Psalm 29

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5-7-2020

Here is a poem that I wrote on October 29th, 2019 that was inspired by Psalm 29. This was written during one of my daily devotionals through the book of Psalms.

 

O sons of the mighty.

Ascribe to the Lord glory.

That which is due to his name.

May we all do the same.

The voice of the Lord is upon the waters.

God’s glory changes silent skies to thunders.

The voice of the Lord is powerful.

The voice of the Lord is wonderful.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars.

Yes, the Lord’s voice is heard by seekers.

The voice of the Lord hews out flames of fire.

The wilderness shakes as said fire goes higher.

Yes, the Lord sits as king forever.

The Lord gives strength to whosoevers.

The Lord blesses his own for life’s endeavors.

 

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels

Influenced By Idiots | 9-25-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5-7-2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students study the book of Galatians verse-by-verse.]

Introduction

Today we are going to talk about idiots and influencers. This will all make sense as I go on with the message, but for now let’s read about both in Galatians 5:7-12.

“You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you. Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised—as some say I do—why am I still being persecuted? If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended. I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves.”

Identifying an Idiot | Verses 7-9

In my day, I have met a lot of idiots. Like, a lot. Seriously, they multiply like ants. By idiot, I mean someone who knows better, but chooses to believe or do something anyway. It’s someone who is foolish or gullible because they can be easily swayed to believe any lie. Whether it’s a person with no credibility, an uninformed post online, or even a poorly made conspiracy theorist video.

Someone could literally make something up or provide fake news and this person would totally believe it. You guys have this problem? Trevor [one of the youth leaders at the time] had this problem when he hung out with his flat-earther friends and you probably have too. Let me tell you about my other friend who became an idiot.

I once knew this guy at my old church that Andrew [the youth pastor] and I went to years ago. He was a really cool guy. He helped in youth ministry, he was always there for others in the community, and was just a really solid dude overall. But after Andrew left to serve at another church and I left a couple years later, things changed.

What Andrew and I were hearing about this guy was kinda weird. At first, I brushed it off as he’s just being political or he’s just riled up about an issue that will go away after a few days. But no because for this guy, suddenly everything he knew to be true he rejected. He out of nowhere believed every lie he heard, even though he knew better.

For instance, here is a list of things I got from his Facebook that he believes today. Chem trails are actually poison for population control, fluoride in water is for mass mind control, there is a worldwide frequency that is distracting you from realizing you are in a simulation, you are God, every church that receives donations is satanic, vaccines are evil because they cause autism, all religions are the same, and the list of stupid goes on endlessly. To be an idiot is to be misinformed, not uninformed.

Paul in verses 7 and 8 is talking about this very thing. He sees this collection of churches in Galatia who knew better, yet were now believing a lie. That what Jesus did for us was not enough. That we need to work our way to God, instead of being thankful that God worked out a way for us to be with Him.

They were influencers, but now were idiots. They knew better, stopped running in their faith, and traded the truth for a lie. Fear in exchange for the freedom they had in Christ.

When this exchange happens, we change too. When we throw out what is true for what is false, we end up even more confused than ever before. Like yeast in bread, a little lie can quickly transform what is simply true into something extremely convoluted.

Be an Influencer | Verses 10-12

Yesterday, I was listening to an interview with this philosopher named Peter Kreeft and he said something that I think summarizes verses 10-12 really well. When talking about how personal sin impacts a community he said, “every good that we do has consequences in everybody else’s life and every evil that we do has consequences in everybody else’s life (2).” Basically, when you cause something we deal with the effects.

Think of your choices like a rock thrown in a lake. You threw it, but the whole lake was moved by it. The entire lake physically changed when that rock hit the water. Rather than harming your community, you should help it.

Instead of being an idiot like most people, be an influencer. An influencer is someone who sets the standard of good in their circle of influence. Be about what actually matters and pursue it with everything you’ve got. Maintain your steady pace and forget about that stupid rat race. Idiots hold people back, but influencers push people forward.

When we fall for idiotic nonsense, it takes us away from every influence that is good and true. God will deal with those idiots in your life who are trying to get you to leave the truth. That being that you are made with purpose and are special. You are loved by God and were made to love others.

Conclusion

In life, you’ve got two choices on how you live your life: be an idiot or be an influencer.  Your actions will cause chain reactions that will impact your community. As Thomas Moore once said, “there is nothing neutral about the soul (3).” When we care about something, we give it our everything. We all influence someone, so let’s focus on being the best influencers that we can be as we follow Jesus. Let’s pray.

I remember being pretty passionate about this message. For me, I had less notes and more thoughts that I wanted to get across than my usual messages. This was because I have always seemed to be in a constant struggle with people who know better, but choose what’s worse. It’s puzzled me all my life and still does to this day.

Yes, I understand how Christians grasp this concept with the idea of original sin corrupting all of us. How as Alvin Plantinga writes extensively in his book, Warranted Christian Belief, that our very minds are corrupted by sin. But reading a book and seeing it in person is not the same thing. Why? Because it’s more heartbreaking in-person when you know them.

This was a period of time where having a pastoral heart was a very clear concept. I felt it when preaching that Wednesday night. It’s something that Derek Prime & Alistair Begg wrote about extensively in their excellent work, On Being A Pastor. To be honest, it will always be a struggle for any leader or mentor trying to guide someone to truth.

They will almost always choose the convenience of a lie over the rewarding hard-work of finding the truth. Sadly, the worst part is you will see this a mile a away over and over, yet will have no ability to save them from these bad decisions. They like it and they want it, but one day they will hopefully desire God more than the guise of their empty pursuits. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. www.pexels.com
  2. https://youtu.be/aLqf5EptHJ4
  3. Care of the Soul: Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life

Psalm 22

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-24-2020

Here is a poem that I wrote on September 9th, 2019 that was inspired by Psalm 22. This was written during one of my daily devotionals through the book of Psalms.

 

My God, my God, why have you left?

My words, my words, are loudly bereft.

My father trusts you, but I don’t.

I could truly love you, but I won’t.

In his youth, he found you when he needed hope.

Barely hanging on like a madman on a tightrope.

In my youth, I found you simply as a cultural trope.

I only talked to you to confess like you were a pope.

People call me a man of God, but why?

Don’t they know I’m fake and just lie?

They look to me for all of the answers.

Yet I only go to you with inquiries and questions.

My journey is of a man who knows better, but wanders.

Men like me take your commands as suggestions.

Yet you made this man with meaning anyway.

From birth, it’s as if I was born for the way.

I’ve never left you, so why did I stay?

From my origin until now on this day?

I suppose it’s because I know your intent.

That is, I know why you chose to invent.

You gave this man a specific type of mission.

A task unique within the Great Commission.

A calling that would take a lifetime to fulfill.

Like a farmer, this soil I always need to till.

Until it is done and finished, I cannot be still.

If not me to tend to this task, then who will?

Who will be the bridge that unites others?

Returning your sons to join us as brothers?

Bringing those who won’t associate together?

Guiding prodigals home with God forever?

Is it not this modern Saint Christopher?

Carrying Christ across the Jordan River?

Bearing the burden of souls in slumber?

Yes I fast, but my God do I truly hunger?

Reinvigorate this tired man who is your son.

Help him finish what is started and not done.

Let him shine bright like sun-soaked snow.

Allow the inward light within to openly show.

He has been sidetracked by the sins of youth.

Remind him that purity is the path of truth.

He has intrinsic meaning, purpose, and value.

Reinforce the fervor to fight for what is true.

There are many who aspire, but few attain.

We make way for the return of a king’s reign.

I once embraced evil, so now help me abstain.

For this man, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

 

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels

Doing Too Much | 7-31-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-24-2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students study the book of Galatians verse-by-verse.]

Introduction

Last week Dan taught on the latter half of Galatians 2. Tonight we will look at the first 9 verses of chapter 3. Let’s read the text and then break down what it means from there.

“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.”

Now this part of Galatians is really split into two main sections. The first half focuses on the bad example of what the Galatians were doing, while the latter half is centered on the good example of what Abraham did differently. The key is that Paul is first addressing the problem that these Christians are dealing with before getting to the solution. What’s the problem? Well, they’re doing too much. Like most of us, they forgot what it means to be a Christian because they added all of this unnecessary filler. Let me explain by focusing on what they got wrong.

Verses 1 – 5

You see, when you first become a Christian, everything is super simple. You know God, He loves you, and all of life seems right for awhile. But then as you get older and the longer you remain a Christian, the more complicated things tend to get. You learn more, you meet different Christians who believe different things, and pretty soon you eventually find yourself wrestling with some new ideas that you’ve never heard of before.

But there’s nothing wrong with learning something new. In fact, Paul himself who wrote Galatians and plenty of other books in the Bible is always encouraging believers to grow in their faith. To mature and go from being infants to mature, seasoned believers who know more about God.

The problem is that most Christians don’t become mature believers over time who know better when a new thing is introduced that may or may not be true. What’s even worse is that we love to be fooled and tricked. Don’t believe me? Watch this (Play magic trick video: https://youtu.be/OVkmibfFbVI).

Honestly, everyone loves to be fooled. We love it. We love movies without knowing how they’re made. We love celebrity couples, even though they are staged. We love drama and gossip, even if it’s not true. We love to be fooled. Combine that with your longing to belong somewhere and that’s where we get this word in verse 1 called bewitched. This word basically means that they were captivated or thoroughly tricked into believing something that is not true.

The Galatians were bewitched into buying the lie that they needed to do more. They took the bait that by adding all this extra fluff to their faith, they were somehow being better Christians. When Paul repeatedly calls them fools in these first 5 verses, he is literally calling them idiots and stupid for believing this lie where they are doing way too much. The Gospel is not I need to do all of these things to show I’m good enough. The Gospel is I can’t do all these things, so God sent Jesus because he is good enough. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

The more you mature as a Christian, the more you realize how much you need Jesus and what little you can do without him. The older we get as believers, the more humble we become as we realize how much it really cost for Jesus to die for our sins. Now let’s look at this guy Abraham.

Verses 6 – 9

Who was Abraham? Well he was a lot of things. He was the ancestor of Jesus, the founder and father of the Hebrew people, along with being a man known for his faith in God. Here, we’re going to look at him and his faith.

For the church in Galatia, Abraham was a big deal. Especially because they were Jewish and Abraham was the father of the Jewish people. So when Paul mentions Abraham, it would be the equivalent of going to China and talking about Jackie Chan. Everybody knew who Abraham was and next Paul is going to bring up why he is so famous in these last 4 verses.

In verse 6, righteousness just means being right with God. Abraham trusted in God and this is what made him right with God. He trusted God for everything. When he moved to a new land and started a whole new nation. When he struggled to have children with his wife and God finally gave them a son. Through it all, Abraham trusted God in the end and that’s why he was considered righteous or right with God.

Anyways, because of this anyone that trusts God is of Abraham. That’s what Paul is trying to get at here in this passage. We trust in God and that means that we are of Abraham, in that we are righteous in God’s eyes. We are right in God’s eyes because we trust in Jesus.

Conclusion

In Philippians 1:6 Paul writes, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” There is nothing to add to the Gospel. The change that you’ve seen is a result of God working in your life and not the other way around. We might slow down the process when we sin, but we can’t speed it up. Paul writes elsewhere that, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

In the end, there really are only two types of Christians. Those who are all about trusting God and those who try to add to what God has done, which shows they trust in themselves more than God. But what God did is done and finished. Don’t try to complete what God started because God is enough for your faith.

This is admittedly a much shorter sermon than usual. It was 3.5 pages versus my more common 4 to 5 page average with double spaced, 12 point font. Think of each page written as 5 minutes when presented. So this message for instance was 17.5 minutes excluding the video. My video example was just over 4 minutes, which meant I had less time to share and therefore shortened my notes to fit the format.

What some of you may have noticed, is that over the past few sermons previously I have mentioned Romans 8:28 to one degree or another. I did this intentionally, so that students could comprehend their own faith with one very compact verse that sums up what we were learning quite well. An overarching theme throughout multiple sermons.

I enjoyed the simplicity of this sermon and it was nice to focus on smaller sections of Scripture, while adjusting to the change of a topical series to a verse-by-verse format for the book of Galatians. It was the original method I learned on how to teach the Bible back in middle school and was fun to go back to for this series. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. www.pexels.com

Psalm 18

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-22-2020

Here is a poem that I wrote on August 21st, 2019 that was inspired by Psalm 18. This was written during one of my daily devotionals through the book of Psalms.

 

God, you are all of my strength.

My enemies are at arm’s length.

But death has entirely encompassed me.

Capturing many like sand in the sea.

The taken are on a mass sinning spree.

Because of these traps I run and flee.

Then the whole earth shook.

A site that caused all to look.

The mountain’s foundations were shaken.

All of nature’s skyscrapers were taken.

Evil caused the fury of a king to awaken.

This world we live in now God forsaken.

Smoke billowed from his nostrils.

And his fire singed life into fossils.

He broke through the clouds of heaven.

Swooping down to decimate the leaven.

Which is those who committed all seven.

Before they could even count to eleven.

Flying upon the wings of the wind.

His justice collides with the sinned.

From the same God treasured words that inspire.

Also came the hailstones and coals of hellfire.

To put it simply, these times will be very dire.

Somehow we sang these words to the tune of a lyre.

When he returns for the great calamity.

Justice will be administered to humanity.

But only for those who lived wickedly.

Grace will be granted to those of piety.

 

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels

Freedom For All | 6-26-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-22-2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students study the book of Galatians verse-by-verse.]

Introduction

Now that we’ve finished our mini series on mental health in the Bible, we are going to start a new series going through the book of Galatians. We will be taking apart each verse as best we can and learning how to really study the Bible better. This just means that we are going to critically study and investigate part of this book to see how it applies to us today.

The book of Galatians was written by Paul the Apostle as a letter to the churches in the ancient highlands of Turkey called Galatia. The whole reason he wrote this letter was to defend against this group of people called the Judaizers. Their whole deal was that they claimed that the old laws of Judaism still applied to Christians.

That instead of being free from the law, somehow Christians who were still under the law. It’s wack and Paul spends this whole letter kind of calling them out for it. Think of Galatians as the Twitter rant of the Bible.

Let’s read the first 9 verses of chapter 1 and then break it down from there:

“Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen. I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”

Verses 1 -2

First things first, Paul in his opening of the letter was reminding the church who sent him. He wasn’t sent by some group that hired him or by his own will, but rather he was sent by Jesus as an apostle to guide the church with letters like this one. He was writing under the authority of God to the churches of Galatia.

Also, he was with a group of other Christians who were travelling with him preaching the Gospel. He mentions them as another way of showing that he isn’t alone in calling these Judiazers out, but other Christians were in agreement with Paul in correcting their mistake in going back to the law. As Paul later writes in Galatians, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you (1).” They were free from trying to earn their way to God, but then they went back to it for no reason.

It’d be like if Martin Luther King Jr. changed his mind about equality for minorities during the Civil Rights Movement. Like what if we went a few years into having equality for all and then out of nowhere Dr. King decides that life was better when everyone was not equal. That’d be dumb, right? That’s kind of the backwards and bizarre thinking that these churches were going through right here. They were living in the past, instead of the future.

Verses 3 – 5

Here in verse 3, Paul is just saying what’s up with a greeting that was common for Christians at the time. After that, he then briefly goes over who Jesus is and what He did for us in verse 4. This is really the start of the letter and Paul is setting up his argument for why these Judaizers are wrong by quickly defining the Gospel. Verse 5 is Paul thanking God for what He did and this verse is finishing the thought in verse 4.

Verses 6 – 9

Now Paul gets to the part of the letter where he hella mad over what’s going on in these churches. He’s honestly shook that these churches that were taught by Paul on what the Gospel is have now left it for something not nearly as good. They’ve traded the truth of God for a lie.

He keeps going in verse seven and Paul points out that what they fell for isn’t even the Gospel, but a twisted perversion of it. That what they left behind was the true Gospel and what they embraced was a sad attempt at humans trying to spice it up. Kinda like when you at the cookout and Karen puts stupid raisins in the potato salad for no reason whatsoever.

No one actually likes your potato salad, Karen. The cookout was fine and good before you butchered it with your HGTV, white suburban trash-salad. Who in the hell puts raisins in potato salad?!

Anyways, you guys get the idea. Paul’s got the same react when he is calling these guys out. Why would you change the Gospel? It was perfectly fine before you showed up and ruined it. The Gospel was super simple until you guys made it all convoluted and complicated. Watch what he does next here in verses 8 through 9.

What does “he is to be accursed” mean? Think of accursed as being damned to Hell or something equivalent. Those people should be avoided and not given a platform where they preach a false Gospel is basically what Paul is saying here.

Next, Paul’s mention of even an angel telling you a different Gospel is in direct conflict with other world religions like Islam where an angel called Jibrīl (Gabriel) visits Mohammed to tell him a different Gospel or when an angel named Moroni visited Joseph Smith to tell him a different Gospel. By this verse alone, neither of those two worldviews can be true because they directly contradict Scripture.

Whether it’s a religion like Islam or a cult like Mormonism, anyone that claims to have a different Gospel is wrong. The same can be said of Jehovah Witnesses where someone made up some horrible way of understanding the Bible while leading a small group at some local church a couple decades ago. Bottom line: there is only one Gospel. But what is the Gospel? Here’s how I would put it and how I share it with people.

God made everything good. We made everything bad. Jesus has made and will make everything better. Now all we have to do is believe in what Jesus did and trust Him in what He is going to do. That’s it. That’s the Gospel. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, and easy to understand. Now let me break down each part of the Gospel real quick before we wrap up tonight.

Conclusion

In the beginning, God made everything good. He made the whole universe and all that is in it. Everything that God created, including us was good.

But then something happened. The first people, Adam and Eve, screwed everything up. They had the option to either love God or not. They could do whatever they wanted in the Garden of Eden, except eat from one tree. Why? Because in order for love to exist there must be the ability to choose. In that moment, they chose disobedience and that brings us to today where we all now have the inclination to disobey God and are no longer as close to God as we were back then.

But God loved us so much that He sent His son Jesus to make things right. Jesus lived a perfect life and died on the cross for our sins, which repaired the broken relationship with God. Jesus has made and will make everything better.

Now all we have to do is believe in what Jesus did and trust Him in what He is going to do. To decide whether or not we believe that Jesus really is God and really did die on the cross to pay the penalty of sin. We all have to decide for ourselves whether or not we want freedom. Let’s pray.

I don’t remember exactly when, but it was during this series through Galatians where I struggled a lot trying to translate our church’s sermon series into something for the youth group. In my mind at the time, I saw too much as a speaker that didn’t seam relevant to our ministry. This was because there are more factors to consider than just the message being communicated.

There is the intended audience, the setting where you will preach, the attention span of listeners, knowing what is relevant to said audience with various illustrations, and so on. I just wasn’t a fan of copying and pasting someone else’s sermon and calling it mine. It seemed lazy to me given my background as someone who knew how to prepare sermons.

For the newer leadership, this was very beneficial and they appreciated following the lead of someone more experienced and that being our main teaching pastor. Each method has its drawbacks, but for me I felt that these sermons were subpar because instead of crafting a message, I was just translating a message that someone else crafted. Maybe it’s evident in these sermons through Galatians, but for me I wasn’t very happy with how they turned out.

Regardless, this was an okay message. Not everything clicked and examples fell flat that were not given enough time to be fleshed out into better ideas. At the end of the day, what matters is that the sermon that needed to shared was shared. This was focused on a specific subset of verses and that brief overview was accomplished. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. www.pexels.com
  2. Galatians 5:7-8

Psalm 15

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5-7-2020

Here is a poem that I wrote on August 10th, 2019 that was inspired by Psalm 15. This was written during one of my daily devotionals through the book of Psalms.

 

Lord, who will live with you in heaven?

Those who forgive seven times seven?

They will walk with integrity.

They will work hard righteously.

They will speak truth inwardly.

But they will not use words to slander.

Intentionally trying to hurt their neighbor.

This is the type of person God will favor.

A brand new citizen of Zion.

Knowing Jesus as a strong lion.

Those truly evil reprobates

Will not enter Heaven’s gates.

Their actions God deprecates.

But those who fear the king.

Will offer their everything.

They joyously praise and sing.

So do not ever be mistaken.

The upright will not be shaken.

 

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels

Job: A Sermon for the Suffering | 6-5-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-21-2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students explore mental health by examining the lives of four different individuals in history. This week was focused on Job.]

During this short miniseries on anxiety and depression, we are looking at mental health in history from the perspective of people in the Bible. First we learned about Jonah and Elijah, so now we’re gonna look at Job’s struggles with mental health when he gets struck by tragedy. But first let’s get a little back story on who Job was exactly. In Job 1:1-5, we read about who Job was before the tragedy:

“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.”

So he was the richest man in the east during this time and was a godly guy. He would have been a millionaire in our time and the equivalent of a CEO of a profitable business. Also, Job was deeply close with God and interceded or prayed on behalf of his children everyday first thing in the morning. Overall, Job was what we would consider a good person.

What’s important to understand is that this is a story that is a condensed version of what really happened. In fact, it’s structured nearly identical to other stories of suffering from Egypt written during the same time period. Basically, it’s a true story told through the form of a narrative or what they would call a parable.

Think of it this way: Jackie Robinson was a real person in history who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The movie 42 is a biopic that tells the true story of Jackie Robinson playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but only shows you the main parts of that story. Essentially, this is the SparkNotes version of Job’s life.

Next in the story, messengers report back to God about what is going down on Earth. One of these guys named the adversary (i.e. Satan) doesn’t buy what he sees as the “good guy” persona of Job. He’s just too good to be true. He loves God because his life is really good.

So God brags that Job is the best and challenges Satan to take everything away from Job, except taking his life. So Satan does just that by killing Job’s employees, his farm animals for his business, and even his own children all within the same day. When he hears the news of what happened, Job reacts at the end of chapter 1 starting in verse 20:

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”

Couple of things to observe here. First, Job follows how people in his culture would react in the face of tragedy. What he does first is a very cultural and normal way of reacting to tragedy at that time.

He then humbles himself by acknowledging that God is ultimately in control of everything and that God can do whatever he wants. This is true when we read Psalm 115:3 or Psalm 135:6 where King David also proclaims the same truth about God. Lastly, Job did not sin at all during this time. In fact, he doesn’t sin at all throughout this whole situation of suffering. Yet he does repent at the end of the book for not relying on God more than he could have when he was suffering, but we’ll get to that later.

[This isn’t necessarily the case. As some have argued, Job did sin during this season of trouble. Notice the passage says “In all this Job did not sin with his lips,” which some have noted as an argument that he did inwardly sin either in his heart or mind. This would add up with why he repented for not trusting God in the latter end of the book. There wasn’t enough time to cover the nuances of this idea, so I opted out of including it in this sermon.]

When this first attack doesn’t work, Satan goes back to God where they talk back and forth before Satan attacks Job again. This time he does attack him physically and these disgusting sore boils develop all over his body. Let’s see how those around him react.

“Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him. When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky. Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”

So now we get the worst wife of the year nagging Job about still trusting God, even though he has lost so much already. He claps-back and says that if we only trust God during the good times, then we don’t actually trust Him. We’re just following Him for selfish reasons or to get something back in return.

When his friends hear about what happened, they show up to be there for Job. When they arrive, they see the condition that Job is in and they cry with him before joining him in silence. When someone is having mental health issues or suffering in general, one of the best things you can do is just be there for them. Sit there, actively listen to their struggles, and be the comforting friend they can lean on when they are hurting.

When Douglas Groothuis’ wife was dying of dementia, he wrote in his book, Walking Through Twilight, how we can mourn with others as Christians:

“If we take the cross of Christ, we can become more like Christ, more aware of others’ suffering, and more willing to listen and help. I learned that I can keep praying when I am not happy with God. I once believed that prayer was reserved for certain emotional states. To be joyful or thankful is to be prized, but God is still there when those emotions escape us (2).”

The rest of the book of Job is a collection of conversations between Job and his three friends counseling him. They give him bad counsel, even though they had good motivations as Job grapples with all the questions he has for God as to why he is suffering. In the end, God confronts Job and asks him a series of questions that confront his lack of trust in what God is doing. When that’s over, God restores everything and gives Job twice as much wealth as he had when he lost it all. After everything that happened, life is now even better for Job because he trusted in God in spite of his doubts.

The story of Job is a very unique story. There is no indication in the text that God ever tells Job why he had to suffer the way he did. He was never aware of the cosmic conflict between God and Satan. The book of Job is a study on suffering and does not focus on a single solution, but that’s not the point either. The main point of the book was to show two things: how to go through suffering and what it looks like to truly trust in God.

Romans 8:28 says that “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” In life, we go through a lot more bad than good. We cannot control what happened to us in the past, but we can control our reaction. As Viktor Frankl writes as a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, “When we are no longer able to change a situation… we are challenged to change ourselves (3).”

We can’t change how our life started, but we do have the ability to trust God and move forward through our struggles. You could get bitter or get better, but the difference is to switch those letters. Job’s friends and wife chose bitterness, but he chose getting better. Not perfection, but God made him better.

Sometimes it is not for us to know why there is suffering, but rather what can we learn from this suffering? Sometimes suffering is used to make us better people. Job had doubts and trust issues with God, but by the end of the story they are resolved.

God is our guide through suffering, even when we don’t understand why. The moral of the story of Job is that there must be a progression through suffering: from victim to victor. One of the most difficult truths in life is that in order to grow we must embrace suffering and not avoid it. Anyone who has ever overcome adversity or suffering chose to face it and go through it versus avoiding it all together. Tonight, let’s choose triumph in our tragedies through the power of God. Let’s pray and we’ll break into small groups.

This was a tough sermon to crack. First of all, it’s the book of Job and that is an extremely difficult book to understand given its age compared to the other books in the canon. Also, the fact that it’s a summary of the whole book, which is near impossible for one sermon.

The second main challenge was trying to key in on the mental health aspect, which I feel like I failed the most at for this one. Not addressing the issue as much as I could have. It was a sermon that lacked singular vision and needed to be refined a lot because it’s just not presentable in the shape that it is in currently.

A sermon is never ready to share, but some sermons are either more ready or less ready and this was less ready than other sermons I’ve taught. Not a favorite of mine, but another opportunity to learn and improve for the future. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. www.pexels.com
  2. P. 19, Walking Through Twilight
  3. P. 112, Man’s Search For Meaning
    • Key quote on the Fall and our sin nature: “Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright” (P. 134, Man’s Search For Meaning)

A Renewed Purity | 4-24-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-18-2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students understand relationships and sexuality. This was apart of a series of sermons given on the subject that paralleled our church’s main service series on the same topic.]

Introduction

For a lot of reasons, the world is a different place than the one our parents grew up in when they were our age. According to Professor Scott B. Rae (2), for the first time in American history “the number of households headed by single adults [is] greater than those headed by married couples.” Basically, when our parents grew up, being married was the norm and being single was weird.

Now it’s the opposite: being single is the norm and being married is weird. So why is being single still not socially accepted, even though there are more singles than couples in America? Is being single weird? Not exactly.

Like every first world country, America no longer sees the need to be married or have sex as often as former generations. In fact, most first world countries seem to have this problem. For instance, in Japan roughly 35% of Millennials are virgins due to circumstances like work fatigue, social anxiety over relationships, and even addiction to technology (3). Because of the rise in automation in America, this might happen here too where less and less people are going to be romantically active and will remain single to pursue other things.

With all of that in mind, being single is not that bad. No for real, being single is super underrated. I mean, single people can literally go and do whatever they want when they want. For instance, I just got my ticket to see Avengers: End Game in IMAX opening weekend, I’m planning my vacation in Florida to see World’s Strongest Man for my birthday, and two other vacations later in the summer to go chill somewhere else.

Why? Because I do what I want within reason. But in a culture obsessed with relationships and sex, what should life be like for those of us who are single? For those of us who are just not with someone at the moment?

In 1 Corinthians 7:7-9, Paul writes about us singles when he says,

“Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Here in this text we have three main takeaways: being single is preferred, being single is good, and being single is for the self-controlled. To start, we’ll look at how being single is preferred.

Singleness Is Preferred

As Christians, we don’t have the same goals as the world. We are not about fulfilling the American dream where you get a job, go to college, find a career, get married, have kids, get a house, and so on. We are all about seeing people made alive in Christ. Showing others what it means to know God and make God known. Everything that we do must be completely centered on Jesus and sharing the Gospel to help the hurting.

Single people are not tied down with the stress or worries of a family life. Therefore, we are way more effective in helping those who are hurting. I see this a lot firsthand in my life where married people can’t always help you because of family responsibilities, but singles can in those moments.

When Abe [a former student in the youth group that graduated from high school a year before this sermon] was kicked out of the house he was staying at because he was homeless for months and was crashing at multiple people’s places, Andrew [the youth pastor] could not help him out. I woke up, picked him up, and he stayed the night at my place with my family. The next day, we got him the help he needed by having him return home shortly after that incident to figure out his young adult life. This is something that I’ve done multiple times not only for Abe, but others as well who needed help immediately. I got up and got to work when someone had a need.

Singleness is preferred because of the ability to get up and go whenever a need must be met in the community. Instead of worrying about a family, I worry about everyone as if they were my family. Growing up, I’ve always had this mental image from God that I’m to be a bridge for all people.

That my life would be one of continuously humbling myself and allowing people to walk all over me, so that they can be reconciled with God and those they disagree with in life. That God would use me to connect and bring people together in unity. Rather then division in the name of social conformity to this side or that side of the culture [When I shared this message, I expanded on this idea much more, but don’t remember what exactly I said].

Singleness is preferred in the kingdom of God because of how effective we can be in serving others. Is being single better than being married? No, not at all. They are equal from an eternal perspective. In Heaven, no one will be married or single. Why? Because we are there to love God and others, not ourselves. Both gifts are equal, but only one can effectively help more people.

Singleness Is Good

God’s gifts are always good. In Matthew 7:9-11, Jesus explains how much better a gift is from God than the gifts from those who love us. How even when we with our best intentions give something to someone we care about, it doesn’t even come close to the gifts that God gives us. One of those gifts is whether we are married or single.

For the married, the gift is pretty obvious. The woman will honor and respect her husband in all things, while the husband will let all of his desires die and give his wife everything that was his own. You see, true love is not sexual, but sacrificial. This is demonstrated when the two love each other day-in and day-out, even when they don’t like each other everyday.

But what about us who are single? Think of it this way: if you remove the romantic element out of the equation, what is the difference between the love of a couple and the love of friends? Nothing. They’re the same sacrificial love. In the end, there is no greater love than putting someone else’s life above your own. Whether that’s romantically with your spouse or the camaraderie of friends. Both gifts, marriage and singleness, are expressions of true love. A type of love that looks out for the needs of others before the needs of yourself.

I love how Gary Thomas describes love in his book, The Sacred Search, where he says “Infatuation fills your eyes with what you’re getting, but let the Bible fill your mind with what you’re committing to give (4).” Lust is all about what you can take from someone, yet love is all about what you can give someone. Remember: lust takes, but love gives. In the kingdom of God, singleness is a good gift that demonstrates the same sacrificial love we see in marriage, but expressed differently.

Singleness Is For The Self-Controlled

When it comes to singleness, self-control is an important aspect of that gift from God. We sadly have many cases where those who are single don’t show self-control. From priests sexually assaulting kids to teen pregnancy, the lack of self-control is everywhere in our culture. There are more examples of no self-control than there are of self-control.

In this respect, there tends to be two types of people who lack self-control. Those who should be married, but are not and those who should be single, but are not. For the former, they are mentioned here in 1 Corinthians and Paul tells them that it is better to marry than to constantly wrestle with lust.

On the other hand, there are those who know they should be single and yet are doing everything they can to find a relationship. Both these people have the same problem: being a control-freak. They are trying to control their desires without the designer who gave them these desires in the first place. No human can control sin. That’s your pride saying that you have everything under control.

In reality, self-control is really when we give up trying to solve the problem on our own and get help from God. Our self-control is by the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot stop sin, but we can escape it. There is always a way of escape from sin and that is the quickest path to purity. Sadly, we would rather be stubborn in sin than have self-control in the Holy Spirit.

No matter where we are relationally, we must remember that we are God’s first before we are anything to anyone else. Self-control in the kingdom of God is giving Jesus control of all our struggles and trusting that he will bring us through them. It’s when people decide to solve these temptations on their own that they lose control.

Before we pray and breakout into small groups, let me end with this quote from G. K. Chesterton (5),

“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

Conclusion

To sum up what Chesterton said, don’t remove a fence until you know why it was put there in the first place. Not all borders need to be crossed or at least not yet, especially when it comes to this stuff. Being single is normal. The gift of singleness is preferred, good, and for the self-controlled. Don’t throw away your gift of singleness until you know why God gave it to you in the first place. Let’s pray and we’ll break up into small groups.

I distinctly remember this sermon because of how much prep and research was utilized on my part. Given the subject and audience, I didn’t want to paint an inaccurate picture of singleness from the Christian perspective. So I studied a lot of sources and tried to whittle down those ideas as much as possible into a coherent sermon, which I think was fairly effective.

When it came to this series, we were struggling a lot with how to approach explaining God’s view on relationships and sexuality to a generation that has seen more pornography than any generation previously. That’s exposed to so much inappropriate material online and is essentially numb to the fact that they are too young to be engaging in said activity. This is wrong and we hoped that with this sermon series we could steer them in a direction long-term that would greatly benefit their emotional intelligence, mental health, and spiritual maturity.

Was it a success? Somewhat. Some students took the advice of us and other professionals we brought in like third-party counselors for this issue, but there will always be those who are non-receptive to what is being said. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics, P. 278
  3. https://youtu.be/4pXSJ35_v2M
  4. The Sacred Search, P. 67
  5. https://www.chesterton.org/taking-a-fence-down/

Psalm 12

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-10-2020

Here is a poem that I wrote on August 6th, 2019 that was inspired by Psalm 12. This was written during one of my daily devotionals through the book of Psalms.

 

Where are all of the godly?

All I see is the praise of folly.

They constantly lie.

Kindness will die.

But God is not mocked for he will have the final say.

They will get what they deserve on that final day.

We speak extremely evil words.

By way of 140 character birds.

Of this I am absolutely sure.

That God’s word is pure.

It’s always the foolish who pridefully strut.

God will preserve us from this sin-infested rut.

 

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels