Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

Blue sign points the way to happiness

I heard someone the other day make this statement to me about how unhappy his life is and all of the troubles he is going through right now. He said that after all the bad stuff he has had to deal with, he believes now he has paid the price and is due some happy times because he deserves to be happy.

Is that how our lives are supposed to be? We struggle with daily trials and difficulties whether we are married or single. We deal with our kids, our jobs, and our families and once we reach a certain point, the scale tips and then things start to go our way? Is that part of God’s plan?

But what does God think? Does He say, “Well this guy has been on my “bad” list for 6 months but now I am going to switch him over to my good list to balance things out”.

Sometimes I think we work hard in our minds to assume that God thinks like we do.

Everyday, all of us hear that something isn’t fair or, we need to balance that out when all along God never promised us happiness and bliss while here on earth.

I know what I am about to say will not excite anyone but the reality is, who are you or who am I that we would challenge God about anything? The idea that God needs to bring me happiness in this life or else is ludicrous and frankly, just selfish. I have said this before, God is God and we are NOT. If we approach God on those terms, HE WILL NOT HEAR US. The Bibles tells us to, humble thyself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up. James 4:10

There is a character in the Bible that maybe you have heard of or maybe not called Paul. Before he was Paul however, he was called Saul and before he was an Apostle, he was on a mission to exterminate Christians from the early church (Acts 9:1). Saul was NOT a nice guy. But as we see in the same series of verses (Acts 9:1-17), God had a very different idea about who Saul was and how He would use him for His own purposes. God’s intent was to save Saul and use an actual enemy of Christianity as a force for His good.

My main point in using this story today is to simply draw your attention to a single verse from Christ at the point of Saul’s conversion.

For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name. Acts 9:16

When I read this, my first thought was Christ was getting retribution from Saul for all of the persecution he inflicted upon Christians by making him suffer too. But then I realized that was not the case at all, Christ was foreshadowing the many statements that Paul himself would make as he walked his own Christian journey.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

 

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5

 

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.     Philippians 1:27-30 (NKJV)

 

Through his own suffering, Paul experienced an amazingly, intimate relationship with Christ that he would never give up for anything he had before. There are so may examples of how Paul went through prison and torture and still praised God.

Read this from Paul’s own words:

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.

 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move.

 I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.

 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

2 Corinthians 11:23-27

 

So am I suggesting that we focus on just suffering for God? No, I’m not. What I am suggesting is that my original question is flawed because we are NOT on this earth to be “JUST” happy. God never promised us that. He never told us that life on this earth would be pure bliss and our existence is just about being happy. I do think the world we live in does make that a priority. What God did tell us is that HE WOULD BE WITH US as we walked down the path. One thing I can say with confidence, bad things will happen but in Him, we can find ways to move forward even though we may be in pain. God does NOT owe you or me anything. You have been given a freewill to choose either the easy path or the hard one. (Luke 13:24)

I encourage you to read what Paul wrote about the pain of his life and his journey as a way to help inspire you on yours. (Philippians 3: 7-11) If we can gain the right perspective about our life here on earth and NOT think that God owes us anything, it will change the way you think and pursue God but more importantly, the suffering you may experience along the way will be different. How?

God will use your suffering to make you stronger in Him. I know it sounds crazy but if you rely on God while on the path, He will get you through safely and over to the other side.

I leave you with one more word from Paul:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:11

 

Until next time guys…

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I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, (Ephesians 4:1 ESV)

 

I have a friend that always tells other men to “man up” when he thinks they are not acting in a manner worthy of their gender. He always laughs at their reaction because they are usually stunned when he tells them. Most recently, he surprised someone I know with this same declaration only this time it got me thinking about this idea that we have all been called by God to be something really special only many of us are just not living up to that call.

What I mean is, what this verse above actually says, “walk in the manner that is worthy of the calling”. Guys, this is Paul the Apostle talking. Remember him? He was a punching bag for almost his entire ministry but yet he continued to stand worthy of Gods calling throughout his many journeys. This guy was literally responsible for enormous church planting in the beginning in the early days of the gospel. Yet sometimes his message wasn’t received, and as a result, he was beaten, imprisoned or even worse…

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; (2 Corinthians 11:23-25 ESV)

Here is a guy that honestly could have quit early on in his ministry solely based upon injuries alone…but he didn’t. He could have chosen to quit when his message was rejected…but he didn’t quit then either. Instead, he constantly made statements like “he rejoices in his sufferings…”

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (Romans 5:3-4 ESV)

 

What is my point?

As a believer in Christ, you have been called to be His follower. That means something. That means you MUST act different than you did before you were a believer. Paul reminds us that we need to walk a walk that is truly worthy of His calling on our life.

Don’t assimilate into the culture… Separate yourself

It may cause some discomfort…but trust me…Christ has your back…

 

Until next time guys…

unbelief

“My son says he doesn’t believe in God anymore”. Those were the anguished words I heard my friend speak to me just the other day when we were together. He said, “he announced that to my wife and I with the proclamation that he no longer needs to go to church anymore as well”. My friend’s son is just 17 and only a junior in High School. He went on to tell me that this announcement was really just the tip of the iceberg inside their home in that he and his wife have been dealing with pure rebellion in this young man for close to a year. Moreover, with younger kids still in the home, this situation is beginning to tear his family apart.

How do you respond to someone when they tell you that?

My brothers I am sure many of you can identify with this very same scenario in your home and all the battles that happen as a result. As the father, some of us may get very firm and stand our ground in front of our kids and wives and shout, “My way or the highway!” while others of us may be more fearful and not want to upset the household to much and therefore we don’t do anything leaving everyone confused because there aren’t any boundaries coming from dad…

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

The Bible tells us this in Proverbs:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.   (Proverbs 22:6 ESV)

So if we give our kids the correct Christ-like foundation, and a home that believes in Him and loves each other, no matter what…then if I understand God correctly, He will take care of the rest?

The answer is a resounding YES.

Guys, I am NOT an expert; I simply speak from experience in my own life when I was a teenager as well as now being the father of 2 sons.

It all starts with love in the home. By building a foundation of love inside your walls and providing for your children in the best way YOU can…then you have laid the foundation for God to work with later on when they are older. You see the reality of this life is that our children get to make their own choices about their lives…and that includes whom they will serve. As much as you and I may try, we don’t get to make that decision for them. They make it for themselves…your kids and mine. All we can do as parents is to give them the best we have and then it is up to God.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me about this point, I am NOT saying we walk away from them…OH NO. I am saying that once they reach that certain age and begin to question everything…we continue to love them, pray for them and provide guidance as they walk through this valley. That is our job and that is exactly what I told my friend. “Your home is being attacked by the enemy through your son and no matter what happens, you have to stand strong in Christ and work to try and love your kid through this major episode…together”. I encourage him like I would encourage you with these words:

God is working in your life, even when you don’t see it, even when you can’t feel it, even if it’s not evident.

You are NOT alone on this battlefront. God is right there beside you and no matter how many mean things our kids will say to us…WE STILL TRUST HIM…

Please don’t give up guys…Let me leave you with one of my favorite verses from the Bible is Joshua:

 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”   (Joshua 24:15 ESV)

 

Until next time guys…

working-out-loud

The last installment of this 3-part series involves the story of the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. When these last 3 posts are woven together, they give us a true understanding of what our role as faithful Christians is to be while we wait for Christ’s return. In this parable, you see the characters are working diligently and with initiative while waiting for their master’s return. That is our job too as we move through our own lives…we must be working all the time WHILE we wait. Let me explain further…

On a quick side note, one sharp difference though is that we are not called to drop out of our lives and plant ourselves on top of a hill top and wait for Christ’s return…no. We are told to be careful prudent planners with an eye for the future. Remember what Christ said in Luke 14:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish’ (Luke 14:28-30 NIV)

The Parable of the Talents is the one that commends faithful work while the master is away as well prudent planning. The rich master travels far away and gives each of the 3 men a portion of his wealth to manage while he is away. Two of them proceed to take the initiative and double their masters money while the third one buries his portion.

When the master returns, he rewards the first two with great opportunity. He says to them both, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

But the third guy, who had just one talent to take care of, was a different story altogether. As mentioned, he did not invest his talent but rather decided his best course of action was to hide it and return it to his master when the time was right. As the master said in his anger, “Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest!” But, he didn’t even do that.

While the master was away, two out of the 3 men immediately set to work, without being told, by trading and investing their masters talents. They worked hard while he was away and I would imagine, stressed somewhat at times as the market swayed back and forth, always striving to improve their situation. They did not rest but continued working faithfully until their masters return.

The third guy had a different mindset. He decided to do what HE wanted to do while the master was away. Maybe he convinced himself that by burying the money, he was avoiding financial risk? Whatever the case was, he simply was evading his duty. The money the master gave him would never make any profit.

Finally, I think the hardest part for me to grasp about this story was this third guy’s lack of responsibility and his complacency on his requirement of giving an account for the money he represented while the master was away. He just didn’t care or thought that day would never come? I am not sure. But what is worse was his attempt to blame the master for his own poor management when he was called to give an account. He was caught in his pattern of doing absolutely nothing and ultimately, he would pay a very stiff price.

Jesus tells us in this parable that the third guy is cast into the imagery of Hell:

“And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30 NIV)

I say imagery because this same language is used in other parts of the Bible to represent Hell and the torture that it there…and will be for those unfortunate souls who will enter there.

Guys, this is a very simple story but yet represents a very clear picture of what we are supposed to be doing while we wait for Christ’s return. I urge you to NOT become complacent and forget that Christ is even coming back. I understand the importance of what you are doing or may be doing in the future, weddings, grand children, vacations etc. but all of that pales in comparison to eternity…your eternity.

We all have one job while we are here and that is to stay faithful to Him until He returns. That job requires effort and focus on your part. You cannot do this while on autopilot…it will not work.

Guys, I encourage you to plug into your local church or men’s group and refocus on your top priorities while we all wait…I assure you that this positive decision will be the best one you ever make in your life…

 

Until next time guys…

 

Waiting

If you recall, my previous post was very literal when talking about that while we wait for Christ to come, we must not assume that He will delay His return. Our job is to be ready for Him to return at ANY time. Directly following then, is the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, which simply reverses the previous point. (Matthew 25:1-13)

Being ready for Him to come back at “any time” means NOT being caught off guard even IF He does delay. A mature Christian understands that there is a balance in those expectations.

In my lifetime, I have seen several groups over the years that thought they had figured out the right timeline from the Bible for Christ’s return. They came up with an arrival date and then planned to be there to welcome Him. In some instances, these people sold everything they had; homes, cars etc. only to be disappointed. These people were absolutely certain about their date and some even went to the mountaintop for the arrival. But, as it turned out, and always has turned out, these people were wrong and left discredited for their blunder.

Guys, there is no doubt that the return of Christ is fast approaching because the Bible tells us:

The time is short…for this world in its present form is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:31 NIV)

Understand that there is absolutely nothing that stands in the way of His return…nothing. Knowing that, it is our job to be ready if He comes back today.

The problem is that we live in this “instant” world where we think we need some gratification immediately rather than waiting for something to take its normal course…over time. Our society struggles with waiting for anything. Think about it, Amazon is creating a delivery service to bring you what your ordered in 2 hours so you DON’T have to wait. Why do they do that? You know why.

But remember this important point guys, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day”. We cannot be ignorant about when Christ will return. “God is patient towards us not willing that anyone should perish but that all would come to repentance”. But when He comes, “it will be like a thief in the night”(2 Peter 3:8-10).

So in the interim, we must be ready and faithful to what we are supposed to be doing while here on this earth and not getting distracted with everything else we see. That is why He told us this parable about the ten bridesmaids.

The story is simply one about being prepared. In the parable, we hare told about 10 bridesmaids whose only responsibility was to light their lamps when the bridegroom arrived for the wedding. As we see right away, 5 of them were wise and 5 were foolish. The wise bridesmaids remembered to bring extra oil with them and the foolish ones forgot. As it turned out, the bridegroom was extremely late in getting to the wedding. We are not told why he was late but when he did arrive, he still wanted to go through with the ceremony. When the cry came that he was here, the foolish ones asked the wise ones to share their oil but the wise ones told them their wouldn’t be enough for all of them so the 5 wise bridesmaids entered the ceremony and the 5 foolish were left outside. When they begged the bridegroom to let them in, He game them this chilling response, “Assuredly I say to you, I do not know you”.

Even though the bridegroom was late in arriving, everyone there was ready for Him except the 5 foolish bridesmaids…they were out trying to find more oil for their lamps. Think about this; their only job was to keep their lamp burning and they couldn’t because they didn’t think to bring extra oil. They weren’t prepared for His return.

I know this story is simple, but it illustrates a huge point for everyone of us; Christ is the bridegroom and He is coming back. He may be late or He may be on time…no one knows. Our job is simply to be ready for Him no matter what the hour may be of His return.

Every day and every hour that passes is one more closer to His coming back and the need for us to pay attention and be watchful is even more important. Guys, my prayer for you is that you are watching and waiting for His return and that you are NOT shut our permanently.

Keep your eyes pointed upward.

Until next time guys…

faithful

Well, 2016 is upon all of us, whether we like it or not. And, as we all can observe, there is a great deal going on in our world right now that just might, and probably does, push you to the brink of fear. It is easy to think that way because we don’t know how all this unrest is going to affect our families and us. What does the future hold for us? Is it, War, Peace? Financial ruin? Only God knows.

What I know is that in the Bible, we are told to remain faithful until He returns and that will be my main focus for the first part of my posts in 2016. I believe that we are given specific responsibilities in scripture that come directly from the mouth of Christ’s that tell us how we are to behave, react and frankly, what to believe. Honestly, I find these scriptures hugely comforting because what I’m reading is describing exactly what I’m seeing around me. God already knew that chaos, unrest and a fear for our future would happen and He gave us His Word to help faithful Christians prepare for the inevitable future.

Guys please do not misinterpret what I am saying (and will say) over the coming weeks. I am not the town crier of doom and gloom. What I am however is someone whose sole purpose is to remind us of what is already there in Gods Word. As I said before, what I write in Ironman strength isn’t new or undiscovered…its been there the whole time, it is just that many of us (myself included) are too busy to take the time to read and listen to what God wants us to see. So for the next several posts, I am going to lay this out and show you exactly what God wants you to remember, understand, and most of all…apply to your lives.

I believe we are in a very unique time in history and God is continuing to unfold His plan around us. I believe that the magnetism coming from this world is greater than it has ever been. This draw, or attraction, is extremely powerful and it takes a strongly, grounded Christian to be able to resist the powerful temptation that is being thrown in our direction. This intense lure towards the things of this world is everywhere and you cannot go anywhere and not feel its pull. But guess what? God already knew this would happen and He gave us scripture to hang onto while we wait for His return.

 

 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self- controlled, upright and Godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ

(Titus 2:11-13 NIV)

 

Please understand me when I say that my post is NOT meant to scare you…my sole purpose is that you know what is available in God’s Word to use to fight this battle. The pull of this world is super strong. But the strength you have available from Him is far stronger…IF YOU USE IT.

Stay tuned for the next few posts coming soon where we will look at the 3 things we are supposed to do while we wait for Gods return. Believe it or not, we ARE NOT supposed to head into our panic room and try and ride out the storm…

He has other plans for us…

Until next time guys…

Happy New Year…

known-by-your-fruit

Every single day we get up and move out into this big world and be who we are…either in our own selves, or in God. You and I get to make that choice for ourselves and I don’t think anyone would dispute that statement.

My question is, “Who are YOU be-ing?”

If we simply go about our business each day without acknowledging God, then we are going to act in the same way. If God isn’t a part of your routine, then on the surface, He won’t exist in your life. When this happens, you become absorbed into this world and there is a great deal the Bible has to say about transformation (1 John 2:15). It is called “conforming to the world” but I wanted to focus on the verse I started with at the beginning.

The tree is known by its fruit. Matthew 12:33

Jesus said this in a tense conversation with some Pharisees who were out to prove Him wrong. My focus today however, is the simplicity of the statement and what it means for you and me. Here is what I mean; you and I recognize the fruit trees around us because of the kind of fruit they bear like oranges, plums, peaches etc. because they taste good. In contrast, it is probably true that we won’t head to the nearest lemon or a lime tree and peel and eat it like we would the fruits mentioned previously because we know what they taste like. Again, pretty simple stuff.

Look at this in a different way…you and I are recognized by our family, friends and coworkers in specific way for a reason. We might be a friendly person, or not. We might be a smart person, or not. We might be a great worker, or not. My point is, you are known for specific reasons and as a result, that is how people think of you. Sometimes our reputations precede us in a way we don’t like, or maybe we do? Bottom line, you are known for what you have accomplished, or not. For what you have said, or should have said. For what you have or haven’t believed.

Guys, simply put:

What are YOU known for in this world?

As I said earlier, who are YOU be-ing or representing?

What is the fruit that YOU are bringing to this world?

 

I am speaking to those of you who profess Christianity. If you say one thing and act out something else…well…that is what YOU will be known for. A tree is known for its fruit.

Ask yourself whom do YOU represent?

If you truly represent Christ, then represent Him in the manner that you know you should. The Bible tells us that we cannot serve two masters. In other words, you cannot be a lover of the world and of one of God’s children at the same time. Choose what you want to be known for and then stay the course. God will help you bear the fruit you were destined to bring forth.

 

Until next time guys…