Justification Amidst Sin

James 1:19
“My dear brothers and sisters, take not of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,”

A common theme in my life recently has been about words.  Here at Converge we take a personality test called the Pro-D, as well as a simple DISC test.  On both of these tests, one of the caution areas for me is a tendency to talk to much.  Now, that’s a very legitimate caution as I can certainly talk a lot, and I can be careless with what I say if I’m not careful to guard my tongue.  For instance,  twice this week I have hurt someone by being insensitive with my words.  After both incidents, I have felt anger and frustration at myself for being so careless and hurting the other person so deeply.  However, as much as it gives me great pain for hurting this person, I have realized that I seek comfort for feeling so bad about it.  Even though my initial thoughts go to trying to rectify the situation, which entails understanding how my words have stung them, coming to a place of sincere remorse, and then pursuing them to apologize, the next place my mind goes is to who will be able to give me wisdom about this issue? Poking deeper at that question, I have realized that I don’t always want wisdom, but instead I seek comfort.  I want someone to tell me that it will be okay and I shouldn’t beat myself up about it.  Which one of my friends will tell me it’s okay and that it will pass?  This is a deeper heart issue and a very serious one, because when I do this I am trying to find a way to justify my mistake.  I’m trying to shove off the responsibility and say it doesn’t matter as much.  Instead of dealing with the situation whole-heartedly and being completely sincere, I’ve turned the focus toward what makes me comfortable.  In a phrase, I‘m being selfish, and that’s were the sin gets you.

The Bible has many verses about selfishness:
Philippians 2:3-4
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

2 Timothy 3: 2-4
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,”

Philippians 2:21
For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

Make sure you aren’t justifying your own sin by making it seem less of a big deal then it really is.

Thoughts from Converge Internship Coordinator, Morgan McRay…

Well, another year of Converge has come and gone. My job is to make sure these young lives are pointed in a healthier direction when their time here is done. I’m sure you can imagine that at the end of each year my mind is absolutely burdened with the areas that I have shown myself to be insufficient in guiding the interns in this process and also encouraged by the ways that we have seen success and healthy development.

There are many ways that you can track success or failure in a program like Converge and I am well aware of many of them. But the ones that I cherish and consider the most important are these:

  1. Commitment to Christ (Submission to God’s will)
  2. Maturity Development (Rooted in values, standards and beliefs)

I have determined that the impact of these two core emphases is one that directly or indirectly influences every area of our lives. In other words, the fruit of these two things are very beneficial, touch every part of our lives, and are long lasting.

Converge 1.5 has been a paramount year for this ministry; it has been filled with young people that have all taken steps down these two roads. I am confident that these 8 interns will be reaping the dividends of their investment for the rest of their lives. I am so sad to have this year come to a close, but at the same time, I am so excited to see our interns go and thrive and preach Christ-crucified wherever their lives take them!

We have interns spreading their wings and going to Missouri, Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Australia and who knows where else God will call them. This group has been able to be our first Converge class to successfully navigate through the 5 stages of Group development (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning). They have spent the year doing work that is lowly and service-oriented and they have done it with a humble mindset. This group has been filled with joy during every stage and situation they have encountered and have taken time to teach and develop me as well. I have grown as a man, husband, and father because of these young people who have opened up their lives to say “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

I will be forever grateful for these 8 lives that have walked with me and I am so confident that they will continue to walk towards Christ until that day when glory is realized and we all can stand face to face with our Lord Jesus Christ and praise Him for all of eternity!

Thank you Ty, Tim, Christian, Kevin, Dave, Megan, Emily and Talia for relationships and experiences that have shown me more of who Christ truly is! I love you and will cherish our time together forever.

GO AND BE LIGHT IN THIS WORLD, PROMOTE CHRIST AND HIS GOSPEL!

Forever in my heart and mind,

Morgan Scot McRay

The “Summer of Love”

Well it’s been awhile! 

Summer here at the cove has been on, full swing! I’m not sure how the hotel and family camp are doing besides updates from people, sounds super well, as for the marsh day camp, it’s been very hard. But very fun. Through mountains of changes from personnel to the way things are ran, very different from last year, but that’s not a bad thing, I still love my job 

This summer has been my “Summer of Love” not literally cause I’m not searching for that by human standards, having a new experience with supernatural love from God. 

I remember the first week of training, sitting around a huge fire with many staff, Megan McRay, one of the summer staff leaders and a woman I look up to and love dearly, asked “What do you want to experience this summer” and that’s what I said. I want to experience a new, real love from God. 

Before I had a relationship with God all of my relationships were shallow and physical and that’s all I ever knew and coming in front of God, who loves and cares and wants me for all my flaws and short comings was quite scary for me. I didn’t know what that kind of love looked like. 

I wanted to feel loved by God fully. I never, until recently, understood the sacrifice of God. I always was confused by grace and that’s not how it should be.

 John 3:16, the most quotes verse ever I am confident in saying this, “God so loved the world He gave his one and only son..”God so loved Christian Lipscomb that He died just because He wanted to be in relationship with me. WOW. 

I took some time the past few weeks to reflect on my past and God has just shown where His love has been poured out of life.  Should of been dead here, should be addicted to this or that, should be in jail, now I AM NOT glorifying myself or my sin and saying look what I was like or did. I say all that to say LOOK AT WHAT GOD DID TO SAVE ME. On the cross most importantly but His hand has been on and around my life long before I committed myself to Him, and still is today.  

I also struggled with the idea of, “how can I be a Christian, but still screw up so bad” and all that does is draw me far far from God. The Christian life isn’t about being perfect, following rules, or making sure every Facebook post will make everyone happy and not question you. It’s about realizing your need for help, allowing Christ to fix you, and daily through every struggle and hard ship leaning on Him, glorifying HIM through it all. 

Every week the marsh has a memory verse. Last week was 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” If the kids didn’t grown out of this week and summer in general, I know I surely have. 

Through so many relationships and looking at flash backs I’ve come to fully understand the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. I have come to have a newer and deeper feeling of Love from our Lord and I pray you all can as well!

Mourn and Rejoice

Sometimes I wonder if David was bipolar.

I was reading the Psalms this morning, and came across Psalms 37 and 38, which were written by David. Psalm 37 is full of verses praising God and focusing on His character, while 38 is a Psalm of lament. When I read it, I went through a gamut of emotions. After the inspiration and encouragement of 37, 38 felt like a punch to the gut. The two chapters seem to go together like Mozart and Rush, or peanut butter and motor oil.

Here’s Psalm 37:23-26 (New American Standard Bible):

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand. I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread. All day long he is gracious and lends, and his descendants are a blessing.”

Now compare with 38:9-12:

“Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart throbs, my strength fails me; and the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me. My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague; and my kinsmen stand afar off. Those who seek my life lay snares for me; and those who seek to injure me have threatened destruction, and they devise treachery all day long.”

Oof.

When I think about grieving and going through difficult times, I think about 2 Samuel 12. David, as King of Israel, committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and then had Uriah killed by sending him to the front lines of a battle Israel was involved in after Bathsheba revealed to David she was pregnant. God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David about his sins, and prophesied his child would die in childbirth. David’s reaction is captured in the second part of verse 15 to 23:

Then the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David, so that he was very sick. David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him in order to raise him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat food with them. Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was still alive, we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do himself harm!” But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “He is dead.  So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate.

Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

When the child was sick, David went through a period of lament and wrestling with God. How could this happen? Why would you punish the child for my sins, God? He went through deep anguish. But when the child died, David “came into the house of the Lord and worshiped” (verse 20). He went through a period of mourning, but he still recognized God for who He is: Creator, Perfecter, Author, He who establishes his steps.

These passages teach me two main things. The first is we need to take our sin seriously and confess it before God and others. In Psalm 38:3-4, David laments, “There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.” Unresolved sin makes it impossible to fellowship with God. When we bring our sin before God and admit our need for His cleansing, the healing process begins.

The second is the nature of God doesn’t change. As David mourned, he still acknowledged God’s presence (“Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You.” – Ps. 38:9) and power (“Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!” – 38:22). To paraphrase Marshall Shelley of Christianity Today, God remains good when life is hard.

David was emotional, but he was real. He sinned, he confessed, he mourned and he rejoiced in the God of his salvation. No matter what you go through, God is there, holding your hand (37:24). He will never forsake you (v. 28). Take refuge in Him (v. 40).

Falling Tears

A drop of water falls from the sky

A tear drop

The cry of a world gone mad

The cry of a world

Who rejected their savior

Who stumble as though blind

Yet they say they can see

For they will not let any weakness show

“Problem, what problem” they scoff

As they lie dying in a pool of their own blood

The hand offered is rejected

In their arrogance they scoff at the lifesaver

Throwing it back to the ship

Claiming they can swim

Even as they drown

Spitting food in the face of the helper

Though hunger pains grip their body in its grasp

look up to the sky

And see tears fall

IT ISN’T JUST ABOUT “CHURCH”

Far too often, at least from my experience, people go to church (the building) on Sundays, or whenever they may go, and boom, that is it. But our relationship with God is SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST SUNDAYS.

Now don’t get me wrong, church is a beautiful thing, and I love going to church, but you do not need to be in a building with the name ” this or that CHURCH” on it to experience God.

What does Church even mean?

What I see as the “worldly” view of church, or the dictionary.com version of it, a church is:

A building for public Christian worship.

but let’s take a look as to what really matters, in my eyes at least, God’s view of the church.

Romans 12:4-5 New Living Translation (NLT)

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

The body, or people who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, is the church.

WE ARE THE CHURCH.

Matthew 18:20 New Living Translation (NLT)

20 For where two or three gather together as my followers,[a] I am there among them.”

Also, like Matt. 18:20 says, anywhere there is 2 or 3 people worshipping together, Christ will be there, you don’t need a building or tent, or anything.

GOD IS EVERYWHERE.

These, of course, are all my opinions and views on things and I say this because every single day I need God and need people surrounded around me who are believers who I can confide in, and pray with, and worship with.

And you don’t need a building for that.

Hebrews 4:15-16 New Living Translation (NLT)

15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Like this verse above says, “let us come” wherever we are, whatever circumstance, whatever are heart is like. Just come “To the throne of our gracious God.” And He will always be there.

I can not say this enough, I am not bashing church, or going to churches on Sundays, it is a wonderful thing, and I encourage if you do not, seek God for guidance on a church to partner with, but DO NOT, think that you need that, or that God is mad or upset with you that you do not have one. You can praise/worship/talk with God from anywhere.

Praying for you all!

-Christian-

Why Should I Get Baptized?

I wrestled with this question throughout my teenage years. To me, baptism was just something that occurred when you reached a certain age, like puberty or flunking taking your driver’s test. The day I was supposed to get baptized,  I didn’t show up. Basically, I chickened out. I was terrified of giving my testimony in front of my entire church’s congregation. Eventually, I got baptized, and I lived to tell about it.

In sincerity, baptism isn’t supposed to be something associated with fear and resentment. It’s not just a simplistic ritual that Every Good Christian goes through in order to “level up”. It’s so much more than that and is tied to everything we’re about as Christ followers.

The person most commonly associated with baptism is this dude named John who ate locusts and wild honey and didn’t cut his hair:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,

    who will prepare your way,

the voice of one crying in the wilderness:

   ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,

   make his paths straight,’”

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:1-8 (ESV)

Baptism is an outward confession of an inward decision. That’s the best definition I’ve heard for it. John came to prepare people for the coming of the Lord Jesus, who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. The water is a symbol of the cleansing of our sins that only Jesus can provide. John preached repentance, which simply means “a change of mind”. It means casting away our former, sinful selves and putting on Christ. It means confessing our sins, or simply agreeing with God that His way is better. And by repenting, our sins are forgiven and we’re given new life.

Before Jesus left the earth, He commanded His disciples (which includes us) to baptize and be baptized:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) 

The disciple’s primary call is to make more disciples. And when new disciples are made, they are to be baptized, and then taught the ways of Christ so they too can make disciples. The call to be baptized doesn’t get much clearer than that.

At the end of the day, baptism is about celebrating:

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Luke 15: 11-24 (ESV)

After I stumbled through my testimony and got baptized, a few people greeted me after the service and told me they were encouraged and touched by what I had to say. One woman even had tears in her eyes. Even though I felt totally inadequate and frustrated, God clearly had other plans.

And maybe that’s what baptism is about after all.