Am I a Legalist?

I hear so much today about legalism in the church.  I hear it more today than ever and perhaps it is for good reason in some cases. There are simply a great number of churches where it is difficult to find grace because they use discipline as a way to try to earn favor with God. These are the types of churches who look down their noses at anyone who isn’t living up to their standard of Christianity.  Because these churches operate under the facade that they have it all together, it is near impossible to find the grace of God in these churches. Even if they do not think they have it all together they believe what they do makes them appear more righteous before God than others.

For example, perhaps a legalist reads his Bible every single day and then thinks less of the Christian who has fallen behind in Bible reading.  Or perhaps the legalist finds his rhythm of fasting during the week makes him far superior to anyone who does not. I say this because I want you to know that I do believe legalism is a problem within the church, but I also believe many Christians have become so afraid of becoming legalistic that they have run away from prioritizing spiritual disciplines.  

So what is legalism?

Legalism is when people try to earn right standing before God based on their good works.  Many Christians have done this at some point in their faith journey and have found they could never be good enough to earn God’s favor.  Because of this, many have unintentionally adopted a gospel that suggests they should simply do away with any spiritual disciplines, such as Bible reading, quiet times, giving, tithing, Scripture memorization and so on.  In their eyes, because they are justified by grace through faith, spiritual disciplines are things legalists do. Discipline and obedience sound oppressive because they have failed so many times to be disciplined and have felt great shame because of it.   

Not FOR grace but FROM grace

For the Christian, at the time of conversion, God imputes to him the righteousness of Christ.  This means that all of our sin is forgiven and also that we have obtained the perfect record of Jesus Christ.  This is the only way we stand before the Father in perfection. There is absolutely nothing we can do to add to this great salvation that God has graciously given and there was nothing we did to earn it in the first place.  Salvation is a gift of God from first to last.

But the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is not the same as the imparting of the righteousness of Christ.  In other words, you stand perfect before God because of faith in Jesus, however, that is not the end. God has not only canceled your sin and imputed righteousness to your account, but he also enabled and empowered you to follow him.  He is not only your Savior, but he is also your Lord. And whatever your Lord requires of you, he is gracious to empower you to do it. Simply put, he gives both pardon and power.

Because of this, we know we do not work for God’s grace.  Grace is not earned, otherwise, it’s not grace. Grace is given freely through the finished work of Jesus Christ.  But even though we do not work FOR grace, we still work. We work FROM grace.



What does working FROM grace look like? 

So when we read our Bibles, we do it because of grace.  We love him and want to know more of his grace through his written word.  

When we fast, we do it because of grace.  We love him and want to know him more and see fasting as a gracious gift from God that allows us to meet with him in an intimate way.  Fasting graciously shows us how much we rely on food or Instagram, or TV to mask our hunger for God and bring false satisfaction to our souls.  

When we give, we do it because of grace.  We love him because he was gracious to love us and we want others to experience God’s grace through our gifts.  We also give sacrificially because we do not rely on money but upon God’s gracious provision. When we give, we are actually able to see his gracious provision which is God’s grace in itself.  If we never give then we will believe the lie that we sustain ourselves. When this happens we miss the blessing of seeing God’s grace in our lives.

When we memorize Scripture we do it because of grace.  These are the words of the very grace that saved us! Is it not gracious for God to give us a mind to enable us to absorb his word?    

When we show someone grace, we do it because we have been shown the ultimate grace of our Good Father who gave us his son Jesus Christ and all of the heavenly riches with him.  



But doesn’t discipline still imply a works-based religion?

Working FROM grace does not mean that our devotion to God will not take effort. Therefore, to many, it may seem legalistic.  Some people think if you have to exert effort then its automatically legalism. This is simply false. Many times we will have to be disciplined enough to spend time with God, fast, or memorize scripture.  But that does not mean it is legalism, it just means your heart is still bent toward sin and you are still in the process of becoming more like Jesus. He’s empowering you by imparting his righteousness upon you each day.  He’s breaking the power of canceled sin in your life, but this is not a quick process. Most all of us would prefer watching tv or scrolling facebook to doing any of these things. But God has given us the grace and power we need to overcome our laziness and apathy to turn to him.  When we make an effort to spend time with him, he meets us in our Bible reading, fasting, quiet times…etc. and he gives us grace and strength. So we are not working for his approval, but we are working to meet with our Lord and Savior and grow closer to him. 

Consider these passages of Scripture:

But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.- Deuteronomy 4:29

I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.- Proverbs 8:17

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.- Jeremiah 29:13

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.- Matthew 7:7

Draw near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.- James 4:8




Does this make God obligated to us?

So as you can see, God promises to meet with those who diligently seek him.  This may sound works-based, but it’s gracious of God that we even have the opportunity to draw near to him.  He has freed us and empowered us to draw near to him. Without his grace, none of us could seek him or draw near to him at all.  Also, just because we seek God does not make him obligated to come near to us. God can do whatever he pleases. But we don’t have to guess what pleases him.  I think Scripture makes it clear that it pleases him to come near to those who diligently seek him. In this, we find grace and it also gives us confidence that our diligence is not in vain.

Furthermore, this allows us to realize that our own devotion to God is nothing we can boast in. If we know that it is only by God’s grace we are able to seek him, then we will never look down our noses at others who aren’t in the same spiritual place as we are.  We will welcome the lost, the saved who are struggling with sin… and everyone from the legalists who think they have it all together to the (antinomian) one who believes they do not have to follow any of God’s commands because they fear legalism so much.

I pray that God would lead us to devotion to him and show us the depths of his grace as he meets us there. Help us in our unbelief that time with God and devotion to him brings greater satisfaction than anything this world offers.

In Christ,


3 Christmas Rap Albums You May Not Know About

Keep Tha C In The Center

AHMADD is a close friend and mentor of mine who is a veteran in Christian hip-hop.  This album is a reminder that Jesus should be in the center of Christmas. AHMADD points to Jesus in the rough times, he reminds us of the reason Jesus came, and to keep Christ in the center in the midst of our Christmas celebrations.  My favorite track on the album is “The Story” as AHMADD raps passionately about the the birth of Jesus and how he came to save us as he says “Man was severed from the Father so he stood between.  Matter of fact, he hung between heaven and earth to pay a price so we could be redeemed.”

Because of my personal relationship with AHMADD, I can tell you he is a great man of God and is filled with the Spirit.  He is also the founder of MovementUp as well as the pastor of the Methodist Children’s home in Waco, Texas.  Click below and purchase this album to support this local artist.

The Gift: A Christmas Compilation

Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii, and Derek Minor are just a few of the well known artists on this album.  Most of the album covers well known Christmas songs such as O’ Come All Ye Faithful, Joy To The World, and Silent Night.  Of all 3 Christmas albums on this list, this one has the least lyrical rap content as it displays a great amount of singing throughout.  This is definitely different than any 116 album I have heard to date, but I think this is an album the entire family can enjoy even if some of the family doesn’t really enjoy hip hop.  Enjoy it this Christmas by clicking below to sample or purchase. 

Gift Rap
The Cross Movement

This is the oldest album on the list.  I remember listening to this when I was in high school!  This album gives deep biblical and theological content and is centered on Jesus. My favorite track on the album is “Different Kind of Christmas” as It deals with real issues such as dealing with the death of a loved one at Christmas, and the hope of Jesus Christ even in the midst of death. A close second is “Wisemen” that gives a modern twist to the narrative of the wisemen traveling to see Jesus on the first Christmas night.  Check it out below! 

My Top Family Devotionals For Kids

The Jesus Storybook Bible
Sally Lloyd Jones

I don’t think I will ever be able to recommend this book enough.  This book is so special because it shows how all of Scripture points to Jesus.  Many times in the lives of Christians, we see parts of the Scriptures as disconnected from other parts which is not how God wants us to see it.  He has woven together his story that fits perfectly together and points directly to Jesus as Lord and Savior. If you do not have this book, this is a perfect gift to give your kids for Christmas this year.  I recommend this book even for adults.  Click here for an adult friendly version.


Indescribable: 100 Devotions About God and Science
Louie Giglio

This is the book that I am sure my son, Jace, recommends the most.  This book shows how science displays the glory of God. It includes Scripture, interesting scientific findings, captivating artwork, hands-on activities, and closing prayers for each devotion.  This book truly displays how incredible and “indescribable” is our God.

The Big Picture Interactive Bible Stroybook
B&H Editorial Team 

You might think this just another version of The Jesus Storybook Bible, but it’s much more than that.  It is actually longer and more in depth. It is 321 pages long, packed with 83 stories from the Old Testament and 63 stories from the New Testament. What’s unique about this Bible is that you can download a free app that makes the stories jump off the page and come to life!  It also has a letter to parents at the beginning of the book that explains how the book works.  Furthermore, If your church uses Lifeway’s The Gospel Project curriculum for Kids, this is a great supplement for it. The most important thing about this book is that is has a “Christ Connection” at the end of each story that shows how each story points to Christ.

Have a toddler?  Try the toddler version.

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden
Kevin DeYoung

This book also shows that the overarching theme of the Scriptures is God’s plan to redeem his people from what was lost in the Garden of Eden.  It’s subtitle is self explanatory as the entire book hints that the Snake Crusher is coming to make things right again.   

A unique aspect of this book is that the author speaks of 2 significant themes.
1. Jesus is the second Adam. What Adam failed to do, Jesus did perfectly.
2. The “garden”.  The biblical story starts in a garden in Genesis 1 and ends in a garden in Revelation 22. As rebels, we were all removed from the garden and we all long to return.  The return to is only possible through the second Adam, Jesus Christ.

I hope you will consider buying one or two of these books for your children this Christmas!   I know they will be a blessing to the entire family.

If you have books that you recommend for children’s devotionals, please leave a comment.

You are loved in Christ,


Is Christ Central in Your Home This Christmas?

Sometimes, as parents, we scratch our heads over how we can truly allow Jesus to be the central figure of Christmas. It seems strange to even say that because in reality, Jesus is the central figure of Christmas whether we acknowledge it or not. But I just wonder how many of our Christian homes truly allow him to be. I use the word “allow” because it’s not just going to happen. Jesus is not going to barge into your home and force himself to be central to your Christmas. If we are going to allow him to be central, we must not be passive, but proactive.


Why are we so passive?

I don’t think Christian parents are passive because they want to be passive. Nor do I think they are simply apathetic toward Jesus being central to Christmas in their homes. As Christians we are passionate about Jesus. We know he is the promised Messiah who came to save his people from their sin and reconcile them back to God. Without Jesus we would be hopeless! Everything we would ever need in our lives was lying in that manger on that first Christmas night. We know this! We give our very lives for this message we call the gospel.  So perhaps we are passive not because we are apathetic, but because we do not know how to be proactive.


How does Jesus become central?

So the question is, how do we take that passion for Jesus and use it allow Jesus to be the central figure of Christmas in our homes? Unfortunately, I do not have all the answers to this question but I do think there are some small things we can do that will take little work on our part.

My Merry Christmas

In a previous blog post I recommended a book called “My Merry Christmas” by Sally Lloyd Jones. In this very short, but meaningful children’s book, the author ties familiar Christmas symbols to the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus Christ. This is helpful because this actually allows Jesus to become central in your home this Christmas. I have said “central” many times in this blog and this is why: Many Christians have a list of priorities that read something like this:
1. Jesus
2. Family
3. Work

Although this looks good, this is not keeping Jesus central. Keeping Jesus central means he is number 1 in everything, not simply number 1 on a list of other priorities.  He is the priority! He is number 1 in our families, our jobs, our hobbies…etc. So when it comes to Christmas, it is no different. Many people keep Jesus first during Christmas, but have not yet allowed him to become central. For example, we may read the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke before we open presents on Christmas morning. But then little is said of Jesus for the rest of the day.


Jesus in everything

When Jesus is central to our Christmas, we see Jesus in everything. Everything we do or open points us to Jesus. The lights on the tree point us to Jesus as the light of the world. The green Christmas tree is a symbol of life that points us to Jesus being the one who gives us true life. The food we eat gives us satisfaction but ultimately points to the one who ultimately satisfies our souls, Jesus Christ. The gifts under the tree point us to Jesus as our ultimate gift given to us because God loves us so much. All other gifts will get old and go into the garbage one day, but the gift God has given us in Jesus will last forever.

For more examples of how to point your kids to Jesus using Christmas symbols, please click the image below to purchase “My Merry Christmas.” You can download the Kindle version for only $3.03 and use it tonight!



Making it Practical

Is your home Christ-centered this Christmas?  Are there some small adjustments you can make in order to allow Jesus to be central to your Christmas?  Perhaps before you open presents this year you will remind everyone of the true gift of Jesus Christ. Maybe when you are around your Christmas tree or looking at Christmas lights, you will remind your children that the lights represent Jesus being the light and he empowers us to be his light in such a dark world. None of this takes prep time, it only takes a commitment to be faithful in pointing your kids to Jesus.


God will use you!

I can almost guarantee you this will be awkward at first, but I promise God will bless your faithfulness as parents and empower you to do this.  He is not reluctant to work through you. He wants your home to be Christ-centered more than you do! So step out in faith and watch God go to work.  Think of the conversations you can have with your kids. Think of the legacy you can pass down to them when they have kids of their own. More than that, think of the impact you will have on God’s Kingdom as you point them to their Savior, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christ(centered)mas!




Online Dating. Does it work?

Many times when I tell people that I met my wife online, they reply with the comment “Oh so it works, huh?” Then they inevitably ask, “Which dating site did you use?” So I want to answer both of these questions in order to give you some insight into the world of online dating.  

Does it work?

Well, that depends on what you mean by “work”. I met my wife dating online, so the obvious answer is yes. But I really had to work my way through a lot of women who I would never consider dating.  There are a ton of pictures and a ton of potential matches. So just because the dating app gives you a high percentage match does not mean she is necessarily a match in reality.

99% Match?

She may be a 99% match but she also may be 100% crazy. For example, I had a girl who seemed to be a good match for me. We messaged each other for a couple of days so I decided to google her. (always google her!) I found her name appear in a discussion thread on a website where she had posted some very inappropriate and hateful comments. I knew it was the same girl because the comments on the discussion thread revealed some personal info she had given me. Shortly after that, I sent her a text message and told her that I did not think we should communicate anymore.

Perseverance, Luck, and Providence

I tell you this story because I want you to be educated as much as possible before you enter into online dating. Yes, online dating works, but you will likely spend a great amount of time with the wrong girls until you find the right one. It may even become discouraging at times. But I encourage you to persevere and see what happens. Sometimes you may need to take a break from checking the app for a couple of days, but don’t give up.

6 months

I recommend you sign up for a 6 month membership so that you will not feel rushed. I also recommend 6 months because it’s important to give it a real chance. If you are going to date online then go all in! Commit to the process and allow God to work. Somewhere in the world there is a girl seeking the same thing you are. It takes perseverance, a little bit of luck, and a whole lot of God’s providence.

What website did you use?

I used Christian Mingle because I figured it gave me a better chance to find a genuine follower of Christ than any other app. It’s funny, because I remember seeing all these corny Christian Mingle commercials on television when I was younger and thinking it was so stupid. But when I wanted to start online dating, I went straight to Christian Mingle.

Advantages of Christian Mingle

Christian Mingle is great for a number of reasons which I may discuss in depth in a future blog post. One of the great things is that you will be able to know many things about your potential date simply by looking at the profile.  This includes info such as denomination, frequency of church attendance, and more personal questions about the role of faith in her life. I certainly recommend Christian Mingle if you are weighing your online dating options.

I hope to write more about my experience of online dating in future blog posts. If you have any questions, please comment and let me know. I may just write a blog in response.


5 Books That Have Impacted My Christian Walk

5 Books That Have Impacted My Christian Walk

I have been serving in ministry for 10 years.  Throughout that time there have been a number of books that have been incredibly valuable to me and have shaped my ministry beyond what I could tell you.  During these 10 years I have served in a number of christian traditions and theological stances that I think you will find evident in the books I have chosen.  That is, if you are a theology nerd.  The truth is, I haven’t quite figured everything out!  As a result, I continue to try to read a wide scope of authors who I believe fall within Christian orthodoxy. Regardless of your church background, I know these books will be a blessing to you.

1. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

As a young man in college, I was constantly finding myself in situations where I needed to defend my faith.  I remember hearing all kinds of things about Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity that made me question my faith.  In this book, Lee Strobel writes in plain language as he asks tough questions to some of the worlds most influential and well known scholars.  I’ll never forget the first time I read through the gruesome details of a Roman crucifixion, and the overwhelming evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus.

2. The Soul Winner by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

The Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, writes a masterpiece for pastors in this book.  He stresses the importance of knowing how to “win souls” for Jesus and what it takes to do so. He shows his zeal and commitment to sharing the gospel to lost souls which cannot be done apart from holy living.

3. The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

This is quickly becoming a classic read for all Christians.  In this book, Tim Keller makes sound arguments with the skeptic in mind.  He answers tough questions such as “How could a good God allow suffering?”, “How can a loving God send people to hell?”.  He also speaks to objections to the Christian faith such as, “There can’t be just one true religion” and “You can’t take the Bible literally.”

4. Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby

This book is filled with jewels on every page.  I never understood how to hear from God until reading this book.  It is theologically sound as well as overwhelmingly practical. It teaches Christians how to listen to God and how to respond to him when he speaks.  If you are a Christian and you struggle with the reality of God actually speaking to you and being able to discern when it is his voice, this book will be a treasure to you as well.

5. The Way to Heaven: The Gospel According to John Wesley by Steve Harper

This selection shows my respect for genuine Wesleyans as well as the man John Wesley himself.  A few years ago, while employed by a Methodist church, I began to study John Wesley’s life and theology.  This was the first book of many that I read about him and I found it to be very helpful and inspiring.  I continue to find John Wesley’s story fascinating and strive to have the spiritual discipline of this man.  The book is written for everyday people.  So although it is theological, you are sure to understand what you are reading.  Even if you are not a Wesleyan, you can certainly benefit from this book.  

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