How to Forgive Your Father

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As I mentioned in a recent sermon, one of the hardest things for us as we see God as father is how we feel about our earthly father. That relationship impacts so much of how we see ourselves, the world around us and God. It impacts how we feel about ourselves and how we let others treat us.

As you take steps this week to let go of any hurt done by your earthly father and forgive him, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

One, remember your sin. It is easy to simply look at the brokenness of someone else and overlook our brokenness. As you forgive someone, you begin to come face to face with some of the things in your own heart. If you skip over these things or not deal with them, you will find yourself having a hard time understanding God’s forgiveness. Remember, God’s grace was extended to you and your sin, my sin, the sin of your father put Jesus on the cross.

Two, forgiveness does not mean you pretend something didn’t happen. Forgive and forget is a nice phrase, but I’m not sure it is realistic or biblical. We always remember something. It is part of our story, our life. We don’t simply pretend that hurt, broken promises, or even abuse happened. As you forgive and move forward, don’t pretend something didn’t happen as that will keep you from health and wholeness.

Third, forgiveness does not mean you have a relationship with someone. You can forgive someone and keep them at a distance, which you may need to do depending on the situation for your safety.

Last, God forgave you and this is the basis for letting go of anything. Why did God forgive you? He loved you and this forgiveness is what we are to extend to those who hurt us, including our father.

It may be hard to believe, but forgiving those who hurt you the most is not only something a follower of Jesus is called to, it is also the only way to living the life that God calls you to live. Many people walk around with hurt, that turns into bitterness because of something they won’t let go of. And that is not the life that God has called us to live.

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Links for Your Weekend Reading

bookBrian Jennings on 2 healthy habits for a family over the summer.

Summer can bring some great opportunities for families, but it can also lead to lots of frustration. Plus, it goes by so fast that I am afraid to blink. I have not enjoyed feeling like we did not get the most out of a summer. So, my wife and I decided to implement a couple of habits/rules in our house (unique from our school year routines). Our goal was to establish some routines that would promote calmness, creativity and spiritual growth.

Russell Moore on What if your child is gay?

One of the reasons this is such a crushing experience for many is because they assume that their alternatives are affirmation or alienation. I either give up my relationship with my child or I give up the Bible. The gospel never suggests this set of alternatives, and in fact demonstrates just the opposite. Every child, whether gay or straight, is oriented toward sin, and so are you. If your child or grandchild says he or she is gay, you shouldn’t act shocked, as though you are surprised your child might be tempted toward sin, or that you find your own sinful inclinations somehow less deserving of God’s judgment.

Ron Edmondson on 7 hints to make a bad leadership decision.

Paul Alexander on How to pastor your staff.

But if you’re so busy that you don’t have time to focus on discipleship, development and knowing the team then you run the risk of not only building a toxic culture on your church staff team but missing the real work God has called you to. At the end of the day the church is not a business, it’s the body of Christ.

12 Things TED Speakers do that Pastors Don’t.

Don’t use your conclusion to simply summarize what you’ve already said; tell your audience how your idea might affect their lives if it’s implemented.

God Will Let You Have Your Sin

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I was reading Romans 1 the other day and while this passage is often used as to why homosexuality is a sin, I was struck by something else. There is a phrase in vs. 24 and 26 where Paul says, “God gave them up to their dishonorable passions.”

When we choose to sin, and yes, every time we sin we are choosing to sin.

God will allow us to make that choice and experience what comes from that choice. That wording, “gave them up” is a handing over.

Often, when we experience the ramifications of sin, we get angry at God. Why didn’t he intervene? He did, He allowed us to move forward.

The truth of the gospel is that God does and will rescue us from our sin. He does give us a way out of temptation. He also will allow us to have our sin.

Often we complain about the consequences of our sin. Why does God allow our sin to hurt ourselves, others? Why do we bear consequences for what we do wrong? Why are relationships broken because of words? Why do our actions lead to bankruptcy, broken trust? This falls into the area of what God allows.

His will is not for this to happen, but is what He allows.

There is grace found in our consequences. 

When we feel the consequences of our sin, we learn that God is indeed good. In our sin, we learn that God is better than our sin and the temptations we face.

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My blog will be moving in a few weeks and I don’t want you to miss anything. Simply click here to subscribe via email so that I can serve you better and continue to help you grow to become who God created you to be.

Make me Approve of You

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I preached on the need and desire for approval that we all have. Granted, we all feel it to different degrees. In my sermon, I mentioned how my desire to win, to be right, to have power and control always outweighs my desire for approval. It is still there though.

This blog post may feel more like a confession that I’m letting you in on. Hopefully this will be an encouragement to you or you’ll see yourself in it.

For me, I was convicted how out of my desire for power and control, I can very easily make my relationships about my approval of someone else.

I can be good at putting incredibly high standards on people, making them feel guilty so they will ultimately do what I want.

This is how I control things. In the end, it is also how I can easily help people sin by gaining my approval.

It is interesting when we talk about the idols of the heart or the sin in people’s lives, we focus on the person sinning. We should. They are responsible. In doing this, it is easy to let the people off who cause the sinning. Granted, someone seeking my approval is not my fault and they stand before God on that. I stand before God on how I cause someone to sin or stumble.

That is on me.

As I think about legalism, the gospel, the idols of my heart and hopefully as you think about those things, my hope with this blog post is to get you to realize in your quest for approval, control, comfort or power, you cause others to worship their idol by your actions. In your quest for comfort, you might help someone seek even more control so things don’t fall through the cracks because you are so laidback and letting whatever happens happen. In your quest for approval, you cause others to seek power because you are willing to be a doormat to their sin and ego.

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God Does not Withhold His Forgiveness

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I’m reminded as my kids get older that parenting is about the moments we miss or don’t miss. Changes in our kids hearts, seeing the Holy Spirit work in them, helping them make right choices, helping them become who God has called them to be, it happens in moments, in conversations. While some of those might be planned and exactly as we see them working in our heads, by and large, they just happen.

I was reminded of this recently when our kids made some poor choices for some babysitters while Katie and I were out. As we talked with them and led them through a prayer of repentance, I was reminded that God already forgives us.

It was a great truth to remind my kids, God does not withhold his forgiveness from those who ask it. 

In the church, many say they believe this, but few actually do. We talk about grace and forgiveness with the culture around us, but don’t believe that God will really forgive them if they seek it. We also sometimes harbor bitterness at the idea that God would give forgiveness so freely to someone who would sin so willfully. Yet, we sin willfully. And God grants us forgiveness without reserve.

As we talked with our kids, Katie reminded them of 1 John 1:9 which says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This verse often gets talked about in terms of becoming a follower of Jesus, yet 1 John was written to Christians. Meaning, as a follower of Jesus, you will continue to sin and mess up. You will continue to get it wrong. Which means, you need to continually ask for forgiveness and confess your sins to God. But, that God is faithful and just and forgive us of our sins. I’m blown away that God’s justice in this verse is equated to he forgives us. Imagine that justice. It is forgiveness. Not wrath. Not anger. Not hatred. Not withholding love and his presence, but forgiveness is his justice for a follower of Jesus who confesses his sin.

And…

He will cleanse us of all unrighteousness. He will make us right. He will make us into the person He has called us to be. 

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5 Steps to Wrecking Your Life

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On Sunday, I talked about the reality that everyone, man or woman, married, divorced or single, is always one choice away from wrecking their lifeIf you missed it, you can listen to it here.

The question I always wrestle with is, “How?” How is it possible for so many professional athletes to throw it all away to take PED’s? Why do so many people sleep with someone they aren’t married to and lose their marriage? Why do people gamble with their finances and go into debt in hopes of finding the quick fix? Why do people gamble or look at porn while at work and lose their jobs? The list goes on and on.

In his helpful book Impact: Great Leadership Changes Everything by Tim Irwin, he says there are 5 steps to wrecking your life, or as he would say derailing your life. They are:

  1. Lack of self-awareness. This comes when a person doesn’t know what could bring them down. They don’t know what their weaknesses are. Is it money, greed, power, sex, lust, a bigger house or car? What are they willing to trade their marriage, reputation, kids or future in for? If you don’t know that, you will be brought down.
  2. Arrogance or misguided confidence. This is when a person sees someone wreck their life and says, “That could never happen to me.” This is when a person sins once and says, “I already did it once, what is one more time?” They have supreme confidence they can stop whenever or take back control whenever they choose. Or, that it won’t destroy their life.
  3. Missed warning signals. This might be close calls in getting caught, being late to work for staying up too late, conviction from the Holy Spirit that you push away or even evidence that you might get caught.
  4. Rationalization. This is when you start to say things like, “I deserve this.” Or, “This is my only vice.” Or, you blame someone else for your situation. “If my spouse was more attentive.” Or, “If I had a little more money we could get ahead.” Or, “My kids will understand when their older why I had to work like I did.”
  5. Derailment. Eventually, with enough time, enough rationalizations, you hit the wall and derail your life.

The problem is that no one knows when derailment will hit. Some people get away with something for years.

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Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace

bookAs I have been working ahead and preparing for sermons this coming spring at Revolution, one of the books I read for our man series called Fight is the book, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (kindle version) by Heath Lambert is easily the most helpful, grace filled, gospel centered book on fighting temptation, pornography addiction and lust.

Here is one thing that sets this book apart:

This book is not about pornography. This book is not about the pornography industry. This book is not about the catastrophic effects of pornography. The purpose of this book is not to rewire your brain when it comes to pornography. This book is about something much better than pornography. This book is about the amazing power of Jesus Christ to free you from pornography.

What follows are 8 strategies the power of the gospel gives you to fight pornography: using sorrow, accountability, radical measures, confession, your spouse (or singleness), humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Jesus.

One of the things Lambert said that really stuck out to me is that humility is one of the best tools to fighting porn addiction (or any addiction). Addiction is an issue of a prideful heart.

Here are some things I highlighted:

  • Jesus Christ died to set you free from every sin that can be committed. That includes pornography.
  • When you believe in God’s grab towards you, you get God’s righteousness.
  • God’s grace pardons you and forgives your sin, and God’s grace empowers you to live differently and be obedient to him.
  • The first step in repentance is talk to God and tell him about your sin.
  • Mental punishments are not helpful because they deal with sin in a self-centered way instead of a Christ-centered way.
  • Jesus’ grace to change you is stronger than pornography’s power to destroy you.
  • Worldly sorrow is sad over losing the things of the world, while the focus of godly sorrow is God himself. Godly sorrow is pained over the break in relationship with God. It is heartbroken that God has been grieved and offended. The tears of godly sorrow flow from the sadness that God’s loving and holy law has been broken.
  • The person full of godly sorrow has a heart that wants to please God rather than self. Godly sorrow motivates real and lasting change.
  • Godly sorrow hates the sin itself. Godly sorrow feels the horror of disobedience and weeps over the reality of a heart that chose transgression over faithfulness.
  • To find freedom from pornography, you will need to employ radical measures in at least three areas. You look at porn when you have the desire to see it, when you have the time to look at it, and when it is available to you. Nobody looks at pornography without all three of these elements coming together. In your fight to be free from pornography, you must learn to take radical steps to eliminate each one.
  • The Bible promises that there is no prosperity for those who cover up their sin.
  • The circle of your confession should be as broad as the circle of your sin.
  • You can never stop thinking about something by trying to not to think about it. If you want to get something out of your mind, you must begin thinking about something else.
  • God wants to change your thinking, not by having us focus on the things we’re trying to quit thinking about, but by replacing old, sinful thoughts with new, righteous thoughts.
  • God wants you to quit thinking about porn and start thinking about your wife.
  • Whenever your thoughts begin to drift toward porn, see this mental drift as an alarm reminding you to pray for grace to refocus your thoughts on your spouse.
  • If you look at pornography, you are arrogant.
  • Every bad thing you do flows from an arrogant heart that is selfishly ambitious.
  • Men look at pornography out of an arrogant desire to see women in a way that God does not allow. They show arrogant defiance to God’s commands, rejecting the delight of sexual intimacy in marriage and deciding for themselves what they believe is better – looking at naked women in porn. They show arrogant disregard for God’s call to selfless marital love. They show arrogant derision for the female actresses whom they should be seeking to respect as who women who need to hear the good news of Jesus. They show arrogant disdain for their own children by hiding their sin and inviting the enemy into their home and their marriage. They show arrogant disrespect toward all those who would be scandalized if their sin was known. The root problem with men who look at porn is not neediness – it is arrogance.
  • Men who struggle with pornography often see pornography as their only sin.
  • If you struggle with porn, one of your greatest needs is to grow in the grace of gratitude.
  • Porn is only consumed by thankless people.
  • Porn is the trading of gratitude for greed. Porn trades joy in the reality God has graced you with for greed in the counterfeit world he has not. Defeating porn requires a grateful consideration of God’s good gifts to you.
  • You should not seek a dynamic relationship with Jesus because you want to be finished with porn. You should not seek a dynamic relationship with Jesus for any purpose other than knowing Jesus.
  • Your struggle isn’t just to avoid looking at porn. It’s much more glorious than that. You have the unspeakable privilege of being invited to have a real relationship with the Savior of your soul who alone has the Father’s seal of approval.
  • You cannot look at Jesus and look at porn at the same time. You have to stop doing one to do the other. A living, breathing relationship with the Savior of the world will drive porn out of your life quicker than anything else.

When it comes to recommendation for men and women fighting lust, temptation, porn addiction, this is the first book I will recommend to them.

Every Saturday I share a review of a book I’ve read recently. If you want to see some of the past books I’ve reviewed, go here.

Giving Forgiveness

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Forgiveness is tough. In a sermon, giving forgiveness sounds so easy and clean. Yet, in real life, it is difficult and messy.

I mentioned in a sermon recently that whenever we withhold forgiveness, we deny the power of the cross. Whenever we say, “I can’t forgive that person.” Or, “I can’t let go of that situation.” We deny the power of the cross.

As you walk through this door and grant forgiveness, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
  1. Forgiving someone does not mean pretending it didn’t happen. Forgiving does not mean forgetting as the old saying goes. Those scars still exist. They are still there. Forgiving means acknowledging it happened and the pain associated with it.
  2. Giving forgiveness means bearing the other persons sin. There is a cost to forgiveness (see #1). You must bear their sin. The cost of forgiveness is always on the person granting forgiveness. This is why forgiveness is so hard.
  3. Forgiveness is possible because Jesus bore your sin and the cost of your forgiveness. When we look at the cross, we see how Jesus bore our sin, knowing we would fail again and again. Yet, he forgave us. The power of this moment is what enables us to forgive the way Jesus did.

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Turning from Your Sin

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On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.” He did all he came to do. His death accomplished what it needed to accomplish. The reason is because he came out of the grave.

Yet, we still struggle, we still fail and we still sin.
Our sin placed Jesus on the cross. Yet, he died knowing we would sin and fail. Instead of resigning ourselves to this and giving up, we can and should fight our sin through the power of the cross.
The first step is believing that this is true. When we sin, we need to quickly run to the cross, confess our sin. Don’t walk around with your sin. Don’t let your sin stay between you and Jesus. Throw yourself on the mercy of the cross.
The second step is the more practical side of fighting your sin. What is your plan to fight your struggle and live in freedom?
Here are some things to think through:
  1. When you are most likely to sin, fall into a trap. How do you avoid that place? We often fall into traps at the same time in the same place. We often sin in the same way because we are creatures of habit.
  2. What things do you need to sin? Is it food, a computer, someone else? How do you take that out of the equation? Whatever it is, take it out of the equation. You don’t need to have snack food in your house, you don’t need to get on the internet or social media at 11pm. You don’t need to be alone with that person you aren’t married to.
  3. What things lead up to you sinning? Are there feelings or circumstances that make you more likely to sin? It is when life feels out of control, when you are tired, run down? If so, be on your guard then.
  4. Who can you bring along on this journey for accountability and encouragement?

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Monday Morning Mind Dump…

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  • Hard to believe Christmas is only a couple weeks away
  • Crazy
  • Yesterday was one of the most intense days at Revolution
  • The response of people placing their sins on the cross was so powerful
  • Love the song the band played during that moment
  • Fit perfectly
  • Yesterday was a day when everything went together
  • I shared more about our Christmas offering and our partnership with The A21 Campaign
  • We did the second candle of Advent, which is Love
  • And I preached on the cross of Jesus from John 18-19
  • I talked about the sins that put Jesus on the cross and the sins in our lives that put Jesus on the cross
  • It was a powerful, powerful day
  • Tons of things went wrong technically, so you could tell Satan didn’t like us talking so much about the cross
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here
  • I’m excited for this Sunday as we are dedicating Judah
  • It will be awesome to take that step with him after all we’ve been through with him
  • If you would like to dedicate your child, you can go here to get details and sign up
  • We just started talking about the next series we are doing at Revolution that starts on December 29
  • It’s called Breathing Room
  • It will be perfect timing for the new year
  • Speaking of the end of the year, I will be posting my favorite albums and books of the year next week
  • Stay tuned…