Sunday, December 30, 2007

This morning my family and I worshiped in the Francis Auditorium. It is where Crosspoint Community Church (where my friend Pete Wilson is pastor) now worships, but is where Park Avenue Baptist Church used to worship. It was at Park Avenue where my wife Carrie was dedicated as a baby, baptized as a believer, and married to me. It is where I was saved, ordained, and where I preached my first sermon. It is also where I first read Celebration of Discipline and began practicing spiritual disciplines consistently.

Here are some thoughts on section two The Outward Disciplines

Each of these disciplines are hard, but they provide immense freedom. They are all difficult for Westerners who have come to define themselves and seek value through possessions, positions, power, and pleasure. Each of these disciplines works to change a believer's value system to a Biblical one.

The discipline of simplicity is a difficult one, but can provide great freedom. Everyone I know including me has stuff we don’t need. We bought it knowing we didn’t need it and now we keep it even though it has no use. We in the West love to buy and own things. We can’t visit a condo at the beach without wanting to own it. We can’t be happy with a car that safely gets us where we need to be without wanting a new one when we see it. The house we said we had to have is no longer enough even though it provides everything we need.

Simplicity calls us to reality and responsibility. Foster speaks to the heart of the matter when he writes, “Because we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things (p.80).

To exercise the discipline of simplicity is to gain a Biblical worldview. Once we value what God values and pursue what is of Him life gets simple. It is when we value temporal things and pursue short term pleasure, power, and position that we seek to gain security through possessions. To live a simple life you must live as though this world is not your home and believe that what matters most is God.

The discipline of solitude sounds so great until you do it. I hear many stay-at-home moms and hard working people saying bring it on. Well, what we must remember is that “Solitude is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place” (p.96). Solitude is not getting alone to do what you want. Solitude is getting quiet so you can hear God’s voice.

Foster does a very good job of explaining how God leads us through times of solitude. So many times people go through these seasons and doubt their salvation. This is not the purpose. That is what Satan the accuser tells you. We must have such a strong faith that we can go through “the dark night of the soul” and not lose hope, joy, peace, or purpose.

This is a discipline that I have to have help with. I have never gone through the “dark night” or a season of purposeful disciplined solitude without someone coaching me and walking with me. It’s hard and the devil can mess with you if you are not careful and leave you in a place of darkness and despair.

The discipline of submission is one of attitude, but it is liberating. The person who can be liberated from being seen, valued, appreciated, and applauded can change the world. This is what the discipline of submission seeks to produce.

This discipline can also lead to an unhealthy place and I have found it important to have others coach me and walk with me as I exercise this discipline. It is easy to apathetically just give in to people. That is not submission. Submission is giving yourself for the benefit of others. The purpose is to benefit others and that is the discipline. It is not just giving in. That is not necessarily beneficial. It is doing what needs to be done to help others without getting any kind of honor from it.

The final section on service is great. I’m out of time so let me just say that the section “Self-righteous Service Versus True Service” (p. 128) is worth the whole book. As a matter of fact it should be a book.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Inward Focus of Spiritual Development

Thoughts on section one The Inward Disciplines

I have always been fascinated by the fact that my inward life, when disciplined, makes my outward life much more effective. There is for me and I believe all people a direct link between the inner life and the outer life. There is a balance to life when the interior aspects of life are being aligned to God’s will and work. I can have everything going my way outwardly and be frantic if my heart, mind, and soul are not being immersed in God’s presence through the inward disciplines. Likewise, I can have my world turned upside down and be at complete rest when I am focused on God through the disciplines of the inner life.

Over the years I have practiced each of these and have found some success and some failure. The success has come when I have not brought any expectations to the discipline other than obedience and the desire to see God’s face. When I come with a preconceived concept of what I want God to do, I rarely succeed in growing through the inward disciplines.

The discipline of meditation is the most enjoyable of all of the disciplines for me. It allows me to be still and know that God is God and that I am not. It is a refreshing time when I release all responsibility onto God and discover where He is at work so I can join Him there and ride the wave of His power and love.

It is a time of great worship. When we meditate, “we create the emotional and spiritual space which allows Christ to construct an inner sanctuary of the heart” (p.20). It is very important that we learn the difference in Biblical meditation and that of other religious and psychological camps.

Prayer is a constant struggle for me. I would love to say that it is because I am so busy doing things for God that I don’t have time to pray. The fact of the matter is I don’t want to change and discover what God wants done. I just want to do what makes me happy and what makes me look good. That is my sin. Foster points out well that “If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer” (p.33). Change is hard for a control freak and an insecure soul that seeks the applause of people. I must discipline my heart and mind in meditation before I can pray effectively. I must do that because “In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after him: to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves, to will the things he wills” (Ibid).

I have been most successful in prayer when I schedule a specific time and place. It is also helpful for me to pray using the A.C.T.S. method. A is for adoration. It helps me to remember who I am praying to. C is for confession. When I reflect rightly on God, it is easy to see my sin and acknowledge it to my gracious King. T is for thanksgiving. When I consider God’s grace and goodness I cannot help but give Him thanks. S is for supplication. Having purified my heart and prepared my mind I can pray for the needs I know of confidently in the name of Christ.

The discipline of fasting is the most difficult discipline for me. I find comfort in food. Under pressure I will reach for M&Ms. Fasting forces me to stop relying on me and to rely solely on God as my peace and comfort.

It is weird, but what I am doing when I reach for food as comfort is seeking to make food save me. I am asking food to do something it cannot do. That means that I will not be satisfied or at peace. I must discipline myself to seek the Savior who can comfort me and give me peace. His name is Jesus.

To enjoy Jesus I must from time to time release my compulsion to find comfort in food. Fasting is a way to do that. “Food does not sustain us; God sustains us” (p.55). Fasting provides that reminder of reality.

There are many reasons and seasons for fasting. I have fasted most often when a decision had to be made or when I felt my focus on Christ slipping. It is helpful to fast a day or two a week and then to have a time (a week or more) of fasting. Foster provides basic instructions on how to do that, but there are other books by Bill Bright and John Piper to name two that can help you.

What I have found most effective is to schedule the fast and to let my wife and accountability partners know about it. This helps in meal preparation for my wife (she doesn’t make my favorites). My accountability partners help watch my attitude as sin is revealed: fear, anger, resentment, etc.

Study is the easiest of the disciplines for me. I have always been a reader and a thinker. Study is more than reading books. It is examining all of life. Foster is right, “To read (study) successfully we need the extrinsic aids of experience, other books, and live discussion” (p.68). That is why this last year when we “Walked in the Word” I asked our people not only to read the Bible, but also to worship and hear my preaching on the books of the Bible - experience, to read D.A. Carson’s devotion for commentary - other books, and to get in a small group to discuss what was learned - live discussion. That is the way to truly study.

These disciplines form the foundation of a life that can grow in grace and find strength through spiritual development.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Power Is in God NOT in Us

Thoughts on the Introduction of Celebration

There is a great danger in practicing the disciplines. The danger is twofold: self-loathing or self-sufficiency. Self-loathing comes when we are not able to overcome sin by our own means of willpower. Self-sufficiency and pride comes when we have some level of success over sin through the means of our willpower. In either case the focus and source of strength is self.

The power of the disciplines is God. All that the spiritual disciplines do is put us in a position for God to change us. We cannot change ourselves. We can make behavior modifications, but that only goes skin deep. We need a change of heart and passion and only God can make those changes. Changes of the heart and desire produce fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). Fruits of the flesh produce legalism and death.

When we exercise the disciplines we are functioning like farmers. We are preparing the field that is our life so God can make a harvest of Godliness grow in us. When we fast, study, meditate, serve, and commune with other believers we are making our lives capable of spiritual renewal. When we study Scripture and pray we place the Gospel seed in us. When we gather with other believers and worship we water the Gospel in us. But make no mistake. It is God who makes us grow in grace and in the knowledge of truth and changes our hearts and makes us like Jesus. “God has given us the disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us” (p.7).

The disciplines are the means. With that in mind let’s not forget the wise words of the Puritan William Secker, "Neither be idle in the means, nor make an idol of the means." What he is saying is that we must exercise the disciplines. We must not “be idle in the means.” We must practice spiritual disciplines in order for God to work in us. But we must not trust in the means and make them our focus of worship. We cannot trust in our ability to study, pray, and worship. We do those things to enable God to work in us. We must avoid the temptation to “make an idol of the means.” The means or spiritual disciplines are only tools.

My wife keeps our home well organized and clean. Her goal is not to sweep, dust, and vacuum. Her goal is a well organized clean home. She uses the means of sweeping, dusting, and vacuuming to reach her goal. What gives her a sense of satisfaction is not that she used the tools, but that the tools produced a clean house.

In growing in Christ we must use the tools of spiritual disciplines. The goal is to be made clean or sanctified in Christ. God is the one who cleans us and makes us like Christ. The disciplines are the tools we use to position ourselves to be changed by God.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Fight of Your Life

Every year at this time I find it helpful to reread “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster (now in mp3 for those who don't like to read). There are a number of good books on spiritual disciplines, but I have found this book helpful for the past fifteen years and continue to use it as a reminder and as a basic plan for the upcoming year.

As I reread it this week, I will attempt to post my thoughts and observations on what I rediscover in it. This book provides a great deal of application, but the foundation of each discipline is a core need that we all have. I am going to share whatever I can on the functions of the disciplines and also the need for self-control in our lives.

Before I begin reading this book I like to remind myself why it is so important that I receive this reminder and force myself to focus on my need for discipline.

There are many writers both living and dead that help me understand this need in my life. One of them is Oswald Chambers. In his classic devotion “My Utmost for His Highest” on the day of December 21 he writes, “Be ruthless with yourself.” This is my and all believer’s greatest need.

So many Christians focus on the wrong enemy when seeking to fight the good fight of faith. Many times they seek to manage their circumstances or even look to engage spiritual forces with prayers and power statements. The fact of the matter is that our greatest foe and enemy of faith is us. If we can ever discipline our lives and keep our bodies and emotions in check, we will have won most of the spiritual war we face.

So I am going to seek to be ruthless with myself. I am not going to make excuses or allow myself to feel sorry for me. I must face the fact that I am not a victim. I am a blood bought soldier of the King of Kings and I have His Spirit living in me. I have been redeemed by His grace and have been given my orders. I am to live in obedience to Him out of a great love and a strong sense of appreciation.

Another writer that helps me force myself to focus on my need for discipline is John Owen. In his classic “The Mortification of Sin” he tells Christians to “Be busy killing sin or it will be killing you.” Sin is not a joke. It is not a mistake. It is not a slight vice. It is a deadly disease to your soul and it will rob you of life. It will job you or joy and peace. It will lead you to destroy your life and the lives of the people closest to you. It will seek to steal the hope you hold.

We must constantly seek to kill this sin that so easily entangles our thoughts and desires. We must starve it out. We must drive it out. We must vanquish it from our head, heart, and hands.

Foster’s book helps us understand how to do that. That is why I will be rereading it again this year as I have for several years now and I hope you will join me and begin practicing these spiritual disciplines.

Monday, December 24, 2007

How the Grinch Steals Christmas

It is becoming more and more difficult to define the reason for the season. So many have taken the Christ out of Christmas and have made it into something far less.

Not everyone is making it commercialized chaos. Some are taking another route that is cheaper, but possibly even more dangerous because it is good, moral, and sentimental.

Many are going the way of the Grinch.

I love the movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” but let’s face it by the end of the movie the Grinch still doesn’t get Christmas. He understands the need for relationships and the value of community, but Christmas? I don’t think so.

It’s like a Christmas card we received this month. It had the picture of a dear friend’s new born child and the caption underneath it said “our reason for the season.”

I do not mean to undermine the importance of family. I love family and it is a core Biblical value. But family is not the reason for the season. Kindness, compassion, and community involvement are not the reason for the season.

Christmas is a celebration of God becoming flesh in order to redeem man from sin by dying as the atonement for the sin of those who believe in Him. It’s great that families can get together and people are more charitable and considerate, but the fact of the matter is that unless the Christmas loving Ebeneezer Scrooges of the world repent of their sin and submit their lives to Christ as Savior and Lord they face a dark dismal Godless future.

So enjoy time with friends and family and be nice to strangers – things Christians are to do everyday. But celebrate Christmas as the reminder of the fact that God made His dwelling among us and became man by being born of the Virgin Mary in a stable in a small town in Israel. Remember that this miraculous birth lead to a sacrificial death and out of awe and wonder worship the One who has won the victory over sin and death – Jesus the Christ.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

He's One He's Walking He's Well

One year ago today Asher James Pettus was born.

He weighed 8 pounds and 3 ounces. He was 19 and 1/2 inches long. Yesterday for his one year old visit he tipped the scales at 28 pounds and 13 ounces and was 32 and 1/2 inches long. He's a keeper.

We have been blessed this year to enjoy this precious boy. Carrie and I dedicated him to Christ in the spring and we understand that we are stewards of his life and are taking that responsibility very seriously. We pray daily for his salvation and are raising him in an environment where the Gospel is shared and celebrated.

As we look forward to his next year of life we do so with great joy and thanksgiving. His older siblings Mackenzie who is now 11 and Jackson who is now 8 are enjoying playing with him and teaching him the ropes of what it means to be a Pettus.

Please pray for Asher that he will love Jesus and live his life for the glory of God. Ask God to keep him healthy. Pray also for Carrie and me and the kids that we will provide him with Godly training, love, discipline, and purpose.

Friday, December 7, 2007

If It’s Easy It's Probably Wrong

Last night I watched LSU give up a 21 point lead to Villanova with less than 8 minutes left in the game. They had the thing won, but then they stopped pushing. They stopped hustling. They stopped working. They took it easy. They got comfortable and it cost them.

The same is true for us. It should never be easy. We have an enemy, the devil, that prowls around looking to devour us. He cannot have our souls, but that is not going to keep him from trying to destroy our families. He cannot have God’s glory, but that is not going to stop him from trying to make a mockery of God’s grace by getting you or me to fall into embarrassing sin.

Every day we must allow God’s Word and God’s Spirit to hurt our pride and humiliate us. We must daily seek to see how far we have to go and then by God’s grace in the power of His Spirit through the hope of Jesus’ redeeming blood press on toward the goal to win the prize we have been called to that is heavenward.

Here is what Oswald Chambers had to say on the matter.

The entrance into the Kingdom is through the panging pains of repentance crashing into a man’s respectable goodness; then the Holy Ghost, Who produces these agonies, begins the formation of the Son of God in the life. The new life will manifest itself in conscious repentance and unconscious holiness, never the other way about. The bedrock of Christianity is repentance. Strictly speaking, a man cannot repent when he chooses; repentance is a gift of God. The old Puritans used to pray for ‘the gift of tears.’ If ever you cease to know the virtue of repentance, you are in darkness. Examine yourself and see if you have forgotten how to be sorry.

If following after God is easy for you. You are probably not following well. It should be a daily dose of reality and of disappointment with self and an amazement with God’s mercy and love. which leads to repentance and a deeper desire to be Godly.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Who Do You Admire and Listen To?

On occasion I am asked who it is I like to listen to preach and who inspires me to love Jesus more and serve His Kingdom purpose with my life.

There are a number of pastors I love to hear preach. Here is a short list of people I listen to regularly. They are different in so many ways, but similar in the ways that matter most to me. They believe, as I do, in the sufficiency and infallibility of Scripture. They believe, as I do, in the divinity of Christ and in His penal substitution on the Cross. They believe, as I do, that the church is God’s chosen people called by Him to reach the world for Christ. They believe, as I do, in the one true triune God.

Tim Keller is one of those pastors I admire and listen to. Here is a page that provides some background on him and some resources that I believe will bless you.

John Piper is another pastor that helps me think theologically and challenges me to live a holy life for Christ. Here is the ministry he leads and provides resources that can help you.

Bob Coy is a pastor that makes me laugh and helps me think practically about the Christian life and the Word of God. Here is the ministry that he leads and provides good sermons.

Two more would be not just the pastors, but also their churches. Andy Stanley is the pastor of Northpoint Community Church and you can find out more about this ministry and hear him preach here. Joel Hunter is the pastor of Northland Community Church and you can find out more about this truly missional church and hear him preach here.

Friday, November 30, 2007

That Time of Year

Today our family received our annual Christmas poinsettia from Jim and Annis Wiggington and placed it, as we have for years now, as the center piece on our dining room table. Jeff Carlisle, our missions pastor at Living Hope, has been playing Bing Crosby in his office nonstop. There are enough cookies in the church fellowship hall to feed a small nation. All that can only mean one thing - Christmas time is here.

The way we kick off Christmas every year is with our Holiday Kick-Off Concert. It is our gift to the city. We invite everyone to come to one of our three concerts: Saturday at 6 pm, Sunday at 3 pm or 6 pm. It's not just a concert. We share the sights, the smells, the tastes, and the sounds of Christmas. We will enjoy Christmas desserts with coffee, hot chocolate, or cinnamon cider. All around there are Christmas trees and lights and decorations. In the auditorium there is a concert with the Living Hope Choir and orchestra. We are visited by Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and there is snow. Yes, there is snow and we let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

We also get to hear the Christmas story told in a way a child can understand. It is the Gospel and the true reason for the season.

I hope you have your tickets and are ready to come with guests in hand to celebrate the greatest hope on earth - Christ has come and taken away the sins of all who believe.

Our next big event is our Christmas Eve Services. I hope you, your friends, and your family plan to attend and celebrate Christmas with a worshipful Candlelight Service.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Book Recommendation

This morning I mentioned a book that I read every year usually between Christmas and the first of the year. It is Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. I believe I have read this book every year since the first year I read it almost fifteen years ago. It’s one of those books that provides me with the reminders I need to be ruthless with my sinful self and get on with the business of walking closely with God.

It was John Owen who said, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.”

This book helps me kill sin in me.

I hope you will join me in this Holiday reading and be trained to fight the good more effectively.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

When It's Hard to Give Thanks

On this day when we give thanks as a nation, I was reminded in my devotional reading that it is exceedingly difficult for some to do so. Life is hard and filled with hurt. Even in the midst of it God's grace can make us say, "it is well with my soul."
The fact that we are well in Christ no matter what comes our way gives us reason to give thanks today.
Here is the devotion reading for today from Robert J. Morgan's On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997), November 22

In November, 1873 Chicago lawyer Horatio G. Spafford took his wife and four daughters, Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie, to New York and boarded them on the luxurious French liner, Ville du Havre. The Great Chicago Fire had destroyed everything they owned, and Spafford was sending his girls to an English Academy until the Chicago schools—and his own life—could be rebuilt. As he saw his family settled into their cabin, an unease filled his mind and he moved them to a room closer to the bow of the ship. Then he said goodbye, promising to join them later in France.

During the small hours of November 22, 1873, as the Ville du Havre glided over smooth seas, the passengers were suddenly thrown from their bunks in a jolt. The ship had collided with an iron sailing vessel, the Lochearn. Water poured in like Niagara, and the Ville du Havre tilted dangerously. Screams and prayers and oaths merged into a nightmare of unmeasured terror. Passengers, losing their footing, clung to posts, tumbled through darkness, and were drenched by powerful currents of icy, inrushing sea. Loved ones fell from each other’s grasp and disappeared into foaming blackness. Within two hours, the mighty ship vanished beneath the nocturnal waters. The 226 fatalities included Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie. Mrs. Spafford was found nearly unconscious, clinging to a piece of the wreckage. Nine days later when the survivors landed in Cardiff, Wales, she cabled her husband: “Saved Alone.”

He immediately booked passage to join his wife. On the way over, on a cold December night, the captain called him aside and said, “I believe we are now passing over the place where the Ville du Havre went down.” Spafford went to his cabin but found it hard to sleep. He said to himself, “It is well; the will of God be done,” and later wrote his famous hymn based on those words:

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Give thanks today because in Christ it is well with your soul.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

With Jesus

Why would any person raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4) miss a moment to be with the Lord? He is the one who gave the new life. His day is set aside so that He can be worshiped and honored for His greatness, His grace, and His love.

John 12:1-2 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.

Of this encounter Charles Spurgeon writes,

It would have been a strange thing if Lazarus had not been at the table where Jesus was, for he had been dead, and Jesus had raised him. For the risen one to be absent when the Lord who gave him life was at his house, would have been ungrateful indeed. We too were once dead, yea, and like Lazarus stinking in the grave of sin; Jesus raised us, and by his life we live—can we be content to live at a distance from him? Do we omit to remember him at his table, where he deigns to feast with his brethren? Oh, this is cruel! (Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, November 21 PM)

What a strange thing it is that so many who claim to be born again do not go and meet with the Lord on His Day. It is prescribed in Scripture that His followers are to worship Him on Sunday. What could possibly be more important than honoring the One who brought them from death to life? What responsibility outweighs the duty a disciple has to worship the risen Christ on Sunday in a congregation of the redeemed (Hebrews 10:24)?

Lazarus was where he ought to have been? Are you where you should be each Sunday?

Friday, November 16, 2007

When God Let’s Me Hurt

I’m about to do something I hate to do. I’m going to the doctor. I’m not sick. I’m in extreme pain. My back hurts so bad that a cough or a sneeze brings tears to my eyes.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sissy. I hate pain, but there is something frustrating about a pain that can’t be fixed with a pill or a week’s worth of rest, which is what I’ve had since Monday.

In the midst of this I have been mindful of the millions of people who live with pain. They get up and do life as best they can in the midst of pain I can’t describe.

This pain and these thoughts of others in pain have made me think theologically on the matter. C.S. Lewis and other great thinkers have provided more than I could ever on the subject so I won’t waste time sharing a theology of pain.

What I would say is that we need to be mindful of well-meaning Christians who teach, preach, and counsel people to believe that God wants us to be healthy and always well. I do not believe that. As a matter of fact, I believe God has decreed and designed my life in love to go through pain right now and will do so again.

Why? I don’t know all the reasons, but I do know it is because He loves me and does not want me to forget what matters most – Him.

Is there a Biblical foundation for this? Yes, Paul lived in pain by God’s plan (1 Corinthians 12:7-10). James writes to the church and reminds them of the Old Testament saints who God called to live in pain and encourages them to draw strength from those who’d gone before them (James 5:10-11). Peter reminds the church to grow in their faith through suffering (1 Peter 4:19).

As we enter into a season of Thanksgiving, I pause and give thanks in the midst of a little back pain. I give thanks that I have a Father in heaven who loves me. I thank Him that even if I had to live with this pain and other pains for the rest of my life, I praise Him that my eternity is pain free. I give thanks that I have a Father in heaven that is looking to grow me in my faith and ordains pain in my life to guide me to trust and pray to Him. I give thanks that I have a Father in heaven that is looking to humble me and allow me the joy of community and friendship as my church family and friends pray for me and as I go to my doctor who is my brother in Christ and submit to be served by his gift and ability God has provided him.

Pain is not our enemy. Sin is. Painlessness is not our hope, joy, and peace. God is.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It’s Like Chopping a Tree

Recently, a tree fell into my backyard and I had to cut it into pieces to remove it. My back is still hurting. I’m a big dumb boy, but even with a sharp ax I couldn’t chop that tree in half with one swing. I had to go at it several times and from different directions. It was a process.

Leading someone to Christ is very similar. It is very rare these days that a person will accept Christ with one shot and one perspective. Years ago it was not uncommon for a person who had never heard anything about Jesus to go to a “revival meeting” and get saved. These days it takes a process to reach people.

In his outstanding book “The Complete Book of Discipleship”, Bill Hull describes a four step process based on steps he adapted from B.A. Bruce’s 1871 publication “The Training of the Twelve.”

Step One: “Come and See” based on John 1:35 – John 4:46. This step can take anywhere from one week to five months. At this stage a person gathers information about the faith. They learn about who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He requires from those who will become His disciples. People will engage in Christian community and might even connect in a small group or Bible study.

Step Two: “Come and Follow ME” based on Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:16-18. This step is the first step of faith followed by consecutive steps of obedience for 6 months to a year. At this stage a person repents of sin and receives salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by completely surrendering themselves to Him and leaving their old way of life. They will be baptized, join a local body of believers, be trained to participate in and begin a daily devotional life, serve somewhere in their local church, and get connected in a small group for accountability, Bible study, prayer, and support. They will also begin to help others take step one and step two as they have.

Step Three: “Come and Be with ME” based on Mark 3:13-14. This step is the first step of leadership in disciple-making. During this year to two year stage a disciple will come to understand their unique giftedness and begin to focus their spiritual development and service to Christ. This phase of their faith fosters a deep love for God that results in humility, courage, kindness, mercy, peace, joy, discipline, and faithfulness that may wane but will never die. They will begin to equip, encourage, and enable other disciples to take others through steps one and two and will journey with other leader-disciples who are in the process of step three.

Step Four: “Remain in ME” based on John 15:5,7. This step is the last step that takes the rest of the disciple’s life. At this stage the guiding power of the Holy Spirit is encountered regularly to direct the disciple down the path of righteousness. There are also dark nights of the soul, when it seems that God has abandoned the disciple, but their faith is strengthened. This strengthening takes place in different ways for different people. Doubt, pain, and personal challenges that may come in the form of persecution, success, solitude, or some other experience will require the disciple to abandon self-centeredness, will-power, and self-capabilities and trust completely in Christ. There will also be times of overwhelming delight and power as God reveals Himself and chooses to work in and through the disciple in miraculous ways.

What step are you on? Are you progressing or regressing? You never stay the same. You are either going forward or backward.

Who are you helping take the steps? In December we will be offering the Holiday Kick-Off Concert on the first weekend in December, the Christmas Eve services, and Sunday morning services for you to bring friends and family to “Come and See.” Is it time for you to be baptized, join the church, and connect in a small group to “Come and Follow ME (Christ)?” Are you ready to “Come and Be with ME (Christ)” and start serving in the ministry and helping others through step one and two? Or is it time to “Remain” and grow through all-out surrender to service to Christ? This is not just giving some time. It is life given to service and surrendered to the Holy Spirit all of the time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My Life and Prayer

Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

The King has made me His servant. He loves me and has adopted me as His son. He has pardoned me by taking my punishment of death. He died publicly on a cross surrounded by evil and hate. He died for me because He loves me. He has called me to be His and to serve Him.

I serve Him, first, as His servant. My life, my hope, and my purpose rest in Him. Without Him my life has no foundation, no reason, no passion, and no future. In Him my life is found.

I serve Him, second, by serving my family. I serve as a husband to care for my wife and provide for her needs and lead her to be His. I serve as a father to care for my children by providing for their needs, setting them an example, and leading them to be His.

I serve Him, third, by serving His church. I serve as a pastor to care for my flock by feeding them God’s Word, leading them to obedience, and caring for them through systems and structures of leaders who are called and capable.

In this life of service He has called me not to rely on my ability He has given me. My abilities are of no use without Him. He has called me to rely on Him. I rely on Him by praying to Him and trusting in His love, His will, and His power.

I pray because I trust. I pray because I am commanded to. I pray because I am a desperate servant loved by God and called to a life of significance through surrender. When I pray, I surrender to Him all that I am and have and hope.

My prayer is my way to access the King to discover His desire and to request His power to be at work.

Monday, November 12, 2007

An Environmentally Abusive Neighbor In Atlanta and the Evangelical Church in North America

Residents in an upscale neighborhood in Atlanta are in an uproar. The area is facing one of the worst droughts in history and there is a neighbor hoarding and using ridiculous amounts of water. The drought problem is so serious that the governor actually prayed for rain at the capital building on Monday, November 12. There is a serious concern that the region might literally run out of water.

This bonehead neighbor is said to be using over 400,000 gallons of water a month. That is almost ten times what most people would use in a year.

What could he possibly be doing with that much water? There seems to be no visible outcome from all of his consumption.

When I think about what this man is doing, I can’t help but think about what the evangelical church in North America is doing. There is a spiritual drought in the land and throughout the world and yet we evangelical Christians are hoarding the Living Water. We have all that we need of Jesus and His grace, but are we sharing it? Are we helping to solve the moral and spiritual problems of the nation and the world?

No, it seems that we are hoarding it for no visible purpose. Never have so many with so much done so little.

Let’s pray that the evangelical church in North America will share what we’ve been given. Let the end of the spiritual drought begin with you and me sharing Christ effectively and praying daily for a downpour of God’s grace and power.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Beginner, an Attender, a Member, and an Investor Went to Church...

To get where you want to go it is always important to know where you are.

For instance if you are reading this blog, you are probably a person who wants to walk faithfully with God and help other people get to God and grow in Christ so they can give to others. But where are you in that process. Are you helping people get to God? Are you growing in Christ? Are you giving to others? How can you know?

Here are four of the most common places most people begin from and what the right next step is for that spiritual position.

A Beginner

A beginner is a person who has not given God complete responsibility for all of their sin and their future through faith in Jesus Christ. They do not have the presence of God’s Holy Spirit to guide them or to bless them. They live by their own power, for their own purpose, and will have to give an account of their life based on their own performance and be judged for eternity for their sin.

A beginner’s next best step is to admit that they need God to take responsibility for their sin and life. A beginner can do this by accepting the grace of God that comes by admitting that they have been doing life on their own and have sinned (Romans 3:23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”), but believe that Christ died to pay the price or wage for all of their sin (Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”), and through the power of His resurrection from the dead can live in them and lead them all the way to heaven (Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”). This is how a beginner becomes a Christian.

An Attender

An attender is a person who is showing up at church. An attender may or may not be a Christian. This means you can be both a beginner and an attender. Attenders do not commit to membership. They date the church. They show up and participate in the aspects of the church they like, but refuse to enter into a covenant relationship with a local body of believers that would make demands on them. Attenders who are Christians are in essence Christian Consumers. They receive, but they don’t give. Attenders who are beginners are doing what they are supposed to be doing. They are checking out the claims of Christ and considering the commitment.

An Attender’s next best step is to commit to a local church and give their life and love to the people of the church. If an attender is a beginner, they need to take the beginners best next step first and then commit to a local church. By joining a local church they put themselves in a position to be and receive the blessing of living as the bride of Chirst.

A Member

A member is a person who has committed their life to Christ and has entered into a covenant relationship with a body of believers. They take responsibility for participating in and providing for ministry opportunities.

A member’s best next step is to identify what they have to offer and what the body needs. All Christians have gifts and abilities given to them by God. A member needs to discover and define those gifts and use them for God’s glory through the ministry of their local church.

An Investor

An investor is a member who not only discovers what they can do and what is needed in their church. An investor is a person who gives their time, abilities, and money to fulfill the ministry of the church. They do not go to church to receive. They go to church to give. What is amazing about this way of life is that they end up receiving more than those who go to church to receive. Why? Acts 20:35 “Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

An investor’s next best step is to share the joy of giving and recruit others to be and receive the blessing that comes through giving.

Which one are you? Will you take your next best step?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Reaching People Like Growing Grass

This week I decided it was time to stop having the worst yard in the neighborhood. The drought has only added to the damage. My yard has hit rock bottom, but I decided this week was the time to repent and to begin again with new life.

Interestingly, I have found that growing grass is very similar to helping people get to God with the Gospel and then helping them grow in Christ.

The first thing I had to do with my yard was remove the thatch. The thatch is the dead grass that sticks to the soil and makes it impossible for the seed to get to the soil. So I dethatched my yard and raked it clear.

In reaching people for Christ we have to get past the stuff that keeps them from being able to hear the Gospel. It may be a negative view of Christians or the church. It may be a misunderstanding of what it means to give up their life for the life God wants for them. Either way we must first be able to get past their wall of resistance. We do this by building a relationship with them over time and helping them see and experience the love of God through our life and our community of faith.

The second thing I had to do was aerate my yard. This gets oxygen to the soil. It also softens the soil so the seed can get down into the ground.

In reaching people for Christ the Spirit of God must enable the soul to receive God’s love and soften the heart so the Gospel can get in. Unless the Spirit of God is present in a person's life, they cannot receive the Gospel and be saved. This happens as we pray for God to save a person. Salvation is a work of God. We are only instruments in the process. It is God who saves by grace by giving faith that a person uses to be saved (Ephesians 2:8-10).

The third thing I did was overseed. I put down almost 100 lbs of grass seed on my yard. Some of it won’t germinate, but a lot will.

In reaching people for Christ we have to overseed. We have to share the Gospel with them in multiple ways. We must share what we know of Christ and His Word. We must share our testimony. We must share our worship experience on Sunday morning. We must share our friends and let them see a Gospel community. We must share Christian resources like music, books, and teaching through multiple mediums. We must present the Gospel in multiple ways and pray for God's Spirit to be at work so that one of those presentations will enable the Gospel to get down into their heart.

What I’m doing right now is keeping the lawn watered and letting the sun do its thing. In the next few weeks the seed that germinated will grow and become a part of the yard. I will then have to maintain it by fertilizing it, keeping the weeds and bad grass out, and keeping it watered.

In reaching people for Christ we must not only share the Gospel. We must help them grow. It's not enough to see a person converted. We are commanded to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Once a person has accepted Christ they need to be helped through the first step of Christian obedience. They will need to be baptized and join the church. Someone will have to explain this to them and walk them through the process. Then they need to be fed on the Word of God, given Christian community for encouragement and accountability, and enabled to grow on their own through training and continued prayer.

It is a beautiful thing to see a yard that was once dead become healthy and alive. It is an even more beautiful thing to see a life that was dead to God become healthy by being made alive to God by grace through faith in Christ according to the work of God's Spirit.

Friday, October 26, 2007

What Are We Praying For?

Colossians 4:3 “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.”

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. 12We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Years later, when Scotland’s Reformed Church issued a plea for missionaries for the South Pacific, John Patton went to his parents for advice. They told him something they had never before disclosed—he had been dedicated to foreign missions before birth.” (Robert J. Morgan, On This Day)

What if God answered all of our prayers we prayed for today? What if all of a sudden God said, “ok” and blam everything we all prayed for was immediately answered?

How would the world be different? I wonder if the world would be different at all. I wonder if the result would be that we we all just get a little more comfortable and healthy.

Paul told the church to pray for him so that the Gospel would go out and that they would be able to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives – that the name of Jesus would be glorified in them.

Is that the focus of our prayers? Do we pray for the Gospel to change our church, our city, our nation, and our world? Or do we focus our prayer on our health, our money, and our relational needs?

What I wonder is, are we praying for God to provide a life for us where we don’t need Him? Are we asking God to give us health and wealth and solid relationships so we can be happy? And if God gave us all of those blessings, would we even want or need God? Do we want the blessings of God or do we want God? Do we truly want God to be our Father, Jesus to be our Friend, and Holy Spirit to be our Faithful Guide?

Our prayers tell us a lot about who we are and what we value. Do we value the Gospel mission God has given us more than we value our own personal comfort and success? Do we desire to see God’s name and glory spread more than anything else?

Back to the first hypothetical question, what if God answered our prayers today? Would more of our children become missionaries like John Patton? Would our lost family members, friends, cities, and the nations of the world experience the radical transformation of Christ?

If we are not praying for those things, what are we praying for? Is what we are praying for what God wants us to pray for? What are we praying for? There is nothing wrong with praying for health, God’s provision, and healthy God-honoring relationships, but have we come to value those more than God Himself and the Great Commission?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Death in the Pot

2 Kings 4:38-41 Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these men.” 39One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine. He gathered some of its gourds and filled the fold of his cloak. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. 40The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. 41Elisha said, “Get some flour.” He put it into the pot and said, “Serve it to the people to eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot.

Since the inception of the church there have been challenges to the truth found in God's Word that has been handed down from the apostles. The Word of God has been attacked. The Word of God has been misinterpreted. The Word of God has been ignored.

When the Word of God is not taught and understood rightly error enters into the church causing death. In most cases those who introduce the error are well-intentioned people. A brief survey of church history will show that most heretics were not trying to hurt people, but in good conscious were seeking to help people and to honor God.

The problem is that well-intentioned people, who do not hold to the Word of God and the orthodox faith passed down from the apostles can cause great harm.

Like the prophet in 2 Kings 4:38-41 who put the poisonous herbs and a wild vine into the stew, most of the well-intentioned leaders who are leading people astray with their teaching do not know that they are putting death into the pot (the church where people come to receive spiritual nourishment).

In these days when so many voices on television, radio, internet, and print media are offering spiritual instruction, believers must beware using caution and refuse to accept teaching that does not come directly from Scripture in context and that agrees with all of Scripture.

Many pastors have given up the ministry of the Word for the ministry of motivational speaking. They do not mean to do harm, but they are. By helping people focus on what they can do and how they can feel better and neglecting the holiness, grace, and mercy of God for sinners they are numbing people in their pain as they make their death march to hell. So many are going to church, but so few are hearing the Gospel.

It is a sad day when people will go to church and not meet God. It is a sad day when people go to church to get a lift rather than to lift up the name of Jesus.

Please pray for me that I will be a pastor who teaches the Word of God. Please pray for all pastors and church leaders that they will reject their need to be appreciated and applauded and preach the truth of the Gospel in love.

Pray for the Spirit of God to bring renewal and revival in the church universal. Pray that where there is dead faith and false teaching that results in spiritual sickness and death that the Gospel light will shine forth and bring spiritual health and life eternal.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Share the Light

This morning I had the privilege of leading a man to Christ. There is no joy like watching a person be born into the Kingdom of God because you know that they have just escaped a life of isolation from God and an eternity in hell. What an absolute joy!

I shared the Gospel in a couple of different ways, but the one that resonated with me and I believe with him was based on a story he told.

I asked him what it was about being a disciple of Christ that was so attractive to him. He shared how he loves to help people with kindness and love and offered a story that happened to him recently.

He was grabbing a quick meal in his car at a fast food restaurant and was approached by a man who explained that his car had broken down and that he needed help. Specifically, he needed money for food because he and his wife hadn’t eaten that day and money for gas to get back home, which was a few hundred miles away.

This new brother in Christ said he immediately took care of their needs and saw to it that they were fed and given enough gas money to get home. He then looked at me and said, “I just can’t stand the thought of being in that position and I was glad to help.”

I then told him that he was currently in that very position. I explained that like that man he was empty on the inside and needed to be filled. I reminded him that he didn’t have any way of getting home to heaven on his own. We then talked about how Jesus fills the life of a believer with His Spirit and provides the grace needed to get home to heaven. What he had not considered was the fact that God wanted to save him, but he like that man would have to humble himself and ask.

Moments later he prayed and admitted his sin and his personal need for forgiveness. He told God that he believed that Jesus died to pardon him of his sin and now wanted the living resurrected Christ to take control of his life. God saved him.

Have you ever led someone to Christ?

What keeps you from encouraging people with the Good News of God that tells them they can be forgiven and set free from the punishment and power of sin?

How many people can you list on a single sheet of paper that you can begin to pray for and share the Gospel with so that they can have the opportunity to be saved?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Arrogance, the Silent Killer

Arrogance is a silent killer. I don’t think I or Christians in general take it serious enough. Consider the ways arrogance kills.

It kills relationships and destroys unity among believers. How many churches have been split, how many small groups abandoned, and how many friendships have ended because someone started thinking they were better or smarter than someone else and started talking down to or thinking less of other people?

It kills opportunities to share the Gospel and destroys the witness of Christ in a community. How many Churches and Christians have abandoned their responsibility to love those outside of Christ and have made it their job to criticize those outside of Christ? As believers, we are to be wise stewards of our lives and to avoid sin. This does not mean that we think ourselves better than other people and begin to judge them based on our standards that they know nothing about. People in our cities don’t need our fingers wagging in their faces. They need the embrace of our handshake and hug.

It kills ministries and destroys ministers. How many Christians think that they have done their part and no longer need to serve the church? How many Christians think they have a ministry that they want or need to do that goes outside of the direction the church leadership has provided and instead of following the leaders have set out to do their own thing? How many Christians have decided their way of ministry is the way and have sabotaged a minister’s work causing them stress (Hebrews 13:17) and forcing them to be miserable or even leave a ministry?

It kills the soul of a person and destroys joy. How many Christians have come to think so much of themselves that they can not tolerate the people of God they consider weak, immature, or incapable? Or if they do tolerate them, have come to think so little of them that their patronizing critical tone has ended any opportunity for a real relationship. There is no joy in that life.

Remember what the Bible teaches us:

Proverbs 11:2 “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

God will bring judgment on arrogant people. What is so sad is that it will not just impact the arrogant person. It will also hurt those connected to them. It will impact their children, their spouse, their friends, and their church. What is worse is that most of the time their pride will blind them to what they are doing and the consequences of their actions until is it too late.

So what should we do? Scripture tells us to Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).

Our only hope is the Gospel. We must admit to God and to others that we are sinful people that are prone to be arrogant. We must believe that Christ loved us so much that He was willing to humble Himself so we could be saved. We must confess our love and belief in Christ and lives as He lived. Philippians 2:5-8 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

We must sacrifice our pride on the altar of humility and live lives that show that we are unworthy sinners who’ve been shown grace and mercy by God. We show grace and mercy and give unconditional love because God has given it to us. There is no place for pride in a life lived in, for, and through the power of Christ.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tell the Truth?

Growing up we heard from parents, teachers, and guidance counselors that we should always tell the truth. And we should. We should always tell the truth. God commands us to tell the truth. It’s one of the Big 10 (Exodus 20:16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”)

So, hear what I’m saying from the perspective that I understand that lying is not an option for a Christ-follower.

What I would say is that we need to understand that there is a difference between the “Biblical Truth” or “Gospel Truth” and our opinion of what is true.

Why would I say that? Why is there a need for the distinction?

There is a big reason and it has everything to do with being a God-honoring Bible obeying believer.

From time to time I hear people use the phrase, “I just tell it like it is.” That is even said of me on a regular basis. “Pastor, you just tell it like it is.” I take it as a compliment in as much as it pertains to Biblical Truth or Gospel truth I've shared. But it’s not a compliment if they say I share my opinion like it is. My opinion is not always like it is.

We must be very careful of how we “tell it like it is” because the way you think it is may not be the way it is. And even if the way you think it is, is in fact the way it is, the way it is may not need to be told by you in a tell like it is way, which can be a direct and condescending way.

Remember what God has told us in Scripture.

Colossians 3:12-15 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Ephesians 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up Into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

It is more important that we give love, compassion, and grace than we give our opinion. There are certainly times when we must speak Biblical truth and the Gospel truth when it is hard for others to hear it. But that is a loving act. What Scripture teaches and what the Gospel is must be shared no matter what. Our opinions, however, are not that important.

So the next time someone tells you or you tell yourself, “Hey, I’m (you’re) just telling it like it is.” Make sure you are telling truth in love. Make sure you are telling it with humility and grace. Make sure your telling the Gospel truth and not just your opinion of the truth.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What Is A Christian?

I recently spoke on the campus of Western Kentucky University on this subject and was reminded of the vast differences of opinion on this question. There are said to be over two billion who claim to be Christians, but I am not sure they are all claiming the same thing.

For what it’s worth here’s what I see Scripture saying.

Christianity is a state of being that produces a way of life and a world view that is built on the person of Jesus Christ.

It is a state of being. A Christian is something you become. Being a Christian has nothing to do with the part of the world or nation you live in or the genetic line you come from. Christianity is a state of being and something a person can become through the power of the Gospel (Romans 1:16).

From humanity’s standpoint it is as easy as ABC. We must Acknowledge our guilt before God Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We must Believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus to provide forgiveness and the power to overcome sin and death. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." We must Confess Christ as Lord and live under His leadership. Romans 10:9-10 "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

To become a Christian you must Acknowledge your sin and need for forgiveness, Believe in Christ, and Confess Him as ruler of your life.

It is a state of being that produces a way of life. Early Christians were said to be a part of “the way” (Acts 9:2). This way of life calls Christians to give up on themselves and allow Christ to live in them. Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. " The old life is dead and a Christian is given a new life, which is beautifully pictured in believer’s baptism through immersion. Christ lives in believers through His Spirit. He is actively working to purify our lives and minds which are contaminated with sin. The Spirit of God is seeking to reduce the control of sin over a believer's life. This way of life is lived by faith in Christ and His love and sacrifice.

It is a state of being that produces a worldview. Everything is seen from the perspective of Christ - His life, death, resurrection, and future return. The Christian life lived from this perspective will have values that differ from that of nonChristians and will have hope that a person who does not believe cannot have. Philippians 3:7-11 "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." The hope and focus of a Christian is Christ and His presence in that Christian's life. Everything is lived in view of eternity and a the future judgment that Christ will bring when He comes again and evil is vanquished and believers are finally free.

The life is built on the person of Jesus Christ. When it comes to Christ you must confess Him to be only a legend (mythical character), a liar (a person who claimed to be God but wasn’t), a lunatic (deranged to think He was God and claim to be the savior of all who believe), or the Lord God of heaven and earth. The position you live with in life concerning Christ will be the position you die with and it will determine your destination in the after life. In eternity you will either be in heaven or hell based on your love or rejection of God’s love given to us through His Son (John 3:16).

Again, being a Christian is not about knowing information, having religious experiences, or being affiliated with a religious group. It is a state of being that transforms your way of life and the way you look at the world because of the relationship you have with the risen Christ.

What Makes Me Laugh The Most!

This is my 9 month old son Asher. He makes me laugh. This is him with his older brother Jackson and Jackson's friends. The universal sound that makes all boys laugh:)

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Satisfaction of Submitting

I am a leader. As a leader, I have responsibilities. These responsibilities, if carried by me alone, would be overwhelming and unbearable.

The work of leading me is a full-time job. I am a mess. I am prone to be lazy, selfish, greedy, gluttonous, lustful, and mean. Left to myself, I would cause harm to me, those I love, and those who serve with me.

The work of leading my family is quite a job too. My kids are great and my wife is not only smoking hot, but extremely wise and patient. They still need to be served by me and provided for financially and given a Godly model to follow. That’s my joy and my job.

The work of caring for my church is sweet, but serious. Each week I feed over two-thousand people the Word of God through my preaching. Through the week I lead our staff of twenty-something people and help make decisions that will impact people’s lives and eternities. I also pray, counsel, and care for needs constantly.

But I am not overwhelmed. Why? I do not carry any of these burdens alone. I have submitted my life to leadership and that leadership takes responsibility for me and for what I do.

Christ is my savior and leader. He makes the call for me in terms of what I think, how I feel, and the way I live.

I have also submitted my life to a handful of men who know my struggles as a man who is a leader, a dad and a husband. They guide me through decisions and help correct my bad thinking.

As a pastor, I am under the authority of a group of elders. These men serve along side of me in caring for the church, but they also are responsible for me. They help make decisions about the direction of the church and the function of my ministry. If I get out of bounds in any way, they have complete authority to put me back in place or even put me on a shelf until I’m fit to serve.

There is a deep satisfaction in knowing that I am not alone. I am responsible for many things, but I do not carry those burdens by myself. There are even some burdens I don’t carry at all.

I don’t carry the burden of my sin debt. Christ has paid that for me. I don’t carry the burden of my life’s direction. God has prepared my path for me.

Even the tasks in my life that I must tend to are done under and along with the help of others.

Life submitted to the authority and leadership of others is deeply satisfying. If I didn't have others taking responsibility for me and with me, I would bend and at some point break under the pressure. I'd be like a tree in an ice storm with branches unable to hold up. As the branches fell, it would cut off power lines and cause pain to others.

Send me your comments and questions at