Monday, June 30, 2014

Wretched Man That I Am! (Condemnation vs. Conviction) Part 1

Do you struggle with guilt?  Do you struggle with shame?  I do.  I know that I am a Christian.  I know that I am saved by the blood of the Lamb.  Yet I still battle. I still have to be intentional about taking thoughts of guilt captive and reminding myself that though I struggle with sin, it is not now I, but Christ who lives within me(Galatians 2:20).  I have to remind myself that I possess "a righteousness that is not my own but that which comes through faith in Christ"(Philippians 3:9).  I have to remind myself that my desire to resist sin and follow Christ is the evidence that my faith is real.  I am encouraged by the fact that the Apostle Paul wrestled with these same thoughts as he worked out his salvation with fear and trembling(Philippians 2:12-13).

Wretched Man That I Am
In Romans 7:7-25, Paul speaks to the relationship between the law and sin and how it impacts us.  There is a whole lot in this passage, but the general idea is that the law makes us aware of our sinfulness and of the sinfulness of sin.  It makes us keen to our natural tendency toward sin.  It makes us aware that no matter how badly our minds want to do right, quite often, we find our flesh doing the opposite.  Paul was so disgusted by this that he called himself "wretched" in Romans 7:24.  Then he goes on to share the hope that he understood as he continues to flesh out the truths of the gospel in his rich letter to the Romans.

If we are honest, we will admit that we also are painfully aware of the struggle and tension created between guilt over sin, and the freedom that is ours in Christ not to live under condemnation.  Paul clarifies in Romans 7:25 that we wage war with the sinful tendencies of the flesh now. Yet we are also now set free spiritually from the penalty of sin through Christ Jesus and we will one day be delivered from this body of death as well.  Paul goes on, beginning with Romans 8:1, to clarify that we do not have to live in guilt over our struggle with sin because, "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

We need to remember that there is now no more condemnation and consequently, no more need to carry guilt for wrongs past, present, or future.  Yet we must remain aware of the necessity for living with conviction and being willing to live under the constructive criticism and admonition of other brothers and sisters in Christ.

What's the Point?
So why am I writing about this.  And why after some encouragement regarding condemnation and guilt do I bring a challenge regarding conviction.  Well, there are two reasons that this discussion is important.  One is our tendency to live under condemnation because we do not understand what the grace of God through Christ Jesus does to remove our condemnation and guilt.  Two is the tendency of so many sheep and shepherds to be so anti-guilt in association with condemnation, that they reject all criticism and admonition because they fear the discomfort of conviction.  I believe there is a gross miss understanding of the difference between condemnation and conviction.

Many struggle with living under condemnation regarding their battle with sin.  Many struggle with guilt, feeling that they are not good enough for God or that every time they sin, they have to start over gaining favor with God in order to deserve heaven.  In fact, one sect of "Christianity" teaches this very thing. This is not so.

As Paul goes on to flesh out in the rest of Romans 8, God did for us what the law working through us could never do.  He sent His Son to perfectly fulfill the law and then take the punishment for our sins, removing the guilt of believers, and making His righteousness our own.  The truth is that without Christ, we actually are not good enough.  Apart from Christ, there is no one righteous, not one(Romans 3:10).  That is why we need a savior who's righteousness was and is good enough to make all who believe, righteous in the sight of God. We can know that this righteousness is ours by the testimony of the Holy Spirit with our spirit(Romans 8:16) and the fruit of that righteousness at work in our lives(1 John 2:1-6).

If we are in fact "struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within us"(Colossians 1:29), then we can know, because of that desire to struggle and war against sin and the desire to bear fruit in keeping with repentance(Matthew 3:8, Luke 3:8), that we are in fact, in Christ.  Otherwise we would not desire to resist the sinful nature and pursue obedience to God's word.  Therefore, if we are in Christ, then we know that "neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord"(Romans 8:38-39).

This is such freeing news.  When we possess the salvation made available through Christ, we can embrace all of the truths that scripture teaches.  We don't have to fear conviction, for it is the conviction of the Holy Spirit brought through the word and through accountability to other bible believing Christians that we are able to stay the course.  We should actually embrace conviction and admonition as that factor that motivates us to become more like Christ.

We don't have to compromise any truth in the name of feeling better about our position with Christ or feeling better about who we are.  We can know that we are in fact sinners saved by grace,  yet still struggling with sin.  We can also know that we are saints, set free from the control of sin in order to find victory over it progressively for the rest of our lives on this earth by the saving power of Jesus blood on the cross.  Christ's blood on the cross saves us and the Holy Spirit empowers us to obey.

It is a fascinating and joyous truth that we have the responsibility to obey out of the abundance of grace that God has given to those who believe.  We must obey if we truly believe but we don't have to fear stumbling because if we truly believe, we will obey.  Yet because of sin, we will never obey perfectly, which is why Jesus had to come and obey perfectly for us.  However, because of the righteousness of Christ that we possess, we will desire and strive to obey perfectly all of God's holy word.  We will not look for loopholds and justifications for satisfying the sinful desires of the flesh that God's word clearly condemns.   NO!  We are freed from the power of sin to pursue all righteousness because of Christ's death on the cross.  And we are freed from condemnation when we stumble because of that same death and resurrection.

I know I am belaboring the point but it is a truth that many struggle to grasp.  This is such good news that I could go on forever.....but I won't.  However, I would still like to speak to the the need for conviction and accountability in the face of fear and compromise.  So, in the interest of brevity, I will continue this in a part two.  I know this has already probably been longer than what some would want to read but I pray it has helped someone and that you will stick with me as we move forward to continue the conversation.

I truly do write from a heart of love and compassion that longs to see others enjoy their greatest satisfaction through God's glory being made known via active repentance and obedience.

In Jesus name,


Friday, June 20, 2014

A Few Honest Thoughts and A Heartfelt Apology

To anyone who has ever read a Facebook post or a blog post from me.  I have some concerns.  I want to share a few experiences generally, and try to help be clear about who I am and what I am about in case anyone has concerns.  

I have had some share that they felt there were times that I posted too heavily in general on Facebook.  I will agree. Though like many, I am sometimes limited to when I can be on, so I post more when I am on. Nevertheless, I am have been trying to allow this observation to influence how much I share publicly on FB.

On a deeper level, I have experienced at least one person stating that they would not be following me any longer but that they would remain my FB friend so they could check in on pics etc. from time to time.  I respect their honesty and willingness to be upfront with me.  It did happen however because of differences in conviction regarding biblical truth.  I must admit, it makes me curious how many others may have done the same.

Now, I know that the aforementioned person stopped following me because some of my convictions offended them.  In recent weeks I have gotten the feeling that I have offended a few more.  I do not know that they have ceased to follow me but we certainly disagreed on some things.  It was not all unpleasant but I have been thinking about it lately.  Sometimes offense is unavoidable, but I do not want it to happen unnecessarily.

Another person very respectfully contacted me via FB messenger to express concerns regarding my blog content and ask some clarifying questions.  That was actually a very fruitful conversation that cleared some things up and helped the person better understand where I am coming from in some respects.  If you are reading this, thank you for giving me that chance.

For the record, I do not enjoy confrontation anymore than the next person.  I am afraid that some may think that I do.  It is no secret that I consider the internet to be an opportunity to witness to the virtual community as much as possible.  I realize that some may not care for that.  It is also no secret that, like everyone else, I have opinions that are heart felt and that I am not opposed to sharing with anyone who will listen.  But, while I do not get my identity or sense of self-worth from blogging or FB, let's be clear, I do not want to alienate anyone either.  One of the reasons I blog and post on FB is to hopefully influence people toward biblical truth.

Everything that I blog or post about is not controversial or inflammatory but those are certainly the topics that tend to get the most attention.  If the subject matter seems dicey or personal then it seems like people gravitate toward it.  But I never use those types of topics to try to get attention or get readers.  Nor do I want to loose readers with those topics.

At the same time, I realize that no matter how hard I may try to soften a message, biblical truth can be offensive.  Whether the topic is abortion, heaven, hell, homosexuality, or the health and wealth preachers and teaching, I know there will be those who do not like my opinion and will likely be offended.  However, I cannot, in good conscience, avoid topics or compromise truth in order to avoid conflict.  Whether in my blog or on posts that I share on Facebook, I must present the truth as lovingly as possible.

It will not be perfect, but it is in those moments that the question must be asked, "From where is the truth coming?"  Is it coming from Josh or is he simply striving to convey truth that is found in scripture.

I'm Not Perfect and Nobody Knows That Better Than Me
I can be impatient, temperamental, and not so "righteously" indignant sometimes.  Although, I promise you, no reader will see that the way that my family does.  Let's face it, unless you are on reality TV, nobody shows all their colors except for those who love them most.  I don't justify any of these unsavory aspects of my personality.  My goal is to be humble yet honest, loving yet challenging.  

My hope is that in all of this you will see, as I bring challenges and speak to the application of truth in difficult situations, that I fully understand my place in this world.  I am a sinner saved by grace as well.  I am no better than anyone else.  It is by grace that I have been saved through faith, and this not of myself, lest I should be able to boast(Ephesians 2:8-9).  Most of the time, I need what I am delivering as much as the next person. I am generally preaching to myself as much as anyone else.

Yes, I feel compelled to speak uncompromising truth and to bring challenges to any justification of sin or bad doctrine.  I cannot remain silent because I am concerned for the spiritual well being of those who may be led astray by such lies.  If someone's house is on fire, sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to scream at them to get out of there.  However, a challenging tone, in no way, speaks to the humility that I feel in bringing a given challenge.  Nor does it speak to the love with which I wish to convey the message.

Finally, The Apology
With all that said, I know there will be some that feel like I never needed to write such a post.  That if people don't like what I have to say, tough.  Or, that I am somehow undermining myself by putting all these personal thoughts out there. Then there may be those who see all that I have said as nothing more than a justification for more of the same.  And some probably just don't care one way or the other, and that's ok.  I pray that I have come across as a genuine human being that wants to positively impact other human beings for the glory of God.

Regardless of what anyone may think of me, I would like to say that I am sorry for anytime that I have come off as harsh or rude.  While I cannot apologize for the truth that is in God's word, I am responsible for conveying that truth in as loving a way as possible.  In truth it has been a tough year in many different ways and it is certainly likely that there are times, try though I might, that I have not exhibited the fruit of the Spirit in my writing as I ought.  Please except my apologies.  If you take nothing more away than this, know that I do not think of myself as better than anyone else.  It is only by the grace of God that I am what I am and that anything I do blesses anyone and brings Him any glory.

The Future
Lord willing I will be able to write a little more consistently in the back half of the year and be more transparent regarding my own challenges and faults as I address different topics.  Hopefully some will encourage you and build you up and others will step on your toes and challenge you to consider whether I have any ground to stand on.  I want you to study for yourself and see if I have lost my mind or actually have a point.

I will be striving to speak to certain topics more from the blog, verses sharing FB posts, so as to be thorough in my thoughts on the matter and hopefully avoid being misunderstood.  Also, for the record, I am open to feedback whether it be critical or encouraging.  I am certainly not beyond correction.  I would love to have an honest, biblically supported dialogue with anyone who has need to express thoughts or concerns.

I know I am just one lowly blogger in the grand worldwide blog-o-sphere.  In the grand scheme of life what I have to say may not bear very much weight.  But, since I send my thoughts out into a potentially broad audience I want to make every effort to be available to answer a concern if it will negatively impact the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As I said, I have had someone contact me in this way and it seemed to go well.  I want everyone to know that I am just as nice and caring as I hopefully come across most of the time.  And, while I may be kind of intense in addressing certain concerns, please remember that it is difficult to convey tone in writing sometimes and I don't wish to beat anyone up.  If we find that we cannot agree on something, that is ok.  We just agree to disagree as lovingly as possible.

If you read all the way to the end of this, thank you for your time and I hope you will come back and visit.

Thanks to everyone who has ever taken the time to read this blog and for tolerating another windbag on the internet ;-).



Friday, June 13, 2014

Happy Fathers Day!

As we approach Sunday June 15, 2014 we prepare to celebrate Father's Day.  In a world where far to many children are growing up without a father, I just wanted to share a little of my heart and suggest a couple of resources that have been helpful to me.

Nobody's Perfect
My Dad loves me.  Of that there is no doubt.  Never has been.  He has not had it easy.  He spent most of my growing up years as a Pastor and some as a teacher and both professions brought their challenges to me.  As well as many other odd jobs along the way.  He worked a lot.  Not because he was a work-a-holic but because it was necessary to put food on the table and pay the bills.  And because the Lord always called him to small churches that did not generally pay a ton.  But he did what needed to be done to take care of his family.  Mistakes were made along the way but that's life.  There are things that I learned not to do, as is true in most families and will certainly be true for my children from mistakes that I have made and will make.

But there are definitely things that I learned to do and am still observing from his example now.  For example, in forty years of marriage things have not always been perfect but, both Mom and Dad have remained faithful to their covenant vows that they made before Almighty God so many years ago.  My mom has had many medical problems in later years and Dad has worked hard to provide for her all along the way and be there for her through it all.

My brother pointed out that our Dad passed along a solid example of working hard and doing what it takes to strive to support your family, all the while trying his best to lead us spiritually and be available to parent as well.  It was a difficult task, of that I am certain.  There were four of us and we did not make it easy sometimes.  While there are things that we could look back on and wish for something different, it is not constructive.

When you become an adult and you look back, you realize that God had a plan for everything that you went through.  He gave you your parents, flaws and all, to help mold you into who He wants you to be.  So it is hard to remain bitter when you understand the sovereignty of God in all things.  And to Dad's credit, he has tried very hard to let us know that he is aware of his imperfections, often in hindsight, but when he realizes error he is humble enough to try to make things right if there is anything that needs to be made right.

I am thankful for all of the experiences that I have had, for better and for worse, because who I am today and what I understand about life and ministry is molded tremendously by what I learned growing up.  And to top it all off, I know my Dad loves me and is proud of me and the life that I am striving to live.  You can't ask for much more than that.  Thanks Pop.

Myself as Daddy
For me, becoming a dad and learning the in's and out's and do's and don'ts has definitely been an adventure thus far.  There are many things that, by the grace of God, I feel I have done pretty well with thus far.  Yet there are sooooo many things that I wish I could have a do over for.  The Lord has blessed me with two phenomenal boys ages nine and five.  Many of you know them or have met them.  They are good looking, talented, and brilliant and I see their mother and I in them, for better and for worse, every day.  There is nothing more thrilling, entertaining, and frightening than realizing that you are looking at a mini  me.  The talents and good personality pieces are good, but then there are the bad inclinations such as temper, laziness, or hardheadedness that you wish had not been passed down.

There has been a video on Facebook that shows children of all ages calling out to their daddy's.  It brought me to tears.  Though we are sinfully prone to taking it for granted, there is absolutely nothing sweeter than the sound of your children calling your name, running toward you and wrapping their arms around your leg or neck.  I love walking in the door and my children screaming my name with glee because I am home.  Just today, my youngest was out on the playground on his last day of school, but when he saw me coming, he took off and sprinted toward me as hard as he could go.  I love that.

Like every parent, my biggest fear is messing them up.  I regret every wasted moment and fear the ones to come.  I pray continually, and yet not enough, for the Lord to help me be the father that they need me to be because I know without Him, I will absolutely screw them up.

A Faithful Father
Yet there is peace, deep down, that I am not on this journey alone.  Neither are my children.  We are not dependent on each other exclusively.  Just like my Dad knew and still knows, I know as well, that we have a faithful Heavenly Father who has been in control all along.  While I played a role in conception, scripture tells me that it is God who knit my children together in their mother's womb just as He did for me(Psalm 139).  He is the true creator of me and my children and He had a plan for all of us before time began.  Not only that, but I now know that He chose me for himself and for His glory before the creation of the world.(Ephesians 1:3-6). I believe that He has chosen my children as well.  How do I know?  Call it a gut instinct at this point founded on what I know of who my children are at this point and how I see God working in their lives already.  But, at the end of the day, I know that my God is faithful and true and that nothing will happen in the life of my family that he did not ordain and that He is not in complete control of .  He is a great God and I trust Him with my life and the life of my family.

I truly don't know how parents do life without faith in Jesus.  There is an inexhaustible hope to be possessed via God's gracious gift of knowing Him and having salvation made available through His Son.  This sin-stained life is hard enough, even with strong faith in a living God.  Sometimes people still loose sight of hope and their faith can waiver.  It must be terrible to have no hope at all.  Working in a hospital, you can sometimes see the difference in the way those with a strong Christian faith handle suffering and loss compared to those who have no hope outside of themselves and what this world has to offer.

But our God is faithful and He provides resources to help us learn to be the parents we need to be.  First and foremost He gives us His word brought to life by His Spirit.  All the hope, power, and instruction that we need for life and Godliness has been made available to us through His word and by His Spirit(2 Peter 1:3-10).  

Then, as if that were not enough(which, of course, we know is not true),  He gifts people to help us understand and apply all that He has made available to us.  He sets before us flawed, examples that act as mirrors in which we can see ourselves and see resolutions to ourselves in them.  He does this in real men of God who have been where we are and He does it through stories in movies and books.

For me, a blessing of a resource has been found in the movies by Sherwood Pictures.  You may have heard of them.  So far there are four: Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and then Courageous.  In every one of these stories we have examples of men struggling to be good husbands and fathers and we see examples of God working in and through them, bringing glory to His name.

The latest one, Courageous, was most directly aimed at calling men to be men of courage.  If you have not seen it, you should buy it and watch it over and over again.  It will change your perspective on who you are as a man and how you are allowing or even better, how you are actively causing that to influence others.  It is a call to action.  It is a call to arms.  In that movie the characters make a resolution about the kind of men they want to be to their families.

They wrote a  book called The Resolution that fleshes out those commitments in a very powerful way.  The pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church, Michael Catt, wrote a book called Courageous Living that is also very powerful.  I highly recommend both of them if you are looking for instruction and inspiration as a father.  The movie and both of those books did and still do press me forward to be the kind of godly man that I know my family needs.

Wrapping It Up
One of the primary scriptures that is the theme for the movie comes from Joshua 24:15.  It essentially says, "choose you this day whom you will serve.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord".   That is my heart through thick and thin.  I want to be a living example of what a man who is striving for godliness and holiness should look like for my children and for my wife.  I want to make Jesus real to them by my example.  Oh, I fail daily.  But, by God's grace I will never stop striving to that end.

I want to end this blog post with a copy of the resolution that the men made in the movie and the last speech given by the main character from Courageous, Adam Mitchell.  After experiencing tragedy and seeing first hand what the effects of a lack of commitment to being a godly man can be, he feels compelled to uncover what the bible calls men to be to those around them.  These are the thoughts and the challenge that He brings to those who would be men of courage.

I do solemnly resolve before God to take full responsibility for myself, my wife, and my
•I WILL love them, protect them, serve them, and teach them the Word of God as the
spiritual leader of my home.
•I WILL be faithful to my wife, to love and honor her, and be willing to lay down my
life for her as Jesus Christ did for me.
•I WILL bless my children and teach them to love God with all of their hearts, all of
their minds, and all of their strength.
•I WILL train them to honor authority and live responsibly.
•I WILL confront evil, pursue justice, and love mercy.
•I WILL pray for others and treat them with kindness, respect, and compassion.
•I WILL work diligently to provide for the needs of my family.
•I WILL forgive those who have wronged me and reconcile with those I have wronged.
•I WILL learn from my mistakes, repent of my sins, and walk with integrity as a
man answerable to God.
•I WILL seek to honor God, be faithful to His church, obey His Word, and do His
•I WILL courageously work with the strength God provides to fulfill this resolution for
the rest of my life and for His glory.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. – Joshua 24:15



Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Death on the Cross or Death through the Cross

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  for whoever would save his life will loose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  for what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26, Mark 8:34-35) 

In this passage two things are happening.  Jesus is referencing his own death, unbeknownst to the disciples. At the same time He is giving them and us a sobering definition of what it means to be a believer and one of His disciples.  Christ gave us death on the cross so that we could live out death through the cross.

The Glory of Martyrdom

Have you ever talked through the scenario in which you have a gun pointed at your head, or maybe that of your family, and you are told to deny Jesus or they will pull the trigger?  I have had many of those conversations with other believers and overheard the same kind of conversations without being a part of them.  It sounds noble right?  There is something morbidly glamorous sometimes about the idea of being a martyr.  It happens all over the world in our day and it has been happening ever since the New Testament church was born.

It is so easy to act as if martyrdom had some glory attached to it that makes it easier because we are "paying the ultimate price".  Besides, "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord right?"
(2 Corinthians 5:8)  

There are many testimonies of the genuine faith and hope that resides with those whom live in countries where Christians are killed for their faith  However, most of those believers come to genuine faith and repentance with a solid understanding that it may cost them their life or the life of their family in a very short period of time.  I would wager that many a professing "Christian" in America would crumble and fold in their profession of faith if they were faced with such a horrifying fate.  That is because in America the "cost of discipleship" is not at the center of the message, if it exists at all.

Christianity is tied to the American Dream in this country and church goers are fed a man-centered gospel that makes salvation all about them and promises them "Their Best Life Now".  Many pastors messages are laden with pop-psychology designed to affirm positive self-esteem, rather than calling sinners to repentance and reminding them of the cost and self-sacrifice that should be expected of anyone who would call themselves a follower of Jesus.
Satan's Master Plan for America

I, along with others, believe that this positive-thinking, prosperity message is Satan's master plan for America.  You see, we are an affluent nation.  Most of us have never known the kind of poverty, sickness, and despair that people in third-world countries live daily.  So rather than threatening our lives, it is more effective to numb us to the effects of sin by relativizing truth and then give us a gospel that costs us almost nothing.  In fact, it promises us health, wealth, and happiness.  The gospel becomes all about what we can get out of professing Christ, rather than making clear the command to proclaim Christ and the cost that is associated with that.  The former is a lie.  Can there be benefits to the Christian walk.  Certainly, at times.  But this should NEVER be the motivation for obedience.

The promises of abundance and perfect health etc. that are in scripture are primarily designated for the life that is to come for every genuine believer, NOT this life.  If you look at the early 1st century church you will recognize that.  There's was one of persecution and suffering.  They may have had their basic needs met but few were living an affluent life.  In fact, their were very specific instructions and warnings given to believers who were "rich".

The first century church understood something. They knew that Jesus said in John 16:33, "In this life you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world."  Paul taught us how to view tribulation in his second letter to the Corinthians, "So we do not loose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary afflictions is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal"(2 Corinthians 4:16-18).  

We must not be seduced into a pursuit of self-fulfillment in this life in the name of Jesus.  Certainly he intends our needs to be met and he absolutely blesses some more richly than others.  There is nothing wrong with making a living and making the most of this life with the skills, talents, and gifts that God has provided however, that should not be the central message or purpose of our lives.  

NO, He would have us die to ourselves and spend our energies and the overflow of those energies spreading the good news that apart from Christ we are damned sinners; but that because of Christ death, burial, and resurrection we can have eternal life with him in the new heavens and the new earth.  We must tell them that THERE is where the majority of the promises will be fulfilled and that it is but a heartbeat away.  This life is but a blip on the line of eternity.

Take Up Your Cross!

When Jesus used this metaphor of taking up your cross, it was not a call to be willing to die physically for the cause of Christ.  At least that was not it's only purpose.  In a manner of speaking that would be easier.  If your faith is real and you die for Christ then you are with Him.  End of story. It's a wonderful ending and while He calls many to that end, those are still the minority.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer's most famous quote is found on page 99 of his book The Cost of Discipleship.  In it he says:
"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.  It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther's, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world.  But it is the same death every time, death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call."

This was the primary focus of Christ's demands upon our lives as His disciples.  Luke, author of the gospel by the same name, adds the word "daily" to the command to take up our cross(Luke 9:23).  I think anyone who reads these words of Christ in the other gospels honestly will recognize that the idea of daily sacrifice through obedient discipleship is understood.

This is much harder in a sense than dying once.  As I said before, Jesus died ON the cross so that we could live to die daily THROUGH the cross.  To die daily means actually exercising the spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control(Galatians 5:20).  We will actually have to learn to walk by the Spirit and crucify the flesh.  We have to learn to overcome fear of man by God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit in order to share the Good News of the gospel.

Taking Up My Cross
I for one, struggle though I may, would rather take this route.  While there is more time to mess things up, there is also more time for God to glorify himself in my sanctification.  The more I become like Him and learn who He is, the better witness I can be to the world.  In addition, their is a joy that comes from learning to trust Him in obedience.  Though I am worlds away I, like Paul, want to be able to say that:
"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.  That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:8-11)

I hope you are both challenged and encouraged at the same time by this post.  If you were uncomfortable or offended by the challenges to the "health and wealth" teaching as part of Satan's plan of deception, I hope you will at least investigate and consider the dangers that are there.  If you have lived in fear of death or persecution or you have struggled with unresolved illness or financial challenges I hope that you have found some encouragement here. This is NOT your best life.  IT is yet to come and that should encourage you. Faithfully follow Christ now, trust in His finished work on the cross, and show forth the fruit of repentance and obedience by serving HIS best interest rather than your own, and you will enjoy an eternity of no guilt, pain or sadness.(Revelation 21:1-4)  I leave you with one of my favorite doxologies.

"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.  Amen" (Jude 1:24-25)

Coram Deo,(Living before the face of God)