Thursday, December 31, 2009

He Will Come

My three year-old son Asher loves to visit his grandparents. When he wakes up each day, he tells his Grammy, "Mommy is coming!"

He knows that his mother loves him and will never leave him. She has only given him a time to be loved by others without her direct presence, but he knows she will soon come and take him home where she will care for him.

As surely as Jesus came the first time as was promised, He will come again.

Malachi 4:1–6 “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. 3 Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty. 4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. 5 “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

Yes, the Lord is coming again and nothing will ever be the same again.

Revelation 22:17–21 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. 18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


What a person resolves to do tells a lot about that person. Each resolution represents a value, a vision, and a core belief a person holds. With each resolution we make we point to what it is we believe and how we hope to honor that which we hold most dear.

As you consider making resolutions, take a look at the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. He wrote these at a very young age. They give a great deal of explanation about his faith and character as is noted.

Resolutions afford ample testimony how much the author had entered into the spirit of 1 Cor. 10:31. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. They also illustrate his views of the importance of consistency of character. He was not content with accurate views of truth, or any kind of outward profession, apart from holy consistency of character. He studied, he admired, and he exhibited the influence of the gospel; a walk “worthy of the vocation wherewith he was called” was the elevated object at which he ardently aimed. He well knew that the followers of Christ are required “to hold forth the word of life,” to shine as lights in the world, to instruct by their examples as well as by their words; and he desired to honour God by presenting to the view of the members of the spiritual kingdom, and also of the world, an example which might declare the reality and the beauty of religion. It is further manifest from these Resolutions, that his mind was most anxious for daily advancement in every branch of holiness.
Edwards, J. (2008). The works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 1 (lxv). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Here are the first five of his seventy life resolutions. His first resolution is exceptional.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.
1. Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved, so to do, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.
2. Resolved, To be continually endeavouring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the forementioned things.
3. Resolved, If ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.
4. Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.
5. Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.
Edwards, J. (2008). The works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 1 (lxii). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Good Questions

One of the things I love about being a pastor is my role in sharing Biblical truth with people that they can use in living their lives. I am no academic. I love to read and write as much as anybody, but my role in life is not to provide solutions on paper. One of my tasks as a pastor is to help people pray and process truth so that it is lived out under the authority of the Holy Spirit for the Glory of God in the name of Jesus.

A question I recently received was about "useless" suffering. It was a confidential email so I cannot publish its contents, but the basic question is a common one and a good one.

This person believed there is suffering that is useless and that holds no redemptive purpose.

I assured this person that nothing is wasted by God and that everything that happens has a purpose according to God's eternal plan. We may never understand God's purpose until the light of eternity reveals what God was doing, but we can be confident that in every death, rape, theft, tragedy of nature, broken heart, and scraped knee that God has a plan for it to bring His redemptive purpose to our planet for His glory.

The sovereignty of God is a great comfort to those that believe in Jesus. The fact that God is in control of all things allows us to rest and relax. We of course must daily work to fulfill our responsibility to God and seek His Kingdom purpose. But we can know that in all things our King is at work and will bring about His ultimate victory when He comes riding on His white horse with the new heaven.

This warrior is called “Faithful and True” (19:11); his name is “the Word of God” (19:13; compare John 1:1, 14), and his title is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (19:16). He leads the armies of heaven in the final assault on the two beasts (i.e., on the beast and the false prophet) and on all who bear their mark. His weapon is a sharp sword that comes out of his mouth: he needs only speak to win. It is he who “treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty” (19:15), which returns us to the terrifying image of 14:19–20.
In one sense, Revelation 19 does not advance the plotline of the book of Revelation. It does not try to do so. We have already been told that God destroys the great prostitute, that those who bear the mark of the beast must face the wrath of God, and so forth. What it adds—and this is vital—is the entirely salutary reminder that God is in absolute control, that he is to be praised for his just judgments on all that is evil, and that the agent who destroys all opposition in the end is none other than Jesus Christ.
Carson, D. A. (1998). For the love of God : A daily companion for discovering the riches of God's Word. Volume 1. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Tale of Two Men

Two men are struggling this morning. They are both unemployed and facing challenges beyond their financial difficulty.

The first is suffering from physical pain as well. It will be some time before his health will be restored. But his marriage is strong.

The second is physically fine, but his marriage is failing. He does not know how to restore it and feels helpless.

I have no power or word from God that can provide a job for either man. It seems it is God’s will for the one to suffer physically. The marriage of the other can be healed, but like the physical pain of the first man, time and proper care is what God seems determined to use.

What is dramatically different between these men is the support they have. The first man has a group of friends he has been gathering with for over a year in Bible study and prayer. The other does not. Both attend worship, but only the first man has made connections with other believers.

The first man is being prayed for hourly. The second man has limited prayer support. The first man has friends checking on him daily. The second man has very few friends asking about his welfare. The first man will receive meals and movies and thoughts of the day in the upcoming weeks. The second man will have to gut it out on his own.

One day you will be like one of these men. Life is going to come at you and leave you in need. Who will be there for you? The answer is found in who you are there for now. Are you connected with a small group of believers that you study God’s word with and pray for needs together with consistently? The story that will be yours is being written now before the trials comes.

Get connected in a small group first thing in 2010 - you can find out how by clicking here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

We’re in This THING Together

We watched the TV edited version of the movie Christmas Vacation this week. There were still parts we had to fast forward through, but I must admit it is one funny movie.

That may be the most quotable Christmas movie in the world. A guy I work with responds to every questionable statement someone makes with, “You serious, Clark?”

One statement that Clark “Sparky” Griswold makes that makes me laugh is when everything has fallen apart and the in-laws have packed their bags in order to make an early escape from the disastrous holiday extravaganza they have been witness to. Clark meets them at the door and with an intense out of his mind look says, “Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together.”

One thing I would like to see happen in our city and world is for families and friends to share Sparky’s same sentiments. Wouldn’t it be great if people had the attitude that “we’re all in this together” and stayed together through the tough times that life brings.

The world would be a better place if people would fulfill their marriage vows, if friends would be true, if families cared for one another through thick and thin, and if brothers and sisters in Christ lived as though their Bibles were true.

There are many things to admire about Joseph, the step-father of Jesus. He raised the son of God along with Jesus’ siblings and seemed to have done a good job. When their lives were in danger, he listened to the Lord and made tough decisions.

His first decision as Jesus’ dad is his most impressive. When he found out that Mary was pregnant and knew that the child was not his, he stayed.

When he received the news about Mary’s situation, his first thought was to divorce her quietly. Matthew 1:19 tells us, “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”
The fact of the matter he could have had her stoned to death according to the law.

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and explained what was happening to Mary and gave Joseph instructions on what he was to do. His response is exemplary. Matthew 1:24-25 “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”

He had every right to leave. What he was being told made no earthly sense. But when he could have walked away he decided to stay.

During this Christmas Season and throughout your life, you are going to have opportunities to leave early on your marriage, on friends, on your church, and maybe on life. Don’t do it. Honor God. Keep your vows and promises and pledges of friendship. Be the person you want other people to be.


I have been such a slacker on my blog. If the blog world could fine me, I'd have a heavy toll to pay.

I have been writing a weekly column in our local paper and have not taken the time to post here. I am going to be faithful in the new year to do at least two posts a week.

I am also going to post some of my columns as well.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Temptation of Christmas

I am daily tempted to sin against God by loving this world, but Christmas takes me to a whole new level. The commercials and concepts that communicate the cool stuff that I can have and give to the ones I love are convincing. Thankfully, God's Holy Spirit knows my weakness and His Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

I appreciate Dr. Carson's words also.

...wonder why God should be praised for loving the world (John 3:16) when Christians are forbidden to love it (1 John 2:15–17)... God loves the world with the holy love of redemption; he forbids us to love the world with the squalid love of participation. God loves the world with the self-sacrificing love that costs the Son his life; we are not to love the world with the self-seeking love that wants to taste all the world’s sin. God loves the world with the redemptive power that so transforms individuals they no longer belong to the world; we are forbidden to love the world with the moral weakness that wishes to augment the number of worldlings by becoming full-fledged participants ourselves. God’s love for the world is to be admired for its unique combination of purity and self-sacrifice; ours incites horror and disgust for its impurity and rapacious evil.

The world that John envisages in these verses is not pretty. It is characterized by all the lusts of our sinful natures (“the cravings of sinful man,” 2:16), all the things from without that assault us and tempt us away from the living God (“the lust of the eyes,” 2:16), all the arrogance of ownership, dominance, and control (“the boasting of what he has and does,” 2:16). None of this comes from the Father but from the world.

But Christians make their evaluations in the light of eternity. “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (2:17). Pity the person whose self-identity and hope rest on transient things. Ten billion years into eternity, it will seem a little daft to puff yourself up over the car you now drive, the amount of money or education you have received, the number of books you owned, the number of times you had your name in the headlines. Whether or not you have won an Academy Award will then prove less important than whether or not you have been true to your spouse. Whether or not you were a basketball star will be less significant than how much of your wealth you generously gave away.
Carson, D. A.: For the Love of God : A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word. Volume 1. Wheaton, Ill. : Crossway Books, 1998, S. December 3

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Spurgeon on Winter

It was very hard to get out of bed this morning. The temperature was 27 degrees outside and I was very comfortable in my warm house. I wanted to get a warm cup of coffee and my Bible, but there was physical work to be done. My push ups, sit ups, and leg extensions had to be done at the gym.

God has designed winter for a purpose. He also designs our dark cold days for His purpose. I appreciate Spurgeon's words on a day like today.

My soul begin this wintry month with thy God. The cold snows and the piercing winds all remind thee that he keeps his covenant with day and night, and tend to assure thee that he will also keep that glorious covenant which he has made with thee in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to his Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor sin-polluted world, will not prove unfaithful in his dealings with his own well-beloved Son.

Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee: but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: he casteth forth his ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, he is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord’s sending, and come to us with wise design. Frosts kill noxious insects, and put a bound to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soul. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!

How we prize the fire just now! how pleasant is its cheerful glow! Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw nigh to him, and in him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of his promises, and go forth to labours which befit the season, for it were ill to be as the sluggard who will not plough by reason of the cold; for he shall beg in summer and have nothing.

Spurgeon, C. H.: Morning and Evening : Daily Readings. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995, S. December 1 AM

Friday, November 27, 2009

D.A. Carson on Preaching

It is terribly easy for the preacher to shape his message to fit in with the spirit of the age. What begins as a concern to be relevant and contemporary—both admirable goals—ends up with seduction and domestication. This is especially likely when the rich and the powerful are paying our bills. At every level it is easy to fool oneself into thinking that cowardice is prudence, that silence on the moral issues of the day is a small price to pay in order to have influence in the corridors of power. Get invited to the White House (or even denominational headquarters!), and you will never inveigh against its sins. Give a lecture at a prestigious academic organ, and be sure to ruffle as few feathers as possible. Become a bishop, and instead of being the next J. C. Ryle, you sell your silence. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. God will always have his Micah and his Amos. But it happens frequently enough that we ought to return often to God’s revelation, to make sure that our message is shaped by what he has said and is neither the fruit of smart-mouthed petulance nor the oily “appropriateness” of those who cleverly say only what people want to hear.

Carson, D. A.: For the Love of God : A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word. Volume 2. Wheaton, Ill. : Crossway Books, 1998, S. 25

My prayer is that I would simply preach the Gospel according to the Scriptures. If you pray for me or any pastor, pray for that.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Are We Concerned About

Jonah 4:10-11 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

I read this text this morning and wondered if God doesn't say, "US Christians, you are concerned about politics, the economy, and other luxuries and yet there are 2 billion people on the planet that have never heard my Gospel."

Friday, November 20, 2009

On Turning Thirty-Seven

Well I turned thirty-seven this week. It is a pretty blah age really. There isn’t much to get worked up about. I probably would not have even thought much about it had my wife and children along with hundreds of Facebook friends not reminded me of it.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that this is a significant year in my life because of my family history, my calling, and my current family.

At the age of thirty-seven my dad had his first heart-attack. He got one in every three to four years after that and died at the age of forty-nine. My dad was not a healthy man and he lived hard. He was a truck driver, but he also was an ineffective entrepreneur, which meant he spent a lot of blood, sweat, and tears on ideas that never seemed to pan out. He was also a big smoker and overweight.

The morning after my thirty-seventh birthday I ran a 10k in fifty-three minutes at Kereiakes Park, which is not bad for a man fifteen pounds over his playing weight. I am planning on running a half-marathon in the spring. I am also going to focus on doing what I am called to care for and refuse to get stressed out, especially when I have such a loving God caring for me.

Speaking of my God, I hope to serve Him well this year. But I think I am no longer considered a young pastor. I have served Living Hope Baptist Church since I was twenty-eight years old. It is still astounding to me that God called me to serve such an amazing congregation. I love them so much. They have been so kind and gracious and patient with me. It is an honor to get to serve them and to be on this wild journey with them and Jesus.

But now that I am thirty-seven I do not think I qualify as the “young guy.” As a matter of fact I am feeling a little vulnerable. I injured my leg in August and it took two months to heal. I got a cough in mid-October and I am just now over it. I am not able to recover as I once did and my kids are making greater demands on me. My adolescent daughter and older son’s sports along with the energy of my two year-old require me to be on the go more. I've got to work harder to keep up.

But I am overjoyed with my life and my wife. It is a joy to have a best-friend and help-mate with such a strong faith and kind heart like she does. We both rejoice at the goodness of God to us.

I plan to double my dad’s age at death and so I am just over one third of my way home unless the Lord returns or decides to bring me home earlier. I covet your prayers.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hell Is NOT Safe

I have been thinking about hell a lot. Just ask the members of my church. My accountability partners pointed out to me this week that I have mentioned it every Sunday for the past eight weeks. The idea of it is always present when I preach, but they explained that I have been dwelling on it. They wondered what was up.

The day after my guys talked with me one of our seasoned saints dropped in to see me. The purpose of her visit was to check on me. She and her husband had been talking about me and were concerned that I was allowing my mind to focus too much and too often on the reality of hell. Their concern was for my health. They both felt that to dwell on that subject too much could lead to a dark emotional state. I don’t disagree with them. If I did not have the hope of heaven for myself and that I can share with others, I do not know how I could live.

I honestly had not thought about it all that much, but I think they are all correct. Since my sabbatical I have spent more time thinking and talking about eternity than I ever have in my life.

There are a lot of things that could attribute to this. For one I am getting near 40 and my father died at the age of 49 so I could be considering the reality of my own mortality. It may also be that the Scripture reading I have been doing points to the eternal so often. You can’t read Spurgeon a week without having him saying something about it.

I have also been reading a lot of C.S. Lewis. I love C.S. Lewis, but the way he describes hell is, I believe, inconsistent with Scripture. He was a very sophisticated and intellectual man. I have the greatest respect for him. But I do not think he does hell justice. I believe it is going to be far worse than he describes. He makes it sound like hell is the worst of humanity. That is true, but it is also the worst of everything. There are going to be demons there. The Bible speaks of a burning fire and a never ending suffering. Hope is lost. Grace is gone. There is an awareness of God, but the thought of Him is terrifying and painful. Spiritual, emotional, and physical suffering is continuous and strenuous. Others are screaming. Demons are raging. Fear abounds.

I hope this doesn’t mess up your day, but I think it is very important that we understand that hell is not safe. Christians have the truth that can set sinners free from this deserved damnation. We must take it serious and do all we can to avoid it and to help other people avoid it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Quotes from Yesterday's Sermon PLUS One

I had several people ask me to post the quotes I used from Blackaby and Lewis in yesterday's sermon "The Challenge of Suffering" that you can listen to hear. I also add this one from Carson's devotion today.

“Living a godly life will not insulate you from hardship. Paul said that the more blameless your life, the more likely you will be persecuted. According to Paul, “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse” (2 Tim. 3:13). As the world increasingly embraces sin, worldly people are becoming increasingly intolerant of godliness. Darkness cannot tolerate light; the more your life illuminates the presence of Christ, the more you should expect opposition from the forces of darkness. Your Christlike nature will be offensive to those in rebellion against Christ’s Lordship.” – Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God Day by Day, October 12

“You must have often wondered why the enemy [God] does not make more use of his power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree he chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the irresistible and the indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of his scheme forbids him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as his felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For his ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve … Sooner or later he withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all supports and incentive. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs – to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish … He cannot “tempt” to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away his hand … Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” –The Demon Uncle Srewtape in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Faithfulness is not dependent upon an escape hatch. They choose faithfulness because it is the right thing to do, even if it costs them their lives. The courage we need in this anti-Christian age is courteous and steadfast. It never apologizes for God. It joyfully believes that God can do anything, but it is prepared to suffer rather than compromise hearty obedience.
Carson, D. A.: For the Love of God

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Grace, Grace, God's Grace

Luke 23:39-42 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Dr. Hanna has beautifully said: “Here, amid the triumph of enemies, and the failure of the faith of friends, is one who discerns, even through the dark envelope which covers it, the hidden glory of the Redeemer, and openly hails him as his Lord and King. Marvellous, indeed, the faith in our Lord’s divinity which sprung up so suddenly in such an unlikely region. Are we wrong in saying that, at the particular moment when that testimony to Christ’s divinity was borne, there was not another full believer in that divinity but the dying thief?… And what a tenderness of conscience is here; what deep reverence for God; what devout submission to the divine will; what entire relinquishment of all personal grounds of confidence before God; what a vivid realising of the world of spirits; what a humble trust in Jesus; what a zeal for the Saviour’s honour; what an indignation at the unworthy treatment he was receiving! May we not take that catalogue of the fruits of genuine repentance which an apostle has drawn up for us, and applying it here, say of this man’s repentance: Behold what carefulness it wrought in him; yea, what clearing of himself; yea, what indignation; yea, what fear; yea, what vehement desire; yea, what zeal; yea, what revenge! In all things he approved himself to be a changed man, in all the desires and dispositions and purposes of his heart.”

Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The dying Saviour reigns on the cross, and allots a place in paradise to his companion in death. Here is no hint of purgatory, the pardoned thief is with Jesus that very day. So also shall all believers be with Jesus immediately they leave the body.

Spurgeon, C. H.: The Interpreter: Spurgeon's Devotional Bible. Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009, S. 612

Friday, September 25, 2009

Assured of Salvation in Christ

I believe God saves and perseveres in saving all those who believe in Christ. As we baptists like to say, "Once a person is saved, they are always saved." They are not saved because of their saving actions. Those who are saved are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone.

What are we saved from? We are saved from a life separated from God. We are saved from an eternity separated from God. We are saved from the power of sin so that we are able to know God and follow His lead. We are saved from a life that lives for temporal things.

We are not only saved from terrible things. We are also saved for wonderful things. We are saved for God's glory. We are saved for a life of joy, peace, and significance. We are saved for a life of meaning.

Salvation is more than a concept. Salvation is an experience. It is something that happens. Assurance of salvation is more than a concept. Our assurance of our eternal hope in Christ is an experience. It is something that we can examine. Our assurance of salvation is something we can assess the veracity of.

We are told in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?"

I am extremely concerned about a person I know right now who claims to be saved. This person claims Christ, but is not living for Christ.

What we believe ultimately defines who we are. Who we are will determine what we do. If we consistently do ungodly things fully aware that we are disobeying God unconcerned about the way we are dishonoring God, it is because we do not genuinely believe. If we believe in the Lordship of Jesus, we are slaves to Him. If we are His slaves, we obey our master. Any continual blatant disobedience to the Lord communicates what a person believes and who they are.

I do not like to cause people to doubt their salvation. That is what the devil does. What I do feel compelled to do, is to encourage people to test their faith and make sure it is authentic so they are assured of what they believe and who they are in Christ. They will know based on what they are doing in obedience to Him.

John 15:10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Parents Beware

Being a parent is hard work. If it isn’t hard, you probably are not doing it right. Unfortunately, none of us can do it completely correctly, but most of us can do it better than we are.

I think the mistake a lot of parents make, and that I make, is evaluating my kid's upbringing based on what I see them doing at any given moment. That sounds strange I know, but stick with me here. Why is that not a good indicator, you might ask. Well, simply stated, kids change. Their moods change. Their lives change. Consistency is not a word that goes with kids. Their phases and needs are radically different year by year and season by season.

So what is an accurate means of accounting for our parenting? I believe the best thing we provide for our children is a Biblical value-centered life that disciplines and encourages consistently. We need to evaluate our kid’s upbringing based on the principles we govern and lead them with. As kids change, so will our approach, but the principles and values we rely on to raise our kids must never change.

The issue in parenting is the parent. The child is a product of what we do and of what the Lord has for each child. Our job, as parents, is to partner with God in raising our children with our Biblical priorities in the hope of our faith in Jesus.

This does not mean we ignore the importance and usefulness of situational leadership as taught in Scripture. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” We would do well to hear and live out the fundamental expectations of parents in Scripture. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

In 2 Samuel 13 we see successful King David failing as a parent. D.A. Carson speaks to how similar the mistakes the priest Eli made, as a parent (1 Samuel 2:12-36) and the mistakes King David made with his children. Each of these dads chose to ignore their responsibilities with their children and their children paid the price for it. From birth on through adulthood, Eli and David provided poor leadership in their kid’s lives and refused to discipline them in the love and hope of the Lord.

Carson writes about David’s parenting.
The pattern of David’s life, juxtaposed with Eli’s but a few short chapters earlier, illustrates the kinds of disasters that befall families where the father, however loving, indulgent, godly, and heroic he may be, never holds his children to account, never disciplining them when they go astray. David’s failure with Amnon and Absalom was not a first: it was the continuation of a moral and familial failure begun when the boys were in diapers.

We must serve our children by living principled lives that lift our children’s expectations of themselves. We must discipline them, when they do not rise to the level of God’s desires and demands of them. We must remember that the child is a result of the parent. If we reverse that principle and make the child rather than the parent the issue, we will chase the wind and give inconsistent guidance.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fishing Story

I shared parts of this story by Darrell W. Robinson in the first two services yesterday, but did not mention it at the 11 am service. It is one that is worth having and knowing.

Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen. And lo, there were many fish in the waters all around. In fact, the whole area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with fish. And the fish were hungry.
Week after week, month after month, and year after year, these who called themselves fishermen met in meetings and talked about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing. Year after year they carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared that fishing is always to be a primary task of fishermen.
Continually, they searched for new and better methods of fishing and for new and better definitions of fishing. Further they said, “The fishing industry exists by fishing as fire exists by burning.” They loved slogans such as “Fishing is the task of every fisherman.” They sponsored special meetings called “Fishermen’s Campaigns” and “The Month for Fishermen to Fish.” They sponsored costly nationwide and world-wide congresses to discuss fishing and to promote fishing and hear about all the ways of fishing such as the new fishing equipment, fish calls, and whether any new bait had been discovered.
These fishermen built large, beautiful buildings called “Fishing Headquarters.” The plea was that everyone should be a fisherman and every fisherman should fish. One thing they didn’t do, however: They didn’t fish.
In addition to meeting regularly, they organized a board to send out fishermen to other places where there were many fish. The board hired staffs and appointed committees and held many meetings to define fishing, to defend fishing, and to decide what new streams should be thought about. But the staff and committee members did not fish.
Large, elaborate, and expensive training centers were built whose original and primary purpose was to teach fishermen how to fish. Over the years courses were offered on the needs of fish, the nature of fish, where to find fish, the psychological reactions of fish, and how to approach and feed fish. Those who taught had doctorates in fishology, but the teachers did not fish. They only taught fishing. Year after year, after tedious training, many were graduated and were given fishing licenses. They were sent to do full-time fishing, some to distant waters which were filled with fish.
Many who felt the call to be fishermen responded. They were commissioned and sent to fish. But like the fishermen back home, they never fished. Like the fishermen back home, they engaged in all kinds of other occupations. They built power plants to pump water for fish and tractors to plow new waterways. They made all kinds of equipment to travel here and there to look at fish hatcheries. Some also said that they wanted to be part of the fishing party, but they felt called to furnish fishing equipment. Others felt their job was to relate to the fish in a good way so the fish would know the difference between good and bad fishermen. Others felt that simply letting the fish know they were nice, land-loving neighbors and how loving and kind they were was enough.
After one stirring meeting on “The Necessity for Fishing,” one young fellow left the meeting and went fishing. The next day he reported that he had caught two outstanding fish. He was honored for his excellent catch and scheduled to visit all the big meetings possible to tell how he did it. So he quit his fishing in order to have time to tell about the experience to the other fishermen. He was also placed on the Fishermen’s General Board as a person having considerable experience.
Now it’s true that many of the fishermen sacrificed and put up with all kinds of difficulties. Some lived near the water and bore the smell of dead fish every day. They received the ridicule of some who made fun of their fishermen’s clubs and the fact that they claimed to be fishermen yet never fished. They wondered about those who felt it was of little use to attend the weekly meetings to talk about fishing. After all, were they not following the Master who said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men?”
Imagine how hurt some were when one day a person suggested that those who don’t catch fish were really not fishermen, no matter how much they claimed to be. Yet it did sound correct. Is a person a fisherman if, year after year, he never catches a fish? Is one following if he isn’t fishing?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Daily News Column

I've started a weekly column in our local newspaper on Friday. Here was this week's submission.

Practice patience, prayer
Dr. Jason Pettus
Published: September 11, 2009
It is said that timing is everything. I have seen the importance of timing play out in my life and ministry on many occasions. There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t hear a story about the impact of perfect timing.

Recently, someone visited their doctor for a regular check-up that they usually do not take the time for. At that visit, their doctor found a mass that would have led to that person’s death had it gone untreated.

A shared story I hear from time to time is about the guy who says he was running late for an appointment or class and happened to run into the girl of his dreams. He pursues her and gets her to marry him.

My favorite story lately was the one about someone who received a job offer and took it and found out that same afternoon they would be losing their current job. That is great timing!

God has designed time with a grand purpose. We read in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that God made the world in such a way that “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” And Romans 5:6 teaches us that “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Salvation was provided by God at just the right time.

Having heard this, the question I know some of you are asking is, “When is my time?” I imagine many are wondering, “When am I going to get my miracle cure, my needed job or my long-desired love?”

I don’t know the answer to that question for you, but I know God does and I know that you can trust Him to provide for you at just the right time. The best thing you can do is pray.

Now, doesn’t that sound like a nice preacher answer? Pray about it. Indeed! I can hear the groans now. But I will tell you and can testify that prayer works. I believe prayer is the most powerful and most underutilized ability we have. God allows us to speak to Him and request His intervention. Not only does He allow it, He commands it. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are told to “pray continually.”

There are some who will question the effectiveness of prayer. I spoke with a person this Sunday who has been praying fervently for a practical need to be met in her life. She has done everything in her power to position herself to see this need met, but God has not seen fit for that to happen yet.

She wondered why that was. She wondered if she should even continue to pray. I told her, “Yes, without question you must continue to pray.” Her response was, “Well, it does not seem that God is doing anything.”

I then spent some time helping her understand that even when it doesn’t seem that God is doing much, God is at work. As a matter of fact, there was a day in our world when it seemed that God was doing the least, when in fact God was doing more than we can fully understand.

As Jesus was nailed to the cross, it seemed that God the Father was not doing anything. In the agony of that traumatic event, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) As Jesus died, it seemed that God was doing very little, but in reality God was accomplishing the most important thing in human history. According to 2 Corinthians 5:19, it was when Jesus was dying on the cross “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”

Sometimes, when it seems that God is doing the least, God is in fact doing the most.

There is no telling what God might be up to in your life, but you can rest assured that if you are His child living under His leadership in His love by His grace through your faith, He is up to something. We are told in Philippians 1:6 that we can be “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” It is just a matter of time with God.

Unanswered yet? Nay, do not say ungranted;
Perhaps your part is not yet wholly done;
The work began when first your prayer was uttered,
And God will finish what He has begun.
Though years have passed since then, do not despair;
His glory you shall see, sometime, somewhere.
— Ophelia Adams

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Patriotism a Sin?

Next month I will begin an overview study of 1 and 2 Kings, during my devotional time with God. When I do, I will inevitably come to the same conclusion I do every fall, as I read through this section of redemptive history. I will ask, “Why do these people get away from God? Why would a nation give up God’s blessing? Why would people so versed in God’s blessings: His Word, His Spirit, His Love, etc; why would they abandon God?”

Why indeed? That is the very question we must ask of ourselves in our nation today. D.A. Carson in comment of 1 Corinthians 10 writes about the moral implications of the Old Testament stories and remarks on what they teach us today.
Implicitly, it is all the more shocking if we who have received so much instruction and warning from ages past ignore the wealth of privilege that is ours. In our blindness we sometimes marvel at how some Old Testament figures or groups could so quickly abandon the godly heritage and covenant they received. How much worse if we do so!

A friend of mine asked me why we do a Patriotic Service every year and I explained that I believe it is good and right to give God praise at least once a year for the privilege of being a citizen of a nation where we are free to worship and evangelize. He asked if we sing, “God Bless America.” I told him that we did and he said, “That is syncretism (the combination of different forms of belief or practice ). You shouldn’t sing that song. You should sing a song asking God to bless a people that He raises up for Himself that are under His covenant of grace for the praise of His glory.”

I do not disagree that we should sing and praise God as His people for His glory. We are commanded in Scripture to praise God for this and to seek to gather those God has called to be His own. But we must give praise to God for all the good things He gives and one good thing we have as US citizens is religious freedom and a heritage of Christian Biblical Faith. We are in the process of abandoning that great foundation as a nation. In fact, we are at a crisis point now in our moral direction and spiritual health. We are like the children of Israel during the times of the Kings during an off-again season. We, like them, have gone through many on-again off-again seasons.

I will be praying for our nation, as I study these texts next month. I will be seeking to expand God’s Kingdom in our land and throughout the nations for the rest of my life. I will spend most of my time living as an exile in the US, but I will seek the good of my earthly nation and ask God to bless it.
Jeremiah 29:7 “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

God Won't Let Go

Oh, that every believer believed this. They would worship God in a more honorable way. They would share their hope with greater confidence. They would live with greater peace and joy.

This is truth...

My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.
John 10:29

Sadly, many believers throughout church history, including many today, have refused to believe that God guarantees their eternal security. Such denial derives from the erroneous conviction that salvation is a cooperative endeavor between people and God. Such reasoning says that an almighty God will not fail to do His part, but that a fallible Christian might fail to do his part.
But belief in what Scripture says about salvation—that it comes from a sovereign God alone—will lead you to the confidence that your salvation is secure. If salvation is all of God, then you can know with certainty that He will not fail to secure it. Anyone who is truly God’s child need never fear losing his citizenship in heaven. And if that describes you, you can surely trust Christ’s words from today’s verse that “no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

MacArthur, John: Truth for Today : A Daily Touch of God's Grace. Nashville, Tenn. : J. Countryman, 2001, S. 267

Monday, August 31, 2009


At Living Hope yesterday we enjoyed a time of Spiritual Renewal. Dr. Bobby Welch was our guest speaker for the day. Bobby is a man I have admired for many years. It was an honor to have him come and share the Gospel at Living Hope. You can listen to his message to us by clicking here. We put up the 8:00 and 9:30 service because what he said at the 8:00 service was somewhat different than what he said at the 9:30 and 11:00 services, especially at the end.

He talked to us about authentic faith. One of the things he shared that I had never heard and absolutely loved was how the people in his small Northern Alabama town would describe someone that had become a Christian.

When a person in their town would come to that place in their life where they surrendered their life to the risen Christ, they were said to have changed. For instance someone might ask, "Jimmy, what year was it, when you changed?" Or asking about someone they might say, "Has Joey had a change yet?"

What I love is that this language speaks to what happens to a person's life. When a person comes to faith in Christ, they are changed. Jesus saves by grace through faith and not by works, but anyone who has been saved by grace through faith always has works. A person of faith always lives out their faith and their life is changed and other people can see the change in the way they treat others, speak, and approach their life.

I think I am going to start using that because it is Biblical.
James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

John 15:8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Galatians 5:22-25 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Great Expectations

I have pretty high standards for myself. I am sure there are others that might think I am a slacker, but on the whole I think I make a good case for my work ethic and productivity.

One thing I have learned in life is that, although I need to live with great expectations of myself, I do not need to live with great expectations of others. Living with great expectations of others creates stress on a relationship and disappointment that is many times unnecessary.

I spoke with a pastor recently that is living under the pressure of great expectations of people that demand that he do what they want. The kicker is that the people are not willing to help meet the need. They just want to enjoy the benefits of something without helping make it happen. He is incapable and is not called by God to work alone and to provide for the interests of people. He is a man ordained in the Gospel ministry to make disciples. God has given him a vision and a functional method to produce fruit, but there are people that are coming to him not asking what can I help you do. They are coming and asking, "What else can you do that fits more into what I want?"

If you are a member of a local church, please encourage those leaders that serve you and come along side of them and help them. Instead of going to church with great expectations of others, go to church with great expectations of yourself and give your time and energy in providing for the needs of others within the paradigm the leaders of your church believe God desires for the ministry they lead.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Morning

Lamentations 3:22-23 "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

I am a bit of a morning person. Since college football, when we would be up at 5 am to workout I have been accustomed to getting up and getting going. One of the things I love about the morning is the freshness of a new day that provides new opportunities. I also love the compassion of God that is new every morning. Each new day I am reminded of God's grace to me and His promise to love me eternally. Life has ups and downs, but our God's compassion and love never fails. He is always faithful.

This week I have spoken with two Godly women that can testify to that. One buried her husband this week and the other has struggled with a painful illness for months. In each instance these ladies have found that God's grace is sufficient to provide what they need each day. They have also found that God's compassion is made new every morning.

God's compassion and love does not remove our pain, but they provide the hope that produces perseverence.

Romans 5:3-5 "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Out of Control and Liking It

I am typing on a borrowed computer today. Mine is dead, but Stuart the IT man here at Living Hope was able to save the contents of my hard drive. I was able to rewrite the message I will bring to the church on Sunday, but it is somehow two points shorter. I do not think anyone will mind. I have never heard anyone complain about a short sermon.

So all is good. Except the fact that I had a bit of a panic attack this week that has caused me to have to repent and relook at my life and faith.

This week has been a tough week, but why should that matter? If God is always God, and clearly He always is, that means that He is always at work in all things to make them good for those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). That means that there is never any good reason for a follower of Jesus to ever be overwhelmed by the contents of their work or the circumstances they face. We can be content under any conditions (Philippians 4:12-13).

The fact that I was overwhelmed only means that I was taking responsibility for something that goes beyond my human capacity. There is in me a desie to control what happens to me and to the ones I love. That is not something I can actually do and taking responsibility for something you can not do will lead you to be discouraged and drained in every way.

The question before me and all of us is this: Do we believe God (Romans 4:3)? Not do we believe in Him, but do we believe God. Do we believe He is in cotrol (Psalm 135:5-7)? Do we believe He loves us (John 15:13)? Do we believe that He works everything for good (Romans 8:28)? Do we believe He has a plan to provide for us (Jeremisah 29:11)?

If we believe God, then we can stop fighting to try and stay in control. There is a lot I can do to protect my life, my family, my church, and my friends, but I am limited. I can't keep them healthy, happy, or free from life's pain and problems. Although I cannot do everything, that does not keep me from doing what I can. At the same time because there is a limit to what I can control, there must also be a limit to the responsibility and anxiety I bear.

In Genesis 32:22-32 we find a man trying to control the outcome of his life and family. He does everything he can, but at some point he must learn to trust God. God wrestled with Jacob to get him to surrender control of his life. Jacob put up a good fight like we all do, but with a limp as a reminder, Jacob came away from his bad week with a greater faith and a freer heart and mind. He was able to live out of control under God's control.

I do not know what you are dealing with this week. If your week is good, praise God. If it is bad, praise God. God is always God and we can simiply believe God and live out of control under His control.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Begin Again

Well... my laptop died in Atlanta. No big deal except it had my 5 page manuscript for Sunday's message on it and being in Atlanta I had not backed it up on the server. What does that mean? Tomorrow morning, when I get to a working computer at the office, I will begin again to write Sunday's message. At least I know what I want to say and can remember most of it.

That's a good thing about mistakes, tragedy, and life challenges that don't kill you. You can begin again, but with some idea of what to do better this time.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Feeling Wise

Proverbs 13:20 "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm."

I was in the presence of some wisdom yesterday, as I visited with one of our senior saints that is sick in the hospital. In the midst of our conversation I received some insight for life. Here are two of the gems I walked away with.

"Teach your children and remind yourself of the ABCs. You A-Attitude and B-Behavior will always determine your C-Controllable Consequences." That is rich.

The second was a story. She had documentation that did not need to be seen so instead of using white more transparent trash bags, she opted for the black heavy duty kind. Her strategy was to hide her trash. It was a privacy issue. She wanted to get her trash out of her life and have someone take it away without other people seeing it. As she carried these black bags to the curb, it dawned on her that this is what she seeks to do with her life. She wants to take her trash - her sin - and turn it over to Jesus and have it taken away without the fear of reprisals from others.

There is certainly a place for confessing our sins to our siblings in Christ. James 5:16 "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." But we do not have to be a public spectacle. Jesus was that for us so we can be free from the trash of life.

Anyway, I got that from one hospital visit and feel wiser for it.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Authenticity - Spiritual Consistency

What I read during my devotional time this morning struck a chord with me. I have been thinking about leadership a lot this summer. I have especially been thinking about the kind of leader I have been, the kind I am today, and the kind I want to be in the future.

In commenting on the life of Sampson in Judges 14 D.A. Carson writes:
It appears, then, that Spirit-given power in one dimension of life does not by itself guarantee Spirit-impelled discipline and maturity in every dimension of life. It follows that the presence of spiritual gifts is never an excuse for personal sin.
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God : A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word. Volume 1 (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998), July 31.

I think it is all too easy for leaders and their followers to excuse a leader's sin, when they are successful or when things are going good. In some instances it is malicious. Leaders take advantage of others by using their authority to live in sin. This summer I heard about a senior pastor that was having an affair and another pastor on staff got word about it and began to blackmail the senior pastor and have an affair with the same woman. How sick!!! That poor woman. That poor church. Those deceitful men used their influence and hurt people. What makes it even worse was that there were leaders in the church that knew about it, but said nothing because "things were going so good." In time it all came out, but it almost killed that church. It certainly damaged the witness of the Christian community that desired to reach that city with grace.

I have also heard of leaders using their positions to gain power in their denomination or other leadership bodies so they could gain a high paying job. It's just sin.

There is never an excuse for sin. If leaders sin, rebuke them. If they repent, you've won them back. Remember, repentance is not simply admitting wrong and feeling remorse. It is turning away and never again committing that sin. If they will not repent, leaders should be removed from their post for their sake, the sake of those they lead, and the sake of the name of Christ.

It is amazing how simple Jesus has made it for us to lead and live well. If we will simply love Jesus, love God's people, and love lost people and serve them with the love we've been given in Christ we will be spiritually consistent and be authentic leaders. We would do well to be reminded of Paul's admonition to Timothy about his life of leadership.

1 Timothy 4:11-16 Command and teach these things. 12Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tim Tebow in Sports Illustrated this Week

If you haven't had a chance to read the article in this week's Sport Illustrated about Tim Tebow, you should do yourself a favor and read it. You will not only be impressed with the Superman of college football, but also with the parents of this Christ-loving football throwing phenom.

The reporter that wrote the article was with Tim and a group of Christian Gators going to a local prison to share the Gospel. The reporter does a good job of explaining the Bible-based faith that the young man holds. While at the prison, Tim shares his own story and explains how and why the Gospel of Jesus changed his life. He invites others to experience the same change by accepting Christ by faith. Several prisoners receive Christ as savior.

The whole story is about how Tim's missionary parents raised him on faith in Christ and hoped that he would one day preach the Gospel. My favorite line is at the end of the article. Tim's dad says that he and his wife prayed for a preacher, but got both a quarterback and a preacher. God has given Tim an athletic gift that he is leveraging to share the Gospel.

Although most of us will never be recognized by a national audience for the use of the abilities God has given to us, we can leverage the abilities God has given us to show the love of Christ and share the hope we have in Him. We can all earn the respect of others with the lives we live and explain how the Gospel has brought about life's greatest blessings to us. The blessings of peace, joy, significance, and purpose.

You don't have to be a Heisman Trophy winner to know, love and share Jesus.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

God Picks the Last

When God called me to be a pastor, no one was more surprised than me. Nothing about me being in the ministry made sense at the time of my calling. And yet, here I am twenty one years and one month after that initial call of God on my life serving God as a pastor. I am so thankful God called me, equipped me, and provided me with the opportunity to serve Him as one of His shepherds.

I am very thankful that God seems to like to pick first the ones that others would pick last. Take Gideon as an example.
Judges 6:14-16 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” 15“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” 16The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

Our only hope is that God is with us.

Romans 8:31-32 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Philippians 4:13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Harry Potter, The Empire Strikes Back, and Jesus

I went to see the new Harry Potter movie today with my big kids. Asher didn't go because the movie was long and slow and he definitely would have gotten us thrown out. We didn't think much of the movie. It reminded me of The Empire Strikes Back. It pulled together a lot of details of the overall story, but nothing was finalized. There was one scary part and I did jump and I may have screamed like Jeff Carlisle,( mission pastor at Living Hope that is an army trained man that can take you out and yet screams like a little girl when he is startled), but the movie was missing the great action scenes that make an action movie an action movie.

One thing it did do for me was to remind me again of the situation all of us in Christ are in. We are pulling all of the details of the Great Story of Redemption together and we know ultimately how the whole thing is going to end, but we are not enjoying the final work yet. We know that in the end Jesus wins. We know that we get to be with Him forever in a world void of evil. We know that the ending is going to be amazing, but for now we don't know when or how. We just have to wait for the next part to come out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Answering Unwanted Calls

I put our name on some list that was supposed to protect us from telemarketers. The calls have been reduced, but we still get a few. I never like to answer those calls and when I think to check the caller ID before I answer the phone, I don't answer calls from certain area codes.

There are times in our lives when God calls and for whatever reason there is nothing in us that desires to answer that call. God has plans that He alone knows about and has reasons for. He simply wants us to trust Him and go where He leads us. I appreciate what Dr. Blackaby has to say on the matter in his devotion today.
Through the ages God has taken the initiative in the everyday lives of people to accomplish things through them that they never could have imagined.
The Lord may be initiating some new things in your life. When He tells you what His plans are, trust Him and walk closely with Him. Don’t let the busyness of your present activity keep you from experiencing all that God has in store for you. You will see Him accomplish things through your life that you never dreamed were possible (Eph. 3:20).

As I read this today, I was mindful of our many missionaries that God has called to leave the comforts of the culture they knew to go to a land where they did not know the language or have any other reason for being there except that God called them to it. Please pray for them.

Pray specifically for one family that will be leaving one country today to go back to the country they serve in with some precious new cargo that requires a regular diaper change. Also, pray for a family that is continuing to get settled in their new home and country. Pray for encouraged hearts and God's blessing and protection over their minds in Christ.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Today our middle school students are at camp. Our children are coming back from camp. Camp is a defining moment in many young people's lives. They get out there away from the distractions of all their stuff and normal routines and they get to hear from God. In that moment they have to make a choice. They have to decide whether or not they can and will trust God with their life or if they are going to look to something or someone else to provide for them to give them security and significance.

Please pray for them and ask God to send His Holy Spirit to do a fresh work in their lives. Pray that they will chose to submit their live to Jesus. Pray for the leaders that are caring for them. Also pray for those that are teaching them.

In my devotion time I am finishing up the book of Joshua. I love this book because we get to see good leadership, community at work, and faithfulness on God's part and on the part of His people.

In Joshua 24 the people are challenged to make a decision about how they are going to relate to God.
Joshua 24:14-15 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

This is a decision that our campers are making this week. It is a decision that we all have to make each day.

So as far as today goes, who you will serve today? Will you serve God and look to Him to give your life joy, purpose, and meaning? Or will you look to stuff or your job or a relationship with another person or something else created to provide you with joy, purpose and meaning?

Choose Jesus. He's the best.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Who Do You Listen To?

I was flipping through the channels last night and came across a movie with Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock. I don't know the title or care enough to look it up, but they were on top of a building and she was describing her mother and she said something interesting. She said, "For good or for bad she is the voice in my head that challenges me and has challenged me."

We all have voices from our lives that influence our decisions. It may be a coach, a parent, a friend, or even a movie or book. I read Blackaby's devotion this morning and was challenged to make sure Jesus is the voice in my head that interprets and influences my thoughts and feelings.

Here it is. You can get his daily devotion free here. Carrie and I read it everyday and are blessed by it.

"I have set the LORD always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved." (Psalm 16:8)

What does it mean to set the Lord always before you? It means that you choose to relate everything you encounter to your trust in God. What you choose to focus on becomes the dominant influence in your life. You may be a Christian, but if your focus is always on your problems, your problems will determine the direction of your life. If your focus is on people, then people will determine what you think and do. In biblical times, the right hand was the most distinguished position, reserved for one’s chief adviser and supporter. When you choose to focus on Christ, you invite Him to take the most important position in your life as Counselor and Defender.

Every time you face a new experience, you should turn to Christ for His interpretation and strength. When people insult you and mistreat you, you should seek direction from your Counselor regarding the right response. When you face a crisis, you should receive strength from the One at your right hand. When you experience need, you should consult your Counselor before you react. When you face a fearful situation, you should take courage from the Advocate at your right hand. Everything you do is in the context of your relationship to Christ.

What an incredible act of God’s grace that Christ should stand beside you to guide you and counsel you and defend you! How could you ever become dismayed over your situation with Christ at your right hand? What confidence this should give you!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thomas the Tank Engine Needs Therapy

This is Asher giving Thomas encouragement. Thomas needed it.

On Saturday Carrie and I took Asher to see Thomas the Tank Engine. Asher loves Thomas and all of the trains. They are his favorite toys. His big brother Jackson sets up tracks for him and Asher plays and plays on them and then destroys them like a hurricane and being a good big brother Jackson builds another one.

So we are watching this play and I am listening to Thomas talk about the dreams and desires he has for his life and I realize that this guy needs therapy. Here is what I picked up in an hour and a half of watching Thomas in action that causes me concern for this dearly loved character.

Before I share this let me say that I love Thomas. We will continue to watch Thomas in our home. The toys are great and I am thankful for them. I write this only to share my concerns about some of the flaws in our society and to point out things to avoid.

The first thing that concerns me is that he is defined by what he does rather than who he is. Thomas never stops talking about wanting to be a "really useful engine." And when he's not really useful, he gets depressed. This means that if Thomas ever gets sick or in a slump that he will believe that he no longer has value.

Thomas doesn't want to just be busy. Thomas wants to be "useful." That is a subjective term. That means that Thomas is going to be defined according to someone's standard. This leaves his emotional state in flux. He will be defined by his job evaluation.

That gives other people a lot of power over Thomas, which creates even more emotional chaos for the little engine. It gives a lot of power to his boss Sir Topham Hat. This little round mound of obsessive compulsiveness brow beat Thomas the entire show.

What was sad is that Thomas worked hard. The reason he got in trouble in the first place was to help another slacker train that missed work to get a paint job. And in helping that guy Thomas missed a delivery. Sir Topham Hat blamed the world’s problems on that missed delivery. But Thomas didn't give up. He wanted to please so he worked even harder and actually hurt himself.

Being a people pleaser and a guy defined by his job, Thomas worked so hard that he ended up doing more than his frame could take and he injured himself. That set Topham Hat off again and Thomas lower and lower.

In the end it all worked out, but I think Thomas needs counseling. And he’s not alone. A lot of us define ourselves by what we can do, how we look, how our kids perform, or a host of other things that give other people’s opinions too much power and our emotional state too much flux.

Jesus said we are loved by Him. God says we are worth dying for. The Holy Spirit dwells in us and with us. We have value because we are made in the image of God, are loved by God, are filled with God (if we are redeemed by the grace of Jesus), and are in God’s family.

Don’t be like Thomas. You’ll go crazy.

Monday, July 13, 2009

What Did God Say?

I have attended worship without any leadership responsibilities for four weeks in a row now. I have not gone that long without a public presence in the worship of God somewhere and in some way in over a decade. It is interesting to me to consider the worship experience from this perspective. I am not asking myself how I did or asking about how people responded. I am simply asking what did I hear God say.

So I am wondering what you heard God say. If you gathered with a church yesterday, and I hope you did in obedience to God's Word in Hebrews 10:24-25, I am wondering what you heard God say. I know you heard a person speak, or sing, or pray, but what did you hear from God through them as they taught God's word, sang praise to His name, or sought Him in prayer.

I don't usually ask for comments. For whatever reason people always email me their thoughts instead of posting them here on this site, but this time I want to challenge you to post your answer to this question: During worship yesterday, what did you hear God say?

I was at Highview Baptist Church at the 10:15 Fegenbush service with Dr. Russell Moore. He was speaking on the Lord's Supper. He had a lot of great insights he gleaned from 1 Corinthians 10:14-22.

The thing that grabbed me and stuck with me is when he said, "When we receive the Lord's Supper, we are experiencing God in the process of feeding His body." We are the body of Christ. When we receive the Lord's Supper, we are being fed the hope of the Gospel.

My mind immediately went to Exodus and how God provided food for His people as they traveled the desert in search of the Promise Land.

In this life we are on a journey to the ultimate Promise Land - heaven. Just as God provided for the children of Israel then, He will now provide for His church - the Body of Christ. God will provide for me. God will provide for my friends that are worried about their jobs, their retirement, their mortgage, and a host of other things. God provides.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lessons from Steve McNair's Memorial & Life

There are at least two things that we can learn from Steve McNair's memorial service yesterday and from his life.

One thing we can learn and know is that grace is good. Grace is powerful. Grace is God's gift of love and forgiveness to those who do not deserve it and could never earn it. I appreciated the words of McNair's pastor as quoted from The Tennessean newspaper.

Bishop Joseph W. Walker III, the Pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church said these things.

"People around this world and even here now, have a tension in their spirit. What is the response of the church in a moment like this? Oh, I know that is the big elephant in the room. What says the church in a moment like this? People want to know. I stand between two places as priest and prophet — as priest to this family and ministering to them, and yet prophet to speak to the nation of what thus sayeth God. There was a woman one day caught in adultery, and the religious people brought her to Jesus. And they said to Jesus, the law says she should be stoned. Jesus knelt down and drew in the sand. He looked up and said, 'Ye without sin, cast the first stone.' They began to drop their stones, from the youngest to the oldest. And I have come to declare from the youngest to the oldest in America and over this world, it's time to have a stone-dropping service. Drop your stone."

"Next time you write about Steve McNair, drop your stone. Next time you text somebody, drop your stone. The next time you Twitter, drop your stone. Those of you in the barbershops, those of you walking the streets or on the corner, drop your stones. What I do know about this man is that he loved God. And he was just like us. Imperfect. But he knew God."

I agree with this pastor. None of us is without sin. The Bible is clear enough on that point. Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." My prayer is that we would not only acknowledge the truth of v.23 of Romans 3, but that we would also acknowledge the fact of v.24 and experience the redemption that comes to those who accept the grace of Christ. Romans 3:24 "and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

I hope that Steve knew God through faith in Christ and is with the Lord now. I hope his sin was paid for by the blood of Christ. I hope he did not have to pay for his sin.

The Bible makes it clear that a payment must be made for each person's sin. The cost is death. For those who submit their life to Jesus and allow him to take responsibility for their transgressions Jesus will pay for it all. His death will pay the price for sin. Jesus offers us all the gift of eternal life. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Not only will Jesus take responsibility for the sin of our life, He will also take responsibility for the direction and destiny of our life. The redemption of Christ that comes by faith gives us a place in God's family and a purpose that is bigger than our appetites. In His grace we are made new and God makes our life a masterpiece for His service. Ephesians 2:8-10 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

A Christian is a person that has been forgiven of sin and given a new way of life. God guides His redeemed adopted children according to His Word - the Bible. This ancient truth reminds us of what God created us to be and advises us with principles and commands of what we are to do.

The second lesson we can learn is from Steve McNair's life and it teaches us that God has provided for us a prescription for living. The commands and restrictions in Scripture are provided so that we can live free from the pain sin brings.

In that audience yesterday his wife and children were present. They will now be without a husband and father. His life was taken from him by a murderer that Steve chose to associate with. She was a woman he traveled with and who had access to him in a condo where he would be vulnerable to her and intimate with her. It was a place where his family would not be present.

God tells His children to avoid those types of relationships and situations.
Proverbs 5:1-6 My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, 2that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. 3For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; 4but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. 5Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. 6She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.

What we can learn is that God gives grace and also guidance so that we can experience life to the full.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Working Out

This morning we got back into the weight room. Me and my guys have been faithful in our running, but for whatever reason we haven't been making it into the gym. Well, today we got back into the gym and let me tell you, daddy is hurting. During the workout I thought I was going to heave and when I got home, I wasn't confident that I could take my shoes off. There was no chance I was going to be able to carry Asher down the stairs today. That skin covered hunk of lead walked himself to the breakfast table.

How sad it is that just 3 weeks ago I could accomplish that workout with little or no problem. Sure, my muscles would get fatigued, but I wouldn't feel like I needed to stop by the ER on my way home.

Like anything, your body builds up its stamina and strength the more you use it. When you don't use it, your body will grow weaker and less effective.

I have found the same reality to exist in my prayer life. When I am focused and faithful in prayer, I am capable of praying for longer periods of time. I also find that my prayer is more effective. Reading and meditating have never been an issue for me. That is like breathing. Prayer requires me to really focus. Prayer for me is hard work. When I am disciplined in my time of prayer, I find it getting easier and more productive. When I do not take that time to diligently pray each day, I have discovered that fatigue sets in.

Don't get me wrong, I pray everyday throughout the day. I am talking about getting away and doing nothing else but communing with God and talking and listening to Him. This is not a quick, "Hey God, help!" This is a structured time of conversation with the creator.

What about you? Are you in good spiritual shape? What aspects of the spiritual disciplines do you find more difficult: study, meditation, prayer, silence, community or what? (You can find a list and a wonderful explanation of how to utilize the spiritual disciplines in Richard Foster's book Celebration of Discipline. I have read it over a dozen times and find it to be a beneficial annual read.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Opportunity of Suffering

When I played ball, I always loved game day. I loved strapping on the pads knowing that it mattered. Every throw, every run and every hit would be counted. The score at the end of the game would determine our standing. The entire event gave each player and team the chance to show what they were made of.

Suffering does the same thing. When a person faces a trial of any sort, what is inside of them comes out. If faith is in them, it shows. If fear or anger is in them, it shows. Pain makes a person transparent.

For those of us who believe, trials are opportunities for us to see where we are in our faith. It is important to remember that trials come to all. The difference between the Godly and the ungodly is that the Godly go through it all with Jesus. Sometimes folks get mad at God, when they suffer. That anger is always misdirected. God made the world perfect; sin destroyed it. God is in the process of making all things right by making all things new. People of faith can rejoice in their suffering because they never suffer alone. God is with us.

I find that looking at suffering as a game day helps me a lot. While life is good, you are at practice. You are preparing for the challenge life is about to bring your way. It is when you are having a hard time that what you believe really matters and is put to the test. It is in the midst of the storm a believer is able to show who they are based on what they believe.

Augustine wrote in The City of God:
"Then, lastly, there is another reason why the good are afflicted with temporal calamities - the reason which Job's case exemplifies: that the human spirit may be proved, and that it may be manifested with what fortune of pious trust, and with how unmercenary a love, it cleaves to God."

God alone knows what you are truly going through right now. If you are in Christ, He is with you. If you are going through a tough time look to Christ for hope and draw strength from your faith. See this as a defining moment to find assurance in your salvation.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pray for Pastors, Missionaries, Church Officers, & Other Leaders of Jesus

I read this during my devotional time and was compelled to share it and ask everyone to pray for those called to lead God's Kingdom Work.

“Brethren, pray for us.”
— 1 Thessalonians 5:25

This one morning in the year we reserved to refresh the reader’s memory upon the subject of prayer for ministers, and we do most earnestly implore every Christian household to grant the fervent request of the text first uttered by an apostle and now repeated by us. Brethren, our work is solemnly momentous, involving weal or woe to thousands; we treat with souls for God on eternal business, and our word is either a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death. A very heavy responsibility rests upon us, and it will be no small mercy if at the last we be found clear of the blood of all men. As officers in Christ’s army, we are the especial mark of the enmity of men and devils; they watch for our halting, and labour to take us by the heels. Our sacred calling involves us in temptations from which you are exempt, above all it too often draws us away from our personal enjoyment of truth into a ministerial and official consideration of it. We meet with many knotty cases, and our wits are at a non plus; we observe very sad backslidings, and our hearts are wounded; we see millions perishing, and our spirits sink. We wish to profit you by our preaching; we desire to be blest to your children; we long to be useful both to saints and sinners; therefore, dear friends, intercede for us with our God. Miserable men are we if we miss the aid of your prayers, but happy are we if we live in your supplications. You do not look to us but to our Master for spiritual blessings, and yet how many times has He given those blessings through His ministers; ask then, again and again, that we may be the earthen vessels into which the Lord may put the treasure of the gospel. We, the whole company of missionaries, ministers, city missionaries, and students, do in the name of Jesus beseech you

“Brethren, pray for us.”

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, July 7 AM.

Please pray so that those God has called to lead you will never have to read a letter like the one that I have posted here to those entrusted to their care. I read this yesterday and I am praying for this fallen servant who is still loved by God. His name is known to God and you can pray for him knowing that God knows who you are interceding for.

5 years ago my wife and I moved here with a vision to start a church that was doing whatever it took to reach those far from God. Over the last 5 years God has exceeded our expectations and more people than I can count have entered into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Pastoring here has been one of the great highlights of my life. I think our church is the greatest church in America and I count it an honor to have been called to start her.

It is with those thoughts on my mind that I’m now writing the toughest letter I’ve ever had to write. Effective immediately, I will be stepping down as the pastor. 6 weeks ago, I entered into an emotional and physical affair with a woman. I have no excuses, no justification, and no one to blame but myself. I did exactly what I have preached against by letting my guard down and putting myself into a position to fall into sin. I’m so sorry.

It breaks my heart to know all the people I have let down from my wife to all of you who have invested your blood, sweat, and tears into making the church it is today. I know what I did was wrong, I have asked God for forgiveness, but there is still consequences for our sin and I’m no longer qualified to lead the church.

I know this comes as a shock to many of you and your emotions will vary from anger to hurt, know that it was never my desire to hurt any of you. This is the end of my time as your pastor, but it is not the end of the church.

I would also ask that you stay in prayer for me and my family. I am committed to doing what it takes to get my walk with God back to the place where I know it should be. I am focused on Him during this time and I’m looking forward to seeing Him work in my life in the days to come. Also pray for my wife and my children. They are the true victims in this and they will need your love and grace like never before. I am committed to getting myself healthy where I can be the husband and father my family needs. I appreciate your prayers during this time.

Let me close out by again saying how much I love all of you. I am so sorry I let you down. I am so sorry that I have given the cause of Christ yet another black eye. I’m so sorry that I have left all of you in this position.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Good Days & Bad Days

I have had a string of good days. The Pettus people have had a ton of fun over the past few days. We have had friends over for a get together and we have several more planned. Even though we got soaking wet at the fireworks in Nashville, we had a ball. Today we have friends headed our way for a couple of days. Somehow everybody has been healthy. Asher has said some stuff that still makes me laugh just thinking about it now. The big kids are having a killer summer with their dad at home. And spiritually I am enjoying such a sweet season with Jesus.

But sometimes I wonder if I'm spiritually schizophrenic. One day I feel like I can reach out and touch God or that He has reached out and touched me. On other days I struggle to sense Him in anything. As a matter of fact I can be on top of the world with God in one moment and in a single minute that can all change.

It gives me comfort to know that King David was a little spiritually schizophrenic too. This man of God wrote both Psalm 139 and Psalm 13.

Psalm 139:5-10 You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Psalm 13:1-2 For the director of music. A psalm of David. How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Someone might say, "Well, which one is it David? Is God always up in your business or has He forgotten you and hidden His face from you?" I don't ask that. I get it. There are days when God wants us to be aware of His presence and there are days when God wants us to act in obedience based on what He's already revealed. The goal is God's glory and our growth in Godliness.

Here is what we can know:

Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 13:5 God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Friday, July 3, 2009

Can God Bless America?

Isaiah 65:1-4,5 “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ 2All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations— 3a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; 5who say, ‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!’ Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.

Isaiah 65:6-7 “See, it stands written before me: I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back into their laps— 7both your sins and the sins of your fathers,” says the Lord.

Yes, God can bless America and any person or nation that turns to Him.
2 Chronicles 7:14 "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Closer You Get the Further You Feel

I'll be mowing the lawn and pulling weeds this morning. Mowing the yard is not a big deal to me. Asher hops up on "the tractor" as he calls it and we have a big time cutting the grass. The thing I hate is pulling weeds. That is misery. I usually do a terrible job of it too because I hate it so much.

Pulling weeds is a lot like the sanctification process. God is working to rid our lives of sin. That's what sanctification is. Each day and week that goes by we must constantly be watching and be aware of ways in which our natural desires lead us away from God toward a self-centered self-dependent way of life. That is where sin comes from. The moment we decide we do not want to live in dependence upon and obedient to God, we sin. That is what happened in the garden. The selling point on the apple was that Adam and Eve would be gods meaning they would no longer be dependent on the God.

As we grow closer to God, we will become more and more aware of the sin that so easily entangles us and causes us to stumble. At the start of our journey with God we begin to remove sins that are easily detected. Over time those big visible sins may come back, but they are easily seen and removed. Over time the sins of the mind, heart, and attitude become visible to us. Those are the more difficult sins to realize and repent of. The person that can recognize those sins is a mature believer.

Interestingly, the more you grow in your faith and get closer to God the more sin you will actually see in your life. D.A. Carson writes, "genuinely righteous people invariably become more aware of their personal guilt and need for forgiveness than those who have become so foul and hard they cannot detect their own shame." (For the Love of God : A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word. Volume 1, July 2). Each day you will repent of sin just as I regularly have to pull weeds from my yard. The problem with sin and weeds is that they both keep coming back. When you are walking closely with God, you will see your sin more clearly. That means that the closer you are to God the further you will feel.

In time you will even see that some of the good you are doing comes from a heart of sin. Isaiah 64:6 "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags". Our desire to look spiritual, to get noticed and appreciated, or to feel important and have our egos stroked can inspire us to do good. But that good is a way for us to be praised like a god. With that attitude we will be walking the same path of Adam and Eve. It is a path of sin.

So what can we do. Is there any hope. Romans 7:24-8:2 "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. 1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."

Our only hope is Jesus. The Gospel truth is that in Christ we are forgiven not because we earned it or because we can live up to what we've been given. We are forgiven and loved by God by grace through faith.

Live by faith and the Holy Spirit will work in and through you to weed out that sin. But don't get discouraged with your feelings. The closer you are to God the more aware of your sin you will be, which might lead you to feel further from Him. Remember that in Christ you are in God and God is in you. You are not far from Him nor is He far from you. He is in you and with you and for you!