More Than I Ever Imagined

Prayer (2)I was blessed to grow up in a home with two parents who’s love for each other was a beautiful picture of Biblical love. Because of their love, I couldn’t wait to have a family of my own, so in 1980 at the age of sixteen I started praying for my wife. At first, my prayers were as shallow as most boys my age, you know, I wanted her to be pretty, have blonde hair, blue eyes, and be head over heals in love with me. As the years began to add up and I was still single, my prayers began to change. Oh, I still prayed for everything as before but I added that she needed to love Jesus, have a wonderful testimony, want to be on mission for the Lord, and once again be crazy about me.

I would love to say I patiently waited for the woman who perfectly matched up to my prayers, unfortunately my fear of being alone was greater than my trust in God’s timing, so I was in and out of a lot of relationships. In spite of my impatience, God was faithful and continued to prepare the perfect wife for me. I had to wait thirteen years to finally meet her, but it was well worth the previous heart-break, loneliness, sadness, and seemingly unanswered prayers.

Because we were both college students and poorer than a church mouse, img_0018our first date was at Subway where I could only afford a soft-drink and a couple of chocolate chip cookies. We spent several hours talking about our life’s journey and how we became Christians. As she shared about her life before and after meeting Jesus I was stunned at how she was listing off all that I had prayed for over the last thirteen years. She had already been on two mission trips, one to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and the other to Trinidad and Tobago. It was quite clear that night just how in love she was with Jesus.  It was so clear I convinced her to marry me six months later.

Over the last twenty-three years of marriage, she has taught me so much about God’s love.  Shirley loves me unconditionally in spite of all my idiosyncrasies (a nice way of saying I have a lot of hang ups). I don’t have to perform, serve, or love her in any special way to earn or keep her love. She just loves me unconditionally. And yet, without a doubt I am the second man in her life, the first being Jesus, which is exactly what I was praying for all the way back in 1980. You see, it is her love relationship with Jesus that taught her how to love me.

So, today on our twenty-third wedding anniversary I am especially thankful toFebruary 2015 Almighty God for the way He answered the prayer of a sixteen year old boy by giving me so much more than I ever asked for in a wife. She is truly more than I ever imagined or deserved!

I love you Shirley!

Seven Things to Pray for Your Children

Prayer (2)I first began to pray for my children in 1980 at the age of sixteen. At first I wasn’t sure what to pray, but over time my prayers became progressively more focused; especially after my son was born. Thirty-two years later I can clearly see the abundant return of all those hours spent on my knees praying for him. I am still praying today that God will continue working in him until he attains “to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4.13).

I would encourage you today to begin praying for your children, even if you are years away from starting a family. Here is a post by Jon Bloom that will assist you in beginning to pray for your children. Please remember, your prayers are most effective when they are an overflow of your lifestyle. The greatest witness to your children is you, so live out your prayers for them to see and follow.

Bloom writes:

So, here are seven helpful, specific things to pray for your children:

1. That Jesus will call them and no one will hinder them from coming.

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. (Matthew 19:13–15)

2. That they will respond in faith to Jesus’s faithful, persistent call.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

3. That they will experience sanctification through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit and will increasingly desire to fulfill the greatest commandments.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

4. That they will not be unequally yoked in intimate relationships, especially marriage.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

5. That their thoughts will be pure.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

6. That their hearts will be stirred to give generously to the Lord’s work.

All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord. (Exodus 35:29)

7. That when the time is right, they will GO!

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

No Coasting into Christlikeness

Life LinesToday there are a lot of people saying that just believing in Jesus is enough to get you to heaven. Now, I believe that we are saved by faith alone; however, I also believe that true saving faith will be seen in the way we live our lives. The desires of those who are saved have been changed. They no longer hunger and thirst after the things of this world, but hunger for the holiness, righteousness, and purity of Christ Jesus.

Dr. Donald Whitney’s post “No Coasting into Christlikeness” clearly identifies what the Bible says about growing in godliness. Godliness is not an option for the true believer. Once we receive the Spirit of God our lives are eternally changed.

Whitney writes:

When it comes to discipline in the Christian life, many believers question its importance. Devotion to prayer declines into drudgery. The real-life usefulness of meditation on Scripture seems uncertain. The purpose of a discipline like fasting is a mystery. Why not leave spiritual discipline to those who seem to more disciplined by nature and let the rest of us “live by grace”?

First, we must understand what we shall become. The Bible says of God’s elect, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). God’s eternal plan ensures that every Christian will ultimately conform to Christlikeness. We will be changed “when he appears” so that “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). If you are born again (John 3:3-8), this is you, Christian, as soon as “he appears.”

 So why talk about discipline? If God has predestined our conformity to Christlikeness, where does discipline fit in? Why not just coast into the promised Christlikeness and forget about discipline?

Although God will grant Christlikeness to us when Jesus returns, until then He intends for us to grow toward it. We aren’t merely to wait for holiness, we’re to pursue it. “Strive for peace with everyone,” we’re commanded in Hebrews 12:14, “and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Notice carefully what that says: without holiness—that is, Christlikeness; Godliness—no one will see the Lord, regardless of how many times they’ve been to church or how often they’ve engaged in religious activities or how spiritual they believe themselves to be.

 It’s crucial—crucial—to understand that it’s not our pursuit of holiness that qualifies us to see the Lord. Rather, we are qualified to see the Lord by the Lord, not by good things we do. We cannot produce enough righteousness to impress God and gain admittance into Heaven. Instead we can stand before God only in the righteousness that’s been earned by another, Jesus Christ. Only Jesus lived a life good enough to be accepted by God and worthy of entrance into Heaven. And He was able to do so because He was God in the flesh. Living a perfect life qualified Him to be a sacrifice that the Father would accept on behalf of others who by sin had disqualified themselves from Heaven and a relationship with God. As proof of God’s acceptance of Jesus’ life and sacrifice, God raised Him from the dead.

In other words, Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life in complete obedience to the commands of God, and He did so in order to give the credit for all that obedience and righteousness to those who had not kept all of God’s law, and He died for them on a Roman cross in order to receive the punishment they deserved for all their sins against God’s law.

 As a result, all who come to God trusting in the person and work of Jesus to make them right with God are given the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). The presence of the Holy Spirit causes all those in whom He resides to have new holy hungers they didn’t have before. They hunger, for example, for the holy word of God—the Bible—that they used to find boring or irrelevant. They have new holy longings, such as the longing to live in a body without sin and to have a mind no longer tempted by sin. They yearn to live in a holy and perfect world with holy and perfect people, and to see at last the One the angels perpetually praise as “Holy, holy, holy” (Revelation 4:8). These are some of the holy heartbeats in all those in whom the Holy Spirit resides.

Consequently, when the Holy Spirit indwells someone, that person begins to prize and pursue holiness. Thus, as we have seen in Hebrews 12:14, anyone who is not striving for holiness will not see the Lord. And the reason they will not see the Lord in eternity is because they do not know the Lord now, for those who know Him are given His Holy Spirit, and all those indwelled by the Holy Spirit are compelled to pursue holiness.

 And so, the urgent question every Christian should ask is, “How then shall I pursue holiness, the holiness without which I will not see the Lord? How can I become more like Jesus Christ?”

We find a clear answer in 1 Timothy 4:7: “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (NASB). In other words, if your purpose is Godliness—and godliness is your purpose if you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, for He makes godliness your purpose—then how do you pursue that purpose? According to this verse, you “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.”

 This verse is the theme for Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. In it I attempt to unpack the meaning of 1 Timothy 4:7 and apply it, chapter-by-chapter, in practical ways. I will refer to the scriptural ways Christians discipline themselves in obedience to this verse as the Spiritual Disciplines. I maintain there that the only road to Christian maturity and Godliness (a biblical term synonymous with Christlikeness and holiness) passes through the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines. I emphasize that Godliness is the goal of the Disciplines, and when we remember this, the Spiritual Disciplines become a delight instead of drudgery.

Source: The Biblical Center for Spirituality

Incredible Inheritance

Holiness Day By Day

Years ago our pastor told about a southern plantation owner who left a $50,000 inheritance (perhaps equivalent to half a million dollars today) to a former slave who’d served him faithfully all his life. The estate’s lawyer duly notified the old man and told him the money was deposited at a local bank. 

Weeks went by, and the former slave never called for any of his inheritance. Finally, the banker called him in and told him again he had $50,000 available to draw on at any time. “Sir,” the old man replied, “do you think I can have fifty cents to buy a sack of cornmeal?” 

That story illustrates the plight of many Christians today. Paul wrote of preaching “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8) -referring not to financial wealth but to the glorious truths of the gospel. It’s as if each of us has $50,000 available in the gospel, yet most of us are hoping we can squeeze out fifty cents’ worth. We don’t understand the riches of the gospel any more than the former slave understood his inheritance. 

Suppose also that the slave was not only poverty-stricken but also deep in debt for back rent. With his inheritance, he could not only pay off the debt but also buy his house. His inheritance far surpasses his debt. This is the truth of the gospel. We owe an enormous spiritual debt to God; there’s no way we can repay it. The gospel tells us Jesus Christ paid our debt, but it also tells us far more: We’re no longer enemies and objects of God’s wrath. We’re now His sons and daughters, heirs with Christ to all His unsearchable riches. This is the good news of the gospel.

 Source: Jerry Bridges. Holiness Day by Day: Transformational Thoughts for Your Spiritual Journey (page 7) 

Do You Dwell in God’s Presence?

king_james_bible7[1]“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.

They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob” (Ps. 24.1-6 NIV).

Hope to see you on Sunday at 10:45 a.m. as we worship Jesus together!

Click here for directions.

Come Drink the Water of Life

water of lifeI love to hear others talk about how they came to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Their stories always cause me to reflect on that day thirty-nine years ago when I became a child of God. They also remind me that we are never so far gone that God’s grace cannot reach us, we have never committed so great a sin that His mercy cannot forgive us, nor have we ever fallen so far from our walk with Him that His love will not restore us.

Regardless of what you have done, the new life in Christ is within your reach. Call out to Him and He will offer you life-giving water. This water brings an abundant life of joy and peace; even in the midst of a terrible tempest you will be able to rest knowing that Jesus is always with you.

This morning Ray Comfort shared part of his testimony on his Facebook page. I think he painted a beautiful picture of how Christ Jesus brought him to life.  I hope this blesses your heart as it did mine.

Comfort writes:

I love the scene in the movie “Ben Hur” where a Roman soldier is marching condemned galley-slaves through the desert. They stop in Nazareth for a break, but as the thirsty slaves are being given water, the head honcho says that Judah Ben Hur wasn’t to have a drop.  Judah collapses on the ground and gasps “God help me…”  Suddenly, a shadow comes over him and a hand gently lifts his weary head from …the dirt, and pours water into his parched lips.  I have watched that scene numerous times and have never failed to sob like a child, because what I see is so similar to what happened to me in my conversion experience. At the age of 20, I began to think deeply about life. I was very successful, financially secure, extremely happy, healthy,  I was my own boss, had a loving and beautiful wife…and I was suddenly very aware that, despite all my happiness, I was waiting around to die.  It seemed that the whole of humanity was in a long line, moving closer and closer to a 1000 foot cliff, and was, one-by-one, jumping off to their death. It was as though everyone accepted the inevitability of it, and so no one was trying to get out of line. So I, ever so reluctantly, stood in line and waited for my turn. At the age of 22 I heard the gospel for the first time. I am not exaggerating to say that I was like Ben Hur laying hopelessly in the dirt, and Jesus turned my head and poured the waters of life into my parched lips. I cannot express the relief and joy I found when I received the gift of everlasting life. To try and explain it to a non-Christian is like trying to explain light to a man who has been born blind.  To use another somewhat lacking analogy, it’s like looking at a crying newly delivered baby. You know what he is crying for, so you put him on the mother’s breast, and he immediately stops crying. He is suddenly gratified. He was born with an instinct to suckle, but he had no idea what he was looking for because he had never experienced it before. I had no idea that in my darkness I was searching for light, until I found it in Jesus Christ (see John 8:31-32).  He is the one who said “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” And Jesus is the only one who can say, “… whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13).
To learn more about receiving Christ’s life-giving water,visit www.NeedGod.com or read God’s Purpose for You.

Desperate for the Holy Spirit

So, now you’re a Christian, and you figure the next thing you need to do is get a Bible and start reading. The more you read the more you see changes that need to happen in your life. In fact, it may take the rest of your life to get all these rules, commandments, and instructions down to an art. Nevertheless, it is like mom always said, “You can do anything if you just put your mind to it.” So, that is exactly what you do. You roll up your sleeves and get busy conforming your life to look like the Word of God. Sooner or later you find yourself discouraged at your own failure and inconsistency with living out this new-found faith. You know that as a Christian the Holy Spirit of God is living within to equip you for every good work, and yet, failure seems to be the only thing you can do correctly!

Does any of this sound familiar? I know after thirty-eight years of being a Christian, I have had more than my fair share of days not living up to Christ’s standard. Maybe the problem is this–we too often look at the Bible as a “How to for Christian Dummies.” We think that if we work hard, are determined to change, only think positive good thoughts, help others, and give of our time that surely we will begin to look like Jesus. Yet, regardless of our efforts, failure still rules the day. Why? Now, that is an easy question to answer. The Bible clearly teaches that we could never be good enough to earn our salvation, yet after becoming a Christian, we seem to think that we can read the Bible and then conform ourselves into the image of Christ. The truth is, only the Holy Spirit can bring about true spiritual transformation into our lives.

We will never be transformed into the image of Christ until we learn how to live in light of the Holy Spirit working within our heart—allowing Him to work through us for God’s glory. When we begin to be filled with and walk in the Spirit, we will see a growing maturity in our daily life.

If you struggle with living out the Christian life on a daily basis, I would encourage you to listen to this message from last Sunday, November 4: Desperate for the Holy Spirit. We talked about a few of the ways that the Holy Spirit works in us to change us, and that unless we allow Him to do His work, we will never be transformed into the image of Christ. You can download or listen to the message by following this link: Desperate for the Holy Spirit.

I pray that God will use this message to help you “attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which
belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4.13 NASB).