Noise

noise

prayer.warnoun

1. sound, especially of a loud, harsh, or confused kind: deafening noises.
2. a sound of any kind: to hear a noise at the door.
3. loud shouting, outcry, or clamor.
4. a non-harmonious or discordant group of sounds.

So expanding this definition to Spiritual noise, one can infer that it is a loud, hard and confused kind usually led by either 1) our old sin nature (past sins, temptations and son on) or 2) demonic influence.  There is Spiritual warfare, whether we want to acknowledge or deny it.  We read in Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.   This past week, as I have been preparing my heart for Easter Weekend, I have been listening to The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis and I have also been reading the Book of John.The central theme that I have taken from both readings is that God loves us so much that He gave us His only Son.   That He sent Jesus to atone for our sins by death on an old rugged cross.  That Jesus was born of a virgin, raised on this earth, died on a cross and in three days he rose again and now sits at the right hand of God.  I have also read that the devil hates the Family (whether spiritual or biological).  The evil one wants nothing more than to destroy everything that is good and from God.  The devil wants to destroy the family.

How do you no whether or not you have spiritual noise in your life:
Sexual immorality (anything impure or lustful)
Impurity
Sensuality
Idolatry (of TV, Sports, Travel-League Sports, Hobbies and anything that comes before God that distorts truth in your life)
  • Sorcery
  • enmity
  • Strife
  • Jealousy
  • Fits of Anger
  • Rivalries
  • Dissensions
  • Divisions
  • Envy
  • Drunkenness
  • Orgies
  • And the things like the list above

Some relevant quotes from The Screwtape Letters that highlight Spiritual Noise:

 

  • “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,…Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”
  • “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”
  • “The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”
  • “Suspicion often creates what it suspects.”
  • “Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is finding his place in it, while really it is finding its place in him.”
  • “Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is took weak and fuddled to shake off.”

How much noise do you have in your life? What do you plan on doing about it?  How can you get help?  Why join a men’s bible study?

Thoughts?

Dante

 

Consider the Person

iam“Consider The Person”, from Pope Francis, “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. ”

Before I expound on this post, I wanted to share my struggles as a husband, father and legacy dad – First of all, I am a sinner saved by grace.  Secondly, I sin almost every day and on the days that I don’t sin, I sin even more because of my pride.  There is none righteous no not one.  Therefore, what hope do I have in salvation between the outcome of heaven and hell?

Whether you believe Him or deny Him, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man (woman or child) comes to the father but by me.”  This may be a very hard statement by an awful lot of people but don’t miss the message – Jesus was born of a virgin, was on this earth for 33 years, performed many miracles (thus fulfilling all prophecies about the Messiah), was crucified, in 3 days rose again and now He sits at the right hand of God the Father.

The Law of Moses, better said, the Ten Commandments was put on this earth not to condemn God’s chosen, rather, to condemn those who do not know His Son – Jesus Christ.  The list goes like this


Commandment #            Old Testament                                  New Testament (Jesus re-clarifies)

1st Commandment          No other Gods before God         Love the Lord your God with all your heart,  mind, body, soul and strength

2nd Commandment         No images (no idolatry)                 keep yourselves from idols (what’s before God)

3rd Commandment          Do not take God’s name in vain do not blaspheme God, His Son or His Spirit

4th Commandment          Keep God’s day holy                      The Sabbath is between you and the Lord

5th Commandment          Honor Mom & Dad                          Honor your parents with respect and joy

6th Commandment          You shall not murder                      if you even hate your brother – you murder

7th Commandment          You shall not commit adultery    if you even lust – you commit adultery

8th Commandment          you shall not steal                            don’t even think about stealing

9th Commandment          you shall not bear false witness do not lie about your brother or sister

10th Commandment        You shall not covet                          the word reveals this often

I have to apologize about the term, Christian, for many wear that badge of honor but truly not many know the cost of being a disciple.  If you truly define yourself as Christian then the world really should see Jesus and not our sinful self – and our diluted version.  Because if we are really honest so many Christians let ignorance (not knowing the Truth) stand in their way of the transformation of the Gospel.  That is, simply said, that

I have issue with the following situations:

  • How can a church that says it is redeemed and saved only by the blood of Jesus Christ turn others away when they (those other sinners) do things that are on the outside of our own very transgressions (meaning the sin that we tolerate versus the sin that God hates?).
  • How can we say that sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, magic, jealousy, anger, rivalries dissensions and divisions, drunkenness and the like are tolerable, but homosexuality in our midst is outrageous? Or you pick your un-tolerated sin?
  • How can we judge others by the very standards that we refuse to judge ourselves? (You know, the proverbial log in our own eye?)
  • Why do we just isolate homosexuality as the unforgivable sin and not any form of sexual immorality (sexual sin).

Before you condemn me on some of my views just stated, I want you to know that I am a leader in my church (an Elder), I love our church and the pastors that preach and the worship directors who praise and the people who serve and the communities that we impact.  Our mission statement is a biblical mandate:  Reach the disconnected and grow the connected – I am overjoyed to serve in a church that stands on biblical principles and loves people as the Lord loves us.

I will be the first to admit that I do not believe or align myself with the Pope or other religions as I am a Christian who believes in my only hope to reach heaven is through God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus did not come to replace the law, but to complete it- without Jesus the law condemns everyone.  Let me repeat that, without Jesus any transgression of the laws damns us to a hell that was intended for the devil and the fallen angels.

What the Pope challenged us on was to consider the person and not the sin.  That statement resonates with me for many reasons:

  • We are all sinners
  • No one is perfect
  • Even on our best day we fall short of the holiness of God
  • God is holy, holy and holy
  • We are not holy
  • Our sin separates us from Heaven without a blood sacrifice

There are two adages that I like to model my life by and three if we count Lance’s Esse quam videri:

1)       People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel – Maya Angelou

2)      “Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” – Frank Outlaw

3)      Esse quam videri means to be rather than to seem

If truly want to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ then you will take up the following daily:

  • Die to self, Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
  • Renew your mind, Romans 12:1-2, 12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
  • Put on love, Colossians 3 English Standard Version (ESV) put on the New Self 3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your [a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[b] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.[c] 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self[d] with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave,[e] free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

When you take these steps and truly realize that we are all in need for a Savior (who is none other than Jesus Christ) then we have a hope in God that no on (repeat over and over and over – “NO ONE” can take us away from the Father’s Love) then we are truly his disciples.

itisfinishedWhen the world looks at us, do they see Jesus?

When the world looks at us, do they see hope?

When the world looks at us, do they see love?

If not?  Why not?  Pray for God’s guidance and wisdom in taking this path with us today.

Blessings,

Dante

Top 10 Ways to Strengthen Your Walk

isolated 3d golden text "TOP 10"1)    Read the World Daily

  • Be intentional in reading scripture
  • Journal your reading with your thoughts
  • Journal your reading with what the Holy Spirit reveals to you
  • Pray – ask God to reveal His will for you each day

2)    Join a Men’s Group

  • Find a men’s group that reads the bible
  • Find a men’s group that discusses real life issues
  • Find a men’s group that talks relationally
  • Be open with that men’s group

3)    Write down your life story

  • Where did you come from
  • Where did you encounter God
  • Where did you confess your sin and repent?
  • How are you growing
  • What is different about your life today
  • Where do you think God is taking you
  • Why is your life story so relevant in sharing God’s story

4)    Read the Book of Proverbs in 31 days (correlate with the day of the month(s)

5)    Read the Book of John to re-encounter God’s son, Jesus

6)    Fast

  • When you fast, look healthy and be silent about it
  • Ask God for him to speak to you through fasting
  • Fast for something in particular
  • Seek Him (through prayer, praise and worship and reading the Word)

7)    Ask someone to mentor you (find a Paul in your life)

8)    Find someone to pour your life into (give them time, and be honest with where you came from and what you struggle with) (find your Timothy)

9)    Be intentional in life through God’s Word

10) Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry

What is your top 10 list?

Blessings,

Dante

Don’t miss opportunities – the middle seat

This year’s Spring Break took us to Dallas in the beginning of the trip, however, I had to fly back Sunday night for a report on Monday that could not be avoided.  After work on Monday, I caught a 3:15 pm flight back to Dallas to join my family.  As I got on the airplane, rushed and frustrated by the time taken out  of my vacation I began to pray and thank God for:

  • A job that gives me the luxury and privilege to take vacation
  • For a family that I can travel with on vacation
  • For his amazing grace and new mercies everyday (granting me the ability to catch my flight – ON TIME)
  • For His Son and His Word and His Spirit
  • For a seat near the front of the plane (not to delay my exit to join my family – and I got an aisle seat – oh yea!)

don't miss heavenJust then, the middle seat which was vacant, suddenly became seated.  I stopped my complaining and my fatigue of flight/work/flight in less then 24 hours and thanked God again.  I stopped my grovelling and look over at this very nice woman.  Something was wrong, something was clearly not right.  After takeoff, I began to chat with her.  She shared with me that her stepfather had passed away and that she was returning from the funeral from the Northeast back to Dallas.

She shared some very personal information with me that allowed her to share even more on her journey toward seeking God.  The most awesome part about this whole Spring Break is that I didn’t miss this opportunity.  I didn’t “close” myself off from being social with “my neighbor” and I was able to share the Gospel of Jesus with her from beginning to the end of the flight.  The most coolest part of this trip for me was seeing the demeanor of her face change from hopeless to hopeful and smiling by the time we both landed in Dallas.

She was telling me about her stepfather and the testimonies at the funeral from some people whose lives had changed drastically do to the witness of her stepfather in their lives.  She said there was a legacy in that funeral that changed her and made her question her path “to the light”.  Her stepfather was a changed man, that is, he wasn’t the man that was previously married to her mother and he was changed.  She was going to that funeral in pain and came back to someone who was questioning who this Jesus.

Enter me next to her on that flight.  On the second journey of the flight, she asked my why I started to talk to her and why I shared my faith with her.  I simply said because I have to.  I have been given a gift of immeasurable worth and I am called as a legacy dad (as a disciple of Christ) to share this good news – so I did.  I quoted scripture and I shared my faith and my walk with her.  I shared with her why God loves us so and why God loves her.  She talked about family (both extended and immediate) and some tough conversations that would be ensuing this journey – I told her to pray, to ask God for his path and to ask Him to reveal Himself to her!step up

She didn’t accept Jesus on that flight (that I know of), but her disposition changed in a significant way – her countenance was peaceful.  I encouraged her to find a bible-believing and teaching Church (I told her to look up Matt Chandler’s Church) and to look for a Celebrate Recovery to walk with her and her family.

I did what scripture calls each of us to do:

1 Corinthians 3:6

English Standard Version (ESV)

6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

Come Holy Spirit come!  Reach that woman and call her and her family to be your child.

Thank  you Lord for the opportunity to share your good news.

What are some things you can do in each of your days to witness to God’s good love?

Lance and I would like to her more from our readers – what do you want to hear from us (Topics? Themes?  Posts on Scripture?)  Email us here:  Dante, Lance.

Blessings,

Dante

Remember the Alamo

Battle Summary:

alamoDuring the early days of the Texas Revolution, a Texan force under Stephen F. Austin encircled the Mexican garrison in the town of San Antonio de Béxar. On December 11, 1835, after an eight-week siege, Austin’s men were able to compel General Martín Perfecto de Cos to surrender. Occupying the town, the defenders were paroled and sent back to Mexico. The fall of Cos’ command eliminated the last major Mexican force in Texas. Returning to friendly territory, Cos provided his superior, General Antonio López de Santa Anna, with information about the uprising in Texas.

Establishing his headquarters at San Luis Potosí, Santa Anna began assembling an army of 6,000 with the goal of marching north and putting down the revolt in Texas. In early 1836, after adding 20 guns to his command, he began marching north through Saltillo and Coahuila. To the north in San Antonio, Texan forces were fortifying the Misión San Antonio de Valero, also known as the Alamo. Possessing a large enclosed courtyard, the Alamo had first been occupied by Cos’ men during siege of the town the previous fall. Initially manned by about 100 volunteers, the mission’s garrison grew as January passed.

The Alamo was again reinforced on February 3, with the arrival of 29 men under Lt. Colonel William Travis. A few days later, the Alamo’s commander, Colonel James C. Neill, departed to deal with an illness and left Travis in charge. Travis’ ascent to command did not sit well with Jim Bowie, who led the volunteers, and had arrived on January 19. A renowned frontiersman, Bowie argued with Travis over who should lead until it was agreed that the former would command the volunteers and the latter the regulars. Another notable frontiersman arrived on February 8, when Davy Crockett rode into the Alamo with 12 men.

To the surprise of the defenders, Santa Anna’s army arrived outside of San Antonio on February 23. Having marched through driving snow and foul weather, Santa Anna reached the town a month sooner than the Texans anticipated. Surrounding the mission, Santa Anna sent a courier requesting the Alamo’s surrender. To this Travis responded by firing one of the mission’s cannon. Seeing that the Texans planned to resist, Santa Anna laid siege to the mission. The next day, Bowie fell ill and full command passed to Travis. Badly outnumbered, Travis sent out riders asking for reinforcements.

Travis’s calls went largely unanswered as the Texans lacked the strength to fight Santa Anna’s larger army. As the days passed the Mexicans slowly worked their lines closer to the Alamo, with their artillery reducing the mission’s walls. At 1:00 AM, on March 1, 32 men from Gonzales were able to ride through the Mexican lines to join the defenders. With the situation grim, legend states that Travis drew a line in the sand and asked all those willing to stay and fight to step over it. All except one did. At dawn on March 6, Santa Anna’s men launched their final attack on the Alamo.

Flying a red flag and playing the El Degüello bugle call, Santa Anna signaled that no quarter would be given to the defenders. Sending 1,400-1,600 men forward in four columns they overwhelmed the Alamo’s tiny garrison. One column, led by General Cos, broke through the mission’s north wall and poured into the Alamo. It is believed that Travis was killed resisting this breach. As the Mexicans entered the Alamo, brutal hand-to-hand fighting ensued until almost the entire garrison had been killed. Records indicate that seven may have survived the fighting, but were summarily executed by Santa Anna.

—————

The odds were unbeatable and the men that were defending the Alamo were estimated between 180 to 200 people against an unstoppable force of 6000 Mexican troops.  The outcome was severe and only women and children who were in the church were eventually freed.  The Christian walk is a lot like this.  Our battle cry is Remember the Cross, which was the instrument that saved us from an eternity of punishment for our sins.  Remember Jesus Christ who came, died and rose again for our resurrection.  Remember the love that God has for us that He gave us His only Son – Hallelujah!

If you do not think, as a Christian, that we are at war, then you are kidding yourself.  Ephesians 6, “12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

What then, if we are really at war, should we just live each day to satisfy ourselves and to let the world move on?  What if, just what if, we really did have an enemy who wanted to destroy us – no surrender, no prisoners to be taken, that this is a battle for our very souls – then what?

2 Timothy 4:1-3

English Standard Version (ESV)

Preach the Word

4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,

1 Peter 3:15

English Standard Version (ESV)

15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

What I learned this past week when visiting the Alamo:

  • Worrying beyond the point of action causes nothing but stress and worry and inaction
  • Trusting a greater sense of urgency (call it valor, integrity, righteousness) listening to that voice that gives us right from wrong – make a stand when you hear that voice
  • You cannot measure cost based on what others think you will lose
  • Choose this day who you will serve,  as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord
  • Never give up, never surrender and trust Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength
  • Have others around you who you can trust
  • In the end, God wins, therefore, we win

On our drive back to the airport, on a Spring Break trip that took us from Chicago to Dallas, to San Antonio, to Austin, back to Dallas and then home to Chicago – my family and I had a chance to talk about the Bible, about our hopes for them when they became adults and how important their choice in faith is to their mom and dad:

Things my wife and I told my kids:

  • We choose our friends, our family is forever and we are to love and respect each other
  • We want our children to own our faith in Jesus Christ, therefore, I walks have to be real
  • We want them to grow up to be independent, confident, and equipped to navigate the daily jaunts of life – we have to live it and model it for them
  • We can agree to disagree, but we still have to respect each other
  • No matter what society and life tells us, the Word (the Bible) is true and awesome.
  • When talking to them about other religions, we told them not to put down other religions, but rather, to challenge others to have a real relationship with Jesus Christ, not to just be a “follower” but instead a Disciple!

The best thing about this trip was the time that my wife and I got to spend with our kids and how we were able to talk about real life issues both in life and our faith through these circumstances.

I am not sure about you, but today I am remembering the cross, Jesus and how much God loves us for what he did for us!

Blessings,

Dante

 

 

Through the storms in life (our trials and tribulations)

walkonLast night I had the pleasure to teach on our Midweek Service at my church.  I was humbled to be in that position and it felt very good to see the Word resonate and make a difference in peoples lives.  The main scripture that was taught was:

Mark 4:35-41

New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Calms the Storm

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

I do not know about you, but what this said to me was that I need to let things go.  That is, to say, that I have been given gifts by the Spirit that God promises to those who love him and I am called to use this gifts to build his Kingdom.  For some that means the gift of giving, for others the gift of hospitality and so on and so on as each of us have been given different gifts which make up the body of Christ.  Jesus tells us in Scripture that if they have persecuted him that we (those who profess His name) will surely be persecuted – so then why do we think that Christianity and our disciples walk should be easy?  It’s not!

As in life, as in Discipleship, there are highs and lows and different seasons for us all.  In the book of James we read:

James 1:2-4

New International Version (NIV)

Trials and Temptations

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I used to struggle with the phrase, “Consider it pure Joy” until I came through some of those trials and tribulations.  I think the ultimate compliment to any disciple is that when the world and the chruch looks at them, that they no longer see that person, rather, they see Jesus.  To me, that is gain, and all else is loss.  The thing is that we are going to struggle and we are going to face trial and tribulations – the problem is not whether or not we face them, but are we going to try and go at this alone or lean on Him who controls the storms and sea and the winds…?

imagesCA4Q2GTZIsaiah 43:16-19

New International Version (NIV)

16 This is what the Lord says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
17 who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

What Jesus is really telling His disciples is, do you trust me?  Have I taken you this far to let go?  All he is asking of us (for what he has done for us) is to let go and let God have control over all of our lives…

What does it take for you:  PROAPT

Pray – “Lord, teach me your way”
Read – (read His word)
Observe (What is the text saying, what does it mean for our life

Apply – (how can i use what i read and answer to prayers or quiet voice in my life – where should i go)
Pray – (be bold)
Tell – (Be a disciple – not just a follower)

Thoughts?

Dante

Crowns….

crownsLately, I have been mentoring 2 men (and walking with a high school student) and have been reading James and Timothy with two of the men.  I have been intrigued with these two writers, and as you know, James is one of my favorite books of the Bible.  The one thing that has been catching my attention these days is the reference to crowns that we, as Christians, can strive for:  The Crown of Life, The  Incorruptible Crown, the Crown of Rejoicing, The Crown of Righteousness and the Crown of Glory.  We are not only called to be disciples, we are called to holy priests.  We are called to finish well.  This isn’t a sprint where we are done in three years and are left out in the fields to graze until retirement.  Jesus want more, for he paid the ultimate price.

crownoflife

In James 1:12, we read, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  Revelation 2:10 states, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  James tells us in his first chapter to consider it pure joy when we face trials and tribulations that if we do so we will persevere and grow in spiritual maturity.

Do not take this crown for granted, it is something that God promises us if we endure.  I believe that this is not saying that we don’t fall short or fail or miss opportunities to learn and to be an effective witness.  Jesus tells us in the book of John that nothing can take us away from the Father once we are saved.  Our sins are forgiven  (sins of the past, the present and the future are bought and paid for) there is nothing else we can do to earn this grace and mercy.  This crown is meant for our testing (as disciples) and for our endurance to receive this crown.
crownofincorruptible

The Incorruptible Crown is found in 1 Thessalonians 2:19, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?”    1 Corinthians 9:24-27 states, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[a] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”  Some reference have been made to this crown for those who are good and faithful servants.  These are men and women who can be trusted to do the task that God sets before them.  I would even inject the Book of James into this by saying don’t just hear the words (of the Bible) do what they say.

crownofgloryThe third crown to strive for is the Crown of Glory.  1 Peter 5:4English Standard Version (ESV) And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.   I believe that this is the crown for those who faithfully teach and preach God’s word.  This is a crown for those who are the first chair Christians.  They are engaged and not only engaged but are in the game and their sleeves are rolled up.  For we are 10,  But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

 

crownofrighteousnessThe Crown of Righteousness, 2 Timothy 4:8, “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” The choice of the disciple in this process is to move away from the old self and strive to live in our new self.  That is, one who is humble and willing to say that even though I still sin, I keep a humble heart and repenting heart attitude toward my daily walk.  I call this crown the “trust” crown.  Proverbs 3, “5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,  and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  7 Be not wise in your own eyes;  fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.”  The most awesome thing about this crown is that there is nothing we do to earn it.  That is, to say, that because of Jesus’s (his sacrifice and resurrection) righteousness has been imputed on us – how awesome is that!

 

crownofrejoicingThe final crown that we should strive for is the Crown of Rejoicing.  1 Thessalonians 2:19, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?”  Philippians 4:4, “4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”  We often find people around us, books, television and movies asking the proverbial question, “Why are we here?  What is my purpose in this life?”  In Luke 15:7 we get a much clearer endgame perspective, “7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”  Also in Revelation 21:4, “4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  This crown is often called the “soul-winner’s crown”.  This side of heaven we will truly never know how much our lives impact others.  When you put that into perspective it is a huge task and ask for us to follow Jesus’s model with his disciples, that is, to go and make disciples throughout all the earth.  He doesn’t want just followers (benchwarmers) rather, he wants DISCIPLES!

I am not sure about you, but the idea that I can have the opportunity to pursue 5 crowns through my christian walk simply energizes me to finish well.  The thing about this pursuit for me is that none are possible to achieve on my own volition.  This is a gift from God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who paid for my sins and because of his death and resurrection, I am free to pursue these crowns.  The joy of this is that I can have the opportunity to take these crown (like the Elders around heaven) and throw them at the feet of Jesus – For only He is worthy.

To God be the Glory Forever and Ever, Amen.
Blessings,

Dante

By the way, which crown are you pursuing now?

 

The least of these….most of us

James 1:27

English Standard Version (ESV)

27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, andto keep oneself unstained from the world.

Matthew 25:31-45

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separatesthe sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

—–

This morning at our church we had our old teaching pastor and his younger brother (who is disabled and was deemed unworthy of completing seminary due to his condition) teach at our church.  This weekend was to highlight our Reflectors ministry in helping those families that have disabled members.  There was a staggering statistic that 20% of families have disabled family members and that a good portion of these families do not attend a church because either the church cannot handle them, does not welcome them or simply does not carry their burdens (will explain that statement later).

I want to praise our church leadership and the Reflectors ministry leader (aka Vinnie).  I want to thank the leadership for “getting out of the boat” and out of our comfort zone into a ministry that clearly bears the fruit of the Spirit on this ministry.  What compels me to write this post are this:

  • We are all broken (a sinful people separated from God if we do not have his Son, Jesus, as our savior)
  • We, like Chris (the Pastor’s little brother), are broken and twisted inside if we lack the knowledge of Jesus as savior
  • We need Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God in our lives
  • We cannot do this on our own
  • When we are the body of Christ, doing what God calls us to do, instead of what we think we ought to do, God moves in mighty ways
  • We need to let go and let God.

This ministry impacted me in a very mighty way a few months back.  As an elder of this church we have to meet with new members (people need to attend our discovery class before they can join and we have to make sure that they know the Lord as Savior as they want to become part of the body of Christ at our church).  Well, I had the pleasure to meet a single mother who had a special needs child.  She asked to meet with me and another elder.  I recognized the name immediately and was glad to meet with her with another elder and myself.  Several years ago (about  10 to 12 years ago) I was, at that time, taking the train into work and would talk to her in the morning.  We would talk about faith and about her son and about life.  I would encourage her to visit our church, but up until just this past year, she never wanted to attempt “church” with her son due to his special needs.  Once, however, the Reflectors ministry took off, more of her friends planted the seed and she eventually came and brought her son.  Upon the first visit she was hooked and then proceeded to join our church.  She wanted to meet me because she heard my name in church as an Elder and wanted to personally thank me for inviting her.  What struck me was how God works on His timing – 10 years he has been working on this lady and was faithful through it all – praise God!

In the message today, Pastor Jeff shared how some families would take their special needs children to various churches and that these bodies would treat them as outcast and would isolate them in such a way that they felt like they weren’t welcome.  Things like moving away from where they were sitting to completely being shut-off from the body.  I don’t blame the church for this, I blame the ignorance of myself and others who don’t understand God’s love and His son’s heart for the broken.  Because, if I am honest enough, I am like this special needs child whose head (Jesus being our head) is not connected to my sinful body.  Somehow, I need the receptors and neurons and chords and nerves to work and because of my sin – they don’t connect.  Once I accepted Jesus in my heart and He called me to be his own -that all changed.

As disciples of Christ we are called to be pure, to be holy and to get out of the proverbial boat.  We are called to be the body of Christ.  We are called to do to the least of these.  We are the least of these in our broken bodies.  Sin separating us from a holy and righteous God – thank you Jesus for what you have done for us.

Jesus is asking us today to do to the least of these as we have done to him.  That is a lesson that I never want to forget.  This was a message that rings truth in my heart, ears, head and soul.

The challenge that we were left with was to:

Serve these needs for the least of these (the least in ourselves, that is, we are all broken)

Treat them as ourselves (special needs are still one of us)

To care for them like we care for our bodies

To love them

reflectThe biggest thing that struck me today was watching the parents of those children who were singing with Vinnie and our worship team this morning.  They were smiling and praising God for a church body who told them that they belong to our body.  That we love them and that we are have to carry each others burdens.  I love my church!  I love a God who gave His only son for us.  I love this God who gives me second and third and multiple chances to get out of my way to to follow his Way!

Blessings,

Dante