Love Rejoices With The Truth

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV says, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love does not seek to discuss all the things that are wrong in a relationship, but focuses on the things that are right. When God sees us through the righteousness of Christ, that is exactly what He does as well. He chooses to see what is good and through Jesus Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, has forgiven what is offensive to His nature.

So often, in order to prove that our life or relationship is not perfect (whether with Jesus, our spouse or others) and in order to prove that we are human (like we need to prove that), we feel that we must point out the areas where we fail or have failed. We feel that we must self deprecate (sometimes cloaked in humor) BEFORE the other person starts to point out our flaws or presume we’re arrogant. Other times we feel that we must expose and deal with all the flaws and failures of others that prevent us from loving them. I’m so very glad that God doesn’t play this game with us.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, choosing to focus on and cultivate the healthy, positive steps and qualities of a productive relationship does not equate refusing to acknowledge the negative…an epidemic in the church and in many of our marriages. Once again, Jesus does not do this with us. He openly talks about the willful offenses to His character that impedes His precious Bride from receiving the fullness of His love. But it is by walking in the fullness of the Light, as He is in the Light, that the darkness of our own doing is exposed. And when darkness is exposed against the Light of Jesus, it is easily repented of and forsaken by His Bride for the fruit-bearing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that we find in the convicting, healing, comforting, sealing, gifting guiding and leading of His Spirit.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. [6] If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. [7] But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. [8] If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [10] If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John 1:5-10 ESV

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. [17] For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. [18] But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. [19] Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [21] envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:16-23 ESV

Give to Caesar What Is Caesar’s…

“We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.”

Voddie T. Baucham Jr., Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk With God

I love that quote from Baucham. It’s why we did private school for the first few years of our children’s education and homeschooled the rest. Our youngest child went to public school for his last four years. He undoubtedly had an impact for Christ. He had a positive influence on many of his classmates…though we’re unaware of any eternal results that came of it. And I’ll admit, it impacted him in some positive ways. He learned discipline and leadership through his commitment to Marching Band. He met his future bride in high school…such a beautiful, godly young woman. Socially it was pretty much a wash. No real gains…not tremendous losses. Academically it was sub-par to the homeschooling that he got. The commitment expected of him to Marching Band greatly challenged the control of our family calendar and his participation and involvement in his church and personal discipleship. Philosophically, it created a battle in our home that we could have easily lost had God not mercifully intervened. Three years out and on the threshold of marriage, both he and us as parents have some regrets about the decision to let him go to high school, but God is using it for His glory and for our good. It has deeply impacted the way our son plans to parent his own children. #SoliDeoGloria

I’m so thankful for godly teachers and administrators who serve the calling of the most High by serving in the Roman Empire. We have several teachers and school board members in our congregation. I’m so grateful for their testimony and witness. They are truly light in what is an ever darkening world. I’m thankful for holy students who live for Jesus in that environment. What a tremendous testimony!

That however does not discount or negate the effect that Caesar has on children born into a family with a Biblical Worldview. When parents surrender the academic, social and philosophical development of their children to the empire they WILL BE trained for the worldview of the empire. So many say, “My child is going to grow up and function in that world. I don’t want to shelter them in a bubble. They’re going to have to learn to live in that environment sometime.” I find this excuse severely lacking in responsibility and accountability. For my three children, that was OUR job (my wife and I) – teaching them to function in the real world around “real world” people, under OUR care and supervision. It was OUR responsibility.

But for most, public education is just a fact of life…any other way is not on most people’s radar or feasible in their 2 to 4 job per couple schedule and income. It’s just a given and many parents couldn’t fathom educating their children another way. I understand that some just don’t have the means or the ability to home school or do private school (to be honest, I’m about as equally against most private schools as I am education funded by the state). It’s not that sending your children to public school is evil; it’s just incredibly dangerous and as a parent with a Biblical worldview. You must be EVER vigilant and so very, very PRESENT.

For me personally, I’ve not liked the product of any other program designed and governed by “the state” for the welfare of its people. I wasn’t going to trust the formation of my children’s worldview socially or philosophically, mentally or emotionally and very little academically. I’m not going to trust a state institution that is determined to separate God from the institution to teach my children about sexuality, identity and tolerance. God is not going to hold the school responsible. He’s going to hold me responsible.

It makes me sad when I look back as a pastor. I had so many people in my life, while we were raising our children and making these decisions, that made me feel like what we were doing was so arrogant, impractical, elitist and over-protective that I ignorantly felt like I was not qualified to shepherd our congregation in parenting because so many of us were all the same age/had kids the same age. We tried to lead by example but when I talked about parenting, I got ignored or made fun of by our church members who were “peers”. They felt they knew just as much about parenting as I did. I neglected to set the example AND teach the example, to expose the dangers that we saw for what they really were. I neglected the families that would listen because of the loud voices of those who didn’t want to. Though I wish I could have a redo, I’ve been entrusted a voice with a new generation of parents and families. May God continue to have mercy on us all.

Counting Our Blessings

We can spend our time counting our dead or we can spend it counting our blessings.

We can spend our time counting our dead or we can spend it counting our blessings.

About six months ago, I made a personal decision to stop watching pandemic news, Covid death-trackers, debates over shutdowns, mask and vaccine efficacy, etc. (no judgment against those who continue to do so). I clearly remember the day and the people to whom I wrote, letting them know I was done. I could no longer allow anticipation of what an unknown virus MIGHT do in my community to have a greater influence than the anticipation of what a KNOWN God is going to do in me and in my community. He is a God of HOPE in the midst of despair.

I could no longer allow anticipation of what an unknown virus MIGHT do in my community to have a greater influence than the anticipation of what a KNOWN God is going to do in me and in my community. He is a God of HOPE in the midst of despair.

Too many from all walks of life and all perspectives have put life and ministry on a shelf for a year now. But, there’s no pandemic clause in Scripture. As a matter of fact, we learn from world history that it was followers of the ways of Jesus who risked everything to care for the sick and dying in past pandemics while family and friends abandoned them…leaving them to die alone.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10 ESV

Regardless of your current health condition, your age, your politics, your mask or social distancing preferences, your anxiety levels – as a child of God, today you can leverage who you are and what you’ve been given to live out the Gospel, to share and embody the Good News of a Great King, to love others well and to minister to the least of these — so others may hear…AND live!

For some, this might mean being more creative, learning to be more present in a digital environment, doing something that you’re not good at or don’t really like to do. For others, it might just mean getting off your soap box and loving people well in the moment.

Too many people have seen the pandemic as something that has tied their hands or given them an excuse to avoid people. Today, you can see it as an opportunity to exalt Jesus and His message of eternal hope through grace and mercy. In a day where there is no end to the number of ways we can communicate, we really have no excuse for focusing inward, being withdrawn and silent while the enemy propagates a false narrative.

Don’t talk about it…BE about it. Live the Gospel out loud for the whole world to hear. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Don’t talk about it…BE about it.

The Art of Jumping to the Wrong Conclusion

…projecting our own sinful intentions and motivations on the actions of others when there is no evidence of such at all. 

Sometimes we mistakenly assume others are viewing us in the way that we privately view ourselves.

Sometimes we project onto the words or actions of another the thoughts, intentions or motivations that we’re actually feeling about someone else.

Sometimes we just put the words and actions of another through our own filters rather than through their filters.

Love God. Love people. Let God be the mind reader, heart skeptic and judge of motivations.

Hurting People Hurt People

Birds of a feather flock together.

Have you ever noticed how negative, divisive and/or drama-creating people find one another?  There are people who once had little common interest in one another but they somehow find a way to unite over common offenses, common enemies and common hurts. I’ve seen people, who once clashed with contempt and gossiped about the other, later seek the other out and bond in their disdain over another person or common offense.

I would rather bond with someone over a common love for Jesus, His Word, His mission, His church. I would rather unite over a common love, things that are true, honorable, just, what is pure, lovely, commendable and worthy of praise.

You Were In My Thoughts Today…

When you’re going about your business on a daily basis and a friend or loved one comes to your mind, assume the Lord brought them to mind and do two things:

  1. Pray over them. You don’t have to know why, but they came to your mind for a reason.
  2. Reach out to them – pick up the phone and call or video message, write a note, letter or email or maybe just send them a quick text to let them know that you’re thinking of them in your conversation with the Lord.

I know many people say “I hate texting. It’s so impersonal” and you’d rather just wait and talk in person or on the phone. And that’s okay. You’re welcome to your preferences. I personally often send a text RIGHT THEN because, when God brings that person to my mind, I’m in the middle of something that needs my attention or I’m somewhere that I can’t have a lengthy conversation nor am I sure when I’ll see the person again. I’d rather send an impersonal text to let you know that I love you, I care about you and I am bringing you before the Lord than to let hours, days or even weeks go by or maybe get busy and forget and never follow up to let you know that God put you on my heart.  I have so many perfect thank you notes, lunches, dinners, dates, coffee conversations, etc. that never happened because the perfect opportunity to do it was never convenient or never presented itself.

On the flip side, I’ve received so many text messages out of the blue that have changed the trajectory of my day…they came at just the right time, from just the right person. I make every effort to do the same for others.

As a recovering perfectionist and as someone who has family who lives all over the world, I’ve learned that doing something is often better than doing nothing, at least in this context and especially when it is God’s Spirit who is doing the prompting. Do your best with what you have rather than waiting until you’ve got the perfect moment for the perfect conversation.  Those rarely happen and as a result, we often deprive others of the gift God wants us to share…someone being conformed to the image of His Son.

The Greatest Attack I’ve Personally Observed By the Enemy…

Listening to pastors and other believers attack one another in discussions about effective ministry.  Nearly every pastor I know (including myself), and thousands that I don’t know, have felt the excruciating pain of divisiveness and loss in their body over Covid and masks. It makes no difference what position the church or Pastors/Elders take, other leaders and a small contingency of each congregation vehemently and passionately disagree.

The greatest attack I’ve personally observed by the enemy (the world, the flesh and the devil)  on the oneness and unity of the body of Christ and therefore on the potency and effectiveness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (according to John 17) has been the divisiveness over Covid 19 and mask mandates. The church has endured the carnal infiltration of me-centered, self-indulgent and idolatrous behavior from time to time but never in my lifetime have I observed such divisiveness in bodies of professing believers.

Differing opinions and perspectives are normal, even healthy. Even the greatest marriages have them. But we hear one another out, we talk it out and we work it out…together.  But the current loveless stalemates of divisiveness and judgment among professing believers is grievous and shameful.

Believer, If God‘s Spirit cannot harmoniously unite you and your church over something like this in spite of your personal opinions, how does the church have any hope to share something as seriously eternal as the power of HIS death and resurrection for forgiveness, repentance, redemption,  reconciliation and restoration as God‘s workmanship created in Christ Jesus?

If we cannot be gracious and loving toward each other in this manner, how DARE we call ourselves followers of the ways of Jesus? You have to love humanity enough to allow people who completely disagree with you to have value, in your opinion.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’D DIE FOR, YOU CAN’T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE LIVING FOR

Regardless of your physical preferences in participating in community during the last 10-12 months, whether you’re scared, guarded, cautious, carefree or reckless, whether you believe we’re in the last days or just the lost days, how have you redeemed the time? How have you leveraged who you are and what you’ve been given to reach your neighbors, your city and your world with the Gospel — so others may hear…and live?

We live in a time where the Gospel has either been shelved for personal safety or it gets used more as a weapon than a healing salve. Do you think the great commitment (total surrender to Jesus) to the great commandment (love God by loving others) and the great commission (go and make disciples) has been set aside by God for our personal safety and care and or has the urgency been intensified by worldwide fear, panic and chaos among those who have eternal hope and peace that passes understanding?

What are you doing to live a life saturated by the Gospel, sharing the GOOD NEWS of who Jesus is and what He’s done so that those who are hopelessly lost might find the hope of eternity? Are you going into the highways and hedges, in person or virtually, and compelling them to come to Jesus or are you waiting for them to come to you? If so, why would they?

This is a great post from a friend, fleshing out the question “How have you leveraged who you are and what you’ve been given to reach your neighbors, your city and your world with the Gospel — so others may hear…AND live?”

It is difficult for those who cannot confront their own mortality to share a country with those who can.

When the focus is on the present, as if it is eternal, and the assumption is a permanent continuation of circumstances, you make a lot of bad personal choices and a lot of bad policy choices.

The heroes of faith counted the sacrifice of their lives as nothing but gain in pursuit of the glorious object of their contest.

The words of Paul ring clearly on this subject – “…to live is Christ, to die is gain…” The exceeding shortness of mortal life, when weighed against the never-ending eternity, meant that no sacrifice would be “too much” in the service of God’s Kingdom.

Similarly, the patriots at Bunker Hill, Trenton, Yorktown, and the dozens of other battles of the Revolution knew that their lives and fortunes might be forfeit but that their sacrifice was the only means by which to gain freedom for themselves and to secure the “…fate of unborn millions…”

I don’t mean to compare the two in terms of ultimate value but only in terms of mechanism – some things cannot be gained by a single person in a single lifetime. Some might have to lay down the immediate comfort and benefit and take up the pain and suffering so that the nameless and unknown in the future might enjoy the blessing.

It was by faith that the Apostles braved the fire and the lions of Rome, knowing that the result of their testimony in the face of persecution unto death would be great reward in Heaven and an expanded Kingdom of God on Earth.

It was by faith in their righteous cause before the Almighty that the patriots of the Revolution bravely placed their lives and fortunes in jeopardy. Many knew they would not live to see the fruits of their sacrifice in this life.

The point is succinctly summed up in this phrase – “If you don’t know what you’d die for, you can’t know what you are living for.”

–Jacey Buckles

Don’t Speak for God Unless God Has Spoken

Putting words in the mouth of God is a very, VERY SERIOUS OFFENSE. We are to speak humbly, meekly and yet boldly where God speaks. We remain silent on God’s behalf where God is silent. That is not to say that we can’t have preferences, opinions and ideas of our own based on what we see and read, BUT we must be OH SO CAREFUL when speaking FOR God himself.

Be so very careful not to let your culture and self-centric preferences, values, fears, biases and opinions to become the filters through which you read and quote God’s Word. Our purpose, our culture and our values must be defined and determined by God’s Word.

The Church is Our Spiritual Family

How can we take something that is so simple and pure and make it so complex and consumeristic?

“The elements of a true church are few and easy to possess. They are a company of believers, the Lord, the Spirit and the Word of the Living God. Let the Lord be worshiped, the Spirit be obeyed, the Word be expounded and followed as the only rule for faith and conduct, and the power of God will begin to show itself as it did to Samson in the camp of Dan. The church will produce a spiritual culture all its own, wholly unlike anything created by the mind of man and superior to any culture known on earth, ancient or modern. God is getting His people ready for another world, and He uses the local church as a workshop in which to carry on His blessed work. That Christian is a happy one who has found a company of true believers in whose heavenly fellowship he can live and love and labor. And nothing else on earth should be as dear to him nor command from him such a degree of loyalty and devotion.”

A. W. Tozer Sermon: The Church is Our Spiritual Family