“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come.” -Revelation 1:8 NLT
The scripture of above depicts God has omnipresent. He is a god that existed before time began. He is a god that exists now, and He is a god that will be ever present in the future. The subject from which I want to discuss is appreciating God’s presence in our journey. Often time, people who are close to death are afforded the opportunity to reflect on their lives. They reminisce about their childhood. Memories about time spent with family and friends flood their mind. The entirety of their lives plays through their mind like a motion picture. For most of these people they come to appreciate their journey. Though our Christian walk may be challenging we too must learn to appreciate the journey. The journey may take us places we never intended to go. There is no doubt that the journey is littered with numerous obstacles. Those obstacles may look different for each person. It may be the high school senior grappling over paying for college. It may be the pressure the young adult feels when trying to start a family and a career. It may be the pain one feels when a love one dies. It may the rejection and worries one experiences when a job is terminated. The list goes on, but we have to learn to appreciate journey.
However, the question that arises is why? Why should we appreciate a journey that filled with so much turmoil? Why should we thank God for a journey that has produced so much chaos? We should appreciate the journey because the Lord was and is with us. We have to change our perspective. If we look back over our live I believe that we will find that God carried us through our previous challenges. His grace and mercy stayed with us when times got hard, when that situation went from bad to worst. He bought us through all the difficulties and strengthened us. So we must realize that whatever He was to us back then He still is right now. There is no need to fear our present circumstance, because the presence of God is still guiding our journey. He is still in control! Do not worry about the future either, because He who was and He who is will surely be He who is still to come. He worked everything out in our past and He will work everything out in our present and future. Romans 8:28 says “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” The good, bad, and ugly, God will use it all. Nothing you have been through will be wasted! So appreciate the journey! The Lord was with you, He is with you, and He always will be with you!! Be blessed.
“Everything is possible for him who believes” –Mark 9:23
After an extremely long hiatus, I’m back blogging again. The last month or so God has been challenging my perception of Him. Life has its way of forcing us to grapple with the thought that God has limitation. It is easy to give up on hope when faced with a reality where dreams and hopes are severely threatened. We find ourselves in a conundrum where our belief in God does not match the reality of our circumstances. On one hand we believe that God can resolve our issue, but on the other hand the facts say it is impossible. The question then arises, how can we have faith when pressed with this contradiction? The answer is we continue to believe. We believe despite pain. We believe in the midst of struggle. We believe regardless of uncertainty. When we hold tight to our belief in God we take the limits off God. We must remember that God is able to do the impossible. Several times in Scripture He took situations that seemed dead and impossible and breathe new life into them. However, God can only meet us at our level of expectation. If we only believe God for a little than we will only receive a little, but if we believe God for a lot then God will not only meet that expectation but exceed it. No matter what situation that is facing us today, if we dare to believe then God will resolve it. Just believe! It is only over, we are only defeated, when we stop believing. When David squared off against Goliath, he was not timid and discouraged. Rather, he was confident in his God’s ability. He faced his impossible situation believing in God, and God caused David to come out victorious. Have the audacity to look at your situation and say I believe in God’s ability despite the impossibilities. Nothing can prevent you from receiving every promise God has for you. Remember, it is possible and it will happen, just believe! Be encourage and God bless in this New Year.
So there’s a popular phrase that says “don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good” upon initial thought it’s a very profound idea that takes direct aim at your super religious judgmental person namely evangelical Christians. It is true in the sense that people who call themselves Christians can so easily get wrapped up into becoming these legalistic judges or Pharisees whom Jesus himself had disdain for who are so self-righteous and proud, provide no grace or love to their fellow man and are quick to point out their faults dismissing them to hell all the while making the unrepentant unbeliever much more unbelieving than they were because they were mistreated by such a person. As a Christian man myself I get it. The once popular phrase, WWJD should be our mantra. We need not to to be holding gavels pronouncing sentences but ought to be paying more attention to those on the wayside who actually need help and be Samaritans and guide them to the hospital (church) there’s a quote that says “church isn’t a club for saints but a hospital for sinners”
But what I want to shed light on is that The Word clearly directs us in Colossians 3:2 to be heavenly minded (surprise surprise). An eternal perspective should be the perspective to anyone who places their faith in Christ Jesus. Meaning everything that is of Him or anything that pleases Him is their delight and everything that is not of Him or whatever God hates is their disdain. Yes to righteousness and no to sin. Then we will rise and reign with Him. In the American society today and what I fear is happening to some of us Christians is that we are becoming oppressed or tolerant by the standards of the culture. Exhibit A: it’s not difficult to see this “Love” agenda being pushed out. I put love in quotes because theoretically this love means well but is it the love of the Bible? While I’m not here to say that a loving atmosphere is wrong a loving atmosphere without Christ is. That’s gravely dangerous. The society is telling us to “not be so heavenly minded” and to go with the flow of many things including that of premarital sex ( hey, just use protection), profane and sexually immoral images and words (hey, it’s only entertainment) and the hot buttons of abortion & homosexuality and etc. The society is telling us to just love people the way they are and don’t force your beliefs down anyone’s throat The problem is that those things go against God’s standards.(1. Cor. 6) And the fact of the matter is that our society doesn’t believe or at least adhere to those standards. Christianity has been erroneously displayed to the masses as a God that loves me the way I am and I can do what I want and He’ll forgive me. And sadly some church assemblies fail to address people’s wrongs and the need to vehemently pursue God in all areas of life once accepting Him as Lord and Savior. So in effect some people remain ignorant of Gods standards . People “love” Jesus…but from a distance. As long as you talk about loving people you good…just don’t make it too personal. (i.e. when it comes to being rebuked for the aforementioned things above) And that’s exactly what Jesus is to do. To have a personal relationship with us all. It’s until that happens that Gods standards won’t look like harsh judgments from a tyrannical giant in the sky. In fact the standards aren’t meant to punish us but to save us and bring us closer to Him. There are the very things He died on the cross for. The Holy Spirit transformation is very real and can turn the most vilest offender of Gods Word into the biggest proponent of His Word (see Paul) all it takes is admitting we’re finite, fallible, and in desperate need of something MORE this world just not have to offer.
The underlying point in all this surrender. And I mean TOTAL surrender. Our socially constructed ideals have to be submitted to a God who made us. I mean wouldn’t it make sense to consult the inventor on all the nuances of an invention? And the beauty of it all that I stress again is that God wants us to consider Him, consult Him, trust Him because He loves us! His love agenda is far better just because He is the First of all beings and is perfect so its a safe bet to invest 100% in what He has to say about love. and its my opinion that no one displayed what true love is better than He did on the Cross. His love can be thoroughly understood and carried out if we would really take time out for Him rather than define love ourselves. And that takes looking up to Him who is in heaven more. In a sense we ought to be more heavenly minded to do more earthly good. We should be like Jesus expressing His unadulterated Truth in love. I’ll close with this blurb from an unknown source:
“We humans develop our own corrupt moral standards that allow us to label certain sins as “minor” and “excusable.” If we were drinking glasses, each of us would leak. Some of us might be in worse condition than others, but what difference does that make? Who would give a king a cracked glass? Nothing imperfect reaches God’s minimum standard. It’s an insult to God to suppose that even the most saintly person is good enough for God. In reality, earth has just two types of people: hopeless moral failures who cling to humanity’s only Savior, and hopeless moral failures who try to face eternity on their own. To abandon faith in oneself and put all one’s faith in Christ’s goodness is like stepping into a spacecraft. For even the nicest people to trust their own goodness is like them hoping they can reach the heavens by jumping high.”
Written By: Phillip Shobo
Vicarious: 1. Felt or undergone as if one were taking part in the experience or feelings of another: read about mountain climbing and experienced vicarious thrills.
2. Endured or done by one person substituting for another: vicarious punishment.
a. Acting or serving in place of someone or something else; substituted.
b. Committed or entrusted to another, as powers or authority; delegated.
Dear reader, if you are a Christian I challenge you to take the following words very serious! In my line of work I have to do deliveries and while I was doing so this thought came to me. Do you know God for yourself??? It really challenged me and convicted me in my walk with God. We have GOT to be sure we really KNOW God personally and not just know about Him. They’re very two distinctive things. Example. Everybody knows about President Obama. They know his wife, where he lives, his policies, etc. But how many of us average Americans know him personally??? Who have conversed with Him? Do we know what he likes and dislikes beyond what the media reports? It is the same with our Father God, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We must strive earnestly and expeditiously to KNOW this amazing God on a deeper level! Beware not live vicariously through another believer and say you know and love God. Don’t just rock a Christian tee because it’s stylish. Don’t live vicariously through Christian artist. WE can’t afford to let their convictions be our convictions. We can’t afford to let what they do what they do to be what we do. Don’t get me wrong Christian tees and Christian songs are helpful and nice but they’re not your salvation! Don’t be deceived! The Word says in Philippians 2:12 “Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.” Please let us marinate on that! DEEP REVERANCE AND FEAR.
We must work hard to know God for ourselves, have a relationship with all 3 persons, listening to Him and being led by Him. God forbid, we reach His throne and he says “Depart from me I never knew you” It’s not a game folks! Our eternity rests on this very truth! Our friends, family, musicians, or tweets, of Instagram or Facebook posts will not matter at the moment! All that will matter is that did we TRULY work out our own salvation? Did we truly love the Lord our God with our heart, soul, mind and strength? As I’m typing this I’m being convicted myself. I just want to cry out to God please have mercy on me! Lord please I want to know you BETTER, DEEPER!!! What will you have me do? Lord, please create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me! Cast me not away from your presence O God. Take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation. And renew a right Spirit within me! Let this be our rallying cry! Let this be what we pray EARNESTLY every morning we’re blessed to receive!! To know Him is to love Him! If we truly love Him we love what He loves! We hate what he hates! Our service to Him is never a burden! And even on those days we become weary we still RUN back to God and remember His excellent greatness! We will not give up! WE will run this race with diligence. We remember our eternity with Him hangs in balance! WE were made to WORSHIP. May our service be a wonderful DELIGHT to us. WE will please Him day in and day out in Jesus name! To know Him will bear fruits in our lives! It will not be puffed up or prideful it will be true sacrificial love we owe to our Creator. (1. Cor 13:1-7)
A tell-tale sign to being a vicarious Christian is that when we’re faced with things that challenge us and react selfishly or lazily. A relationship with Christ is forever continuous! I can go on but if you’re still reading and feeling convicted as much as I am do not fret! Praise the Lord for His mercy and grace. We still have time! WE can still seek Him while He is near! Lord I pray for the reader and myself if he or she has been a vicarious Christian. We thank you for not dealing with us according to our sinful nature. We admit that we have said we loved you but our hearts have been far from you. We love to enjoy your glory but have been afraid of suffering with you. We ask that you do create in us a clean heart. We ask that the Spirit will help us to seek your Face daily more than we did yesterday. We will not be led by the standards of men. We will be led by your standards. Let your Word make meaning to our personal lives. May we bear fruit of truly knowing who you are and not from a third party. In Jesus name we pray. Amen! God bless you!
First, I want to apologize to all the avid readers of this blog. I realize it has been a while since I have posted, but no worries The Test of The Cross is still alive! One of the things I have learned since starting seminary a few months ago is one of our missions as individual Christians and as the Church is to speak to (and even confront) the culture and the society in which we live. What do I mean by speak to? It is our job to deliver God’s message so that the societal culture of the day will align itself with the plan of God. However, before we can speak we must listen to what God is saying. So, how do we listen? God does not always sends an angelic being to our bedroom at three o’clock in morning with a “thus says the Lord.” Actually, one of the primary ways He speaks is through the Bible. So let us take a look at what God is saying to America, and many other prominent nations in the world. Deuteronomy 28:1-16 shows us what God expects from a nation, it reads:
“If you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, and observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today the Lord will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessing shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed, shall you be in the country….but it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God and do not observe carefully all His and commandments and His statutes then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country” (Deut. 28:1-16)
In this passage God is speaking to Israel, but He is also using this as an example to show us the proper way to structure our nations. We must obey God and listen to His voice. If you continue reading the Old Testament you will find that Israel is gradually turns its ear away from God’s voice. It took a number of years, but Israel became a nation where God name was mentioned, but the society was Godless. Since God gave them a choice of obey and be blessed or disobey and be cursed, God responded to their disobedience with destruction. After many of the prophets warned Israel to turn back to God, God finally used the Prophet Jeremiah to speak His final verdict, Jeremiah writes:
“Thus says the Lord: Behold I will surely bring calamity on them which they will not be able to escape; and though they cry out to Me, I will not listen to them…for the Lord, who planted you has pronounced doom against you for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke Me to anger”(Jer. 11:11-17).
These scriptures highlight the penalty for a nation who does not adhere to the voice of God. Now let us reflect on the status of our own countries. In America I can not honestly say we obey the commands of God. Our culture promotes the things that are opposite of God. Homosexuality is celebrated, greed is a statute, and lust is everywhere. Our society says look out for you, do all that you desire, worry not about feelings of a deity or your fellow man. Where is the godly in America? It is not just the leaders and the politicians, but the people as a whole are corrupt. America boasts one of the largest Christian populations in the world, but our society is not reflective of that.
God has not yet pronounce utter destruction on America, so there is time for us repent. If we do not repent as a country we will experience the same calamities that Israel experienced. The warning signs are around us, the social divides, the economic problems, the natural disasters, and the global conflicts all speak to us. They say we are out alignment with God. God is allowing some hardship to come our way to say America, you can not survive without Me; you will only find success following Me. America, I tell you the truth, it is time to repent! We always like to say “God bless America,” but God does not bless a nation that does not follow His voice, He curses that nation. America, if you want to be bless then “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Often times we get so caught up with what God is doing in someone else’s life that we forget about what God has for our lives. In John 21:18-22 Jesus prophesies to Peter about the way in which he will die. Peter , probably not thrilled about what Jesus said, shifted the attention away from him and asked “what about this man”, questioning the manner in which the apostle John will die. Jesus responded to Peter by saying “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You follow me.” This is the question I propose, what is it to you? What is it to you that God has given someone else the ability to sing, but gave you the ability to dance? What is it to you that provides a person with millions of dollars, but choose to give you thousands of dollars? What is to you that God blesses another man’s church with many members, but blesses your church with a few? What I am trying to say is don’t be concerned about God’s plan for someone else’s life, because God has a plan for your life as well. His plan includes many great and wonderful things for you. However, when we become overly focused on what another man has we open the door for envy to creep into our hearts. You do not want to be overtaken by envy, because an envious heart accuses God of not adequately providing for you. You must learn to be happy with what God is doing for you. You have to trust His plan for you, even if His plan for another person looks more appealing. We can not fight in another man’s armor, so you can not fulfill a plan that God did not detail for you to have. God’s plan for you is uniquely tailored to fit you.
I love the last thing Jesus told Peter in John 21, “ you follow me.” Meaning whatever happens for them should not matter to you, as for you, all you need to be concerned about is following me. So, when you go through life and see the pasture looks greener on the other side be reminded, what is that to you? God has marvelous things stored up for you and following Him is all you need to be focused on. God bless
Written by: Brandon Render
As I was praying a few days ago God put in my spirit the story of David and Goliath. When I picked up my bible and read it I was amazed by the courage David exemplified by fighting Goliath. I spent a few days mediating on it and after a conversing with Phillip about David’s courage I realized that it takes courage to resist temptation. The story of David and Goliath is found in 1 Samuel 17. One of the things that stood out to me was Goliath’s appearance and taunts caused the Israelite soldiers to retreat in fear. Goliath represents temptation, a temptation to fear. Instead of having courage and fighting Goliath the Israelite army gave in to the temptation. In our lives temptation comes in variety of forms, and it appeals to our deepest desires and preys on our weaknesses. In being male, one of the most common forms of temptation for men is sexual temptation. Sexual temptation is so enticing that sometimes we feel it is irresistible, so why even try to resist. However, no matter what the temptation is courage is the antidote. Temptation comes to tell us that we are not strong enough to live a godly life. While courage says I know God has already put the strength in me to overcome every thing that may cause me to stray away from God. In other words having courage reflects the belief in God’s word and temptation tries to doubt God’s word. God says to us in Joshua 1:9, “have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous!”
Again looking at David’s battle with Goliath, the words David spoke reflected his level of courage. He said “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head” (1 Sam 17:45-46). Even though Goliath’s size tempted David to fear, David used his words tell temptation it had no power over him. Like David, we have to look temptation in the face and tell it the word of God. We must say it with authority! If you have ever been in the presence of a real authentic thug one thing you will notice is they do not take anybody’s crap. When drama goes down they are right there popin off at the mouth letting everyone know they are in control. If the confrontation persists they’ll go “pop the trunk” and it is over then. I am not advocating for living a thug lifestyle, but we should have a similar approach when temptation comes. Instead of giving in, we need to speak courageously to temptation, commanding it to leave. If it continues to plague us we need to pop open our bibles and speak the word of the Lord. Once the Word is spoken it is done, temptation has no grip on us. We may be tempted, but we do not have to be taken!
So, when temptation tries to over take us remember “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He was without sin” (Heb. 4:15). The same powerful that allowed Jesus to overcome temptation is the same power working in us. So be COURAGEOUS!!!
Written by: Brandon Render
With Easter weekend around the corner I have began to think about the meaning of Easter. Some people associate Easter with bunnies, colorful eggs, baby chickens; in other words the celebration of spring. As great as those epic Easter egg hunts were growing up, Easter is about death and then life. It is strange that I mentioned death before life. However, as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, that brought the human race into sin, we are condemned to eternal death (i.e. Hell). I’m sure nobody wants eternal death, right? I’m sure we would flock to a solution that does not involve us dying. But the reality is Sin demands death, so somebody has to die. Now imagine this:
I just told a lie. Here comes Satan dragging me to the center of the town square and places a noose around my neck in preparation for my execution. Mean while all his demons begin chanting “somebody has to die, somebody has to die!” Suddenly out of the crowd of demons steps forth a man wearing a white hoodie (Yes, in my mind Jesus wears a hoodie lol). He removes the hood off His head and introduces Himself to me, “hello my name is Jesus, the Son of God.” The demons hiss and Jesus proposes this question to me, “would you like me to die for you?” Though shocked at His question I immediately say “yes!” The demons push me aside and quickly seize Jesus. Satan mocking Jesus says “being hung is not a suitable death for the Son of God, let us crucify Him!” I watch as Jesus is whipped and tormented on the cross and all He says to me is “you are forgiven and receive my eternal life.” I stand in amazement thinking “this man just took my punishment so that I won’t have to. He received death so that I can receive life.”
See my friends this is what Easter is really about, Jesus saying “I am willing to pay the price so that you can live.” If you are reading and you have not received Jesus’ gift of eternal life I propose this question, “would you like for Jesus to die for you?” If yes, all you have to do is truly believe Jesus die for you and then you will be bound for eternal life. In closing, as we do our traditional Easter activities let us remember we celebrate Easter to honor Jesus’ sacrifice.
“Worthy Is The Lamb” by Hillsong Live
Written by: Brandon Render
A week ago Phillip and I attended a community impacted service dedicated to the Trayvon Martin injustice. The message was given by Pastor Marlin Harris and the sermon was entitled “Brother Against Brother.” He outlined lines some key points about why we show violence toward one another. The major point He expressed was violence flows from the heart. The heart is what this post will be about. From addictions to anger to lust to greed to violence, these things are not purely surface issues, but they are matters of the heart. So that makes it a hard matter to deal with. We are always quick to condemn people like Mr. Zimmerman. Yes, he is wrong for the crime he committed and should be punished accordingly, but can we say we do not have the same hate, anger, and resentment that Mr. Zimmerman held in his heart. The apostle Paul said “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13). If we were to have a face to face chat with our heart what would that conversation reveal? Would we find that jealous entangled us? Would we find that anger drives us? Could it be that lust consumes us? Or pride defines us? The scripture says “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov.4:23). Jesus said “anyone who is angry with a brother or sisterwith out cause will be subject to judgment….anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:21-28). Our heart is our most precious thing and we should be greatly concerned about what is in it. Hate will lead to murder, anger to strife, and lust to sexual immorality. If we allow sinfully things take residence in our hearts it is only a matter of time before those things manifest themselves physically. The Trayvon Martin case is sad, but it is the fruit of our hearts. The way to bring justice to Trayvon and others like him is not merely wearing hoodies, or marching at rallies. The way to bring justice is to turn inward and ask God to remove from our hearts everything that provokes us to sin.
Written by: Brandon Render