Friday, December 23, 2016

Hunger for the Word in 2017

I know, I know... it's not even Christmas yet, and yes I'm already thinking about New Year's resolutions.  Why?  I guess because I love the idea of grace and forgiveness and starting over.  I probably got it from a guy named Jesus... He was real big on giving grace and forgiveness and 2nd chances to those who could really see their desperate need for grace and forgiveness.

So, what is one resolution that I'm already thinking about?  Being disciplined to stay in the Word. Yes, I've read through the Bible multiple times and yes, I study individual books and passages in depth all the time. So, why am I talking about this?  Because a consistent diet of God's Word is absolutely critical to a Christian's growth and spiritual development.  Just as much as your body needs food, your spirit needs the "bread from heaven," the revealed Word of Almighty God.  Even Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  And even when Jesus was saying that, He was quoting from God's Word revealed during the Old Testament period. So, even though I'm studying books and passages all the time, I still desire a consistent, well-balanced diet of God's word all year long.  This is why my Bible reading plans will cover not just my favorite passages, but the whole counsel of God.

So, what is my personal goal for 2017?  Here goes...
To really get into the Word of God this upcoming year my goal for 2017 is I will read through:
  1. The Old Testament once
  2. The New Testament twice
  3. The Book of Psalms 3 times
  4. The Book of Proverbs 12 times.
I know that sounds like a lot, but really when you think about it, it's really not.  For example, the whole Old Testament spread out over a year... that's like 2 chapters a day.  And the Proverbs 12 times, well that's 1 proverb a day.  So, even though it sounds like a lot.  It really is quite doable.

Now, you may be thinking... How in the world will I keep up with all that?
Easy!  By using mybibleplans.comI created 4 unique Bible reading plans that cover each day of the year. And every morning, I will get an email reminding me what my reading is for that day.  I love using, because your Bible reading plan is 
custom designed for you... because you're the one designing it! 

Need to start on a specific day, do it for a specific amount of time, or need to pick specific books?With "My Bible Plans" you can create and read completely custom Bible reading plans.  It's fun and it's 100% FREE!  Just make an account and make your own custom Bible reading plan!

So, I encourage you... if you're a Christ follower, make it a goal this New Year to have a consistent, well-balanced diet of God's word. Because seriously, your spiritual health depends on it!  You simply want grow and develop as you should without it!

as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby (1 Pet 2:2)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Trying Again... Blogging

About 6 years ago, I made a commitment to blog.  As you can see, it didn't work out. (Huge Understatement, right!?)  Well, I think I'm going to try it again.  A LOT has happened in my life in the last 6 years... so much I could probably right a book.  Not that I'm going to share everything that happened in this new blog... or that I'll share anything about the last 6 years in this blog.  I may in time.  I may not.  We'll see.  My goal, I think, will be weekly.  Hope I'm not setting my sites too high.  So, stay tuned...  See ya soon! 
Me and my extremely beautiful wife last Christmas! 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Grace for Doubting Believers

Reading this morning from the Scriptures in Genesis 15, I found it a little odd that Abraham (Abram at the time) immediately believed God when He promised him a male heir, a son of his very own...and yet, Abraham did not immediately believe God when He promised him the land that his descendents would inherit. And we know that he didn’t because he asks the Lord, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?” (Gen.15:8). In vs.6, the Bible tells us that, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” But then he turns right around and doesn’t simply take God at His word about the land. Very curious.
Yet, God is so kind and gracious, rather than rebuking Abraham for his unbelief, God instructs him to bring the elements to him so that He can make (lit. cut) a covenant with Abraham. God graciously stoops to Abraham’s unbelief and gives him a formal sign, a ceremony that assures Abraham of the unconditional promise about the land. Besides from being good, loving, and gracious, why would God do this? Why didn’t the Lord simply give Abraham His word and let it be it? Why did He lower Himself to Abraham like this?

I believe there are a couple of reasons, one being to satisfy Abraham’s doubts… although I still admit to not understanding how or why Abraham believed God about the son, but didn’t about the land, unless of course the “land promise” was a much bigger “promise” and therefore Abraham doubted God’s ability to fulfill. Though I must admit, even to me this seems unlikely. And yet the question remains.

Another reason I believe God allowed this and even graciously went through this ceremony was not merely for Abraham’s sake, but for all of his descendents… for the nation of Israel that was to come. Israel would endure much suffering and heartache, not only what God revealed to Abraham concerning their stay in Egypt, but even later at the hands of the Babylonians. What would be more encouraging to later Hebrews than to look back on the promise that God made with Abraham? Future generations would be continuously told about how the Lord Himself appeared to their Father Abraham and literally made a covenant with him to give his descendents the land. Therefore they would not give up or lose hope. They would continuously look to the Lord their God to fulfill His promises.

I believe it is also a great encouragement to even us today, as New Testament believers, as we think about all the promises that God has made to us, especially those concerning salvation through His blessed Son, Jesus. God made an unconditional covenant with Abraham, He swore by Himself because there was nothing greater for Him to swear by that assured Abraham and his descendents that one day they would indeed inherit the land. Likewise, we too can be assured and confident that the Lord our God who has promised us eternal life through faith in Christ will indeed keep His promise. Thank you, Lord for your graciousness and patience with doubting believers.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Practical Universalists

Sometimes it seems like the even the best of Christians can become “practical universalists.” What do I mean by “practical universalists?” What I mean is, we know what the Scriptures say, we know the clear teaching of Christ when He said, in Matt 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

We know that with our mind, but emotionally it seems like we can’t accept it, because deep down in our hearts we think everyone is going to make it to heaven somehow someway, especially when we’re thinking of people close to us. It doesn’t seem to matter how people live. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they openly deny Christ. Deep in our hearts we still believe that when they die, somehow they will go to heaven. Of course, this is what universalists believe, that everyone is eventually saved and no one is judged. But of course, this is NOT the message we read in the Bible, God’s word. The fact is, there is a judgment coming and there is a time when the patience and mercy of God will run out and we will be left to His justice and wrath. In fact, I was reminded of this truth this morning from my reading in Genesis 7. In a very populated world at the time of the great flood, 8 people were saved; Noah and his wife, and his three sons and their wives. Out of the thousands and thousands of people on the earth, possibly even millions in the days of Noah, God saved 8 people.

This should remind us that as much as He dislikes to do it, God will judge wickedness in perfect holiness and righteousness. To allow ourselves to become “practical universalists” means that we allow mere emotionalism to rob us of the seriousness of God’s holiness, the certainty of God’s truth, and the urgency to proclaim the good news of Christ to a dying world. If we are to truly remain faithful, we must not allow ourselves to give into “practical universalism.” We must always bear in mind that judgment is coming and man’s only escape is repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. May God in grace by the power of His Spirit keep us mindful of this reality, that it might greatly effect how we live!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Despair: A Subtle Instrument of Evil

Have you ever had one of those “A-ha moments” when before you were clueless as to what was going on, but then all of a sudden, like someone opening the drapes in a dark room to let in the light of day, the veil in your own heart and mind was lifted and you could see what was really going on? Just recently I had one of those moments, and just as clear as the day, the Lord pulled back the veil in my mind and revealed to me a clever and subtle tool of the enemy: Despair; the condition of being without hope.

It doesn’t take very long to survey the culture to realize this is a major problem and one that seemingly many people are overlooking. I believe this probably a major factor in the alarming rate of alcohol and drug abuse in our nation. It is the reason so many people are on anti-depressants. It is the reason people of any age willfully take their own life. It is why married couples call it quits and get a divorce. Why? Because in whatever situation people find themselves, they end up despairing of life, and the saddest part is, they don’t even realize what is going on. They don’t realize they’re sinking in the pool of despair. They believe their seeing life and reality rightly. And the more and more I meditate on this terrible condition, the more I see the evil, crafty hand of Satan in it. So, do we combat it? What is our defense?

First of all, when you stop and think about it, despairing really isn’t logical. Why? Because by definition to despair means to be without hope; in other words, when we despair we’re saying there is no hope for the future that nothing good is going to come. But do you really know that? Do you know precisely what the future will hold? Do you really know what your life will be like in 2, 5, or even 10 years or more? No. The only person who knows that is God. We do not know that. Therefore, to despair is not even logical, simply because we do not know. JRR Tolkien, the famous British scholar and author , wrote in his popular Lord of the Ring series, “Despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.” This is precisely what Tolkien was saying that despair is not logical because we do not know.

But secondly, despairing is not even Biblical, especially for the born again Christian. Why? Because we are NEVER without hope. For the past 4 weeks on Sunday nights we have been examining one of the greatest promises in Scripture found in Romans 8:28 where Paul writes, “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God for those who are the called according to His purpose.” In fact, when you stop and read it again, the believer should be forever the optimist. Why? Because Paul says, “And we know that all things work together for good…” So, for the Christian, God promises that EVERYTHING is working out for our good. Therefore, we should never be without hope.

So, dear friends, the next time you find yourself depressed and moping about… the next time you find yourself with a negative outlook on life or the future, … or consumed with worry or doubt… remember the promise of the Scripture. Remember that God is still on the throne and that He is still at work in your life and in your situation.

In Psalm 27, verses 13-14 David touched on this issue of despair when he said, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Unless he had believed, he would have lost heart; i.e. he would have despaired. But he didn’t; he believed, which is why he went to encourage us by saying, “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” Friends, don’t become a victim of despair, don’t let Satan defeat you with this subtle instrument of evil. Wait on the Lord and never lose faith that He is still working on your behalf.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Resolution to Blog Quickly Losing Steam

Last night, Andrea said to me something to the effect, "I see your resolution to blog hasn't worked out," or something like that. And she is exactly right... my chosen discipline to blog is quickly losing steam. And there are many reasons for that. For example, I write SO MUCH in my calling as a pastor, its hard to sit down and write something else. To give you an idea, sitting down each week to study for and to write 3 Expositional sermons is like writing 3 10-page papers in school every week. And I take my calling to accurately interpret and proclaim the Word of God VERY SERIOUSLY. I don't just get up there as some do and speak off-the-cuff. No, I study very hard to be as sure as I can what I'm saying is accurate. To give you a peak into my study, I probably spend an average of 10 hours of study and preparation time PER SERMON. So, that's 30 hours per week for nothing but studying!! Not to mention all the other things that have to be done. So, seriously I thought I studied and wrote a lot in seminary. Boy, I didn't have a clue how much I would study and write as a pastor.

But then some might say, "Well, then just blog what's on your mind." Well, the problem with that is, most of the things on my mind, I'm not at liberty to blog about in a public forum. Oh sure, there's plenty of things I COULD write about, but I would never do it on a public blog. That is what private journals are for.

Others might say, "Well, then comment on the news or current events." And I guess I could, if I kept up better with what was going on in the world. I mean, I know absolutely I SHOULD stay better informed about what's happening in the world, but where do you find the time to keep up with everything?? If I'm not studying, I'm ministering to someone in the church. And when I'm not doing either of those things, I'm either helping my wife or playing with the kids. I ordered Direct TV so that I could watch the FOX News channel... but I NEVER get to sit down and watch it! In the morning, its WordGirl or Backyardigans for the boys. And at night, its play time with the boys or reading books and getting ready for bed. And by 8:30 or 9:00pm, when the boys are finally in bed... FOR GOOD... I'm so mentally and emotionally exhausted I don't want to think about anything serious or important; I just want to veg out or be entertained.

So, there's my blog for today... or this week... or this month (haha) Why it is hard to blog as a pastor, a husband, and a DAD. Have a great day everybody!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Too Blunt or Just Honest?

There have been times when I have been accused of being too frank and forthright when speaking with people. I suppose that is true, in fact, I’m sure it is true. Maybe it comes from my relative youthfulness or perhaps it’s just my nature. Either way, it is true. And whether it is considered a vice or virtue, I guess depends on each individual person. Personally, I appreciate frankness in conversation. Having been a pastor now for several years and having been to many conventional meetings and been privy to quite a few discussions, I must say that I get frustrated and exasperated with a lot of double talk or cleverly devised speeches which perhaps give a glimmer of understanding to those in the know, and keeps in the dark those who are not in the know.
I think the real problem these days is that in many people’s opinion, truth is highly overrated. Why should we be worried about the truth as long as everyone is comfortable and feeling good? Why risk offending someone or upsetting the apple cart with truth when everything is moving along like a well-oiled machine? Truth can be so inconvenient and problematic. So, why is truth so important?

First, our God is a God of Truth. Deut 32:4 states, “A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.” Jesus said of Himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth….” Even the Holy Spirit is referred to as “the Spirit of Truth…” in John 14:17. On the other hand, Satan, the enemy of God is said to be devoid of truth and is the father of lies. (John 8:44) So, truth is at the very heart of the character of God, whereas deception and falsehoods characterize our enemy.
But not only is truth at the very heart of the character of God, but truth is also important because truth liberates. It is truth that sets men free in more ways than one. Again, Jesus said in John 8:32, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Truth has a way of breaking the bonds that enslave us, especially the bonds of sin.
Truth not only liberates, but truth also sanctifies. In fact, before ascending back to His Father, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” Truth not only frees us, it makes us clean and holy. Truth helps us to get rid of the vile junk in our hearts and lives and conforms us more and more into the image of Christ. We desperately need the truth of God’s word and loving brothers and sisters who will love us enough to speak it to us.

And finally, truth unites. Truth is the only enduring, unshakable foundation upon which real and legitimate unity can be established. As Paul told the Ephesians, “There is one body and one Spirit,…one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” (Eph 4:4-5). To attempt to establish unity upon any other ground is to build on shifting sands.

So, can I be too frank or to blunt sometimes? I’m sure I can be. However, I would much rather err on the side of being too straightforward than to one day stand before my Lord, and have to answer for being deceptive and misleading because I did not speak more plainly the truth. Should truth be spoken in love? Absolutely, but it still must be spoken. May we endeavor to always be a people who hold to truth with the utmost steadfastness, and may West End Baptist Church always be known as a true church of the living God, “the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Tim.3:15)