Our Oath, Our God, Our Forgiveness

“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

-Acts 2:38

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You know I hear a lot of people talking about how we don’t cover enough of the bad of the Bible, and teaching the healthy fear of God, but in my view is that what God wants. If this were true I don’t believe one of the most predominant themes in the Bible would be love. Did you know that in the NIV the theme of love appears 551 times. So when we sometimes ignore some of the negatives are we really taking away from God’s plan? Above is another iconic Bible verse. If you are Christian you surely have been baptized its our mark of a believer, the Apostle Paul believed baptism to be the mark of the Christian. How beautiful is a baptism? One washing away their sins accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It’s absolutely beautiful. When you get baptized its the beginning of your relationship with God that will never end. Contrary to popular belief there is no sin, no act, nor thought that could separate you from the Fathers love. Even if you have strayed away, God will be there. In the name of Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Our sins are washed as white as snow by the crimson stain of the blood of Christ. God will forgive you in the sun, rain, snow, or storm. One of the reasons people fear going to church is because they fear judgement, but there is no sin you can commit God does not know about. There is no way you can sever the love that God has for you. There is a heaven and there is a hell and God surely wants you in the first option, and will do anything to keep you from the second.

This verse in Acts which was written is a call to action for believers to repent. Repent a word which for some reason now was become synonymous with zealot podium banding preachers. All jokes aside though this is such an important word in the Bible, its the act of humility where you admit your lesser than God, you admit you need Him, and you admit you were wrong. For some of us admitting we are wrong is harder for others. When you become baptized you are taking an oath to God that you will love Him above all else, you believe in his son, and you want to be cleansed. That oath is not something that God takes lightly, its the most important decision you will ever make. Peter in this verse does not say you who is strong, you are fine, no he says everyone of you. Everyone of use need to be baptized because regardless of the mask we put up we are all weak. We all go through our lives fighting something. Some fight gluttony, some fight lust, some fight lies, gambling, addiction whether that’s drugs, alcohol, or maybe pornography. Many of us boast, gossip, and use our tongues in dishonorable ways. However, none of this matters because Jesus has died for us, we are all flawed. While we are flawed, those who were baptized took that oath to Jesus. With that oath we were healed and saw our sins washed clean. As we felt that water touch our bodies and looked around we felt different. We are filled with the Holy Spirit. With that we became part of the body of Christ, and with that each day we must live as a part of the body, but eventually we will stumble and we will fall, but its OK because of the oath we took with Jesus, and the promise He gave us. That promise was one of forgiveness. Selah!

Irrevocable and Unconditional Love

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“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

Anyone who has seen the movie Sister Act probably can recall the group of nuns on stage singing karaoke altering a couple lyrics singing,

“Nothing you could say could tear me away from my God,
(My God)
Nothing you could do ’cause I’m stuck like glue to my God.
(My God)
I’m sticking to my guy like a stamp to a letter,
Like birds of a feather we stick together,
I’m tellin’ you from the start I can’t be torn apart from my God.”

Well let me tell you that nothing can tear you away from God, and He will never let you go, give up on you, or stop loving you. In the verse above, I would make the argument that this is the most popular Bible verse in the entire world. Maybe I am wrong, but for many Christians its the one 99% of Christians can recite by heart, or at least close to by heart. It’s so short and simply, but is the basis of our existence and the foundation of Christianity. It warms out heart, and it gives us hope. It’s seen everywhere because it speaks pure truth. You will find no greater truth than the word of God, God, and the power created by the sacrifice for Jesus. We serve and awesome God, and even in our shortcomings God loves. He loves the rich, the poor, the straight, the gays, the yellow, red, black, and white. He loves the saint, he loves the sinner. He loves the person who has a crippling addiction to drugs, pornography, or some other vice. He loves the rambler, the gambler, and the backbiter. He loves the sick, poor, and weary. God loves because He is Love. There is no love without God, and there is no life without God. He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the Genesis of all life.

For those of you who are parents you have a sense of what this means, and those who have lost a child, my prayers go out to you, but you now have a greater understanding what really occurred on that day the world turned their back on the messiah. The emotions God must have been going through. To sacrifice your child is something almost no human would have the strength to do. It’s almost incomprehensible, to punish perfection for those who have no clue what perfection is inspiring and incredible. For Jesus to take the cross He knew what was at stake. He know it would hurt, it would be hard, and He would suffer. It was one of the most painful, heinous, and disgusting ways to leave this Earth. However, He did it willingly for us. For those who are fringe believers look at it this way. No one can debate the existence of Jesus, if they do they are ignorant, but one can debate His divinity, and they are a fool. We as Christians need to make wise men out of the fools. Jesus took the punishment willingly, so there are two ways to look at this either Jesus Christ is who He says He is, or He was a lunatic. No one in their right mind volunteers for crucifixion. To say Jesus was a lunatic is preposterous, it undermines so much about Him. A lunatic would not go around an do so much good for so many people. There are so many reasons that would show He was not crazy. However, I believe CS Lewis says it best,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

-CS Lewis

So now that we can see that He was not some lunatic, we are long left with one answer He is the messiah. To continue on this it is completely unbelievable to thing that the disciples would have accepted the death’s that they accepted for a lie either. Each one of the apostles died a painful and grueling death as well, if this was not the truth 12 men would not have defended a lie to the death. At least one would have slipped up and cracked.

“The Bible isn’t a rule book. It’s a love letter. I’m not an employee. I’m a child. It’s not about my performance. It’s about Jesus’ performance for me. Grace isn’t there for some future me but for the real me. The me who struggled. The me who was messy. ….. He loves me in my mess; he was not waiting until I cleaned myself up.”

-Jefferson Bethke

The quote above comes from Jefferson Bethke’s life changing book Jesus > Religion, and absolute must read for any Christian, pending Christian, and non-believer, especially millennials. On the the quote though, it doesn’t matter where you are in your life Jesus still loves you. He loves you in the gutter, He loves you on top of the mountain, and He will love you everyday from the genesis of your existence and for the rest of time. Jesus does not wait to hand out His love, He just does. Jesus is not waiting for the invitation, your life is not an exclusive party, because Jesus will crash any party He wants to. If His sacrifice is not enough to convince you of His unconditional love then I don’t know what else can be. Judge Jesus by who Jesus was, not by who man say He is, or tries to say who He was. Jesus loves you, He is the Lord, He is the Savior, and He is Love.

So Maybe We Are Not Perfect, but That’s OK

blogpic.jpg.png.jpgThe other day I watched Ragamuffin the story of Rich Mullins. The film highlighted his relationship with Brennan Manning the author of the Ragamuffin Gospel. Mullins’ life was far from perfect in fact he struggled with many things in his life. However, this is what the Ragamuffin Gospel is all about. It’s a life of knowing our flaws and acknowledging them to our God. We have to know we are weak. One of the more interesting comments I read in the past year is “They say church if for the weak, and they are right, we are all weak. Church is a gathering of the weak people who are strong enough to admit they need help. Those strong enough to know they need the love, help, and grace of an all powerful God.” A ragamuffin in Manning’s definition is one who is not afraid to admit his flaw, and is one who can humble them self before God. Jefferson Bethke once wrote that “we all crawl to the finish line fighting something.” We all have our weaknesses, we all have things we need to over come and we all need God. Whether your struggle is addiction, a lifestyle choice, or something else, we are all human, and we all share a struggle, but do we have what it takes to admit it?

If you want fair, you’d be in hell.”

-Jefferson Bethke

Let the quote above sink in, and just simmer in your mind. He’s right, it we want fair we would all be in hell, we would not be living, nor ever see heaven, we would be in hell. Luckily, we serve a loving God we does not want that for us. We are not promised sunshine nor daisies, life some days can flat out suck, but that’s OK. God puts us through trials, and it’s not just a single trial that dictates our future, our God is a God who is always there for us. Sometimes we fail, failure is OK, but we must learn from failure. Likewise, sin is forgivable if we ask for forgiveness. Ragamuffins may be at a low point in their lives, but they admit it. They love God in the good times and bad. We need to put our egos aside and put the want’s and needs of God first.

The Apostle Paul teaches us we are the church. We are all part of the body of Christ, and we are all different beings. We all have our strengths, and we all have our weaknesses. You can not expect a leg to do the job of a hand, nor should your expect a foot to chew your food. These are not what they were designed to do. An eye can see the world, but won’t hear a word you say. As social creatures we are called together, an we must gather as Christians. As the Apostle Matthew wrote, when two or more are gathered in the name of Him we are the church. We must be the church within the walls of our Sunday gathering spot, and we must be the church outside of them. Church is not something that it limited to Sunday, its a 24/7 practice. 24/7 we are part of the body of Christ. As part of the body of Christ we must try and live the life Christ did. Now we know we can not ever achieve absolute perfection, but we cannot get caught up in this. A lack of trying is inexcusable. Life is a journey and we all have the same finish line in sight, you wouldn’t stop running in a marathon because you stumbled and fell when the finish line is in sight. No, you would get back on your feet and finish the race. So why are we doing this with our lives. The finish line is always in sight, if you God, and you accept Jesus as your Lord and personal Savior, you can see where you will be blessed to go one day. We must try to be perfect, and learn from our imperfections. It’s one thing to be imperfect because it is who we are, but it’s another to be unclean because we serve a loving and understanding God.We must show humility and pure love for God daily.

One of the reasons I love sports, and many people love sports is it gives a nice sense of how imperfect we are. The best athletes fail all the time. A baseball player who fails 60-70% of the time is considered an elite hitter. A quarterback who completes only 60% of his passes is considered elite. This theme hold true in every major sport, people are not perfect. People fail with so much in their lives, but we can not fear it, we have embrace it as a possibility and know how to rebound from it. We have all failed God in our lives. However, the potential to fail God should not deter us from waking up each morning and going about our lives. When you do that to take away the possibility to do good as well. Wayne Gretzky famous quote,

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

This holds true to life in general. If we are too scared to fail we limit our potential to live and learn. Failure and trials is about about pushing you down, its about how we respond. A truly great man will respond to adversity by getting back up, learn from it, reaching out to God, and continue down the road of life a better person.

We are all sinners and God loves us that way, He loves us period. Even the apostles were not the most we perceived people in society Matthew was a tax collector, we was seen as scum. Paul was a murder, Peter denied Jesus three times, and Thomas consistently doubted Jesus. Did I mention Judas betrayed Jesus. What about the adulterous woman about to be stoned?  Jesus didn’t persecute her, but saw what was within and used it to show we all have flaws. The only person in that group who could have thrown the first stone was Jesus, the only one without flaw. However, He didn’t, he gave forgiveness. Jesus was a rebel by societies standards, and we need to do the same. We can’t be perfect like Him, but we must try. We need God’s redemption, and we need His grace. If you don’t believe in the value of humility look at the first time Jesus met Matthew. Matthew as mention before was seen as scum by society. Matthew went into the temple with a pharisee. Matthew prayed for forgiveness and cried out he was a sinner. The pharisee prayed thank you for making him unlike other men. God gave forgiveness to Matthew, and condemned the pharisee. He knows we will fail, but expects us to try.

We have to remember God knows everything, and everything we do. You can not hide from God so you might as well admit your short comings. Hiding didn’t work for Adam and Eve, and it won’t work for you. We can not afford to live our lives as if Jesus didn’t exist. We must put God first. We must help the sick, poor, and needy. It’s not a maybe it’s a must. Life is a journey and it takes practice. The best athletes didn’t become good by simply walking into a game, no it took practice, work, and devotion. As Christians we must glorify God in all we do whether at work, home, school, or at the ball game. We are all part of the body and we must push to live as if we are. We are the examples and we are how people will judge the church, and how they will see God. While we may not be perfect, that’s OK, because our God loves and forgives those who seek it.

An Escape From the World

“And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”

-2 Peter 1:4

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One thing I have gotten away from in the past couple weeks was writing about sports, its one of my many passions, but its something I know well and I know that deep down it’s a tool for evangelism. It was the original motivation for this blog, but God has placed many bigger items on my heart, and I have so much I feel He wants me to write about. I love the verse above, because of His glory and excellence, lets just look at that what more needs to be said about God, His glory and excellence. However, there is more, He has given us great and precious promises. Let me add to this a little, great and precious promises that none of us deserve, but by His grace we receive them. Every team around the league has their guy, the Cavs have LeBron, the Angels have Trout, the Penguins have Crosby, and the Patriots have Brady. You know each and every game your guy is going to do something special nine times out of ten, and when they don’t its an off night. God doesn’t have off nights, even in great tragedy God is doing amazing things, and making change. We may not always see it, but God is doing work in our lives everyday. He does this because of his glory and excellence.
As we continue to dissect this verse we see there are promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the worlds corruption. How many times have sports just taken you away from it all. They united us, and the can move our minds away from what’s bad. After Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans community was hurt, knocked down, and beaten, but as the community returned to full strength so did the Saints. The Saints success was somewhat symbolic of what the city of New Orleans had done. Though the year Katrina hit the Saints were a below par squad, as the community built up so did the team. The Saints in 2005 finished 8-8, it marked the last year Jim Haslett would coach the team, and mark a new beginning. The following season the Saints hired Sean Payton, and the re-building of New Orleans and the Saints had begun. The Saints won the division that season with a 10-6 record and families began to move back that year. New Orleans had a new star in Drew Brees, and he took away the fears of the fans. Another group of storms hit New Orleans in 2007, and the Saints like their community took another hit, but this one was not as big. The Saints were still there, and the 2009 season came and it looked as if the community had finally recovered from Katrina, and the Saints were ready to roll. The Saints would finish 13-3 and go on to win the Super Bowl. While the recovery for New Orleans was far more complicated it just seemed fitting how the Saints progressed in that community. They took people away from the negative which had happened and united a community. Unlike sports though God does this everyday he unites us, He creates opportunity and makes us all better because He loves us.

I Choose Jesus

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

-Colossians 3:17

blogpic.jpg.png.jpgIn a time where there is so much cluster in our lives we more than ever need to choose Jesus, because we have to wonder how many times we have chosen the word of man over the word of God. Many of the non-believers in this world have chose to judge the church over the word of man, but do not take the time to see is this what Jesus is about. I am here to tell you there is not a single soul on this planet who is a direct representation of Jesus. No human, place, organization, nor religion will ever measure up to the greatness of our God! We are all imperfect rather than looking at each others flaws love the perfection of God, and love the imperfect beings around you. We must attend weekly services to make ourselves better. The facility we all know as church is not “the Church” and we need to realized the place we choose to gather on Sunday or whatever day we chose to attend service is merely a facility to our need to gather as Christians. We need to surround our selves with like minded individuals who will challenge out minds and out thoughts so that we can one day draw closer to who the real God is. We have a journey in life, and that journey is a relationship with Christ. We must honor him in all we do.

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

-1 Corinthians 12:27

“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”

-1 John 2:6

I find it interesting how today so few people know who the real Jesus is, and I my self can not say I truly know who He is. It’s been thousands of years since he walked this Earth, and its so hard to say who he truly was, a lot of people can try to speak for Jesus, but all we know is this Jesus was fully man, fully human, He was perfect, He is Love, and He died for us. Those things right there should be a tremendous hope for us, but so many “Christians” today do not live as if he existed. I write about it all the time, we must live as Christians, walk as Christians, votes as Christians, and beg for forgiveness when we fail. We have to be the living example of Christ. We all have different strengths and that’s how God made us. We are all part of the body, a hand is no good without an arm, a mouth is no good without a tongue or the teeth. We all have a role and we must honor Him with that role. We have to live as Jesus did so that others may see the light He can have on all of our lives.

“The truth is, God doesn’t just want your ‘Christian’ things. He wants it all. When we realize the beauty of God’s grace in the mundane, not just the religious, that’s when we will begin to see him correctly.”                                                                                                                     -Jefferson Bethke

 

 

 

 

 

War on Hatred is an All Hands Effort!

“We love because God first loved us. Whoever says, “I love God,” but hates his brother is a liar. The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love the God whom he has not seen.”

-1 John 4:19-20

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Hate it’s such a strong word, but it exist far more than we want to admit. It’s something many of us inadvertently show to others, and sometimes more inexcusably something we do intentionally. We display hate, while it may not be you individually there is still hatred in this world, hence the numerous race, sex, and cultural based phobia’s. That’s right, bigotry is still prominent, but it’s my firm belief that contrary to our prior generations, millennials have a nose for hated and at less likely to accept it. Nothing gives you the right to hate gay people. Nothing likewise gives you a right to hate Muslims, Mexicans, or Moroccans that matter. You should live your life in line with the teachings and life of Jesus, the dreams of Dr. King, and the ways of Gandhi. No I am not comparing the later two to Jesus, but Dr. King’s I have a dream speech is in line with the teachings of Jesus. Gandhi’s non-violent ways inspired Dr. King, and was on par with how Jesus would do thing. All three had something in common a lack of hatred even though their society often looked at them as outcast, scum, and a burden. While hatred is an acceptable practice, it is not designed for humans towards other humans. It’s designed for sin, behaviors, and practices. For example I hate bigotry. Each new tragedy in our society which is caused by hatred. We realized the issues we have in out society. I often hear things like society’s not like its used to be, I tend to disagree. I tend to disagree because during that time there was no such thing as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and other 24 hour news sources. In fact, in the 30’s-40’s the general public didn’t know about FDR being in a wheel chair. We now have social media which adds to the constant news sources and has been a source for people to do many great things, and some not so great things. We now have candidates saying things like Make America Great Again, but in my view it’s already great, and if we going back to a great time please enlighten me on what time was so great because I would love to see which time would be so great.

It’s Called Progress

Hello, to all of you out there Rome was not built in a day, nor will our model society which is built on love. While we are in somewhat rough times, at least we are making progress. Women are in the work place, blacks don’t have to drink from a different fountain, and gay’s can marry. I know many of you reading are saying hold up there Danno, those people are still exploited people, and yes they are, but we are progressing to a better society. We now have a black president, and we may be well on our way to a female president. It’s all a journey, progress is not about immediate change, its about the journey. It’s not perfect, nor will I ever admit it. There are still racial issues, women are still underpaid, and gays still get the raw end of the deal. I get it, but let’s look back just ten years ago. 10 years ago it was not OK for gays to serve in the military, marry, nor was it to many people OK to admit. Fast forward today, gays can openly serve, be openly gay, and they can marry in all 50 states. Let’s look back 40 years ago, the Civil Rights movement was still going on. Go back to the 1940’s and there were no black athletes in professional sports. Now while there is still discrimination a black man is president. Some of the most influential athletes include LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Andrew McCutchen. It’s not perfect, but its progress. Around the same time the Civil Right was going on women too were fighting for rights, and women are a major part of our society today. They are politicians, CEO’s, and while there is still more to be done women have a better place in society than they did following the world wars. Our society is not perfect, but this nation is progressing and it is already great. No offense to those who believe differently, but poor cities in this nation are far different than poor cities across the world. We are far more fortunate than many other nations.

Just Give it Up

It get it change is hard to make, but when you are wrong you are wrong. God does not hate anyone, while he may be disappointed with some of us, He will never hate us. He loves us, and we should love each other like He loves us. Impossible as it may seem there are ways you can try. Many people who have biases, prejudice, and hatred in them have a root it’s learned somewhere. So if you learned it you can learn to lose it. We must love one another, we must unite together and stand for what is right.

The Norm is Not Normal

blogpic.jpg.png.jpgIn life we are faced with rules, and each of them come from different sources, but why so many rules, and which ones actually matter. We know that God’s rules are the utmost importance, but is every rule there after irrelevant. Well, no, the answer is simply no. God commands us to honor thy mother and father, doing so pleases God. Jesus teaches us to honor the laws of our society because they were put into power by God. Additionally, what about social norms? Those are unwritten, but in essences are rules. Jesus came to this Earth and violated the social norms, and stood for what was right. Today, millions of people are following the “rules” of society, but it’s a rebellion for Christ is what we need to focus on. How many times have we chased the perfect body, the perfect outfit, a house full of things, or simple Earthly excellence? While nothing wrong with those things in moderation, we can often push those things too far. If you’re so bent on the perfect body you forget to honor God in the process its idolatry. Live comfortably in your skin.  Who cares if you have a couple extra pounds, if the extra weight is not interfering with a healthy lifestyle, a comfortable one, who cares what the critics say? However, on the flip side, we can be victims of idolizing food, laziness, and indulgence, both are equally incorrect paths of pursuing. Nothing in life should interfere with your relationship with God.

I can speak personally here, far too often do I purchase an item I do not need, and when the end of the month comes I now have to sit and go without something I may have actually needed because I wanted to buy a nice pair of headphones rather than something I would have been better suited with. I have a full house, and by that I have been blessed with plenty of items, but there comes a point where I simply want to just get rid of so much of it which is why I will be holding a garage sale in the coming weeks. We as American’s love stuff, and it’s a sense of comfort. It’s something we all want to have, it’s a status symbol, but a minimalist approach can be just as appealing in the long run, make room for Jesus in your home. You can’t take the stuff to heaven, so why keep it and live a cluttered life.

Speaking of heaven, wearing your cross neckless, Bible verse T-shirt, and listening to Hillsong will not get you to heaven. However, it’s not a reason to not wear them. A lot of people will shy away from wearing those items because of their fear of judgement, but guess what their voices don’t matter. The believers will say look at him trying to be self-righteous, and the non-believers saying who is he trying to fool. If you like the shirt, wear it, use it to honor God. If you’re wearing it to honor God who cares what someone else thinks, rebel for God a little, because Jesus was far from with the grain in the eyes of the “cool cats” of his time.

Speaking of cool cats who cares about being cool, is it that important, because being cool never gets you anywhere. It gives you a false sense of reality and security. You can please God in a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt just as much as you can in an Armani suit. Well, I take that back if you can afford an Armani suit, you might want to consider your tithes, no one needs an Armani suit, with that cost you probably could have bought multiple nice suits and given some back to the Lord in the process. You are not sent to heaven by your friend count, nor by the beliefs of humanity, that’s God’s call. If you’re so invested on the perception of others, then your meeting with St. Peter may be a little awkward.

These are just a couple of things we do in our lives, while we are commanded to follow rules, be worn off which ones we are following. We answer to God, and the norms of society that do not honor God we should thoroughly question. We should not gossip, but it’s a norm, and at some point we all do this. At the end of the day we need to find the way to put the ways of the Lord first. Strive to please God before man, if you want to be cool be cool in the eyes of God. Love thy neighbor, give, worship, and spread the gospel.