these attributes illustrate the nature of the Holy Spirit. Often times it’s easy to sum up such qualities into simply, “being a good person”. However, it goes much deeper than that.

The fruit of the Spirit can only come from God alone. When God transforms our hearts and we receive the Holy Spirit, we now contain the ability to reflect Christ through the way we live, the way we speak, and the way we treat others. The unique thing about the fruit of the Spirit is that it is God’s way of presenting Himself through us. Everything that the fruit of the Spirit is, God also is. God is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All of these attributes are the explanation for the concept of God’s Perfection. His holiness is described through His consistency in His perfection. The perfect sanctified King is sanctifying us day after day as we pursue a life that reflects His nature. In doing so, we must focus on God’s love and pray that it transpires in our interaction with the world.

The love talked about in this text is God’s love. As believers, we understand that God’s unconditional love is what distinguishes Him from any other being in this world. Notice the order in which the fruits of the Spirit are listed. Number one, is love. The biblical number for unity happens to be, ONE. Thank about all the unity we experience in our lives; from our family, friends, and people we spend time with. As Christians we are called to be unified with Christ and other believers through the power of God’s love. We are also called to obey the two most important laws: love God, and love others, as talked about in Matthew 12:30-31. This simply goes to prove that God’s love is overwhelmingly more significant than any earthly affection we are capable of. The only way we can exruberate the rest of the fruits (joy, peace, patience, etc.), is by thoroughly holding firm onto God’s love.

Against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:23) This verse does not mean living for Christ exempts you from the law. It simply means, no where in scripture is there a law that contradicts the fruits of the Spirit. It also implies that keeping the law becomes much easier when the love of the God is displayed through the character of the Holy Spirit. As we grow in our faith and study God’s word, we become more and more like Him. We are all sinners who are completely incapable of being perfect. However, we can display God’s love by letting the fruit of the Spirit impact others. I firmly believe none of the fruits can be exemplified until the first one is understood. God’s love is what saves us. It has changed the world and will continue to do so. If we wish for all the fruits to be unified in our lives we must first focus on the unifier, LOVE.

After reading this blog post, seek interactions in which you can shine the light of the Holy Spirit. The more we meditate on God’s word and focus on letting the fruits of the Spirit overflow in our life, the easier it becomes to see the world through God’s eyes and find joy in peace amongst pain and suffering. My last post was on the armor of God; the preparation for spiritual battle in a broken world. My goal for this post is to encourage you in letting the Spirit that lives inside you shine in a way that shows God’s love in a broken world.

Make your prayer for this week to exemplify Christ through love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Ask God for opportunity and focus on His love. You will begin to grow in a spiritually healthy way, impacting those around you.

 

 

The Armor of God

Many Christians have a misunderstanding of the Armor of God. We often fall prey to the belief that the armor of God is a simple belief to prevent attacks from the enemy. This idea is in no way accurate. In fact, the intentions God has for this aspect of faith are quite the opposite. We must first look at what the scripture says. “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11). The text does not say, put on the full armor of God so the enemy won’t attack you.” It tell’s us to take a standMeaning, the equipment provided through God’s love is not Satan repellent. They are tools to be used in times of battle to fight back against the enemy’s approach.

Ephesians 6:14-17 tells us, Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. As we read this text we notice that each piece of equipment is given to protect different parts of the body. I believe Paul was informing the church in Ephesus about the importance of preparation. The different parts of the body (feet, chest, head, etc) are symbolic for different areas of your life. When the enemy strikes, he does not immediately tear apart your whole life. He starts with small areas of your life with intentions to spread like wildfire. Satan might start with infringing your relationships, causing families to turn on each other, or even stepping in to your job and causing problems in the workplace. Whether you are a Jesus follower or not you will always be attacked. The enemy’s goal, is draw people away from Christ. When we study God’s word and spend time in prayer, we prepare ourselves for struggles, hardships, and failures that are used by the enemy to direct our focus off of Christ. “Putting on the armor of God” simply means to prepare yourself for everyday life. The broken world we live in will try to tear us apart time and time again. However, those who are spiritually prepared and trust God’s provision are able to “stand firm”.

Lastly, we notice in Ephesians 6 that the front part of our bodies are protected. But what about our backs? What about when Satan comes from behind like he does a lot of times? I am comforted by the idea that there is a reason the backside is left wide open. GOD HAS OUR BACK. We can study the Bible and pray all day, but if we do not have faith that God has our best interest, we give up on the very one who never gives up on us. We are blessed to serve a God who is absolutely for us. We may have to faithfully fight the battles we face with the truths from God’s word. But the ultimate battle has already been one. Through the power of the cross, God made himself able to be the ultimate fortress. As life seems unbearable and unfair as pain and suffering swallows our society by the masses, we may rest in knowing God has our backs. He has already defeated the battles we can not see. Psalms 34:8 tells us this: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

I pray you are encouraged and continue to seek God’s will.

Christian Dating

Recently, I received a request to write a blog about Christian dating. The goal for this blog is to exit the mindset of the “dating game” and enter the mindset of pursuing a future with the person God chooses. Nowhere in scripture does it ever talk about dating? In fact, dating is something that has been made up and inspired by man. However, the world we live in creates requirements and expectations of us that are influenced by the culture of our society. Our job as Christians, is to be able to live in the world but not of it. Culture is good, unless it does not line up with the Bible. Meaning: the idea of dating is not something Biblical, but should be used in a way that is obedient to God.

The first thing you should ask yourself before diving in to a dating relationship is this: “Would this relationship be pleasing to the Lord?” The second question is, “Am I mature enough to love and protect this person’s heart?” If even one of these can not be answered confidently, then it would only be foolish to pursue a dating relationship at that time. Honoring the Lord with our love for someone else should be our primary focus. Once we loose sight of Him, we take matters into our own hands. Keep in mind the danger of placing matters into human hands instead of God’s. A relationship involves two people with selfish desires as opposed to one perfect God with righteous intentions. The only thing that comes out of a relationship that focuses on human desire and not God’s, is pain and emptiness.

The whole idea behind dating someone is to find a spouse; someone you intend to spend the rest of your life with. This does not mean hop around until you find a person that doesn’t make you mad all the time. I believe going from relationship to relationship and bailing as soon as things go south creates a mindset that will hurt you later on. When we practice this in our younger years we create habits that transpire in our later years. If minor commitment is to much to be asked of you as young person, then stop. Give yourself time to grow and mature as you focus on God’s will for your life and not your own. One of the greatest things you can learn when you’re young is to persevere where God directs you. Perseverance is a major part of commitment. God tells us to be people who live by truth. When we commit to something, we should faithfully commit. The definition of commit is “to pledge or bind to a certain course or policy.” God does not desire for His children’s hearts to be thrown around and played with. Not faithfully committing to something only brings hurt to the people who are involved.

The love we have for someone else should be inspired by the love God has for us. If that is not something you think you can accomplish, then stay clear of dating until you feel enabled by God. We must first be confident in God’s love for us before someone else can feel confident in our love for them. Focusing on God’s love and desire will also help us refrain from impurity and sexual temptation. Sex outside of God’s design is simply an act of selfishness and can not be justified through “love.” If you truly love the person you are dating you will put their walk with the Lord above your intentions. Though it is easier said then done, it is possible through Christ. I have seen in my own life that I become weak in my love for others when I am not focused on Christ’s love for me. 1 John 4:7 says, Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Meaning, once we have been born again we are now able to fully love those around us. The love described in scripture is the action of Love, not the feeling. In a dating relationship, we should focus on the action of love which produces the feeling of love. (1 Corinthians 13).

Wait till God directs you to the right person. Before engaging in a dating relationship, understand the spiritual and mental maturity that is required to protect the other person’s heart. Honor God with your actions and focus on His love. By doing so, you will be able to faithfully love others and find the person God designed specifically for you.

 

How to See Love in a Broken World?

 

When we look around, we see brokenness, pain, hate, poverty and sickness. We see darkness that consumes the human heart and we struggle to find hope, peace, and joy here on earth. Though we live in a fallen and broken world, God still makes himself known to us.

Think of all the bad things in the world right now. It’s not hard to think of situations in our world that are damaging to societies and tearing people apart: poverty, divorce, sickness, suicide, political corruptness, hatred, etc. The list goes on and on. The question becomes, “How in the world do we see the amazing love of God in a world that is consumed with hate?”.

1 John 4:7-21, is a passage in scripture that completely focuses on God’s love. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:7-10). The idea behind this passage is to take our eyes off ourselves and focus on the One who first loved us. The love talked about in reference to God’s love is known as Agape love. Agape love is a love that can only be expressed by God. Paulo Coelho explains agape love in a unique way. He writes, “Agape is total love, the love that devours those that experience it.” Meaning, God’s love is overwhelming and supernatural. It “devours” those who find themselves captivated by it. As Christians, we experience agape love daily because we understand the person of God and His constant display of unconditional love. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to love others through Christ’s love for us. In other words, God calls us to display His love through our actions, words, and community.

God’s act of sending his Son as an atoning sacrifice is the ultimate act of love. But why? What was God thinking when he did this? I believe God’s heart is full of people. The sinful, dark, broken people who would choose sin over righteousness if it wasn’t for grace. Just as our default nature is sin, God’s default nature is holy. His holiness is displayed in His unchanging and overwhelming love for us (Hebrews 13:8). If God’s love is so great, then how do we see His love in such a broken world?

Think about this… If God finds such beauty in creation that He would sacrifice His son, then aren’t we also to find such beauty in the world He created. At the vapor of God’s breath, we see the very first record of human existence! In Genesis 1 we notice God created everything for a specific purpose; for man’s use and for God’s glory. God’s initial heart behind creation was to create an earth that reflected Heaven. Scripture tells us the Kingdom consists of three aspects: righteousness, peace, and joy. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,”(Romans 14:17). Though our sin has corrupted the perfect image of creation God intended, Jesus made us able to “seek first the Kingdom of heaven”, as mentioned in Matthew 6:33. Finding love is not about feeling affection from those around you. Finding love is seeking the heart of the creator. When we do so, our eyes open up to the beauty of the world he created and those who inhabit it. Take the lenses of human nature off and replace them with lenses of His agape love. View the 7.6 billion people on earth the way God sees them as he pours out His infinite Grace time and time again.

If God’s heart is full of people, then our hearts should be too. We are called to love as Christ loves. In doing so, we see God at work. Seeing God at work is the biggest way we visually acknowledge love here on earth. We often times get caught up in the cycle of life and forget that we are not multicellular organisms functioning to promote faulty evolutionary theories. We are here for a love driven purpose. The design of creation is so complex and incredibly inexplicable that we cannot possibly ponder God’s work without understanding His supernatural love. God’s first act of love took place long before the crucifixion. God showed His love towards humanity through our initial creation. To be created in the image of the creator is an act of love in and of itself.

Right now, I encourage you to get up off your couch, office chair, or wherever you are. Put down your coffee and find a window. Look outside. Maybe it’s dark and dreary. Maybe it’s bright and sunny. Maybe the wind howls as God breathes his mighty breath through the trees He created. Whatever you see or hear when you look out your window was made to direct your vision off your own life and on to God’s plan. God’s plan is full of one word. LOVE. Fill your heart with God’s desire and begin loving others as Christ loves us. Then, you will find love in a broken world.

 

What is Wisdom?

As Christians, it is important to understand the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Scripture is clear when distinguishing the two. However, we easily find ourselves undermining wisdom to simple knowledge and clever sayings.

The Bible states throughout it’s text that wisdom comes from God. Many people tend to believe that wisdom is a deep knowledge that is acquired over time. That is why elderly people seem extremely wise. In many cases, older people can be extremely wise but ultimately your age is not a prerequisite to your wisdom. Many people describe wisdom as applied knowledge. I like to think of wisdom as the ability to make responses and decision based off of God’s will. The only way we can truly make decisions based on God’s will is to have His spirit living inside us. Because the Bible tells us that Wisdom comes from God,  I believe it is only possible to have wisdom if we are born again. When we are saved, God Gives us His spirit. Through His spirit, we now see the world differently and are capable of Following God’s will.

The writer of proverbs 4 wants us to view wisdom as a mother who watches over her children. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.” (Proverbs 4:6a) This verse seems unusual and quite strange by how it describes wisdom. Never will you hear someone in todays world talking about wisdom as a “she”. Why? Because that would be weird and uncomfortable. So why does the Bible? Take second to think of the perfect mother. A mother that nurtures and loves her children with all her heart. Maybe that is your own mother. If not, imagine the person who plays that role in your life and all they do for you. Many of us view our moms as the people we are closest to in life. What would it be like if that person disappeared forever?  Would life be sad, hard, painful, or confusing? Would you even know what to do anymore? I believe scripture wants us to desire wisdom the way we desire our moms in our life because our moms are the ones who typically know us best. A good mother knows her children’s needs, knows when they are sick or hurting, they know how to care and love through the ups and downs. As we get older, our moms loose influence in our lives. We no longer have moms telling us what to do and where to go. We have the Holy Spirit living inside us which produces wisdom.Wisdom, increases as we study scripture and meditate on God’s promises and is able to impact the decisions we make. Through the wisdom we gain by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can make decisions based on God’s will and we can be lead by Him where he desires.

When we listen to the advice from other believers we gain insight that impacts us. One of my earlier blogs was about the importance of godly community. One of the ways God can work in our lives is through the community we choose to keep. Proverbs says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” (Proverbs 19:20). God uses advice and instruction from fellow believers to speak to us as we walk through life. This may seem like a simple concept, but anything used for growth is vital in the eyes of God. We should chase wisdom with intentional pursuit. Many people have knowledge but scripture tells us only Christians have wisdom. “All wisdom comes from the Lord.” (Proverbs 2:6a) Do not let the world weaken your view of wisdom. In the minds of non believers, knowledge makes you smart. But in the hearts of Jesus followers, knowledge is used to produce wisdom. Our goal is not to be smart people, but wise people seeking to be used by God.