Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Fall

I cringed when I heard him ask the question, because I knew that my answer would be long winded and probably a bit overwhelming. I tried to dodge it and pointed out the nice spread of food we had at our monthly potluck. But this was one stubborn individual. He still persisted and hit me with the question again. This time I tried to talk about the weather and how it was nice to have weather. He didn't buy it, and once more he asked "Pastor, what is your favorite passage of Scripture?"

This was a question I have been asked quite often, but during my tenure as a pastor of a small church in New Jersey, I got asked it almost every week by any number of people. It could have a been a church member, a towns person, or the local clerk at the deli next to my apartment. Everyone wanted to know what the new, young pastor's favorite Scripture was. And it was hard because a lot of people didn't like to hear my answer all the time. Many people assumed it would be John 3:16, or a passage about health and wealth, or a certain Scripture that would bolster their spirits. But my passage didn't do that for most, because my favorite Scripture passage is Genesis 3, the fall of man.

Sure we all know the story right? God had created the perfect place for mankind, free of want, free of sin, free of death, complete communion with God, it was perfect! There is no other word to describe what the garden was, other than perfect. Stop and ponder that for a moment...what is perfect? As a believer perfection is what God is. God is without sin, without blemish, without fault, without evil, without any wrong. So this garden is something that we cannot fully grasp! Sure we can grasp the concept of what the Garden of Eden was and the symbolism it holds, but its unique quality of being perfect is something we can only grasp at the fringes of.

In this perfect garden, man and woman walked and talked with God. They would walk in the cool of the day, or in the evening, or whenever they wanted to, and they would talk with God about everything. If this isn't proof that our God is a relational and personal being, than I don't know what is. But think about having a personal relationship with God where you actually walked along with Him. You could hear Him and talk directly to Him. I am not speaking in the spiritual sense that we as believers now communicate to God with; I am talking about a full-body, physical, visual, actual personal relationship like you would have with your best friend, a parent, a sibling, or your spouse. This was a relationship we will not know until heaven.

Then to top it off they had everything they needed in the garden. Food, shelter, animals, companionship, love, relationships, unity with God, and complete peace. Do you see what this garden was? Do you see the breadth of the love that God had when He sculpted this for Man and Woman? This was an absolutely amazing place to live and flourish.

But all of that, every single bit of it, was destroyed through a selfish act of disobedience. Perfect was gone in an instant because Man and Woman decided that they knew better. And no this is not why I like this story, at least not completely. I will explain that portion shortly. But here we see just how deprived and selfish and prideful and corrupt and conceited and stupid we can be. And please do not kid yourself into believing you wouldn't have made the same mistake. We all would have. Maybe not at the exact time that Adam and Eve did, but you would have and so would I. It is in our nature to rebel and to be something we are not (i.e. God).

Adam and Eve listened to the lies of Satan and believed that God was hiding something (knowledge) from them. They pushed aside everything they knew about their Father who had created them, loved them, cared for them, and protected them, and threw it all into the wind on the word of a serpent. Why you may ask? It is simple really, their lust for knowledge and the power it held outweighed their ability to reason and to remember all they had and knew. Selfishness took hold. Pride gripped their heart. Reckless abandon grabbed hold of their minds. Surely God couldn't have all the knowledge right? They needed it too! Why should God have to know everything? It isn't like He created the world and us, or is an all-powerful, all knowing Deity, right?

When you think about it, anguish and sadness should grip your heart and soul as you see this play out. And not just for Adam and Eve but for all of mankind. We are so far from perfection and so broken and sinful, that this story completely lays out our need for a Savior. We cannot do this on our own. This is evident because Adam and Eve then ran and played hide and seek with God! Now come on! Seriously?!?! He made the garden; don't you think they would have known that God knew all the hiding spots? Well isn't true when caught in a sin, we run and hide, or try to cover that sin up out of shame and despair and embarrassment? This is exactly what they did.

They knew they had wronged God. They had broken His commandment, and the penalty for that was death. God told them they would die for this! Would you want to die? It was here, during their time of brokenness, depravity, frailty, and utter despair that God approached them. He asked them what happened. He didn't accuse or attack them; He just asked what was going on and why they were hiding. But in their sinful and flawed human nature, they played the blame game which has now forever transcended the time of man. Adam said Eve did it, and Eve said the serpent did it, and the serpent said nothing because he knew the axe was about to drop.

And drop it did. God pronounced judgment on all three of the guilty parties. He told man that he would have to work, and work hard to get by (sounds like today's economy doesn't it?), and that he would die. He told Eve she would serve her husband, and that childbirth would be painful from now one. Perfection is gone here folks! No more is life easy and happy and perfect. Pain, sorrow, and death has entered in. God then curses the serpent and Satan. He tells Satan that he will forever be attacking the kingdom of God and that he will strike at God's own Son, but that wound will not kill Christ, but instead Christ will crush the serpent.

In that little bit of text we see such provision because God is already establishing a way back to Him. He had every right to walk away and not look back on the humans who wronged Him. But instead He has compassion on them and provides a Savior for mankind. But a problem still persists...there is no blood shed. Sure Christ's blood will be shed in the future, but God had called for death for this sin at this time. God needed to be appeased.

But again God spares mankind and He takes an animal and makes clothing for Adam and Eve. We don't see this completely laid out in Scripture. There is no text that says "Behold, God took an ox and shed its blood in place of mankind." But what we do see is God makes a provision of skins for Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness which was a direct proclamation of their sin. And in order to obtain skins, an animal needed to be killed. So blood was shed for the sin that was committed.

Lastly God kicks Adam and Eve out of the garden and this is another great act of salvation and faithfulness. Now you may be thinking "how is forcing them to leave paradise an act of salvation? He just kicked them out of the one place they were safe!" But in truth they were not safe there. They already knew sin, and if they then went and ate of the Tree of Life they would forever be bound to their sin. They would go on living in an eternal state of death, and what greater punishment is there than that? God showed such compassion and grace when He forced them to leave. Yes their lives became hard due to their own fault, but God made such provisions for them in light of all they did.

Do you see why this is one of my favorite passages now? Do you see the grace that is here? Do you hear and see the love God has for us? Do you see His plan for redemption and salvation? Do you see the need for a Savior? Do you see that ultimately God wins, and that we win with Him? This is an amazing passage of Scripture, one we all know, but one that we sometimes stick on the shelf with the other "Bible stories from Sunday School." But do not do that. Embrace what happened here. Acknowledge our depravity, our sinfulness, and our need for a Savior because only in that will you be free from the death that is rightfully ours.

This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture because God's love, compassion, wrath, faithfulness, understanding, sacrifice, redemption, and overwhelming control is fully evident. It takes so long to explain why this passage is so profound and alive, but doing so is key. We cannot forget that this passage is what has allowed for us to be saved through Christ. God alone provide the sacrifice and atonement for us. I guess when people ask me what is my favorite passage of Scripture, I can say "Have you read about how we messed up, God forgave us, God died for, God saved us, and calls His? Well that is why Genesis 3 is my favorite passage."

Monday, February 18, 2013


Do have a word for the year? A word that defines what this year is going to be like? A word that the Word of God has led you to for any of a variety of reasons? Well I do, and this is the first time I have ever done something like this.

Let me give you a little background. We recently had a guest speaker at our church from Winning at Home Ministries. I was a little skeptical of him at first as he appeared to be quite hyperactive and a bit intense (yes for all of you who are silently chuckling to themselves he reminded me very much of myself) but he grew on me very quickly. His message was to find the word for this year that God is giving to you. This word will define your year, help you grow, shape your life, and radically challenge and change you.

I don't like change. I like consistency and control. I like knowing what will happen. I like being prepared. I mean come on, I was the guy who would leave two hours early for his shift at midnight, that was thirty-five minutes away, in case there was a tornado, an accident, a fire, or an apocalypse! I like to be in control of my life, that's all I am saying. And as I sat in my seat saying all these things to myself, a word kept slapping me upside the head: FAITH! I kept saying "No, no, I have faith. I trust God." But the more I tried to convince my own conscious and heart that I didn't need this word, it kept coming back bigger and louder: FAITH. I wanted to shout (which would have been a bit odd in our church context since it was during the message) out loud that I didn't need this word, but the more I argued with myself, the more I realized just how desperately I needed it.

I have struggled with faith and trust my whole life. The two go hand in hand, especially in a relationship with Christ. How can you have faith in someone you do not trust? Remember the trust fall you did at youth retreats? Didn't you have to put faith that those behind you will catch you? Didn't you had to put your trust in them? Well I never did well with those. In fact I tried not to do them. I couldn't put my faith and trust in something I couldn't control. I would never had made it to Neverland with Peter Pan. For those of you younger folk, you may have to go and watch this Disney Classic!

Anyway, I don't like trusting others and having to put my faith in something outside of my direct control, but the more I argued the more I realized I had to. God was calling me to let go. Faith is being willing to trust someone (God in this case) with something (my life) and putting my trust in Him that He will guide me to where I need to be, when I need to be there.

This is not easy for me. I don't like it, but I realized I need it in my life. A true believer walks by faith, and trusts that God is there for him no matter what. As I was grappling with this word, a passage kept coming to mind (Matthew 6:25-34). It talks about worry, and when you think about it worrying is the opposite of faith and trust, and again if you know me, you know I am a worrier. This word just kept getting more difficult. I am to give up trusting myself and worrying about things I can't control, and let go even more? I was getting a wee bit frazzled.

I asked God during that service why He would give me a word I couldn't, and to be quite frank didn't want to, handle. And His response was simple: "It is a step of Faith." I almost threw my hands up in exasperation! But I knew it to be true. It isn't a word to grow by if it is something you already know or understand. So I finally, albeit a bit grudgingly, accepted that this word would be my word for the year.

That was a few weeks back, and let me tell you that this has been a year where (real) Faith is very actively making itself known in my life. I am realizing that having an active faith means ceding control to the Lord in all circumstances. It isn't a give and take option. I can't say "Sure God, have control over my driving habits, but not my finances." I can't say "Today I have faith, but tomorrow when the day gets hard, I will put my faith into something tangible (sounds like idolatry no?)." Faith is a 24/7/365 commitment, that requires you giving up control, and allowing God to take over. I will be completely honest with you all and say that I don't like it. I don't like not being in the driver's seat! I need to be able to hit the gas or brake because in my mind only I know how, when, and where to do that. And when I actually hear myself say that out loud I realize how stupid it sounds.

Having faith is something we all struggle with from time to time. We look at the way our lives, our society, our culture, and the way our world is going and sometimes our faith may falter for a brief moment. But our assurance is in the fact that our God is sovereign, all mighty, all powerful, all knowing, above all others, and forever in control. Faith is tough my friends, because we don't like to give up control. But let me ask you this question: Who better to be in control than the all powerful God of the universe? Are you better qualified? Can you know the past, present, and future?

Trust me, I know that faith is hard. I struggle with it daily, but I also grow daily from it. I have been trusting God with so many things, and laying burden upon burden on His strong shoulders, and in doing so easing my own. It isn't easy, and giving up control is a struggle I am only now beginning to understand. I feel my mind screaming no, but my heart and soul are crying out yes. And as I have given up control and put my faith and trust in God's plan, I have begun to experience peace. Peace knowing that Someone better than I is looking out for me, and that He has a plan for my life.

That doesn't mean each day is easy, or that I am worry free, because ask anyone who knows me, and they will say that I am anything but. However, I am realizing the freedom and joy I receive from giving up control. My God is Greater, My God is Stronger, My God is Higher than any other. And my joy, my peace, my strength, and my solace is all found within the loving and open arms of my Savior who begs me to give Him control to carry my burdens, struggles, pains, and  fears.

Faith is tough. It really is. But thankfully, faith is rewarding, and peace and love is everlasting. My word for this year is (Real) PEACE! What's yours?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What is becoming of the sanctity of life?

I must admit that this is not what I was going to write about today. I have a couple other posts in the draft stages, one on youth ministry and another about my first Valentine's Day where I get to celebrate with someone, but this post could not go by.

Let me explain why I am writing this. I got into work this morning, and as always we had the television tuned to Fox News, and one of the major headlines was this: More women using the morning after pill. I missed the majority of the segment so I jumped online to try and track down what this wall about. I am an ardent support of life at conception and I am strongly supportive of the pro-life movement, and this stirred something deep within my heart as I began to dig deeper.

I went to,, and and all of them had the story. Although with one of these sites you need to dig through some of the backwater pages to find it. I also was a bit shocked to find some major news outlets weren't carrying the story, and perhaps they have yet to publish it as I am sure there is other news happening and stories they feel are of greater value to the readers.

But in reading these articles a study has found that 1 out of every 9 women, between the ages of 15 (yes 15!) and 44 are using a morning after pill. This is a 4% rise since 2002. This is appalling to me! For those of you who do not know, the morning after pill can terminate a pregnancy. Proponents of this pill claim that it is different from a the "abortion pill" because it is not terminating a pregnancy and is taken only in the first 72 hours following a romantic encounter.

Those opposed to this pill would point to the fact that life is founded at conception which happens once an egg is fertilized, and that this pill can terminate a pregnancy that has just started. Those who support this pill would argue that in the first few days there is no life within the woman and that you are not seizing life from a child. They argue that life does not begin until a certain trimester or in some cases until birth.

But let me explain what I believe. I believe in life at conception, and yes my view is based in my theology, my faith, and my personal conviction. I hold to the Word of God as the one and only source of knowledge and truth, and within the Bible it says "You knit me together in my mother's womb" (Psalm 193:13) and how at that point God knew us (Jeremiah 1:4-5). The fact is this, to be known there has to be something. One cannot know of something that does not exist, therefore in accordance with Scripture since we were known in our mother's womb we existed and life was evident!

I am well aware that this stance is not culturally acceptable in our society and that is looked down on as hindering the life of the woman and her choices in life. I understand that, but who has the right then to make a decision for that unborn child? Who is allowed to grant them life or death? Is it us? Are we judge, jury, and executioner? I say no. I report to a higher authority, to one who governs all things, both in this life, and the life to come.

I am not in anyway attempting to malign or criticize those who have or are using these pills. I want those who do or are considering to use them to instead think about what God says about life, and to ponder how different our world would be if your pregnancy had been terminated. If you weren't here you wouldn't be reading this blog, your friends wouldn't know you, you wouldn't have impacted others, and this world would be very different.

Life is life. We cannot allow for this pill to be something that defines our society and our morals. We, as believers and supports of life, need to take a stand for what we believe in and not shy away from sticking to our guns and faith. However, let us not become full of ourselves, and resort to tactics of assault and verbal attacks, nor let us condemn others, for we are all fallen and disgraced individuals in our own ways, and many of us, myself included, worse than the majority of our population. We need instead to reach out in love, support, compassion, understanding, grace, humility, forgiveness, and restoration. Let us be a new generation that seeks to right wrongs, ease burdens, support others, and live and love like Christ.

Let us support life, follow Christ, live like His children, and let us befriend the lost and hurting just as our Savior befriended and saved us (John 4:1-26, Matthew 26-28, Luke 19:9-10).

If you chose to comment in the debate surrounding this blog, I ask that you please keep it civil and respectful to both sides involved. Thank you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Is Christ evident in your life?

Well for those of you who don't know me, I am a professing Christian. I know "gasp" right?! If you knew me back in the day that may be quite the literal gasp as I was anything but an adherent Christ Follower. But people and their lives change. Please don't be fooled into thinking that this was a moment when lightening flashed, thunder boomed, and the earth moved and I immediately transformed, because it was a far cry from it. Rather I saw that I needed saving and redemption and at that point a gradual change began to occur that has propelled me to where I am today.

I have served in varying ministry roles for years now, which sounds odd to say as I would still like to consider myself young, and one thing has stood out to me in each ministry or church I have served in. We Christians are a bunch of hypocritical, judgemental, malicious, backstabbing individuals. I had promised myself to not get too crazy and pointed in the first few posts, but recent events have opened up the proverbial Pandora's Box.

I would like to clarify as well that when I say "we Christians" I am including myself. I am just as bad as anyone else, because I am an imperfect, fallen, carnal, sinner. That is one item that separates some believers from others. We recognize that we are still messed up people in need of a Savior and a blood sacrifice. Too often we become prideful, arrogant, and pompous in our beliefs and way of life because we feel that we are now somehow infinitely better than those on the outside of the looking glass. But how quickly we forget where we have come from.

The Bible says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Romans 3 is a great outline for how broken and far from God we are, and how it is only through the redemptive blood shed by a perfect sacrifice in His Son, that we are even allowed to kneel in His very presence. And yet as I have looked around at most of the churches I have been a part of or have visited, I have seen so much dissent, derision, in-fighting, corruption, and malice. I am stating that every church is this way, but I am attempting to call to account those who profess to be followers of the Only True and Risen God, who is perfect and unblemished, and yet live lives like they are no different than those who would spit in the Lord's face.

It pains me to see us as acting no different than those outside of the love of God, because what hope do we have to offer those who come to us? "Hey join the church and follow God so that you can experience more pain from your family in the church then you did outside of it?" Is that what we are called to offer? Or do we have something better to share? Shouldn't our lives mimic the life of Christ? (James 2:14-26, 1 John 1:5-2:14). We are called to something greater than an everyday, ordinary life. We are called to imitators of our Lord and Savior.

Why then are we fighting amongst one another, why must we gossip behind someones back, why are we refusing to greet our brothers and sisters, why must we give into our depravity and sinful nature? Yes we are all by nature of the fall, sinful and corrupt and vile creatures (who would have thought a piece of fruit would contribute to this diatribe?). But by the grace of God we are given a chance for redemption. Let me challenge us all to think about how we treat one another. Think about how Christ responded to those who didn't love Him (John 4:1-26, John 19-20). Christ didn't shy away from those who didn't understand or who needed instruction (and we all know the disciples needed a lot of it in the beginning), He didn't hide from those who weren't part of His group, and ultimately He laid down His life in the most horrific way possible to demonstrate His love for us. Can't we do that for one another? Can't we lay aside our petty differences and show the love of God to others within the church and to those outside of it? Imagine a world where hypocrisy within the church ended, where the truth was told with humility, where people genuinely cared for and loved one another, where people were selfless instead of selfish, where encouragement and love took over in place of pride and deceit! Now ask yourself if that is a world you would like to live in. Are you willing to put aside the flesh and instead showcase the life of Christ?

The question we need to ask ourselves then is this: Are our lives truly Christ-like, or are we living them in a way that we want Christ to be like?

I would like to promise that some of my future posts might be a little lighter, but it depends on the day. Maybe at some point I will post recipes or activities I have gone on or movie recommendations, but we shall see!  God bless all

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Well here goes nothing. This is the first time I am attempting to have a personal blog. I have written in blogs for churches and non-profits before, but never had my own. Recently I have been encouraged to undertake this new and exciting avenue in which to post my thoughts on a variety of subject matters. Elise has been a huge encourager and has been pushing me to put my thoughts paper, errr umm the computer that is, and to share my thoughts and passions. This first post is simply to let you all know I am here, and that I will be posting as regularly as I can. I will post thoughts about youth ministry, church, Christianity, important news, and whatever pops into my ADD wracked brain. Trust me this could get crazy. Hopefully some of you who read this will continue to come back and check in on my writings, but if not it is okay too. Well, that is it for now! I shall be back!