Limits

I was reading through Genesis when I came across an interesting verse. In Genesis 17, God is giving Abraham the rundown on the covenant that would lead to the birth of Isaac and the eventual birth of Christ. In disbelief, Abraham says, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” In other words, Abraham couldn’t believe that Sarah, at 90 years old, could bear him an heir, so He thought God should consider Ishmael, the son already born, to be the heir of God’s promise.

I wonder how many times I have doubted God, trusting only in what He has already done and limiting what He wanted to do.

Fortunately, he often blesses beyond our beliefs.

Back Row Pew

I love it when my wife sings. Jamy has a beautiful voice, and our home is filled with song. I’m thankful that God blessed me with a wife that GETS music, because we speak the same language in that regard.

A few weeks ago, she had me download a song for her to sing at church. It was Mandisa’s Voice of a Savior (off her True Beauty album). Beautiful song. She did an awesome job.

As she was rehearsing it with me, one of the lines jumped out at me. If you are not familiar with the song (I wasn’t until she had me download it for her), the first verse talks about filling the void in our lives with drink, drugs, money, or relationships. The second verse cites ambition, success, and risk as means to find fulfillment. Then, the chorus tells us that what we are all searching for is the voice of the Savior (thus, the title)

We can relate with those. We’ve all tried to focus on the wrong things to find contentment only to find that Christ alone fills the void in our lives.

The last verse is what I found most interesting. Specifically, the first half of the last verse:

Some people try to find it

In the shadow of a steeple

Some people try to find it

In the back row pew

This verse speaks to one of those concepts that we know is an issue in our churches. There are those that believe they are saved because they come to church. Or because their family belongs to a church. Or because they show up Christmas and Easter. Those folks are out there, in every congregation.

But what about believers? Do we sometimes come to church for a fix? Do we come to church wondering what we are going to get out of it? Do we show up out of obligation or the expectation of others? Or do we show up to serve the God from whom all blessings flow and to praise our Savior for giving His all for us?

I know that I have to be very careful to focus on God while I get my “job” done (I wrote about it here). And I know I’m not alone.

Helpless

 

My daughter is at an age (3) where she says very funny things that really make me think.

The other day, I was getting her dressed to take her brother to school. As I went to get her something out of her drawer, she said, “Let me do it. I can do it!” She tried to reach into the top drawer, couldn’t, then asked me to lift her up. When she got what she needed, she said, “I did it all by myself!” Continue reading “Helpless”

Hadn’t Considered That Lately

Something that I heard Francis Chan say the other day has really resonated in my heart. He asked the crowd to whom he was speaking if they had stopped to consider this fact:

We all should be in Hell RIGHT NOW.

I sure hadn’t thought about it. Not lately, anyway. I’ve thought about it a lot ever since.

By the grace of a loving God and His Son paying my sin debt on the cross, I’m not in Hell. In fact, I am looking forward to Heaven! He saved a wretch like me! May I NEVER get used to that!

He’s Got This

A brief thought that I need to write down…

My life verse is 2 Timothy 1:12b – I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

What I am realizing is that my God is TRUSTWORTHY. Everything else in life is a variable. People will treat me unfairly. Circumstances may work against me. Disappointment, frustration, and hopeless thoughts will wage war on my joy. But He never fails.

Sometimes it is hard to trust Him. Sometimes I’m not totally “convinced.” That isn’t His failure. It’s mine. He’s never let me down before, but my memory isn’t what it should be when my back is against the wall.

He’s GOT this.

JW

Useful: Do It

Note: this post was written while I was on staff at Oakland Avenue Baptist Church in Catlettsburg, KY.

I am a believer in door-to-door evangelism.

My pastor while I was on staff at Lexington Baptist Temple, Pastor Earl Smith, taught me the value of hitting the streets to tell people about Jesus and our church. After he went to be with the Lord, Pastor Derek Holmes continued this focus.

Why do I do it? Several reasons…

1. There are few activities a minister can do that are more purely evangelistic. The only agenda is to give the Gospel and invite people to church.

2. It strengthens my connection to my community. There’s just something about walking the streets of the city in which I serve.

3. It reminds me what ministry means. Too often, I sit behind a desk, doing my thing and working with other Christians. Someone once said that it is impossible to be “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” from within the walls of any church building.

4. It puts a face, or a series of faces, to a “town.” When I speak of serving in Catlettsburg, I can point, not only to those in my church, but to those I have come across as I have ventured out.

Why am I writing this? Because until recently I had been “too busy” to knock doors. I didn’t make it the priority it once had been. Then all of a sudden, the majority of the messages I was hearing and the studying I had been doing pointed in one specific direction: “Jon, if you see a need within the body of Christ that you can meet, you need to meet it. There are people in Catlettsburg that need Jesus, and they may never come to your church, or, for that matter, any church. Go talk to them.”

Now, I don’t think one of those messages I heard or any of my studying had that particular thought emphasized. But that is what I needed to hear. Funny how the Holy Spirit works.

What does this have to do with being USEFUL? I didn’t set out to write this article as part of this series, but, towards the end of writing it, I realized it was meant to be part of it. Too often we aren’t useful to God because we simply don’t do what He wants us to do. We get busy. We get prideful. We think certain tasks are beneath us. We cower in fear at what is being asked of us. We hopelessly rely on our own talents and abilities. We forget that Jesus is who He said He is, that He will never leave us, never forsake us, and that He has chosen us to be His hands and feet in a world that desperately needs what His love offers.

I’ve had to learn to abandon my pride and take uncomfortable steps into the unknown. And I’m still learning. But I’m also learning that my Savior is worth my discomfort, because He endured a lot more for me. J. D. Greear wrote this on his blog today: “Gospel is spelled ‘d-o-n-e,’ not ‘d-o.’” Jesus paid it all.

I have a lot of self that I need to deny every day. May I be willing to do whatever I’m called to do, regardless of what I may think about it.

Much

I am becoming a runner. Well, at least I think I am. I have a 2-mile circuit, and am running more of it than walking. I enjoy being outdoors in the early morning hours, and I feel great for the rest of the day.

This morning in particular was a pretty good run. It was cool out, with a little bit of breeze. I had my iPhone tracking my progress, and Clayton King was playing in my headphones. He preached last week at CampusChurch at Liberty University (They call their services “Aperture” now. Look up their podcast on iTunes. Always worth a listen).

He quoted a verse that I had heard many times before, but it hit me differently this morning. He quoted Luke 12:28: “…Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”

That started my mind racing, to the point I had to stop on the side of the road and type this into my phone:

WE HAVE ALL BEEN GIVEN MUCH!

I think that most of us hear that verse and we think of three types of people:

1. The pastors. After all, they are entrusted with the care and edification of a group of people and will be accountable to God one day regarding how they managed their ministry.

2. The wealthy. They are thought to have resources and liberties that most of us will never achieve.

3. The talented. The ability to do astounding things is obviously a call to be astoundingly sacrificial.

 

So, we tend to write this verse off as applying to those people, and believe that we are OK with the level of our sacrificial-ness. After all, we haven’t been entrusted with much.

That is a farce and a shameful way to look at the blessings God gives each of us.

One person may not have talent, but they have the time to keep a sick family member company. Another may not have a fat bank account, but may be able to say a word of encouragement that completely brightens a person’s day. Still another may not be called to be a pastor, but may be able to go next door and fix an elderly person’s leaky sink. Maybe you are good with children and are able to stay in the nursery at church. Or maybe you are friendly and cheerful and can greet visitors on Sunday morning. Perhaps you aren’t rich, but are willing to give what you can, which, if you live in America, is STILL more than the vast majority of the world.

We have all been blessed. Let’s find new ways to use what God has given each of us.

Remembering

Nothing particularly remarkable about the start of that day. I got to work at my usual time. Beginning a normal Tuesday doing marketing for a small software firm in Lexington.

Later that morning, the company’s webmaster, who occupied the desk next to mine, mentioned that a plane had crashed in New York City. My very first thought was, “Wow. Some air traffic controller really messed up.” Then events began to unfold, and we got a glimpse of the magnitude of what had happened.

The next couple of hours were a scramble for information. We frantically kept refreshing MSNBC’s website for info. I even went and bought a radio at lunchtime. We as an office eventually learned the wider scope and the evil intentions behind the destruction and needless slaughter of thousands.

Why am I writing this? I’m not sure. Maybe it is so I can show my kids when they get older and tell them about what happened. Maybe I’m just reliving one of those few worldwide events that billions share. Or maybe this is an exercise in remembering. If I can write about it, I can keep it fresh in my mind. Because I don’t want to forget. Because, if I forget, I might lose the connection between why we fight now and why we fought then.

Years have passed. I pray for the families of those slain. I pray for this country. I pray for it’s leaders, it’s military, it’s sovereignty. And I’m thankful that God remains on His throne.

Limping

I walked up to greet some friends at church this past Sunday. One of them, a doctor, asked, “Are you limping?” I explained to him that, when I was 12, I broke my leg badly in a moped collision with a pickup truck, and that my left leg is about an inch shorter than my right. They all agreed that they never noticed before.

I have learned to walk straight, more or less. But sometimes, when I’m tired or not paying attention (like when I was running around, trying to get things ready before church), I limp.

Sin works like that. When we don’t pay attention or feel weak, it creeps into our lives and we don’t even notice. We might have a handle on it when we are feeling strong in the Lord. But it’s during our down times when we need to be careful.

More reason than ever to heed Peter’s words: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).” Also a good reason to recharge our spiritual batteries in Bible study and prayer daily.

‘Cause you never know when you’ll need it.

Useful: Testimony

“Take my life; lead me, Lord… Make my life useful to Thee. ”

I believe the Lord is focusing my thoughts lately on the concept of being USEFUL.

A big part of being useful is knowing the ways that we LIMIT our usefulness, our effectiveness. One of the primary ways we limit our effectiveness is through a weak testimony. If others question our motives and motivations due to indiscretions, questionable decisions, unresolved moments of weakness, or out-and-out moral failure, we cripple ourselves spiritually and, in effect, take ourselves out of the game.

As much as we sometimes like to mock him, it is important to remember that SATAN IS NO DUMMY! He knows we win. He knows he has no chance. He’s read the end of the Book. And He knows that he can’t loosen God’s grip of grace from His children.

But if he can turn us into Christianity Lite, he preempts our potency.

If we cease to be the salt and light Jesus called us to be in Matthew 5, we cease to offer the world an alternative. THE alternative.

If we intend to remain steadfast soldiers for the cause of Christ, we MUST…

  • Guard our testimonies.
  • Confess our sins.
  • Own up to our mistakes.
  • Admit wrongdoing.
  • Flee fleshly desires.
  • Guard our hearts.
  • Establish hedges of protection against weaknesses.
  • Die to self.
  • Get prayed up.

 

I desire and pray that God will use me in ways I can’t imagine or even see coming! I look forward to exploring how to prepare myself for whatever the God of the universe has in mind. I hope you’ll join me.