Wednesday, October 4, 2017
“The Vegas shooting: Not an excuse but maybe an explanation - Hurt People Hurt People.”
Everyone is asking, “How could someone kill all these people and then kill himself?” No doubt only God knows. This question is so complex that even the most trained psychologists may not be able to provide a satisfying answer. However, I want to offer some possible answers, and once again, God’s Word helps us.
In Mark 5 Jesus encounters a man who is so troubled, demonized, and harmful to self and others that he was living in the tombs, cutting himself, overcome with mental and emotional anguish, and even exhibiting supernatural strength such that he could break free from chains. This oppressed man likely hated himself and others, and would have today been diagnosed with all kinds of mental, social, psychological, and spiritual disorders. Had he gone to a doctor, he would have been put on all kinds of medications, and they might have helped. But Jesus loved him and did something to him no one else could do. Jesus sets him free by casting the many demons out of him and into a herd of pigs to be drowned. A side note: it is good this didn’t happen today or Jesus would have likely been arrested by the animal rights’ people for animal abuse. Anyway, after this amazing act of love and power by Jesus, the troubled man was set free, clothed and in his right mind. We see in this story how Jesus did indeed come to set the captives free. The Good News is that Jesus is more powerful than Satan and still does this today, for those who call upon Him for help and deliverance.
I see a lot of similarities between the demonized man in Mark 4 and the Las Vegas shooter. I am not even going to mention his name because I am opposed to giving him any more attention. I offer the following possibilities to the Vegas shooting:
1. His father was a very sinful and sick man (i.e., bankrobber). The bible says, “The sins of the forefathers are carried to the 3rd and 4th generation.”
2. He probably never received much love. Those who don’t feel love have a hard time giving love.
3. He was a loner and thus more susceptible to the lies of the enemy.
4. He mistreated his girlfriend, and this often has roots in self-hatred.
5. He was likely very bitter at others and life, and this makes someone want to hurt others. Hurt people hurt people. “The wages of sin is death.”
6. He was looking for life and meaning in all the wrong places: money, gambling, and sex. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
7. He likely had a very poor self-image, and at the core hated himself and thus hated others. Hurt people hurt people.
8. His mental and emotional pain likely made him want to put that same pain on others. “They might as well suffer like I am. I sure can’t stand to see all these thousands of happy people at a concert. They don’t deserve to be happy while I am in misery.” Satan will indeed feed people lies like this to lead them to “steal, kill and destroy.”
9. Therefore, once he decided to end his own life, he figured he might as well take down others with him. Hurt people hurt people.
10. As sick as this is to all people of sound mind, he may also have wanted to do something that would put his picture before the whole world to somehow validate his worth. This is why I am personally opposed to the news showing the picture of people who do such things.
11. John 10:10 says, “Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy.” Satan is ultimately behind all acts of evil like this. One thing I am certain of: this man was clearly demonized at a very severe level, likely at the level of the demonized man in Mark 5.
The good news in the midst of this horrible tragedy is the rest of John 10:10, “But I (Jesus) have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” The love and power of Jesus can transform not only a person like this, but anyone who is hurting.
I may be off in some of the explanations, but I am not off in the solution. Whatever is hurting and troubling you today, Jesus wants to help you. He loves you; He created you; He died for you; and He rose again for you. Turn to Him with whatever pain you have. He can do for you what no one else or nothing else can do. He came to set the captives free. I just wish this man had turned to Jesus. A lot more people would be living today had He done that.
Friday, February 3, 2017
I discourage our congregation from talking about politics or sport’s events at church functions. Why is this?
1. Our purpose for coming together is to focus on Jesus and what is eternal, and these things are very temporal.
2. These topics can easily become divisive.
3. God’s Word says to be “diligent to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3), and I think this approach helps do just that.
4. Jesus prayed that we would be one in Him (John 17), and that this unity would make a powerful statement to a watching world. Our unity is in Jesus and not in some political party or loyalty to the same football team.
5. We are commanded to build up one another in love, not to build up one another based on athletics or politics.
6. Our country is so divided right now when it comes to politics, and when visitors come to our church, I want them to hear us excited about what God is doing in our lives. “Fix your eyes on Jesus” (Hebr. 12).
7. Hopefully we attract all kinds of people: Republican, Democrat, Independent, Bulldawgs, Gators, Yellow Jackets, etc. I don’t want people who visit our church to think that Living Hope is more about one of these labels than about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
8. Particularly with political issues, there are always different perspectives on various issues, and in the limited time we have at church, the discussion will likely not be fruitful. If people want to get together and discuss such issues outside of church functions, I actually encourage this, as it could be mutually enlightening, especially if they disagree at the outset. So as you can see, I am not at all saying we should not talk about these things. But I am saying there is a time and a place for such discussions. And I would suggest a “policy” of sorts that whenever we speak about political issues, we stop and pray for our leaders before going our own way (see 1 Tim. 2:1-4).
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Pastor David Holt (with input from Dr. Rich Suplita and Jarrett Fletcher)
Recently I saw someone’s Facebook post that said, “Converted to Cultural Christianity in 2011, but truly surrendered my life to Christ in 2014.” This got me thinking. There is a big difference in becoming a “Cultural Christian” and a true follower of Jesus. What is the difference?
1. A cultural Christian logically believes in God and Jesus, but a true follower of Jesus is wholeheartedly trusting in Christ alone for salvation. “You believe God is one? You do well. The demons also believe and shudder” (James 2:19).
2. A cultural Christian gives lip service to being a Christian, but a true follower of Jesus repents of his sin and surrenders control of his life to Christ. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father” (Mt. 7:21).
3. A cultural Christian goes to church and agrees with most of what is said, but a true follower of Jesus attends church to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. “You honor Me with your lips but your heart is far from Me” (Mk. 7:6)
4. A cultural Christian talks only of trivial things with others, but a true follower of Jesus engages in genuine fellowship with others in the body. “Let us consider how we might spur one another on to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together” (Hebr. 10:24).
5. A cultural Christian may devote a few activities to God each week, but a true follower of Jesus seeks to live everyday for God. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lu. 9:23).
6. A cultural Christian avoids the big sins for fear of embarrassment, but a true follower of Jesus is genuinely seeking to live a holy life in word and deed. “You shall be holy for I am holy” (1 Pe. 1:16).
7. A cultural Christian enjoys his sin more than God, but a true disciple of Jesus repents of his sin and wants to obey God. “For I have the desire to do what is right” (Rom. 7:18).
8. A cultural Christian strays from God but does not feel convicted, but if a true disciple strays from God he comes under loving discipline. “The Lord disciplines those whom He loves …. And if you are without discipline, you are an illegitimate child and not a true son” (Hebr. 12:6-8).
9. A cultural Christian is religious and does religious activities, but a true follower of Jesus has a real and growing relationship with God. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Mt. 23:27).
10. A cultural Christian stencils Bible verses on their walls (or Facebook) so that they might impress their church-going friends, but a true disciple hides the Word of God in his heart so that he might not sin against His Savior. “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11).
11. A cultural Christian seeks God for the things he wants, but a genuine Christian seeks God for the things He wants. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mt. 6:33).
12. A cultural Christian focuses only on the attributes of God he likes, but a true Christ-follower worships God for all of His attributes, even the ones he is uncomfortable with. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son … whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already” (Jn. 3:16-18).
13. A cultural Christian prays before meals, or in times of need, but a true disciple seeks God daily in prayer as a necessary aspect of his communion with His Creator. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).
14. A cultural Christian asks, "How can Christianity make my life better?" but a true disciple asks, "How can I die to myself that Christ may live in and through me?" “That I may know Him, the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death” (Phil. 3:10).
15. A cultural Christian will give a nod of affirmation to the Gospel going forth in socially-acceptable, non-offensive ways, but a true disciple will get behind the Gospel going forth even when it offends the world and personally costs him. “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16).
16. A cultural Christian will routinely spend hours in front of Netflix, shopping, or watching a sports’ event, but cannot tell you when the last time he spent more than an hour earnestly seeking God in the Word and prayer. “Faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:26).
This list is by no means exhaustive, but perhaps in it you recognize that you may be a cultural Christian but not have a genuine relationship with Christ. If that is the case, or if you have any doubt as to your true salvation, take time to allow God to search your heart. Consider the following questions as you search your heart:
a. Do you admit that you sin and do things that displease God?
b. Do you believe in your heart that Jesus died and rose again for your sin?
c. Are you willing to turn your sin over to God and allow Him to change you from the inside out?
d. Do you want Jesus to be your Savior and Lord?
e. Are you willing to pray and invite Him to come into your life and take control of your life?
If you answered “yes” to each of these, here is a suggested prayer to pray:
“Lord God, I admit that I have sinned against you. I have been living more for me than for You. I believe that Jesus died and rose again for my sin. I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead (Rom. 10:9). I turn from my sin and receive Jesus into my life. Take control of my life and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Empower me to live for You. Thank you for doing this. Amen.”
If you truly prayed that from your heart, please let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The next thing to do is be baptized, as this will seal that commitment you have made. Let me know if I can help you in any way, or if you have any questions.
Monday, January 16, 2017
Are you growing in your walk with God? Are you going deeper with the Lord? Are you progressing from a child to a young man to a father (see 1 John 2:12-14)?
God wants all of us to be going deeper. We are to move from just drinking milk to eating meat (Hebrews 5). We are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ” (2 Pe. 3:18). As we “behold the glory of God” the Spirit will transform us from “one degree of glory to another” (1 Pe. 3:18). Are you experiencing this?
So many Christians are either stagnant in their walk, or just plain lazy when it comes to doing what is needed to grow. I actually think that if someone is not growing, and doesn’t desire to grow, they may not be saved. If the Spirit of God is truly living in someone, He will be working “both to will and to do for God’s good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Furthermore, if a supposed Christian is living in sin, and not repenting, or being disciplined for that sin, they also may not be truly saved because Hebrews 12 says that God disciplines those who are His children, and if someone is not disciplined then they are an illegitimate child and not a true son. Ouch. Better consider that carefully if it applies to you.
One of the ways we grow is through suffering. This is not fun, and we all wish it were not so, but it is. Therefore, when hard times come, we need to press in to God. For it is in those hard times that we often grow the most, because “in our weakness is His power made perfect” (2 Cor. 12).
To learn more about God’s call for us to go deeper in Him, the stages of growth, and how suffering produces Godly character, check out my 3 sermons on “DEEPER” at
http://www.livinghopeathens.org/category/sermons/. Ask God to give you a greater hunger to go deeper with Him.
Friday, November 11, 2016
With this crazy election over, now what? People’s reactions vary from depression to rioting to celebrating. It has been a long time since our nation has been so divided. Here is my perspective:
1. God is still on His throne and in total control!
He has not become any less sovereign! He raises up one and puts down another. He ultimately decides the election results, and we may or may not know the reasons. We are responsible now for how we respond, and not for who is in office.
2. We are not commanded to like who is in office, but we are commanded to pray for those in office.
I have already been praying for President-elect Trump to have wisdom in selecting his cabinet, and for his salvation. Wouldn’t it be awesome if he became a devoted Christ-follower, exhibited by true humility and dependence on God? The whole world would see the difference in his life!!
3. I am actually hopeful for our nation for the following reasons, and bear with me here because I know some of you don’t like Trump.
Let me say this loud and clear: I have major concerns about Trump’s character and the Bible is clear that “pride comes before the fall” so I really hope he doesn’t fall due to his obvious pride. However, here is what I am encouraged about:
a. Trump seems to be surrounding himself with some really good people, such as his running mate Pence, Dr. Ben Carson, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, etc. I am hopeful these people will help to keep him in check and provide biblically sound input.
b. Trump has said he will appoint strong constitutionalists to the Supreme Court, and pro-lifers! The Bible says “righteousness exalts a nation” and we have definitely been walking in unrighteousness by killing so many babies through abortion. I realize you cannot ultimate legislate individual morality, but we most certainly should have legislation that aligns with biblical morals, and abortion is murder. We have been worthy of God’s judgment for years for the sin of abortion, and if we can turn that one around, it would please God. No doubt in my mind about this. Personally I could not vote for Hillary for the abortion reason alone, though there were many other concerns as well.
c. Trump has said he will protect religious liberty, and this is long overdue. Our religious freedoms have been under attack for years, and hopefully we will begin to get back to what our Founding Fathers wanted for this great nation, and that is the freedom to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The whole “separation of church and state” has been twisted to mean something it was never intended to mean. It was to keep the state out of the church, and never meant to keep the church out of the state. The Founders wanted biblical values and prayer in the state.
d. Trump has said he will aggressively go after the evil of ISIS. He is not afraid to call it what it is: “Radical Islamic Terrorism.” The role of government is to punish evil and reward good (see Romans 13). It is time we do that with ISIS, and the entire world will thank us, like they did in WW2 when the evil of Hitler was defeated, largely by the U.S.
The bottom line for me is that though I am optimistic with Trump, my hope and faith and trust is in Jesus. No matter who is in office and not matter what happens, my ultimately allegiance is to Jesus. I will love, trust and follow Him no matter what. I invite you to do the same!