The Root of All Evil

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” – 1 Timothy 6:10

I saw a photo come across my news feed the other day, it was a picture that said “Money is the root of all evil”. We’ve all probably heard this saying a thousand times and at some point of stopped to ponder the truth behind it. People do all sorts of evil things for money, steal or kill, just to name a few.

We have been doing a prayer series at church called “28 Days: Experiencing God”, where each day we are challenged to spend some time in prayer with God. (Side note, if you want to join to receive daily devotionals, sign up at http://28days.graceoc.com/join.) During one of my prayer times this phrase popped into my mind but I had a different revelation with it. It wasn’t that money itself is the root of all evil, but the LOVE of money that is. Money can and is used for so much good in the world, but like everything else that God intends for good, Satan twists and perverts to go against God’s purpose. I love how Timothy says that the love of money is not “the” root of all evil but rather “a” root of all kinds of evil.

God began to reveal more to me about this in my quiet time. It is not just the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil, but the love of anything that is NOT God. Let me try and re-phrase that.

“The love of anything other than God is the root of all evil.”

That is a pretty powerful statement on the surface. Am I not allow to love my favorite show, or love my favorite food? I believe the answer is NO. There are a few types of love described in the bible, and the “love” that we tend to throw around is a reaction to a feeling of Joy brought to us by these things. My favorite foods, shows, activities, all bring me Joy so I feel love for them.  This is not the kind of love I am describing when I say that loving anything other than God is evil. God has given us food, music, etc. for our joy and pleasure. It pleases him to give us these gifts. The problem is when the Joy we receive from these gifts becomes what we live for instead of God.

The bible describes TRUE love using the word “Agape”. This is not an ooey gooey feeling we associate with love, but it is an action. A love that is not determined by feelings but a love that is shown by making choices and decisions that show love to others, even when we don’t feel like they deserve it. God showed his “Agape” love for us when he sacrificed his son on the cross for our eternal salvation even when we didn’t deserve it. This is the type of love that remains even when the feelings are gone.

When our actions toward things that bring us joy become this type of love, where we make choices that put other things before God, then THAT is the root of all evil. We are elevating things that bring us joy above our creator. Our actions and everything we do in life are geared towards whatever we can do to feel that joy, even at the cost of our relationship with God. The love for everything we desire has taken the place of God in our heart.

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” – Matthew 6:21

Where is your treasures? Are they heavenly or earthly? Do your actions speak louder than your words? Have you set God aside in pursuit of the joy you receive from earthly pleasure? I challenge you to join the 28 Day experience and truly love God by setting time aside with him every day, even when you do not feel like it.

Metallica made me cry!

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10

As a young person learning to play guitar, it is almost a right of passage to learn some Metallica tunes. They have some of the greatest guitar riffs of all time and learning them drove me to become a better player. It was, I think, my third concert as a young lad and I begged my father to take me up to Albany to see them. I had been working the 5:30 AM shift at the nursing home and they didn’t go on stage till about 10:00 PM, so yea, I dozed off for a few minutes. I don’t think I’ll ever live it down, Yes…. I fell asleep at a Metallica concert. Some passion for music huh, when you are done laughing at me please proceed…

OK, all done? Good, let’s get back to the topic at hand. Now let me clarify. Metallica per-say did not make me cry, but they did bring up some thoughts and feelings which did. I was driving in to work today, and as I do on occasion, I get nostalgic and listen to some music from my younger days. And Justice For All came on and as the opening riff kicked in (one which I still have memorized to this day), I just had a wave of emotion come over me. At first I was not quite sure what it was about, then the Lord took me on a mental journey that revealed what I was feeling at that moment. Ya know, kind of like that ride in Epcot in the big golf ball where you go on this journey through time and see these little stories and explanations about man’s journey through life? Well maybe that’s not there anymore, but it was at one point. Where was I? OK, the mental journey.

You see, I believe we are all created for a purpose and gifted with talents and abilities to fulfill that purpose. It has always been quite clear to me that God had created me for the ministry of Music & Worship. So the initial feeling that washed over me was one of feeling blessed with the particular talent of being able to play the guitar as I recalled in my mind playing that riff from the song I was hearing. I began to reflect on my journey of serving in the music ministry and felt grateful for the time served and the excitement of what was to come. I am wrapping up a period of serving six straight weeks on the worship team, and I have honestly loved every minute of it. A wave of emotion took over as I thought about it, and that is really what brought on the tears. To think that the God of the universe would call me to serve in a manner such as this using a gift that brings so much joy, was just too much for me to handle. I mean who am I but a lowly sinner not worthy to stand before such a Holy God, that He would bestow on me such a joyful gift? Well he did, and continues to do so, and the AWESOME news is that He does the same for all of you as well. Allow me to lay out a few key points to take away with you…

  1. The Cross has redeemed you: If you are asking yourself why me, who am I?, all you have to do is look at the Cross. God so loved the world that he sent His only son to die for you (John 3:16). If you ever question why God could or would use someone as flawed as You and I, remember the Cross and the redemption of our lives through the shedding of Christ’s blood.
  2. You were given unique gifts and talents: God has given us all unique gifts and talents to use to bring Him glory and serve His cause. I have a one of a kind voice, playing style, writing style, leadership style, etc. etc. etc. There is only one ME just as there is only one YOU. We all are a unique piece of the body of Christ, so take ownership of your part. Could you imagine the Body of Christ walking around with two left feet? No one part is more important that the other and we all serve the greater good.
  3. What is my gift or talent?: I have heard from many people that they do not have a gift or talent, and I want to tell you right now that is a bold faced lie of the enemy. God has a gift and calling for everyone. If you are unsure here are a few tips to help you find out (and I am not talking about spiritual gift quizzes although they are definitely a good tool to give you a bigger picture)
    1. Look at your life circumstances. Do you find yourself repeatedly a counsel to friends and being someone they lean on? Do you always find yourself in situations where you are called to lead. Are you a problem solver, a comforter? God will usually place you in situations that allow you to use your gifts to grow them. Start looking around you and opening your eyes to what is going in your immediately sphere of influence.
    2. Do others compliment you in certain aspects of your personality and life? Sometimes the people around you will point things out you are not seeing. Often God will use those in our lives to reveal things to us that we can’t always see.
    3. Pray, Pray, Pray. Ask God to show you what your calling is and to reveal what gifts and talents He has blessed you with. Once you do find out, your life will never be the same, which leads me to my final point.
  4. You will have untold Joy serving in your calling: That does NOT mean there will be days you just don’t feel like serving or using your gifts. What it DOES mean is that you will find it much easier to make the sacrifice of serving on the days you just don’t feel like it, and the result of following through will be so rewarding. I have put in a TON of work these last 6 weeks, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There have been days I was too tired to prepare, but there have also been days where it is all I wanted to do. The work of serving the Lord in my calling has been so extremely fulfilling it cannot be fully described with words.

I hope this post has been encouraging to you. We are called to serve the Lord and use whatever gifts He has blessed us with. I pray that God would use you to further His cause and bring you great joy in doing so.

I Had a Dream

“And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” – Matthew 4:19 ESV

I had a dream. I actually had many dreams. I am lucky enough to remember the majority of my dreams pretty vividly. So much so that I often experience Deja Vu. Dreams are pretty interesting, and God often uses them to speak to me. Sometimes vaguely, and sometimes so straight forward. I prefer the in your face obvious ones rather than the cloudy ones I have to interpret haha.

Anyway, on to the dream…

I was in a boat on a lake and I was fishing. Somehow my line got in this huge knot, it looked like a tumble weed (that’s how bad it was). Next thing I know I am on the shore sitting at a picnic table staring intently at the knot trying to untangle it. Meanwhile the whole time a woman was sitting across from me talking to me, and I didn’t hear a word she said.

I woke up and God immediately spoke to my heart and he said the following:

“I have called you to be a fisher of men. You are so wrapped up in trying to fix your own messes by yourself, that you are missing the opportunities I have placed in front of you.”

Ouch, that is sharp! (Hebrews 4:12). The truth is so plainly obvious, but we can choose to ignore it. One thing God has been speaking to me lately is to really start to trust him in all my situations. I have a tendency to be a worrier, and God has been working on me in that area a lot recently. Not by taking away the situations that make me worrier, but by allowing more of those situations into my life. It’s so easy to just let our flesh take over and react to things, but we really need to slow down and take a minute to meditate about what we are dealing with. God’s word as a mirror that would should hold every situation up to and see what God’s word says about it, and then trust what he says is true and rest in that, and that alone.

I pray that God would be with you in your situations, and that you would learn to lean on him and trust that he has it all taken care of so that you can focus on the work he has planned for you and share the Gospel with those who need it so desperately.

When Words and Works Align

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27

There is a funny trend I have come to see on the internet…The “Meme”. Yea they have been around for the while, and most of them or jokey little sayings used to say something with words over a picture related to something going on in society. However, they are also used as motivational sayings etc. and even Bible verses.

The thing is, it made me start to think about the purpose behind some of these verses we throw out, and the little mini “sermonettes” that follow them. I recently posted a bible verse that drew some of what I would call “negative attention”. What was meant to be posted as an encouragement became the opposite. I started to wonder, would what I was posting be questioned if my actions backed up my words, or was it taken (or ignored) the wrong way because my actions behind those words were not visible?

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 6:1

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. – James 1:26

What is the heart behind the words we say? Are we doing it to show the world how righteous we are. Are we posting to be encouraging, or provoke thought? The thing is, having a “heart” for others is a great “intention”, but without action it really doesn’t mean much. As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. – James 2:26

This is the sign of a lukewarm Christian. I have been reading “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan, and I don’t want to be a lukewarm Christian. I want my actions to backup my words. I don’t want to be a resounding gong, or just a mouth piece. I can have the greatest of intentions, but if I am saying one thing, and my actions are showing something else, then the world we see me as a hypocrite. Hypocrisy is the number one killer of the Gospel, and my job is to spread the Gospel, not destroy it.

I pray that the words I shared will spur you the reader to re-evaluate how your words and actions align, and that it might drive you to away from being a Gospel killer and into being a Gospel Spreader.

Fill Your Cup

“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.”

I don’t know where this quote came from but I love it. The way the world has become, we tend to go non-stop from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep. It’s no wonder we are exhausted, drained, stressed or any other adjective you can fill in. Consider this quote when reading the following Bible Verse:

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

As a Christian, the Great Commission is our purpose and life’s work. Bringing the good news of Jesus to all the world (to make a really bad Star Trek reference) is our Prime Directive. As with anything we do for God, we should do our best and BE our best. If we are running on empty how can we be our best? Imagine trying to leave for work with an empty tank of gas. You wouldn’t get very far would you? This is the idea behind filling our cup.

For myself, this is where I believe the church (building) has one of it’s greatest purposes. Many churches have become social clubs and the love of Christ never leaves the confines of those walls. Imagine driving to a gas station, filling your car up with gas, and then returning the gas to the pump or leaving your car at the station. It doesn’t make much sense does it? I believe more churches should be encouraging it’s members to be more active in sharing God’s love and to not hold on to what we are given.

The great thing about the church is that we CAN go to get filled. Life is rough, and it’s good to be reminded of God’s promises, how to deal with certain situations in our life. You should walk out of church feeling invigorated, ready to take on the world. If you don’t feel that way, it might be time to look in the mirror and ask yourself a few questions. I believe one or two things would cause you to leave feeling the same way you did (or worse) as when you walked in.

  1. The church is the problem: It’s sad but true, in some cases, the church is just so disconnected from what’s going on in the world, disconnected from the struggles that people are facing, and have become more about a ritual than a relationship. Both large and small churches suffer from this, some even become more about the business and growing. Take a long hard look at your church and see whats going on. If the heart of the church is not centered on Christ (especially by it’s leaders but even the members too), it might be time to evaluate your reasons for staying.
  2. You are the problem: Ouch! Me wrong? Never! Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I would say we are all more at fault than the church. I know I’ve sometimes even caught myself just closing myself off to what God was saying through a message because I was in a bad mood or just wanted to say NO to God. Evaluate your attitude going into church. Are you coming with an expectant heart and excitement? Are you just making the trip because you should? Where is your heart at?
  3. A little bit of both: This is probably the most common scenario. Let’s be honest, no one is perfect. People have heart problems, the church is run by people, we should expect to deal with the enemy trying to tear us and our churches apart. The good news is we are aware of his schemes so we don’t have to fall for his lies and deception. The reality is there is fault on both ends, but as a Church (capital C) family we should be able to work through them.

I prefer the diversity of the church, God made us all different with different desires and passions, and I find beauty in the differences between how churches present the Gospel. Sometimes our tastes change over time, and that is OK. If you prayerfully determine that you are in a stale place, make a change and don’t be afraid to make a move be it through your church or yourself personally. Just make sure your heart and motives are in the right place. God loves you and he wants to invade your life, so let him. Find a place in your life where you can be fully open to him. We all start as baby Christians on milk (1 Corinthians 3:2) and I would hope we grow to solid food. Sometimes that growth requires a physical move and other times it requires a spiritual move, but the most important thing is to make sure your cup is being filled.

I also wanted to add, while filling your cup is of utmost importance, we should not do it at the expense of others. We are still to love others as Christ loves us. How you handle a situation should always be held up to a mirror of how Jesus would handle it. If you need to move on from a church or a relationship, do it dripping in Love. In the end you don’t have to answer to man, only to God, and if you do all things right by God, then you have fulfilled your obligation in a situation. Change is never easy, but God will always work it out for your God and his Glory.

I pray that all your cups would overflow and never empty and that you may be re-energized and revival fire would be sparked in your hearts.

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10

When I hear this verse I immediately think of the song “Holy is the Lord” by Chris Tomlin. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a cliche’, but it does seem to be one of those verses we throw around because it’s catchy, easy to remember, and can be used for almost all occasions.

The problem I have personally is that these tend to become just tag lines and lose a lot of the meaning they truly hold. The really neat thing about the Bible is that, no matter how many times you read something, God can reveal something completely different to you on the second, third, or twenty third read through.

I was driving in my car to work the other day and I started thinking about this verse as it popped in to my head (which I often do because I have such a long drive). What IS the joy of the Lord? A quick google search shows so many different views on it. Most are the typical responses you would expect such as, “The joy of the Lord is the gladness of heart that comes from knowing God…”(www.GotQuestions.Org). While there is nothing wrong with that answer, I love it when God gives us an alternative view point of something.

What if the joy of the Lord was what God felt when he looks at us and thinks about how much he loves us? What strength would it give us if we could experience joy from HIS point of view? I think the disconnect we have is that we tend to confuse joy and pleasure.

Joy is defined as “a state of happiness” (www.dictionary.com), and happiness means contentment.

Pleasure is defined as “a feeling of being pleased” or “worldly enjoyment”.

There is quite a difference here. Pleasure is momentary, and a result of a feeling that comes from something we are doing or enjoying in a specific moment. This typically does not last very long afterwards. I think of things like a moment with partner, the thrill of victory in sports, or driving your new car off the lot. What are we left with after the moment passes? I can say we are not left with joy, but rather we begin looking towards the next thing to fulfill ourselves with. To me there is no strength in pleasure, but rather there is weakness, a deep need to continually be fulfilled in order to TRY to maintain a state of happiness.

So then where does that leave us with joy? Joy is state of being. It is not something that comes as a result of a single action, but rather a mindset that comes from being content in ALL things good or bad. I can be displeased or even upset that my team lost the big game, but I can still be content.

I hope you can see the difference. I believe THIS is where true strength comes from, and this is how we can endure the long race set before us. The reality is that life is hard, and A LOT of things will happen to steal our pleasure and even attempt to steal our Joy; however, if we can recognize these attempts as they happen, we can be better equipped to endure those trials. If I can look at a bad situation and see that while this momentary loss of pleasure may hurt, my Joy remains because God loves me and has blessed me in so many other ways. If every time something goes wrong we choose to focus on the lost pleasure, that pile grows and grows so large that we cannot see past it, and every time something bad happens we can only focus on that large pile of things that have gone wrong.

So this leaves me personally with a question, how do I experience the joy of the Lord? I know that I can’t obtain it by self serving and searching for pleasure through food, entertainment, and any other worldly means. I think the key is if I go back to the idea of the joy that God has when he looks at us and sees how much he loves us.

As a parent, I have no greater joy when I see the smile and happiness on my child’s face when I bless them in some way. I imagine God is the same way, when he blesses one of his children and sees the happiness on their face, it must bring him great joy. So it is along those lines that I believe true joy and happiness comes, from serving others. On the few rare occasions I’ve prayed for people in public, I can only describe the feeling of seeing their happiness when they were healed, or the fact that someone took time out of their day to love them, as pure joy. Seeing God’s love in action is a feeling unlike any other, and every other desire I have disappears when his joy is in the room.

All I wanted to do was keep walking around and praying for people, and so I believe if we choose to focus on loving others and seeing others as God sees us, then we can experience joy like he does, and truly knowing and experiencing that type of joy will help is when the momentary lapse of pleasure fails and disappoints us. As with anything it is always easier said than done, so I pray for you and for myself, that God would help us all to experience his joy in a way we never have before.