God can make Twisted Lives Straight

The last time I saw Fred was just about a year ago, I can remember how his eyes never met mine, how he constantly brought up excuse after excuse on why his wife should take him back.  We spoke for a long time about the love of Jesus, and how no matter what you have done that there is forgiveness in that love (Romans 8:1).

We tempered that conversation with the other side of the coin about which Fred was well aware, God forgives through Christ, but the world does not. Fred had done several turns within the penal system, all of them because of what he had done to his wife and his family.  Fred’s last stretch had been for 6 months because he violated his probation, specifically drinking and using drugs.

The first time I met him he was doing a year for kicking his pregnant wife and causing a miscarriage. Fred had asked for his megachurch to visit him while he was in jail, and I spoke with someone at his church, but they never came. As the Chaplain, I decided to visit with him to check on him, this was the beginning of our relationship in Christ.

God love for Fred involved Fred changing his heart.  Fred wanted this change and the tears flowed as we met every week for six months. I constantly challenged him to see if he was really in Christ, to really know that his old life was over and he was a new creature in Christ (2Cor. 5:17).  Fred always acknowledged his heart was changed and that he was looking forward to continuing his growth in Christ when he was released.

Many times I have heard this from inmates in jail, the hope that they will continue to learn, pray and grow in Christ as they transition from prison to the world, but the world is much more dangerous than prison. The world will provide more temptations and more theft of your time and desires, in prison there is a regulation of time, and sometimes Jesus becomes just a way to alleviate the boredom and to focus on something positive. Fred fell into the same trap that Satan sets for all of us, the world and its temptations provided things that were more beautiful and more rewarding than Jesus, a false gospel that only leads to death and destruction.

I saw Fred and his wife for a few times after he was released at my church. There were hopeful signs but always crushing disappointment, anger and addiction returned with a vengeance, Satan was stoking the flames of sin inside of Fred, flames that brought him to a very dark place.

A few weeks ago early in the morning I picked up the phone to hear the voice of his ex-wife, “Fred killed himself yesterday, he threw himself into traffic and was run over.” What do you say?  I can’t say that I was surprised, but I was overcome with sadness for his ex-wife and children, and frankly sad for Fred that he had been given every week the truth of Christ, the truth of the gospel, the saving grace that Jesus has done for us on the Cross, but the world had a greater pull, sin has come to it’s fullest producing death,

“Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:15 NAS)

For every Fred, there are 3 people I know that have avoided the Satanic trap that causes death and destruction, it wasn’t easy for these folks no, it was incredibly difficult, filled with days of doubt, days of repentance and hours and hours of prayer.

It is the love of God that will keep us going as we see friends sink into dark places, the Lord gives us the power to love these folks in the midst of their pain and despair. We push forward bringing the truth of the gospel and making disciples because we can do no other. The love of Jesus has given me new life how can I not give it to others?

I’ll be going to the funeral of my friend Fred and bringing the gospel with me the power of the love of Christ never ends.

Funeral for a Friend

Passive and Active Evangelism?



About 5 years ago my wife bought a lawn sign from a Christian bookstore that was going out of business. The sign was for Easter and it reads, “Christ is Risen”. Well, Easter that year was over and I was about to take down the lawn sign in front of our home, and I stopped and thought, “Why should I take it down? What is the reason that makes me take it down? Isn’t Christ risen?  Our Lord is alive and suddenly the need to take down the lawn sign faded and we left it up for these past five years.

The lawn sign has gone through intense rainy downpours, flooding, snowdrifts and high summer heat here in New Jersey. Last week I went out to move the sign and noticed it was starting to crumble, to disintegrate, I knew we had to up our game and went to look for lawn signs that were more direct about Jesus, about salvation and about the eternal life that awaits those whose hearts are changed by Christ alone.

Passively we had conducted evangelism, we didn’t actively go out to the street and preach (although we have done that and continue to do it) we just placed a lawn sign of the postage stamp size of a lawn that we have. The sign reads just :

Christ has Risen! 

In our “passive” evangelism we were able to have discussions with many folks, some people walking by the house would read the sign stop and examine the sign wondering why the sign was here in the middle of July. Other people knocked on our door wondering about the sign and leading us to have gospel conversations. Our Jewish neighbor came over about a year after the sign was left up and asked this question, “Has Jesus risen, or did He come back from the dead?” Even though this question might seem no sensical, but to our Jewish friend, it was important to understand exactly what the sign meant.

We have ordered two new lawn signs and they have the gospel message on both of them, we know that the Lord has used this now falling apart lawn sign, maybe to passers-by, maybe to drivers who come down our street, maybe through the gospel conversations both my wife and I have had.  Passively we were bringing the gospel to everyone who came by our home, actively we were using the lawn sign to bring the gospel and then to make disciples.

Whether you bring the gospel actively or passively you are helping others see the grace and mercy of a Holy God who has given us His Son to take our sin and give us eternal life, not just good news, but Fantastic News!

Seeing, Believing and Finally Awoke!

One of the biggest social movements in our culture lately has been the movement that seeks to “awaken” people about different offenses that have been going unnoticed, or agreed to by our society. Some of these wrongdoings have been the constant mistreatment of women by men, the culture of violence that pervades many inner cities, the deaths of African-American men by the hand of Law-Enforcement. These are but a few of the different issues that this social movement has attempted to change, the call to people in America today by these different groups is for America to become “awoke”, to wake up to the things that have been going on and address them. For Christians, folks who have been radically changed in heart and spirit, becoming “awoke” was how their eyes were finally open; not just to these issues, but to the wider broader issue of sin in the world. The world became “awoke” on a Sunday morning over 2000 years ago, the Sun rose over Palestine on that day and a woman, walked to the tomb of her friend and Rabbi wanting to anoint him with spices. She found the tomb empty, she found Jesus alive and awake! Later hearing about this, two of Jesus’ disciples run to the tomb in disbelief, they were “awoke” by a woman to go there. Each ran to the tomb, but John arrives first, the young John outran older Peter. John looks inside, the linen is folded neatly, it is as if Jesus went through the burial cloths to become alive! Simon Peter sees the same, and he is “awoke” he believes! John sees the empty tomb and believes, he is Awakened!

The time before the resurrection had been depressing for the disciples, they had lost their leader in the ultimate shame, death on a Roman cross. Hiding from the authorities was the only answer, they were sleeping, unaware or not thinking about what Jesus had told them, that He would return. Becoming awake on Sunday morning, everything seemed to change. The world would never be the same, it had been awakened, the tombs in Jerusalem opened and people recently resurrected walked the streets (Matt. 27:52-53). The awakening had begun, and the world was “awoke”. Today the world is sleeping still, dead men and women walk the earth raising their hands in defiance against society, but the answers they seek can’t be  found. The answer was given a long time ago, in a brand-new tomb that had been given to a penniless leader of a small band of men and women. The answer startled the world, it jolted the world, so much so that a hardened Roman Centurion declared for all the world to hear, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39) The world became “awoke” when Jesus Christ defied the world’s culture and societies, when Jesus refused to accept the way things were, and when Jesus willingly accepted the Cross. His death was payment for my sin, your sin, he took it willingly without hesitation. Three days later the world awakes to the most wonderful, unbelievable awakening it had ever witnessed. Jesus is Alive! You are awoken, lift your dead eyes to Christ and see for the first time. All the issues that we face in society today must be changed, but the first thing that must be done is a change in our own hearts and souls; that can only come through the mercy and grace of the Savior who shook the world awake on a Sunday morning. Awaken and believe, look into the Tomb and open your eyes for the first time and see the life that God has for you!

May you all be blessed with the grace and peace of the one who brought us out of death to life, Happy Easter! Jesus is Alive!!

Focusing on Jesus and Loving the Wrath of God

Focusing on Jesus and Loving the Wrath of God

Habakkuk 2:6-20

Habakkuk is a book that has given many people down through the years different thoughts on God. Last week we went through just 3 verses from Habakkuk (2-5) and we spoke about living out the faith that God has given to us in Jesus Christ; this week we are hearing God speak to Habakkuk and answer some of his complaints, but as we find out, God’s answer to the prophet is terrifying and awesome at the same time. God answers the prophet specifically in his complaint about the Chaldeans, those warriors who have no conscious, and go about stealing, murdering and building cities on the blood of those whom they have slaughtered. In our text for today, the LORD outlines five specific mocking taunts against not only these Chaldeans (Babylonians) but also any of the prophet’s people in Israel, no one is exempt from the LORD’s judgement, as we have read before, his judgement will come, just wait for it.

Judgement by the LORD against these people are set in five different ways of evildoers:

1-Extortion-Punishing people if they didn’t pay

2-Theft-Stealing what wasn’t theirs and using it for themselves

3-Slavery-Using bloodshed and slaves to build their cities

4-Drunkiness- Making people intoxicated causing great shame

5-Idolatry-Putting God out of the world and replacing him with idols

All this evil is put on display by the LORD, and he takes each evil act and promises his wrath, his judgement against every worker of evil. Habakkuk is hearing the judgement of the LORD and I’m sure he is stunned by his righteousness and complete command of everything upon this earth. Judgement is finally completed as the whole world sits in silence their mouths shut as the LORD sits in his Holy Temple (v.20).

The world tends to confuse Judgement with Justice today; God’s judgement is perfect and is perfect justice; our judgement leads to imperfect justice. When we see injustice in this world we must right it using God’s Word and the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. Always, we must see the judgement that we were under and look to the one who provided a way out. Listen to the LORD today, see the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, if it were not for the love of the LORD, we too would be under the terrible wrath of the LORD. Jesus took that wrath, he absorbed the tremendous punishment so that you could be judged righteous and enter into his glory. It is because of Jesus’ command to us (Matt. 28:19) and his wonderful love, that we must bring this GOOD NEWS to the entire world under God’s wrath and judgement (Rom. 1:18-20). Focus on the one who gave you life and let God be God.

No Eyes To See Nor Ears To Hear

January 7, 2018

No Eyes To See Nor Ears To Hear

Habakkuk 1:1-4

Today we begin the Book of the Prophet Habakkuk, a prophet who lived around 625 B.C. Habakkuk is considered one of the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament, that is not because the book is unimportant, but because of the length of the book. It is a powerful teaching about the faithfulness of God and how when we live before a faithful God, our faith can withstand any disaster that may strike us. This book is a great opportunity for us to learn and grow in the Word of God at the beginning of a new year.

Habakkuk is living in an unfaithful country (Judah), and the northern part of Israel had been taken into captivity years before, now, Habakkuk sees the same pain and captivity coming to Judah. Habakkuk is crying out to God, he is frustrated by what he sees in his country, nothing is as it should be; God is not being worshipped, and he says, God is not hearing, God is not seeing and finally God is not caring. It seems to Habakkuk that God has left the building, closed the doors and won’t be returning.

Habakkuk is not so different from us, even though we are removed from where he is by over twenty-six hundred years. The world is self-destructing around us; Christianity is under assault in most of the world. More Christians have been martyred in the past hundred years than in all of Christianity. Unimaginable things in marriage and sexuality have now become commonplace and accepted, even our churches have become places that have given in to the demands of this new society, a society beyond post-modernism, a society that has turned their unbelief into doing whatever “works for you”. What do we see as we look out onto this bleak landscape? Do we sometimes think that maybe God has left the building? Left us on our own?

Our answer to this question should be rooted in what Christ has done for us, our answers are focused clearly upon the Cross, two thousand years ago, where a terrible thing was done, the Lamb of God was put to death on a Roman Cross.

In all the evil that was done that day, God used it for our good and His glory. He planned the Cross, He made a way for the filthy to become clean, for the dead to become alive and the rebel to become righteous. So, here we are listening to Habakkuk, are we hearing hope, or despair? Are we hearing life or death? It depends on who your King is.

The Good News Of The Son Of God

November 19, 2017

The Good News of The Son Of God

Mark 16:1-8

Our final message in Mark this morning doesn’t have any of the despair that was found in all the disciples and people who left Jesus during his crucifixion. This message in Mark’s short ending stands as our bedrock hope in life eternal. Jesus has risen! He is Alive! There is no doubt about this great news, Jesus who was crucified, dead and buried has been raised from the dead. An Angel speaks to Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome, he tells them the wonderful news, the tomb is empty.

Nothing in the history of the world carries more hope and love than this message of resurrection. Death has always been the ultimate scare, the one thing that we all must go through by ourselves, but here Jesus has gone before us, He has taken all the pain and suffered all the mistreatment, and has gone to the cross for us, He has defeated death, there is no more fear for those of us who call Christ King!

We have all been given this great gift because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have died with Christ and now we are also raised with Him. Since we are together with Christ then we must seek the same things that Christ seeks, keeping our minds upon things that are above and not on things here on this earth.

“Keep your mind on things that are above, not on those things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

Because of Christ our fear of death has been swallowed up in victory.

“O death, where is your victory; O death, where is your sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and what gives sin it’s power is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

Our faith in Christ is forever linked to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because of Jesus our sins have been forgiven and we live in the light of that freedom. The Apostle Paul talks about this:

(1 Corinthians 15:17)

“ And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” The church in Paul’s day had denied the resurrection and the same denial is happening today. The Angel tells the women that Jesus has risen, He is alive, what wonderful news for those women and what wonderful news for us this morning!

The message of Mark’s gospel started out with Good News, (Mark 1:1) and now we finish Mark’s gospel with great news, HE IS RISEN, THE SON OF GOD IS ALIVE! Believe and repent of your sins and eternal life is yours.

Don’t Look Away From the Son of God Part 4

November 12, 2017

Don’t Look Away From the Son Of God Part 4

Mark 15:42-27

This is the final part of the series “Don’t look away from the Son of God”, we are ending chapter15 and are seeing the lifeless bloody body of our Lord being taken down from the cross and placed into a newly built tomb. All of the messages in our series have asked us not to look away from what has been happening in the gospel of Mark, every message has been filled with the unbelievable love of Jesus Christ from the initial arrest in the garden to the interrogation of the High Priests; from Pilate’s questions, to the soldier’s whips, from the actions of Simon of Cyrene to the final nails into flesh, love has flowed above and beyond the torrent of blood that ran from our Lord’s side. Love has been the constant current that has never wavered or lessened. Love is what has held our eyes transfixed upon that glorious message that has told us, not to look away but to absorb this amazing gift of life, the wonderful undeserved redemption from eternal blackness and despair. Now our Lord is laid in a tomb that has been carved out from the rock that surrounds Jerusalem, the Lord of lords is laid in a borrowed tomb, just as when he came into this world there was no room for him, and a space was donated. Don’t look away from this fact today, that Jesus had nothing of his own, even his clothes were ripped from him and gambled away.

My prayer as we end this series of messages is that we all see the life, death and burial of Jesus Christ in a way that we have never seen before. Every one of these messages has been a place where we have seen the sacrifice of Jesus anew, like we have never seen it before, that’s the reason for the title, “Don’t look away”. The burial of our Lord today in the text doesn’t signal the end for us, it is only the beginning. Don’t look away from this burial today, don’t look away from the surprise of Pilate as he is told that Jesus is dead. Don’t look away from Joseph of Arimathea or the women who saw where Jesus was laid. Don’t look away from this great truth this morning: truth and hope is not dead, but lives forever! Friday is just about over, but Sunday is coming, Sunday is coming for the disciples, and also for us our hope has not been extinguished by the grave, as a matter of fact we have been given victory over the grave because of Christ!

Don’t Look Away From the Son Of God Part 3

November 5, 2017

Don’t Look Away From the Son of God Part 3

Mark 15:33-41

This is the unbelievable act of salvation in the Lord Jesus, here is the moment where He takes the entire sin of the world upon himself. Everything is now poured out upon Jesus, every wicked thought, every wicked deed put upon Jesus Christ, and we are in front row seats this morning to observe this act of love that we don’t have any words for. Don’t look away this morning don’t look away from this divine gift that has been given to us.

Don’t look away from the way that God brings everything to pass, Don’t look away from the way that God has planned this salvation from the beginning of the world.

Don’t look away from God today, look towards Him as you hear these Words of Scripture. See the mocking, and hear Jesus cry out to God, asking why He has been forsaken. The sin of the world has been placed upon the Son, the judgement of the world has been put upon Jesus, and the ridicule of the world has landed on the Lord.

Don’t look away today from the freedom that Jesus’ pain and suffering gives to us when our hearts are changed.

Don’t look away today from the Words of the Old Testament that prophecy about Jesus on the cross. Today these words resonate loudly with us as they give us the ultimate picture of love. Listen to the words of God, speaking to us today from the Psalms:

Hide not your face from me.

Turn not your servant away in anger,

O you who have been my help.

Cast me not off; forsake me not,

O God of my salvation! (Ps. 27:9)

The earth trembles as Jesus breathes His last breath, the curtain of the Temple is torn in two from top to bottom, now the separation between us and God has been removed because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Now the darkness spreads throughout Israel, darkness has always meant separation from God and now the people of Israel experience this up close and personal. At 3 in the afternoon the priests in the Temple begin to slaughter the lambs that have been made ready for sacrifice, to atone for the sins of the nation on Passover, but the better spotless lamb has already sacrificed His life on a hill outside Jerusalem, crucified between two thieves! Jesus the Lamb of God has given his life for you, don’t look away from that fact this morning, keep staring at this wonderful gift of love and mercy!

Don’t Look Away From the Son of God Part 2

October 29, 2017

Don’t Look Away From the Son of God Part 2

Mark 15:21-32

We are in the middle of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in our messages in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus’ “passion” is the Bible’s story of how he was arrested, tried and then crucified, this is the “Passion of the Christ”. Last week we started this series in Mark only because we need to be focused upon what Jesus is doing and why He is doing this. When we are aware of the sacrifice of Christ for us, then we are more acutely aware of our own sin. We talked about that last week, how when we are focused upon Jesus our own sin is magnified in our consciousness, we are convicted because of Christ.

I wanted to make clear something this week that I didn’t say last week, and that is that knowing the sacrifice of Christ, really seeing it is central to your sanctification (how Christians go through life after being converted); but it is not the entire makeup of how we walk through life honoring Christ and knowing our sins. Understanding the suffering of Jesus, knowing the pain, being fully aware of the separation that Jesus had from the Father is important to know, but it is not everything to know. We begin our journey of faith from the knowledge of the passion of the Christ, but we continue to walk with Christ as we learn more and more about who Jesus is, and who is Christ in me.

The Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are our schoolwork, that is where we hear the parables of Jesus, that is where we listen to the words of Jesus explaining what the Kingdom of God is like, that is where we continue to see Christ and that is where our sanctification continues to grow.

If you haven’t started on the road to sanctification yet, if the passion of the Christ has not jump started your faith, then today is the day you should start your journey. Allow Jesus to show you the way forward even as He stumbles under the weight of the heavy piece of wood that He will die on. Allow Jesus to introduce you to Simon of Cyrene, the Jew who was radically changed by The Son of God. Allow Jesus to put you on Golgotha (skull hill) as He drags his bloody beaten body to His place of death and His place of Victory!

Don’t look away this morning, keep your focus on The King! Don’t look away today, stay on Jesus and then walk in His light!