Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter, It's a Shame

Easter, the time of year that breeds confusion about Christianity. Like the rest of you (most likely), I grew up eating chocolate and searching for Easter eggs as well, but how does Christianity fit into this custom? Instead of writing about the Easter Bunny, I would like to clarify Christianity as simply as possible.

Why would someone want to become a Christian? Simple. The Bible explains that we have sinned against God and broken the relationship we had with our Creator. Our sin not only breaks our relationship with requires judgement.

Fortunately, God loves us passionately. The gospel is quite simple. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:14, explains that Jesus (1) died for our sins according to Scripture (or prophecy) for our sins, (2) He was buried, and (3) He rose from the grave three days later. This is the gospel clearly and simply.

Does reading the gospel account, or simply knowing about it, save you? What do we have to do if anything?

It isn't about going to church, doing good works, fill in the blank here. Getting right with God is simple and is explained in Ephesians 1:13, "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel (see above) of you salvation--having also believed (this is the key part), you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise."

The key to becoming a Christian is simple--believe in Jesus. Place your trust and hope into Him. I am so glad I did about 15 years ago!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thank You Lord for JR

On March 22, 2011 I received some devastating news--my good friend John Russell Trask (JR) had died. We never expect death, but this case was truly tragic and unexpected.

About six years ago, I transitioned from being a Navy SEAL to a pastor and am often asked, "How does this happen?" Many think this there is a great dichotomy between these two careers. Maybe, but it is just my life and doesn't seem so odd to me! But the answer to this question is found in my relationship with JR. Let's go back a few years in my life.

In 1995 I was going through a pretty low spot. I had just graduated Navy SEAL training and had checked into SEAL Team 3 after many years of hard work. I was living it up and partying hard. On July 2, I went too far when I drove home drunk, long story, but it resulted in a resiting evading charge that over the course of the next year would result in my losing my security clearance for a number of months. This was devastating to me. Just when I had achieved all my goals, they all seemed to vanish over night in the moment of a stupid decision.

Around this time, JR "found God" and began getting all religious on us. To be honest, it was all too strange for me. His story seemed whacky and I wasn't very interested in going back to church. It was boring and irrelevant to my life. But this did not stop him from asking me to come to his church for a Tuesday night Bible study.

He nagged me over and over again. I was annoyed and told him, "No, please bro, stop asking me. I am glad it works for you, but I know all about church and am not interested." This didn't work. I needed to come up with a new strategy. My plan was to go to church ONCE, under very strict conditions: 1) I was going to dress casual--shorts, tshirt, and flip-flops and 2) he would NEVER ask me to go again. He bit! I was so stoked that his nagging would end...

His nagging ended, but over the course of the next six months my life would be transformed forever after I attended that one Tuesday night service. I eventually came to understand that the purpose of church was not to be religious, it was all about a relationship with Jesus! My passion for the Bible grew day by day ultimately leading me to Bible College, Seminary, and then into the ministry.

I am so thankful that JR nagged me to go to church. Because he did my life was radically altered. I have a beautiful wife who loves Jesus and two beautiful daughters and am the pastor of a great church! All of this is directly tied to JR. I am so thankful for him and realize that words cannot express the impact he has had in my life.

Yes, I am sad that he is gone, but I know I will see him in glory when my time is up on earth! If you are reading this, I would like to honor JR by pestering you. This is what I learned about God through JR:

1. God is real and He loves you.
2. He is personal. He wants a relationship with you.
3. You and I are sinners. Our sin separates us from God.
4. Jesus died on the cross in order to pay for our sins and to bridge this gap.
5. Faith. By believing upon Jesus in faith, we are saved.
6. God wants your whole life--He didn't save you just to give you something to do on Sundays!
7. Get plugged into a church that teaches the Bible faithfully where you can grow!