January 24, 2021
One of the most wonderful things to hear is the testimony of an individual that has been radically changed
by God. When we hear the word testimony, it should remind us of the wonderful work that God has done and continues to
do in our lives. However, I have noticed an unhealthy, and all too common, dialogue that exists with many testimonies.
Although a testimony is personal, there is such a thing as making it too personal. Let me explain.
How often does one’s story
start off with, “I was a pretty good person”, or “I wasn’t terrible, just the typical guy/girl”?
Sadly, this is a tragic way to begin one’s testimony. If this is how one begins, the hearer has already been misled.
Apart from Christ we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) with wicked hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) that have us in a spiritually dead state
(Romans 6:23). With that said, no one was pretty good and the typical guy/girl is sinful and rebellious. To begin
a testimony in this way is a major misunderstanding of the sinfulness and depravity of mankind.
The next part of the testimony
is the explanation of how salvation took place. Again, a common misconception revolves around phrases like “I
invited Jesus into my heart” (found nowhere in scripture), or “I decided to let Jesus into my life” (again
not in scripture). Up to this point the word I, me or my has been used a great deal. When we had absolutely nothing
to offer a Holy God, by means of His grace, He intervened in our lives. John 6:44 tells us that no one comes to Christ
unless God draws (‘helko’ literally drags) them. In God’s perfect redemptive plan, He not only accomplishes
salvation in lost souls, but He also initiates it (John 6:65) and instills the faith required to accomplish it (Hebrews 12:2),
sealing them (Ephesians 1:13) for eternity (John 6:37). God’s sovereignty, His grace, love, and mercy should be
the focus of every testimony.
Even when the testimony moves to post-salvation, many unnecessarily insert too many personal pronouns.
“I have become a better person”, “I have grown in such and such a way”. Again, this shortcuts
and undermines the source of all of these changes in our lives. Our testimony should not highlight ourselves, rather
it should point to the Glory and Majesty of the Lord, the only One capable of changing who we were. Our testimony should
serve as a firsthand account of the wonderful salvatory work of God.
An easy way to break down a testimony is in 3 areas,
life before, during and after salvation. The only ownership we should be taking in these areas is the first area.
It was our sin that separated us from the perfect Holiness of God (Isaiah 59:2), making us sinners in need of a Savior (Ephesians
2:1-10). May the testimony that we share be one that honors and glorifies God for doing what He alone can do.
My prayer is that the Lord would provide you with many opportunities to share the story of how He changed your life forever,
and that God would use that to touch the lives of others.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
January 17, 2021
The Casual Casualty
The word nominal can be defined
as a role or position that operates on name only, meaning it does not possess any supporting attributes or character of the
role/position. Today, there are many who profess the name of Christ, but their proclamation is as far as it goes.
The nominal Christian often lives a life of complacency, with little to no regard for what is taught through Holy Scripture.
I came across a wonderful passage (1 John 3:1-10) that explains the severity of this kind of complacent lifestyle.
John is delineating in this passage is the stark difference between a true child of God and everyone else. A true child
of God is one who is defined as hating sin, removing sin from their lives at all cost. Sin is recognized in their lives
and, by the power of God working in them, earnestly resisted. Those who do not go on practicing sin are shown to be
God’s children by evidence of their faith. What a wonderful testimony this is to the power of God to not only
change behavior, but to change the heart of sinful man. We see in verse 9 that those who are born of God (spiritual
birth), cannot go on practicing sin. John goes on to intimately tie in salvation, abiding with God, to the character
of God Himself. What that means is, if a person was truly saved and continued to live a life of sin, practicing sin,
then this would make God a liar. This would mean that the work He has done in that person’s life was not effective
enough to actually change them.
Those who practice sin do not abide in God, they are not His children. It does absolutely no
good mincing words or watering this truth down. I am afraid that is precisely what has gone on for far too long.
The church has either been too quiet about sin or too inclusive with their definition of who God’s children are.
Here is the deal, it is not up to us who God’s children are, it is up to God, and His word is explicitly clear in what
that looks like. Making a profession of faith and then living a life of sinful rebellion is nothing more than nominal
Christianity. Many churches are afraid to speak in these kinds of terms because they might offend people, they might
even lose some attendees. But, listen to what John says here in this passage through the Holy Spirit. Verse
8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil; and Verse 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God,
and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not
love his brother.
Many would say this kind of directness is not loving, it is too harsh and rigid. Those feelings
are brought forth from a distorted view of what love really is. Loving someone is telling them the truth. The
truth is if we abide in the Lord, we will live a life that reflects that. And if one lives a life of habitual sin, then
they are not of the Lord, rather they are of the devil. We need to stop fostering an environment that supports and encourages
nominal Christianity. May we be found faithfully heralding the truth of God’s word, unhindered and unedited.
Nominal Christianity stops the moment an individual cries out to the Lord for forgiveness of their sin, repenting and submitting
unto God in salvation. For it is not our clever rendition that has the power to change lives, rather it is the Sovereign
God who has spoken with saving power through His Word. Praise be to God for doing what He alone can do.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
January 10, 2021
It was a hot day in the heart of Texas, normal weather for the locals
I’m sure, but hot for this Midwest boy. My wife and I had flown to San Angelo Texas with the youth group we led
at our church. Accompanied by two other adult volunteers, we were in for a great, but eye opening, week of serving the
Lord. We quickly found out that feeding these hungry youngsters was a feat in and of itself. It was while preparing
for breakfast one morning that I received a wonderful reminder of the grace of God.
of eggs cartons were brought in by the ranch owner and that morning it was my job to cook up the eggs. I got out a large
bowl and began to crack the eggs, emptying the contents into the bowl. On my way to the 40 egg goal, if memory serves
me right, I believe it was egg number 33 that caught my attention. This egg cracked just like the rest had, but as I
emptied the contents into the bowl, something was noticeably different. This is the first time in my life that I had
come across a black, rotten egg. The rotten stench of sulfur permeated the air instantly. Out of impulse, trying
to save the batch of good eggs, I attempted to scoop the vile contaminant out. This was a futile attempt however, the
entire batch was ruined.
It wasn’t until later that I contemplated
the significance of that morning mishap. It reminded me of the sin that infects the lives of all people. If I
had a dollar for every time I heard someone say that they are a good person because their good deeds outweigh their bad, I
would be living high off the hog. This unbiblical notion is one that presumes God is into numbers, having good deeds
negate the bad that we do. This is far from the truth. You see, our sin is like that rotten egg I encountered
in Texas. As soon as that bad egg entered into the bowl, it ruined everything, forever changing the integrity of the
mixture. Such is the case with sin in our lives, it doesn’t go away because we tack a couple of good deeds on.
The severity of this condition is one that must be addressed, as spiritual death and sin are intimately connected (Romans
I could not remove that bad egg from the bowl, neither could any of the
onlookers. In the same way, we cannot fix the damage that sin has created in our lives, neither can anyone else.
Only through Jesus Christ can we be made new (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20), can we be cleansed (1 John 1:9), can we
have our sins forgiven (Ephesians 1:7, 4:32) and forgotten (Isaiah 43:25, Hebrews 8:12). It is by the grace of God that
He takes the tainted, rotten, undesirable and makes them into useful, new, wonderful creations for His glory. May we
bring glory to God, by recognizing Him for doing what He alone can. By His Grace And For His Glory,
January 3, 2021
Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know
On Sunday morning we have
been systematically going through the book of James. In the fourth chapter of James we are taught that our lives, as
followers of Christ, are ones that should be lived by the guidance and direction of the Lord (James 4:13-16). The decisions
we make are important and they are many. But, how does one maintain a consistent focus on making decisions that honor
In Proverbs 3 Solomon provides a wonderful look at how we can accomplish
this task. In verse 5 we see the need to trust God with all of our hearts. Trust can be a fickle thing can’t
it? We extend trust based on our knowledge of the one being trusted, don't we? We determine if the person has
good character and if they are proven by experience. Oftentimes we trust an individual with carefully selected things
but not necessarily the important stuff. But, here in this verse we see that we are to trust the Lord with our whole
heart, with everything that we have. The Lord is certainly trustworthy and proven (Psalm 18:30, Isaiah 25:1).
When we wholeheartedly trust in the Lord, we will inevitably cease to lean on our own understanding (V:5). If we lean
on our own, carnal, finite understanding, we would not be completely relying on the sovereign, omniscience of God. In
all humility, we have to consciously yield our own understanding to seek the understanding of God (James 4:7).
In verse 6 of Proverbs 3 we read that we are to acknowledge the Lord in all of our ways. The
Hebrew word for ways is ‘dârak’ which literally means road or journey. That means that our trajectory should be one that is in a constant state
of acknowledging the Lord. Notice the verse says in all your ways acknowledge Him. This removes any tendency to pick
and choose what part of our lives we choose to acknowledge God in. The verse is explicitly clear that we are to acknowledge
God in everything, in every circumstance. Recognizing our need to trust in the Lord should permeate every part of our
When we trust fully in the Lord, instead of our own intuition, and acknowledge Him in our lives, then
we are left with a wonderful promise. The promise is found in the latter part of verse 6, He will make straight your
paths. Trusting in the Lord provides clarity, knowing that He will set our course according to His will and purposes
for our life. There is no better place we can be than in harmony with the will of God, the path of His choosing.
can be fickle, but we have every reason to put our full assurance in the Lord. May we commit to acknowledging Him in
all our ways, for He alone is worthy.
By His Grace And
For His Glory,
Claus And Effect
It has always been compelling to me how so many will teach their kids to love,
idolize and adore a false character (spoiler alert) like Santa Claus, yet retort of the absurdity at the belief of an Almighty
Sovereign God. Nevertheless, those who get all wrapped up in the holidays (pun intended) will inevitably feel a bit
lost when the festivities come to a swift close. The excitement is over and they are forced to move on to something
else to fill their time. But for believers, we have cause to continue our celebration. We have a great deal in
common with the Bible character Anna.
We find the account of Anna in Luke 2:36-38, following the birth of Jesus Christ. This is the
only place in scripture you will find this prophetess, but we need not forget her important role. Depending on how you
interpret her age, Anna was likely between 84-104 at the time of this account. She was a devoted woman of God, spending
her days praying, fasting and worshipping. Verse 38 tells us that Anna began thanking God among those who had been waiting,
indicating Anna too had been waiting. Clearly her thanks to God were directed toward the birth of the Messiah, the One
that they had been waiting for.
As children of God, we have the finished work of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.
Although the work is finished, let us not forget that we, in similar fashion to Anna, have much to look forward to.
Fulfilling scripture, Jesus will one day return to establish His kingdom, war against opposition and bring about judgment
(Revelation 19:11-16, Zechariah 14:2, Matthew 25:31-46, 2 Corinthians 5:10). Just like Anna continued to praise God,
even after the Messiah was born, we too will continue our praise of the Lord for eternity. Our joy and hope are fixed
on the promises of God and no season of life can change that.
As the lights come down this Christmas and once lively evergreen trees are seen
dried out on the curb, may we be reminded that we have a Savior that is so much more than temporal, fading, stuff. I
hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas. But, on December 26th, I pray that you find just as much cause to celebrate.
For our God is worthy.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
December 20, 2020
The Working Of The Spirit
draws closer, many believers will read through the account of Christ’s birth, found in Luke 1 and 2. It is wonderful
that the more we read scripture, things are brought to light that we may have not noticed before. I think spiritual
maturity plays a part in this, as we grow in knowledge and understanding we start to recognize the details more, as they pertain
to a greater understanding of the totality of scripture. For many who will read this account, the tendency is to focus
on the glory that is revealed through God’s orchestration of events and circumstances. However, a commonly overlooked
reality is the integral part that the Holy Spirit had throughout this unfolding.
The Holy Spirit is mentioned
five times throughout this account. In an unprecedented fashion, John The Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit while
still in his mother Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:15). Part of the message that the angel Gabriel relayed to Mary was
that she would be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). This was to be done so that Mary would undoubtedly accomplish
all that God had planned through her. Mary was a common young lady who God used as an instrument to bring the Messiah
into this world, God taking on the form and appearance of man. The means by which He accomplished this through her was
that she be filled with the Holy Spirit. We see that the Spirit was actively at work in the lives of those involved
in the account.
When Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth, sharing with her all that had transpired, Elizabeth
was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41). She too was part of the master plan of God, as was her husband Zechariah,
who would also be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:67). A short while later we see that Simeon was given revelation
that he would see Christ before his life would come to a close, a revelation that was given by the Holy Spirit (Luke 2:26).
So, you may be thinking, what is the significance here, what do we do with this knowledge of the Holy Spirit?
the Holy Spirit is commonly viewed as a lesser part of the Trinity. In other cases, the Holy Spirit is perverted and
made out to be something that we experience through special services, calling on the Spirit through repetitious music and
low lit gatherings. These are both major errors that do not give the Holy Spirit the proper reverence that is due.
As followers of Christ we have the Spirit of God who works in and through us to accomplish His will and purposes for our lives
(Romans 8:9). The same Spirit who was active in the birth of Christ is the same Spirit who we have at work in our lives.
This is certainly a remarkable truth that should cause us to praise His wonderful name with Thanksgiving.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
December 13, 2020
If you haven’t noticed, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas (in my best Bing
Crosby voice). There are so many things that get people excited about Christmas. For some it is picking out the
perfect tree, others it is adorning their home with lights and ribbons in spectacular fashion, for others it is the multitude
of delicious foods they get to enjoy (one’s that will inevitably lead to many New Year’s resolutions, but that’s
another story entirely). Whatever warms your holiday heart, without question the highlight for the masses will be exchanging
gifts. A great deal of time, energy and effort are put into giving the perfect gift. Commonly parents are particularly
eager to generate a great buzz around the gifts their children will receive. In many cases, this is the highlight of
the season, the grand finale if you will.
Sadly even many Christ following parents have fallen victim to this focal distraction.
Trust me, I don’t write this from a high and mighty seat in an attempt to cast down judgment on my fellow brothers and
sisters in Christ. Rather, this is a reflection that I am wrestling with and I have a feeling that I am not the only
one. As believers we should make every attempt to be devoted in a life of faithfulness and obedience to the One True
God. The excitement that we enjoy is brought forth through the salvation that we have received through the blood of
Christ. Jesus Christ is the cause of great excitement for all believers. Ironically, during this Christmas season,
there are multitudes of other things that vie for our attention and excitement. We vehemently proclaim that Jesus is
the reason for the season, but is He the reason for our excitement?
Church services, giving to the less fortunate, reading
the account of Jesus’ birth with your family, these are all great things. But, have they become routine, have
we taken them for granted? I am not suggesting that from this point on we should revolt and forego all traditions and
norms, that is certainly not my intent. Instead, my encouragement is that we refocus our excitement around the birth
of Jesus Christ, the greatest gift of all. May we spend less time wondering what is in that oddly shaped package underneath
the tree and more time celebrating that we have a Savior that emptied Himself and took on the form of man (Philippians 2:7),
providing the only way for our salvation (Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5). No Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal could ever
compete with that. May we not allow anything to take precedence over our celebration of Jesus Christ. Let’s
use this opportunity to share with others why we are excited about Christmas.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
December 6, 2020
No Censorship Required
concerning to me the “softness” that many have unnecessarily inserted into scripture. This softness generally
comes by way of misinterpretation, an interpretation that is made to accommodate feelings and emotions. One recent example
is one’s rendering of the parable of the 10 virgins that is seen in Matthew 25:1-13. In this parable there are
10 virgins (representing professing believers) who are going to meet the bridegroom (Jesus Christ). There is a clear
distinction between the virgins, 5 are diligent and prepared and 5 are lazy and unprepared. The nature of their preparedness
is a direct correlation to the love, or lack of love they have for the bridegroom. The 5 who were prepared and eager
about their meeting depict 5 believers who truly love the Lord. The 5 who were not ready depict unbelievers, who made
a profession of their love but their actions revealed their indifference.
To misinterpret this passage would be
to make the unwarranted conclusion that all 10 of these virgins are believers, 5 prepared and useful and 5 not prepared and
complacent. So, how do we clear this up? There are actually several ways to remove this confusion. First,
if you look at verses 11-13 the 5 unprepared virgins come to the door of the bridegroom (Jesus) and ask to be let in.
Notice the Lord’s response, “I do not know you.” This is not a threat to the omniscience of the Lord,
rather it is a repeated phrase that signifies those who have rebelled and rejected Christ (Matthew 7:23). Not being
known by Christ is the opposite of being known by Christ, that we see in John 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. So the very fact that the bridegroom (Christ) rejected
the 5 unprepared virgins and stated that He did not know them, this should be a closed case as to the condition of the 5 virgin’s
But, there is further clarity to this understanding. The parable of the 10 virgins is tantamount
to the parable of the talents. We have the same lesson being revealed in the parable of the talents. There are
3 servants that represent 3 professing believers and the master who represents Christ. The actions of the first 2 servants
revealed the love and faithfulness they had toward the master, while the lazy and unconcerned actions of the third servant
revealed his lack of love for the master. The third servant was in the exact same boat as the 5 virgins who were rejected,
they were unprepared. Their unpreparedness wasn’t a result of not doing enough work in advance, rather it was
found in their unregenerate hearts. Just like the 5 virgins were rejected at the door, the third servant in the parable
of the talents was rebuked by the master and as we see in Matthew 7:30. The master ordered that the servant be cast
out to the outer darkness, in the palace where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is not a low lit area of
heaven, this is a clear reference to hell (Matthew 13:42, Luke 13:28). To interpret either one of these parables as
believers who simply differ in effectiveness is just plain wrong.
Brothers and sisters, God’s Holy
Word does not need our tweaking and adjusting to make it more palatable. It is not our responsibility, nor right, to
censor the Word Of God so it is easier to stomach for the masses. These two parables serve as a warning for those who
are not ready when the Lord returns, as Matthew 25:31-46 clearly defines. Being ready when the Lord returns in glory
is submitting our lives to Christ, laying down pride and putting on humility in servanthood for the Lord. These parables
are not about trimmed wicks, oil and buried treasures. They are about the condition of the heart and the reality of
what will take place when Jesus Christ returns to settle accounts.
My encouragement is that we approach the Word of God
with reverence and respect, not as a book of good ideas that needs our fine tuning. May we have a high view of scripture,
trusting in every word God has brought forth for our benefit to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus.
His Grace And For His Glory,
November 29, 2020
Thanksgiving Is Not Canceled
approach Thanksgiving we concede that this year has not been the typical year. In fact, many will forgo their normal
family gathering in light of the ever present virus that has demanded global attention. As we reflect on the events
of the year, the recap is a rather dismal one. Masks have gone from hot topic to standard attire. Our kids are
growing up in a time where sickness is the scuttlebutt and charts and graphs can be seen on every news outlet. Politics
vie for focal supremacy yet fail to offer any clarity or resolution. High school and college sports fans deal with partial
seasons at best and professional sports fans are left with inundating social messages from athletes who have forgotten if
they are running for office or playing basketball. Riots, violence and hate have become commonplace in many cities across
the nation. Many lament about 2020 being the worst year in recent history.
Although I understand the unusual
nature of this year, I am not altogether surprised either. In John 16:33 Jesus tells his disciples that in this world,
they will have trouble. Trouble has certainly not vanished in the last 2000 years. However, take heart, neither
have the promises of God vanished in that time. Psalm 103:19 tells us that God is on the throne that He has established
in heaven, ruling over all that He has made. Our God is not silent, rather He is always working to accomplish His perfect
will (Psalm 50:2, Isaiah 46:9-11). As followers of Christ we have been given the wonderful promise of security in Him
(John 10:27-29, John 6:37, Romans 11:29). And praise God our hope, joy, peace and comfort are not of this world (Romans
15:13, 2 Thessalonians 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4). My encouragement to you is this, don’t look
at 2020 as a year void of things to be thankful for. Instead be thankful that 2020 has been a year that aids in our
appreciation and understanding of God’s grace in our lives. We have so much to be thankful for. We serve
a living and active God who reigns supreme, victory has already been won. The last part of John 16:33 is a wonderful
promise that we can rest on, Jesus said “But take heart, I have overcome the world.” Sorry world, you can
try to take our Thanksgiving, but you cannot take our thankfulness.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
November 22, 2020
Rages But The Victory Is Won
No matter how well an athlete trains for a competition, nerves are still commonly
present. Sometimes these uneasy feelings are masked behind a braggadocious facade with boasts of unwavering
confidence. Nevertheless, the presence of nerves are just under the surface. These nerves generate out
of a fear of the unknown. Did I train hard enough? Did my opponent train harder? What if
I make a simple mistake, human error, a slip? These are things an athlete mulls over, even the ones who seem calm
and unfazed. In sports, it isn't over until it's over. Whether it be a last ditch effort haymaker, an
interception, a buzzer beater, you name it, but the fact is, it isn't over until it's over.
Fortunately for those who have submitted their lives to the Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ, this is not the case for them. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that, as believers, we are in a battle. This
battle is with an enemy, an adversary, that fights tirelessly and vigorously. Our enemy, satan, is very good at
what he does. 1 Peter 5:8 says that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to destroy or
devour. Logically one could conclude that this is a rival that is deserving of our concern. However,
for those who are in Christ, there is absolutely nothing to fear.
As well trained as satan is at his craft, he is no match for our great God. 1 Corinthians 15:57 tells
us that God has given us victory through Christ. Romans 8:37 calls us conquerors, while 2 Corinthians 2:14 says
that we are led in triumph by Christ. Romans 8:31 gives us the confidence in knowing that our relationship with
Him is one that should not fear opposition. We will in fact be in battle daily, always fighting to be pillars and
supports of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), while fighting against the schemes of satan (James 4:7). We have no reason
to falter in our pursuit, as we find our confidence and strength in Him alone (Isaiah 41:10, Ephesians 6:10). Unlike
the undetermined outcome that exists prior to an athletic event, our battle as children of God has already been won. Thank
you Lord, that we have victory through Your precious name. Having no reason to fear, may we march forward in all
boldness through the power of Your Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7).
By His Grace
And For His Glory,
November 15, 2020
the sunset behind the green rolling hills near Bethlehem, the shepherds were about to embark on the night shift. The
cool of the night would be ushered in and the noise of the day would grow quiet. Shepherds in those days had to be fearless,
not letting anyone or anything harm the sheep they were entrusted with. They also had to be attentive, knowing the situation
and the condition of the sheep at all times. When nightfall came, an increased level of awareness was most certainly
present among the shepherds. Predators of all kinds would roam the land in search of such a meal. Wolves are commonly
viewed as a sheep’s worst nightmare, but the Bible also lists lions and bears as possible advisories to the flock (1
In the profession
of a shepherd, no news is good news. An uneventful night was all those who tended the flock could hope for. Any
sound or rustling in the tall grass could send the shepherds into a mode of fierce protection. On the night that Jesus
Christ was born, shepherds in a nearby field were about to experience an unprecedented event. Luke 2:8 says that while
the shepherds were keeping watch over their sheep, an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around
them. Suddenly this uneventful night became a divine display of God’s glory. The fear that must have immediately
gripped these men would have them wishing it had been a lion or a bear instead. God used this magnificent event to tell
of the Savior’s birth. We recognize the contrast between the humble, quiet birth of Christ and the glorious, attention
demanding revelation of His arrival.
Undoubtedly this event was one that the shepherds would never forget. For those of us who have been
saved by God’s grace, we can relate, at some level, to what the shepherds must have felt that night. For us it
was not the glory of the Lord shining down in the middle of the night or an angel of the Lord speaking audibly to us.
But, the miraculous work that God has done in our lives certainly leaves us in awe, recognizing His glory and majesty.
I encourage you this week to thank God for the many ways that He has shown His glory in your life. The tendency is to
look at particular accounts throughout scripture and marvel at the ways in which the Lord worked, and rightfully so.
But, let us not overlook the spectacular work that God has done in our very own lives. May we ruminate on ALL of the
wonderful ways that God displays His glory. Lord, it is all for Your glory. Romans 11:36 For from
him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
Free To Be Slave
I am often baffled by those who feel they need to choose a specific
camp when it comes to a particular theological stance. Don't get me wrong, there are without question stances that need
to be made and maintained when it comes to proper theology that is formed from the truths of scripture. But, there are
those issues that are really not issues at all. I have witnessed brothers and sisters who have adamantly demanded that
believers are free and liberated, and no longer slaves. On the other hand I have also encountered those who declare
with persistence that we are slaves to God. So, the question that unavoidably springs forth is, which one is right?
Herein lies the problem with the debate, assuming that since one is right that the other has to be wrong.
Those who stand on the premise that we are liberated and free are correct.
Galatians 5:1 says For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again
to a yoke of slavery. This verse is explaining the freedom that Jesus Christ has provided from the law, we
see a similar example in 2 Corinthians 3:17. Then in a more than convincing passage, John 8:34 points out that those
who practice sin are slaves to sin. However, in verse 36 we see that the Son, Jesus Christ, is the source of freedom
and liberation from sin's enslavement. This is a crucial understanding that scripture reveals, that Jesus Christ came
to save people from their bondage of sin. If we are compelled to choose a camp, this one is looking pretty promising.
Those who stand firm on the understanding that we are slaves,
must provide ample evidence. Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves
of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. In this text we see that those
who are in Christ have been removed from sin's enslavement and become slaves of God. It would be irresponsible for us
to reason that this is merely a transfer of slave ownership alone. Rather, this is a momentous positional change that
is done only through the salvatory work of God. The only way that we can be freed, liberated from the eternal grasp
of sin's clutches is by God drawing us to salvation. As Matthew 6:24 says, we cannot serve two masters. Luke 9:23
tells us that as believers in Jesus Christ we are to deny ourselves and follow Him. The Lord is our Master and we are
His servants. Suddenly this camp has us wondering what side we should be on.
I hope you are picking up on where this is going. This is a classic case of the unnecessary
nature of needing to choose between two theological principles. In this particular case, both camps are completely right.
By the grace of God, He has provided the only way to be free from the bondage of sin, through the redemptive blood of His
Son. When an individual is drawn to salvation by God, they are then removed from sin's enslavement and placed into servanthood
of the Lord, a slave of God. The two camps are not opposed to one another, rather they are two parts to a whole.
As I have stated on many occasions, my encouragement is that we always look at what we are saying and ask ourselves the question
"what does this say about God?" In this case, both angles of approach say the same thing, that being a slave
to God is the only way to be free from eternal punishment that we deserve as a result of our own sin. Praise be to God
for providing mercy and grace to an undeserving lot like us. He is good.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
November 1, 2020
The Road Less Traveled
is a passage in scripture that has always produced within me a mix of emotions. In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus teaches the
familiar lesson about the narrow gate and the wide gate. The rich depth that permeates this short passage is staggering.
Every time I come across this section of scripture it seems that another facet in understanding is brought forth, which I
liken to another layer of the onion being peeled.
I study the Word of God, the more certain I become that the narrow gate is in direct correlation to the size of the path.
We read in verse 14 that the way that leads to life, eternal life, is hard. And all God's people said "Amen",
right? The Christian life is one of trials, tests, persecution, and opposition (John 16:33, 2 Timothy 3:12). As
born again believers in Jesus Christ we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) in this life long
journey of sanctification. Humbly serving the Lord is an extraordinary privilege, one that exceeds anything that the
world could offer. But, make no mistake, it is, as the scriptures reveal, a difficult journey. When we understand
the extent of what it means to pick up our cross and follow God daily, we know our lives were not meant for ease and comfort.
Few are on this path, a few in comparison to the other path. But, those who are on this path know they are on it, they
are confident. This is a confidence that comes not from their own achievements and merit, but one that comes from the
promises and power of God. No one is on the path to life by accident. There is no confusion, as all who press
on do so by the grace of God alone.
gate is wide and in a similar correlative fashion, the path is wide as well. On this path there is a diverse group of
people, from all walks of life: rich and poor, wild and passive, rude and arrogant, quiet and pleasant, violent and abusive,
unassuming and shy, passionate and apathetic. However, the path has but one common thread. Inclusion to this path
is not defined by the color of one's skin, the amount of good deeds done in one's life or even whether they attended church
or not. Thus lies the confusion that exists on this wide path. The one thing that knits the droves of individuals
on this wide way is they have never repented of their sins. In a steady march toward the wide gate, even many religious
people obliviously proceed; religion is not what determines position.
As I get older the thing that frightens me the most is what the reaction of those who will enter through
the wide gate will be. They have enjoyed a life that cost little, denying the Messiah who gave everything. But,
what really gets to me is the confusion. Many are confused and think because of the way they lived their life, or they
were raised in a Christian home by Christian parents, or they attended church as a youth, or they raised their hand during
an invitation, that this was more than sufficient to gain them access to the narrow gate, heaven. None of these scenarios
reveal the real condition of the heart. This is where I am left motivated and charged up. I, we, have work to
do. There are a lot of people out there who think they are good, that think they are deservingly on the narrow way,
by virtue of works and self righteousness. We need to share the full saving gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone that
we can. Because we should not be happily complacent with the path that we are on, while giving little thought to the
masses that push toward the wide gate of destruction. Lord, please give us an increased sense of urgency and passion
to reach the lost. May we live and act like we have the most important message of all to share.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
October 25, 2020
In the fifteenth chapter of the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul places a great deal of emphasis on unity within
the body of believers. In fact, Paul goes so far as to point out that we are not only to come together on Sunday morning
for a moment of unity, rather we are to live in harmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 15:5). The word
live denotes a constant state, one that is not just part of life but essential to sustaining a healthy spiritual life.
Thank goodness Paul does not leave us with this good intended ideal without any practical ways in which to accomplish it.
Earlier in that same chapter we see that
putting others needs into focus and building them up is a key element in fostering unity (v2). It is also made clear
that this is not merely a goal and personal aim of Paul, but this was the character and nature that Jesus Christ exhibited
(v3). Jesus Christ came to serve others (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45), providing us with an example that we should strive
to emulate to the best of our abilities. And one of the ways we can do that is to faithfully and diligently be equipped
in the proper teaching of the Word of God, so that we can be in one accord and have one voice in our praise and glory to the
Father (Romans 15:6).
How does that work? This is not to assume we don't have a personal responsibility and ability to worship and honor
God. But, it would be absurd for us to assume that we all have a different set of parameters when it comes to what pleases
God. Pleasing God is our aim, it is a vital function and purpose of a follower of Christ (Galatians 1:10). Something
that the Bible is very clear on in terms of what pleases God is unity within the body (1 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Peter 3:8, Philippians
2:2, Colossians 3:14). These passages are not talking about denominations or affiliations, rather they speak to the
body of believers collectively, those who have believed upon Jesus Christ as the only way. When the body adheres to
these commands that scripture has laid out, they function in such a way that glorifies God harmoniously, in one voice.
Who but God could bring together a group of former bond servants to sin, rebellious and wicked as we were, to form a pleasing
bride that would be spotless and blameless in the sight of the Lord, with the ability to exalt His majesty through one, united
Satan wants nothing more
than to bring division and dissension to the body. That kind of chaos and strife is what defines his character.
Let us be steadfast in prayer for the church, both locally, and universally. My challenge to you this week is, take
some extra time to devote to praying for the body, that we would be found united and of one voice and one accord. For
this is pleasing to the Lord.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
October 18, 2020
May I Have A Word
It is always intriguing to me how one word or a short phrase can
have such profound meaning behind it. The affirming words "I do" at a wedding encompass so much. All
the communication that took place prior to the wedding day, perhaps the premarital counseling that the couple went through,
the time and energy that have been invested in one another, it all culminates to this simple yet powerful phrase, "I
do". Not all words and phrases bring about such a positive outcome though. Far too many families have been
impacted by the painful words from a doctor that has to break the heart-wrenching news "you have cancer".
Words can change lives and the ramifications are vast. Whether it is the army general who gives the command "charge",
the NASA engineer that says "blast off" or the judge who gives a declaration of "guilty", word can possess
In John 19 we read the account of Jesus Christ suffering on the cross at Golgotha.
After experiencing what no man could endure, Jesus said these words found in verse 30, "It Is Finished".
The enormity and the power of this statement was one that would reverberate for eternity. In that moment Jesus Christ
had completed His redemptive earthly ministry in the flesh. His blood atonement on the cross was sufficient for all
sin. Salvation was made exclusively possible through repenting and confessing our sins to Him and acknowledging Jesus
Christ's penal substitutionary atonement. "It Is Finished". That thing you did that
is so bad not a day goes by that you don't think about it, "It Is Finished". That legalistic
lifestyle of constantly trying to tip the scales of good works over bad in your favor, "It Is Finished".
The guilt and shame you have been harboring for as long as you can remember "It Is Finished".
Those feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, "It Is Finished". The life that
is slave to sin and bound for hell, "It Is Finished." There is great power in the words of
Thank You Jesus for doing what we could not do, thank You for saving us from ourselves. Thank
You for the finality of the work that You did on the cross in our place. May we never forget the power in that phrase,
may it bring us to our knees in thanksgiving as we marvel at Your grace, love and mercy.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
October 11, 2020
As I look out our back dining room window the changing colors of the maple leaves
quickly reminds me that a new season is being ushered in. Soon enough the leaves will fall, the air will grow colder
and pumpkin spice will be replaced with the fragrance of spruce and peppermint. For all the complaining that can be
made at the expense of the erratic Midwest weather, I do love the changing of the seasons. It’s always amusing
to watch “out of staters” getting off the planes in the Midwest airports. Apparently no one mentioned to
them that a week-long trip would warrant a coat, jacket, shorts, sandals, and snow boots.
Apostle Paul had a great deal of valuable instruction for Timothy, the young man from Lystra. In 2 Timothy 4:2
Paul urges Timothy to preach the word; in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience
and teaching. Timothy had been entrusted with weighty responsibility of leading and shepherding the church
in Ephesus. Paul knew that Timothy would find out soon enough that there would be times where the message of Christ
would be heard with ease and conversely there would be times when that message would not be well received. Thus Paul
encourages Timothy to preach during all seasons. The results of good biblical preaching and teaching are what Paul mentions
in the latter part of verse 2, to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. These are results that God’s Word can produce in
Though the Midwest weather may be ever changing, there is no doubt that we live
in a time where the Word of God is in large part, out of season. God’s Word has been taken out of schools, taken
out of homes, and sadly, even taken out of many churches. The truth that God’s Word contains brings about an acknowledgment
of sin, and sin brings to light the separation between the lives of fallen mankind and the perfect holiness and righteousness
of God. As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to herald the name of Christ, to proclaim and share the saving
gospel. We need not worry ourselves with the nature of the season we are in. Instead, let us boldly preach the
message of the Savior, which is never changing. Hebrews 13: 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and
forever. So grab your coat, your stocking hat, your sunglasses and t-shirt, because we have work to do.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
October 4, 2020
The End Of The Story
During a discussion in a men's bible study one Friday morning, we got talking about Mary, the mother of Jesus.
We were commenting on the extraordinary responsibility that God had set before Mary. A few of the men shared their thoughts
on what that must have been like for the young betrothed virgin girl. When the angel Gabriel told Mary of the monumental
task that she was about to embark on, one is led to wonder what was going through her mind. Mary was a young engaged
girl, who, before that day, likely day dreamed about the future. Whatever her plans and aspirations were, God intervened
with a different ending to the story of her life.
asked the guys in the group, if God had not intervened in their lives, how different would the end of their story be?
Without hesitation some of the men shared about the predictability of how their lives would have played out. Most commented
that their sinful behavior would have landed them in jail or worse yet, the morgue. It was a sobering moment as all
in attendance recognized the grace that God had lavished on their lives. You see, these men knew who they were before
they submitted their lives to Christ and they knew the trajectory that old life had them on. They could have easily
finished the story of their lives. BUT......God had a different plan for them. God's redemptive plan in their
lives would change the ending.
If God has done a
mighty work in your life and brought you to salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, then you have great cause for rejoice.
The God of the universe and all that it contains saw fit to change the end of your story. He is the only one that can
take the enslaved sinner, change their heart and declare them righteous. However, there are a great many people out
there who are living out the very predictable story of their lives. They are dead in their sins, being condemned by
the very thing that ensures their story's unsurprising end. But, God's message of hope, the saving gospel of Jesus Christ,
is a message that changes lives, it changes the ending. My encouragement for you this week is to find someone to discuss
this with. Ask someone how they see their life playing out, ask them to write their ending. This gives you a wonderful
opportunity to share with them. As followers of Christ, we did not write our ending, God did (Ezekiel 36:26, 2 Corinthians
3:18). Praise God for doing what we couldn't do. To you alone Lord we give all honor and praise.
By His Grace And For His Glory,Pastor Sam