California’s Wounds and the Christian’s Willingness

Our state is hurting. From north to south, its deep wounds are gushing blood of fire and bullets. It desperately needs the healing touch of God; it needs a new heart. From where can such a healing touch come? Through whom will Jesus bring His restoring gospel? There is only one entity on earth that can be the delivery vehicle for such a thing–The Church of Jesus Christ.

I believe the more we as Christians become committed to fulfilling our mandate and mission to preach the gospel and make disciples, the less we will have to turn to the government to curb the evil actions brought forth from the human heart. Change people’s hearts, and you will need less gun control. Change people’s hearts, and abortion clinics will shut down due to lack of business. Change people’s hearts, and their identity in Christ will speak louder than their raging sexual confusion. Change people’s hearts, and our schools will become safer places for our children’s hearts and minds. Change people’s hearts, and the ”least of these” will be compassionately served. Sometimes I wonder if we as Christians in America hide behind political curtains because if we were exposed and naked, having to stand on our own, we would have to face how weak, apathetic, selfish, and powerless we’ve become. It’s easier to blame a political party than it is to pick up the torch of Christ and offer oneself as a living sacrifice to carry that torch courageously into the darkness.

Church, please don’t misunderstand me; as long as there is wickedness in the world, we will need government; and until Christ returns, there will always be wickedness in the world. Government is an institution that has been established by God to punish evil and praise good (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2). As citizens of heaven and temporary citizens of this nation, we should do all we can to ensure that the government we elect is an ethical, moral, and upright one. As best we can in this broken system, we should vote our biblical worldview, run for political offices, and be active, godly citizens. In the process of doing these things, we must be careful not to redirect our trust from God to government or forfeit our true spiritual identity and call! It is the church, not the government that is called to be, ”The pillar and ground of the truth.” Let’s arise, take up our crosses, and live radical faith-filled lives. We, as Christ’s ambassadors, have a divinely granted opportunity here and now to change our communities one life at a time.

Thoughts on Leaving California #CalExit

I offer this post very thoughtfully, graciously, and without any judgment. I’ve heard a lot of talk about #CalExit and leaving the state of California due to our progressive political atmosphere, liberal state leadership, and flailing moral climate. I understand the inner turmoil. These things break my heart as well, but I don’t believe they are good, biblical reasons to leave. The only reason you or I should ever move to one place and leave another is if God calls us to do so for His Kingdom purposes. Let us not forget the words of Paul to the Philippians. He writes, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” Those examples of faith in Hebrews 11, “Acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” We are told that Abraham, “Lived in the land of promise as in a foreign land… For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” This sinful world, in its fallen state, cannot and should not ever feel like our permanent home. The best city, our eternal home, is yet to come. Until then, we as followers of Christ have to resolve to be a beacon of His hope and truth wherever He calls us.

If, after diligently seeking His face, God calls you to leave California, by all means, go by faith. If not, don’t allow your desire for worldly comfort and security to dictate your actions. Rather, become a missionary and stay. There is much need for the “salt and light” to continue its work in this state.

Like the pilgrims of old, there might come a day when we have to legitimately flee in order to protect our lives so that we can continue to carry the gospel to the world. Paul the apostle had to do this on several occasions as well. I think it’s safe to say we aren’t at that point yet. So, before you pack up and move to the state of Utopia or the garden of Eden, remember that the world is merely your temporary address, not your permanent home. Go or stay based not on your personal or political preferences, but on the leading of the Holy Spirit for the glory of Jesus Christ and His kingdom. #CalShine

Vote in Jesus Name

The Bible conveys an interesting principle for believers. Our lives are to be full of decisions and actions that are carried out, “In Jesus name.” What’s in a name? Well, when it comes to Jesus, just about everything. When I do something in Jesus name, I’m declaring that I’m reflecting His character, communicating His heart, and expressing His will. To the Colossians, Paul the Apostle writes, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Notice it’s not just big things we do, but all things. Jesus even told us that sharing a cup of water in His name with someone who’s thirsty goes down in heaven’s record books.

What does this have to do with voting? I believe that if Jesus cares about water, he cares about your vote. As a Christian, when you vote with the name of Jesus attached to it, the policies you’re voting for or against do matter. I could wax philosophical right here, but instead, I’ll get right down to the practical. I’m going to give you a few reasons why I believe the Bible calls the American Christian to actively and prayerfully participate in the process of choosing their leaders and laws.

1.) It’s a matter of good stewardship – “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”

In writing these words, Paul was speaking about the great weight of responsibility he had as an Apostle and ambassador for Christ. Paul wanted to be faithful to steward his ministry in a way that honored the Lord, but the principle of stewardship applies to all that God has entrusted to us. It’s safe to say that in America, God has made us stewards of some of the greatest gifts ever granted to a nation in the history of the world: Liberty and freedom. These are things that must be nurtured by righteousness. I love what author and Christian philosopher Ravi Zacharias wrote,

“Democracies that are unhinged from all sacred moorings ultimately sink under the brute weight of conflicting egos. Freedom is destroyed not only by its retraction; it is also devastated by its abuse.”

Please ask a persecuted Christian in an underground church in North Korea what they would do if God granted them the opportunity to have a voice in choosing their political authorities and governing laws. Oh wait, you can’t because they don’t. I think their answer might be something like, “The Lord has been faithful through the trials, and our faith is in Christ… now, where’s the nearest ballot box?” Don’t forget that Jesus told us, “To whom much is given, of him much will be required.” Simply put, we should vote because we can. Your vote is not the gospel, but that doesn’t mean God is indifferent toward how you use it.

2.) Because godly leadership is a blessing for everyone – “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” (Proverbs 29:22)

Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, had some good advice for his son-in-law when choosing leaders for the people of Israel. In Exodus 18 he says, “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” Certainly good and godly advice! “But Josh,” you say, “we don’t always get the opportunity to vote for a righteous person, so why vote at all?” You might be right! We might not always have the cream of the crop to choose from, but our options are probably better than Emporer Nero. Think of it this way. All your bananas might be too ripe to enjoy on their own, but you can still make delicious banana bread. If you can’t find a righteous person, vote for the most biblical policies out of the ones represented. Please do the hard work of looking at the policies of parties and candidates, asking, “How do these things fall in line with what matters to God?”

3.) Righteous laws are necessary in a sinful world – “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine…” (1 Timothy 1:8-10)

Where wickedness exists, the gospel is needed, where the gospel is rejected, justice is required. Proverbs 14 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Righteous laws protect a nation from implosion and keep it from heaping judgment upon itself. They also protect the nation’s citizens. As Christians, we should keep in mind that we have an opportunity to speak into the laws that govern our society. The closer those laws can look to the standards of God, the better off our nation will be. I love these words from John Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the 2nd president of the United States. He penned,

“It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”

4.) It’s an opportunity to shine the truth – “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” (Matthew 5:13-15)

The most significant light we have is the light of Jesus within us. This light is the truth of His gospel and salvation and His love and mercy, but it is also the truth of God’s righteousness and holiness (Romans 1:18). Consider the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit calls people to Christ, but he does so by convicting them of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). As Christians, filled with this same Holy Spirit, the political policies we champion ought to reflect both God’s love and God’s righteousness. In Ephesians 5, Paul strongly commands the Christian, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.” This command is not a call to a witch hunt, nor is it a call to be merciless. It’s not an encouragement to get bogged down in unprofitable arguments and political mire. The Christian’s life, when walking in the Spirit, should naturally expose the darkness that surrounds it. The light of God in the Christian can expose the darkness of the LGBTQ lifestyle while welcoming the individuals within that lifestyle to find a new identity and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. The light of God will reveal the barbaric nature of elective abortions while offering the most authentic source of healing and help for those who have failed. The light of Christ will expose corruption while walking in sincerity and truth. The light of God will expose injustice and hypocrisy, all while maintaining humility.

Let’s face it, there is no “perfect” way to vote as a Christian, maybe not even a “best way” to vote, but I believe there is a “better way” to vote. The question one must ask themselves when voting is, “Is my vote shining more light or excusing more darkness?” Every human politician and political party will do something unrighteous, and one day they will have to take responsibility and answer before God. For the Christian, we are responsible for shining how we can, while we can. I cannot personally stomach the thought of standing before God having not done what I could do to speak out against the senseless murders of nearly 1,000,000 babies every year, or the rampant sexual immorality that our society exposes our children to and treats as something to celebrate. Neither can I have a clear conscience about doing nothing to mercifully help those who suffer from sin and need the grace of God in their lives. “Josh, but what about the poor people?” Generously help and care for them in Jesus name. “What about the alien and immigrant?” Love them and give them Jesus. I don’t need a politician to do for me the things I should be doing as a Christian, but I do need a politician to help curb nationwide abortion and to help protect my children against the glorification of sexual perversion in our culture. I can feed the poor, but I can’t shut down an abortion clinic. I can cross comfortable boundaries and reach out to those I disagree with in love, but I can’t keep schools from forcing secularized agendas onto my children. That’s what my vote is for. Of course, there are more issues than the ones I’ve identified. I have personal opinions on many political issues, but the issues addressed in this article are issues that move beyond politics. This is about righteousness and unrighteousness, and what we support or excuse as Christians who want to be godly citizens.

Yes, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I am encouraging a Republican vote this November. I don’t do so because I believe the Republican platform is without error. Neither is it a sweeping declaration of hate toward Democrats or an assumption that they are all wicked people. “Republican” is not my identifier in this world. Above all else, I am a Christian. I see though, with a Republican vote, the most hopeful chance to right some of the most horrific wrongs brought about by people in this generation. “Josh, I’m going to vote for Jesus!” It’s a nice sentiment, but Jesus isn’t running for office. He’s already the King. Unfortunately, we live in a world that has not accepted His kingship, so until He returns, we must do what we can to preach the gospel and stand for His righteousness. This November, vote in Jesus name.

Here are the links to the party platforms as well as the California Gubernatorial candidate’s agendas:

Charisma and Truth

Charisma and confidence can often be the masks under which a lie masquerades as the truth. The sincerity of a communicator cannot establish truth, for truth is rooted, not in a person’s passion, but in unchanging absolutes. We are often drawn to believe an idea based on the confidence and conviction of the person conveying it, but we must remember that while charisma can beautify the truth, It can never define it. Let us always attempt to bring our ideas, convictions, and passions under the authority of God’s Word before we are drawn away by the loudest and most convincing human voices.

Jhn 17:17 NKJV – 17 “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

An Exhortation on Sexual Sin

As a society, we have minimized the horrific nature of sexual perversion and its long-lasting, damaging effects. Our culture sells sex at every mall and billboard; on every big screen and small screen alike. We romanticize evil and inundate vulnerable young minds with false sexual identities, harmful sexual practices, and sexually charged media, then stand aghast when sexual perversion, misconduct, and abuse mark our society.

The Bible is clear that God takes sex seriously, and He takes sexual crimes which defraud our fellow human beings even more seriously (see scripture below). Knowing this, its time to take our battle against the enemy in this arena seriously. Parents, guard the gates of your children’s hearts and appropriately instruct them with God’s word. Men and women, keep your heart with all diligence. Keep your eyes pure, which are the gateway into your mind and soul. Keep your body and its lusts under control by walking in the Spirit. Sexual sin is not just against God and others, but it is also a grievous offense against one’s self. God save us from this perverse generation!

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 – It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

J​oy in Obedience

As I’ve been reading again through the book of Joshua, I was struck by one observation and declaration made by the author. It’s found in chapter 12 right after the tribal allotments of the land were solidified. It simply reads, “Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.”

What God said He would do, He did.

He made good on His word. 

He didn’t forget or forsake one single promise.

The reading of this verse brings great hope and comfort, but the realities that took place after this verse leave questions. From this point on, all throughout the periods of the Judges, the promised land changed hands several times. Israel experienced loss and defeat. To this day, they don’t possess all of the land that God promised. So, did God keep His promise of not?

The short answer is yes, of course, He did. There was a specific moment in time when God delivered to the children of Israel all the land that He promised. The problem? While God kept His end of the bargain, the people neglected theirs. God delivered to them the land of promise, but the people failed to keep their promise to drive out every enemy from the land, which brought forth trouble in future days. There were also seasons of disobedience that brought forth needed judgment from God as well as certain natural consequences. The point is short and straightforward.

Israel’s problems were not a result of neglect on God’s part, but disobedience on theirs.

I think there are some valuable principles here we can glean from today. In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us that every promise of God in Christ is, “Yes and Amen.” Every promise of the New Covenant has been confirmed in Jesus. God has been and will be faithful to deliver those promises in full. While every promise is ours in Christ, I believe that our enjoyment and experience of those promises is often dependent on our obedience to walk fully in them by faith.

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A Dying Pastor

A fellow pastor is dying.

I just got word of a young, fellow senior pastor who tried to commit suicide on Friday. His fate is still unclear as he is on life support. This breaks my heart for so many reasons. I don’t know the source of this man’s pain or the reasons for his actions, but it has brought to mind something that I have been long burdened by.

Our culture has created a celebrity pastor model that no human being can effectively measure up to. Christian, please remember that your pastors are just people. They too are sheep that are part of the same flock as you. They are men who are being sanctified and are doing their best, by God’s grace, to shepherd the flock of God and be an honorable example of Jesus. Unfortunately, pastors also make human mistakes. They fight with their spouse, they aren’t always great fathers, they battle with temptation and pride… and they are afraid of vulnerability. They fear being eaten alive by the sheep if they disappoint them in any way. Instead of dealing with the criticisms of nonunderstanding people, they instead put on a face and press through their struggle… alone and isolated. This is unhealthy and often ends in tragedy. I’m not excusing the blatant sin of some pastors, hypocrisy from the pulpit, or the responsibility of a pastor to be honest and maintain his integrity. There are certainly high biblical standards for the office of overseer that must be taken seriously. I will say, however, that the celebrity culture and human expectations that have been laid upon pastors today are heavier than what many are able to carry.

If we are honest, we can clearly see that there has been an unbiblical precedent set for today’s ministers. Yes, pastors need to take heed to their character and doctrine, but people need to pray for, support, submit to, and show grace toward their pastors. As a pastor, it’s time to speak up. Not merely for my own sake, but for the sake of those who have given their lives to the calling of leading, teaching, and shepherding God’s people. It’s a hard job and not for the faint of heart. There are unspoken battles, intense spiritual warfare, and unbelievable mental and emotional weights that every pastor carries. The culture has to change both internally within a pastors heart, and externally within our churches.

Instead of idolizing your pastor, support him. Instead of criticizing his every move, pray for him. Instead of demanding from him, empathize with Him. Instead of assuming the worst, have a conversation with him. And to my fellow pastors, don’t hide in the shadows. You need accountability, and you need friends. Face it, you need the body of Christ just as much as they need you.

Fellow Christians, please join me in praying for and encouraging your pastors as I also pray for the pastors in my life. And please pray for this young pastor, his wife, and his three children. If you made it this far, I ask you to share this and help encourage pastors everywhere. #Pray4Pastors