Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Suicide Sucks

My heart feels very heavy this evening. It's hard to articulate the feelings I have. I am at a loss for words. I know I'm angry, sad, shocked, and confused... but there's much, much more. I just don't know how to express all that's going on.

My dad called me this evening and let me know that one of his closest friends had committed suicide and his body was found this morning. I was shocked.

Mourning a death is one thing, but mourning a death by choice is another. It's so sad. It makes me sick to my stomach. I hate suicide, it sucks!

I can't imagine being in a place where death seems like the best option. Where death seems like it's the only way out. Where death feels like the only relief from the pain and suffering they are going through.

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I'm sad he made the decision to take his own life, but I am thankful this man knew Jesus. And I know and am assured he is in heaven now.

He was, and still is, a lover and follower of Jesus. And now for the first time, he is able to love Jesus without any pain, suffering, or heartache. He is free.

I know suicide can be a hot topic in the church. There are many who believe that if you commit suicide, then you go to hell. But I really don't believe this is the case.

God judges the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7, Jeremiah 17:10) Suicide stems from anguish and pain in the soul or mind, not their spirit. So if anyone, including those who have committed suicide, have made the decision in their heart to give their lives to Jesus, then they are saved. (Romans 10:9, 10:13) Their names are in the Book of Life. (Luke 10:20, Revelation 20:15) Just as an outward act can't save us and get us to heaven, I don't believe an outward act - done out of pain - can damn us to hell. God knows the heart and that's what He ultimately judges.

This man was a huge influence on me in the area of witnessing and talking to people about Jesus. He and my dad have literally lead thousands of people to the Lord over the years. I remember going witnessing with them on a number of occasions when I was growing up. It had a huge impact on me and my faith. It showed me the importance and the priority of telling people about Jesus. They displayed the love of Jesus in their words and in their actions.

I also remember many stories they shared and told of leading people to Jesus. Everywhere they went was an opportunity to lead someone to the Lord. Restaurants, gas stations, malls, music festivals, door to door, and the list goes on and on. Witnessing was a passion and a lifestyle for him and my dad, just as it was for Jesus.

I hope I can reach half the people these two men have reached when my time is up. They both have led more people to the Lord individually then every single other person I have ever met... combined. I seriously believe this to be true. And neither of them were ever in the five fold ministry. They weren't pastors, or apostles, or prophets, or teachers, or evangelists. They rarely had an opportunity to speak to large crowds. They just loved Jesus and loved people.

They were Christians who took Jesus' words to heart. They were men of God who boldly proclaimed the Gospel, no matter the consequence. They have beautiful feet. (Romans 10:15, Isaiah 52:7) Even though my dad has some pretty gnarly toe nails at times haha.

This man was struggling and had lost hope in some areas in his life, but that didn't keep him from helping others find true hope. That is very admirable to me. That's selfless. That's the heart of a servant. He didn't just look out for himself, he looked out for others too. (Philippians 2:4)

I am proud I knew this man. He was a great man of God and a great fisher of men. I am saddened he wasn't able to fulfill his calling and finish the race set before him. I am saddened he cut his race short. Only God knows how many more people he would have brought into the Kingdom if he had stuck around until his time was supposed to be up. This is a tragedy.

I mourn his death, and I mourn the loss of his passion to see people come to Christ. The Church lost a good man and a good example of a fisher of men today.

I will be praying for peace and comfort for your friends and family as they struggle to understand your decision. I look forward to seeing you again and sharing more stories with you about leading people to Jesus.

Until then,
- Joel


Check out my wife's blog [click here], she is starting a series called 'Living Eulogy.' She will be writing about people who have influenced her in certain ways and helped change her life for the better. People who have been there for her, who have loved her. People she wants to thank now, before they pass on.

We should take her challenge and let people know the difference they have made in our life NOW, before they are gone. It could mean the world to them. Maybe it will make a difference in their life to hear from you, maybe it will be THE difference for someone. Maybe it would have been the difference for this man.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Don't Follow Your Heart

If you are anything like me, then you might cringe when you hear people say phrases such as:

"Just follow your heart."
"You can trust your heart."
"Do whatever makes you happy."
"God would want you to do whatever makes you happy."

Phrases similar to these can be the worst advice ever given to someone. Seriously.

Are such phrases ever used in the Bible?! If the advice we are offering someone isn't even scriptural, then it probably isn't very good advice to be giving. And it's even worse to receive and apply such advice to our life.

The closest verses (I can think of) that could maybe be taken out of context to give such advice would be:

Psalm 144:15 which says,
"Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!"

Psalm 37:4 which says,
"Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart."

And Ecclesiastes 11:9 (New Living) which says,
"Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do."

Happy (blessed) are the people whose God is the Lord. Jesus must be our Lord for us to be truly happy and blessed. And making Jesus our Lord isn't a one time decision. Every single day I make the decision whether He is the Lord of my life or not.

Delight yourself (be happy and merry) in Him... and then He will give you the desires of your heart. We aren't supposed to chase after happiness and fulfillment outside of Jesus. It doesn't work. It can't work. God created us so we can only be happy and feel fulfilled when we are connected to Him. That's why we see all kinds of celebrities who have achieved fame and fortune and they are still empty inside.

Enjoy every minute of being young and do whatever you want. YOLO! BUT, you will need to explain to God why you chose to do everything you did. There will be a consequence to living such a lifestyle, and it won't be worth it. Sin has pleasure, but only for a season. It won't last. (Hebrews 11:25)

If we are following Jesus and delighted, happy, blessed, and merry in Him... then the desires of our heart will most likely be honorable and holy. If we aren't following Jesus and we don't find happiness or delight in Him... then we probably shouldn't be trusting our heart.

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Should pedophiles 'follow their heart?' How about drug addicts, should they do 'whatever makes them happy?' Hitler followed his heart and was super happy to exterminate millions of people...

Get my point?

It can be extremely dangerous to follow or trust our heart and do whatever makes us happy. Those things can lead to destruction. (Proverbs 14:12)

We all know people who have "followed their heart" or who have done "what makes them happy" and that decision has wrecked their lives and/or other people's lives. That (most likely) wasn't God's leading.

Pretty sure God didn't tell us to abuse someone, or lie, or commit adultery, or steal, or do drugs, or murder someone, etc. In fact, I think there is quite a bit of stuff in the Bible concerning those issues... The Holy Spirit will NEVER lead us to do something that doesn't line up with the Bible. Never. God isn't schizophrenic. His Word and His Spirit will ALWAYS agree and confirm one another.

In the book Forgotten God Francis Chan writes,
"The Holy Spirit will not- cannot- lead you into sin. If the Holy Spirit is in you, as a believer, then when you sin you are not listening to the Spirit's leading."

Anything and everything we do should be done within the confines of the Bible. Our hearts don't have the final authority. Culture doesn't have the final authority. Our government doesn't even have the final authority. The Bible is the final authority in Christians' lives... or at least it's supposed to be.

The Word of God helps us from going off track. It helps us from getting weird. It helps us stay within certain boundaries.

Many times we can't trust our heart. We are told to protect and guard our heart! (Proverbs 4:23) If we haven't protected our heart, then following our heart is probably going to be a bad idea.

We are to follow Jesus. His Word is to be a lamp unto our feet and light unto our path. (Psalm 119:105) We are instructed to be led by the Holy Spirit, not by our heart. (Romans 8:14)

So "following our heart" and "doing what makes us happy" might not be the best route to take. Following Jesus and making Him happy is the best route to take and the best decision we can ever make.

Proverbs 28:26 says,
"He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But whoever walks wisely will be delivered."

We are a fool if we choose to trust in our heart and follow what it wants us to do. Or we can go with the foolproof plan and decide to follow Jesus.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but God's foresight is always 20/20. He knows the end from the beginning... because He is the End and the Beginning. (Revelation 1:8, 22:13)

So stop trusting yourself and your heart and start trusting God. Follow Jesus and choose to never follow your heart again. (Proverbs 3:5-7) It's much safer that way.


If you find that you trust yourself more than God in certain areas, then ask Him why.
Ask Him to help you address those areas and correct the error in your life.
Ask God if there are any areas in your life that make you happy that shouldn't.
Last but not least, ask God how you can be content and happy in and through Him.

The time is now, shake the earth!
- Joel

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hear God's Voice and Live By Faith

Romans 14:23 says,
But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

WHATEVER is not from faith is sin!

What if EVERYTHING we did in this life was from faith? What would that look like?

When I do choose to live by faith or from faith, awesome things happen! God shows up. God blesses people. Lives are changed for the better. My life is changed for the better.

What would it look like if I lived this way CONSISTENTLY?!

Jesus did live this way, and look at what He was able to accomplish in those three short years! He redeemed the time He had. I don't believe Jesus ever wasted His time.

If we are wasting our time, then we are wasting our life. If we are wasting our life, then we are wasting our purpose.

If we choose to live a life full of faith, then we will be able to do the same and even greater things than Jesus did! (John 14:12) Those are His words, not mine.

Jesus loved people. Jesus had compassion for people. He healed the sick. He delivered people from demons. He raised the dead. He was a servant, and He was willing to die in order to accomplish God's will for His life.

How far would I go to accomplish God's will for my life? What price am I willing to pay?

Jesus only did what the Father showed Him to do and only said what the Father told Him to say. We are capable and called to live in a similar manner. Jesus is our example. We are to live like He did.

That's crazy! That is the radical way of living we are ALL called to as Christians.

We have to be intimately connected to the Lord at all times in order to live this way. This is what abiding in the Lord looks like. This is what following His commandments looks like.

In the book Beautiful Outlaw John Eldredge says,
"If you do not experience Jesus intimately, daily, ...if you do not know the comfort of his actual presence, do not hear his voice speaking to you personally- you have been robbed.
If you do not know the power of his indwelling life in you, shaping your personality, healing your brokenness, enabling you to live as he did- you have been plundered."

We can experience intimate times with the Lord every single day.

We are called to walk and live by faith! (Hebrews 10:38, 2 Corinthians 5:7) Walking and living by faith won't be the easiest job we've ever done, but it will be the most rewarding.

Faith glorifies God and pleases God. (Romans 4:20, Hebrews 11:6) If what we are doing isn't of faith, then it can't glorify or please God. In fact, if what we do and say isn't of faith, then it displeases God and it will bring someone else glory.

It might glorify or please us, but that's not the goal. We need to ask ourselves, "Is this going to glorify and please Jesus, or are my intentions less honorable? Am I doing this for my glory and my own pleasing or for His?"

It always comes down to our heart. That's why we are supposed to guard our hearts. (Proverbs 4:23) Am I doing this for the right reasons? Do I have the right motivation?

We should only be concerned with what our Father thinks and says of us. If we know who we are in Him, then we won't care what anyone else thinks or says about us.

There are many external acts and works we may do that are good, but they're still not God. We might even receive accolades and praise from those around us for the service we have done... but that doesn't necessarily mean God is pleased with our service.

Did God show us and tell us to do these things? Were they from faith, or were they from our own self righteous acts and human wisdom? Were they God's good or man's good?

Romans 10:17 says,
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. The written AND spoken Word of God.

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God spoke to His followers all throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. If He talked to them, then why wouldn't He still talk to us?! We are part of a better covenant with better promises (Hebrews 8:6), so surely being able to hear from God would be part of our relationship and covenant with the Lord!

John 10:27 says,
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

We can and should hear from the Lord. If we aren't hearing, then we either aren't listening or we don't know how to listen.

Hearing from God should not only be limited to a pinnacle experience in our faith that happened at a conference or a camp meeting. Hearing from God should be a daily, moment by moment, experience where we receive faith and direction from Him. Talking with and hearing from the Lord shouldn't be a once in a lifetime experience, it can be (and should be) a lifestyle.

We are supposed to pray without ceasing, or without intermission. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Prayer at the root form is talking WITH God, not merely talking AT God. We need to give the Lord a chance to speak back to us when we are praying.

In the book, Pursuit Of God, A.W. Tozer wrote,
"He tries to think of God as mute everywhere else and vocal only in a book. I believe that much of our religious unbelief is due to a wrong conception of and a wrong feeling for the Scriptures of Truth. A silent God suddenly began to speak in a book and when the book was finished lapsed back into silence again forever. Now we read the book as the record of what God said when He was for a brief time in a speaking mood. With notions like that in our heads how can we believe? The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. The second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Word. The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God's continuous speech."

God is never silent. He is always speaking. Are my ears in tune with His voice? With His Word?

Larry Low, a minister friend of mine who is currently on staff with Teen Challenge in Iowa, once said, "How much more faith can you have than to diligently speak with a God who is invisible?"

Our lives shouldn't make sense to unbelievers. If they do, then maybe we aren't living the way God intended us to live.

We are called to live a life full of faith which comes from hearing the Word of God. Living in such a way will please Him and bring Him glory. And it will not only bless us, but we will also be a blessing to others. The Lord will be able to use us in a similar fashion as He used Jesus.

Get in a quiet place, tell your mind to be quiet, and ask God a question. Wait and listen to what He has been wanting to talk to you about.
Ask God if there is anything you are currently doing or involved in that is not from faith.
Ask God if there is anything you are currently doing or involved in that is man's good and not God's good.
If you are having a hard time hearing from God, then feel free to contact me. I'd be more than happy to help!
Or if you want some awesome material, then check out Larry Low's teaching. (click here) He has CDs, DVDs, and books available for purchase. His stuff will wreck you... in a good way. The truths I learned and applied from his teaching have changed my life and I've seen it change the lives of many others as well!

The time is now, shake the earth!
- Joel