Pre-order my new book, I Believe

IMG_4251

I Believe is now available for pre-order. The release date is April 14th, but you can order your copy now. When it goes live for sale, it will automatically download to your reading device.

IMG_4551

 

 

Here is a sample from I Believe.

 

Remember Me

It’s nearly time to pay for all of my sins.

I have to be completely honest. I don’t want to die. I’m sure anyone can understand those feelings. Even though you might judge me for all the wrong I’ve done, I hope you can see me as just another man. A son. A brother. A loved one. Someone who has messed up in life, but not a horrible person.

I don’t want to be remembered for my failures, but rather as a man who took responsibility for his crimes. I am a thief. Of that fact, there is no doubt. Everyone knows it. I guess most will remember me for that reason alone. And I can’t say that I would blame them.

If there were a way I could atone for everything I’ve done, I would most certainly make every effort. Unfortunately for me, the list of my wrongdoings is far too long. The judge has decided that I will no longer be held prisoner.

It’s been decided that I will be put to death along with two other men. Other criminals.

There is nothing more I can do but accept my fate. I have been a prisoner for quite some time. At least, in one way, death will be freedom. It’s not exactly how I imagined my release, but it’s a release nonetheless. I’m tired of staring at bars where rays of the sun barely peek through each morning. Where guards toss unrecognizable food carelessly into my cell. I can’t remember the last time I ate something that wasn’t picked up off the floor.

I’ve had plenty of time to sit in silence and contemplate what death might be like. I’m not entirely sure what I believe. From time to time, men would come and speak to us about God. They would tell stories of Heaven and Hell, good and evil. We were shown the error of our ways and the eternal punishment that would follow this life. Just a couple of days ago, they spoke of the Messiah, Who had finally come. The one prophesied about in the ancient scriptures.

That would explain the feeling of chaos that filled our city walls. We heard stories of miracles, healing, and about a rebel who didn’t follow our religious leaders. He spoke of Heavenly things, but not in a similar fashion as everyone was accustomed to hearing. It was reported that He claimed to be the Son of God.

That, in itself, was blasphemy. A crime punishable by death. We had only one king, and everyone knew the consequences of not bowing at his feet. The Romans were known throughout the land as being ruthless when it came to enforcing people’s obedience. There was nothing they deemed off limits in their methods of torture and ways to make people suffer for doing wrong.

They were going to crucify me. Crucifixions were common in our day and age. It was the Romans preferred method of dealing out punishment. I had never witnessed one myself, but the stories I heard were enough for me to get a clear picture of the process. Such a painful way to die. The unsettling fact was that most people didn’t die right away. It could take hours or even days.

I didn’t want to suffer. Since childhood, I had considered various ways I might die, and none of them were favorable. My biggest fear was drowning. I would never have been a good fisherman. I had several friends who had met death at the hands of an angry sea. Some of their bodies had never been found.

Being crucified had never occurred to me. The Romans would either tie or nail me to a cross. The rusty nails would hurt more, but in the end, it wouldn’t matter which method was used. My fate was sealed either way.

I awoke that morning with a heavy heart. It’s a strange thing to realize I wouldn’t live to see tomorrow. It wasn’t long before the guards came and pulled me from the cell. It was time to march up to the mountain where they would carry out our sentence. They pushed me toward the massive crowd that had gathered in the temple courtyard. I had no idea what was happening, but many people were shouting.

The guard pulled me to the front, past the throng of people, and shoved me to my knees. I wasn’t sure if I was just a spectator or would soon be an equal participant in the punishment. A man was chained to the whipping post, and the soldiers argued about who would take the first turn. They had completely stripped away his clothing and dignity. I could see bruising on his face blood dripping from cracked lips.

He didn’t utter a sound. Not even one word in protest.

 

To be continued…

An open letter to Phil Robertson

graves-439078

Let me start by saying I love you.

Not in the oh-my-goodness-your-show-is-amazing-and-your-family-is-awesome-and-I’m-so-glad-you-guys-are-Christians-I’m-a-huge-fan kind of way. I truly love you. Just like everyone else on this planet, you were created in the image of God. Before the foundations of the world, God said, “Yeah, I want that guy.” He knew exactly what you would look like if He moved in and enveloped every empty space of your being. He loves us all that much.

I’m not writing this letter to debate your relationship with God. That is entirely between the two of you. We are all the stewards of our own hearts. You’re a public figure, maybe even a celebrity to some extent, so it’s impossible for me or anyone else to know what your walk of salvation is all about. People like to judge you for the things you say and point out that we will know you by your fruit. While that is true, the whole point of the verses in Matthew 7 isn’t about the fruit, but making the tree good.

16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

People spend so much time trying to make the fruit good, when the problem is the tree. If the tree is good, the fruit has no other option than to be good as well. It’s just an automatic by-product.

Everyone is loved by God. That list includes terrorists, homosexuals, murderers, drug dealers, and atheists. If there was one person throughout all of time who had the right to hate anyone, it was Jesus. He lived a perfect life on Earth and did nothing but help people. He healed them, saved them, fed them, and always showed compassion. Yet, while the blood poured out of His body and He hung there slowly dying, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Walking in unconditional love means exactly that. It doesn’t mean abusing the word love with an excuse that it’s our job to point point out someone’s mistakes and faults. Your recent statements speak volumes to your feelings towards atheists. It truly breaks my heart. God doesn’t see them as atheists. He sees them for their created value, potential, and destiny. He knows what they look like with Him living inside, and He loves that view.

We should also love that view.

When we become born again, we give up all rights to live for ourselves. We have no right to judge anyone. The more we hold onto our “rights”, the less we die to self and follow Jesus. People say we deserve this, or we deserve that. If we truly want what we deserve, we can go to Hell. That’s what we all deserve, but God longed to have His children back, so He sent Jesus to pay the ultimate price for our reconciliation. We now have the ministry of reconciliation, not judgement.

Mercy triumphs over judgement.

I hope this letter doesn’t come across as me trying to correct you. That’s not the intent. I want to encourage you to press more into Jesus every day. We don’t need to make controversial statements to get attention. When we enter into relationship with our Father, nothing else matters. We are complete in Him. He loves us with a perfect, selfless, undeniable love.

Let’s love others in that very same fashion.

I’m Sorry

sorry

I normally only publish on Mondays, but this is something that has been weighing heavily on my heart. I took a month off of Facebook and other social media apps. It was pretty awesome. Nothing legalistic or depriving myself of things as a religious fast. I just wanted a break. On a daily basis, we are bombarded with ads, opinions, and millions of people trying to prove their point/beliefs/convictions to the world. I see hurt, anger, and frustration on a daily basis. This is my apology to those who have been hurt, abused, or cast aside in the name of Christianity.

If our job was to beat people down in judgement, Jesus would have applauded the plank in our hands instead of pointing out the one in our eye.

Dear You,

I wanted to take a minute to just simply say, I’m sorry. 

I’ve been there. I’ve been the one to rant and complain about your actions without explaining the truth about your created value, purpose, or destiny. I’ve used the defense that, as a Christian, it’s my job to tell you the truth. I’ve heaped guilt and condemnation upon your head by abusing the word love. I’ve preached at you with the selfish motive of trying to change you. To point out how wrong your lifestyle is. 

I’ve completely discounted your views and beliefs because they are opposite of mine. I’ve called you names, argued your every point, and even decided to wash my hands of you, because you aren’t worth saving. I’ve said things like “Remove all negative people from your life” or “Life is short, don’t waste it with negative people” or even “You cannot hang out with negative people and expect to live a positive life.” Thankfully, Jesus never thought that way.

I’ve stood outside abortion clinics with huge signs that read, “Mommy, why do they want to kill me?” and “Babies are murdered here.” I saw you walking towards the entrance, and I tried to stop you. Not to say “I love you”, and show you how merciful our God is, but to shout in your face and call you a baby killer. Instead of seeing tears running down the face of an unsure, terrified, shamed, teenage girl, all I see is my agenda. All I care about is making sure you know how wrong your choices are. 

On social media, I’ve posted every scripture verse I can find that speaks against same-sex marriages. I’ve boycotted your stores, products, and creations because you’re gay. I’ve turned my nose up at the very mention of the word homosexual. I’ve seen you walking in the mall hand in hand with your partner, and made a point of glaring at you in disdain. I’ve closed the door to my church and drafted new guidelines that prohibit your presence. I’ve repeatedly enforced my belief that you will most certainly burn in Hell if you don’t repent and change your ways. I’ve scoffed, mocked, and ridiculed you as much as I can through statuses, comments, and blog posts. 

Even though the Bible says to pray for our leaders, I’ve constantly attacked, belittled, complained about, and called you a devil worshiper, Mr. President. Instead of praying that God would quietly speak to your heart and show you His grace and mercy, I’ve made sure to convince all my friends that you are truly an evil man. I’ve verbally attacked the people who voted for you and believe you are a great leader of this country. I make it known that I only vote Republican and look down on anyone who disagrees. 

Again, I am very sorry for the severe injustice I’ve served you by not manifesting the glorious love of Jesus. Even while I was lost in darkness and living a life of death and destruction,  Jesus died on that Cross for me. He died for you as well. Don’t let my actions push you away from a loving God who wants a relationship. Forgive me, and give me the opportunity to love you, unconditionally.

Sincerely,

The judgmental Christian

separator4

After a full day of attacking baby killers, thieves, drug dealers, drunk drivers, atheists, devil worshipers, prostitutes, terrorists, and homosexuals, most “Christians” will lay down at night and thank God that He saved them and they aren’t like any of those people. They will sleep peacefully, knowing their names are written in the Book of Life. Then, they will wake up tomorrow and make sure the entire world knows they are a Christian.

We aren’t here waiting for a bus ride into Heaven.

We’re here to love.

Back to the basics: Identity

images

In order for us to truly know who we are, we have to go back to the beginning. Genesis 1:26-27 says:

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Wow. We were created in the image of God. The Creator of all things. The One from Whom all of life springs forth. We aren’t just worms born from the dust. We were carefully fashioned in the very same likeness as our Father. God could have made the animals in His image, but He didn’t. He chose us.

So, right away, we see how much value we have from the very beginning. Unfortunately, something happened, and man was separated from God. He ate from the forbidden tree, and sin entered the perfect world.

Genesis 2:16-17 says:

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Now we know that when Adam ate from the tree, he didn’t fall over dead. So what exactly did God mean when He said Adam would die? He meant that his identity would die. His created value would be lost. Instead of walking around expressing the image of God, man would become just like the enemy. Self-serving. Self-pleasing. Self-aware.

In that instant, the enemy knew he had won a major victory. With man so focused on self, any relationship with the Creator would be severed. It was a glorious day for satan and his hordes of demons. It was not possible for him to defeat God, but he had successfully managed to dethrone God from the heart of man.

The Old Testament is all bout the law of sin and death. The consequences from that day in the Garden are documented throughout all 39 books. We see the wages of sin and the destruction of mankind.

The New Testament tells a different story. A man named Jesus enters the world and there is once again hope of reconciliation. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world, that He gave His only son. After the events in the Garden, God could have given up on us, but He didn’t. He never lost sight of what we would look like with Him living inside of us.

Jesus did what no other man before could ever do. He walked a perfect life on this earth and fulfilled the law. Then, He died. But here is the key. Jesus didn’t die on the Cross because we were sinners. He had to take on sin so He could obliterate its power forever, but He didn’t die to show us how bad we are.

Luke 19:10 says (emphasis mine):

10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

That which was lost. Not those whom were lost. What was lost? When Adam ate from the tree, he lost his identity and created value. Jesus died so we could once again claim our identity and birthright. He gave us the opportunity to be reconciled with God. C’mon. That is awesome! Jesus was separated from God so we could forever be joined with God. Jesus died so we could live. When sin got finished with Adam in the Garden, he was unrecognizable. Jesus was marred more than any other man so we could once again have our true identity back.

Jesus didn’t die on the Cross to expose our sin. He died to reveal our identity and created value.

The value of something is determined by the price paid. Heaven went bankrupt to reconcile us back to the Father. Jesus didn’t die for a bunch of low life, dirt groveling sinners. He died because we are sons and daughters of the King. That right there determines our value and worth.

For too long, we’ve allowed life and other people to be the barometer we use to gauge how much God loves us. We allow our circumstance to shape and mold us. We allow life to speak louder than truth. When we live by feelings instead of faith, we will go from bummer to bummer instead of glory to glory.

When we truly understand who we are in Christ, everything changes. We see everything through the lens of love. The past no longer has the power to potter our lives. People no longer have the power to potter our lives. Circumstances no longer have the power to potter our lives.

It’s not about us. It’s all about Him. All God is asking us to give up is something we were never created for in the first place.

Jesus didn’t say to deny satan and incorporate God into our lives to have a better day. He said to deny self and follow Him.

We have to quit striving towards the Cross and start living from its finished work.

The legacy I want to leave

1937488

Up until a year ago, life was all about me.

Sure, I was a Christian who loved God and people, but something was missing. My wife and I even spent four years in a ministry, but something was still sorely lacking in our lives. There had to be more to this Christian walk than just living like everyone else. Where was the joy? Where was the peace?

How was I any different than unbelievers? I would get mad when something didn’t go my way. I was easily frustrated. I let the opinions of other people shape my identity. I blamed God for the bad things that were happening in my life. I prayed and read my Bible, but they became acts of routine and not fellowship.

Then we started watching messages from Todd White and Dan Mohler. If you have never heard of these guys, I encourage you to look them up on YouTube. Wow. Up until that point, I had never heard truth preached as clear and sound. The scriptures came alive, and I felt a quickening in my Spirit that had long been reduced to nothing more than a pile of darkened embers.

I finally started to realize who I was in Christ, and everything changed.

Jesus makes it very clear what it takes to follow Him. We have to die to self. We have to give up something that we were never created for in the first place. We were never created for us. We were created for God.

I am going to be perfectly honest with you. I’m still growing into that revelation of truly dying to self. I have made huge progress though. Fortunately, it’s not something we have to try and accomplish on our own, because that would be impossible. We can’t wake up in the morning and “try” to be a good Christian. It begins with a more intimate relationship with our Father. It’s a daily process.

When we die to self, there is nothing else to do but become more like God. Ephesians says we are to be imitators of God. What is God? He is love. Our objective on this earth is to become love. Well, what does love look like? It looks like Jesus. Jesus was the visible image of an invisible God. He was love personified. He modeled the Christian life that we need to live out.

Last week, I gave you an example of Jesus acting like us instead of love. You can check it out HERE. Oh, how life would be so different now.

I want to walk this earth just as Jesus did. Loving everyone. Healing the sick. Praying for the blind. Raising the dead. He is living inside of me, so there is no reason not to do those things. It’s all about faith. Just because I might not see things happen when I pray, that doesn’t change the truth of His words. We’re not here to live by feelings. We’re here to live by faith. The Bible says living by feelings is demonic, so why would we want any part of that?

I want to love my wife with God’s love. Not saying “I love you” in order to hear it back. Not praying that God will change things in her for my benefit. If we ever pray that God will change someone just because we have an issue with them or because it would make our lives better, it becomes all about self, and that’s a dangerous place to be in. (I’m not saying I have an issue with my wife. I just want to keep growing in God’s perfect love.)

I want to model Christianity for my kids. If we go to church on Sunday morning, but get angry, frustrated, and pottered by life every other day of the week, then we’re just teaching our kids that being a Christian means going to church. I want them to see the love of God in how I discipline them, father them, and love them. I don’t want to punish out of frustration, because then it’s all about me. If I punish them, it needs to be done in a way that continues to show them their true identity in Christ. I want them to fully understand their created value from God.

I want to stop passing silently by people on the streets and in stores who may never have heard about God and how much He loves them. Who knows that the next person I walk by, without saying a word to, might be contemplating suicide? They may need the hope that I carry inside of me. They may just need someone to love them without expecting anything in return.

I’m done with living for myself and following the way of man’s wisdom. The way that seems right to a man leads to destruction. God’s wisdom leads to life.

What is the legacy I want to leave behind?

It’s simple. Jesus.

New recordings

Graphic of a digital sound on black bottom

It’s been several years since my wife has done any singing. We used to record songs at home, make CD’s, and send them to anyone who wanted one. (Once we get enough new tracks recorded, we will start doing that again) We gladly accepted any donations, but that wasn’t necessary at all.

Last week, we dusted off the mic and her vocal chords and started recording again. We have two new tracks uploaded as well as some older stuff. My wife loves to sing, and this has been a way for her to share her talent with others.

I know I’m somewhat biased, but when she sings, it’s like buckets of the Holy Spirit being poured out everywhere.

I hope you enjoy the following tracks. Who knows, maybe we’ll get her to audition for The Voice next year.

NEW Keep Making Me 

NEW Jesus Loves Me (Acapella) 

Speak For Me 

Via Dolorosa 

Mary Did You Know 

The event that changed history forever

hd-wallpapers-jesus-christ-cool-wallpaper-the-cross-1024x768-wallpaper

The night was silent. A shroud draped the garden like the weight of a heavy blanket. Slivers of moonlight peered through the trees and washed over the man kneeling. The heart inside His chest thumped like a drum, overcome with wrenching emotion. Drops of blood slowly trickled down His face as He looked up to pray.

“Father, there must be another way. I just can’t believe after everything I’ve done, this is how it’s all going to end. I haven’t done anything wrong. Please. Provide a different way.”

He stood to His feet and returned to the men He considered His closest friends and brothers. They had promised to stay awake and pray with their Teacher. They were all sleeping.

Jesus shook His head. “I should have known. Why are you guys sleeping? The time has come. Let’s go.”

They started to leave when suddenly the darkened night was flooded with the glow of flickering torches. A group of men approached Jesus and His disciples. He noticed Judas walking towards Him. There is the one who will betray me. I don’t know why I gave him the chance.

Judas walked up to Jesus and kissed Him on the cheek. “Greetings, Rabbi.”

“I can’t believe you’re doing this, Judas. After everything I’ve done for you, how could you betray me? And with a holy kiss? Unbelievable.”

As the soldiers reached out to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and attacked. He swung blindly and struck one of the servants, cutting off his ear. The man cried out in agony and dropped to the ground. Jesus walked over and picked up the severed ear. “Your name is Malchus, right?”

The man nodded, his face clouded in pain.

“Why are you doing this? You know I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m an innocent man, and here you are to arrest me and shackle me in chains. Don’t you see how unfair this is? I could easily heal your ear, but you know what? I believe you need to think about what you’ve done. Let me know when you decide to change your ways, and we’ll talk about the ear.”

Jesus dropped the ear to the ground and raised His hands in surrender. The men began to punch Him in the face and stomach. They spit on Him as they placed Him in heavy chains. They brought Him before the Sanhedrin where He would be questioned.

One of the men looked at Jesus and sneered. “Tell us if you are indeed the Christ, the Son of God.”

Jesus nodded. “Of course I am. You know all the things I’ve done. How else could I have performed miracles, healed people, and raised anyone from the dead?”

The man slowly retreated and began to tear his robes. “Blasphemy. We don’t need any other witnesses. He has spoken blasphemy with his own mouth. What do the rest of you think?”

“He deserves death,” they shouted.

“Whoa, whoa. Wait a minute,” Jesus said. “Are you kidding me? Death? Don’t you think that’s a little extreme?”

Without another word, they took Jesus to stand before Pilate for sentencing. He was beaten, bloody, and hardly recognizable.

Pilate stared at Him. “Are you King of the Jews?”

“Yes,” Jesus answered. “This isn’t exactly how royalty should be treated, is it?”

“Do you hear all the things they are saying about you? Don’t you have anything to say for yourself?”

“I have done nothing wrong. I’m innocent and this is completely unfair. No one will listen, though. I’ve tried to tell them.”

Pilate stood before the crowd. “What shall I do with Jesus, Who is called the Christ?”

In unison, the crowd erupted into shouts of “Crucify him! Crucify him! Give us Barabbas!”

Jesus shook His head and cried out to the crowd. “Are you serious? You want Barabbas? He’s a murderer. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Pilate allowed the soldiers to beat Jesus with a whip constructed of bone fragments, glass, and pieces of rock. They tore away His flesh  with every strike. There wasn’t much left of a man once they had finished. They dragged Him from the courtyard and threw Him to the ground. Two soldiers walked over with a cross and forced Jesus to stand to His feet and begin to carry it.

With every labored step, Jesus was hit with sticks, punched in the face, and cursed. They started up Via Dolorosa, and Jesus reached His breaking point.

“That’s it. I’m done,” He said as the cross fell to the dusty ground. He looked up towards Heaven. “Father, I know this is what You want me to do, but I just can’t. These people don’t deserve anything but death. I am completely innocent, yet they are treating me like a common criminal. I mean, come on. They wanted to free Barabbas. Barabbas, the murderer. It’s ridiculous and not fair at all. All I ever did was help them. Don’t they realize who I am? I chose to lower myself to their human level, become a man, and walk in love. Look what it got me. They don’t appreciate anything I’ve done.”

The soldiers stared in disbelief. They looked at each other, unsure how to proceed.

Jesus walked down the path away from everyone else and raised His hands. “Okay, Father. Take me back up. I’m done. These people have hurt and abused me more than anyone should ever have to endure. I know what they are going to do. They are going to laugh in my face as they hammer rusty nails through my hands and feet. Do you really think there is any hope at all for these people? They don’t care about You, me, or righteousness. Let them figure it out on their own. I want nothing more to do with it. I don’t care if my blood, my sacrifice, would reconcile them back to You. They don’t deserve it. Let them see what Hell is all about.”

———————————————————————————————————————————

My eyes filled with tears as I finished writing this alternate version of what could have happened. Just think about where we would be right now had Jesus acted like us instead of love during those dark hours. He had every right to behave exactly how you just read. He was completely innocent, yet He knew what it meant to die on that tree. He could have easily ended up on some talk show as a victim. We are reconciled back to the Father because of love.

Jesus said to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him. If we couldn’t walk through that same situation just as He did, what are we doing? Are we living for Him or only for ourselves?

We get so wrecked when people treat us wrong, lie to us, betray us, and try to hurt us. It’s time to give up all the rights we think we have and become love.

If we don’t see words or actions in the life of Jesus, they shouldn’t be in ours either.