Friday, July 1, 2011

Babies in Bangladesh

"There are some things that are just hard to put into words. Even though we live in this impoverished nation of Bangladesh, we are still shielded from some of the everyday tribulations of life of most of the 150 million-plus people. I was talking with my sweet Bengali house helper one day about how God values life and how He forms us and knows us each by name. She then went on to tell me how she recently saw a newborn baby on a trash heap, still alive. She was walking over a bridge with her husband and looked down to see a wiggly newborn lying in filth and human waste. Someone had thrown this precious child away. Her husband had sympathy on the baby and wanted to take it, but she convinced him that they could not afford another baby, and so they walked on. She then told of another time when she walked by a crying baby in a bag on the street. She said it was a beautiful baby but no one would take another child to raise, and so it remained in a tossed-out bag, passed by hundreds, as the whimpers grew silent. Please pray for the salvation of this nation. Ask God to bring hope to those living in desperation. Give praise to our God, who sees each life and loves each one. He is the light for this darkness"

http://southasianpeoples.imb.org

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Motivated



Last night I watched a little bit of the SBC Pastor's Conference. I so would have loved to have been there, but it was not possible this year. What I heard was inspiring. Listening to these leaders talk about what God can do and desires to do and is doing in the world and how we can join Him as His people gives me hope and makes me excited to serve Him all the more.

I especially enjoyed Louie Giglio's comments about the church being the Lord's and that He has promised to build it. It is so refreshing to remember that I am simply an under-shepherd to the Great Shepherd and only need remain faithful and loyal to Him by following His Word and living on mission for Him to have peace and fulfill my destiny.

Thinking about the work reminds me that the work is war. What God has done has saved a people for Himself to fight against the darkness that is destroying the lives of people. He has armed us with grace and truth and given us His Spirit to fight with Him. He has called us into regiments called churches where we are trained, comforted, healed, and made holy through the work of the Word and Spirit in the accountability of the church.

All wars end. This morning I was reminded of how the war for this world will one day end. One day Jesus will be given the deed to this planet and make all things new.

What should our response be to that?

Here is how it is described in the Bible...
Revelation 5:6–9 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,


The response to those that saw Jesus take the scroll was worship. That is the right response for us now who look forward to the end of this war and the beginning of the new heaven and new earth. We worship now to be strengthened in the fight against sin and death and in preparation for the way we will worship one day.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

One Day This Will Be Said of You


I just read this from a blog I follow to pray for a young man that has been sick for some time. I am removing the name, but would ask you to imagine this is being said of you. In the blank put your name.

"_____________ is going home with an oxygen tank, and hospice has already been suggested. So pray for us as we transition. We still hope beyond reasonableness for a miracle, but sometimes that hope is hard to find. Considering how far downhill he/she has gone just in the past few weeks, I would not delay in sending your words of love and encouragement to _____________ as soon as possible."


What kind of confidence will you have on that day? Will you be ready to face your Maker and be judged? Will you enter heaven or hell? What kind of confidence will your love ones have for you?

"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom."
Psalm 90:12

Friday, June 3, 2011

Kill It!


Colossians 3:5–10 "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator."

In the Old Testament God told the children of Israel... Deuteronomy 7:1–5 “When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, 2 and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. 3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. 5 But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire."

A lot of people wrongly believe that the God of the Old Testament is different than the God of the New Testament. There is one God who is revealed in three persons: Father, Son and Spirit. This holy God hates sin. It is contrary to His nature and Kingdom purpose. God is vanquishing sin from the lives of His people and will soon remove it from the planet when He makes all things new (Revelation 21).

God invites us to join Him in killing sin. In the OT it was a flesh and blood battle. Now it is an internal battle within us that the Spirit of God is fighting in us and with us to gain complete control and set us free.

Pray for God to set you free from the sins that so easily entangles and put it to death so that it does not control you.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Moment to Remember


One of my favorite Vince Lombardi quotes is..
I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious.


When I look at this picture, I think of those words. This is my daughter's soccer team from yesterday. This is one of those pictures that we will look back on and remember the circumstances, the challenge, and the outcome and smile.

This weekend this team played in the first round of the State Cup. Yesterday they played the so-called best team in the state. I say that not to be sarcastic, but I don't understand the ranking system and I was told that at least two other teams were the "best team in the state." Our team never received that designation:-)

Yesterday we tied the "best team in the state" and will now advance as the wild card team this upcoming weekend in the final round of the State Cup.

Our car's exterior temperature said it was 100 degrees, while the girls were playing. It was so hot, and yet, they played their hearts out.

As a parent, this is a good moment. It lets me know that she can face hardship and keep going. This experience has given her another taste of what it is to lay it all on the line with others and leave nothing left in the tank. These days are moments to remember because when life happens and you want to quit it's nice to have a memory and a picture that tells you that you have done hard things before and you can do them again.

Monday, May 30, 2011

What's Your Story



"Our nature consists in movement. Absolute rest is death. To the extent that we are always following some direction or other, our very lives are "indoctrinated." The only question is whether the doctrine that informs one's life is governed by the Christian gospel or by some other story, some other script." ~Kevin Vanhoozer

I love good movies. There is something in me that gets stirred when I watch something on the big screen that grabs my heart and mind and makes me think about my life and the direction it is going. Stories are powerful. They inspire, educate, and in some ways define how we see life.

My favorite movie is The Return of the King from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In this movie I see so much of what I desire to live for. I see a seemingly weak servant willing to lay down his life in order to save others. I see a King defeating evil to bring peace. I see a creature that was once enslaved to an idol that was his "precious" that defined him and gave him purpose having the opportunity to find a new life and hope. He ultimately rejected that new life and came to a burning end. There is so much Biblical imagery in it.

I have come to realize that the movies I like the most provide the same storyline as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are people lost and in need of saving. A champion or hero leaves the safety of his home and goes on a mission to save the people. In the process he has to sacrifice so that others can be saved. This is the Gospel.

The Gospel is the power of God to save and redeem the lost. This wonderful truth defines reality. It tells us that God is good and that we are not. It tells us that God is loving and will save us. It tells us that we are responsible to choose to love God or live empty lives and die as enemies of the King of heaven and face His wrath for our treason.

That is the story of the saints of Christ. What a glorious story to live by and in and for.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Learning New Ways

I had to get a new computer this week. It was purchased several weeks ago, but I did not have time for any interruptions to the schedule then. We scheduled the big change to the new computer this week. Our amazing IT man, Bryan Young, has been working with me all week to make sure the new computer is up and running well. And for the most part it is. I am able to run my Bible programs, access my sermons, get email, and access the internet. We still can't locate music I've added in the last two years and I cannot download pics or get my googlereader to do what I want, but not big deal. We'll get it figured out.

What I will have to do over the next few weeks is learn new ways. This computer has a new operating system so I am having to learn where things are. The way this computer feels is even different. As I type this right now my fingers are hitting other buttons causing me to have to pause and delete. Where information is stored and how it appears is very different.

Within a couple of weeks I will have figured this thing out. I'll be able to listen to my music while I work and access information easily. Until then, I have to deal with that transition phase in between.

God uses transitions to remind me that all of life is a transition. My family is transitioning. My friends are transitioning. My work is transitioning. My body is transitioning. All of this stuff is going to change and each change will require me to learn new ways of enjoying the blessings and responding to the challenges.

But that's life. If we ever stop having to learn new ways, we're dead - literally. So I guess I'll just be thankful and ask you to pray for me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Love the Bride


I love my sweet bride. Carrie and I began dating when we were fifteen. We have been best friends now for over 23 years. God has blessed us and led us faithfully. There is not anything I would not do for her. She is my girl.

The church is the bride of Christ. He bought us at a great price for Himself. For His glory and our blessing He has made us His own and called us to be faithful to Him. His covenant of grace binds us together in Him.

It is unsettling to me to hear people speak ill of any church or to treat the gathered church as if it is not important. The church is the bride and Jesus has called us together to serve Him and to love Him and one another.

We need to be careful to love each other as Christ has loved us and be local churches that honor our Lord.

Listen to what John calls those who do not love the church. 1 John 4:20–21 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Those are some strong words we need to take to heart and be careful to truly love the church and to reveal that love by encouraging, serving, and being faithful to the body of believers we are called to.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's NOT an Option. It's a Need..


Far too many people think they can go it alone. There seems to be some sickness in the American spirit that drives many of us to seek success in isolation. I don't know if it's just pride and we want to be able to say,"I did it!" Sometimes I think it's insecurity and we don't want others to see how weak we truly are. What I think really is happening is that fear keeps us from it. Wouldn't that be just like Satan to deceive us to fear what we need the most.

Over the past couple of weeks I have spent time talking with a lot of different people facing uniquely difficult situations. For some it is familial, financial, or faith based. There are others that are struggling with sin, shame, and a host of addictions. In almost every situation I finally get to the point when I have to ask, "So, who do you have in your life that is praying and talking you through this." Invariably, the people that I have the greatest concern for are the ones that live the most isolated lives.

When it comes to life, God made it clear that it is not good for man to be alone. For those of us blessed to marry our best friend, we see that truth and are thankful for God's provision. We also see in the early church (Acts 2:42ff) that we need a community to be a part of. We need friends in the faith that we depend on and that depend on us.

If you are blessed today with true friends that pray for you and support and encourage you, praise God. If you are living in isolation, ask God to enable you to remedy your circumstance so that you can stand with others who stand with Christ.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Book I Mentioned to Learn to Fast


The book I suggested in yesterday's message that was helpful to me in learning to fast was Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.

There are several things I appreciate about the chapter he provides on fasting.

One, he gives an easy step by step approach. The suggestions he makes about preparing and ending a fast are very helpful. In outlining the steps he helps make longer fasts seem possible.

Two, he gives good reasons for fasting. Regardless of how or why we start, I am confident that those that learn this discipline sooner or later learn the reason to participate in fasting. I know that I began the practice for certain good reasons, but learned more meaningful reasons with each fast I participated in. Foster helps give the beginner a good Biblical purpose for fasting.

Three, he gives good insight into how you are going to feel. The emotional and physical toll of fasting is what causes most people to think they cannot do it. His realistic approach and honest outlook on how a fast will impact your mood and energy level helped me anticipate and better prepare for the effects on my body and mind.

As I said yesterday, fasting is something Jesus taught. He assumed it is something we would do (Matthew 6:16-18). I pray that members and attenders of The Hope will make this spiritual discipline a natural part of their lives.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

If It's the End of the World As We Know It, I Feel Fine


So there people saying that today is the end of the world. I do not believe it. If it happens, I certainly will not be disappointed. This world is not the home of those that love the Lord King of Heaven and are waiting for His return.

There are a number of reasons I do not believe today is the big day, but 2 Peter 3:9–10 reveals two of the most important ones. "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

1. I believe there are still people that God intends to save. The Lord is patient. He is not in a hurry. I know of several people that I believe are under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but have yet to surrender their lives to Christ. It seems to me that there is more hope for them and more time.

2. When the Lord comes it will be a surprise. He comes like a thief. A thief does not announce when he will break in. The Lord has not given a date. As a matter of fact, not even the angels know. Only God the Father knows when He will send Jesus back. Matthew 24:36–44 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

We can be thankful for those that cause us to consider and remember the Lord's return. We often get so caught up in this world that we forget we don't belong here. This world is not our home. Our citizenship is in heaven. We are ambassadors in a foreign land awaiting our King to come and take us home.

Sadly, I don't think today is the day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Celebrate!

video

There is something to be said for a good celebration. Far too often good things are planned and accomplished, but time is not always given to pause and to offer praise for hard work and accomplishment and to remember our Maker that makes all things possible.

In Scripture there are a lot of celebrations. Gods' people were trained by God to remember the good things that He brought and allowed in their lives. Most of the calendar year of the Hebrew people revolved around gathering to give thanks to God and remembering the blessings they'd been given.

This past week was a week of celebrations for me. On Sunday the family of Living Hope took time after church to eat together and celebrate the construction journey we'd been on over the past seven years. It was an open invitation to all who wanted to come. It was fun to be with those that persevered and pushed and prayed and did all that they could to get us to the point where we are today as a family of faith. We now have the Connection Center - a one of a kind recreational and fellowship center in our region. We also have a state of the art Student Center, more functional and spacious children's areas, renovated adult discipleship space, and plenty of parking.

God has been so good to Living Hope and on Sunday we celebrated that as a family of faith and on Wednesday we invited the city to come and celebrate with us. It was encouraging to have representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, from the city, state, and national government, and many local pastors in attendance. I would try and name them, but I might forget someone. It was a special day for me personally to have so many dear friends from the community come over to help us give God praise for what He has done.

And yesterday, I was in Franklin, Ky with my dear brother Dr. Bill Daniel. He recently left Bowling Green to start his own private surgical practice there in Franklin. They are blessed to have him there. We are blessed to still have him so close. I know that he has patients from all over South Central Kentucky and North Tennessee that go to see him. I know there is no one I trust more than Dr. Bill. He is a man of God and a great surgeon.

I was down there yesterday to celebrate with him the opening of his practice. He's been up and going since January, but it was nice for him to pause and praise God for His provision.

Life is short and many times hard. It is good to take time to give God thanks and to celebrate His provisions.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Greatest Marriage Proposal EVER!!!



So it's wedding season...

Guys, This ain't a bad idea. As long as you know, she'll say, "yes." Skip the popcorn!

Monday, May 16, 2011

What To Look For

Studying The Scriptures and Finding Jesus - Albert Mohler - TGC 2011 from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.



Yesterday, I taught on how we are to study God's Word. I gave four specific things to look for any time you study Scripture. I didn't put them in the study guide and several of you asked me to post them, so here ya go.

These four things will help you remain alert and active in your thinking as you read. It is easy to read passively (reading with no intentionality or purpose other than entertainment or with the hope that something will grab you.) Looking for and thinking through each of these items every time you read the Bible will help you grow and gain a greater understanding of God's glory, plan, and purpose for you. These four things will also help you come to God's Word with a plan and a purpose.

When You Study Look for:
1. Who God Is & Who We Are
-You will find that God is amazing. He is truly beyond our comprehension, but the part of Him we apprehend is enough to leave us overwhelmed.
-You will find that God is scary. He is not safe. Because of His holiness and justice the loving God of heaven is not to be taken lightly by sinful man. What He does is in accordance with truth and righteousness and we are compelled to fear Him.
-You will find that God is gracious. He is the almighty, but He loves us. Realizing our incapacity to be like Him, God became one of us to set us free from the power and punishment of sin.

-You will find that we are needy. Before we come to saving faith, we are orphans left to our own devices to provide a life for ourselves. After coming to saving faith, we are children in desperate need of the leadership of our Father. He will guide us as sheep in a flock and we would fail and fall without His hand of protection.

2. How God Works & How We Can Join Him
God is the same yesterday, today and for evermore. What He has done gives us insight into what He will do. By understanding His ways and will, we can join Him in His work.

3. What God Says vs. What World Says Is Good/True
God is above all others and His ways are best. What we read and are told in culture will not always line up with the ideas of our King. We must learn to discern between what He says vs. what those in darkness would have us believe.

4. The Great STORY LINE. Find the Big Story of Salvation in Each Small Story of Grace and discern how each Small Story Fits in the Big Story
-In every story in the Old and New Testament we can find the Gospel. Every story of the Bible fits within the grand story of the Gospel. It is either before Jesus came, while Jesus was with us, after He ascended, when He comes again, or after He comes again. Knowing when something is occurring helps us understand it's meaning and implications for our walk with Him.
What Dr. Mohler teaches in this message is very helpful to understand how to see and discover the great story of the Gospel in the Old Testament.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again



A few days ago, a friend asked me about my blog updates and reminded me that I have not posted anything since the day after Easter. I couldn’t believe it had been that long. My world has been moving fast and although I have been having more fun and seeing God move in amazing ways, I have not been faithful to share it here.

I have my excuses… My daughter is in the height of her spring soccer season, which means weekends filled with games and some travel. Our oldest son Jackson is playing AAU Basketball (I just realized I don’t know what AAU means) and is having an absolute blast. This is his first experience of playing against people outside of our county and the challenge and training has been exhilarating. Our youngest child Asher is also playing soccer, if you can call it that. The children all run in a herd or stand in utter amazement, occasionally kicking the ball in-bounds, knocking each other down, and every now and then scoring somehow.

Beyond our children, my wife and I are simply enjoying this season of our life. We love each other and the opportunities God has given to us. The time we have together is special and we get the sense that at some point we are going to miss these days. My neighbor Tim reminds me of that pretty regularly.

In the midst of family life we are really wrapped up in the life of our church. Living Hope is experiencing a unique blessing from God right now. It is not a city-changing revival, but it is a resurgence of sorts. We have seen people of all ages, colors, and socio-economic backgrounds receive Christ and confess Him through baptism. Our Easter services were blessed and the staff and I are still following up on lots of people who accepted Christ and are ready to be baptized. We have also seen a large number of people join the church and the staff is meeting with each person and family to go over their testimony and determining how each one can best connect in the life of the church.

Within our family of faith we are also seeing God bring healing to the sick and broken-hearted and strength to those that are suffering. A day does not go by that I do not get to pray for and with a precious member of our family of faith that is finding God to be faithful in their trial. Some are being healed. Some are not. Some are giving birth to healthy babies, while others are not getting pregnant. There are children running from God and others are returning to God. Marriages are beginning and some are struggling to survive. Through every circumstance, I see the hand of God at work wooing His people to submit to His rule.

Then there is the work that is happening outside of Living Hope. This Sunday we will be collecting food items for Hope House. (Don’t forget to bring your bags of food for our struggling neighbors.) God continues to reach people through this vital ministry. God is also at work through several of our families that are pursuing adoption and others that are now serving as foster parents. Our missionaries in North America and around the world are seeing fruit. We have a team headed to West Africa next week and we have a slew of college students headed there and other places around the planet.

I am personally excited about what is happening through the North American Mission Board and in West Africa. Those have been the two places I have made contribution in this year.

So all in all, life is challenging, but so very good because God is in the midst of it. What I have listed as excuses for my not blogging are really blessings that have kept me from doing little else. What I have mentioned here is just the basic stuff. I could also mention the Bible Doctrine class that is going well, the men's ministries that are exploding, the staff focus and strategic planning, the Connection Center (Don’t forget the Celebration this Sunday after the 11 am service – get your tickets ASAP!), and so many other amazing ministries that God is blessing at The Hope and around the world through Hopers.

Continue to pray for me as I pray for many of you and join in what God is doing in our world and lives. We have such a wonderful God who has saved us, filled us, and blessed us with an eternal peace and a future.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Hangover


Yesterday at The Hope, we saw the largest attendance in the history of the church. Several people came to saving faith and many many more are now returning to their walk with God. A number of people will be baptized over the next few weeks as they make a public profession of their true personal faith in Jesus.

It was a wonderful day as we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ.

But now it's Monday. The next day has come. I hate to complain, but I'm tired. As usual, I was up at 5 am and running. We knocked out 6 miles and then I got home to study. Now I am in the midst of doing the exegetical work for next Sunday's sermon, but my mind is wandering.

So I'm writing this...

My big brother called to check on me and I was telling him how I was feeling and he said, "I guess for preachers the day after Easter is like the day after New Years for the rest of us." He always has a way of making me laugh by revealing reality from a very practical perspective.

So I guess I've got Easter hangover. The issue is identified... so now what to do about it?

Reading God's Word, I see that Peter, James and John went fishing after the resurrection (John 21). Some of the others went for a walk and got into a Bible study with Jesus (Luke 24). I think I'll do the latter and get back to work. Pray for me.

Friday, April 22, 2011

That's My King!

This never gets old!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter Preparation



I just received this from Pastor Jeff. Consider these options and opportunities and join God in what He is doing this week!


Here are some prayer opportunities for Easter...please pray for

1. ... those who will come to church for the first time or for the first time in a long time.

2. ... wisdom, direction, and the words to say as God brings people into your life this week and for those you invite to church this Thursday or Sunday.

3. ... the Secret Church event on Friday night from 6pm-12pm. Pray that God works in a mighty way as David Platt opens up the word to us.

4. ... Pastor Jason Pettus on Thursday & Sunday as God works through him as he brings the message

Prayer Walking Opportunities!!!

Come during the day or before the following services to pray the room up for that particular service: Wednesday Night Worship (6pm Wednesday), Last Supper Easter Service (7pm Thursday), Secret Church (6pm Friday), and Sunday Morning Church (8am, 9:30am, and 11:00am).

These prayer options are great opportunities to prepare for Easter. I hope you will choose to be apart of this special ministry.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easier Said than Done


This morning I played basketball with 7 other men around my age (we had a couple of pups in there) at the Connection Center. The place is beautiful. We played full court on one of the four short courts. It was an absolute blast.

About fifteen minutes into it, when my vertical leap went from 3 inches to 1 inch, I realized how different the game is on the court than from the sidelines. For years now I have been watching my kids play and have been coaching them. I have been pressing them and challenging them to push themselves and get the most out of the ability God gave them.

Being on the court felt different. It was a lot harder than I remembered. I have not played a real game in years. I was pushing myself, but not going very fast or very well.

Now that I am home in my chair with my computer and a cup of coffee, I am reminded of how easy it is to sit back and tell others how they ought to do and how hard it is to actually do it.

One of the things I love about Jesus is that He didn't just write the rules and the best practices for life and then lay back in heaven and never do them. Jesus got in the game. The LORD left heaven and came to this earth and lived the life God made humanity to live. It was a holy and blameless life and in perfect step with the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.

What I love about the grace of Jesus is that not only am I forgiven by the atoning death Jesus died to pay for my sins, I am also given the righteousness of Christ. I get credit for how Jesus played the game - lived His life. And now, as a Spirit-filled believer, God is guiding me and teaching me to live - to play the game - to the best of His abilities.

Hebrews 4:14–16 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Where Is Jesus?


When my oldest son Jackson was a little guy, he had several of those "Where's Waldo" books. If you have not seen one before, it is a book without words. On each page there is a massive picture with intricate details. In the big picture there is somewhere a picture of Waldo, a little man with glasses. The fun is trying to find where Waldo is.

I am at The Gospel Coalition conference. The theme is on how Jesus is to be understood through the pages of the Old Testament. This is powerful stuff. Tim Brown and I have talked and talked about the different things we heard from Tim Keller and Alister Begg yesterday. It is such a joy to hear gifted preachers share the insights the Holy Spirit has given them and the wisdom they have from disciplined years of study.

I would encourage you to log on and listen to these talks.

Devotionally, I am being challenged and would challenge you to study the Old Testament and ask the question, "What does this tell me about the Savior and how He works to redeem a people for His glory?"

One statement from yesterday haunts me. "Is the Old Testament just a Christian version of Aesop's Fables or are these stories telling us redemptive history?"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Full of What?


I am convinced that one of the main reasons God's people are not hungry for God and His Word is because they are already full. Most are stuffed on earthly temporal things that have made them feel full, but the junk they have consumed has not served their souls. The greatest spiritual problem in North America is not a lack of accessibility to God's Word, but a lack of hunger for God's Word.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."

There is a glorious blessing that comes to those that desire to have God fill them with His holiness. They are "satisfied." The word translated "fill" by the NIV in v. 6 is the word χορτάζω chortázō. It can also be translated "to satisfy." There is nothing that satisfies the deep longing of a person's heart and soul like Jesus. Only Jesus can love us as we need to be loved - unconditionally. Only Jesus can love us qualitatively and quantitatively the way we need to be loved - eternally.

Mary sang at the announcement of her pregnancy with Jesus, "He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty." (Luke 1:53)

The Lord will fill us with good things, if we want Him to. Most don't. It's not that they are opposed to it. The fact is most just are not interested in what God has to offer. They have lost a hunger for Him. They are rich in worldly cuisines and are not up for the hardy filling truth of God's righteousness.

If you have lost your hunger for God, ask God to renew your appetite. Step away from the table of the ungodly and dine on the delicacies of the Almighty. Your desire will grow stronger and your soul will be nourished.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Children Coming to Christ


Jesus once said in Matthew 19:14 “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”


The sharing of Christ with kids is controversial in some circles. There are those that rightly believe that pressing a child to make a decision for eternity may do more harm than good. It may only confuse and keep the child from having a deep heartfelt experience in coming to Christ. On the other hand the need for children to know the Gospel and be saved early is appropriate.

I am challenged by R.C. Ryle's words:
"We must never allow ourselves to suppose that little children’s souls may be safely let alone. Their character depends exceedingly on what they see and hear during their first seven years. They are never too young to learn evil and sin. They are never too young to receive religious impressions. They think in their childish way about God, their souls, and a world to come, far sooner and far more deeply than most people are aware. They are far more ready to respond to appeals to their feeling of right and wrong than many suppose. They have each a conscience. God has mercifully not left Himself without a witness in their hearts, fallen and corrupt as their natures are. Each have a soul which will live forever in heaven or in hell. We cannot begin too soon to endeavor to bring them to Christ."

The words of Christ and these words by Ryle cause me to pause and to commit to more fervent prayer for my four year old Asher. Please join me in praying that God will save Him one day and that Asher will live His life under the grace and Lordship of Jesus in an authentic walk with the risen Christ.

Monday, April 4, 2011

FIRE!


I have always had a fascination with fire. When I was a kid, I would go camping with my friends along the Harpeth River all of the time. We would fish all day walking down the river, then find a good spot to set up camp. I would get the fire going with a little kerosene and then our buddy Oliver would cook. Throughout the night, I would build the fire and try and keep it up so that it would be easily stoked in the morning.

The image of fire is used in Scripture to speak of our passion for God. Our faith is like a fire and it must be constantly cared for. Just as I needed kerosene to start a physical fire, I needed the Holy Spirit to light a fire in my soul so I could be saved. Having been saved I now need the Word of God to burn in me and for God's Holy Spirit to blow on my soul and keep the fire burning. From the warmth of God's love that burns in me I am able to love my God, my wife, my kids, my friends, my family of faith, and the lost and hurting.

We must not let the flames of our faith die down. Just as the priests of Old had to tend to the fire of the temple, so we too must tend to the fire in our temple - our bodies, which are now the dwelling place of God.

Leviticus 6:12–13 The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. 13 The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.


I am very excited about the 21 DAY JOURNEY Living Hope is on using the devotion "CHRIST IS RISEN." It was written by the leadership at The Hope and the daily blog is as well. Do yourself a favor and keep the fire burning in your soul by participating in the 21 DAY JOURNEY that is preparing us for Easter.

You can join the journey here: http://livinghopeprayer.wordpress.com/

Sunday, April 3, 2011

God's Will Comes God's Way


As a pastor, I am asked daily about God's will. People contact me and explain their circumstance and ask what God would have them do. Of course I never know what outcome God desires for their life. That is something only God can know. What I can give is a directive from Scripture for them to obey. IT IS IN OBEDIENCE TO GOD THAT WE FIND AND FULFILL THE WILL OF GOD FOR OUR LIFE.

One of my favorite Psalms is the first one. I love it for many reasons. One is the encouragement I receive from verse 3.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

What a beautiful image. I picture a strong fruitful tree that is planted along the side of a beautiful flowing stream in the midst of a valley surrounded by terrifying mountains. That is how I want to experience my life. I want to live off of the living water of Jesus, as I abide planted in Him producing the fruit of the Spirit all of the while surrounded by terrifying circumstances, but at complete peace.

This, to me, would be a blessed life. This is the life being explained in Psalm 1 and it is another reason why I love this Psalm. It says in verse 1, Blessed is the man... The Hebrew word for blessed is אֶשֶׁר (Asher). That is our youngest child's name. We gave it to him because of God's gracious provision of Him to us. He is one of the many blessings God has given to us on our journey of faith.

What I see in this Psalm is God's way of revealing to us His will. It is by living a life that is obedient to God that we are blessed. In living a blessed life we fulfill God's will and discover our destiny. It is not through some mystical experience or fate that God's will is done. It is through God's people simply loving and trusting God above all else and living under His authority and direction. This is God's will. This accomplishes God's will. This is a blessed life.

Psalm 1:1–3 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Evaluating Your Success


I preached yesterday on Spiritual Success (find it here to listen) and highlighted the cost of Godless success and the demands of a life lived with Gods' blessing.

This morning I read this devotion by Blanchard and it also spoke to the issue of success. It is convicting and challenging to consider what Jesus' definition of success in His own life and ministry was.

What criteria do you use to evaluate yourself as a leader? John 17 records Jesus' prayer as He assessed His season of leadership. He evaluated His personal focus on His God-given mission, His responsibility to teach His disciples what they needed to know to be successful, having protected them while they were under His leadership, and having prepared them for the future. How would you assess your leadership using these same criteria? ~Blanchard

I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. John 17:4

Monday, March 21, 2011

Discerning God's Will


I appreciated this post by Blanchard. This is the Scripture we've memorized this last series at The Hope and been blessed by in tremendous ways.

As leaders, we need a biblical perspective on opposition to keep us from becoming discouraged. Jesus endured opposition, so opposition does not necessarily mean that we are out of the will of God. Opposition can mean that we are right where God needs us to be. Where are you struggling with discouragement? What does God want to accomplish in and through you as you focus on Him and persevere?

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:2-3


This is an area where I often struggle. So often I want to believe that the narrow road is the path of least resistance. The fact of the matter is that the enemy of God is far more devious and treacherous than imaginable and has the capacity to bring fear and frustration at any given moment.

That is why I am so thankful that I have so many dear brothers in Christ that I can pray with, consult with, and talk with about what God is doing. God has blessed me with men that hold me accountable, with elders, with Godly staff leadership, and a network of pastors that I love and that love me. Together we are able to encourage one another to focus on Christ and find His plan in the midst of life's chaos.

I don't know much, but I know that the Christian life is not an individual effort. God saved us to be in His community of faith. It is vital for all believers to have a church home, a small group of faithful friends that are following Christ, and the humility that comes with Spirit-filled living. Armed with these gifts a believer can navigate the enemy's field of mines and walk the narrow road God has planned for each of us.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Inspiring Praise


Galatians 1:24 "And they praised God because of me."


The apostle Paul is a true inspiration. While he was alive, he caused others to praise God. Even now because God's Holy Spirit inspired him to write portions of His Word, Paul is causing me and many others to praise God.

Paul was not the most well loved guy during his life. There were some folks in Corinth and all over the Mediterranean that did not like the man. Demons hated him and even feared him. Remember what those demons said to the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19:15 "One day the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?'”

Paul knew who he was in Christ and his passion for the Gospel and his faith in the Lord caused others to praise God. He was not always thought well of or appreciated. He did not live a perfect life or always do the right thing. He was just a man. But his life was lived for the glory of God and God worked in and through Paul.

Question to ask: Does my life defined by my faith in Jesus cause others to praise God?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thirsty?


John 4:13–14 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”


The lady from Samaria that Jesus was talking to that day was taking care of her normal chores. One of the basic necessities of life is water. There are people all over the world today that will spend a large portion of their waking hours seeking out, obtaining, and consuming water in order to live.

Jesus makes a startling claim here, but He meant it in a far more practical and permanent way than this woman could understand. He offered living water that would satisfy her soul. She thought He was offering her the ability to be free of one less chore.

Most people want less problems and more fun. God does not offer less of anything, but more of what we truly need. He offers hope, joy, and peace in the face of problems and life's pain. He offers a life of significance that when lived out in a community of believers is truly fun.

In the Gospel God gives us the answer to our eternal need. It does not make all of our day to day problems go away - that won't happen on this side of death. We will still have chores, tough decisions, pain, sickness, and chores. What God gives is better. He gives Himself and with God in us we can get through anything. It is a well of living water living in us giving us strength and provisions that will never run dry.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How'd He Do That?


Luke 22:1–6 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.


How God brought redemption to the world amazes me. For thousands of years the world had been living in the hope of God's Promise. Now that Promise, Jesus Christ the Messiah of God, had come to take away the sins of the world.

It was not chance. It was not coincidence. It was a sovereign act of God in His providence that made this moment happen.

The Passover was the celebration the reminded the Israelites how God had saved them from Egypt. A lamb was slain and the blood covered the people from death. It was God's plan to make Jesus the lamb the takes away the sin of the world.

Then when I think about the religious system that would allow Jesus to be sentenced to death and the Roman rule that would make the crucifiction possible, I am overwhelmed. God planned this.

The ultimate point of amazement is Judas. This man was chosen for a purpose. He saw the miracles and the love and the living Truth and yet, Judas chose to betray God in flesh to His penal substitutionary death. Judas made the choice, but it was God's plan from the beginning. How did God do that?

He is sovereign. He is amazing. He loves us so much.

We can know if God can do this, He has a plan for everything we are facing and will ever face. He is the sovereign God of heaven and earth that rules and accomplishes His will.

Psalm 135:5–6 "I know that the LORD is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. 6 The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths."

Friday, March 4, 2011

What Are You Thinking?


"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." Philippians 4:8
"The things you allow your mind to dwell on will be revealed by the way you live. If you focus on negative things, you will inevitably be a negative person. If you allow unholy thoughts to fill your mind, ungodliness will become common in your life. If you fill your mind with thoughts of Christ, you will become Christlike.What you fill your mind with is a matter of choice. Choose to concentrate on the magnificent truths of God, and they will create in you a noble character that brings glory to God." ~Blackaby


This is so simple and true and yet, the temptation to do contrary to the Word on this is so powerful and real. Our world, especially it seems in North America, presses hard upon us to think of ourselves: what we want, need, feel, or desire. As we focus on self, we imagine what will satisfy the flesh rather than serve the Spirit.

I have come to believe that the best defense against this enemy is a good offense. Spiritual Disciplines, as they are called, provide a strong attack on the sin that so easily entangles our minds.

The three most common and easier disciplines:

1. Prayer: talking with God and engaging in a constant sense of His presence is a wonderful way to live and enables us to focus on what is good and noble.
2. Bible Study: getting into the Word and then memorizing or meditating on the Scripture gets the Word in us. Once the Living Word is in our hearts and minds, it works to silence the power of sin and strengthen the work of the Spirit.
3. Fasting: cutting off the body from things is a way to train it and strengthen the influence of the Spirit. Disallowing food or technology or something that we normally desire puts the body in it's place. Each time the urge comes to eat or watch something or text or whatever, it reminds us to focus on Christ. This allows us to train our body to be a servant for God's glory and not a dictator.

Father, thank you for your presence and power. Be the inspiration, subject, and outcome of my thoughts today. Forgive me for my sloppy sinful thinking. Enable me to guard my heart by protecting my mind and filling it with thoughts of You. You alone are holy, wonderful, peace-giving, unconditionally loving, gracious and worthy of my praise in word, thought and deed.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Hampered Fellowship with God


Yesterday, I was preaching on the need for consistent fellowship with God. I only had a few minutes to finish up and was not able to go into detail on what can cause our fellowship with God to be less than what God desires and we need. So here it is...

Fellowship with God is hampered when…
1. We are not thankful
When you see God the way Scriptures reveals Him and the benefits He provides His people, it is easy to give thanks at all times.
Psalm 100:3–5 Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

We are His. He has made us.
We are His. He is our Shepherd.
We are His. We can enter His house and praise Him.
We are His. He loves us forever.

2. We are not mindful of God’s presence
When we understand the omniscience and omnipresence of God as Scripture reveals, we will never feel alone. We will know that God is with us. There is no where we can go where God will not be present with us.
Psalm 139:8–10 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.


3. We are not fulfilling our commitments to God
When we understand the plan of God given to us in God's Word and live it, we gain a blessing and a sense of God's powerful hand at work in us, through us, and around us. It is in obedience that we put ourselves in a blessable position.
Psalm 1:1–3 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

4. We are not right with other believers
When we live as one united people under Christ as commanded in the Bible, we enjoy the encouragement of God and one another.
Psalm 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

God is glorified in the love His people give to one another. It is in the act of forgiving and forging ahead united in Christ that the Gospel is revealed to be real in our lives.

If we live in a constant state of prayer asking God to enable us to do these things, we will discover a deeper fellowship with God and the joy of the Lord will be our strength.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Can Do It!


I find myself saying this a lot these days. My older children have just finished their basketball seasons and one of my encouragements to them and their teammates has been, "you can do it!" I tell them this when they complain about how tired they are, how good the other team is, or how poorly they feel they are doing.

God says something similar to us in His Word...
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.


God makes it clear that there is nothing that will come at us today that we can't handle with Him. We can do it by faith in Christ as we live lives surrendered to the power and might of our God.
Henry Blackaby writes...
It is marvelously freeing to know that God controls your life and knows what it can become. Rather than constantly worrying about what you will face, your great challenge is to continually release every area of your life to God's control. The temptation will be to try to do by yourself what only God can do. Our assignment is to "abide in the vine" and to allow God to do in and through us what only He can do (John 15:5). Only God can be God. Allow Him to live out His divine life through you. He is the only One who can.


In Christ our lives are protected. We can do it in Him. He will do it through us.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Where You Are & Where You're Going


We are getting new parking lot signs at the church. With the expansion of our facilities we have found that we need signage at the entrances to let people know where they are so they can determine the right direction to get where they want to go.

This is good information to know about your own spiritual life. It is very important that you have a firm grasp of where you are and where you are going. In a world of temptation, frustration, and contention it is easy to get off track and lose sight of where you are and where you want to be.

By Saturday I will have done three funerals in a weeks time. This may sound strange, but I enjoy funerals for the redeemed. I love thinking about where they are and what they are experiencing. It is a joy to be able to comfort grieving loved ones with the truth of the Gospel, the power of God's love, and the hope of heaven.

It is especially enjoyable to get to sit and talk with a family about their loved one that has passed away and hear their stories. People are fascinating and wonderful and God is so good and gracious. So many good things happen in life and we often forget that. Even painful dark days gain greater meaning and significance in light of eternity.

Those that live lives in confident assurance of their faith in Christ and seek to show the love of God to others to the best of their ability leave an amazing legacy. In their living years they know and their loved ones know where they are spiritually. When they pass on and stand before God to give an account of their lives, their loved ones know where they are going.

Knowing where you are and where you are going is not only important for you, it also provides a road map for those you love to follow. A life lived in the grace of God gives peace to those who love you, when you pass away.

If you are lost, cry out to God and look to Christ for salvation. If you have gotten off of the narrow path, return to the God of your salvation. Let your family and friends know where you are and where you are going. It will serve you and them well.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No Lone Rangers...


So many younger men don't know who the Lone Ranger is, but I think everybody gets the concept. It is a hero that can stand alone and fight off evil. But everyone who knows the show knows the reality... The Long Ranger was not alone. He had Tonto.

The Lone Ranger concept is a myth at best, but really more of a lie. God did not make us to be in isolation. He made us to live in community. God is community. He is three in one. He is One bound in love and holiness as Father, Son and Spirit.

God made us to be in community with Him. That community was also meant to expand to our human connections. God made us for Himself and called us to be His gathered people. What unites us is Him. The key is Jesus and the outcome is community.

I praise God that I have a wife that I love and can count on through thick and thin. I praise God that I have men that I can call on at any time and know that they will be there for me. I praise God that I am a part of a local church that teaches and lives out God's command to live in loving relationships with one another.

Right now there are a couple of men that are on my mind all of the time. They are dealing with serious pain. The sadness that I have in seeing them go through this pain is alleviated by the joy they receive from being with the band of brothers each of these men has around them. They are not walking through the valley of the shadow of death alone. They have Christ and Christ has given them brothers.

We all need a circle of people that we can call on and count on and that can call on and count on us. Yes, it is not always neat and pretty. Relationships are messy, but they are necessary. God in His grace has given us the tools in the Gospel to successfully navigate through the difficulties that relationships can bring so that we can experience the blessing of being in a committed Christian family.

Do you have a family of faith? Within that family of faith do you have a circle of people you are devoted to? We all need the love and support of others and others need our love and support.

Friday, February 11, 2011

He Gets It


As a pastor, there is nothing quite as enjoyable as seeing someone "get it." There is a moment when a Word is delivered, a circumstance comes, or an inspired moment happens and the lights come on. Their life is changed. Jesus makes sense and they are renewed.

This is one of those moments for Judah...
Genesis 44:33–34 (ESV) Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”


Judah was not always a good man, but this was his moment and in his moment he took his stand. Like Jesus, he was unwilling to go back to his father without his father's love (captured son Benjamin) even though it would probably cost him his life. Jesus was not willing to abandon the cross. Instead, Jesus took our place and became our penal substitutionary atonement (see also). Jesus rescued us and Judah rescued Benjamin. Judah finally got that it is better to give your life for love of others than to live for self.

Judah's decision to sacrifice himself led to God's blessing on his life...
"Though reckless in his behavior with Tamar (Gn 38:6–30), Judah showed firm resolve in taking personal responsibility for Benjamin’s safety in Egypt and acting as intercessor for his brothers before Joseph (Gn 44:14–18). At the time of Jacob’s blessing Judah was granted the birthright privileges of the firstborn; the leadership of Jacob’s family would come through Judah’s seed, as would the promised Messiah of Abraham’s covenant (Gn 49:8–12). Later, Judah’s house was praised at the time of Ruth’s engagement to Boaz (Ru 4:12), and both the Davidic line of kings (1 Chr 2:1–16; 3) and Jesus Christ’s ancestors (Mt 1:2, 3; KJV Judas; Lk 3:33; KJV Juda) traced their descent from Judah." Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988), 1227-28.


How can you be like Jesus today? What can you give up to serve your Heavenly Father?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

So Many Surprises


I am not big on surprises. I like the illusion that I am somehow in control of what happens. The reality is that life is full of surprises and none of us is really in control. God is sovereign and we are responsible. That means that God has a plan and a will to accomplish His specific purpose. We are responsible for how we respond and live under God’s sovereign care and power. You either fight against Him or simply submit to Him.

This morning I woke up to see our city blanketed in snow. I didn’t see that coming and I don’t think the forecasters did either. But here we are under what appears to be one of the biggest snows in years.

God knew this was going to happen. Some are happy. Most are concerned about the kids missing so much school. In it there are blessings and problems, but what matters most is God’s will in it. What does God have for us that are under four inches of snow today? What does He want to reveal to us about Himself and His love? How does He want us to grow in our faith through this?

Everybody is going through something, but I am thankful God has a plan for it all. There are families in hospitals, hospice, and facing hard painful decisions today. No matter what, we can know that God loves us and desires to grow us and bless us through the good and the tough times. We need only call out to Him, trust in His Word, and live lovingly under His leadership in grace.

Psalm 103:15–18 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Until It's Your Faith Challenged...


Genesis 42:35–36 (ESV) As they emptied their sacks, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack. And when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were afraid. 36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.”


It's easy for us to look back and know that Jacob had nothing to worry about. His favored son was behind what was causing His fear. But for Jacob, in that moment, he didn't know what was coming next and his faith was challenged.

It's easy when it's not our child, our job, our health, or our responsibility to think, "oh, they just need to trust God." It is easy to trust God. It's hard to live through the pain that God allows.

The Lord always strengthens His children with joy (Nehmiah 8:10). But joy does not always occur in happiness or good times. Joy is often felt best when things are at their worst.

This is why we need brothers and sisters that can comfort and encourage us. If this is a good time in your life, be faithful to God and build your faith in preparation for the hard days ahead. And while things are good, reach out to those that are struggling. Pray for them often, let them know you care, and give this some time and attention. They need you and one day, you will need them.

In Christ we are a family and as the children of God we need to stand with those who face faith challenges today.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

God's Will & Timing


This morning my mind is on a young couple dealing with heart ache, a servant of Christ in the hospital, lots men looking for work, several friends fighting off cancer, and a young person sidelined with a knee injury. I am praying for them and asking God to give them peace, hope, and confidence in this difficult season.

When it comes to unplanned unwanted circumstances, I believe the best and right thing to do is to look for God. He is there. Nothing surprises to Him.

It is one thing when we sin or someone's sin causes consequences on our lives. That happens and we have to deal with the pain and difficulty of the cause and effect impact of sin.

When it is clear that the circumstance we are in is bigger than the mere actions of humanity or even in the give and take of human frailty, seeking God's face is so very important. God works all things for good for those that love Him that have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) and God knows the plans He has for His people - plans to give hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Based on these facts the best thing any of us can do during dark days is...

1. Pray and ask God to allow you to join Him in what He is doing.
2. Trust that God has gone before you and is at work to guide you according to His perfect will.
3. Live on mission in the moment. You may not be able to comprehend what God is up to. If that is the case, simply living on mission and sharing and showing the love of Christ according to the Gospel will enable you to serve God's purpose even when you don't know what it is.
4. Get other brothers and sisters to pray for you and encourage you. Let them know your hurt, fear, anger, or confusion and allow them to seek God's face with you. Sometimes we need God's Word delivered to us through His body of believers to really perceive the truth.

God has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We are His adopted children that we can cry out to (Romans 8:14-17). He understands what we are going through having been through a human existence on this sinful rock (Hebrews 4:15-16). We can know God is with us, at work, and in control.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Adjusted to Our Blessings?


I so appreciated Dr. Russell Moore's ministry to Living Hope yesterday. He preached three times on what it means to be a child of God from Rom 8:14-17 and then spoke again at a luncheon for our Orphan Care Ministry where over 200 people attended to learn how they can pray, partner, and pursue caring for the needs of the fatherless. I am sure he slept well last night.

Yesterday, during his sermon, Dr. Moore posed this question to us: Have we become adjusted to our blessings? He asked the question in light of the missional demand of James 1:27 (ESV) "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." He pointed out that the reason most Christians do not heed the call to care for the fatherless and forgotten is because it is inconvenient.

Most people want to love the poor, the family, and the hurting, but when it comes down to doing it, many excuse themselves. The fact of the matter is that loving people is messy. When life gets messy, most people excuse themselves because most of us have adjusted to our blessings.

We have gotten used to the fact that we can pay our bills, live healthy lives, enjoy hobbies and time with friends and family, and still have energy to complain. Even when life hits us hard, most people have comforts that 96% of the rest of the world knows nothing about.

When it comes to serving the Kingdom cause of Christ, God's people will have to be like Christ and abandon our comforts and show care and concern for difficult people in tough circumstances.

And when we do that, we should not be surprised by those that seek to dissuade us from our God-given tasks. Most of the time it will be those that despise us the most and those that love us the most. That was what happened in Nehemiah...
Nehemiah 4:10–12 (ESV) In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” 11 And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.”


Notice...
In verse 10 it is Judah, the tribe of the King that is saying that the work must not go forward.
In verse 11 as expected, the enemies of God's people that threaten them and discourage them from doing God's work.
In verse 12 it is their family saying that they needed to come back home and give up the cause.

I am going to work hard to stay uncomfortable for Christ and pray that God will allow me to encourage my children to sacrifice and serve God's purpose for their lives even though it will be painful and may come at a great cost. My prayer is that I and those I love will see the privilege and blessing of living on mission for God. Philippians 1:29(ESV) "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Who You Belong To


Romans 6:16–18 (ESV) Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.


Last week I read John MacArthur's book Slave. I highly recommend it. The insights and the depth of research provided inspiration to me in my walk with Christ.

There is a tendency in me to make things complicated. What I love about being a slave to Christ is the simplicity of it.

MacArthur points out in His book, "The life of a slave in New Testament times may have been difficult, but it was relatively simple. Slaves had only one primary concern: to carry out the will of the master. In areas where they were given direct commands, they were required to obey. In areas where no direct command was given, they were to find ways to please the master as best they could."

My goal in life is to obey my Master and to please Him in all I do.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Healthy


I'm not saying I am in great shape because I'm not. I'm not saying that I'm thin because I need to lose weight. I'm not saying that my diet is what it ought to be because I am a Southerner and required to eat fried foods, sweet tea, and I believe a certain amount M&Ms. BUT, I do believe I am healthy.

No, I'm not going to be featured on a fitness drink ad with this figure, but my doctor told me when I was 25 that some people are race horses and some people are like me, a mule;D For a mule, I'm healthy.

We love to make comparisons in North America. We are told by people all of the time what we are supposed to look like, what we should own, and how well we should be liked. The fact of the matter is that each one of us is unique and has a specific purpose for which God has called us. God's desire is that we be who He created us to be to the best of our ability. That does not mean that we get complacent, but we do need to be careful that we avoid the comparison games that lead to idolatry.

The same is true of families, businesses, churches, and fellowship groups. Each one is unique and has specific gifts and abilities. There is not one standard by which all things can be judged except Christ and His Word. In Scripture we find God using all kinds of people and groups for certain purposes. Bigger is not always better. Smaller is not always smarter. One's good may be another's best, but what really matters is what God thinks.

I spoke to a sweet saint yesterday that is about to meet the Lord soon. As we talked about her life and legacy, I encouraged her with the fact that very soon she will hear the Lord say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." She teared up and said, "That is all I ever hoped for. Do you really think God will say that to me." I assured her that her faithful service to our King and humble heart gives God glory and that He will surely say that to her.

There is nothing better to live for than to hear those words from Jesus... "well done." That is a healthy life. That is the goal.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fun Day - Friday in Africa



We got up and enjoyed some coffee and time in the Word and prayer. We took a ride into downtown Niamay and bought some souveneirs. Then the fun started.

We headed south to an open area where giraffes are being repopulated. Our guide jumped in the truck and navigated us thirty minutes into some wide open spaces. I thought he was lost with all of the turns we were taking and then... we saw them. They were magnificient. There was a two week old baby, 2 two month olds, five mommas, and the daddy. It was something to see!

After that we grabbed lunch and came back to the mission house. We made calls, wrote blogs and got cleaned up. We took our stuff to the airport and so we are all ready to go.

We are leaving now to get our last meal in Africa. We should be in Paris by morning, Atltanta by the afternoon, and home by 6:30 pm. Please pray for traveling mercies.

Please also pray for me as I edit the sermon I will be preaching on Sunday. I am fired up, but need only preach as God's Spirit directs. Pray I listen and give what only He desires for His people at Living Hope.

Baptisms & a Bus Ride - Thursday in Africa





The day started similar to Wednesday. We got up, got some eggs, and got over to the training center. We studied God's Word with the men and answered as many questions as we could.

As mid-day came, we headed to the river to baptize the man who had been saved the day before, Ka. Bubba was excited. Not only were we baptizing Ka, but Ji as well. Ji was a man that had been saved some time before, but had not been faithful in his participation in the church. Recently, he had been much more connected and had been present for all of the teaching times. He was very excited to making his public profession of faith.

We all went down by the river to watch. Henry started singing and we all joined in. Bubba was in the water with Ka and Ji. Both men were baptized by Bubba and we all celebrated by clapping and shouting praise to God.

Interestingly, there was a man there by the river that was washing his clothes. After the second man came out of the water, he announced to the group that he too wanted to be baptized. I immediately had concerns. Who was this guy? Did he know the Gospel? Did he know what baptism was? Were these men ready to investigate his faith claims?

All of my concerns were quickly removed. Ibra, one of the elders of the church, explained that he had been witnessing to this man, Mega, for several months and that he had accepted Christ about a month ago. Mega had just gotten back into town and wanted to be a part of the church and was ready to be baptized. He gave a profession of his faith that was clear and without prompting. So he was baptized too.

Three baptisms in one day!

After the baptisms, we gathered for prayer. We prayed for them. They prayed for us. Then we all prayed for the missionaries. It was a touching moment.

They walked us to the bus station and ligered for a while and then we said our last good-byes.

Thiry minutes after the time we were supposed to leave, we began loading up on the bus. It was really hot that day and about 2 pm in the afternoon, when we got to our seats. We were asked to get on first since we would be the last stop. We didn't want to have to get off the bus everytime someone had a stop so we got in the very back of the bus. Our knees pressed into the seat in front of us. We road with the windows down with sand flying all around us and sweat pouring from our bodies for 3 and a half ours. I hope they washed those seats:D

When we got off, we must have been a sight to see. I don't think any of us used the restroom in our pants, but it certainly looked like and felt like we did. We had literally sweated through our clothes. It was glorious. Never had we been nastier and happier. We were just glad to be standing on our feet and out of the back of that bus.

We got back to the baptist mission house and got cleaned up. After an ice-cold coke, we all had a smile. A little dinner later and a call or two back home put our minds and bodies at ease.

We slept good Thursday night. We'd seen God's hand at work through the teaching and the baptisms. We'd had an unforgetable ride through Niger. We celebrated God's grace and goodness and said goodnight.