When KFC Gravy Soothes the Soul

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The smell punched you in the face as you entered the bedroom. Like walking into a boy’s middle school locker room, clean air transformed into an uncomfortably warm and moist atmosphere.

Stale KFC boxes littered the floor. The greasy comfort food was the only thing that satisfied the rare times I had an appetite.

Laying in a musty blanket and matted sheets, I binged watch Dr Who til my eyes were raw from the glare of my laptop. This was my life for several months.

It didn’t matter to me that days would pass between showers. My greasy hair and stained clothes were the last things on my mind. Nothing mattered any more.

No, I wasn’t alright. I may have been a warm body but I was a dead man.

About a year earlier, I had begun to work through my greatest insecurity: masculinity. I had grown up in a city that defined masculinity in a way that I didn’t identify with. I didn’t swing hammers, play contact sports or drink. Being outside would stress me out, as I tried my best to keep nature off of me. If being a man meant being a laboring rugged outdoorsman, then I wasn’t one. And that disturbed me. So I studied what the Bible said about masculinity. What I found convicted me to my core.

My study could be summed up with a single word, “responsibility.” It was a concept that was clearly missing from my life. I was not responsible with time or money. I chased things that didn’t matter. I started seeing how my irresponsibility was impacting the ministries I was involved in, how others were paying a price for my hubris.

By the time I realized what I was doing it was too late. My choices had culminated into a failure in ministry, and deeply wounded the students I loved. I realized that I had much to learn, I did not have mastery of myself, though I a degree that represented my knowledge. I know many of the right things to do, but I did not have the discipline to carry out my plans in a timely and effective way. Armed with that knowledge, I knew God was calling me to step back from ministry for a reason and grow. So I resigned from my ministry position, moved back home and fell into a deep depression.

I knew that I needed God, I needed a miracle so I started looking. After visiting several churches I landed in a church that inspired me with their mission and heart. After a little over a month, I was approached to come on staff. I didn’t want it. At this particular junction in my life, I wasn’t mad at God, but I was furious with myself. I felt broken beyond repair, like a mirror shattered at sea. I didn’t felt like I deserved it and frankly it felt like a betrayal to church I just resigned from, so I declined.

I was approached again one month later but this time something felt different. So I said I would pray about it. I communicated my reserves and was met with love and direction. I was told that I simply needed mentoring. This was back in 2012. July marks the beginning of my fifth year with Valley Christian Fellowship, and I am truly not the same person that arrived. Many people who know me today can hardly believe the story because things are so different for me now. That is because God reintroduced me to Jesus through Valley.

I am still learning and growing, but I have experienced redemption and restoration in a very personal way. On a regular basis, I feel so inadequate to lead and do the things that I do, but God continues to use Valley to remind that I can rest in His grace. That He is sufficient, and that He is coming alive in me all the more. I no longer feel dead inside, but truly alive. I feel the Spirit of God flow through every vein in my body, the power of Christ emanating with each beat of my heart. I have come to know what life was meant to be.

John 5:25 says, “2Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Jesus came to bring the dead back to life. And that is exactly what happened when Jesus brought me home. He brought a sinning pastor back to life.

Friends, today I write because I want you to know that we all have death in our lives. We have these deep rooted pains in our souls, whether we hide it with a facade or literally hide from the public. Jesus came to breathe life into ashes failures, to bring life into these weary bones. I urge you, if you are in need of this life, seek God. Know that He loves you, that He wants to lead you to life. So do not listen to voices of doubt and shame, allow God to love you.

How Christians Cultivate Love, Joy, Peace and Strength

IMG_3380I didn’t feel like I fit in when I first started going to church. Looking around there were people who were singing their hearts out, with their hands raised and the biggest smiles on their faces. I didn’t identify with that. I did enjoy the music and the message, it just seemed like everyone else was more into what was happening than I was. Over the course of time, I have come to learn, that what I was feeling was pretty common, and so maybe you’re like me.

Maybe you’ve been attending a weekend service because you enjoy it at some level, but at the same time you may have a nagging feeling that you’re missing something.  The people I went to church with had a deep sense of love and peace in their lives, and that was what I wanted for myself. It became clear to be that I was missing something, so I started asking around. I learned this: things like love, joy, strength and peace come from a lifestyle of worship.

An interesting conversation occurs between Jesus and a Samaritan woman in John 4. During that conversation you’ll read this little gem:

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”
‭‭John‬ ‭4:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬”

You’re probably reading this thinking, “Wait a minute. ‘True’ worshipers? Worshiping in spirit and truth? What does that even mean?” Those are great questions because they hold the key to finding true love, joy, peace and strength!

Since Jesus states that there are “true” worshipers, it’d be a good idea to a have proper understanding of what, “worship” is. You could go look up a definition in a Bible dictionary, and you’ll get something like this: “Term used to refer to the act or action associated with attributing honor, reverence, or worth to that which is considered to be divine by religious adherents.” Though that is a true definition, I’d like to share with you a definition shared with me by Professor Kent Kersey of Corban University. He said, “Worship is the rhythm of revelation and response.” Let’s break that down.

“Revelation” is exactly what is sounds like. It is the act of God revealing His nature, His plan, our sin or just general love to us. He does this by the power of the Holy Spirit through Biblical teaching/preaching, through prayer, Bible reading and Godly people speaking into our lives. So when you take the time to read your Bible or listen to some teaching, you should approach it with anticipation. Because there is something in that message just for you that God wants you to hear. But once you hear it, you’ll need to do something with it.

Appropriately responding to God’s truth is key to genuine worship. If God reveals His nature, we should be in awe. If God reveals a plan, we should respond in obedience. If God reveals sin in our lives, we should respond in repentance. All this is easy to state, but the challenge actually responding appropriately, because all these responses require faith.

An appropriate response in faith allows us the opportunity to experience God. When we trust in His wisdom we experience it’s benefit. When we take responsibility for the sin, it brings healthy healing in our lives. When God reveals His glory and we stand in awe, we are overwhelmed by the love of such a mighty God. The cycle of God revealing truth to us, then us responding and experiencing God is a continuous lifestyle as long as we continue respond appropriately.

This cycle is the rhythm of the Christian life. At every step of our lives, God has something He wants to show us. But the cycle ends when we decide to respond in a way that does not honor God. The more we experience God the more we trust, the more we experience His faithfulness and His goodness. God truly becomes a source of strength and peace because we know that He is good.

The people you see who just seem to be joyful in worship services, it very well could be because they are celebrating and remembering the faithfulness of God. Their lives are acts of worship as they have responded to God’s revelation. This could be you!

So what is God revealing to you now? Take a few moments to just sit, think and pray. Pray through the last sermon you heard, think about the last Bible study you attended. Think about something that you heard that upset you, did it upset you because it challenged you? Is that how you should have responded? God wants to bless you, but in order to experience that blessing you must respond in faith. So take a few minutes, and allow God to remind you of His revelation.

When Walking with Jesus is Discouraging

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Discipleship is a journey.

It’s a journey of discovery, where we encounter a whole new world, as we begin to love and follow Jesus. We discover what love really is and we are shown who were were created to be. Christ reveals to us the lies of our culture, and the lies we have accepted about ourselves, teaching us to build our lives on truth. So that we can withstand the difficulties of life. But like any journey, discipleship has its frustrations.

The journey begins with a need for Jesus. Moved by the spirit of God, we ask Jesus to come into our lives and take control, as we turn away from our sinful desires. But then the bomb drops. We realize, as disciples, we are called to follow Jesus. And sometimes following Jesus has a commitment level we think we’re not ready for, so discipleship becomes discouraging.

Historically, disciples were people who learned from, and lived as, specific teachers of religion or philosophy. Disciples were expected to learn from a master, to become masters themselves and continue passing on what they had learned. Disciples back then would literally follow the teacher, from place to place, so they could follow them academically and philosophically.

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So back then, when people first became a disciples of Jesus, it was expected that they would adopt the teaching, lifestyle and beliefs of Jesus, which is true for Christians today. But the idea of adopting a new lifestyle discourages some because of the responsibility linked to it.

For some, we become discouraged as we give into the temptation of comparing ourselves to other Christians, Christians that really seem like they have it together. So we think, “I don’t know if I can do this…” When I feel that way I become very thankful for the origins of the 12 disciples found in the Gospel of John.

Peter is a great example. By the time the Gospel of John was written, Peter was known to be an amazing church leader. He was known for preaching, teaching, leading, and giving his life to die like the Savior he loved. Many would not have guessed the road Peter took. It was a journey that transformed him from a loudmouth failure to a spiritual giant.

If you have ever felt like you couldn’t measure up, here are three things about Peter’s journey that should encourage you about your own:

One

Jesus saw who Peter was and who Peter really was. Let me explain that last sentence. When Peter met Jesus his name was Simon, but Jesus declared that he should now be called, Cephas/Peter. Peter meaning “Rock,” was Jesus demonstrating the important role that he would play. But Peter was not the rock that Jesus saw when they first met. Jesus saw who Peter was at the moment, but saw deep inside real Peter as well. Jesus transformed Peter into that rock, the foundational leader of the early church, because Jesus knew Peter’s purpose, just like He knows yours. It was Jesus who gave Peter the “power to become.” And Jesus gives us that power as well.

Two

Peter was not perfect and failed Jesus in a big way. During the trial of Jesus, Peter is singled out as a disciple three times. Every time this happened Peter denied it, betraying Jesus and abandoning the Savior Peter claimed to love. Realizing what he has done, Peter walks away in shame. Luckily Peter’s story doesn’t end there.

The end of the Gospel of John records Peter’s reinstatement as a disciple. What is remarkable and comforting about this story is that it shows how loving and gracious Jesus is, as well as the power of the Gospel. For even though Peter had made such a mess of things, Christ still used him to do great things in the world.

Christians today continue to fail and turn their backs on Jesus. The very same Jesus we sing praises to and claim to love. Thankfully, like Peter, Jesus gives us, “the power to become.” And in grace we have been given the gift of repentance. So whenever we do fail, Jesus is always waiting with arms wide open to receive us, and powerful enough to do something wonderful with our lives.

Three

Peter’s journey begins and is maintained with a personal experience of Jesus. John 1 show us that Peter hears of Jesus through his brother Andrew, but does not begin to follow Jesus until a personal conversation occurs. Throughout the Gospel of John we find that as Jesus travels and teaches, Peter is right in the middle of whatever Jesus was doing. Peter did not follow Jesus from a distance, but was engaged in what Jesus was doing. Through this Peter witnessed and experience so much of the wonders of Christ.

Today we don’t have the benefit of literally walking with Jesus, but His mission continues through the work of faithful disciples who teach and preach His Word. If we want to experience Jesus like Peter did, we need to engage where we see God at work. It’s hard to follow Jesus from a distance, so it’s not enough to be physically present at a weekend service. We must engage by paying attention to what God is doing through His people and being in the middle of it. Just like Peter.

“…Jesus looked at him and said,“You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).”-John 1:42 ESV

At the end of the day, it is inspiring to know that the some of the most influential Christians in history had such a rough start. It’s because of Peter that we can know, we don’t have to have it all together to follow Jesus, because it’s Jesus who helps us put together the mess that is our lives. But in order to do that, we must be present and engaged with what Jesus is doing. Whatever God is doing in your own church, we would urge that you be present and allow Christ to work in and through you, giving you the power to become who you were created to be. So that you can find the love, joy and peace offered in Christ.

If you’re reading through the Gospel of John, see yourself in Peter’s your story, and know that no matter who you are, or what your background is, you are called for something grand.

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The Divinity of Jesus


John chapter 20 says:

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

The contents of this Gospel were selected so that we may believe that Jesus was the Messiah and that we may have life in Jesus’ name. We will explore what it means to have life in Jesus at a later time, but for now let’s consider what it means for Jesus to be the Son of God. Let’s talk about the divinity of Jesus.

The Debate

The divinity of Jesus is a great debate. Like the original audience, many of today’s readers do not want to believe that Jesus was divine, but would rather think of Jesus as just a good teacher. John’s Gospel challenges the notion of Jesus just being a good teacher by placing a larger emphasis on the miracles of Jesus, as compared to the other Gospels– Matthew, Mark and Luke. He did this hoping to sway his readers into belief, resting on the authority of his own witness. For many believed that there was a God, but now needed to know that Jesus was that God.

The concept of a God is not a foreign one. Even today, many people around the world believe that there is some sort of God, but the debate starts when we say that Jesus is that God. Disagreements arise when the reality does not fit our preconceived ideas of who God is suppose to be. This was one of the many struggles that the religious leaders had during Jesus’ day. John recorded several instances where Jesus’ actions did not line up with religious expectations, and it upset those who claimed to know the ways of God. These leaders often wondered how Jesus could be of God and yet not live up to their expectations. Had it not been for all the miracles that Jesus performed, it would have been easy to dismiss Him as just a whack job.

Miracles As a Sign of the Divine

Miracles demonstrate the divinity of Jesus. To paraphrase CS Lewis(1), miracles as things outside our natural world interrupting the natural order of things. Anything outside of nature would be supernatural. So if a being repeatedly defied the laws of nature, it could be concluded that this being had a supernatural or divine nature. This is the case for Jesus. So anything taught by Jesus should be given the attention it deserves. For anyone who wrestling with the existence of miracles, we would recommend the aforementioned book, “Miracles” by CS Lewis. Lewis does an amazing job of laying out the logical and philosophical framework for the existence of miracles.

Anyone taking the time to read and study the book of John will come across many reactions toward Jesus. He will either be accepted and followed, or he will be rejected and dismissed. The modern reader today will be challenged to believe that Jesus was more than just a historical figure, but truly the Son of God. And if the truth is reflected, we here at Restless Roots pray that your life continues to be shaped by that reality.

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Citation:

  1. Lewis, CS Miracles: A Preliminary Study. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2006.

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Follow me on Twitter: @andrewqn

 

3 Reasons Why the Gospel of John is Worth Reading

Christians read the Bible. We know that reading the Bible daily is needed to grow, because it nourishes the spiritual appetite of our soul. The weekly message from a pastor is not enough. If you ate once a week, it wouldn’t be enough regardless of how grand the meal is. But for many Christians a hurdle is simply, where to start. The Bible contains 66 different books that are divided into two major sections. So the decision to read the Bible can be understandably overwhelming! But it doesn’t need to be. The Gospel of John (Not to be confused with 1 John and 2 John) is a great place to start and here are three reasons why:

The Gospel of John gets straight to the point. 

The whole Bible is about Jesus. The Old Testament elaborates on human behavior and shows the harmfulness and helplessness of humanity. It is about why humanity needs Jesus. The New Testament (excluding the Gospels) is about how people live in response to who Jesus is. Simply said, the Old Testament looked forward to Jesus, where the New Testament looks back at Jesus. And while that’s great stuff to learn, believers should intimately know Jesus; the Gospel of John accomplishes just that by presenting the works, teachings, miracles, death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Gospel of John informs our faith.

History records that the Apostle John wrote his Gospel to correct misconceptions that were being taught by a particular group of people known as “Gnostics” (näs-tiks), which is helpful for us. Often in our time, when someone becomes a believer, they just know that they need Jesus and they commit their lives. But their thoughts of who Jesus is may not be accurate. Like the original audience of the Gospel of John, we have a document that helps us put together an accurate view of who Jesus is.

John can be read in 21 days. 

There are only 21 chapters in this Gospel. So if you read one chapter a day you would be done in 21 days, which is a worthy achievement. It is worthy because you’ve completed a book in the Bible. It is achievable because there are books twice that size. Looking at you Genesis! Other books in the Bible are worth reading, but the Gospel of John is tangible start.

There is value in reading the Gospel of John. And because of it’s importance and brevity we hope you’ll take the time to read it. Because the Gospel of John is so amazing, we’ll be spending 13 weeks exploring the themes and ideas presented by this Gospel. If you have any questions and an idea for a topic feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below.

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Follow me on Twitter: @andrewqn