“You Disgust Me”

I received an email today that’s subject line was “You disgust me Kevin – I know the truth.” It appropriately went to my SPAM folder, but I read it because it piqued my curiosity.

The email went on to say things like, “I saw the truth about you,” “Everyone knows what you did,” “Its (sic) shameful you lied about this for so many years,” and “These 7 awful things about you could ruin your life.”

Of course I didn’t click the links, but it got me thinking about a few things.

My first response to the email was, yeah, I disgust myself at times, too. I have thoughts, behaviors and attitudes that are contrary to the person who I want to be. I’ve done things in the past, I’ve said things in the past, and I’ve thought things in the past that are sinful and ugly. And I’m confident that I will repeat the cycle in the future. That’s because I am a sinful person who naturally is going to do things contrary to the way things ought to be done. That’s part of my sinful nature. The Bible tells us that “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” – Romans 3:23 (NLT)

No matter who we are, we have all sinned. We have all fallen short of the standard of perfection found in Jesus. As a believer in Jesus, I have to acknowledge my sin, confess (agree with God that it is sin) and repent (turn from my sin). I do this through the power of the Holy Spirit living in me.

My second response to the email was, yeah, but I’m forgiven. As the next few verses in Romans say, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was sufficient and covered my sins – past, present and future.

Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. – Romans 3:24–25 (NLT)

This verse tells us that though we are sinners, though we are sinful, Jesus covered our sin with his blood. I am a sinful person, but I am forgiven and blessed with eternal life because I have accepted Jesus’ offer of salvation. Through his blood, I am covered and will stand as righteous on judgment day. This is called grace – something given to me that I can’t earn on my own – something that I don’t deserve.

And that got me to the third response. I thought, Satan is a jerk.

Though I believe what I wrote about being forgiven, and I believe that Jesus accepts me for who I am, I still hear the voice of the enemy telling me lies like, “God is disgusted by you,” “If people really knew you, they would hate you and be disgusted by you,” and “You are an embarrassment to God.” Those thoughts pop into my head at random times, and I know they are not from God. I know in my mind and in my heart that God loves me and has called me to be a pastor, yet those lies of deceit and doubt are whispered in my ear, and if I’m not careful, they will pull me down.

The enemy of God loves nothing more than to pull God’s children down; to make them question their standing with God; to make them doubt their own worth and salvation. When those doubts and self-disparaging thoughts arise, I have to remember who I am. I am a child of God. He has called me, loved me, and saved me. Nothing will change his love for me. Nothing I do will make him love me more or less. It’s a perfect love; a love like no other; an unconditional love.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? – Romans 8:31–35 (NLT)

I know that I’m not alone in these feelings of despair. I want to encourage you that you’re not alone either! The enemy knows us well, and he knows how to cut us to the quick. When those deceitful voices come creeping in, remember that you’re a child of the King and that he loves you unconditionally. “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?” NO!

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Transformation

Journey to Mexico's butterfly sanctuaries and stand among hundreds of millions of monarchs as they complete their remarkable migration.

To describe my passion in ministry, I’d have to talk about transformation. In my opinion transformation is the key aspect of any effective ministry. Put simply, when one comes to Christ he or she should then be transformed or changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into a more Christ-like person. Paul says this:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. – Romans 12:2 (NLT)

The world encourages us to do certain things, think certain ways, and believe certain viewpoints. But God wants us to set aside the ways of the world and focus on his ways. His ways include caring for the sick, poor and orphans. His ways include serving those who are in need. His ways include sharing the life-giving message of the gospel with others. His ways include prayer and Bible study. His ways include attending and participating in a local church.

Yet these values, “Kingdom Values” if you will, are not what the world teaches us. In order to truly follow Christ, we have to set aside the worldly values and focus on the Kingdom Values.

My passion in ministry, therefore, is to help people align more closely to the values of Jesus. Every time I share a message from God’s Word, I try to bring it to the point of, What am I going to do as a result of hearing this message? How should the truths being learned change me as a follower of Christ? What change do I need to make? If you can’t answer those questions, then I don’t think you have a very good message to share!

After all, we are supposed to become more like Christ. Therefore everything we do should help us along that goal. If we’re not working toward becoming more Christ-like, then we are not fully living the Christian life.

Personally, I feel that I have a long way to go toward living like Christ. There are characteristics of my personality, behaviors and thoughts that keep me from hitting the mark. I have to pray about those things and ask the Holy Spirit to do his work in me. But in the same breath that I’m lamenting my lack of progress, I can look back and see real progress throughout my life. Seeing that progress, however, does not cause me to sit back and feel proud – rather, it encourages me to keep moving forward.

While becoming more like Christ may seem at times like a losing battle, it is helpful to know that my battles in these areas are not conditions for my salvation. My salvation in Christ is secured by his death, burial and resurrection. I am still a sinful person, and the only chance I have is to rely on Jesus’ grace that was given to me through his work on the cross. That same grace is available to all who ask.

So if you’re struggling with transformation, don’t be discouraged. God loves you the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Through prayer, Bible study and perseverance, you can live a life more like Christ. Transformation is never easy, but it is a necessary part of following Jesus.

Entertainment or Worship?

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As fall comes upon us this year, though the weather doesn’t feel like it, we know it is here because of the new crop of TV shows appearing. This year many new shows are hitting the air waves battling for our attention. I’ll admit, I do enjoy finding a new show each year. Some years are better than others, but this year, there were a number of shows that caught my interest. One such show was Code Black.

Code Black is a medical drama based in Los Angeles. The name comes from the code given when needs outnumber resources. We’re told in the pilot that this particular hospital goes into code black 300 days out of the year. As a fan of ER, I was excited. I thought, This is going to be exciting! So I settled in for the pilot episode and I was extremely underwhelmed. The acting was fine, but there was a sense of excitement and tension missing from the show. I found myself tired of the story and almost turned it off part way through. Now, that’s just my opinion, as one of my friends really liked it (although he is an EMT, so maybe he is predisposed).

So what was my major problem with the show? It was just boring; particularly compared to the fast pace and intensity of ER (at least in its early days). I missed the doctors barking out orders, recognizing the life-and-death impact of their action or inaction. I just didn’t feel that in the pilot of Code Black. Maybe it gets better in the second episode, but I probably won’t be there to find out.

This whole situation got me thinking; thinking about the church.

As a church, we are asking people to spend an hour out of their weekend each week to worship God. To many, Sunday is a prime time to sleep in and have a lazy day – at least until the football game. So what are we as the church supposed to do?

There are several answers to that question. One suggestion that I have seen attempted over and over is to try to make the worship service as exciting, energetic, and entertaining as possible. Through the use of music, media and lighting, the church tries to put on a show each week. They try to compete with the world’s entertainment standards to entice people out of their beds to see what’s going to happen each Sunday. The problem is that with 99% of the churches, there’s no real way to compete. We don’t have the budget, time or talent to put on a Broadway caliber “show” every Sunday. Instead, churches who try this model of worship often end up looking like a cheap knock off, and it’s just a sad shadow of what people might expect.

As you may guess, I’m not a fan of this model. In fact, even if we had the budget, time and talent to pull it off, I don’t think I would. Don’t get me wrong – I think using lighting, media and contemporary music are all good things – but the focus can’t be on the production – it can’t be about the entertainment. It has to be more.

Worship services need to be a time to come together to connect with one another and to connect with God. In order to do that, you need a service designed to quiet your mind, freeing it from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, so that you can truly focus on God, your creator. Certainly using lights, music, and media can help that process – I use them myself – but that can’t be the focus.

While I say that, church should also not feel boring or lazy, as I felt Code Black was. We are doing one of the most important things we can possibly do – praising God, proclaiming his truths, joining with other believers. That’s what we need to focus on. Regardless of church budgets or resources, any church properly focused can have a meaningful worship service focused on Jesus Christ, our Savior.

If our focus is on Jesus, building relationships and telling people about salvation, then our focus is in the right place.

I believe people like a good show. But I also believe that people are seeking something authentic. Something worthy of their time. I hope and pray that is what we offer at my church, and I pray that is what all churches strive to do.

5 Ways to Improve Your Writing by C.S. Lewis – Linked Post

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This link to a post is from the wardrobedoor.com. It contains 5 helpful tips for writers, given by C.S. Lewis to a young girl who wrote him a letter in the 1950’s.

The summary is:

  1. Avoid vagueness.
  2. Use the clearest word possible.
  3. Prefer concrete nouns.
  4. Describe instead of tell.
  5. Don’t overstate.

Here’s the link to the full article: thewardrobedoor.com/2015/10/improve-your-writing-now-5-tips-from-c-s-lewis.html

Happy writing!