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!