Category Archives: Christian Living

The New Birth

A new friend of mine, an elderly gentleman I would guess around age 80, has become quite the center of focus for my prayer life.  You see, he’s not a believer, and would probably fall into the category somewhere between agnostic and atheist, though leaning more to unsure belief.  To ask him, he would put his hand up, drop it down in an “axe” like motion to signify the middle of the road, not believing in God or the devil, but content to straddle the fence.  Despite these beliefs, he recognizes the difference between good and evil in his life and can point towards an event that ended the “old life” and created a “new birth” so to speak.  The only problem is that this event was a stroke and not a conversion through the blood of Jesus.

This really has me thinking, first on how can I evangelize to a man that seems so content on his beliefs and life that any eternal decision is not welcome change.  Secondly, it has me thinking about a true “new birth” and what that signifies in a person’s life.  While my new friend recognizes a change in his life from evil to good, that evil is still a part of his life and he has never been cleansed from it.  To my knowledge there’s been no confession or repentance to Christ.  The Bible tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  I John 1:9  Despite the stroke that might make him feel a greater sense of moral conscience, it has not cleansed him from unrighteousness.

Jesus tells us in John 3:7, “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.'”  This new birth, along with justification, are fundamental doctrines of Christianity.  As John Wesley would say, the latter represents that great work which God does for us in forgiving our sins, while the former relates to the work that God does in us, renewing our fallen nature.  Mr. Wesley continues along this thought, “In order of time, neither of these is before the other.  In the redemption that is in Jesus, we are also ‘born of the Spirit.’  But in order of thinking, as it is termed, justification precedes the new birth.  We first conceive His wrath to be turned away and then His Spirit to work in our hearts.”

These two fundamental truths bring forth 3 questions, questions that would apply to my new friend.  One, Why must we be born again?; secondly, How must we be born again?; thirdly, For what purpose must we be born again?.  To answer the first question, we must understand some basic principles.  Man was created in the image of God.  Genesis 1:27 This was a wholly perfect and moral image.  The problem came about from the original sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden.  From that point forward, each of us was born into sin.  Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”  Additionally, we’re taught in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.  Because we are born into sin, we are spiritually dead and as such each of us require a new birth, or to be born again.

The second question is a bit more delicate.  Jesus, talking to Nicodemus in John 3, says, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” John 3:3  Understandably, Nicodemus replies, “”How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” John 3:4 Masterfully, “Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  To realize the “how” to be born again, we must first recognize the “why” from the first question and that is that we are sinful in nature.  As we learned in I John 1:9, we must confess those sins to God.  Likewise, we must realize the truth that God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for those sins. John 3:16 With His death, burial, and resurrection, our sins, our sinful nature, died and was buried; we too were raised to walk in newness of life and are spiritually “born again.” Romans 6:4 If we faithfully believe these truths and ask Christ to come into our hearts as our Lord and Savior, then God will provide us the Holy Spirit to begin our new life.

Now the final question, For what purpose must we be born again?  As soon as a person is born of God, just as a baby is born, their eyes are open to see God, their ears open to hear Him.  “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” Ephesians 1:18 Having these new spiritual senses, our life changes in such a way that we are now able to see God’s purpose in our lives.  This rebirth gives forth the Holy Spirit to live within us and as such to grow in Christ and reflect the fruits of the Spirit, “… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25 God’s purpose in our lives, the purpose for our rebirth, goes all the way back to Adam being created in the image of God, to be holy.  That’s it.  You don’t need a “purpose driven” book or a search for the meaning of life.  It’s that simple, “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” I Peter 1:15-16 Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

So what about my new friend?  For him to realize, just like you, God’s purpose in his life, he must recognize why he must be born again, because he is a sinner Romans 6:23; he must know how to be born again by confessing his sins to God, believing in the name of His Son Jesus and in His death, burial, and resurrection for his sins and then to call on the name of the Lord Jesus to enter his heart as Savior I John 1:9 Romans 3:23 Romans 5:8 Romans 6:23 Romans 10:13 ; and finally, he must know the purpose of being born again, to live holy.  Ephesians 4:24 Romans 6:1-2

Please pray for my friend, as I pray for you, that the Holy Spirit will continue to work and that these truths will be revealed.

Have a Blessed Day!

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

Victory in the Lord

On this day, Good Friday, let us remember the reason for this Easter weekend, that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world, past, present, and future.  He died for my disgraceful sins over 2000 years ago, so that I might have an opportunity for eternal life and cleansing from those sins, if I only believe in Him.  Think about that, that God loved us so much that He gave up His Son to die on the cross for our sins.  Just as John 3:16 KJV says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  We’ve all seen that verse on signs at ballgames, but do we stop to think about what it means?  God so loved the world, everyone from Adam to you reading this and me writing and all those in between, Everyone, that His Son died on the cross with our sins on his shoulders on this day.  To think that my sins helped drive the nails into His hands and feet is just heartbreaking, but to know that He was willing to undergo all of that for me, despite my sins, gives me more hope than anything ever could.

In Romans 6:23 we learn that “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  This death is a spiritual death, because sooner or later we will all die physically.  But aren’t you thankful that on this Good Friday we were given the gift of God through His Son Jesus, so that we might not die that spiritual death, but have everlasting life.

It’s really easy for us to get caught up in the marketing of the Easter holiday, with the chocolate bunnies, eggs, baskets, etc.  But the real celebration lies in the resurrection of Jesus, His victory over death, and His burial of our sins with His fleshly body.  As we read in I Corinthians 15:3-5, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.”

If there’s any one of you who are unsure of what would happen if you died today, there’s hope for you too.  All of us have sinned Romans 3:23, so as Christians our sinfulness is no different from yours.  The difference is we’ve been cleansed from our sins through the bloodshed of Jesus on the cross, because we believe that He died for those sins.  That’s all it takes for you too.  If you’re uncertain, you can be certain, by just believing.

If you want that freedom from sin and to know that you have eternal life, just pray something similar to the following:

Dear Lord, I’m a sinner.  I recognize that as a sinner I’m not worthy of your mercy and grace.  But I believe that Your Son Jesus died on the cross for my sins and I believe that He rose again.  I ask now Lord for Jesus to come into my heart and forgive me of my sins and I accept Him as my Lord and Savior.

In Jesus name, Amen.

If you sincerely prayed then that’s all it takes to begin your life with Jesus.  If you prayed that prayer, I want to challenge you to begin reading the Bible so that you might nourish the seed that’s been planted.  I would encourage you to begin with the gospels, in Matthew.  If you don’t have a Bible, email me your name and address and I will send you one for free.

Have a blessed day!!

Your Roadmap to Financial Freedom

Proverbs 22:7 ESV “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”

Ouch, that one stings a little bit doesn’t it?  The borrower is the slave of the lender.  Maybe if more of our government leaders spent more time reading their Bible’s we could avoid some of our current financial misfortunes.  On the macro scale, this verse applies to our own country, continually borrowing to prop up a faltering economy.  But it’s like building a 3-legged stool and one of the legs is made from balsa wood.  You know, that really light, really breakable wood used in model airplanes.  How much weight do you think that could support?  The point here is our government is violating every basic economic principle and there’s no end in sight.  We can’t continue to borrow money and increase our debt exponentially in the hopes that it will return a profit.  It’s like borrowing $100, getting charged $30, in the hopes to make $50.  In what world does that remotely sound like a good idea?  But we just keep it up, borrowing more, spending more.  Just yesterday Congress passed a $3.5 Trillion (with a T) dollar budget.  Now let me ask you, if we’ve already had Trillions (with a T again) of dollars in bailouts and stimulus, wouldn’t it be a smart idea to tighten up the annual budget, instead of increasing it by 10% over last years budget?  I mean, I’m just saying….

There’s nothing anyone can say or do to make those in Washington understand these principles, but the truth is the government’s financial management is really no different than our own household finances, though on a micro level.  Would anyone reading this actually go borrow money on your credit card, with 20% interest, to pay your house payment?  Ok, don’t answer that, but if you did, you’d lose money on both ends of the transaction.  When you borrow money, you literally become slave to the lender.  Just look at all of the foreclosures that took place over the last year.  Continual borrowing is crippling.  But here’s where we need a plan.  A plan to relinquish the grasp of the lender, to no longer be their servant, nor to have money be our master.  If you follow these basic steps, you’ll be on your way to financial freedom and become a better steward of God’s blessings, instead of viewing your financial situation as a curse.  Ready?

Ok, first things first, I am not a financial expert, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express.  This is just my take on a few principles that I’ve read over the years and have used in my own life.  I’ll be honest, a lot of them come from the principles of Dave Ramsey, though the plan below has some of my thoughts built in.  Like him or not, his principles are on the money, pun intended.  The first thing you need to do in this process is take out a sheet of notebook paper (or use a spreadsheet).  At the top, list all of your take-home income (i.e. after taxes); we’ll assume here that taxes, healthcare/insurance, retirement, etc. have already been taken out.  If not, you’ll need to account for them later.  Next, list all of your debts, smallest to largest.  This includes house payment, car payment, credit cards, student loans, any outstanding debts.  Then list your utility bills followed by an estimate of your additional monthly expenses (if your insurance is not taken directly out of your check, account for it here).  This is how much you spend on groceries, gas, medicines, things that you need in your daily life.  This DOES NOT include movies, going out to eat, buying music, iPods, video games, etc. those are not necessities, those are luxuries and we’ll make a spot for them later.  In my opinion, I think you should also include your tithing here.  If you make it a priority early on and include it in your budget, you’ll be less likely to forget or omit it later on. 

Ok, so now add up all of your expenses, I’ll wait here….Got it?  If this sum is larger than your take home income listed at the top of your page, congratulations, you’re now eligible to run for Congress and you have a spending problem.  My Rule of Thumb #1: If your car payment is greater than about $300 or if it’s greater than about 10-12% of your monthly take home pay, what were you thinking?  It’s time to sell it.  My Rule of Thumb #2: If your house payment is greater than 30% (though Dave Ramsey prefers 25%) of your take home pay, you fell for the Housing trap and there’s no bailout coming for you.  This probably means you are house-poor and either need to put it on the market, reduce spending in other areas to compensate, or get another job.  Hey don’t get mad at me, I’m just trying to help. 

If you haven’t violated either of those rules of thumb and your expenses still outweigh your income, then obviously you either have too much outgoing debt, or you don’t have enough income.  Convincing a lender to cancel or reduce your debt will probably prove to be a difficult or sometimes futile exercise, so you may have no choice but to get a second job to get ahead.  To recap, in order to get your monthly income to be greater than your monthly expenses 1) Reduce your car payment by going with a cheaper, reliable used car. 2) Reduce your house payment.  I realize this might be difficult, but sometimes to get ahead, we have to take a step backwards. 3) A part-time job might be the only other option to get ahead. 

Once you’re at the point of [Income greater than Expenses], you’re making progress and you can now begin working towards financial freedom.  Your next critical step is to save up $1000 towards an emergency fund, or as our grandparents used to say a “rainy day” fund.  And let’s face it, the skies are looking pretty dark about now.  The focus is on funding this emergency fund as soon as possible.  To do this, take the remaining balance from Income – Expenses = Allocate to Emergency Fund.  Easy enough so far, right?  After this is funded with $1000, you’ve got a small security blanket and you can start focusing on your debt.  Remember those debts that were listed smallest to largest?  You now need to take the monthly amount that was going to your emergency fund and start applying it to your smallest debt, until it is paid off. 

Example: It took you 5 months to save the $1000, by setting aside $200/month.  You listed your smallest debt as a $5000 credit card with a minimum payment of $80/month.  Using the above strategies, you were able to pay $200 a month extra and were able to pay it off.  Your second lowest bill was $8000 remaining on a car loan with a payment of $250/month.  Now you have an additional $280 to apply towards it for a total of $530/month!  Continue this method until all of your debts are paid off, except your house (this comes a few steps later).  Dave Ramsey calls this, the “Snowball Effect” because as you can see, once debts become paid off, the amount you pay on your next debt increases with each payoff. 

The important thing to remember when listing your income and then subtracting monthly expenses, is to make sure that every dollar is accounted for.  It’s ok to create small allotments for movies and an occasional dinner out, but if your focus is on paying off debt, these need to be limited early on.  Once you get your debt under control, you’ll be surprised at the freedom you’ll feel and how you’ll be able to experience God’s financial blessings.  Sometimes dealing with finances can be a bit confusing and overwhelming.  I highly recommend attending the course entitled Financial Peace, developed by Dave Ramsey, or at least purchasing the CDs.  To see the rest of this plan (without my opinions), including a 3-6 month emergency fund, paying off your house, investing, and giving, see Dave’s book The Total Money Makeover.  I’ve included the link to below. 

“Live like no one else, so you can Give like no one else” – Dave Ramsey