Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Becoming More Like Christ Everyday - (2 Corinthians 3:15-18)

“Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:15-18

Conversion is amazing! We go from blinded to seeing, from veils covering our eyes to seeing clearly. When the Lord renews our heart, we are free to live for Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our motives change, our hearts change, our goals change, and we long to become more like Christ.

The work of being transformed into the likeness of Christ requires a joint effort. God clearly controls, leads, and enables, yet we need to surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit and follow Christ. We surrender and place ourselves in a position to be transformed by God. We open our Bibles and pray and let God transform our hearts and minds. We allow God to work in us by attending church and youth group meetings. And we can yield to Christ in times of praise and worship.

Our holy God calls us to be holy because He is holy. It pleases Him when we make it our aim to be like Jesus Christ, and He has given us His Holy Spirit to enable us to grow in holiness.

God is all around us, but most importantly Christ Jesus dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. We are in Christ and Christ is in us.  He enables us to reflect the Lord's glory and to be transformed into His likeness!

Sunday, December 04, 2016

23 Marks of True Christian from Romans 12:9-21

At the opening of Romans 12, Paul urges us to offer our lives as living sacrifices as a form of worship.

In verses 9-21 Paul lists 23 lists qualities that should mark the life of a genuine Christian. We are saved by faith, and not by our actions. Yet our lives should reflect Jesus Christ and demonstrate qualities in keeping with a heart transformed by the power of God.

Let’s take some time today to evaluate ourselves in each of these areas. Let’s praise God for any good fruit we see, and let’s ask for his help to grow more and more in the days ahead.

1.        Let love be genuine.
2.        Abhor what is evil.
3.        Hold fast to what is good.
4.        Love one another with brotherly affection.
5.        Outdo one another in showing honor.
6.        Do not be slothful in zeal.
7.        Be fervent in spirit.
8.        Serve the Lord.
9.        Rejoice in hope.
10.      Be patient in tribulation.
11.      Be constant in prayer.
12.      Contribute to the needs of the saints.
13.      Seek to show hospitality.
14.      Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them.
15.      Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
16.      Live in harmony with one another.
17.      Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
18.      Never be wise in your own sight.
19.      Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
20.      If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
21.      Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
22.      “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
23.      Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

***Romans 12:9-21 (ESV)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Child of God


In his book Practical Region, J.C Ryle writes about what it means to be a child of God. He considers Romans 8:14, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Let me share two excerpts with a few questions:

“They are lead away from sin – away from self-righteousness – away from the world. This is the road by which the Spirit leads God’s children. Those whom God adopts He teaches and trains. He shows them their own hearts. He makes them weary of their own ways. He makes them long for inward peace…They are lead to Christ. They are lead to the Bible. They are lead to prayer. They are led to holiness. This is the beaten path along which the Spirit makes them to travel. Those whom God adopts He always sanctifies. He makes sin very bitter to them. He makes holiness very sweet.”

Do you know you are a child of God? How has the Spirit lead you to holy living?

“If you are a son of God, I beseech you to walk worthy of your Father’s house. I charge you solemnly to honor Him in your life; and above all to honor Him by implicit obedience to all His commands, and hearty love to all His children. Labor to travel through the world like a child of God and heir to glory. Let men be able to trace a family likeness between you and Him that begat you. Live a heavenly life. Seek things that are above. Do not seem to be building your nest below. Behave like a man who seeks a city out of sight, whose citizenship is in heaven, and who would be content with many hardships till he gets home.”

Do you know you are a child of the King? How does this change the way you live? How can you honor Him in the way you live? How can you live a heaven-minded life today?


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Iron Sharpens Iron (Proverbs 27:17)

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

This simple proverb speaks of how one person can effect another.  It emphasizes the positive shaping ability one person can have on the character of another.  We can sharpen others, and they can sharpen us.

We can make this positive impact on others through the example we set for others.  When we see a friend struggling to persevere in his studies, we can encourage him to trust God and work hard.  When we see a friend deceive her parents, we can encourage her to tell the truth even when it hurts.  When we see a friend waiver in his faith, we can remind him about the character of God and share a verse from scripture.  When we see a friend wrestle with obedience to God’s ways, we can encourage her to obey God.

We can also look for godly, mature people to sharpen us.  It takes humility to admit we need sharpening, but an honest reflection of our lives reveals we get dull, and we need the sharpening effect of a godly influence.  We can get plugged into our youth group to be sharpened by our youth leader.  We can join a Bible study to be sharpened by individuals in the group.  And if we have Christian parents, we can be sharpened by their example and advice.

Who are you sharpening? Who sharpens you?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Made Alive - Ephesians 2:4-6

I am grateful to be alive!

Ephesians 2:4-6 explains how God makes us alive.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

Before we conversion, we are spiritually dead. Our sinful nature and our sins separate us from our holy God. But, this all changes when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. God makes us alive, grants us faith, and empowers us to believe in Jesus. Jesus’ finished work on the cross restores our relationship with God. We become alive, and we can look forward to being alive forever with Him.

My personal battle with cancer gives me a whole new perspective on this passage from Ephesians. Physically, cancer was getting the best of me. Through God’s healing hand, diagnosis, and fantastic medical help, I am alive today. Spiritually, my sinful nature was getting the best of me. Through God’s loving initiative, healing touch, and Jesus’ death, I am alive today. To Him be all of the glory!


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Alive

I am grateful to be alive!

On Tuesday, August 27, 2013 I was diagnosed with cancer. Praise God, I have been in remission since January 2014.

I have multiple myeloma, cancer of the plasma of the bone marrow. It is treatable, but not curable. In all likelihood, I will be dealing with this decease the rest of my life.

The fall of 2013 was a blur. My treatment began in earnest in September 2013, and I had a stem cell transplant using my own stem cells in January 2014. I experienced both divine miracles from God and the benefits of world-class medical care.

If I had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma 40 years ago, I am quite certain I would not be alive today. The same may be true if diagnosed 20 years ago.

More than ever, I am grateful to be alive. Sometimes when I’m walking my dog trees, flowers, or the sky will catch my eye, and I will have an overwhelming sense of gratefulness to be alive. Sometimes when I’m talking with my wife and children, I will become aware that it is a privilege and a joy to be alive to enjoy them. Sometimes when I’m driving home from work, I’ll become keenly aware of the blessing to have the physical strength to work.

You may be facing a trial big or small. You may be enduring a physical ailment. You may be experiencing relational challenges. Life is hard. Life is full of difficult moments. Life can be overwhelming.

I pray that God will give you moments where you feel his love, you know he is near, and you are grateful to be alive.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Through the Storm


The chorus states:
   Christ alone; cornerstone
   Weak made strong; 
   in the Saviour’s love
   Through the storm, He is Lord
   Lord of all

And verse 2 declares
   When darkness seams to hide His face
   I rest on His unchanging grace
   In every high and stormy gale
   My anchor holds within the veil
   My anchor holds within the veil

This song has particular meaning as Hurricane Matthew has crashed upon the southeastern coast of the States. My wife’s parents live in Jacksonville, FL, and we have many friends in Glynn County, GA, a place we called home for six years.

Christ alone is the cornerstone – the one we can count on to hold us strong in the midst of storm. He is the one who can calm the storm or empower us to walk on water in the midst of the storm. Sometimes he removes trials from our lives, and sometimes he holds us up as we walk through the trial.

Trials are bound to come. We are either currently in a trial, just come out of a trial, or about to enter a trial. That’s life in a fallen world. But, we have an anchor to keep us steady as the heavy winds and fierce storms of life come.

May we all experience His amazing and unchanging grace. May we all see and know his love and protection.

Praise God, my family and friends are safe in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Let’s continue to lift up the many that are suffering and recovering from this storm.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Pray Like Paul – Ephesians 3:14-21

In many of Paul’s letters, he pauses to pray for his readers. Paul teaches about doctrine, he exhorts towards obedience, and he consistently pauses to pray. Paul knows the importance of the work of the Spirit in the believer. He knows our desperate need for Jesus Christ. He knows we cannot accomplish anything without spiritual transformation.

His prayer for the Ephesians is a plea we can pray for ourselves, our teens, and our children. Let this passage guide your prayers. Change “you” to specific names – your name, your child’s name, or your youth group member’s name.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)

To God be the glory!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Upholding the Holiness of God

In Deuteronomy 32:48-52 God’s informs Moses that he is to go up to Mount Nebo, where he will see the promise land and die. God quickly reminds Moses why he cannot enter the land with the Israelites. He recounts how Moses broke faith with him and neglected to uphold the holiness of God in front of the Israelites.

I was struck by the phrase “upholding the holiness of God.” What does this mean? What does it look like when a person does this? How can we do this in front of others? How will it affect others when we do? As you can see, lots of questions popped into my mind.

The holiness of God has to do with two things: the complete uniqueness of God and the purity of God. God is totally different than anyone or anything we know. He is in a high class of his own, with no close seconds. He is completely sinless and perfectly pure. He can have nothing to do with sin, except pouring out his wrath on sin.

We can uphold this by living a life that proclaims the holiness of God – telling others about his nature, perspective, and practice. We can learn to hate sin like he does and stand up for righteousness, which he loves. We can repent when we fail and give in to temptation, and we can seek help and counsel from others. We can humbly challenge those around us when we see them straying off the right path. We can encourage those who are living in a way that pleases God.

This is the role of the body of Christ – to uphold the holiness of God to each other. The Christian life is meant to be lived in community. When we see others living in a way that pleases God, we can be inspired to do the same. When we understand more about his nature and ways, we will wisely fear him and make good decisions.

Lord, help us today to uphold your holiness before man.

Monday, September 19, 2016

God's Love


One of my favorite authors is Andrew Murray. In chapter two of his book Absolute Surrender, Mr. Murray focuses on the fruit of the Spirit love. He talks about God being the source of love and how Jesus and the granting of the Holy Spirit are amazing examples of God’s love.

Mr. Murray states, “The Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven as the Son of God’s love. ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son’ (John 3:16). God’s Son came to show what love is, and He lived a life of love here on earth in fellowship with His disciples, in compassion over the poor and miserable, in love even to His enemies. And, He died the death of Love. And when He went back to heaven, whom did He send down? The Spirit of love, to come and banish selfishness and envy and pride, and bring the love of God into the hearts of men.”

What motivated God the Father to send His Son to earth for us? What motivated God the Son to subject Himself to life as a human and great suffering on the cross for us? What motivated God the Father to send His Spirit to us? What motivates the God the Holy Spirit to work in our lives today? The answer to all of these is love…amazing love.

Our God loves us deeply and demonstrated His love so profoundly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the granting of the Holy Spirit to Christians today.

Does God’s love encourage you? Does God’s love comfort you? Does God’s love inspire you to love Him more and more? Does God’s love inspire you to surrender all of your life to Him and live all out for Him?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Christ’s Second Coming


Christ came as a baby, lived 30 years on earth, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. This was his first coming and the amazing story of the gospel.

As sure as his first coming, Jesus will come again to earth at the end of the age. He will come to gather Christians to be with him for eternity, and he will gather all non-Christians and send them to hell for eternity.

In Practical Religion J.C. Ryle wrote, “One thing, at any rate, is very certain. There will only be two parties of mankind at the last great day: those who are on the right hand of Christ, and those who are on the left; those who are counted righteous, and those who are wicked; those who are safe in the ark, and those who are outside; those who are gathered like wheat into God’s barn, and those who are left behind like tares to be burned. Now, what will your portion be?”

The second coming is both an exciting and a sobering event to consider. If you are a Christian, you can anticipate great joy and blessing as Christ gathers you to be with him. If you are not sure about your salvation or if you are not a Christian, you can (and should) be terrified of the possibility of eternity apart from Jesus Christ.

Scripture makes it clear that in the final gathering – the separation of the saved and unsaved – mankind will either be in or out of heaven. What group will you be in?

Take time to carefully consider this question. Do not quickly assume you are in. Do not simply believe the best about yourself and wrongly believe you are in. What a shame it would be to believe you will spend eternity in heaven and in the end be completely wrong.

If we acknowledge that we need a Savior and place our faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross, we will be saved. Repent and believe today, and look forward to Christ’s return.

Monday, September 05, 2016

A Life-Changing, Life-Shaping Trial

Here is the opening story to chapter 9 of my book. It tells the story of one of the greatest trials I have faced and how God shaped me through it. It is a testimony of God sustaining me in the midst of great loss, God bringing good out of bad, and God guiding my every step, even when I didn't realize it.

When my father woke me up on the morning of August 14, 1988, I knew immediately that something terrible had happened. I could see it in his ashen face. My mom and brother stood in the doorway behind him, their watery eyes staring right at me. The look on their faces, more than anything, drove me from early-morning grogginess to total and instant alertness. I sat up in bed. A hundred horrible, imagined possibilities flashed through my mind.

Tears welled in my dad’s eyes as he sat on the edge of my bed. I held my breath in anticipation, afraid to ask. After a seeming eternity, he choked out the terrible words. “Trevor has been in a really bad car accident. He didn’t make it.”

For a moment, the full reality didn’t hit me. I pictured Trevor lying in a hospital bed, injured but still joking with the nurses and doctors, complaining about hospital food, and aching to get outside to shoot a few hoops. Then the rest of my father’s words caught up with me, and my stomach lurched. It felt like the floor had just disappeared from beneath me. I fell back onto my pillow and closed my eyes in the sudden confusion and despair.

Not Trevor. Not my best friend.

Trevor and I had been inseparable from the time we were toddlers growing up on the same rural, New Hampshire road. For as long as I could remember, we’d been playing together: battling imaginary spiders or battalions of ferns in the forest behind my house, challenging our older siblings to baseball or basketball, or just sitting around on rainy days playing Stratego or Monopoly. As childhood had given way to adolescence, our friendship had matured and strengthened. We carried our love of sports onto the court and ball field in middle school, where our previous years of teamwork and practice gave us an enduring ability to predict each other’s moves and play off each other’s strengths. Off the field, we spent countless hours discussing school, movies, and sports.

Our last conversation had been at Trevor’s house three weeks ago, the day before I left for a long family vacation. It was the summer before our senior year, and we spent a lazy afternoon hanging out in the sun, talking about our memories of the years gone by and our hopes and dreams for the year ahead. It was a rich conversation, one of the best Trevor and I ever had.

And now, sitting in my bed surrounded by my grief-stricken family, I realized it was the last conversation we would ever have. I broke into tears.

As the days passed, we learned more about the circumstances of the accident. After a night of video games and bowling with some of his coworkers, Trevor had caught a ride back to the restaurant where he’d left his car parked. They were traveling too fast over a narrow, twisting back road, and they failed to make a turn. Despite having their seatbelts on, they were both killed instantly.

In the days and weeks after the accident, sadness and confusion grew in my heart. I didn’t understand why God had allowed Trevor to die. I knew Romans 8:28 and knew God promises to work all things for good for Christians, but I didn’t see how this was good. I’d recall Ephesians 6:1-3 where God says those who honor and obey their parents will enjoy long life. I knew Trevor well, and he honored and obeyed his parents, but he died at the age of 17. I asked, “Why Lord?” but I didn’t get an answer.

I firmly believed God was in control, but I wanted to know why he had let my best friend die. As I mourned, I took long walks in the woods, visited Trevor’s grave, and recounted the many great memories we had together. Many days I returned to the question, “Why, Lord?” Initially I was asking for an explanation, but my question grew to a dangerous demand for God to justify himself to me.

I knew I was headed down a slippery slope, and I realized that I needed to lay down my demands and trust God. Over time I began to notice a surprising change in my heart. Instead of becoming angrier, I found myself experiencing a growing sense of peace. Though God wasn’t fully answering my questions, I felt him gently comforting me.

God spoke to me through Isaiah 55:8-9, which states that his ways and thoughts are higher and better than mine. He gave me faith to believe that he does work all for good, even if I didn’t see the good. He enabled me to trust him and his promises, even though I didn’t know how Trevor’s death fit into his sovereign plan for Trevor, Trevor’s family, or my life.

I still don’t know exactly why God took Trevor to be with him in August of 1988. I do know that God used it to teach me the importance of trusting him, no matter the situation. He used it to give me a greater faith in him, and for that I am grateful.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Fear


Can fear be good? Yes, fear of poisonous snakes, fear of getting hit by a moving truck, fear of getting burned in a fire can save you a lot of pain and even your life.

Can fear be bad? Yes, fear can totally control us and hold us in its grip (fear of getting cancer, fear of failure, fear of making a mistake in front of a crowd, etc…).

Can fear be holy? Yes, the fear of the Lord is a totally different type of fear. It is a reverent awe of our amazing Heavenly Father.

In 2009 my pastor at St. Simons Community Church lead a Sunday morning sermon series called Breaking Free. I highly recommend each message. He identified three different types of fear: Healthy, Hostage, and Holy. The goal of the series was to break free of hostage fears (fear of man, fear of failure, fear over finances, fear of the future) and cultivate a holy fear of God.

What hostage fears do you have? How can you grow in holy fear?