Real Life (The Most Difficult Thing I’ve Ever Written)

this is my life previewI think that one of the things that turns people off to Christianity and church is the fact that many times we as Christians can come off as fake to them. Or maybe a better word than fake is surface.

We seem like we have our problems solved. We are good. Life is good. All is good.

When, in reality we are dying inside. We are hurting. We are broken. We suffer from the same things that everyone suffers through. Doubt. Worry. Depression. Addiction. Dysfunctional families. Broken marriages. Debt. Everything.

But we are afraid to mention it because we have to perfect. Because we are Christian. And that charade gets exhausting.

Something happens, though, when we get real as Christians. It makes us human. And it shows that we aren’t better than or holier than thou. We are just real, normal folks, who have met an awesome Savior.

I’ve struggled recently with real life. And I really don’t want to share my story. I really don’t. I shared it Sunday in church, and to be honest with you, it kind of left me in a bad place.

It left me questioning the things that I know to be true. The things I’ve built my life upon. I don’t want to share it, and frankly I’ve avoided people because I don’t want to talk about.

But I know I need to, because when we share our story, we can help someone else.

If you aren’t familiar with my story, you can read more about it here or here, but the long story short is that my biological father murdered my mother right before I turned two years old.

So, in my life, I’ve been able to tell my story in a variety of places, always talking about how God can take something bad and make something good out of it. God has guided my life and brought me to this place in my life. The power of God is not that He stops bad things from happening but that He uses all things for good.

And I talk about forgiveness. How I’d learned to forgive my biological father. The role that my grandmother played in teaching me forgiveness. And how I truly believed I had forgiven him.

Until this Christmas. When he wrote me a letter. First time he’d contacted me in many, many years.

I wanted to pretend it didn’t happen.  I wanted to ignore it.  I wanted to just go about my merry way.  But I couldn’t.  Too many things came flooding in.  Too many things that I pushed down, and don’t want to talk about.

But I have to.

I and I fell into a hate-filled rage. I don’t know what hatred really feels like, but I guess how I felt at that moment is what it feels like.

I became so angry. I was confused. I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. I wanted to get away.

I wanted to change my son’s name because my son is named after me, and my biological father named me. And I wanted nothing of him to have anything, anything to do with my family.

It sickened me that my son had a name that was attached to him.

I questioned the very beliefs that I hold so dear. My entire life and ministry has been built on mercy and forgiveness. But now all I felt was rage. How could I be a preacher, much less a Christian feeling like this?

Is everything that I’ve held dear and true wrong?

I literally did not know what I wanted to do. I gave the card to my wife and I told her not let it into our house. He had put money in the card I and I told her to throw it away, don’t even give it our children. I didn’t want them to receive any benefit from him.

I wanted to run as far away as humanly possible. I was angry and I was fully of hurt.

And I still am.

But here’s the thing. As much as I want to give into that hatred, as much as I really wanted to, I just can’t. I can’t. It will destroy me. It will.

It will destroy my family. It will.

It will destroy my ministry. It will.

I can’t do it. Because nothing good comes out of hate. I’ve been confronted with my brokenness in a way that I honestly thought I’d never be. And I struggled through it. Still am.

But God is good. Even when life is hard. We choose right, because the wrong will destroy.

We choose grace, because it’s the only answer.

Hate destroys. It does. I understand that. And now, I’ve felt it. And I cannot and will not choose that path.

Because life is too precious.

I don’t know where you are in life, but I know, even if you question it, even if you doubt it, even if you don’t want to believe it, God is good.

And he loves you.

Don’t give into hate. Don’t give into the darkness. Choose the path of grace and hope and belief. I know it’s hard.

But you can do it. And I can do it. Through God’s grace, we can do it.

If you’d like to hear the message I preached where I talked about this experience you can click here.

We All Want Peace

Sometimes in life, we just feel like we don’t have any peace. We can be set by trials, troubles, all kinds of things that can just steal our peace.

Things that can make worry, make us stressed, make us sick, make us miserable. We’ve all been there. We may be there now. We all understand this.

We all want peace, don’t we? No matter where we are, no matter our circumstance, no matter what is going on in our lives, we all want peace.

So, the question becomes, how do we get peace? How do we have real and true peace in our lives?

Listen to what it says in Isaiah 26: 3-4:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

peace-with-god1Those whose mind is stayed on God will have perfect peace.

Here is the reason. Think about what take your peace most of the time. Is it something that is a fact? Or is it an emotion? Or a feeling? Or worry?

Most times for me, the things that take my peace aren’t “facts.” They are things that I feel that may or may not be true.

The reason why we have peace when we keep our minds on God is because when we keep our minds on God, we keep what is true and what is a fact in the forefront of minds.

What is true? God is good. God is in control. God has a plan. God works things out to our good (Romans 8:28). God will even use evil for God (Genesis 50:20).

Things things are true. Even when we don’t feel it. We have to believe it. We have to hold fast to it. We have to keep it on our hearts.

We have to keep it in our minds.

Today, set your mind on Christ. Set your mind on what is true. Hold fast to it, believe it. Cling to it.

And when we hold onto truth, we will find peace. Because we remember that God is good. All the time.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

Temptation is a Lie

PR-agency-liesLet me tell you a little secret, that is you can just remember from this point forward, it will make your life a lot happier, and actually somewhat easier.

What is this secret? What can change things so radically?

It’s this. Temptation is a lie. It is temptation, in all of its forms, is simply a lie. Think about temptation. What does it offer? What does it promise?

Fun. Or power. Or wealth. Or status. Or popularity. Or a million different things. Temptation always promises us something that we would want to have.

Every temptation does that.

And what does temptation always give us? Guilt. Shame. Self-loathing. Hatred. Destruction.

Death. In the end. It gives us death.

So, temptation promises us something good and gives us something bad. It’s a lie.

Remember that. Seriously. Drill it down into your skull right now. Temptation is a lie.

Listen to what Jesus said in John 8: 44-45:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

Jesus tells the Pharisees that they are doing the work of their father, the devil. They are lying because the devil is a liar. He is the father of lies.

That’s all he’s ever done is lie. Everything he says, everything he does, he’s a liar.

Temptation is a lie. The devil is a liar. When temptation comes, don’t listen to the promises of fun and life, remember what it is.

A lie. Temptation is a lie.

Always. Never forget that.

And when we see it for what it is, we can resist it (through God’s power) a little bit easier!

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

The Hard Right

One of the things that I’ve been blessed by as the pastor of Asbury has been the number of military men and women that I’ve been blessed enough to serve as their pastor.

And one of the common refrains I’ve heard from comes from making choices about what to do in leadership. What decision should they make. What road should they choose? What path should they walk down? I’ve heard them over and over again say these words – always choose the hard right over the easy wrong.

What does that mean? Always do what’s right even if it’s the harder option. Sometimes (most times) what is easiest isn’t always right.

What does that have to do with scripture? Listen to what Jesus tells the disciples today in John 6: 66-69:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

follow-JESUS1The disciples had heard Jesus teach some really hard truths. They had heard Him say some things that were really, really hard for them to believe. They didn’t know if they could be faithful.

Maybe they should turn back. Maybe they should go home. Maybe they should walk away.

That would be easier.

So, Jesus asks, would they leave too. And Peter says Lord, where can we go? You have life. You are life. You are truth. Where could we go?

Quitting would have been easy. But it would have been wrong.

Choosing to follow Jesus, even into the hard places, would be hard. But, it would be right.

They choose the hard right, over the easy wrong.

So must we today. We must choose to follow Jesus, no matter where He leads us. Because no matter how hard it may look, it will be right. It will be life. It will be hope. It will be purpose.

It will be right.

Today, follow Jesus wherever He leads, no matter how hard it looks. Because it is the path to life. And following him, no matter how hard i is, is always right.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

There is More

2011-More-to-Life-Blue_Bosco1Ever been so tired that you can’t sleep? I’m there a lot of the time. Ever been so hungry, but you weren’t even sure what it is that you are hungry for?

Ever looked at your life, and been thankful for what God has given you, but wondered, man is there more?

Ever gone to church, or read you bible, or done the things that you are supposed to do as a God Christian, but walked away feeling empty or tired or dry?

Ever known you are looking for something, but not quite sure what it is? Listen today to what Jesus says in John 6: 57-58:

As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Jesus says this. The Father sent me to you as true bread and true life. And if you feed of me if you let me feed you, then you will live.

Not just now, but forever.

We go and we do and we work and we stay busy. But in the stillness and in the quietness, we sometimes think and wonder, isn’t there more? Aren’t we made for more than this? Isn’t there more than what we are chasing?

Yes. Yes there is. There is life. There is fullness. There is rest. There is comfort. There is everything that we are seeking. Everything. Everything.

And we can’t find that in ourselves.

We find it in Jesus. Not in your task. Not in your goodness. Not in your job. In Jesus.

Today, there is more. Let Him feed you. Receive His mercy, His grace, His life. Let Him give you what you need.

Yes, there is more. In Jesus. Today, rest in that life. Today, live. Today, know that.

There is more.

There is Jesus.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

Shine the Light

Well, it’s Monday. I don’t know when you read this. It could be early in the morning before you leave for work or school. You could be reading in the drop off line on your phone. Perhaps from your computer at work. Or maybe even tonight before bed.

I don’t know when you read it. But I know that whenever you do read it, you have some sort of task ahead of ahead of you. Something you have to do; something you have to face.

And sometimes we just need a little extra kick to get over the hump. Well, this morning I was reading in Philippians 2: 14-16. Listen to what it says:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

flat,550x550,075,f.u3Through your actions, through your words, through your faith, you are going to be a light. You are going to shine for all to see. In a world full of darkness, you are going to be a light to someone today.

You are. Really, you are. You are going to be a light today. You are going to shine for Jesus today. You are going to point someone to Jesus today.

Now, you may not be perfect; you may not do it perfect, but you have that chance. And you know what else?

God has confidence in you. He does. That’s He’s sending you out. That’s why He’s putting you where He’s putting you. That’s why you are where you are. Not just for “you” but for “Him.”

You can do it. Really, you can. You can do it. You can shine for Him. You can point to Him. You can be that light in the darkness today.

You can change someone’s world today.

Someone changed your life. Today, you have the shot, through Jesus, to change someone’s life yourself. Today, let Jesus shine through you.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

Consider Who God Is

Every morning, I have a couple of scriptures that I read through for this devotional. Somedays I just start reading, and one verse leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another.

Today, as I was reading and thinking, I read one of the passages, and something about it just told me stop, listen, and consider. Consider who it is that you are praying to. Consider who it is that you are listening to. Consider who this God is. Listen to what is says in Revelation 5: 11-13:

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

Jesus-lamb-of-God-5-e1378089981810Sometimes in life, we forget who it is that we pray to. We know that God is awesome. Know know that Jesus is powerful and wonderful. We know all that.

But we forget that He is simple other. We try to cram Him into our lives; we try to make Him make sense for us.

When He doesn’t. He is bigger, larger, and more powerful than anything that we could ever imagine.

Go back and read those verses again. Go and look how all of heaven, all of creation, all of life worships Him. Go look. Go consider.

And then stop. And remember, that He hears our prayers. And remember how big He is. Bigger than our problems. Bigger than our worries. Bigger than our fears.

Remember who is He.

And know that He loves you.

We make ourselves and our problems the main thing in life. When in the end, none of that is as grand and glorious as God.

Consider the vastness of God. Consider His power. His holiness. His strength. When your stuff seems so big, remember that it is just a grain of sand compared to God.

We lose perspective. We forget that He really is God. All-powerful, Almighty, Amazing, God. Remember today.

Consider who He is. And then remember this mighty God desires to know and love you. And forgive you. Today and each day.

In all the stuff of life today, let’s remember these things.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

On Suicide, Depression, and Heaven

WoodnhugSome folks asked me today about suicide and heaven. Does someone who committed suicide forfeit any chance of going to heaven? This was my answer:

I’m a believer in Christ. I am by no means perfect, but I accepted Jesus when I was a senior, I love Him; I believe, and I really do my best to follow every day. I’m a Christian. I fail probably 9 out of 10 times, but I really do try to be faithful.

Let’s say I’m driving down the Gandy Parkway here in Petal. Everyone knows I’m a terrible driver. While driving down the Gandy, I have an accident, and I die.

Let’s say the last words in my mouth on the earth are a string of terrible profanities. Words as a Christian, I shouldn’t think, much less say. Let’s say my last thought on the earth is a terrible thought. And then I die.

What happens? Well, the question I ask is this. Does my sinful last action upon the earth outweigh the faith that I have? Does that sinful last action outweigh my faith, my love of Jesus, and my desire to follow Him? I say no.

See we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are not saved (or condemned) by our actions. By our faith. So, if I have faith, but my last action on the earth is a sin, then what we are saying by saying that would send me to hell is that “that” action would outweigh my faith.

And that simply is not what we believe as Christians. We are saved by grace through faith. We aren’t saved by our good actions, and we aren’t condemned by our sinful actions. We are saved or condemned by our faith in Jesus Christ.

We are not saved or condemned by anything we do. Whether it be now or whether it be our last act. We are saved by grace; we are saved by faith. Not by what we “do.”

So, to suicide, if someone is a believer in Christ. If they are Christian. If they have placed their entire faith in Him, and their last action is a mistake, even a major mistake like suicide, as grave as that is, I do not believe that mistake outweighs their faith.

And I know it doesn’t outweigh God’s grace.

I believe that if they are believer, then that final mistake does not outweigh God’s grace.  They are with Him, and have their reward with Him.  As a believer, they will spend eternity in heaven with God.

We can also talk long and hard about issues of disease like depression. Clinical depression is a disease, not a moral failing. Those with diabetes or high blood pressure, they are not morally weak; they just have a disease. So is it with clinical depression. And just like those diseases, depression can cause great harm (even death) to the person that is sick. And just like diabetes, if left untreated, depression can really harm a person and their relationships.

Let me say it again, clinical depression is not a moral failing. It is a disease that should be treated. We don’t judge those that have high blood pressure. Why should we judge those that have this disease.

But in short, not matter what our final act upon the earth is, I believe that if our whole faith is in Jesus Christ, we will be with Him in paradise.

Just my two cents.

Normal Folks

urlWhen we look at the Bible, and the stories that we read there, especially in light of the characters we read about and meet there, there are a couple of mistakes that we can make there.

The first is what I call making them “bible characters.” What do I mean by that? I mean that we can look at them like we look at Snow White or Cinderella.

They aren’t real. I’m not implying that we don’t think the things in the bible actually happened, but don’t think about what David had to go through before he attacked Goliath. Or we don’t think about the real pressure on Peter and Andrew to leave behind their nets. Or we don’t think about how much it hurt Paul to get stoned in nearly every town he got kicked out of.

We believe that this happened, but we just don’t think about the pain, effort, courage and faith that it took to these things. We can forget that they were all normal, real people, just like us, that God used.

They were normal, real people, just like me and you.

They had amazing faith. And that’s the second mistake we make, we don’t think that there is any way that we can faith, like they did. That’s not something that we simply can have.

Listen to what it says today in 2 Peter 1: 1-2:

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Peter, yeah that Peter, says, to those of us that believe, that we have obtained a faith in equal standing as theirs.

Wow. Just think about that for second.

Your faith is equal to Peter’s faith. You are in equal standing to Peter. And Paul. And David. And everyone that you look up to in the Bible. Your faith is equal to theirs.

Wow.

Now, we need to grow, be faithful, learn, love, be obedient. But these folks in the Bible, they weren’t superheroes. They were normal folks, which God used.

Just like He wants to use me and you today.

Today, our faith is the same faith that they each had. Today, may we live in the hope and power that provides!

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!