Words of Truth

Every once in a while, we all need a re-boot! For PC people, that means you do the ol’ crtl-alt-delete that starts the computer over again. I’m a Mac guy and don’t do that kinda thing anymore ūüôā
But today, spiritually, I needed to.sunrise
So here are 10 thoughts that I reminded myself.

1. Whatever happens today, by grace, I get to find my greatest satisfaction in Christ alone.
2. Make the Gospel sweet and filling through intentional confession and repentance.
3. By God’s grace, I get to serve Him and serve every person God brings into my life. I am but a servant and sacrificially give of myself to others.
4. I will be tested in every way imaginable. I get to take a breath and remember where it came from before I respond to every single step.
5. I will feel overwhelmed in an almost breath-taking way. Remember that God’s kindness is behind every pain, sorrow, and joy.
6. There is nothing in life like knowing God and being known by Him.
7. Life is rarely as it looks – I should not be deceived.
8. God’s grace is far greater than my evil, wicked heart.
9. God’s glory is the ultimate in every single part of life.
10. Everything I need is already mine by the kindness of Christ’s perfect righteousness. He is my Shepherd – I shall not want!

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How Does One Leave His Church?

I told a group of people recently that someone needs to write a book on “How To Leave Their Church.” I think for the most part leaving a church should almost never happen. I have watched people come and go in churches now for most of my life. Sometimes, for very good reasons, people leave one church and go to another. I had to do this just once in my life as a church member (not for ministry reasons) and it was torture. As a shepherd, I have watched over and over people leave one church and go to another or just drop out of church altogether and in my experience many of the reasons people have left are certainly avoidable while very, very few are unavoidable and understandable according to the Word.
The question I pose without going into the question of whether one should leave or not is, “Just how should one leave the church?” Let me offer a few suggestions coming from one who shepherds the heart of people and will stand some day and given an account.¬†church1

1. Be honest with yourself about why you are leaving. Luke 8:15 speaks of the good soil that truly receives the seed is a heart that is honest and good. True believers are constantly being warned about “deceiving ourselves” in Scripture (Jam 1:22). Because sin is so deceptive, we have to be honest with ourselves and leave open the reality that we may not be seeing things correctly. ¬†God gives us many good ways to do this without violating other truths in Scripture. Gather people around you who will fearlessly speak truth into your life. ¬†Read the Word and again I say “Read the Word.” Usually if we are not seeing things correctly in one area, you can pretty well take it to the bank that you are not seeing things truthfully in other areas. ¬†Sin is very blinding. ¬†Check your ambitions, your motives, your reasonings but most of all your adherence to the Word itself. Is your reason a genuine biblical reason or is there something going on in the church that is simply a preference issue? Do you have Scripture to back up your reason or are you just uncomfortable? Ask yourself, “How is God using this in my life to change me?” Be brutally honest!

2. ¬†Humbly speak to the leadership.¬†Understand what is being said here. God puts leadership in place for many reasons–but all of them have something to do with His great glory. It really isn’t that leadership can do no wrong (although, honestly, leadership can give that impression all too often). However imperfect they are, God has allowed them their existence in that position. If leadership is unqualified biblically and you can biblically prove it (two witnesses 1Tim 5:19) and if your objection is truly church-wide, then you have a bigger problem than this one article can handle. ¬†The fact that God allows leadership to exist speaks to God’s design that is intentional and with purpose. ¬†So, as you approach leadership, do so asking questions with a heart that earnestly and humbly wants to know God’s will and not to seek proof of your suspicions. ¬†Questions always help the leadership speak to your concern which in turn, makes the path to resolution accessible.

3. Be honest with leadership.¬†Many will go to leadership with their concerns but it often is covered with words like, “I have had some people come to me with these concerns.” It very well may be that one or two people have talked to you, but be careful that it isn’t also true that you went to them seeking to find out if they would agree with you on your “concern.” It may also be true that others do have those concerns, but that is not why you are meeting with leadership. ¬†You are meeting with leadership because¬†you have the concerns. ¬†The fact that others have similar concerns does not necessarily validate your concern and really shouldn’t play into it. ¬†It may well they are blind or prejudiced in the same areas you are and thus are not really helping you see things honestly. An honest heart is not concerned about “who” is right; it is much more concerned about “what” is right.

4.  Give time to your decision. Make sure you are not merely reacting. Give yourself room to be wrong. Time has a good way of revealing things.  Give leadership time for God to use your humble word to work in their lives. Give time on your knees. Give time to the Word. Give time for God to work His grace in your life. Remember, God is eternal which helps Him to be long-suffering, and forbear, and deal gently.  Time has away of tearing the curtain back so truth is exposed. God calls each of us to forbear with one another (Eph 4:2).

5. ¬†Don’t burn bridges.¬†If you must leave, be very careful to not let issues drive you away from caring and loving people. ¬†Relationships are very important. Your walking away from a church will have impact on people, finances, and most importantly the gifts that God has given you to properly serve the church. These relationships are important ultimately for what God may be doing in their lives. ¬†Burning bridges in relationships often can come back on bite you as you have no entrance back into the very lives God may want you to minister to later.

6. ¬†Give proper notice graciously.¬†Don’t just walk out. If you have obligations, finish them. Serve God’s Kingdom by serving the people you have obligated yourself to. Give leadership a chance to adjust to your absence ahead of time. ¬†Be courageously gracious. Remember, people are not the enemy – we struggle not with flesh and blood (Eph 6:12).

7. ¬†Immediately align yourself with another body of believers.¬† So many walk away from the church simply because they had a bad experience. It is in these transitional times when Satan can get his foot into a heart to stir up strife, pride, self-righteous thoughts, and a root of bitterness begins to grow. This is dangerous as the accountability of the body and the soul-searching ministry of the Spirit and Word will wane because of the absence from the body. This then becomes a situation that is worse than the original problem itself. Run to the Gospel! Run to Christ and the church He gave His life for. Be warned, though! ¬†The next church will be imperfect to. The greener grass on the other side…needs mowing too.

The Amazing Work of God…in Prison!

We all know the apostle Paul and his life and ministry while God put Him in prison. Paul knew that he was in prison for the sake of the Gospel–not just because He preached the Gospel, but actually, being in prison was for the purpose that those in prison may hear the Gospel.¬†prison
Some of you may know that I have a very dear friend who through some very unfortunate, yet God-ordained providences, God has placed him in prison. He has struggled deeply with many fears, anxieties, and human weaknesses. But his love for Christ and the Gospel has thrived. Take time to read this recent letter I received from him and marvel at God’s astounding goodness to use him as a tool for the spread of the Gospel. After you read it, spend some time in worshipping our great God!
“I JUST WANTED TO SEND AN UPDATE TO YOU — AND SHARE A BLESSING WITH YOU, THAT I JUST EXPERIENCED THIS PAST WEEK.

30 MONTHS AGO–WHEN I WAS IN PIEDMONT REGIONAL JAIL, AWAITING MY RESENTENCING HEARING IN RALEIGH, NC, I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF LEADING A MAN NAMED WILL TO THE LORD. (WILL WAS MY BUNKMATE) A LOCAL CHURCH CAME EACH WEEK TO PIEDMONT REGIONAL JAIL AND GAVE USED BIBLES TO THE INMATES–THAT HAD BEEN DONATED BY THEIR CHURCH MEMBERS. I GOT A LARGE PRINT “OLD FASHIONED GOSPEL HOUR” BIBLE FOR WILL–AND HE ASKED ME EVERY MORNING–TO WRITE NOTES IN THE FRONT OF HIS BIBLE, AND HELP HIM STUDY HIS NEW BIBLE EACH DAY. I LEFT THAT JAIL AFTER MY RESENTENCING HEARING, AND WENT BACK TO FT. DIX.–THINKING I PROBABLY WOULD NEVER SEE WILL AGAIN. ONE MONTH LATER–WILL WAS TRANSFERRED TO FT. DIX, AND ENDED UP BEING IN OUR CLASSES AND BIBLE STUDIES THERE AT FT. DIX, AND CONTINUED TO GROW IN THE LORD. I WAS THEN TRANSFERRED TO PENSACOLA CAMP, AND THOUGHT, AGAIN, THAT I WOULD NEVER SEE WILL AGAIN. 3 MONTHS AGO–WILL SHOWED UP HERE AT PENSACOLA CAMP !! HE HAD BEEN TRANSFERRED HERE TO ENROLL IN THE BOP DRUG PROGRAM !! HE SHOWED ME HIS BIBLE–HOW HE HAD CONTINUED TO STUDY AND ADD TO HIS NOTES IN HIS BIBLE–THAT WE HAD BEEN WORKING ON TOGETHER AT FT. DIX. HE NOW IS INVOLVED IN ALL OF THE CHAPEL SERVICES HERE, AND IN OUR CLASSES AND BIBLE STUDIES.

WILL HAS A ROOM-MATE NAMED ALEX, THAT HE INVITED TO CHURCH–AND ALSO INVITED TO ENROLL IN OUR PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE CLASS. ALEX STARTED THE CLASS–AND AFTER OUR 4TH CLASS– ASKED ME TO MEET WITH HIM PRIVATELY, AND I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF LEADING ALEX TO THE LORD. ALEX HAS NOW BEEN STUDYING HIS BIBLE EVERY DAY–AND GROWING IN THE LORD–AND GETTING INVOLVED IN ALL OF THE CHAPEL SERVICES. IT IS A JOY TO SEE HIM RESPOND TO GOD’S WORD, AND THE LEADING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN HIS HEART AND LIFE.

WHILE I WAS AT FT. DIX–THERE WAS A MAN NAMED “MEJIA”–THAT LIVED IN MY DORM — AND HE CAME TO THE CHAPEL SERVICES, AND TO OUR TUESDAY NIGHT BIBLE STUDY CLASSES WITH STAN AND LISA. (STAN AND LISA ARE WONDERFUL VOLUNTEERS THAT CAME IN EVERY WEEK FROM A LOCAL CHURCH–TO TEACH IN THE TUESDAY NIGHT CLASSES). AFTER A COUPLE OF MONTHS, “MEJIA” CAME TO THE LORD–AND ENDED UP HELPING WITH THE SPANISH INTERPRETING IN THE SUNDAY SERVICES AT FT. DIX. WHEN I LEFT FT. DIX TO COME HERE–I DIDN’T THINK I WOULD EVER SEE “MEJIA” AGAIN EITHER. GUESS WHAT !! THIS PAST WEEK–“MEJIA” WAS ALSO TRANSFERRED TO PENSACOLA CAMP, TO ENROLL IN THE DRUG PROGRAM–AND WHEN HE ARRIVED HERE–HE WAS ASSIGNED TO LIVE IN WILL AND ALEX’S ROOM !! WHAT A BLESSING–GOD IS SO GOOD !!

THERE ARE 900 INMATES ON THIS COMPOUND–BUT GOD TOOK 3 MEN, FROM 3 DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE COUNTRY–THAT ALL ACCEPTED THE LORD WHILE IN PRISON–AND PUT THEM TOGETHER IN THE SAME ROOM– AND PUT THEM BACK TOGETHER WITH ME–SO THAT WE CAN CONTINUE TO MENTOR AND MINISTER TOGETHER, AND CONTINUE TO GROW IN THE LORD TOGETHER !! GOD TAKES CARE OF EVERY LITTLE DETAIL IN EACH OF OUR LIVES– WHILE WE ARE ON THIS JOURNEY !! I AM SO THANKFUL.

THE MAN THAT IS THE SPANISH INTERPRETER FOR OUR CHAPEL SERVICES HERE AT PENSACOLA– IS LEAVING TO GO HOME THIS NEXT WEDNESDAY. GOD BROUGHT “MEJIA” HERE AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME, SO THAT HE CAN TAKE OVER, AND HELP DO THE INTERPRETING FOR OUR CHAPEL SERVICES. WHAT A BLESSING–AND WHAT AN EXAMPLE OF GOD’S TIMING !!

THANK YOU AGAIN FOR YOUR LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS–AND FOR PRAYING FOR ME, AND FOR THE MEN THAT ARE COMING TO THE CLASSES–AND FOR THOSE THAT HAVE COME TO THE LORD. YOU HAVE AN INTEGRAL PART IN EACH OF THEIR LIVES, AND THEIR SPIRITUAL GROWTH IN GOD’S WORD.

I AM SO GRATEFUL TO THE LORD FOR YOU — AND FOR ALL THAT YOU HAVE DONE TO ENCOURAGE ME, AND TO HELP ME. I DO NOT TAKE IT FOR GRANTED. YOU ARE SUCH A BLESSING.
GOD BE WITH YOU, AND BLESS YOU.”
I LOVE YOU–
SCOTT

Parents! Stop Making It Difficult!

As I grow old…er, I am becoming more and more aware of just how parents make it difficult for their children to honor them. I am mostly addressing parents who claim to be truly born again and follow Christ.

Good family relationships are inherently difficult because of sin. ¬†We all go “our own way” (Isa 53:6) and it is a real recipe for disaster–especially if parents refuse to grow in grace and knowledge of our Savior (2Pet 3:18).

God commands children to honor Mom and Dad (Eph 6:2). This puts it upon the children to give respect, to prize, to revere, and value highly their parents. But it also is an implied statement about how parents should be honorable, respectable, and valuable. Now, if parents are not this, it does not excuse the children, but parents should make it easy for children to follow this command.

How do parents make it difficult?  Here are just a few ways:

1. ¬† By refusing to be humble learners.¬† Parents often think that age = wisdom. ¬†It certainly can, but not always. ¬†It is only wisdom as the parents themselves continue to grow in understanding. ¬†Understanding and wisdom all come from God which means we must always be learning (Psa 119:104). Parents often do not learn a changing and challenging culture, and do not continue to learn the vast depths of their Savior, the Word, and the glory of God.¬†¬†They inadvertently begin to shut themselves off from aspects of life that their children and grand children are facing. They then send a message to the people they say they love that says, “I don’t love you to serve you in your environment, you must stay in my world.” ¬†This is tragic as it shuts off channels of communication and can be a real source of hurt.

2.¬† ¬†By refusing to treat adult children as adults.¬†¬†As parents get older they grow stuck in their ways and they assume that the children will always remain children. ¬†As children, then, they cannot ever have opinions, logical thoughts, wise conclusions or make proper decisions. Parents unwittingly turn their children away from them by constantly treating them as children and further exacerbate things¬†by thinking they cannot learn from their children. ¬†We joke about someone being a “Mamma’s boy” but this is no joking matter. It takes special skill and wise discernment for parents to make it easy for their children to become adults and parents should work hard at this. ¬†Parents often continue to make decisions for their adult kids without ever asking them or even considering they could make the correct decision for themselves. This builds resentment and anger and before long both sides are running for cover. It’s not healthy and causes great sorrow.

3. ¬† By never admitting wrong.¬† Dads are notorious for this, but mothers are not far behind. Many grown kids today have never, ever heard their parents repent, confess sin, or demonstrate godly sorrow. This is stunning! In order for parents to be respected, they often think they need to be right. Dad’s angry outbursts or mother’s constant manipulation are off-limits and can never be spoken of and must be swept under the rug. It should never be about “who” is right, but always “what” is right. Parents who never see themselves as wrong cripple relationships. Generations of bitterness exists because of pride.

4. ¬† By constantly having to be in control. ¬†Mothers struggle here, but Dads are not without fault either. “I’m the mother and it parentsmust be done my way–this is how you show honor to me!” ¬†Now, I doubt any mother would say this (although, I wouldn’t put it past some), but it is THE message that is received by the adult child. From holidays, vacations together, or even just friendly visits, the adult child of a controlling parent breaks out in heavy anxiety just at the thought of the visit. Dinner must be done a certain way; the house must be certain way; the children better be a certain way; or the adult child will hear about it. This can crush relationships as it sends a message of superiority, arrogance, and covetousness.

5. ¬† By constantly making the child feel¬†guilt. This perhaps is a bit of an overlap from #4, but I wanted to separate them for emphasis. Making a child feel guilt is controlling. It is a desperate ploy by the parent to make the child love the parent and have a relationship when it actually does the reverse. Things are said like, “You have to spend as much time at our house as you do your in-laws” or “I did this for you and you should at the very least do this for me” or “Your brother does this for me and you don’t ever do anything for me like that…”. ¬†I could go on, but I think you get the point. ¬†This makes it very hard for the adult child to love the parent and stifles relationships. Do this: Ask your adult child (and really mean it) how do they feel you try to control them? They may not give you a real answer at first because they will sense you are trying to control them again. ¬†So, be patient and really seek their answers.

6. ¬† By¬†reversing the roles.¬†Wow, this is a big one. I hear parents say all the time, “My children never come to see me; never call me; or forget my birthday…” and I typically then will ask, “Do you call them?” or “Do you go and see them?” ¬†There are a variety of answers to those questions, but frankly most of the time the parent expects the child to do the adult thing and the adult then becomes a child by making demands. Make it easy for your children to honor you by calling them. ¬†Initiate relationship. If they are not responding, it may very well be time to examine your heart and your actions/reactions toward them. Be the parent and like the older, more mature adult, initiate and seek restoration, forgiveness, and open communication by genuine Christ-like love and compassion. Parents cannot demand respect but get respect as they live a life worth respecting. Reversing roles puts relationships in real danger.

7. ¬† By not highlighting God’s grace in the lives of their children.¬†¬†Is every single area of your child’s life flawed? ¬†Well, yes, theologically, sin reaches it all. ¬†However, God’s grace is at work in the life of the child and it’s the parent who should spot it, celebrate it, and seek to highlight it. What we celebrate is what we will duplicate. ¬†As parents grow older, it seems grace alludes them. This simply means that pride becomes even more prominent in their life and humility and its effects are lost in the constant friction of life. Hopelessness is all the child sees. They soon give up even trying. ¬†This is sad.

Parenting is no easy task to be sure. Every step of life with all of its transitions are times for parents to regroup, check motives, recalibrate, and seek God’s grace. There is much uncertainty and insecurities in life because of sin but it is the Gospel that fixes all of that. Being kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving is all based on the cross (Eph 4:32). God’s glory is ultimately at stake here!

Parents, please don’t make it difficult!

What’s Your Plan?

I read today my life verse–only it is what Peter preaches at Pentecost in Acts 2. He is quoting Psalm 16.

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” Acts 2:28

I was reminded that the very filling of my soul with joy or gladness is directly connected to being in the presence of God.

So, what’s MY plan? I want to stay in God’s presence–always. I want to pursue His glory. I want to know Him deeply. I desperately want to walk with Him now.plans

R.C. Sproul said this,

“Unless we know God deeply, we cannot love him deeply. Deepening knowledge must precede deepening affection.”

This is my plan for 2013.

What’s yours?

Inventory Time

Retailers often do not like this time of year. They must go through their entire inventory piece by piece and make sure that what their supposed to have is what they actually have. It’s painful, but it is a necessary and time consuming way of accountability, discipline, and living out what really is true. It often takes closing the doors so that accuracy and documentation can be best maintained.¬†inventory

To some degree, it is useful for a child of God to take similar inventory. We too should check our lives to see that what we say we have is indeed what we really have. Maybe we should actually get away, turn our technology off, and sit quietly so that accuracy and documentation can be best maintained. We have been given the magnificent, complete, whole, pure, undefiled, holy righteousness of Christ upon salvation! What a gift.  What a joy.

Yet, is this righteous gift what marks your life right now? So many who name Christ and who have been given this righteousness seem to give so little evidence of it. So, it’s time to take inventory. Is what you say you have actually what you have?

Because of Christ we get to have in our inventory:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control

Did you find your life grew in these wonderful fruits of the Spirit this year? ¬†If not, why not? God’s grace comes to the humble–those who by faith and repentance seek God’s goodness and glory in all aspects of their life not simply because they “have to in order to be a good testimony,” but they¬†get to¬†in order to live in the righteousness of Christ. We spend way too much time trying to make sure people think well of us rather than letting Christ’s righteousness be what speaks for us. ¬†We are either humbly living out His righteousness or we’re striving to make sure ours is in tack. In order to keep up our image we then begin to hide, pretend, make excuses, or just pursue a life style that we think is hidden in our minds somewhere where no one can ever see it. ¬†All of a sudden, the inventory of our lives looks more like this:

sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these

And, lest we say something like, “I don’t do those things!” Read through the list very carefully. ¬†Talk to someone who will be honest with you and ask them if these things mark your life. ¬†Look under things, move things around a little, look in the upper shelves of your thinking or down underneath—they are there! ¬†As you find them, or, as God draws them to the surface of your life, with God’s grace, repent and place your faith in the finished work of Christ! He suffered great pain and rejection so that you might have the right inventory in your life!

Look back at 2012 and take inventory. Is your life marked by His glory and righteousness? Then, let’s humbly pursue Him this year. Let His righteousness live out by faith as you continue to turn from sin and by faith submit to His holy work.

Have a blessed New Year.

Covetous Hearts at Christmas

This is supposed to be a time of giving, isn’t it? Why then does my heart just begin to erupt with a nagging desire for things. It’s not even stuff I need or really, really want. ¬†It’s just a gut-wrenching “You would be most happy if you had…” or, “Wouldn’t your life be so much easier if you had…?” Do you have similar thoughts? How do you battle with this.gifts

Here are some things I begin to do with great and purposeful intentionality:

1. ¬†Stop your heart. ¬†No, I don’t mean physically. ¬†I mean, I literally say to my soul, “Stop!” This is not some legalistic, just-try-harder thing, it simply is what Paul says in 2Corinthians 10:5, “…take every thought captive…” Here’s our “way of escape” (1Corinthians 10:13) and somehow we miss it. ¬†Don’t miss it–stop it!

2. ¬†Start your heart. ¬†Here’s where I begin to start my heart: the goodness and grace of God in Christ. ¬†Begin a list and keep adding to it. ¬†Christ has given me life itself. I breathe. That is simply because God is gracious. But there’s more–oh, so much more. ¬†He has given me grace, mercy, righteousness, peace, adoption as an adult son, I’m an heir with Christ, grace, and did I mention grace? This is just a start–begin a list and check it every day! Keep it vertical–Christ focused.

3. Renew your heart. Here’s the other important part–the horizontal relationships that God has given. ¬†I begin with Cindy, my wife. Oh, my, God’s goodness and grace really begins to overflow as I think of how good God has been to give me her! Then I think of my three children and now their spouses–all very dear people to me–my favorite in the world. Then, so far, three grandchildren. I can’t resist thinking about my extended family of my brothers, who are very dear to me, my dad, my in-laws, and just as I am about to burst, I think of my family in Christ. The covetous thoughts really begin to slither away by God’s good kindness.

This takes practice. The thing I like most is the worship that comes out of this as I think of what I really deserve. So much of life hovers around our view of God vs. our view of ourselves. Sin always takes root when we think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Only God is God and He alone is our satisfaction!

So, stop; start; and renew!

Have a very Merry Christmas!