Stop Listening, Start Talking – Part 3

We are fascinated with stories. Whether it is a six-year-old boy listening to the exciting adventures of his favorite superhero or a 60-year-old man consumed by a thrilling novel, stories have a way of drawing us in and taking us on a journey. More than that, stories are a potent teaching tool in the life of every human being.

The person that shares the story is called the narrator. They, in essence, call the shots! They have the privilege of bringing the story to life through drama, tension, and surprise.

Your life is a story. Each day you live is another paragraph to the story of your life. But who narrates?

You do.

Have you ever considered why people who share similar experiences respond differently? The reason is that the narrator (the person) tells the story differently. For example, two people experience the storyline of the loss of a job. The first narrator tells the story this way.

I lost my job. I am a failure and will never amount to anything. On top of that, I will no longer be able to provide for my family.

You can imagine the quick spiral into depression this person would experience. The second person has the same storyline but narrates the story differently.

I lost my job. This is hard, but I am not going to give up. It may be challenging, but I am a tough person. I will find another job and continue to provide for my family.

These are two different people facing the same circumstance, but each has created their own narrative.

The point of this example is that there is great power in how you narrate your life.

Talking to Yourself vs. Listening to Yourself

As the narrator of your life, you first have to make a critical decision. Will you talk to yourself or listen to yourself?

Now I am not trying to be confusing here, but consider the thoughts that come into your mind when you first wake up. Where did they come from? You did not create them; something inside you begins to narrate who you are from becoming conscious. Let’s call this self talking to you.

On the other hand, there are moments when you choose to create the narrative. As a kid, I remember climbing along the side of a cliff with a massive drop-off. I followed my friends, and they had all crossed a very narrow portion of the path. I remember something inside of saying, “you are afraid and shouldn’t do this,” but then another voice spoke up. It was my voice, and instead of listening, I decided to speak. I told myself, “you can do this, you are brave, and you will make it,” and I did. This was me talking to myself.

Narrators in every person. Self talking to you versus you talking to yourself. One will win, and the winner will unquestionably influence your spiritual state.

Spiritually depressed people do more listening to themselves rather than talking to themselves. They allow the self-narrative to control the way that they think about themselves. It is only a matter of time before the self-talk crushes their spirits in one area or another.

But I want you to consider the verse we looked at in our first article from Psalm 42:5,

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why are you disturbed within me?
Wait for God, for I shall still praise Him,
For the salvation of His presence.

Notice who is doing the talking. The Psalmist asks a question to his soul, “why are you in despair, O my soul?” This is an internal dialogue showing the Psalmist talking to himself. Rather than listening to the negative emotions, he processed them out loud. Instead of just accepting how he felt about himself, he spoke what he knew to be true, that he would still praise God even in difficult circumstances.

Now that we know that we have to be the ones doing the talking rather than listening to ourselves, we must remind ourselves of the source that our words must come from. If we are going to talk to ourselves, then it is tantamount that we speak the truth. This is why being grounded in the Word of God is vital. One of my favorite imageries from the Bible in regards to this topic comes from James 1:23-25,

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he looked at himself and has gone away, he immediately forgot what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of freedom, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does.

We will be blessed if we take in the actual words of God and remember them. We must battle back against the lies ourselves try to tell us with God’s truth. The self tells you that you will always fail, while God tells you that you can be victorious. The self says you are worthless, while God tells you that you are of the greatest value. Self says you are afraid, while God says you are courageous. Self lies, and God reveals the truth! It would do a tremendous amount of good to speak the words of God into outlives both internally and audibly.

Will you stand up against yourself when your self tries to lie, condemn, and confuse you? We must stand up as the psalmist did and speak the truth; your battle against spiritual depression depends on it!


Causes of Spiritual Depression – Part 2

In this article, we will explore the four causes of spiritual depression. Let’s jump into it!

Cause 1: Temperament

For the fact of the matter is that though we are all Christians together, we are all different, and the problems and the difficulties, the perplexities and the trials that we are likely to meet are in large measure determined by the difference of temperament and of type. (Martin Lloyd Jones; Spiritual Depression, pp. 15)

Although we can find many similarities across the human race, we also very easily observe that we are not exactly alike. The examples are endless. One father reacts with joyful laughter at childbirth, another stoic silence, while another weeps uncontrollably. In the heat of the big sports game, one athlete pounds his chest while the other sits silently in meditation. One spouse speaks harshly and aggressively during an argument, while the other is reserved and quiet. Humanity experiences many of the same circumstances, but the responses vary.

Why would this be any different when discussing the topic of spiritual depression? The way we respond and handle life is different from one person to the next. Now it is essential to clarify that in regards to salvation, all temperaments are saved the same way, by Jesus Christ. The kingdom of heaven will be filled with temperaments of all types from every tribe, tongue, and nation. But when it comes to the Christian life, it will be formed and shaped alongside the God-given temperament of the person.

We must start by understanding ourselves.

We can divide the human race into two primary categories, introverts, and extroverts. The introvert is the one who is generally looking inward, while the extrovert tends to focus on the external aspects of life. The history of the Christian faith is filled with both. Yet, the spiritual condition we are considering is more prone to those in the introverted camp. The reason is that introverted people are also introspective people. They take information and process it internally with much more vigor than those on the extroverted side of the scale.

In order to address the core issue of the introvert, we must distinguish between introspection and self-examination. We are all called to examine ourselves regularly. The danger lies in the endless introspection that becomes self-absorbed, mind-consuming, and emotionally crippling.

If we are always talking to people about ourselves and our problems and troubles, and if we are forever going to them with that kind of frown upon our face and saying: I am in great difficulty–it probably means that we are all the time centered up ourselves. That is introspection, and that in turn leads to the condition know as morbidity (Marin Lloyd Jones; Spiritual Depression, pp. 17)

We must know ourselves because spiritual depression is more common amongst those of certain temperaments.

Cause 2: Physical Conditions

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, arguably one of the greatest preachers of all time, battled with spiritual depression due to a physical ailment. Many have suffered from conditions, whether internally or externally, throughout the church’s history that have similarly caused differing degrees of spiritual depression. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul?

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me⁠—to keep me from exalting myself! (2 Corinthians 12:7, Legacy Standard Bible)

We can not separate the spiritual from the physical. All matters concern mind, body, and soul. To disturb one is to disrupt them all. Today’s internal battles, speaking generally, include things such as stress, tiredness, overstrain, any form of illness, anxiety, and any physical disability. Externally, it could be a plethora of circumstances that most would consider unfortunate such as a breakup, failure of all sorts, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, the brokenness of family or marriage relationships to name a few. The list could go on and on, and each circumstance can rattle our spiritual lives.

Even positive experiences can lead to spiritual depression. It is not uncommon for someone to experience great triumph or victory in some area, only to be followed by a period of sadness and depression. A simple example of this would be sadness that follows a much-anticipated vacation as we come to grips with our current reality of everyday life. This same phenomenon plays out in many ways following times of success.

How can good and bad physical conditions lead to the same destination? Well, our next cause will shed more light on the topic.

Cause 3: Satan

Now I know the very mention of Satan will seem trivial to many. Unlike spiritual depression, teaching on Satan is few and far between. Because of this, Satan is extremely underestimated in the discussion over spiritual depression. Therefore it would do us good to refresh our understanding of him briefly.

  • 1 Peter 5:8 – Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
  • 1 John 3:8 – Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
  • John 8:44 – You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
  • James 4:7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
  • Revelation 12:9 – And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
  • Ephesians 6:11 – Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

I have shared 6 of the 100 verses that mention Satan specifically or are about him in the Bible. There is plenty of scripture to understand Satan and his demons accurately. It would be irresponsible to discuss the topic of spiritual depression and not mention the demonic influence of the devil.

Satan is actively seeking to keep people out of the kingdom of God. One of the most excellent methods he has is to deceive Christians. A deceived Christian can do more harm than good to the Kingdom of God. As I interact with college students, I rarely hear someone who refuses to be a Christian because of some atheist who convinced them. Instead, I hear story after story of those confused and frustrated by the types of Christians they interacted with growing up.

The devils one object is so to depress God’s people that he can go to the man of the world and say: There are God’s people. Do you want to be like that? (Martin Lloyd Jones)

What a sad day when one would choose not to believe by simply observing those who call themselves Christians. Because of this we must, as Ephesians 6:11 said, “stand against the schemes of the devil.”

When we give in to the devil’s lies and stop believing what God says is true, are only conclusion becomes spiritual depression.

Cause 4: Unbelief

Unbelief, stated simply, is not believing God. The moment we accept something as truth that isn’t in agreement with the Bible, we are in the realm of unbelief. We are also in the crosshairs of spiritual depression. If someone with any temperament could believe God perfectly, in all physical conditions, through any lie that Satan tells, you would not experience a drop of spiritual depression in your life.

All spiritual depression is rooted in unbelief. 

As human beings, we do not operate in full belief. Remember the words of the man who had the demon-possessed son in Mark 9, 

And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and was saying, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-24, LSB)

Faith is not black and white. It is better to understand it as less and more. Like having only a few pages from a novel, we appreciate what we have while simultaneously yearning for more. We recall the many times Jesus uses the phrase, “you of little faith.” Notice he did not say you of no faith. And these phrases were directed at his very own disciples.

Since faith is a matter of less and more, we can grow it. As we understand God more and challenge ourselves to trust his words over the lies of Satan, our faith grows. Our confidence in God and his words become more and more solidified, and we find ourselves experiencing the solid foundation Jesus speaks of in Matthew 7.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and does them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.25 And the rain descended, and the rivers came, and the winds blew and fell against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.26 And everyone hearing these words of Mine and not doing them, may be compared to a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell⁠—and great was its fall.”28 Now it happened that when Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were astonished at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:24-29, LSB)

Our confidence grows as we hear the words of God and apply them to our lives.

We know the major causes of spiritual depression, but the million-dollar question remains, how do we treat the condition? We will begin this discussion in the following article.

Spiritual Depression – Part 1

Depression needs no introduction. A discussion on depression is as common as a discussion on the weather. It could concern for a close friend or family member, or the desperate cry of an individual for hope and healing in dark circumstances. Either way, we can not avoid it.

Yet, as Christians, we must face an undeniable tension. How is it that the God who sent his son to bring us abundant life could have children who live depressing lives? Doesn’t this seem like a contradiction? Is it okay or even allow for a Christian to experience what the world classifies as depression?

The short answer is yes. But for a topic as big as depression, it would do us good to dive deeper into it.

For clarification purposes, I must recognize that the severity of depression is on a spectrum. For the more severe cases, some may need medical help and medication. For less critical situations, this may not be the case. Either way, it is essential to remember, as Psalm 19 reminds us,

The law of Yahweh is perfect, restoring the soul;
We all need a restoration that can only come from the Word of God. This restoration is what we will be seeking in this journey through the topic of depression.

Is depression in the Bible?

The first question we must answer is whether or not depression is biblical? Here is where I would like to distinguish between depression and what we will refer to as a spiritual depression. I make the distinction simply to emphasize the root of the issue. All of life’s problems are, in one way or another, spiritual issues, so it would be good to begin thinking this way. God is the creator of all human life, and there exists no depression outside of the created human being.

Spiritual depression is a prevalent condition in the scriptures. Look at the words of the prophet Isaiah,

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why are you disturbed within me? (Isaiah 42:5)

You can feel the pain of this man who carried the responsibility of speaking on behalf of God. With this great privilege came times of great anguish.

It is also very prevalent in the minds and hearts of Christians today. One study from the Pew Research Center claims that in 2017 there were 7.6 million depressed Christians.

Although the information and statistics on depression are overwhelming, my goal is not to give you any type of statistical analysis on depression. Instead, I will speak from my experience of 15 years of working with college students and young adults. If we were to expand the definition to include sadness, lack of motivation, lack of concern for the Great Commission, insecurity, and fear, I would feel comfortable claiming that almost 100% of the thousands of students I have met wrestle with this spiritual condition.

What will you get from this journey?

When one attempts to find solid ground on the topic of spiritual depression, it can often feel like trying to grab a wet bar of soap. The moment you think you have it, it slips out of your grasp. Understanding this topic is difficult because our efforts at identifying problems tend to focus on the fruits instead of the roots.

This series of articles will discuss the root causes of spiritual depression as seen in the Bible. We will do this using two steps. First, we will build a solid case for spiritual depression from the Bible. Second, we will analyze different examples and illustrations of spiritual depression in the Bible to discover other causes and principles we can use to diagnose and battle against this problem in our own lives.

Why is this topic important?

Although spiritual depression is common, it is not normal for a Christian to live in a depressed state. Notice that I did not say that it is not possible. It is possible, as we will see as we examine the Scriptures, but it would be to the Christians’s demise to remain in this state. One would be missing out on the joy, and abundant life promised to those who believe. Martin Lloyd Jones says,
In a sense, a depressed Christian is a contradiction in terms.
To grasp the root of spiritual depression, we must flee from the fast-paced, superficial approach to Christianity that is so common today. To discover the truth in this area, we must slow down and take time to examine ourselves. In our following articles, we will do just that!

3 Lies You may be Believing about SMC

You made a great decision to come to SMC 2022! Do you still believe that?

You inevitably begin to think more about your decision to go to SMC the day after Christmas than any other point since signing up. The only thing between you and the conference is New Year’s day, so it is customary to begin processing what you think your SMC experience will be like.

I have found that your perception of SMC can sometimes be quite a bit off from the reality of what you are going to experience.

3 Common Thought Processes

1) I have bitten off more than I can chew with SMC. Did I make the right decision? 


Try to think back to Late Night when you most likely signed up for SMC. There was a hunger to know more about God and grow closer to those around you. Dane reminded us of all the benefits, and you were excited. 

Christmas break has a numbing effect on a lot of people. Something about being at home and spending time with old friends has a way of shadowing the excitement we once had for spiritual growth. 

When that first Main Session starts at SMC, you will have two thoughts running through your head simultaneously. The first will be how glad you are that you decided to come. The second will be how grateful you are that you didn’t back out. 

God reminds us in Hebrews 11:6 that “without faith, it is impossible to please God.” It takes faith to come to SMC for the first time, and every year I watch God reward those people who show up!

2) I don’t want to grow in my faith anymore; I think I will stay home.

Be very careful here.

There are two root reasons why I believe we have this thought process. The first comes from John 17:3,

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

It may be that we have forgotten or possibly never realized that knowing God is the very purpose of our existence. When we invest in knowing God, we feel like a fish back in the water! 

Another possible root cause comes from Ecclesiastes 10:18, which says

Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks.

The principle here is that laziness has consequences. There are apparent physical consequences when we are lazy, but there are also less obvious spiritual consequences. Prioritizing knowing God and building a relationship with him is hard work. A lazy attitude will always avoid hard work. 

Don’t let a lazy heart dictate your decisions over the break. If you are in this camp, staying true to your commitment to SMC may be the breakthrough moment you need to crush the idleness and apathy in your life! 

So often, in my experience, something incredible is right on the other side of some hard work and effort.

3) Am I going to feel lonely? I don’t know many people going to SMC…I don’t even know who I am rooming with.


If you come to SMC with an optimistic mindset and participate in the things SMC encourages you to do, it will be three days filled with new relationships and life-changing content!

So many people I know and love who are thriving in life on many levels say it all started with the decision to go to SMC. I am not saying it is the secret to a successful life, but I will say that the SMC environment is designed to help you succeed!

And I would argue that staying home by yourself has much higher odds for you feeling lonely from Jan 2-5th.

Final thought

There are three things that the Bible teaches that are eternal. God, God’s People, and God’s Word (Bible). When you are considering an investment, you should always consider the return on investment (ROI) in anything. Most investments have risk involved that causes many to be hesitant. For example, one of my family members has been encouraging me to invest in crypto-currency, but my lack of confidence in the outcome gives me cold feet.

What is the ROI of SMC? Well, SMC is built around God, God’s People, and God’s Word, the only three things that last forever. Do you know what this means? Your time, energy, and money investment in SMC is a sure thing! You can’t lose! The only loss would be not to invest by not coming to SMC.

We are so excited to see all of you soon and experience this amazing conference together!

Why Finish to the End?

I want to start by saying that there are many reasons we must follow Jesus to the very end.

Hebrews 3:14 reminds us that, “We have come to share in Christ if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.”

Matthew 25:13 reminds us that, like the disciples of Jesus time, “…you do not know the day or the hour” that Jesus will return. Therefore we must be alert and ready until the last breath.

These could be a factor in why you continue in your faith until the end or, as I like to say, finish.

In this article, I would like to highlight, what I believe, is one of the strongest motivations from the scriptures to finish strong in your discipleship. Let’s look at a few places in the scriptures that this motivation is seen. 

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD. All the families of the nations will bow down before Him (Psalm 22:27-28)

It is written: “‘ As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'” (Romans 14:11)

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelations 5:9)

Why would you finish strong in your faith today, this week, this month, this year, or a better way to say it? Why would you finish strong in your faith until your last breath?

Because God’s purpose for your life is to spread the gospel to all peoples of the world!

Jesus lived and died for this purpose. He reminds us at the end of Luke 19 that he came “to seek and save the lost.”

The cross was designed for this purpose.

God did not spare his own son for this purpose (Romans 8:32)

It is because of this purpose that the Apostle Paul says,

It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation (Romans 15:20).

And this should be at the very core of our motivation in every step of faith we take to love God and love people.

The Life of Adoniram Judson

Hanging behind me in my office is a picture of a man named Adoniram Judson. I bring him up because as we consider the idea of finishing to the end, there are few men that we could point to that would model this same quality more than Judson.

I want to introduce you to this man, his life, and his ministry so that we can be inspired by his willingness to finish out of a motivation to reach people who have never been reached.

One man who was present during the death of Judson is famously quoted saying,

Few men die so hard.

Here is his story.

The Story of Adoniram Judson

Adoniram was born into a faith-filled family. His father was a minister, and his mother was known for her strong and deep faith. As a boy, it was evident that Adoniram was no ordinary boy. At age 6, he was reading entire chapters out of the King James Version of the Bible.

At the age of 16, he went to Brown University and graduated as the head of his class.

His parents didn’t know it at the time, but while at Brown, Judson was beginning to lose his faith. He had befriended a guy by the name of Jacob Eims, who was Diest. This is someone who believes in the existence of a Supreme Being, but that this Supreme Being does not intervene in the Universe.

Jacob Eims influenced Judson tremendously, so much so that by the time Judson would graduate, he would openly identify to his friends at school that he was not a Christian. The only problem he still had was that he had not yet told his parents, and he had even managed to word his valedictorian speech in a way that kept him from exposing his new beliefs.

But on his bday, August 9, 1808, Judson broke the news that broke his parent’s hearts. He told them that he was never a Christian and wanted to go to New York to pursue playwriting and theatre. He asked his father to pay for him to purchase a horse so that he may leave immediately with friends to carry out these dreams. Broken-hearted, his father obliged.

New York was not the dream he hoped. His so-called friends he went with turned out to be a group of reckless vagabonds who would deceive, cheat, and steal from anyone and everyone they could. This bothered Judson so severely that he decided to leave New York.

He left on horseback and headed into the country to his uncle’s house in Sheffield, MA. When he arrived, instead of finding his uncle, who was gone on a trip, he found a pious young man who stunned him with his firm Christian conviction. It left quite an impression on AJ.

Judson recalls this moment when he was left wondering if there was another way to be a Christian. It still wasn’t enough to convince him, though, so he set off for home.

The trip was far enough that Judson had to stop for the night at Inn. The Innkeeper informed him that he was out of rooms, but after some pleading from Judson, he agreed to let him share a room with another man. The keeper warned him that the man in the room was very sick and unlikely to make it through the night. But Judson was desperate and didn’t want to spend the night in the open darkness out of fear of being robbed or killed.

Judson did not sleep that night because of the horrendous screams of pain as the man on the other side of the curtain was grasping for life. Adoniram began to ponder his death and if he was ready for it.

The following day he found that the man next to him had died, and it struck Adoniram to the core. As he was walking out, he said to the keeper, “do you know who he was?” The keeper replied, “Oh yes, a young man from brown, his name was Jacob Eims.”

Judson was frozen. For 3 hours, he sat at the Inn in disbelief and terror. He thought if Jacob Eims was correct, then all of this life is meaningless, and no matter how hard he tried, Judson could not believe that life was meaningless.

Although Judson did not immediately become a Christian at that moment, this experience played a vital role in his decision to follow Jesus a few months later.

He enrolled in Andover Theological Seminary and read different books about the cultures in the east. He couldn’t get past that so many of these places had no access to the gospel. His heart latched explicitly to the people of Burma.

With his newfound love for Jesus came a new passion for going to the Burmese people to proclaim the good news of Jesus

After coming to grips with this in heart and mind, there was no stopping Adoniram from finishing out his calling! On June 28, 1819, he and four others presented themselves to the congregation of foreign missions to ask to be sent out as the first foreign missionaries from America to the east. The assembly agreed, and it was on this day, he became ordained as a missionary and the day he first saw Anne.

Adoniram and Anne’s relationship began to blossom. Still, in the back of his mind, Judson knew the day would come when she would have to decide to stay in the comforts of America or risk her life as a missionary in the disease-ridden, lawless jungles of India.

Anne decided to give up the comforts to spend her life in the world of the heathen. The only person left to convince was Anne’s Father. Here is was the letter Adoniram wrote him said.


I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring. To see her no more in this world, whether you can consent to her departure and her subjection to the hardships and the sufferings of a missionary life, whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India, to every kind of want and distress, to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this for the sake of him who left his heavily home and died for her and for you and for the sake of the perishing immortal souls’ in the glory of God? Can you consent to all the hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory with the crown of righteousness brightened with the acclamation of praise, which shall resound to her Savior from the heathens saved through er means from internal woe and despair?


Her father gave her the decision, and a year and a half later, they were on a boat heading to Calcutta, India, with the hopes of getting to Rangoon, Burma, as soon as possible.

The missionary journey was a total of 33 years.

[Here is the questions I would like for you to ask in your head as we move into the missionary experiences of the Judsons. What are you willing to do to endure finish until the end? Maybe a better question, who are you ready to endure for till the end?]

Anne gave birth to their first son on the trip to Calcutta, the child died before they reached their destination, and the child was dropped overboard. Their second child, Roger, died at 17 months. It was after the death of Roger that Anne wrote this,

Our hearts were bound up with this child, but God saw that it was necessary to remind us of our error and to strip us of our only little awe. Oh, may it not be in vain that he has done it. May we do much to improve it that he will stay his hand and say it is enough.” [how many mothers do you know that would respond this way?]

They reached their destination in Calcutta and told some of the missionaries in India their plan to go to Burma. William Carey, a famous missionary to India, said to AJ,

don’t go there; it’s useless…all missionaries that go either die or quit…

Burma was filled with fierce enemy raiders, zero religious toleration, diseases unknown to any American, and an absence of any medical education.

But William Carey did not deter them. The hope of ALL PEOPLES echoed through the mind of the Judsons, and against the counsel of many, they arrived in Yangon in 1813.

His first convert came in 1819. Six years before a single person follow Jesus [makes a semester not seem so bad]. By 1822 there were 18 converts. He spent much of his time during these years working on producing Christian writings, translating the Bible from Greek/Hebrew to Burmese, and setting up events to have a religious dialogue with the Burmese people.

Between 1813-1831 the price was enormous.

[Few examples: Adoniram got sick, and the solution was saltwater and warmer weather. Was supposed to be gone for two weeks, but because of storms and wind, didn’t come back for six months // It was two and a half years before they heard anything from someone in the United States// Anne got so sick that she traveled back to the US for two years, during that time she wrote a book that would lead the sending of hundreds of more missionaries and large amounts of funding to overseas missions // the suffered immensely about of pressure from the community to be silent //their lives were threatened on a continual basis]

In 1823, the Judsons moved from Rangoon to Ava, the capital city, to influence the emperor who had complete authority. Including the power to remove the head of anyone who approached him with a request.

Little did they know that Britain was going to attack Yangoon in May of that year during that time.

Immediately every Western man was considered suspect and thrown into prison, including Adoniram, who had just found out that Anne was pregnant with their 3rd child.

The prison conditions were beyond what our minds could even imagine. Every prisoner was bound in shackles across their ankles, and each night the guards put a bamboo pole through the shackles. The bamboo pole was raised to suspend each prisoner upside down so that only their head and shoulders touched the ground. This happened every night!

Anne spent her days visiting the prison and walking 2 miles, pregnant, in the 108-degree heat, to the palace to plead with the emperor for better living conditions for the prisoners.

A year later, as the war became more intense, the prisoners were moved to another prison in the middle of the night. They laid them down in the new prison cell, but now the prisoners completely wore their feet with sores from walking. One prisoner described it as “being eaten alive” by the mosquitos that would come in off the rice patties in the evenings. If it wasn’t the excruciating pain from the mosquito bites, then it was the screams of the prisoners that would keep AJ from sleep each night.

Anne had followed the prisoner, now with a new baby that had been born. She became as thin as AJ, and her milk dried up. AJ begged the jailer for mercy and the jailer allowed him at night to take the baby and walk through the village to look for anyone willing to nurse the baby so that the baby would live.

Suddenly after 17 months of this torture. Judson was instantly released. Rangoon and Britain were attempting peace treatises, and Judson was needed to translate.

Eleven months later, Anne died from the tole that the previous 17 months had taken on her. 6 months later, their baby girl died. Three months later, he received a letter informing him that his father had died.

Dark times fell on Adoniram.

[He retreated more and more// the burning of all of his letters // gave away all of his wealth // build a hut in the jungle to live alone // for two years he was in total isolation // dude his own grave to sit by and contemplate existence…said in a letter “I believe in Him and find him not”]

While he was in isolation, he had news that his brother El Nathan had passed away, and ironically this was the news that reignited his spirit for the Lord.

The reason was that when Adoniram walked to the ship to sail to Burma, he was accompanied by his brother. During that walk, he pleaded with his brother to put his faith in Jesus but wouldn’t. The fantastic news of his brother’s salvation came in the letter he received about his brother’s death.

This brings us to 1831. Do you think this was an accident? It was designed.

Very truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds (John 12:24)

The outpouring that came after 1831 was because Adoniram had all but died to himself.

But that was just the beginning of his suffering, there’s more, but I will have to bullet point for the sake of time.


Sarah Bordman

  • His 2nd wife was Sarah Bordman, a widowed missionary who took her baby into tiger-infested jungles alone to preach the gospel.
  • Married 11 years and had eight children (2 died).
  • She got sick and had to make the trip back to America; Judson was told he must accompany her because she was too weak to go alone.
  • They were headed for New England. Three oldest kids came, three youngest were left behind (one died).
  • As they rounded the tip of Africa, Sarah dies. The boat docks just short of New England, barely long enough for AJ and kids to dig a grave, say goodbye, and sail on. With three kids crying on his neck, he comes home…33 years later.
  • Mom and dad are both dead.



  • 29 years old, with her entire life ahead of her, gave up everything to go to Burma with AJ
  • One child
  • They were married for four years, and the nagging sickness began to overtake AJ.
  • AJ took a boat trip, but Emily was pregnant, so he was accompanied by a man named Thomas, and they headed for the Island of France.
  • The suffering was unspeakable. Convulsions followed by vomiting over and over again.


On April 12, 1850, Adoniram Judson died at sea away from family and church. The ship crew assembled quietly in the evening; there was no prayer because the crew was unbelievers. Instead, they slid his coffin into the ocean in the night a few hundred miles west of Burma, and the boat sailed on.

Ten days later, Emily gave birth to a dead baby. Four months later, she went home. Three years later, she died at age 37 because the journey to Burma had damaged her health.

Few men die so hard.

And as you hear this story, you may have a similar question that I had.

To what end?


Adoniram’s Legacy

  • The entire OT and NT translated into the Burmese dialect.
  • For that, AJ had to learn the language, know Greek and Hebrew fluently, and then translate it all on his own! [hidden in a pillow]
  • Not only did he complete a Burmese Bible, but he also finished half of a Bible dictionary to help understand the text for the Burmese people.
  • When AJ came to Burma, there were no known Christians, and the population was generally Buddhist/non-religious. At his death, 100s of Burmese converts were leading the church, and today there are 3700 congregations in the Burmese Baptist convention.
  • About four-fifths of the country’s 3 million Christians are a part of this convention.


Judson wrote a letter at one point in his life to those who were considering going overseas to do missions; here is what it said,

Remember, a large portion of those who come out to the east die within five years, walk softly, therefore because death is narrowly watching your steps.

I share this story because I think it is common to look around at others doing ministry. When we see someone’s life, it either encourages us to keep going or discourages us because we see a lack of faith.

Most Christians never die to themselves. Most, at best, give chunks of their time for a small period of their lives to dabble in spiritual growth and help others.

But the call to finish is the call to die daily for the sake of people on the other side of the earth to hear about Jesus.

I am not sure what your motivations typically are when you consider things like…


  • Why should I work hard to prepare those last three bible studies?
  • Why should you share the gospel or follow up or process the gospel a few more times with that guy or girl?
  • Why should I commit to finishing strong in my spiritual disciplines, bible reading, prayer, scrip men, fasting…
  • Why should I fight to have that invite convo with that guy/girl that still hasn’t heard or been given a compelling reason to come to SMC?
  • Why should I stand firm against that sin that has been luring and enticing me all semester?
  • Why should I stay in the game when many around me seem to be throwing in the towel.
  • Why should I do DMT? It’s such a high commitment… other places would ask less of me.


You may answer that question in many ways, but tonight I want you to see that for Judson, the answer was because the people on the other side of the globe are depending on you too!

Your ability to finish by dying today, and then tomorrow, and then the next day, is the process by which you become a disciple and make disciples. Disciples being raised is the only hope of someone giving their life to going overseas! Disciples going overseas is the only hope for over 3.16 billion people in the 10/40 window, many of who will be born and die without ever hearing a single word about Jesus.

That is why we finish; what you do during the semester matters! Finishing matters!

What would it look like for you to die-hard this last month! Spend 5 minutes answering that question in your journals.


What Does it Mean to have Faith?

What does it mean to put your faith in Jesus?

This question caused tension in my life as I was growing up. You see, I had many experiences with God through Bible studies and church groups that left me feeling very spiritual, but then months, even just weeks later, I was back to my old way of doing life. It seemed like my relationship with God depended more on my feelings and experiences rather than true faith.

True faith, what does that even mean? Was I suppose to blindly accept what I heard about God and the Bible from church and friends? Should I have a funny feeling in my stomach or be able to perform miracles? It was all very confusing.

Many people in my hometown claimed to have faith, but their lives looked very similar to those who didn’t believe in God. Outside church attendance, nothing about their lives demonstrated the faith they claimed to have.

This caused me to investigate the question: what does it mean to have faith in Jesus? I believe the answer to this question can be summed up in three steps.


  1. Hear – The true message of who Jesus is must be told to us through something or someone (Romans 10:14).
  2. Believe – To accept something as true with your mind (John 1:12).
  3. Trust – To commit to something through your actions (Luke 9:23)

These three steps must all be present to experience true faith. Imagine a military general standing before 100 soldiers as he prepares them for battle. With a look of determination and grit, he stares over them and says, “Tonight, we will march together into battle! It will be tough, some of you will lose your life, but without victory we will never experience freedom!!!”

After finishing his speech, the 50 soldiers sitting at the front of the group cheered with excitement and passion while the 50 soldiers sitting in the back quietly stared at the grass beneath their boots. The soldiers were dismissed and told to return at 6 pm to march into battle.

That evening the General was shocked to see that only 25 soldiers had come prepared for battle. There was no option to turn back, so the General marched into war with the army that he had.

Let’s use the soldiers in the hypothetical situation to help us diagnose true faith. After the General finished his inspiring speech, 50 of the soldiers sat quietly. Why? Because they were in the back of the group and couldn’t hear the General. They didn’t show up for the battle because they weren’t aware a battle existed. Many will never experience an authentic faith in Jesus because they will never hear the truth about Jesus.

The 50 who heard the speech shouted with passion and excitement because they had intellectually agreed with the General’s statements. They agreed that it was necessary to go into battle to win their freedom in their minds. Therefore, they heard, and they believed. Many people who claim to have faith are in a similar situation. They have heard the

story of Jesus through their parents or a church group. They have been to Sunday school and know all the right answers. Not only that, they agree with what they have learned.

Yet, only 25 of the 50 soldiers who heard and believed showed up to march into battle. Why? Because only 25 of them trusted. It wasn’t enough to hear and believe. True faith only comes to fruition when we have all three steps: hearing, believing, and trusting.

The same is true when it comes to putting our faith in Jesus. To experience the fulfilling life that Jesus has to offer us, both here on earth and in heaven for eternity, we must have all three steps.

Discussion Questions

– What do you think the difference is between believing and trusting?

– Which of the three steps have you taken in your life up to this point? (hearing — believing —


– Why do you think it is not enough to hear and believe?

– Based on the article you just read, do you think you have true faith?

– What would be a good next step in light of how you answer the questions above?

Jesus Came to Seek and Save the Lost

God’s pursuit of sinful humanity is the storyline of the entire Bible.

It begins in Genesis 3:8-9 as we see God pursuing Adam and Eve after they disobey his command to not eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

And it continues to be the narrative throughout the Old Testament as we look at passages like Ezekiel 34:16, 

I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

And Isaiah 49:6,

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” 

Then as Jesus hits the scene, some of the very first words out of his mouth in Matthew 3:2,

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Are you convinced yet? If not, maybe one more verse that completes the bookends. Revelations 22:17, 

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

From start to finish, we see this storyline. God created the galaxies, universes, and the earth to create a people he would call back to himself for his glory! 

The Mission of God in the Life of Zacchaeus

Jesus embraced this mission of God during his 3-year ministry on earth. One example comes in Luke 19:1-10, the final words are “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

As he was on this journey, he calls many to repentance, but rarely do we have a story like this one where Jesus calls a person by name. But here, we meet a character who has a name, Zacchaeus. There was the “woman at the well” and the “demon-possessed man.” There was the “rich young ruler” and “the centurion.”

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Who was Zacchaeus?

From Jericho

Zacchaeus lived in a town known as Jericho. Maybe you are familiar with this city from the Old Testament story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho. In that story, the city was destroyed, but thousands of years later, it has been rebuilt and is thriving.

Since highways and waterways surrounded it, Jericho was a very bustling place with a healthy economy. An excellent place for one to thrive financially, which meant a great place to collect taxes.

Jericho was one of the three regional tax centers in the land of Israel. And it is in this city that we mean the chief of tax collectors, Zacchaeus.

Chief Tax Collector and Rich

Taxes were an everyday part of life just as a they are today. Whenever there is transactions of goods, there are taxes.

Jesus was not opposed to taxes. If you remember, it was Jesus who said, “give to Ceasar what is Ceasars…” and it was Jesus who established all of the governmental authorities.

But because of some unethical practices, tax collectors were despised by their communities. Here are few of those practices:

  • To have a tax franchise you had to buy it from Rome which made you a trader to your own people.
  • Rome required a certain percentage of tax and then gave freedom to tax collectors to tax on other goods if they wanted. This was abused.
  • Tax collectors would create taxes to profit making them some of the wealthiest men in the cities.

And Zaccheus was a Chief tax collector which mean he was at the top of the pyramid scheme and most likely hated all the more.

In verse 7 we get more insight into the feelings others had for him.

This reputation left Zacchaeus and all other tax collectors ostricized from their communities. They were unable to go to the synagogues and worship. They were labeled “unclean” so no jews would associate with them. They were left to socialize with other tax collectors and sinners.

Zacchaeus seizes his opportunity

Jesus is passing through Jericho and clearly the word has spread because a crowd has gathered.

This would be normal for any foreigner passing through, but even more so for Jesus. His reputation was proceeding him. Those in the crowd would have heard of his miracles and rumors that he was the messiah.

Zacchaeus is attempting to navigate through this crowd, but the story informs us that he is having trouble on account of his size and the size of the crowd. But Zacchaeus wouldn’t be denied.

Knowing the city, he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. These trees are known for being low to the ground and having long think branches that extend out. The perfect tree for Zacchaeus to get a good view of Jesus as he came along the road.

Jesus knows his name

As Jesus approached the tree, he looks up and says, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”

Can you imagine the jolt that must have gone through his body at that time? It would be similar to someone of great renown approaching you, and as your nerves spike, they acknowledge you by name.

Now for us, we shouldn’t be shocked. In John 10:3, Jesus says,

To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

God knows the name of every sheep that is in his fold. And it is more than this. God knows the year, month, week, day, hour, minute, and second of every person who comes to know the Lord.

This is no accident. Jesus says, “I MUST stay at your house today.” This is a divine appointment.

Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but more importantly, Jesus wanted to see Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus is comforted by this, and we should be too. It is the comfort experienced by David when he says in Psalm 139:16,

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them,the days that were formed for me,when as yet there was none of them.

Our God knows us better than we know ourselves. He is not losing any of his sheep. The intentionality that Jesus shows to Zacchaeus is the same intentionality given to you and me. It is the same intentionality that he will give to everyone he calls to follow him.

The evidences of true conversion

Zacchaeus “hurried and came down and received him joyfully.” Jesus’ call to him was irresistible. This was a divine appointment, and there was nothing anyone was going to do to stop it.

Notice the contrast of the hearts of the people in the next verse. Does it say, “and they were all excited that a sinner had been freed from his sins to walk faithfully with Jesus?”


It says they grumbled. The Greek word is diagongudso, which is an onomatopoeia. You can hear the sound of grumbling when you say it over and over again (go ahead and try…I know you are already).

These were religious Jews. They classified Zacchaeus as a sinner, but the truth was that their hearts were the ones that were still filled with sin.
They say, “he has gone in to be the guys of a man who is a sinner.” They should have said correctly, “he has gone in to be the guest of a man who WAS a sinner.”

They don’t get it. To the end, they hold on to this false religion while Jesus is saving sinners.

Further evidences…

We see the attitude change of Zacchaeus, but we also see a simultaneous change in his actions. In verse 8, it says, 

And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

Something has happed that has turned this thief into a philanthropist; this man who spent his life taking now wants to give a lot. 

We know it is the result of salvation because the next verse tells us. There are other pieces of evidence, though.

First, he calls Jesus, Lord. He uses the same word that bondservants use to their masters, Kurios. 

Second, he gives up half of his goods to the poor. Because the story points out that he is rich, we know that half of everything he has would be a lot. The tithing expectation for a Jew would be 10%, so he has already exceeded that by 40%. 

Third, anyone that he has defrauded, he will restore fourfold. Why fourfold? Well, he was probably thinking of Numbers 5:6-7.

When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong.

The law states he should give back a fifth, 20%. On top of giving away half everything he has, Zacchaeus wants to give back what he took plus 25% to every person he has wronged. 


Ephesians 2:10 says, 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

And James 2:14 says,

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?

Why does he do this? The truly converted sinner can’t help but do this. He is, as 2 Corinthians 5:17 puts it, “a new creation.” He wants to be obedient to the maximum level. 

This is a fantastic story of conversion! But let us not forget that we all were at some point as Zacchaues; lost, hopeless, broken sinners in need of a savior to come to us.  

Praise God that Jesus sought you out, called you by name, and declared that salvation would be given to you!  






Accessing the Grace of God

If you were to ask me what was under the hood of my car, my response would be, “the engine.” We could lift the hood of my car and factually agree that there is indeed an engine. But if you were to ask follow-up questions such as, “how does an engine work?” I would have trouble giving you an answer because the truth is I understand that my car is powered by an engine while simultaneously not understanding much about how it works.

Something similar happens in the minds of most Christians when you say the word grace.

I mean that we all feel comfortable using this word in the same way we feel comfortable claiming that there is an engine under the hood of our car. But when you begin to ask questions like, “how do you access grace?” or “in what ways does grace impact your day-to-day walk with Jesus?” We all of a sudden find ourselves realizing we know less about this word than we initially thought.

What is Grace?

Grace is unmerited favor from God upon sinners. It is the compassionate response of the superior, God, to the inferior, us. Without grace, there are no Christians because it is only by grace that we are saved. Grace is also the only way we continue to grow in our faith and become more like Jesus.

It is impossible to overstate the necessity of grace in the Christian life. It is, hands down, 100%, no questions asked, the single most important word for anyone who follows Jesus. Romans 5:2 puts it this way,

Through him, we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

To “stand” in grace means that we are surrounded. We can take no pathways as a follower of Jesus that isn’t initiated, carried along, and finished by grace.

Is Grace only significant for Salvation?

This is a common misunderstanding of grace for young followers of Jesus. For them, grace becomes limited to the moment they believe in Jesus for the first time. They realize their need for grace to save them from the punishment of their sin but fail to realize that grace is the only hope for living a life of following Jesus. Look at how the Apostle Paul speaks of grace.

1 Corinthians 15:10 – But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

You see a life consumed by grace in this passage; grace is what makes Paul who he is. He says, “But by the grace of God I AM WHAT I AM…”

How did you get to where you are right now? I bet you can come up with a lot of different answers to this question. That answer would be filled with stories of human effort and self-determination for most of us, but not for Paul. Paul is who he is because of one thing, grace.

How did Grace impact the life of Paul?

What was different about Paul because of grace? It is evident from his NT letters that grace saturated every area of his life. Here are some examples.

  • Grace fueled Pauls Obedience to Jesus (Romans 1:5)
  • Grace Justified Paul before God (Romans 3:24)
  • Grace freed Paul from the burden of the law (Romans 6:14-15)
  • Grace was the means by which Paul was chosen (Romans 11:5)
  • Grace gave Paul the confidence to speak boldy to other Christians (Romans 12:3; 15:15)
  • Grace is means by which Paul recieved his spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6)
  • Grace gave Paul the ability to do ministry (1 Cor 3:10)
  • Grace gave Paul identity and allowed him to work hard (1 Cor 15:10)
  • Grace simplified Pauls ministry approach (2 Cor 1:12)*
  • Grace increased Pauls thankfulness (2 Cor 4:15)
  • Grace made Paul spiritually rich (2 Cor 8:9)
  • Grace is what Paul ministered to others (2 Cor 8:19)
  • Grace was how Paul abounded in every good work (2 Cor 9:8)
  • Grace gave Paul power in his weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9)
  • Paul was called to Jesus by grace (Gal 1:15)
  • Grace qualified Paul to do ministry with the other apostles (Gal 2:9)
  • The absence of Grace was enough for Paul to claim some had been severed from Christ (Gal 5:4)
  • Paul looked ahead to the fullness of God’s grace in Heaven (Ephesians 2:7)
  • Grace was the thing Paul stewarded to others (Eph 3:2)
  • Paul was made a minister of the gospel through God’s grace (Eph 3:7)
  • The power to preach the gospel came from Grace (Eph 3:8)
  • Grace is what Paul wanted to insert in others lives with his words (Eph 4:29)
  • Grace connected Paul to other believers while he was in prison (Philippians 1:7)
  • Grace is from the Lord overflowed to Paul with faith and love from Jesus (1 Tim 1:14)


Grace was everything to Paul! It consumed his whole life, but it was also what he hoped would consume others. Every single letter Paul wrote has the phrase “Grace to you…” in the introductory sentences.

“Grace to you…” Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, Philemon.

It was of first importance to every letter Paul wrote to those in his ministry. He wanted grace to go to them! Why? Because as we read in all of the examples, grace was the twin-turbo engine that powered every spiritual thing in Paul’s life.

Listen closely. You can not follow Jesus outside of the grace he supplies to follow him. You can try, but you will only experience burn out and frustration.

If Grace is this important, how do we access it?

How do you get this grace? Where do you find it? Is it something that happens or something we seek out? Do we have to work for it, pray for it, or wait for it to “fall on us?”

The long answer.

We access this Grace of God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit as we employ the spiritual disciplines modeled and commanded by the pages of Scripture.

That shorter answer.

We can access the power of Grace through the spiritual disciplines! Things such as prayer, Bible reading, fasting, scripture memory, generosity, service, solitude, silence, celebration, and more.

How does Grace connect to the spiritual disciplines?

What purpose do things like reading the Bible, prayer, fasting, scripture memorization, and fasting have in your life? I assume you have tried some or all of these disciplines at some point.

For some, these activities are just what Christians are supposed to do. Maybe someone told you this is how you become a “good Christian.”

Others see these things as healthy habits that will make them better people.

Still, others are searching for some mystical experience that might take place as they seek God through the spiritual disciplines.

Let’s not forget those who pursue knowledge in an academic sense; those who feel insecure that they know so little of God that they open their Bible in the same ways they open their school books.

Do you relate to any of these? There is danger in the subtlety of these pursuits. They are noble and typically praised by many. But sadly, they miss the spirit of the disciplines and keep you from accessing the power of grace that you so desperately need to follow and imitate Jesus.

Here is how the disciplines are supposed to work

The purpose of the spiritual disciplines.

Each of the spiritual disciplines opens the opportunity for the grace of God to work in your life. Here are a few examples. 

  • Reading/Studying/Meditating/Memorizing the Bible is an apparent discipline that God commands us to pursue. As we open our Bible and engage in any of these disciplines, God’s grace becomes available to us. It may be that He convicts us of sin or encourages us to be obedient in an area we have never considered, but without opening the Bible, we will not have that opportunity. We must open the scriptures for this to be possible. 
  • Prayer is a spiritual discipline. As we communicate with God, we experience grace. This grace brings us peace from the worries of the world, it brings comfort and healing as we confess sin, and it brings hope as we trust God will do more than we can imagine (Eph 3:20). These are all a product of God’s grace in your life. You only experience them as you pray. 
  • Fasting is purposely removing food from your life for a spiritual purpose. As we fast, we become desperate for God in a new way. We come face to face with our dependency on food and replace that with dependence on God. We feel the constant hunger pains and tell God this pain is nothing compared to the pain of not experiencing whatever we need God to do. We tap into the grace of God in a new way when we participate in this discipline. 

And we could go on and on with the different disciplines. We could discuss disciples such as study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, submission, solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice. I do not share these to overwhelm you but to open your eyes to the potential of God’s grace that could be working your life. You must learn more about these disciplines and practice them to experience the abundant life God has for you as you follow Jesus. 


  • How have you viewed the spiritual disciplines wrongly in the past?
  • Have you ever consider grace as a power that can work through you? How does thinking of it this way impact your relationship with God?
  • Which of the spiritual disciplines are you most familiar with? Which are you not?
  • What is one new spiritual discipline you want to learn about and apply to your life?

Fear Not

There is a phrase in the Bible that is used 365 times. It is a phrase that, coincidentally, needs to be heard all 365 days in a year by every person that follows Jesus. The phrase is “fear not.” These words were spoken by Jesus more than any other phrase.

Why did he use these words so often? Probably because he understood the weakness of the human state.

Why do you think he used these words so often? Probably because he understood the weakness of the human state. The disciples and others around Jesus were full of fear. Some of those fears included:

  • Fear of the unknown (Matt 10:26)
  • Fear of what people will do to them for following Him (Matt 10:28)
  • Fear of not being provided for (Matt 10:31)
  • Fear of future decisions (Luke 5:10)
  • Fear of not being valued (Luke 12:7)
  • Possible fear of future career decisions (Luke 5:10)
  • Fear that Jesus wasn’t really who he said He was (John 12:15)
  • Fear of not gaining treasures of the world (John 14:27)
  • Fear of the unknown or death (Matt 14:27)
  • Fear of the angels God sent (Luke 1:13)
  • Fear of speaking to others about Jesus (Acts 18:9)
  • Fear of the mission Jesus gave them was in vain (Matt 28:10)
  • Fear of losing loved ones (Luke 8:50)

These fears and many more are connected to a word that is more commonly used today, anxiety. Anxiety connects to a spirit of fearfulness or worries about something that lies in the future.

We all have a fear that leads to anxiety in many different areas of our lives. It is a shared human quality that no one escapes. When fear rises to a high status that impairs us somehow or gets out of our control, we refer to it as a phobia. Some of the more common phobias include:

  • Claustrophobia: This is the fear of being in constricted, confined spaces.
  • Zoophobia: This is an umbrella term that involves an extreme fear of certain animals.
  • Acrophobia: This is the fear of heights.
  • Brontophobia: This is the fear of thunder and thunderstorms.

Many types of social phobias have to do with the fear people develop as they interact with other people. This can be one-on-one, small group, or large group settings, especially when someone is required to speak.

Jesus’s command to “fear not” is just as relevant today as 2000 years ago. But how do we do it? Does Jesus want us to pretend that fear does not exist? No, Jesus is well aware that we are going to be afraid of many things. Does he want us to muster up a false sense of courage with some high-energy music or a motivational speech? Not at all. Instead, in Matthew chapter 6, Jesus explains how we can do it. Let’s look at the passage.

Matthew 6:25-35 (ESV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The focus of this sermon is on the necessities of life, food, and clothes. Today our lives are filled with all sorts of anxieties over things that are far from necessary. We rarely worry about where our next meal may come from or if we will freeze over the winter seasons. But the truths we can pull from this part of Jesus’ sermon are still as valuable for our anxieties today. Let’s pull out a few.

1. You don’t have to be anxious because you are valuable to God.

Jesus is pulling illustrations from the things that are most likely in the eyesight of the listeners. When he says, “look at the birds of the air…” and “consider the lilies of the field…,” the listeners could have looked up and look over to see them both. They would see them every day as they went about their routine tasks. The characteristic of God that Jesus is highlighting is His care for what he has created. He does not the birds, which he made, go hungry. He does not let the flowers, which he created, go without clothing. If he treats the lesser things of his creation with such care and concern, how much more will he care for the pinnacle of his creation, us!

Much of our worry is rooted in a lack of trust that God values our well-being. It is easy to live as though God has more important things to do than care for our needs. But Jesus tells us just the opposite. He says, “Are you not more value than they?” The answer is a resounding YES!

The connection we must make is that if we are of greater value than the lesser things God created and cares so well for them, he must care an immense amount more about us. So the anxiety issue is not that God does not value us, so we are left on our own; instead, God values us more than any other part of his creation, and we don’t believe it.

Stop and think about that for a moment. Do you believe you are as valuable to God as Jesus says you are in this sermon? If you live a life crippled by fear, which leads to constant anxiety, the answer is no. Jesus wanted his fear-filled disciples to realize how much God cared for them because they were filled with fear when they didn’t. It is why Jesus says, “o you of little faith” at the end of verse 30. This was the disciple’s most significant issue. Therefore it is where we must begin if we wanted to break free from a fear-dominated life.

2. Seek first God’s Kingdom today, and leave the worries of tomorrow to God.

These words give us more insight to how anxiety works. Anxiety is always about the future. It is about the worry of tomorrow. We rarely, if ever, worry about something that has happened in the past. We may worry about the consequences of the past, but only because they will have repercussions in the future. There is nothing to fear when it’s over. We are gripped by anxiety before because we don’t know how troublesome or hard tomorrow will be.

Notice that Jesus is not advocating a fatalist mentality here. He does not say that God is in control, so just sit back and relax because nothing is going to change regardless of what you do. He is not saying don’t be provident or prudent because other places tell us that he who doesn’t provide for his household is worse than an infidel (1 Tim 5:8). Instead, he is making a statement to our spiritual attitude towards how we think about tomorrow. Do what you have to do, but at the same time, tomorrow is in the hands of God.

When we begin to get in God’s territory by trying to control the future, we end up crippling our ability to be faithful today.

  • A father cannot engage with his family at home because his mind is filled with the anxieties of that next promotion or job change in the future.
  • A mother is short-tempered with her children because she is glued to her phone, wrapped up in how her next social media post will be accepted in the future.
  • A pastor is disengaged with a member of his church because he dreams of larger congregations or better financial opportunities in the future.
  • A college student cannot leave their dorm room because of fear of what people might think in the future of their personality.

When we worry about a future out of our control, we lose control and become anxious. But when we stop and remind ourselves that we are only responsible for being faithful with what God has put in front of us today and allowing God to take care of tomorrow, those anxieties can fade away.

How to Worry Less About Tomorrow?

Focus on the Kingdom of God

Jesus says, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” If we ever hope to rid ourselves of fear, we must shift our thinking from building our earthly kingdoms to building up the kingdom of God. So much of our fear that leads to anxiety comes from self-absorption. We want life to be a certain way that is beneficial for us, and when it doesn’t work out the way we hope, we get anxious.

Instead, we should have our eyes focused on what is above (Col 3:1). What is above? The Kingdom of God. This one shift of perspective will melt away fear and anxiety because living for God’s Kingdom never returns void; it is only when we build our kingdoms that vanity engulfs us (Psalm 127:1).

Don’t Worry About Tomorrow

You have no control over what tomorrow might bring. The unpredictability of life catches off even the most diligent planners’ guard. We are all potentially moments away from unexpected circumstances. I am not advocating reckless or chaotic lifestyles. Instead, we must put our hands to the plow, accomplish what we can achieve today, and allow God to take care of how it plays out tomorrow.

If we are not careful, the worries of tomorrow (that we can’t control) will cripple our efforts to obey the clear commands that God has given us for today.

Consider How Much God Values You

It is important to remember that God is for you and if God is for you, who can be against you (Romans 8:31). The entire redemption story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is so that YOU could be reconciled to Him. If you are in Christ, you are his child with the freedom to approach his throne. He has given you his Holy Spirit to aid you and mold you into Christlikeness while you are here on earth, and he has prepared a place for you in his Kingdom for the day you leave.

Everything God does is for your good, whether you realize it or not. Even his discipline in your life is for your growth and overall good (Hebrews 12:11).

Cast your Anxieties Upon the Lord through Prayer

Philippians 4:6-7 says,

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God is ready to give us peace in our moments of fear, but we must ask Him for it.




Tips for New Disciples when Sharing the Gospel

My sons are five, three, and one, and they love to help me work on projects, especially when those projects involve tools. A few days ago, we were putting together a crib, so I pulled out my toolbox, and we began to read the instructions. Things were moving at a shockingly slow pace, as you can imagine; that was until my 3-year-old pulled the power drill from my toolbox and pressed his tiny fingers down on the power switch. My heart dropped. He had handled smaller tools before, but this was the first tool that had the power to harm him or whoever got in his way. It was a scary moment.

This feeling is similar to the one I feel when young disciples first become equipped to share their faith. It’s like they are grabbing a power tool for the first time! They are excited and ready to move into action. Still, suppose they do not move forward with guidance and instruction. In that case, they can end up causing pain to themselves and others unintentionally. Luckily, I could step in and help my son before anyone got hurt. Those are my same intentions with this article.

The gospel is powerful. The apostle Paul describes it as “the power of God for salvation…” in Romans 1:16. The gospel is the only weapon that has the power to change a person’s eternal destiny. Not only that, but it also makes us a new creation. The gospel opens up our hearts to allow the Holy Spirit to dwell inside us (Romans 8:9) and gives us the power to live like Jesus.

So if the gospel is the power of God for salvation, does the way we communicate it matter?

The short answer is yes. Why? Because the Bible encourages us to communicate the message in specific ways. For example, 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) says,

But in your hearts, revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

On the one hand, Peter tells us always to be prepared to talk about Jesus; on the other, he gives us an exhortation on how to communicate it, “with gentleness and respect.”

Or again in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (ESV) when Paul says,

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

As important as it was for the early disciples to share the gospel message, it would be incomplete to ignore the intentionality of the delivery process. It is fair to say that the disciples thought carefully about presentation and the approach to communicating the gospel, so we should also.

3 Things that Matter to God when Sharing the Gospel

1. Motivation Matters

When Paul was writing to one of the churches he planted, he lets them in on his motivation. He says,

 2 Cor 5:14 (ESV): For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 

To be compelled, something must thrust you forward. What is it that thrust Paul forward to share to tell people about Jesus? The love of Christ. The verb tense of the word “compelled (synecho)” is in the present tense, emphasizing that it is continuous. This means that Paul is continually thinking about how Christ loved him.

When we first hear the gospel and believe, the love of Christ is so significant to us. We find friends, family, or anyone who will listen, and without anyone telling us to, we naturally share it. This is the purest form of what Paul is expressing to the Corinthians. But for Paul, that motivation is continual. Not because he feels pressured, but because he considers the love of Christ every single day. He doesn’t lose the awe of when he first decided to follow Jesus.

With this in mind, I would like you to take 4 minutes and write down as many reasons as you can come up with to answer this question.

Why is the gospel the greatest news you have ever heard?

I hope your list is long. If not, my prayer is that you would spend time considering and learning more about the implication of Christ’s love in your life. Let me share some of mine with you. Because of the gospel,

  • I will spend eternity with Jesus rather than eternity in Hell.
  • I am a child of God with full access to the Father through prayer.
  • Sin no longer has me enslaved.
  • I have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of me.
  • I have friends who love me and serve me rather than use and abuse me.
  • I have a purpose for my life.
  • I am not consumed by stress and anxiety.
  • I have a Father who works out all things for my good.
  • I can speak truth into the lives of those I love.
  • I am a better husband, father, and friend.

This was 2 minutes of thinking for me. I don’t think of these things enough, but when I do, you know what happens? Christ’s love compels me to tell people about how amazing Jesus is.

You must consider these truths daily if you hope to be compelled by Christ’s love.

2. Credibility Matters:

My first summer at Kaleo, the Lord placed a heavy burden on my heart. It was that I was unsure that my parents understood the gospel. I thought, “it is my job to share this with them, or they may not be saved.” You can imagine what my approach was when I got home. I had my parents sit down on the couch, I pulled out a Romans 6:23 card, and I shared the gospel with them. After I finished, I hoped the tears would be flowing, and my parents would see the light of the gospel just like I had the first time I heard it, but instead, I just got blank stares. Then one of them said something like, “that is a neat illustration.” That was the last time we talked about it that directly.

Four years later, at my rehearsal dinner, there was an open mic time for our friends and family to speak encouragement over Natalie and me. I will never forget my mom’s words on that night. She said, “the first time I think understood the gospel was when you showed it to me when you came back from Kaleo, but it was watching your life out your faith over the next year that solidified it.” My mom knew me better than anyone else. She had been a part of many faith-based programs I had returned home from with a spiritual passion and then watched them fade back into my old lifestyle. She needed to see that what I was saying was backed by what I was going to do.

Your family and friends need to hear the gospel and SEE the gospel. The heart that the gospel has truly transformed will not look the same. The gospel is powerful. The message doesn’t need you to succeed. But God has, can, and will use how we live to bring authenticity to the gospel to unbelievers. Our goal should be to be able to say confidently as Paul did to the Thessalonians in chapter 2 verse 8,

1 Thessalonians 2:8 (ESV): So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

Paul had a readiness to share the gospel and his life. This means that Paul wasn’t ashamed of his lifestyle but had confidence that it only strengthened the gospel message. We must consider our actions as well vigorously. Yes, we must use our lips to communicate the gospel message. Still, as we do, we must be continually allowing the gospel to transform our own lives so that we model the message we are preaching. 

Take 4 minutes and write out your answer to these two questions.

What areas of your life were a poor representation of Christ to your family and friends before you came to Kaleo?

In what ways can you purposively live out the light of Christ to your family and friends when you return home?

3. Planning and Strategy Matter

Planning and strategy in evangelism get a bad rep. There is a philosophy that many college students are drawn to, including myself at one point, that suggests that evangelism should be natural. This philosophy criticizes strategies such as:

  • Setting up a lunch appointment to talk about spiritual things.
  • Craft out a line to use when you want to talk about spiritual things.
  • Sitting down and thinking of a strategy with who you want to share the gospel.
  • Meeting weekly at a coffee shop to help someone grow spiritually.

I would bet that many of you have had or will have these same thoughts. Typically these thoughts are associated with a very pure desire. You want to avoid ministry feeling like a job or a program, and the person your meeting with feeling like a project. That’s fair. I want that too, but the solution is not to set aside planning or strategy.

The word plan is used 12 times in the Proverbs. The Proverbs are passages of wisdom written by the wisest man (outside of Jesus) ever to live. Here are a few of them.

Proverbs 21:5 (NIV): The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.

Proverbs 16:3 (NIV):  Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

The first disciples demonstrated planning as well. In the book of Acts, Paul had a custom he follows every time he entered a new city. A custom is just another word for plan. He would go first to the synagogue with the hope of converting some Jewish people. Then he would take them and begin doing ministry to the Gentiles. His plan was also very strategic. Since the Jews were very familiar with the Old Testament, Paul could jump straight to Jesus. Then after he had a few conversions, he could go to the gentile world with more help. He had a plan and a strategy.

If this isn’t enough to convince, God himself has many plans and strategies. Why did God choose the nation of Israel? Was it random? No, they were centrally located to be a light to all of the other nations (Isaiah 49:6). God is a God of order, not chaos. From the very beginning, when God created, he brought order. All of creation operated in harmony. It was planned and strategic!

When we are planned and strategic, we reflect the God we serve. Not only that, anyone who has ever transitioned from a carefree life to one that is planned has experienced this first hand. For example:

  • Try starting a sleep schedule from 10 pm-6 am for a month and see how it goes. You will never go back.
  • Try planning out your week on Sunday for 30 minutes, and be prepared to experience its beauty.
  • Clean up after yourself and enjoy the pleasure of knowing where things are.
  • Study for a test a week in advance rather than pulling a few all-nighters. The stress and anxiety of test weeks will fade away. You will still be able to make all of your other weekly commitments during mid-terms. It’s glorious! 
  • Plan out your spiritual growth for an entire month rather than just winging it. 

The fruit of planning and strategy will always prevail in all areas of your life. 

If planning is beneficial in practically every area of our lives. Why would we think it any different in the areas of evangelism?

How do you plan and strategize in evangelism? Three practical steps.

  1. Evangelism Prayer Journal: Begin praying for those you know that are lost and asking God to open a door for you to share the gospel.
  2. Open the door for Opportunity: Purposely spend time with the people you want to share the gospel with.
  3. Be Prepared when the Opportunity presents itself (shorten this): When the opportunities come, take them!

Take 5 minutes and answer the question below. 

List five people that don’t know Jesus that you can begin praying for today? 

A Few Final Thoughts

Before we bring this time to a close, it is essential to remember a few statements for clarification. 

Statement 1: Your motivations, credibility, and plans serve a purpose, but they are not what will cause someone’s heart to be transformed. Only God, by the Holy Spirit, does this!

Statement 2: By the grace of God, there are times when opportunities to share fall into your lap. There is no time to worry about everything mentioned above; seize the opportunity and share the gospel!

Statement 3: Don’t carry the weight of someone’s salvation on your shoulders. We must realize that God will not let a single sheep in his flock be lost forever. This is important for two reasons. First, we can share the gospel faithfully and boldly, knowing that God has gone before us and we will never mess anything up. Second, when our family and friends respond negatively, we will not be defeated. God is in control, knows everything, and cares much more for those people than we do.

We live in a period where division and anger are the cultural norms. There is brokenness in every direction we look. The temptation today for Christians is to put our energies towards all of these individual problems. Still, we must pause and consider the problem that is at the root of all these issues. Since Genesis 3, the problem has been the same. It is the problem of the sin-filled heart. All other problems stem from this root, and the root of sin has only one thing that can remove it, the gospel! In light of this, let us consider our motivations, our credibility, and our plans and strategy as we share the gospel. Let us move forward with boldness to proclaim the message that truly has the power to save this broken world.