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Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Should I Comment?

Often on Facebook, Twitter or whatever social media you use you'll come across something and want to comment.  I'm not talking about comments like, "Good for you!" "Congrats" or "Praying for you."  I'm talking about those posts that lure you into a comment war.  The post you scroll by and feel that your voice must be heard in it.

Then it happens.

A comment war.

We've all been there.  We've all gotten into a comment war.  We've all thought, "I'll say this one thing and then I'm out" only to be caught in a seemingly infinite thread involving you and people you didn't even know before you're done.

So, does the Bible have anything to say about this?  I believe it does and I believe the book of Proverbs has the most to say.  Most of these proverbs can be boiled down to "when it doubt just shut up and keep scrolling."  That doesn't mean that there is never a time to enter a discussion, but it does mean that most of the time it's a bad idea... trust me, I've stupidly gotten into these messes.

"When words are many, sin is not absent,
but he who holds his tongue is wise." Proverbs 10:19

"A fool shows his annoyance at once,
but a prudent man overlooks an insult." Proverbs 12:16

"Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18

"A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself,
but the heart of fools bursts out folly." Proverbs 12:23

"A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1

"A fool finds no pleasure in understanding
but delights in airing his opinions." Proverbs 18:2

"He who answers before listening
that is his folly and his shame." Proverbs 18:13

"The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit." Proverbs 18:21

"He who guards his mouth and his tongue
keeps himself from calamity." Proverbs 21:23

There are times to comment, but the writers of the book of Proverbs say that there are more times to hold your tongue.  Facebook and Twitter and the like are great forums for many things.  However, in depth discussions on deep or touchy subjects are not these medias' best uses.  There are very few people that you will persuade via a Facebook comment but you will stir up dissension with many.  Proverbs 6:16-19 says God detests seven things and one of those is "a man who stirs up dissension among brothers."

So, when in doubt shut up and keep scrolling.

I know it's tough.  I know some discussions seem irresistible, but be wise and watch your digital tongue.  You may still contribute to the conversation perhaps but I'd argue from Scripture and from experience that more bad than good comes from entering the fray of internet anger.

Before you comment online think about whether that's a wise choice today.






Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Farewell Jim

"The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." 1 Timothy 5:17

After just more than 11 years at Grace Baptist Church my friend and pastor Jim Lee is moving on.  Jim is going on to the next adventure in his life, not because he needed to leave the church but because an opportunity and God's calling met.  He will be missed.

Pastor Jim will be giving his farewell message at Grace Baptist Church this Sunday morning, September 3rd, at 10:00.  I encourage you to attend if Jim's had any impact in your life at all.  Whether he's influenced you as a pastor, chaplain of the fire department, as a fellow business owner or a friend.  I know he'd love to see you there.

I met Jim when he was in the process of being hired at Grace about 11 and a half years ago.  I had no idea then the impact he'd have on my life.  Through the years Jim has become a mentor, pastor and a friend.  He was there when I needed him for advice or simply someone to bounce an idea off.  He was there when I was at my wits end.  He was there when my wife was baptized and he did the dedication of Joshua and married Christine and I.  He even (multiple times) interrupted my first date with Christine by blowing up my phone trying to get ahold of me to watch Monday Night Football with him.

Jim is a dear friend of mine but he's more than that, too.  I have had two pastors in my life that have greatly impacted me: my Dad and Jim.  That's some rare air.

Not many pastors have time to devote to a young college student, but Jim did.  He poured time, energy and passion into my life.  He helped me navigate through my 20's and is one of the men that helped me become the man I am today and for that I am grateful.

Jim, I'm sure I'll see you around, though much less as time goes by.  But one of the great truths we Christians get to experience with other Christians in moving away or in death is this: there are no goodbyes, only see you laters.

Thank you for your service.  I know, even though you like me are not perfect, that you'll hear "well done good and faithful servant" when you give an account for your time here because you were faithful.  And I hope that you feel double honor from those of us at Grace today.

                                    (photo courtesy Jim's Facebook and the Leisinger wedding)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

How Would Your Life Change?

If you saw God as He really is what would you do differently?

I'm rereading one of my favorite books, The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer and Tozer begins the book with a monster line.

"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."

Studying the attributes of God is one of the most fruitful exercises in my faith life.  I am forced to ask myself what I would do if I really believed that God is as He says He is.  You can't think about and meditate on God's attributes, His self-existence, His self-sufficiency, His eternality, infinitude, immutability, omniscience, wisdom, omnipotence, omnipresence, faithfulness, His goodness, justice, mercy, love, grace, holiness and sovereignty and not be very practically and irrevocably affected.

Many will say this is the work of theologians and not the layman.  They will ask for three points and a poem and something practical for their week, but I say this is the most practical exercise for all Christians.  Seeing God as accurately as we can, as perfectly as He's revealed Himself to be, will change your life.

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Proverbs 9:10

Our wisdom, that is our skill for living life, is rooted in seeing God rightly and thinking about Him as Scripture reveals Him to be.  This is not for scholars alone, this is for the everyday Christian who wants to live life well.

If you saw God as He really is would your life look different?

Would His infinitude, self-sufficiency and omniscience cause you to tremble?  Would his omnipresence, justice and holiness cause you to act differently in His presence?  Would His mercy, love and grace cause you to be humble?  Would His omnipotence, wisdom and sovereignty make you actually trust Him?  How would your life be different?

The bottom line is that God is who He says He is and we must think about who He is.  We must "be transformed by the renewing of our minds" (Romans 12:2).  Yes, our minds.  All of us must be thinkers.  We as Christians must be ones who think critically and often about who our God is.

As A.W. Tozer says, "... because we are the handiwork of God, it follows that all our problems and their solutions are theological."  And by theological he means the study of who God is.  He continues, "Some knowledge of what kind of God it is that operates the universe is indispensable to a sound philosophy of life and a sane outlook on the world scene." On another page he writes, "It is morally imperative that we purge from our minds all ignoble concepts of the Deity and let Him be the God in our minds that He is in His universe."

If you saw God as He really is what would you do differently?

I challenge you to think and think deeply about who our God is and then in faith act accordingly today.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Peace With God

We've heard it said that sin is its own punishment, and there is a whole lot of truth to that statement.  Sin keeps us from living the best life we could live, it keeps us from enjoying the blessings that could be gained from a wise life.  Though like the psalmist in Psalm 73 we see sin sometimes seemingly working out for others but we trust that in the end righteousness works out best.

When Jesus died on the cross He died to set us free from the bondage of sin (Romans 6:18).  We are no longer bound to a life of sin.  Sin is a punishment in and of itself and we are no longer subject to it.

But sin is not solely its own punishment.

Jesus died to save us from the wrath of God.  Before Christ's intervention we were by nature objects of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).  We were enemies of God.  God's wrath was directed at us as cosmic insurrectionists who always attempt to force God to abdicate His rightful place of authority in our lives and in all of the universe.

"But God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life"  John 3:16

We were objects of wrath and enemies with Almighty God and God Himself extended the olive branch to offer us peace before we asked for it.  Christ died to free us from the bondage of sin and to save us from the wrath of God and make peace with God for us.  Christ absorbed the full wrath of God... "He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." Romans 3:26

See how Paul explains it in Romans:

"He (Jesus) was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." Romans 4:25-5:2

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through Him!  For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!  Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." Romans 5:6-11 (emphasis added)

See, sin is missing the mark, but it's more than just that.  As R. C. Sproul has said: "Sin is cosmic treason.  Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign."  It is treason that puts us at odds with God.  "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31b)  Well, if God is against us, what chance do we have?  But thanks be to God that God Himself, while we were still His enemies, made the terms of peace and made all the efforts necessary to secure that peace for us.

You can have peace with God and having that peace is necessary, it is the first problem we need fixed.  God is extending the olive branch of peace, a branch that cost His Son's life, to you.  Will you accept peace with God today?




Monday, July 24, 2017

Vows

My wife and I have never had a big fight.  We've never had a big blow out.  We've had our disagreements and we've raised our voices at moments but we've never had a big conflict.  I will tell you our secret.

We've not been married very long.

We are not so disillusioned to think that we will have a marriage completely full of happiness and free of conflict.  Our marriage is and I pray will overall be happy and hopefully be more peace filled than conflict ridden, but we are not naive enough to think we'll have a super long marriage that is all roses.

Christine and I are young and we go to a lot of weddings.  From friends and classmates, to former youth group kids and siblings we've been to a lot of weddings.

At weddings we notice the flowers, the DJ, the dresses and suits, the location, the colors, the groom's face as she walks down the aisle, the toasts, the first dances and all the things we thought about when we planned our wedding.

But the thing that matters most at a wedding and the thing I pay close attention to is the vows.

Vows are the solemn promises we make to each other and to God and before God and the congregation of witnesses.  These words we speak must be greater than a Hallmark card.

I've too often heard vows, especially self-written vows, that make promises that are unkeepable.  Promises to always make the other person happy, promises to keep a certain sense of adventure and wanderlust, promises to always be inspired to love by the other person; and while these promises seem lovely they are not doable.

I've not been married long, but I think there are only a few things we can really promise one another in our vows.  It seems being there and trying with God's help are the only two things we can really promise.

At our wedding Christine walked down the aisle to a song I recorded called "I Will Be Here" by Steven Curtis Chapman.  I will be here is one of the greatest promises we can make to our spouse.  I will be here: for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer till death parts us.  This is a very difficult promise and one that only by the grace of God can we keep, but one I believe we can make and if you ask someone who has been married for 60 years it's a very romantic and loving promise.

Trying.  This is the other promises I think we can make on our wedding day.  While trying is nearly unnecessary on our wedding day and trying sounds pretty darn unromantic on day one, trying is a very necessary and loving promise.  So many marriages ultimately fail because the will to try has been lost.  In fact, divorce is impossible unless one or both people give up the will to try.  I don't know this experientially yet but there will be times in every marriage where the ability to keep trying needs to come from outside of ourselves.  There is a point when your spouse will not inspire you to try, no matter how good looking they are and how warm and fuzzy you felt on your wedding day.  At this point we must get our ability to even try from God.

If you're engaged or thinking about marriage someday I encourage you to, when the time comes, think soberly about the vows you will make.  On your wedding day your heart will be stirred to make many grand and lovely promises, but I implore you to make promises that you can actually keep.  I encourage you to promise to be there and to try.

And if you've made vows I encourage you, and myself for that matter, to stay true to the vows you made to your spouse and God today.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Joshua Needs a Better Father

Joshua is two months old tomorrow and is getting bigger and bigger and getting more and more personality by the day.

Before Joshua was born I was terrified about being a father.  I had very little confidence in what I could do in that realm.  I'll be honest, babies are nice but I'd never volunteered to change a diaper and, in fact, I managed to avoid all but one in my life before Joshua came.  I like babies but I'm not one for drool, pacifiers, general messiness or much babies do other than smile and sleep.  But when Joshua came I found fatherhood to be much more natural to me in many aspects than I feared.

Having been a father to a baby outside of a woman's body for two months now I know a few things for sure.  I know I love him so much and I know he needs a better father.

I'm much more confident in being a father now than I was two months ago and I'm much more keenly aware of how short I fall in providing what my son needs most.  My son needs God to be his father.

"He will not let your foot slip,
He who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, He who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep." Psalm 121:3-4

Me.  I sleep.  I need to sleep.  I can't function without sleep.  In fact, I have not written on this blog in seventeen days, when I've written at least weekly for about seven years, because I've chosen sleep over writing.  Meanwhile, while Joshua sleeps God works.  While I sleep God works.  He never sleeps nor slumbers nor does He grow weary.

"Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and His understanding no one can fathom." Isaiah 40:28

"The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love." Psalm 103:8

I'm not always compassionate or patient... especially when I'm tired.  While I am so lacking in the traits above, God is perfectly all of them.

One day Joshua will think I'm the strongest man in the world... and he'll be very wrong.  I'll rarely be the strongest guy in a room, let alone the world.  Now, while my strength is very limited God's is unlimited.

"Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard for you." Jeremiah 32:17

All that I am on my best days as a father God has me beat.  My efforts and skills may grow but God's infinite nature will always outdo my best and for that I'm thankful.

I'm thankful that God has entrusted me to care for my little boy.  I'm glad that I get to father this precious boy, but I pray every day that Joshua gets a better father than me.  He needs God to be his father.  Not that that excludes me, but I pray daily that Joshua has God as his father.

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1a

If Christ is your savior then God is your father, so celebrate that.  And if you have children, cherish them and pray that God be their father today.



Monday, June 26, 2017

Divorce Isn't a Finish Line

My wife and I recently watched Grumpy Old Men because she had never seen it.  The movie is funny but one thing disturbed me in it and it's not Burgess Meredith's many one-liners.  The movie makes you cheer for a divorce.  You find yourself rooting for Melanie and Mike who have a child to split up so Melanie and Jacob can get together.  Now, Grumpy Old Men isn't anywhere near the only movie that does this nor is this the main point of the movie, but as a child of divorce and a Christian I find myself feeling a bit icky that I cheer for a divorce even in a movie.

In Hollywood divorce is pictured as some sort of a finish line.  I'm not here to condemn Hollywood for this.  However, I'm sad that many people in real life view divorce as the end of something that it just isn't.

If you have children and divorce your divorce isn't the end at all.

My parents divorced when I was in middle school.  My parents did, in a bad situation, the best they could following the divorce.  They did shared care, they treated each other with respect, they married people that are fantastic step-parents... they did their best following the divorce.

But divorce isn't the end and it wasn't the end for my parents' relationship.  If you have children your relationship with your spouse continues until the day you, them or your children die.

If you have children and are considering a divorce let me show you just a few of the ways that divorce isn't the end of the pain and struggle.  I'm not trying to guilt you.  I don't know the pains and struggles of your marriage.  I simply want to share some of the reality of post-divorced life.

Holidays
You only get up to 18 Christmases and Thanksgivings with your kids at home.  Now you get half of what's left.  You will spend some of those without your children and they will spend all of theirs without one of their parents on holidays.  Then when your children get married the half becomes a fourth when they rotate with their spouse and try to cram you into it; or it is a half with a speedily done celebration.

Vacations
You thought it was difficult planning around your work and Junior's little league season before?  This becomes doubly hard when your spouse is trying to do the same thing.  Having your children another state or country away is never easy.

Weddings
You and your ex will both be there at the wedding.  You and him/her will go back to talking about the fun subject of money as you try to get on the same page for what you're paying for.  If talking money was fun and exciting married wait until you talk it divorced.

Graduations
Will you throw two celebrations or will you let your graduate have the pleasure of having just one shindig with both of their parents there?  Once again, be ready to figure out how to communicate ideas and preferences and budget on this one.

Birthday Parties
Every year the tension of the two above comes together on this one.  Who gets to see your son/daughter first thing in the morning on their birthday?  Who gets to kiss them goodnight as an 8 year old for the first time?  Divorce will make you miss precious, unrecreatable moments.

Grandchildren
All the factors that steal time away from you being with your child will steal your time from your future grandchildren.

Sleepovers on Your Days
Remember that your kids are still kids.  They won't care as much as you do that it's been five days since you've seen them when they ask to stay the night at Jimmy's on your night.  My parents did a great job with shared care and I love them but there were many nights spent at friends' houses instead of theirs.

Parenting Together Apart
Divorce may end a marriage but it doesn't end the co-parent relationship.  What movies are okay to watch?  How late can they stay out?  How much junk food will they eat?  What words are off limits to say?  You will need near constant communication with your ex to parent well together apart.  You will need to restrain each other from parenting becoming a competition of whose house is the most fun.

Divorce is a Generational Sin
Divorce is 50% more likely for people whose parents were divorced.  Divorce is 91% more likely for people whose parents got divorced and then remarried (source).  If you get divorced there is a good chance that you'll pass on this generational sin and the mess that accompanies it.

If you have children and are considering divorce I implore you to think rightly.  I beg you to not believe the clich├ęs of "at least we'll be done" and "the kids seem to be better off when we're not together."  No, divorce is not a finished line.  If you have kids it's simply a new kind of relationship you and your spouse will have.  No, the kids aren't better off.  Even if they get great step-parents out of the mess your children will likely be left trying to tiptoe around your mess for the rest of your life.

For those of you divorced already please know that God still loves you.  But for those of you that have not committed the sin of divorce yet I encourage you to keep fighting for your marriage.  You and your spouse reconciling is best for you, for your kids and most importantly for the glory of God.  Divorce is not the finished line, it is a messy detour.  Don't abandon the race you're running now because it's gotten hard.  Rather endure and when you feel you've reached your end, keep enduring.

Count the cost and fight with all you have and all that God will give you to make your marriage work today.