How Do We Stay on the Narrow Path? (Part Two)

In the first part of the mini blog series about staying on the narrow path, I talked about how we need to always be moving forward and how we need to fix our gaze directly in front of us, being content where we are and not looking too far ahead. In part two, I will look at verse 26 of Proverbs chapter 4. 


“Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways” (Proverbs 4:26).

I’d first like to tackle the first part of this verse. 

“Give careful thought to the paths for your feet.” 

What does this mean? It means that staying on the path takes a lot of work and determination, but we have to in our minds, decide if this is the path we want to take. We have a choice. We can either follow God’s path for our life, or we can follow our own. There is no in between. There is no middle path. 

How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path of sinners, or join a group of mockers. Instead his delight is in the Lord’s instruction and He meditates on it day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). 

As followers of Christ, we must meditate not only on the path that God has laid out before us, but we must also meditate on His word. His Word is what shows us the path He has for us. 

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105). 

The only way we will know if we are on the narrow path, or how to maneuver throughout that path, is God’s word. God’s word was given to us for us to meditate on all the time and to truly treasure it and use it often. It is not something that sits on a shelf and collects dust. It is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12). 

So the first principle for part two is that we are to use God’s word to not only stay on the path, but also to guide and direct us on this path. We are to think carefully all the time about the decisions that we make and see if those actions line up with a righteous life, permeated by Christ Jesus. 

The second principle I’d like to touch on is the principle of commitment. 

“and be steadfast in all your ways” 

As followers of Christ we are not only called to be prudent when considering the path that we take, and using the Word of God to guide us on this path, but we are also to be steadfast in everything we do. This means commitment. 

Commitment comes in three different sections:

1. Commitment to Christ
2. Commitment to fellow believers and the Church
3. Commitment to sharing the gospel and reaching the lost world

First we start with commitment to Christ. 

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). 

We see that our first priority is commitment to Christ. We are to seek His kingdom first and His righteousness, and then everything else will be given to us. This means we seek Him first in prayer, daily time of reading His Word, community with believers, and times of worship. We go to Him first, committing ourselves, surrendering our selves, daily to the work of His Hand, not only in the world, but in our lives, as He continues to mold us into His image. 

Second we have commitment to the Church. 

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). 

I recently at school just finished up a book by Joshua Harris, a renown Christian author and pastor, called Why Church Matters. In this book he talks about the importance of the church for all believers and how we need to stop dating the church. We need to be committed. By the way, great book for believers of all ages. Really eye opening to see what the Church is for and how the Lord uses it. 

The Church is the bride of Christ. We cannot truly be committed to or even love Christ fully if we do not love the church. We are not just spectators. Worship is active, and at times, messy. But we are called to be committed to the Church and to fellow believers. As Christian, we gain encouragement from believers.

How do we commit to the church? Two ways that Joshua Harris laid out. 

1. Commit to a local church
2. Commit to the entire Church of Christ and to missions. 
We are a part of a body, the body of Christ. We each have a purpose and a role. We are encouraged and re energized by the other members of the body. Through this commitment we are able to go out into the world and share the good news of Christ. 

Finally, we have a commitment to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. It is not called the Great commission for nothing. Jesus called us, as believers, to be a part of His plan of redemption, a plan greater than any one of us. He called us to be committed in the greatest way possible, making disciples. 

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). 

The most exciting thing of all is that Jesus calls us to be a part of His ministry of reconciliation. We are those who will make disciples, not in our own power, but through Christ. If we are not committed, then disciples will not be made and the gospel will not go forth. God decided to use us to bring forth His message, not that He couldn’t do it on His own, but that He wanted us to be a part of this. But to quote Spider man, “with great power, comes great responsibility.”

We have Jesus, His Holy Spirit, living inside of us. Oh the power that is at our disposal. The power to heal the sick and call the lame to walk. All because Jesus lives inside of us. Why should we waste that? Why should we go around defeated all the time, when we have a living, breathing Savior inside of us, that will set this world on fire for Him, if we would only be committed to His gospel. If we only were emboldened and passion-ed with this world coming into a saving knowledge of faith in Jesus Christ. But none of this is possible without commitment. 

Being a Christian isn’t about being a church goer, or being a Bible scholar. Its about being so infatuated with Christ that we can’t shut up or sit down or be settled down. Bible reading and church going come with the territory and are a big part of what we do as believers, but the passion to see this world changed by a gospel that is changing us daily, should be our focus. 

In part three I will dive into the last verse in Proverbs chapter 4 and finish up the final lessons on how do we stay on the narrow path. 





Blessings,
Joseph









We are the Valley of Dry Bones

As you look throughout this world, there is much hate, envy, jealousy rage, immorality, and the list just goes on and on. We are living in a world that has rejected Jesus as Lord, thrown Him out of our schools, government, and even churches. We are living in a period, and have been for some time, of spiritual dryness. A dryness that has overtaken our families, and turned the message of Christ from a life changing, radical event that should penetrate our souls and bring us running everyday back to Him for more, to a single day, if that, where we go through rituals, and sing songs of His love, but we actually don’t even understand those things. We are the valley of dry bones.  

I think one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves as believers is, Do we believe. Do we believe that God is on the throne, that He is in control and sovereign? Do we believe that He is working out all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes? (Romans 8:28). Do we even believe that He can take our world, filled with dry bones, and make them alive again? In Ezekiel chapter 37, God shows His prophet the power behind His Word and how He can bring true restoration to even a valley of dry bones. 


“The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:1-3)


God’s first question to us is: Do we believe that He can bring life to these dry bones? And that is a very good question. Do we believe God’s Word is powerful enough to transform our apathy for the lost, into a passion that can never be quenched? Do we believe that God can transform the lives of all and use us in this ministry of reconciliation of the world? This is our starting point. Belief is where we begin. 


“Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LordThis is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:4-6). 


Next we must listen intently to God’s instruction. God has a plan, and He has been preparing you for that plan, a plan that is a section, a piece, of a much larger plan. You’re not the only one in this. There are others around you, fighting with you, fighting for you. 


After listening to His plan, we must trust His plan. God is sovereign, God is all powerful, and all knowing. We must trust His way. We must trust our part in it. We must be all in, not holding back. 


“So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them” (Ezekiel 37:7-8).


After believing in God’s restoration power, listening intently to His plan, and trusting in His ways, we are encouraged to act. We are pushed to take all these steps of believing, listening, trusting, and put them into action. We must get out there in the world and share the gospel, risking our reputations and everything, so that people’s eyes would be opened to their sins and need for a savior. 


“Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.”” (Ezekiel 37:9).


Lastly, we must remember, our actions do not always produce the results we would like to see. Many times we will share the gospel and get rejected and put down and thrown out. We expect this because Jesus said that “they will hate you because they hated Me” (Matthew 10:22). We can expect to be persecuted, as we try to show the world, that they are the dry bones, and that they need the Word of the Lord, to bring them to life, true life, in Jesus Christ. 


But there will be times that we will get to share and rejoice in the creation of a new believer. We will get to take part, either here on earth, or in heaven, of one of those dry bones, receiving new flesh and tendons and the breath of the Lord, standing up and living, becoming a part of the army of God. 


“So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army” (Ezekiel 37:10). 


Oh the joys of being a part of God’s plan. We are blessed to be given a role in all of this. It would be a shame for us to waste this opportunity. Let’s get started. There’s a big valley out there with lots and lots of dry bones, that need the Word of the Lord breathed into them! But it starts with us. We are the valley of dry bones and we need the Word of the Lord breathed back into us first. 



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dafYxu8cQQ


Blessings,
Joseph.

Peace to You: A Message of Easter Reconciliation

The time surrounding this year’s Easter has been filled with much turmoil, confusion, sin, and unrest. I had been purposely not attending my home church, so that I did not have to face the disappointment of my fellow peers and leaders over a difficult situation that has occurred in the last few months. I felt like the disciples, hiding in a locked room, ashamed that they had abandoned Jesus, scared that the Jews would come for them next. But I was reminded today by three simple words, Peace to You. He proclaims His peace over us, even while we are hiding in a locked room.

“In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews” (John 20:19a)

After a period of sin, I feel like these disciples do. I am ashamed. I am afraid. Many of us feel like when we have done something wrong, that we must hide. Adam and Eve must have thought the same thing when they ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of good and evil. They knew they had sinned, so they hid. We hide and we fear, both man and God. We expect that God is coming for us, to punish us. I certainly do. And God is just, but He is also love. We don’t expect Him to forgive and forget but He does. This next thing blew me away.

“Then Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” (John 20:19b)

First off, I just have to have to say, this blows me away. Jesus, beaten, mocked, spit upon, crucified, God’s complete wrath poured out on His Son. And then we have the disciples. Jesus closest friends and followers, and in the time that Jesus needed them most, gone. They were scattered, hiding, denying Him. If I was Jesus (and I’m not claiming that I am), I would be angry beyond all measure. I would have given the disciples a chewing out that would have been felt throughout the whole earth. “You imbiciles” I would have proclaimed. “I just died for your sins, and took all of My Father’s wrath upon me, and you run like scared little girls!! Good thing I’m not Jesus. This is probably how the disciples expected Jesus to respond, but this is not how Jesus responded.

Jesus did not respond with anger, sarcasm, sadness. He did not role off a littany of speeches demeaning the disciples and their worthlessness. He poured His peace out over them. He poured His compassion out over their weak and scared spirits. He went even further in verse 20.

“Having said this, He showed them His hands and His side” (John 20:20a). 

Jesus did not just tell his disciples “peace.” He showed them peace. He showed them the finished product of His resurrection. He showed them everything. So how did the disciples respond to all this?

“So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20b). 

The disciples saw the Lord, the resurrected Jesus Christ. They felt His hands, they examined his side that had been speared. They had seen Him dead on the cross and now He was there, standing before them, alive, in all His glory. And the disciples rejoiced. Their once hopeless, defeated spirits, were alive once more. This time in a way that would never be quenched. A way in which they would die, torturous, painful deaths, because of what they had seen that day. They were no longer observers, they were witnesses. And they would go to the ends of the world, to the ends of their lives to share the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Maybe this is where you are at today. You are hiding in your sin, ashamed of what you have become. Maybe you’re a former pastor or leader in the faith, and you messed up. You lead your congregation or followers down wrong roads. You hurt people. Maybe you are seriously on the verge of ending your life, because you find no meaning or purpose in it, anymore.

I think God has message for you, all you out there, who feel hopeless. You see, Easter is a fun time. Its filled with candy, bunnies, and good food. But sometimes we miss out on the most important thing, that by death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, we have peace with the Father.

Romans 5:1-2 says, “Therefore since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Also, through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

This peace that we used to be unable to have (Romans 8:6-8) we now can have. Jesus was proclaiming that to the disciples. That even though they had abandoned Him, rejected Him, and denied Him, He had not. He had done all this despite what others did with it. Jesus knew up on that cross that there would be those that would reject and despise His message of grace and peace. But He didn’t die for those people. He died for those, hopeless, afraid, hiding within locked doors, that would accept His free gift of salvation. He died so that we may have peace.

And what do we do with that peace?

“Jesus said to them again, Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). 

Jesus not only gives us peace, like He did to the disciples. By proclaiming His peace over us, He enables us to proclaim His peace over others. With this peace He has given us, we do not keep to ourselves, we share it with everyone.

And that’s what the disciples did, filled with the Holy Spirit, they were the hands and feet of Jesus, healing, setting free those in bondage, loving others, sharing the truth of Christ.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we have one task: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). 

We are to be reconcilers of Christ. We are to share with people with the truth of Jesus Christ and allow Him to reconcile them to Himself. We are to proclaim the peace that has been proclaimed over us.

Remember that the tomb is empty and live accordingly. 

Blessings,
Joseph. 

Scattered but not Abandoned

Jesus was dead. He had been pierced through his side and proclaimed dead by the Roman soldiers. He was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Aramethia and that tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers so that the followers of Jesus could not come steal His body away and proclaim that He was risen. His followers were scattered, His greatest follower Peter, had denied knowing Him three times. It looked like the short reign of Christ and His followers was over. 

Jesus had proclaimed to His followers, just a chapter before, that they would be scattered:

Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered” (Matthew 26:31). 

There was no hope in the future for the disciples. They had followed this man, Jesus, and now He was gone, dead. They had left everything. They had left jobs, family, towns to follow this man. And for what? 

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the disciples. What would you be feeling? Hopelessness, anger, confusion, sadness, regret. You had seen this man, heal the sick, cast out demons, call the hopeless to Himself. You heard Him proclaim that He was the Son of God. 

But even those these disciples, locked away, hiding, felt abandoned by Jesus, they weren’t. This was all part of the plan. That Jesus had to come and die and be buried. The next day, He would victoriously rise again, showing His nail-marred hands to His disciples, showing that He had been through death, but that He had conquered it. 

By His death, we are freed from our transgressions. The blood of Jesus Christ has covered our sins. We do not serve a dead human, we serve a Lord and Savior that is alive and that has conquered death. No other human has done that before. Nor has one ever done that since. 

Blessings,
Joseph. 

How Do We Stay on the Narrow Path? (Part One)

It is so very difficult to stay on the narrow path, the path that leads to righteousness and well being; the path that is not filled with all kinds of evil and destruction. Our flesh, our sin, wants to wander down the wider path, to be fulfilled by a so-called freedom of being able to do as we please and do things that are of this world. But these things leave us empty and broken and chained. 

Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

So, how do we stay on the narrow path, and not be tempted and lured away from this path, by the desires of our flesh and the desires of this world? Proverbs 4:25-27 brings some truth and answers to this question. 

“Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.”
There are three applications that I want us to be able to take away from this passage. 
1. Focus on the path and don’t look back
2. Be careful and determined; filtering every decision through the “narrow path”
3. Do not waiver
Ok, these sound nice and easy on paper, but in reality, how do we put these into practice?
Let’s look at verse 25. “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.”

Two phrases stick out to me from this passage: look straight ahead, fix your gaze. We will look into the meaning of these two phrases and how it can impact our life on the path. 
Look straight ahead seems to indicate, that we are not turning back, ever. We are not looking at what is behind us or what is around us, but we are looking directly ahead, as we continue our journey on this path. 
Jesus makes this very clear in Luke chapter 9, as He is choosing who will be His disciples: Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). 

We can never turn back as believers. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). 

If we are disciples of Jesus Christ, we are not who we once were. We forget what was done in our past, as the Father God has also forgiven and forgotten those things. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).  By not looking back, we don’t allow the devil a foothold in our lives of guilt and past regrets. We are redeemed in Jesus Christ. 

Not only are we to look straight ahead, and not look back, but we are to fix our gaze on the path. What does it mean to fix our gaze on the path? It means that this is our focus. It means that everything we do, every action, (this will be discussed more in detail of the second application), be filtered through our fixed gaze on the path. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2). 

Also, it says not only to fix our gaze, but it says “directly before you.” This means not looking way down the path, or looking to either side of the path, but looking at what is directly in front of you. This means being present on the path, in the section of the path that God has put you in that moment. If we start to look too far down the road, then we will become discontent with where we are. 

The second and third blog posts will be focused on verses 26-27 of Proverbs chapter four. 



Blessings,

Joseph. 

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly of Good Friday

Good Friday is a time of reminder for believers of what the wretchedness of our sin looks like, but how the love of Jesus Christ was so abundant and far stretching that He would come as a human baby and die as a sinless man. The crucifixion of Christ was a horrible event, filled with much pain, both emotionally and physical. Let’s not skip over the bad, the ugly, and the good of Good Friday.

The Bad
The pain and agony that Jesus Christ went through for our sins was immense. He was beaten, spit upon, mocked. Roman soldiers drew lots over his clothing. He was given a crown of thorns. He had stakes nailed through his hands, he was half dead even before he made it to the cross. He was given vinegar to quench His thirst. Here is a video of what took place when someone was whipped with a cat of nine-tails. (Matthew 27).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmD9sp6E2b8

The Ugly
Not only was he under physical pain but he was affected emotionally, because he was a man. He felt all our human emotions up on the cross. He was not only subjected to physical pain, but the emotional pain of His followers abandoning Him and denying Him, and being crucified by His own people, must have been extremely difficult. (John 19).  Even His Father turned His face away from His son, as all the sin of the world was upon Him. (Matthew 27:46).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cm_-kNaPsp4

The Good
After all this pain and agony that the Lord Jesus Christ experienced, what good could have come from this? His death was not in vain. His death is not the end of the story, but the beginning. It is the beginning of a story of redemption, the redemption of us and our sins. It is the fulfillment of all the prophecies brought by the prophets of the Old Testament. We are freed by His death. His death was for us.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YqHGFtnMOI


http://pathwaytoascension.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/why-does-it-matter-whether-or-not-jesus-was-crucified-with-the-exception-of-those-who-subscribe-to-christianity-it-makes-no-difference/

Remember the death that Jesus Christ died for us. The good, the bad, the ugly of His death.

Blessings,
Joseph.

A Defining Moment

There are many defining moments in our lives. Moments that make it feel like our world is upside down and moments that make us feel like all is right in the world. Tonight, was one of those moments that made me feel like my world was upside down and like I had lost all control.

Defining moments come throughout our lifetime in many forms. Sometimes these forms are good such as: graduating from school, marriage, and the birth of a child. But a lot of times, moments that define people come in the form of hard things such as: loss of loved one, loss of a job, struggles from your past wreaking havoc on your present life.

These moments though shape who we are as people. They allow us to look at ourselves objectively and see the man and woman that God sees. Sometimes these defining moments truly show what character that lies beneath the surface. As I recently heard a pastor say, “Storms reveal the quality of our foundation.”

These defining moments, whether good or bad, were pre-ordained by God. Yes, that means God not only allowed them, but He orchestrated them. He is sovereign. Who are we to question His plan and method and carrying out and bringing us to further redemption. God not only knows they will happen and has known, but He planned them.

So we can either lie down in defeat, or rise in victory. The choice in ours. The Lord has given us the strength to rise up. Even though we may feel like lying down and giving up, we can’t. We can have comfort and peace in our suffering, in our anguish, and in our cries.

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life” (Psalm 119:50). 

I have a long road ahead of me of healing and restoration, but I’m in the only place where that can happen, the Lord’s presence. 


This suffering and confusion that I have endured, I leave it behind, and I continue to press on to the goal of obtaining more and more of Jesus Christ. This relationship has taught me more and more that I can not find my worth in people, because they will fail me, and change their feelings and emotions towards me. 

This is a defining moment. I do not run from it, but to it. This is the next defining moment in my life. And I take hold of it, trusting in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the sovereignty of my Father God who knows everything and works everything for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28). 

I do not give up hope that my wife is out there. This is just another corner that I am rounding in God’s good pleasing, and perfect plan. She is still out there. I just got to keep looking and keep preparing, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. 



Blessings,
Joseph.


Discipline: Good Instruction from the Lord

I hate discipline because enacting of discipline means that I have messed up in some way. Discipline hurts and its not pleasant. A verse I read today though changed my view of discipline, especially of the current discipline I am receiving from the Lord. 


So from this verse, it seems like discipline is good. It seems like it is good instruction from the Lord. Yes, discipline is tough and its hard because we have messed up and there are consequences to our mess ups. But discipline is good. And we should pay attention to the discipline that we receive from the Lord, because this is a form of God’s perfect instructions. 

If God didn’t love you, would He really take the time to discipline you?


If you think of discipline from a parent’s point of view, what is the purpose? Is it to punish the child just because they want to? No, a good, loving parent does not punish the child for no reason. A parent punishes a child to teach them about what they did wrong, and so that punishment is in its essence a form of teaching or instruction. The punishment is meant for curving the child’s attitude or behavior and teaching them. 

Our Heavenly Father wants the same thing for us. He wants us to learn from our mistakes. Making the Israelites wander in the desert for 40 years was not a mistake. It was a punishment for their unbelief and hardness of hearts. This punishment though was brought about so that future restoration and re-commitment to His ways would be acted upon by His people. 

We are the children of God. If God did not love us, He would not discipline us. A loving parent, a loving God, is one that will discipline their children. No discipline, no remorse. Discipline brings about the understanding that there has been a wrong committed and there needs to be courses of action taken to remedy that situation.

I know this is hard for me to comprehend, but discipline is good. It means that our relationship with Christ is still firm, if when we are messing up, God is not allowing us to continue in these sins. These forms of discipline can look very different for all people. But instead of hating the discipline, we should learn to love it. Because through discipline, restoration is brought through. Through discipline we know that we have a Heavenly Father that just won’t sit back and let us do what we want to do. He cares about and loves us way too much to allow that. 



 Blessings,
Joseph.