Monday Through Saturday – Sunday Too

Why did you become a Christian? Were you looking for salvation from the wrong you’ve committed? Were you looking for inner peace and purpose? Were you looking for a way to overcome the grave? Were you trying to understand what science could not explain?

You became a Christian – you gave your heart to God through Jesus. But did you understand the implications of this transaction?

The whole bible is a long narrative that many people do not comprehend. So many people are looking at the small details of this law and that story and this church that they miss the bigger picture.

Man and God were in perfect relationship, but mankind cheated on God and broke the relationship. God worked diligently to show them a way back, but all ways before Jesus were tastes of that relationship. Then Jesus came and offered full restoration of the relationship between mankind and God. Now we have that relationship back, so we live in the kind of love we’ve been shown by God.

We’ve been given this relationship. Freely. Through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection.

Now God has chosen to take up residence, not in a temple in one location, but in each heart of each Christian. God is here. God is with us. In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

We got salvation, but were we looking for relationship?

We want God when we are in trouble. We want Him to take away our sniffles and cure our diseases. We want Him to ease the pain of heartache and exact justice on our enemies. We want God to change the world.

God simply wants us. All of each of us.

Have you ever loved someone so much it didn’t matter what they did, you’d live them anyway? That’s how God loves us. That’s the relationship He wants us to experience in Him.

Then, as we experience and understand that relationship, we are given to worship Him. We worship Him because He has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We worship Him because He, in all His majesty, desires relationship with us.

The worship we are called to is not Sunday morning worship service worship. That is one small part of the worship God desires from us. He has given so much for us; could we not, in return, offer Him all of our life in return? Worship is how we are to live. It isn’t simply an action we participate in once in a while.

When you fall in love with your significant other, your whole life revolves around them. Everything you do is to honor them. All you can think about is them. Is that how you react to God?

Everything you do, if you are a Christian, is done in the presence of God with God’s Spirit in you. When you speak life in others, you bring God glory. When you curse others, you bring Him shame. When you love, you reflect His goodness, yet when you hate, you misrepresent the One whose Name you confess. When you join together with other Christians, you recognize your part in His family. When you reject Christian community, you despise His gifts to you.

When you live in worship daily, you will be more committed to joining other Christians in worship weekly in a church building. However, when you make weekly gathering a priority in your life, you may find yourself encouraged to worship daily as well.

So, what shall we do? Pray to God constantly – recognizing your relationship with Him. Worship through actions that honor His Name in you. Gather with His family to experience His love through others who love by His Spirit living in them. Live in worship daily and so honor the One who did for you what you could not do for yourself.


Prayer is Not the Answer

Lately there have been several news outlets and celebrities giving people a hard time for sending “thoughts and prayers” to victims of tragedies and friends who are undergoing hard times. Just this week I saw that Chris Pratt was being ridiculed for praying for another celebrity who was overcoming a heart attack. People have been ridiculing Christians for saying they are praying for the victims of the school shootings. They claim prayer doesn’t work.

And they’re right.


For many Christians, there is a desire to do something, or there is a call for change, and the immediate reaction is to pray. This is a great response!! Who better to go to in times of need than the one who created the universe?!

But, it seems there are three types of people in the camp of those who send well wishes through touted prayer.

1. The person who says they will pray but doesn’t.

I don’t blame them.

There are a lot of things going on every day. Sometimes it’s hard to pray. What if God isn’t pleased with me? Will my prayers even matter? I don’t have the right words. I’m a weak pray-er.

Really? These excuses do not come from the Spirit of God who lives in you who have devoted your life to Christ. These excuses come from your adversary, the accuser (Satan).

However, if you’re not praying regularly, you will never get better at praying, and it will continue to be easy to say “I’ll pray for you” and never actually do it.

Of course this kind of prayer is not the answer.

2. The person who says they will pray and does.

This group is devoted to trying to help another person through prayer. They are genuine in their statement that they will pray. This group is actively trying to do what is right, but even this group is divided in results.

2a. The person who prays that God will do something.

This is a common prayer, right? “God, please do something about violence in school, or my dying grandmother, or my upcoming test.” We pray to God for many things, and we wonder why those things are not being resolved as quickly as we think they should.

There was once a man who wanted to win the lottery. He prayed and prayed to God to let him win the lottery. The lottery came and went, and he was just as broke, so he prayed once more, “Why didn’t you let me win the lottery?” Then he heard a voice from heaven saying, “You have to buy a ticket first.”

When we pray for God to do something, He wants to act, but the way in which God acts most frequently is through us, people, His children. So many people want God to fix our society, and they hope He’ll use someone else to do it. Many people say “something should be done about this” while looking around the room for someone else to do it.

Perhaps God isn’t moving, and the prayers aren’t working, because He wants to use you, but you aren’t willing to be used.

2b. The person who prays for God to use them to do something.

Much less comfortable than the regular “God, do something” prayer is the one that expects God to use the pray-er through whom He will answer the prayer. If we are praying for God to change the moral culture of our society, we need to look for how God wants to use us to do it. If we pray for someone to be comforted, we should be willing to go comfort.

When we have the attitude of surrender to God for Him to work through us to resolve the issues about which we pray, we will find God working in mighty and effective ways to do just that.

So, prayer is not the answer, entirely. Prayer is the medium through which we seek God’s will for how He wants to use us to be the answer to the very prayers we pray.

Captain America VS Iron Man

I don’t like Batman or Iron Man.

There. I said it.

I like Superman and Captain America.

Why? Not because of their powers. Powers in the comic book realm are a dime a dozen.

I like Cap and Superman because of their character. They attempt to do what is right.

One of my favorite scenes in any comic book movie is when the Avengers are heading into battle and Iron Man says a curse word. Captain America says, “Language.” Then the rest of the movie is spent making fun of Cap for trying to hold this higher morality. I like what Captain America attempted to do – to insert a morality check.

Even the innocence of Superman is being tampered with in the new DC movies where Superman is living with with Lois. Maybe I like the Captain America and Superman of the days before the 2000s when they were much more innocent and benevolent.

Maybe I’m naive concerning these two characters, but I know many who celebrate the Bat and Iron Man. They love the normal guy being able to keep up with the super humans. But they also celebrate the edginess of these characters. They see the flaws within them, and it causes people to love them more. Batman is a murderer and a philanderer. Iron Man is an egotist and a playboy. Both super heroes have little moral character associated with their super human abilities.

Why is this a big deal? They’re just movies and comic books, aren’t they?

The celebration of the anti-hero like Batman or Suicide Squad or the Punisher or Jessica Jones is a symbol of the greater desire in society today to celebrate evil as good. The old idiom says, “a broken clock is right twice a day.” But it is still broken and in need of fixing. So it is with these “heroes” who live ungodly, immoral lifestyles but happen to save a few people who are portrayed as worth saving.

It is entertaining to see the hero win. It is fun to see the mind games played on the big screen and have problems solved before the credits roll, but this celebration of evil called good is creating a divergence from morality in our society.

It is appropriate for people to be concerned about video games that glorify murder and rape and other immoral behaviors. It is right for people to stand against injustice. But it is hard to combat the shift in our minds that has blurred the line between right and wrong, good and evil.

Isaiah 5:20

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

When we celebrate the things that the scriptures say are abominations, sinful, malevolent, or divisive, we add to the demoralization of our communities. We feed money to the machine that is spitting out this ungodly, immoral entertainment, and we wonder why this is all that is being presented. We laugh right alongside our neighbor as someone else is devalued for a joke. We pick and poke and prod as we try to elevate ourselves in the eyes of others. We are more concerned about what others think – fitting in with others – than what God, our Father who created us and sustains us, thinks.

And we wonder why there are school shootings. We are confused why children are rebellious and rude.

To find the answer to these problems, we must begin to look inward and see what we celebrate by our actions and words, by our very lives. For those who come after us are watching us and being molded by us and are emulating us.

Even in the church this struggle pervades. Many want to receive salvation through Christ AND keep their lives celebrating immorality and selfishness. If we want to change the world, we must begin by changing ourselves, especially those of us within the church that belongs to Christ.

Dodging Copperheads

When I was a boy, I loved to walk in the woods near our house. They held old trees and vines. There were ruins from the Civil War, and cypress trees, and right in the middle was a swamp teeming with nutrias.

One day, my friend an I were exploring through the woods, playing along the creek that fed the swamp. We each had machetes, because what boy doesn’t want to be dangerous? As we hopped along the cypress knees, my friend hollered for me to look down, and as I did, I saw something that gave me a fright! At my feet was a copperhead snake coiled up and reared back to strike!

In a split second I jumped, and it struck, both at the same time. As it struck (fortunately, just an inch or so in front of my leg), I swung my machete and took a chunk out of it’s back. I watched it slither away through the water and disappear under the root of a cypress tree growing in the creek.

It took me a couple minutes to regain my composure as my adrenaline flushed though my system. If I had been bitten, it would have meant certain hospitalization, and depending on the severity of the bite, some have even died from copperhead venom.

Have you ever had something dangerous sneak up on you like the snake did on me? Have you ever stepped into a dangerous situation accidentally?

The Bible says the devil is prowling around constantly, like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. He is also a serpent in the garden looking for someone to trap into death.

Lately there have been many things happening in our world that cause us to react strongly within our minds. The school shootings in Florida, Kentucky, and even here in Aztec, NM are great examples. Government policy often creates emotional dissonance within us. Even the male commentator for figure skating at the olympics dressed like a girl has many expressing consternation.

It’s easy to have opinions. It’s easy to allow our emotions to control our reactions to situations. It’s easy for Satan to sneak right up and cause us to sin, creating moments of death in this world by our words and actions and attitudes.

We must be constantly on guard. We must monitor our responses to stimuli. We must react with love, not hate or division.

But how do we do that? James says the man who can control his tongue will be perfect in every way, because the tongue is a restless evil full of deadly poison (James 3:2, 6). How do you use your tongue when you are caught up in the emotional response to negative stimuli?

Maybe you need to distance yourself for a moment until you can calm down. Maybe you need to take a sabbatical from Facebook or other social media that is fostering so much division in our culture. Maybe you need to remember you do not have to respond at all.

It is better to remain silent than to murder someone with hateful speech (Matthew 5:21-22). For when we let our anger, our sinful impulses, control us, Satan saddles up and rides us all the way back to death (Ephesians 4:26-27).

If you’ve been guilty of letting your negative emotional response to some situation damage your relationship with others, you need to make amends (Matthew 5:23-24).

May we be people who speak life in this world, not letting the copperheads at our feet cause us to stray from the ways of Jesus.

Dutiful Valentine

It’s love week. Everyone is thinking about upcoming Valentine’s Day. For some, it’s “singles awareness day”. But even so, it’s still appropriate to be reminded of those you love and those who love you: Family, friends, etc…

When I first got married, I remember trying to do special things for my wife on Valentine’s Day. It didn’t take me long to realize she didn’t appreciate my gifts on Valentine’s Day as much as I had hoped.

If you know my wife, you know that she is a great woman who shows love to many. She wasn’t being inappropriately dismissive; she had a different perspective on the holiday. For her, getting gifts of love on Valentine’s Day is like getting a hug from a kid whose parents told them to do it. Valentines Day is a great reminder to love, but to love only on Valentine’s Day or because of Valentine’s Day is disingenuous.

If we love out of duty, then we aren’t loving.

Think about it. If someone gave you a gift, but when you thanked them for it, they responded with, “Well, I had to give it to you; it was my duty.” How would you feel? Would you have the warm-fuzzy’s for that person and their gift? If the only time we show love is when it’s expected, then are we really loving others?

Why should we love?

Other people are difficult. They’re a pain to deal with. They argue with us and make life a mess all around us. And we’re difficult too, so why should we love them?

Have you been loved?

In church, it seems like the greatest trump card answer is either God or Jesus. Have They loved you? Someone once said this about Jesus: “Jesus said, ‘I love you this much.’ And he stretched out his arms and died.” Do you see the love of Jesus? Do you experience the love of God, the Father? Do you understand what has been done on your behalf regardless of your appreciation or response or devotion or understanding? If so, you’ve been loved.

Have you been loved by anyone else? Mother, Father, Sibling, Significant Other, Friend, Co-worker, Boss, Employee, Random Stranger. Has anyone shown you love?

If you’ve been loved, then the appropriate response is to love in return. To refrain from loving others is to show contempt for the love you’ve received.

Yes, love is a command, but love is also the “why” behind the command. God wants us to love others because He already loves them. He has already sacrificed so much and created so much for them. He already sees them as His children, and just as you want others to love your children, so God wants us to love His children.

But not out of duty. Instead, we should love out of appreciation. We love in reciprocation. We love in adoration – for God and for those God loves.

If we only love on Sundays, we are hypocrites. If we only love those who love us, we are selfish and without the heart of Jesus who loved those who crucified Him. If we only love on holidays, our love is shallow and meaningless.

Instead, choose to love everyone. Don’t categorize people. Do what is necessary to love everyone equally. Listen to them and find out how to love them best. Love is a choice we make to treat others how we would want to be treated because we’ve already received grace and mercy.

And don’t just do it on Valentine’s Day.

#aztecstrong #marshallstrong #churchstrong

Have you ever been in a situation where pain is imminent? Maybe you’re about to fall. Maybe you’re about to crash. Maybe one false move could cause loss of limb. In any case, your sensed are heightened, and you are keenly aware of every motion in effort to stave off the potential harm that could befall you. No longer are you drifting in semi-conscious automatic behavior. Now you are engaged, and your focus is keen.

How about another scenario. What do you do when you cut yourself badly? Let’s say you are in the kitchen cutting vegetables, and your finger gets in the way trying to pretend it’s one of the vegetables. The knife goes right to the bone. Do you continue in your course of action? NO! You immediately stop, and all your consciousness and efforts focus on stopping the bleeding and healing the wound. In fact, even as the wound heals, your body cannot help but remain focused on the sensitivity of the wound.

Pain focuses us. Terror unites us. Routine divides.

When I think of the terror of the Aztec and Marshall County High School shootings, it strikes me how unified the communities have become in the aftermath of the tragedies. People are reaching out to one another in ways they never would otherwise. Aztec is reaching out in prayer and support for Marshall County. Those two groups would never have even known each other. We are unified when we are singularly seeking to survive from similar circumstances. We have empathy and concern for one another, and we show it outwardly.

In the first century, the church was hemmed in on every side with persecution from a variety of groups that did not like how the Kingdom of God defines by selfless love threatened their power schemes. Christians were imprisoned and killed. People ran for their lives. But the church was growing. How could this be? It would seem the persecution would eradicate this loosely-banded group of misfits claiming such an outlandish story.

Instead of hurting the church, it actually caused its growth. People were unified in their drive to survive and invite others into a better way of love, and as the persecution came, they moved and continued to share, thus spreading the gospel to all the lands within a matter of about two years.

Tragedy and persecution united the church, and it grew.

Today the church is apathetic. Sure, you have ministers, pastors, evangelists, and a handful of people in each congregation that are actively trying to reach out with the good news of Jesus, but the majority of every church is apathetic concerning discipleship and righteous living.

When the church was being persecuted, you didn’t participate if you were unsure. You didn’t ride the fence because that would cost your life. You were either all in or all out. There was no place for another option. Those who were all in banded together in unity of purpose and message and turned the world upside down.

Today, churches are full of people who are riding the fence concerning their relationship with God. They aren’t atheists, but they aren’t sure they want to be fanatics about Jesus either. Thus the church merely survives rather than thriving as in the days of tragedy and persecution.

As the church continues day-to-day as it has for over two hundred years here in America, she becomes less and less energetic concerning the salvation of all mankind. She becomes complacent regarding righteousness. She becomes divisive when, in her boredom, she has more time to focus on petty arguments within her body than with survival and the central message of Jesus.

We must wake up. Just like a person who has become complacent regarding health needs to get back on an exercise and healthy-eating regimen, so the church needs to get healthy again. Away with the infighting. Away with the laziness. Away with the unrighteous behavior that makes church people indistinguishable from the world. Away with the lack of love.

Instead, let us be active. Let us follow the guidance of the Spirit and be lit on fire with passion for the salvation that only comes through Jesus. Let us love enthusiastically, and let us work together in our churches and in the community. Let us reach out to other communities of faith and, in unity, encourage one another and pray for one another as we singularly reach out into the world to spread the good news of hope in this life and in the life to come.

Today’s the day of renewal. Let’s not wait until persecution comes back.

Tell Me Something Good

Have you ever thought about what situations you find yourself in when you encounter a police officer? I’m not talking about if you’re a police officer or if you’re married to one; I’m talking about the average person encountering a police officer.

On most occasions, when I encounter a police officer, in uniform, and have meaningful dialogue on a regular day, it is because I messed up. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, its pretty humiliating and humbling. We visit with the police officer because we were going to fast or not wearing a seat belt or were texting and driving (don’t do that) or because we committed some other crime. We’ve done something wrong, and now we need to be visited by the enforcer of the code.

We don’t get pulled over because we were driving exceptionally well. Police officers don’t usually stop us to give out coupons to Denny’s. We don’t hear from them unless we’ve been bad, and that’s the way we like it. We want them to focus on their job of keeping people safe, and if we’re being safe, they don’t have to focus on us. We do right, and in so doing, we avoid police officers.

We perceive doctors in a similar light. We only see them when things are going wrong, and we want their help to fix whatever problem we are experiencing. The purpose of our encounter with doctors is to remedy some negative situation. This is different than in some Asian countries where doctors are paid to keep people well. They encounter the doctor regularly and pay them throughout the year, unless they’re sick. Then they don’t get paid until the patient is well again. This is a different, more positive perspective on medicine. It’s not like many of us who avoid going to the doctor unless we’re severely ill.

How do you communicate with those around you?

Are you the kind of person who automatically reacts to correct others? Do you see it as a need to police those around you (spouse, children, co-workers, etc…)? Do you need to fix others to better society?

What if, in our marriages, the only time we spoke to our spouses was when we were correcting something in them. We didn’t tell them hello or goodbye. We didn’t wish them well or encourage and congratulate them in their actions and endeavors. We didn’t dote upon the good qualities in them. We simply focused on the negative – kind of like the marriage police.

I will leave you alone when you adhere to the obviously reasonable demands I place on you.

Where’s the love in this? How long will this marriage last? Some of you may be thinking, “15 years and counting…” But it doesn’t have to be this way.

In a culture where everything is scrutinized, it is easy to constantly criticize – to focus on all the things you don’t like about another person. The problem is, this will change your perspective to where you can ONLY see what you dislike in another person.

If your relationship with another person (spouse, child, co-worker, peer, etc…) is constantly negative, you have a choice in what you see in and say to that other person. You can choose to criticize, or you can choose to bless. You can choose to tear down, or you can choose to build up.

“But I’m criticizing to help them be a better person. Isn’t that a blessing?”

Not to them. People know they need to change. Everyone does. It’s in front of them every day. They WANT friendship and acceptance. They want to know they can mess up in front of you, and you won’t take them to the mat because of it. They want to know you see the best in them in spite of their flaws, but if all they hear is the negative about them they’re already aware of, they will soon resist relationship with you.

Remember your flaws? Does Jesus hang that in front of your face constantly, or does He give you grace and call you better things than you feel about yourself, like “child of the King,”, “beloved”, “brother and sister”, “masterpiece”, etc?

We seek to avoid encountering a police officer, because they are there to enforce law and convict us of our crimes. If a relationship is defined by this kind of legalistic expectation, eventually at least one person in the relationship will begin to avoid the other like we avoid police encounters, and for many of the same reasons.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (Romans 15:2)

“‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)

Focus on the positive in others…and let your focus translate into your words and actions. This one thing may change every relationship you have.

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