Be Reconciled

Have you ever felt you were wronged by someone? Have you been hurt? Have you held something against your brother? Do you have a broken relationship?

Let me encourage you to stop everything and go make things right. This is not an option but a command by Jesus himself. We shouldn’t be living in this type of pain and brokenness, especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Living in this state will eat at you, consuming you and make you ineffective in ministry.

Over a year ago, I had an incident with a friend/brother which nearly tore me apart to the core. When the incident happened, I was hurt and embarrassed and felt as though I was humiliated in front of a group of people.

There were several attempts at reconciliation by both parties; however, each attempt failed miserably and only turned our hearts further from each other. It wasn’t that neither of us wanted reconciliation; we both did. It was more of our failure to effectively communicate with each other after the incident. We both had unmet expectations from one another and we judged one another’s hearts and intentions.

Time went on and it began to eat away at me. I became angry. The more angry I became, the wound began to fester and affect me in everything I did. It not only put a wedge between me and this person, but with others too, as I began to lack trust in others. Most importantly, it put a wedge between me and my Lord. It wasn’t that my God ever turned his heart away from me, but I turned my heart away from him.

I began to lose confidence in myself, my effectiveness, my place, my worth and significance. I experienced anxiety whenever I would go lead a group of men in studying the Bible. I was afraid of another incident happening, yet this fear was absolutely ludicrous and shouldn’t have been a worry at all. I began to lose my desire to study and worship. I began to lose my desire to even get up in the morning. Eventually, this anger led me to sin against my friend and mentor.

This friend, who had every right to be angry with me and write me off, instead was Jesus to me. He asked me to meet him with two important scriptures in mind – Matthew 5:23-24 and Matthew 18:15. When we met, he first made things right with me. Then we began to discuss the incident that had gone on for way too long. He did something very important, he called me out and told me that I not only judged his heart wrongly, but also my brother who I was angry at. This was hard to hear at first, but it was truth and I needed to hear it.

Was this brother at fault for all of the pain and hurt I experienced? Absolutely not. Only I was to blame. I thought our failed attempts at reconciliation stemmed from him hating me and not respecting me. I had no clue that it was eating at him and his heart’s desire was to restore our relationship. We both failed in that regard.

Once I heard this and his desire for restoration, I realized my sin. I took it to the Lord and he transformed me immediately. He made what was broken, new and right. I then immediately sought out my brother to make things right. I can gladly say that our relationship is now restored. I now can freely worship again.

If you have any kind of brokenness in a relationship, I implore you to stop and do whatever you can right now and make things right. Don’t let things to continue in this broken state any longer. Don’t think it’s too little or too insignificant. Don’t think it’s too late or too far gone. If you see a brother who has become embittered with another, call them out. Only Jesus has the power to transform hearts and fix what’s broken. You have the power to stop, listen and act.

“”You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:21-24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“”If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Carrying Broken Chains 

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we often sing songs about freedom and deliverance, or we hear messages that declare the freedom we receive from Jesus.  But the truth is that even though the chains of bondage have been broken, we often continue to carry the broken chains with us wherever we may go.  

This could come in the form of making excuses because you don’t really want to leave that life of sin.  Or it could possibly be that even though you’ve received freedom, you don’t know or understand what it really means to live a life of freedom, so you return back to what we know.  It could be that maybe you’ve become so comfortable within the bondage, even in its yuckiness, and you’re afraid of what the context of change may bring because of the unknown.  

But for all of us, the truth is that we haven’t really made the choice to walk within our new identity.  Instead, we continue to carry around the chains despite the fact that we are no longer bound.  All of us carry around some broken chains.  Some we already know of, others the loving Father will reveal to us as we grow in maturity.  

Practical Exercises to Walk in Freedom:

  1. Spend some time in prayer asking the Lord to reveal what broken chains you’re carrying unnecessarily.   Some things you may very well already know but other things, let the Lord show you.
  2. Close your eyes and imagine yourself walking up to Jesus, see his eyes of compassion and grace.  Carry your broken chains to the altar and throw them in the fire to be burnt.  Throw them down by name.  Feel the embrace of the loving Father.
  3. Find songs like this No Longer Slaves and spend some time in worship.
  4. Dig into the Word using a tool like Blue Letter Bible and find all verses with ‘in Him’, ‘in Christ’.  If you don’t have enough time you could even Google search Identity Scriptures.  Meditate on these scriptures daily.
  5. Make a choice today to stand in freedom and in the identity of sonship as heirs.

Scriptures of reference:
“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭4:1-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians‬ ‭5:1‬ ‭ESV‬

The Power of the Blood of Jesus (to Break the Bondage of Shame and Racism)

I want to share a story of how powerful the blood of Jesus is.  The testimony is not my own, however, I was a witness to it in 2004 and might be the only person to share it.  It is only a partial story of my grandfather.

My grandfather was a very difficult man, seasoned through a very hard life.  He grew up on a farm and


quit school at an early age to work the farm.  He later spent time in the Navy as a gunner on a ship in the Korean War.  After the war, he adopted my mother but was an abusive alcoholic and a very racist man.

One time, I brought one of my best friends to his house.  I didn’t really understand his hatred to black people, until that day.  He had always hired black men to work with him on the farm and he seemed to always get along with them.  But that day, he told me that I would never be welcome to his house again if I ever brought another black person to his house.

I was hurt, how could he say this?  How could he feel this way about a good person?  How could he say that to me?  I still spent a lot of time with him, even after that day.  I loved him dearly, he was my grandfather, who despite that moment and his many shortcomings, he was usually very good to me.

When I became a Christian, we would often talk about Jesus, but he was never able to receive the gospel.  He always seemed to feel like he was not worthy of the love of Jesus because of his past.  He lived in shame and it ate at him constantly.  No matter how much I would share the gospel of life and redemption with him, he still never thought he was worthy.  So I continued to plant seeds and even water.

In his last days, he spent a few weeks in hospice care.  Fittingly, his caretaker was a Spirit-filled lady who just happened to be black.  It was my understanding that the first moments were difficult as he fought her and was nasty to her.  But despite this, she still loved and cared for him.  She was able to see past his shortcomings and his hate and share the love of Jesus with him, preaching to him at every opportunity.  Wouldn’t you know, it would take a black lady, a person of a race that he hated passionately throughout his life to break this bondage and shame in his life.  And she brought in the harvest, leading him to the Lord.

I’ll never forget the day before his death, how he was so excited to tell me that he loves Jesus and is going to go to heaven.  As we talked, I could powerfully see the transformation in his life.  He was a new creation, made new by the blood of Jesus.  Despite his failing body, despite his past, he was beaming.

Beaming with joy…with peace…with hope…without shame…not afraid of death.

He was also beaming with love.  He proudly shared how much he loved the lady that God had strategically placed to care for him.  He didn’t just love her, he adored her.  This is the power of the blood of Jesus!  The power to defeat the greatest amount of hate.  The power to break the chains of a broken and shameful past.  He can do this for you too!

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” – Revelation 12:11

His Presence Brings Security and Joy

My wonderful wife is a stay-at-home mother and is around our children much of the day.  One of the things that has happened as a result of this is that my children have an incredible connection with her.  I’ve noticed that they don’t go more than 5 to 10 minutes without looking for her to see where she may be.  There are several times during the day that they will look up and notice that she is not around.  As a mommysreturnresult, they will come to me with hesitancy and panic in their eyes and ask me, “Where is mommy?”  Once I have assured them that mommy hasn’t gone far and that she will be back, they calm down and go about their ways.  But once mommy enters the room again, their hearts are warmed with joy and they feel fully secure again.

This is the way that we should be with our heavenly Father!  We should have a constant awareness of his presence.  The difference is that he never leaves us nor does he forsake us, and he constantly dwells in us.  David was known as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) and he was always looking for God’s presence.

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.  For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.  You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Psalm 16:8-11

Father, help me to always set your presence before me.  Help me to constantly be aware of your presence.  Because of your presence, I will be secure, the things of this world will not shake me and I will find joy at your feet.  Thank you for never leaving me and for guiding me on this journey.

Standing Up and Being Bold

In a day where everyone seems to have an opinion and wants share them vehemently using Social Media, I find myself saddened at most of it. Everyone has a right to their own opinion and has the right to live their lives within the laws of the land as they see fit. While this may seem just to some, it will seem unjust to others. Some will feel that their rights have been violated and others will feel justified, both at the same time.

One of the problems I see, however, is that the loudest of our friends on Social Media still come off as hateful, offensive and disrespectful; this, no matter which side they may take. As a Christian, I personally think Facebook is not the platform for us to speak loudly about these issues. It honestly proves no point as most of these personal statements turn into arguments that change absolutely no one’s opinion. In fact, many times, we come off as foolish instead.

I’ve seen many of my so-called Facebook “friends”, who happen to be Christians, call for us to “stand up” and to be “bold” for Christ in these days. They will call those of us who are silent on this said platform as even cowardly. But then at the same time, I see many of these same people, struggle with relationships within and especially outside of the four walls of the church. Then, in the context of a face-to-face relationship, they are often silent and fearful when it comes to sharing the gospel of Christ. Which is truly less bold and more cowardly?

God meant for us to be in relationship. He meant for us to share the gospel in the form of a personal face-to-face relationship. Facebook may use the term “Friends” as those who we are connected with, but the truth is, it is still an impersonal way of sharing life. I implore my brothers and sisters in Christ, to stand up and be bold sharing the good news of the Gospel of Christ, loving the Lord with all your heart and soul, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

A Father’s Love

I didn’t grow up in the church and didn’t start attending church until I was about nineteen.  Even though my dad only came to know Jesus years before his death, he still modeled the love of a father to me.  I knew my dad as someone who loved me unconditionally, who saw the best in me, even the things that I didn’t see.  He was always there for me.

More than 11 years ago, my dad passed away due to a heart attack.  This left a gaping void and hole in my life.  We often desperately seek different things in our lives to fill that hole but only wind up frustrated and even more broken.FathersDay2015

Over the years, I’ve had to learn to lean upon the Lord as my Father.  Because of my dad’s faithfulness as a loving father, this only made it easier to see God as a loving Father.  Even though I still miss my dad and have some hard days, I’ve learned that only God can fill that void and hole.

As I think about my beautiful children, I want to be the same model for them and want to be sure to show them the Father’s love.  One that is unconditional, that sees the best in them, builds them up and is always there for them.  I want to teach them about the Father that will never fail them.

You may not have been blessed to have as great of a model as I did for a father.  Or maybe you have also lost your father just as I have.  I want to encourage you to lean upon and learn to know God as your loving Father.

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. — Psalm 68:5

New Year’s Resolutions

This is the time of year when many are creating resolutions and writing up things that they want to achieve.  Please don’t hear me wrong in this post as I’m not trying to heap any condemnation on my fellow brothers and sisters, I just want to offer a word of wisdom.  For many of us who call ourselves Christians, we desire to grow in maturity and increase in our intimacy with the Lord.

We will often use activities, disciplines or servitude to in effect, make us more mature Christians.  We might decide that we need to spend more time studying our bible.  We also make goals of reading through the bible in a year.  We also try to do more good, whether it be serving in our church or in our community.  All of these things are good in themselves and I would encourage people to do these things.

The problem comes with our mentality in these activities.  Are we doing these things because we think it makes us a better Christian?  Do we think that God will look upon us better?  Do we think that if we spend x amount of time doing this or that, we will be more mature?  Do we think these things make us closer to God?  Or do we wear these things as a badge of honor, flaunting our works all over Facebook to make us feel better about ourselves – please don’t hear me wrong here, there are times to share.

All I’m trying to get at here is what is your mentality in all of this?  If we are honest with ourselves, we are all often guilty of striving in this way.  It’s built into our nature at birth, but remember, we are now a new creation and we are to renew our minds to who we have been made in Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The truth is, there is nothing that I can or can’t do that makes me appear greater in God’s eyes.  The truth is, that I need to know who I am in Christ and what he did for me through adoption as a son.  Once we realize that our activity, good or bad, really doesn’t affect our right-standing with God – we can truly find rest.  That’s the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Maybe it’s time, instead, to take a step back, spend time in his presence and seek what it is that he wants you to do.  Rest in his presence.  Be still and know that he is God.

That Guy in the Red Suit Sure is Scary!

Christmas2014Call me sick, call me twisted, call me whatever you like…but this was the most fun and best Christmas picture ever! I still can’t stop laughing about the 7 minutes of chaos we provided at our local mall to get a picture with Santa. We don’t even really do the Santa thing for many reasons that I will not get into, but we do get an annual picture just to appease my mom and a few others. The truth is though, that guy in the red suit is pretty scary!

We waited in line for about a half hour and as we got to the second in line, Santa went on break. Out came a brand new Santa who was about to begin his shift. The first kids in line were so excited to see Santa and everything went smoothly until our kids came. At first, everyone was quiet, but as we inched closer, the chaos began.

Of course, my 5 year old had no issues and walked right up. McKenna was next and walked slowly but lost it as soon as he picked her up. Ryleigh was clinging to me as tight as ever with a death grip like none other. I set her down on the chair behind Santa and she went hysterical. We sat Josiah on his lap and he lost it and kept jumping down running away with his hands outstretched in terror.

Brittany and I never planned on getting in the picture, but we had to just to hold the kids down in place. Ryleigh continued to scream her shrill cry. McKenna was planted firmly into Brittany. Josiah kept sagging down to the ground, trying to roll himself away from Santa. Poor Santa, who just started his shift, he must have been thinking this was a wonderful way to start the night.

Now we ask the babies, “You want to go see Santa?” To which McKenna will respond with a look of concern and very adamantly will say, “No!” Here’s to hoping that all of you will have a Merry Christmas this year!

Small Group Transformation

Why is it that most of our churches create small groups segregated by type of people?  Most often each group is separated by a theme like College and Career, Married 20-30, Married 30-40, Seniors, Men, Women,  Singles, Recovery, etc, etc.  It seems we like to categorize or label people and throw them all together because of their similarities, stereotypes or labels in hopes that relationships will be built and even for some, church growth.

Everyone already knows we have a discipleship problem in the church, that is, a lack thereof and we need to become better at it.  I personally think a large part of it comes with the way we do our small groups.  If we restructure small groups to be more diverse, throwing different ages, races, cultures or dare I say political types together, we might invigorate them and as a result grow more mature believers.  Instead, we create fraternities or country clubs, often with clicks and effectual spiritual growth.

How much am I going to learn from people that are just like me and think the same exact way that I do?  Of course, one can learn something, but how much more could they learn if they are challenged to think or see things differently?  When we segregate people from others, we don’t create opportunities for older men or women who may be more mature in their faith to come along side someone younger and pour into their life.  The benefit for both the young and old or mature and less mature is immense.

Discipleship Lessons Through Legos

When I was a young child, my dad built models of cars and airplanes and displayed them in my room. He hung the aircraft from the ceiling with fishing wire and displayed the autos on shelves or furniture that I couldn’t reach. I remember how much I loved that part of my room and had the thought that I would do this same thing for my son.  Legos seemed like a good idea since they’ve come so far since I was a child.

I began my project and to my surprise, my five year old daughter wanted to help me. Unfortunately, these IMG_0375sets were complex and too hard for her to be of much help. Enjoying the time that we shared, I decided to go out and purchase her an age appropriate set of legos. Then we set aside time to work on it together.

This being her first set, she didn’t understand the whole process, so I began to lead her. I would show her the instructions, then I would have her collect all of the pieces that the instructions called for. I remembered an approach that I learned at the Exponential Conference introduced by a group called New Thing and decided to try it out. In a nutshell, I would show her how to build that particular segment while she watched to help her see it in action. As we progressed, then I would show her how to build it getting her to help me so that she would feel a part of it. Then as we went on, I would have her build it, while I helped her. As time went on, she would then build it while I watched.

Discipleship in the church should be done in the same way. As we do life together with someone less mature than us, we come alongside them and have them observe us in action. Then we have them help us while we do this particular thing. Then we have them do it and help them. And finally, we come to the point where we can observe them doing it without needing to help.

This isn’t a particularly difficult concept.  Nor is it anything new.  It’s just a simple approach to take as we help those around us grow in their maturity.

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