Archive for April, 2011

A book has recently come out by Pastor Rob Bell called Love Wins. I must confess that I haven’t actually read the book, I’ve only read what others have to say about it and I watched an interview with the author discussing the views expressed in the book. It seems that Pastor Rob believes that eventually everyone will be in heaven regardless of beliefs, faith, or the lack of. The problem is, that’s not what the Bible teaches and not only that, but when one understands the depth of God’s love and grace, it doesn’t even makes sense. This is what I thought of as I read through Ezekiel  9 this morning.

 “Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” (Ez. 9:6)

Pretty shocking statement, huh? This is one of those passages that I really struggled with the first time I ever read through the Bible. I came to the Bible looking for answers about God and as I read through the Old Testament I found myself wondering about the God of love and grace that I had been told about. How could a God of love and grace command his angels to kill old men, women, and children? I didn’t doubt that the God of the Old Testament was the same as the God of the New Testament. I just didn’t understand. Well, I’ve had a lot of time to consider these things over the past 18 years since I’ve become a Christian and to be honest, it’s still shocking to read these words. However, I have a better understanding of God’s holiness, wrath, justice, and yes, His love and grace also.

When we first read a passage like this our natural reaction is to be repulsed. How could a loving God do such a thing? What about forgiveness? The problem is, we think God should be like us. You see, we would rather overlook things because we want to be polite. We don’t want to offend people. The truth is, we want to be liked and thought well of. We worry more what people think about us than about what’s right or wrong. We think that God should politely overlook our sin and forgive us. That’s the kind of God we think well of. Here’s what God said to Ezekiel when he asked if God could just overlook sin. “As for me, ‘my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity; I will bring their deeds upon their heads.’” (Ez. 9:10) As hard as it is to hear, the reality is, they got what their deeds deserved. But wait. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love or that he doesn’t want to forgive. In fact, when we read through the New Testament we learn that God sent His own Son to live a sinless life and offer Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins so that we may be forgiven, Remember the well known verse, “For God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) If God could simply be polite and overlook sin why did Jesus die such a horrible death on the cross? No, God doesn’t politely overlook anything but because He loves us He made a way; the only way possible. It should be even more shocking to read about what happened to the Son of God than to read Ezekiel 9:6. All of God’s judgment and wrath towards sin was carried out on His own Son. Nothing was withheld. God didn’t politely let anything slide. How could He do that to His own Son? Because He loves us and it’s the only way our sins could be forgiven.

If you read all of Ezekiel 9:6 you will see God’s grace in the midst of His judgment. Those who had the “mark” were spared. What was that mark? It was the mark of one who had genuine faith in God (Ez. 9:4). Love has indeed won, and that love has been made real through Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us. There is a way to be forgiven. Jesus is the way; the only way possible.

By The way, it’s also interesting to note that God’s judgment began in His own sanctuary, but that’s a post for another time…


Standing Firm

Posted: April 13, 2011 in QT's
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Life can be difficult at times, I think we can all agree to that. This is true whether someone is a Christian or not. In fact many times Christians will face certain trials simply because we are Christians. At times we begin to question whether or not we are in God’s will. I am a follower of Christ and I have certainly faced trials and difficult circumstances and situations in my life and ministry.

Here are a few things I have learned along the way: 1) just because it’s not easy or the way I would like it to be doesn’t mean it isn’t God’s will, 2) it’s in the midst of trials that I find myself drawing closer to God in personal devotion and worship, 3) there is a peace and joy that comes from being broken before God that I otherwise wouldn’t have experienced, 4) my faith is strengthened by being tested, 5) I know the power and strength of Christ by experiencing my own weakness and utter inability.

I recently received the following in an email from my friend Barry Kitterman and thought it was worth passing along.

So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up.

–Ephesians 6:13 (TLB)

Daniel and his companions were tempted to forsake their godly heritage, but they refused. They even faced a fiery furnace rather than compromise. God honored their faith and mightily used them. Moses was surrounded by the luxury and godlessness of the Egyptian court, but cast in his lot with his own people. Lot lived in Sodom and saw the obscenities of that doomed city. God saved him out of it because he trusted in Him. Every one of our Lord’s apostles sealed their faith with their lives. Since then, history has been replete with the lives of men who have put God and His way of life above all else.

Amen brother. God hasn’t promised His children a life free of hurt and trials, but He has promised to be with us in the midst of them (John 16:33) and that He would somehow use everything that His children go through for good (Romans 8:28). When we have nothing left but God we find that He is all we need. Be of good cheer, Jesus is Lord.

Is Anybody Listening?

Posted: April 7, 2011 in QT's
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I love being a youth pastor. In fact I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. I get to hang out with students, go to concerts and events, play paintball, and talk about Jesus. I get to know them, invest in their lives, and watch them grow into young men and women. I have been doing this for about nine years now and I’m always amazed as I look at the lives of former students of mine who are now in college or are married and starting families of their own and who are serving in their churches. A few are even youth ministers themselves. Somewhere along the way boys become men and girls become women. The transformation is well, like I said, amazing.

It’s pretty cool because sometimes I have to wonder if anybody’s even listening to a word I say. For example, I make announcements about upcoming events every week. Sometimes I show videos, sometimes I hand out information, I always give the date and time (several times) and I always direct students to our youth website and yet I will still have students who don’t have a clue as to what’s going on and the day of the evnt I get inundated with text messages and phone calls filled with questions like, “Is that thing tonight? What time? How much does it cost? Can I bring a friend?” And the list goes on, so I wonder, is anybody listening? Then I think about some of my former students and how they have actually become productive members of society who love the Lord and serve Him faithfully and I think, “Okay, some of them are listening.”

As I have been reading through Jeremiah I have realized that I’m in good company. In Jeremiah 35-45 we read a pretty amazing story about some people who listened to god and some who didn’t. It goes something like this. Jeremiah was a prophet (that means God spoke through him) and God told him to tell His people (a nation called Judah, hence Jews) that if they didn’t give up their idols and turn back to Him then they would be conquered by another nation. Some of the people heard this and said, “We have to tell the king.” Well the king (a guy named Jehoiakim, yeah I can’t say it either) didn’t listen. In fact he burned the paper the words were written on. Well he should’ve listened because as it turns out, he died and another guy named Zedekiah was made king. Zedekiah didn’t do much better though. He asked Jeremiah what God had to say and Jeremiah basically told him that it was too late to save Judah but that if he would go ahead and surrender then he and his family would be spared and Jerusalem would not be burned. The thing is, Zedekiah was more afraid of the people of Judah than he was of God so he didn’t listen either. It turns out that his sons were killed in front of him and then his eyes were put out, oh and Jerusalem was burned. I’m thinking they should’ve listened. However that’s not all, you see, in the midst of all this we read about two men who did listen. One was a servant inking Zedekiah’s court named Ebed-melech. He was a friend to Jeremiah when he didn’t have many friends because he heard God’s words and he trusted God. In Jeremiah 39:18 God tells this man that he will be saved because he has trusted. The other man was Jeremiahs secretary named Baruch. He’s the one who actually wrote down everything that God said through the prophet Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 44:30 God tells Baruch that even though he’s bringing disaster on what’s left of Judah, he will save him.

I guess it’s always been the same. Some people will listen and some people won’t. Now when it comes to listening to my announcements, big deal, but when it comes to listening to what God has to say, BIG DEAL. What’s God saying to you and are you listening?