According to the Riches of His Grace

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us…" -Ephesians 1:7-8

Things to Look For in a Church

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When I went to college, I was a very zealous eighteen year old with quite a bit of legalism in me. I began to try out churches in the city where I was. The first church I went to was First Baptist Church.

As a critical guy, I took a notepad and I sat in the service, not as a worshipper, but as a critic, searching for the perfect church. On one side of the notepad, I wrote the good things about the service and on the other side the bad things. There might have been two good things and a whole sheet of bad things I found.

However, all of the things I wrote were not matters worth being critical over. They weren’t issues that really mattered all that much.

Don’t do what I did. However, it is absolutely important that you know important issues about a church before you commit to attending and joining there.

There are likely three groups reading this post. Here is my word to each of you going into it.

The one who doesn’t attend church – Jesus established the church (Matt 16:18) and the Bible commands attendance (Heb 10:24-25). So if you claim to be a Christian, start seeking out a church to join and be a part of.

The one searching for a church – The church you choose is going to greatly affect your spiritual life from here on out. Read this post and consider these things in choosing a church.

The church member – Consider your own church. Hopefully these essentials are all strong there. If they are not, consider how to help your church grow in them. If your church doesn’t have these and are opposed to them, it may not be a church you want to be part of.

It is important to know that just because a church appears thriving and active doesn’t mean they are a good church for you. Just because they have countless children’s activities, breakfast every Sunday, a calendar full of events, a lively praise team, and a charismatic pastor doesn’t mean they are a good church Biblically.

When you are looking for what a good church is, look for these essentials.

Expository Preaching

You probably have no idea what this term means. Many people have different definitions for what expository preaching is. Some churches spend three years going verse-by-verse through a four chapter book of the Bible. This is not necessarily healthy expository preaching. Expository preaching may look a little different depending on the preacher, but primarily, is the preacher opening the Bible to a passage, reading it, and then spending the bulk of his sermon explaining what this passage means and how it applies to your life?

Many preachers get up and never open their Bibles. Many read a passage and then never talk about it again for the entire sermon. Many preach a sermon on a topic and just pull out verses to support what they are trying to say. This is bad preaching.

Good preaching believes the Bible is what God has spoken and seeks to explain the passage they are preaching to the audience and tell them what God is saying. A good way to tell if the church you are at preaches like this is to ask yourself the question, “Do I have to look down at my Bible every now and then to follow along with the sermon?”

Good Theology

While you are likely never going to agree with any Christian on every little detail of what the Bible says, it is important to have certain theological beliefs that the church agrees on puts their faith in.

Is God described as the glorious, all powerful King of the Universe who has all sovereign authority? Is the Bible completely free from error and authoritative over our life? Is the church’s hope in Christ, crucified to provide salvation for those who believe and then raised bodily from the grave to reign over the universe? Does the church believe in the doctrines of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000? These are crucial.

One of the best ways to figure out what the church’s theological beliefs are is to listen to the worship music they sing. Are the songs proclaiming how great God is and how powerful the cross and resurrection of Jesus are or is it all about how special and awesome I am? If a husband can sing the worship song to his wife and it still carry the same meaning, it’s probably not a strong song theologically and thus, the church may not be very theologically sound.

But if you can’t figure out the theology of the church by being there, you may just have to meet with the pastor and ask what they believe. Do so in wisely and respectfully, but you need to know the theology of the church as it will affect your own theology if you join there.

Membership Process

How does one join the church? For many churches, you simply have to come up and sign a card and you are in. Is membership valued at this church? Does it take more than a simple card signing to join? If the church doesn’t think you have to be born again and baptized to join, they have a false view of church membership.

Some churches are a bit too strict with this, but most are not strict enough. Is there a class someone has to attend to join the church? Does a new member have to affirm a church covenant or doctrinal statement to join? Some churches even go as far as a pastor having to meet with a member to get to know them before they can fully be a member.

Is there evidence that the church values membership far more than it simply being a tradition they have always done.

Church Discipline

On the opposite side of membership, is it possible to be removed from membership at this church? Is it possible that depending on some serious, public sins in a member’s life, they can be confronted about that sin and if they will not repent, their membership can be revoked? This is a Biblical practice laid out by Jesus in Matthew 18 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 5.

In short terms, are you going to be confronted and held accountable for your sins in this church? That may make you uncomfortable, but it is absolutely crucial to your Christian walk.

Discipleship

Are there avenues for you to grow in your faith at this church? Are there small group Bible studies for you to meet at during the week? Is the Sunday School department strong and sound theologically? In attending this church, are you challenged to be a stronger follower of Jesus and given practical ways to grow in your faith?

Evangelism and Missions

Is sharing the Gospel a regular practice of the church? Are they involved in doing evangelism to the local neighborhoods, the city, and the nations of the world? Jesus left the church one job: Make disciples of all the nations. (Matt 28:19) A good sign of the health of a church is if they are regularly doing this outside of the church walls.

The Perfect Church Doesn’t Exist

When I was eighteen in First Baptist Church with my notepad, I had a false assumption. I assumed the perfect church existed. It doesn’t. Every church will have flaws. Every church will have some problems. But at the core of a church, they need to have these things mentioned. If they don’t, it is not a church you want to join.

Find a good church that honors and glorifies the majestic Lord and the risen Christ through worship, discipleship, and missions and join it. Become part of it and serve with everything you have for the glory of God.

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What is Fellowship?

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When I was in college, a group of friends and I would go on a monthly basis to a Captain D’s restaurant close to our campus for lunch. We called it, “The Captain D’s Club”. I can remember one day they were going there to eat and I didn’t want to eat there that day. One of the guys in the group said, “Just come for the fellowship.”

On Sunday nights in the fall and spring, my roommate and I watch “The Walking Dead” in the lobby of the building we live in. About five others come to watch it, some because they are fans of the show. Others come, admitting they don’t like the show. I have heard one of them say before, “I don’t like the show. I’m just coming for the fellowship.”

The word “fellowship” has become a term that Christians use to describe any time they gather together. Any time two or more Christians are in a room together, it is called “fellowship.”

However, the Scriptures have a deeper meaning than this. Fellowship in the Bible is not simply a social event. While two Christians eating at Chick-Fil-A can be fellowship, it is not necessarily fellowship.

What is “Fellowship”

The Bible describes the early church days after the ascension of Jesus as being devoted to four things: the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayers. (Acts 2:42) But this fellowship is something different than how most Christians speak of it today.

The word “fellowship” comes from the Greek word “Koinonia”. If a person only knows one Greek word, it may be this one. But the meaning of the word is far lost.

Primarily, “Koinonia” has to do with a partnership in something or mutual participation. However, it has even been used to describe sexual intercourse. [1] Koinonia has to do with a deep intimacy of two or more people working together with a common goal in mind. It is never the same thing as simply socializing over a sports team, fried fish, or “The Walking Dead.” It is much deeper.

What does this mean?

In view of this, how many Christians truly know genuine fellowship? It’s not socializing. It is more of a unity of Spirit that is derived from knowledge of Christ and pursuit of His mission in the world.

Fellowship may include socializing, but it is socializing about the things of God; not  things of the world. Fellowship is about growing us and edifying us to be stronger in our faith. It is something that carries on to go somewhere.

Fellowship sanctifies us. In Eph 4, Paul speaks of unity of the body. He speaks of pastors equipping the saints for the work of ministry (which includes fellowship), “until we all attain 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)

This is where every Christian is going. God plans to continue doing a work in them until Christ returns. (Phil 1:6) Fellowship helps this happen.

The Goal in Mind

Fellowship is not small talk. It has a vision in mind. Its end goal is closer conformity to Jesus for both the individual Christian and for the church. So the next time you call your lunch at Chick-Fil-A a fellowship, ask yourself the question, “Is this going to make the people I’m with more like Jesus? Will they know God more from this time together?” If it’s not seeking their sanctification and if it’s not about the things of God, it’s not fellowship.

[1] http://www.greekbible.com/l.php?koinwni/a_n—–dsf-_

The Most Important Part of the Church Service

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I have a confession to make. I enjoy the singing during a church service more than the sermon. I know, it’s really bad, right? In fact, what typically goes through my head during the music is, “Man, I hope this isn’t the last song. I don’t want it to be over.” Then when the worship pastor tells us to sit as the pastor comes to preach to us, I think, “Darn, worship is over.”

I’ll bet you think I’m a worship leader. I’m not. God has actually called me to preach. There is something within me that enjoys getting to sing along and lift my hands during the music and doesn’t like having to sit still and keep my attention focused for thirty minutes.

Maybe you feel the same way. Maybe you think the party is over at church after the music ends. Then you have to struggle through thirty minutes of one person talking and no chance to say anything back. You have to be quiet, sit still, and try to maintain attention.

I sit under a great preacher every Sunday who I know and love, but my temptation is to dread the sermon. Something in me and in everyone tends to lean that way.

But the sermon is the central and most important part of each worship service. We will begin to truly cherish the sermon and worship through our listening to it when we understand why it is important.

God’s Choice of Communication

God is all powerful. He is capable of doing anything He wants in any way He chooses. He wants to communicate His truth to humanity. He could do that through writing a message in the stars or the clouds. He could open the skies and speak His truth out of heaven. He could send a pigeon flying to every person with a letter that He wrote with His truth on it.

But the primary way He chooses to communicate truth is through preaching. In the Bible, as early as Noah, we see people preaching. Moses preached. Samuel preached. Solomon preached. The prophets preached. Ezra preached. John the Baptist preached. Peter preached. Paul preached. And the Son of God preached.

When God became a man to walk among the world, He didn’t come as an artist or a musician. He didn’t come as an athlete. He became a preacher.

God’s choice of communication in the world has always been and will always be preaching.

Foolishness

The reality is that this foolish. I’ve met a lot of preachers in my life and most of them are dorks. God doesn’t seem to be choosing the beautiful and successful people to be His messengers. He doesn’t choose Bill Gates or Steve Jobs to be his preacher. He chooses Billy the farmer from the middle of nowhere in Tennessee.

The average person would look at God’s plan and conclude that God doesn’t know what He is doing. However, God is seeking for the glory of His message, not the glory of the preacher. Paul called preaching foolish in 1 Cor 1:21. He said, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”

God uses a means that appears foolish to do His work in the world so that He will receive glory and not the preacher. What are His purposes that He accomplishes through preaching?

God’s Purposes in Preaching

In Romans 10:13-15, Paul says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But then He asks, how will they call on Him if they haven’t heard about Him? And how will they hear about Him unless someone preaches to them? This is why preaching is so important. It is the primary way that God saves people.

Of course, God can save people through a drama. He can save people through Christian films and through the message of a song. He saved me through me reading a book of fiction. There are a number of born-again believers in the church who were saved by some form other than preaching. However, the way God saves most people is that the Gospel is preached and they believe. The church should therefore capitalize on that model. There is value in doing dramas, making and watching movies, and reading books. But these must never be done at the expense of preaching.

What about those who already believe? If preaching saves those who believe it would stand to reason that after you believe, you don’t need preaching. But there is a second purpose to preaching. Preaching sanctifies those who believe. It makes those who are believers believe more. It shapes and fashions Christ’s followers more into the image of Christ. This is Christ’s heart for the church. Before His crucifixion, He prayed for His disciples by saying, “Sanctify them in the truth: your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Christ wants the Word to be what does the transforming work in the believer.

There are aspects of this sanctification that can’t be accomplished through anything else other than preaching. Truth is communicated through preaching in a way that does not happen in a drama or a movie. When it comes to any area of the Christian life, a film or drama just can’t look the believer in the face and tell them what to do and what not to do. This isn’t even communicated in the worship music of the service. It only happens when the preacher opens the Bible and says, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says…”

A New Perspective on the Sermon

When we understand the glory that God has chosen to communicate His truth through the preaching of His word, it gives new meaning to listening to the sermon on Sunday morning. Now, we are not just listening because we are supposed to, but we can be fully aware of the fact that God is using this sermon to teach us more about Himself and what it means to be His child.

Many may say, “I can get all of what you just said by listening to my favorite preacher on a podcast in my car on the way to work.” There are a lot of great preachers in the world and I encourage listening to a wide variety of them. But understand that if the only preaching you hear is on a podcast, you won’t have the proper diet of God’s Word. With podcasts, you can choose what topics you want to listen to and you can be free to turn it off the minute it gets boring or makes you uncomfortable.

And God intends to feed His people through them gathering together in a body. The pastor that He puts over that body is to pray and discern what His church needs to hear and then He chooses what to preach and feed them with. Then the body of believers can hold one another accountable to what is preached. If you do not listen to preaching regularly in a church, you will not get a healthy diet in God’s Word and you will be malnourished.

Conclusion

I enjoy the music in a worship service more than the sermon. But I have to mentally surrender my mind to the fact that God does more work in me through the sermon. So I have to listen to the Word preached and ask the question, “How can I change in light of what is being proclaimed?”

So find a church that has solid preaching, join that church, and listen to the preaching regularly. The sermon is the most important part of the worship service. Make the sermon the part that your heart most longs for in a worship service.

Why Christians Should Regularly Gather for Worship

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One out of every eight people who call themselves a “born again” Christians do not attend church. Almost half of Americans have come to the conclusion that “the Bible does not command people to attend church; that is a man-made requirement.”[1]

Is this correct? Are Christians wasting their time going to church every Sunday when they could be doing a number of other things? While most people in the previous generation went to church because it was the thing to do, less people today see it as necessary. Many attend but get bored because it feels like there is nowhere to be involved. The nursery is full and they don’t feel qualified to lead or teach a Bible study.

What the Bible Says

While the culture may scream that attending church on Sunday is a man-made concept, the Scriptures do actually speak of it.

Most of the letters in the New Testament are written to either churches or pastors of churches. Romans, Ephesians, and Philippians are written to the church at Rome, Ephesus, and Philippi. Revelation is written to seven churches throughout Asia. The letters of the New Testament were not written to generally all Christians, or “the church universal”, though they certainly have application to all Christians. The letters were written to specific churches in specific cities that met together.

It likely didn’t look exactly as meetings today look with pews, a pulpit, the Lord’s table, and such things, but the Scriptures do speak of the church assembling together. Paul mentions the church coming together four times in 1 Corinthians. (5:4; 11:18; 14:23; 26). James gives instruction to the church about how to treat rich people when they come into their worship gathering. (Jas 2:1) The book of Acts is filled with believers meeting together for worship. To assert that meeting together for worship was man-made later is to ignore the church of the New Testament.

The key command in Scripture to go to church is found in Heb 10:23-25,

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The writer of Hebrews commands to not neglect meeting together as Christians. What is the purpose of this? There are two primary reasons he gives.

First, it is that Christians can faithfully hold to the hope they confess. The writer says “Let us hold fast…” It’s not an individual matter. Many say they have a “personal relationship with Jesus.” Our relationship is very personal, but it is not private. It is to be shared with other people. Christians cannot grow to full maturity in Christ without interacting with other Christians who can help them continue believing what they believe.

Secondly, the writer says to not stop meeting together so that Christians can continually encourage each other to participate in love and good works. What good works is he speaking of? The writer is not talking about what the world perceives as good works. It’s not simply about Christians helping each other recycle better or protect the environment. It’s about Christians participating in good works that are going to expand God’s kingdom, help each Christian grow, and ultimately glorify God.

A Model Church

Since the Bible does include a church that regularly meets together, it is that church that must be examined to see what these good works look like. At the beginning of the Christian movement, Luke gives us a concise picture of what the early church looked like:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

Within this passage, there are seven characteristics of what it looks like for a church to operate and for Christians to faithfully gather and encourage each other toward good works.

  1. Preaching and Teaching

It is crucial for Christians to read the Bible on their own throughout the week. But this does not suffice for proper diet of the word of God. Along with personal Bible reading, Christians need to regularly be sitting under someone preaching and teaching God’s word to them. The early church was “devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching…”

It is not enough to listen to podcast sermons. Doing this is good for Christians, but podcasts allow the Christian to listen to whatever topic they want instead of getting a steady diet decided by a shepherd and it allows Christians to stop listening when they get bored or uncomfortable.

Attending church means Christians are listening to preaching and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform them through the work of the Word.

  1. Friendship/Community

People often speak of this aspect as “fellowship”. But fellowship is different. Fellowship will be discussed later. The believers in the early church were best friends. They were eating meals in each others’ houses every day. The closest friends of a Christian should be those in the church. When a believer begins to be led into flawed thinking such as believing a false doctrine, ending their marriage, living in sin, and such, it is their friends who can best correct them and they need godly friends who can.

  1. Fellowship

The word “fellowship” comes from the greek “Koinonia.” Koinonia is a relationship that goes far beyond two people eating at Chick-Fil-A together. It is used for Christian fellowship, but it’s also used for sexual intercourse.

Fellowship is more than socializing. It is when two or more people are partnered together with the same vision and goal in mind and headed relentlessly toward that. For Christians to have fellowship means that they are striving together for the purpose of expanding God’s kingdom and seeing fellow believers reach full maturity in Christ. (Eph 4:13)

  1. Prayer

The church must be praying together. Prayer fuels all of the Christian’s work. It must be more than Christians praying for the healing of Uncle Frank in the hospital. Those things must be prayed for, but the church’s prayers must be laser focused on the mission of the church which is to spread the Kingdom of God on earth.

  1. Generosity

The early church sold their property and possessions to help one another out. They did way more than drop a check in an offering plate. The early church had a generosity that allowed them to be sacrificial for the benefit of each other. God expects the church today to have this same kind of generosity.

  1. Worship/Praise

Many people quote Rom 12:1 and say that worship is not about singing a song, but is about offering your life as a sacrifice. While that is true, the early church was daily praising God in the temple. Worshipping through song was a regular part of their Christian lives and it should be the same with Christians today.

  1. Multiplication

Finally, the mission of the church is that more and more Christians will be created through its work. The church is supposed to be about helping the poor and reaching the outcast, but if that is done apart from the Gospel being proclaimed and people coming to Christ, it is not functioning right. A good sign of a faithful church is if God is adding to their numbers daily of those who are being saved.

Conclusion

It is absolutely crucial that Christians go to church. Christ left the church on earth to make disciples of all the nations. (Matt 28:19) This best takes place as local churches gather every week to encourage one another to love and good works. So go to church. Begin to serve in the church. Fall in love with the church.


[1] Whitney, Donald S. “Why Go to Church.” Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church, 15-17. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1996.

On Setting a New Years Resolution

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I love the final day of the year because I always take a time during the day to reflect on everything that happened in the year. I read all of my journal entrees, I scroll through every Facebook post, tweet, and Instagram picture, I review my preaching schedule from the year and think about each of those times I preached. I spend time reflecting on the things I have done over the course of the year and how the Lord has worked in me from Jan 1 to Dec 31.

As 2016 approaches, it is the perfect time to look at the previous year and think about the upcoming year. A question we can ask ourselves is, how can we change? What do we want to do differently in the coming year than we did in the previous?

I have been going to the same fitness gym since I was twelve and January is always an interesting time. On January 1st, the place begins to flood with new faces. In about February or March, most of those faces disappear. Why? People set a New Years Resolution to lose weight or get in shape and it didn’t stick. Why didn’t it stick?

I believe that many people would do better at their New Years Resolutions if they made the resolution more measurable. There is no way to track and see how I am doing when my New Years Resolution is “Get in shape.” What is your definition of “in shape”? Is it getting rock hard abs or simply not getting out of breath as easily?

When I plan for the coming year, I don’t necessarily call them resolutions. I call them goals. On December 31 for the last couple years, I have sat down and come up with goals for the following year. As today goes, I am working on my 2016 Goals. Here are some of them:

-Journal at least once a week (52 times total)

-See 20 movies you’ve never seen before

-Run 250 miles

-Read 50 books

These aren’t all of my goals for the year, but they are some I am shooting for. I may not make each one of them and that is okay. When Dec 31, 2016 arrives, I can at least see how close I got.

Do you see how these goals are measurable? No matter the month of 2016, I can look at my goals for the year and keep track of them and see how I am doing on each one of them. I can’t do that as well if my goal is “Run more” or “See more movies.” There is just no way to measure that.

Keep in mind that as you set New Years Resolutions, make them as specific as possible. The more specific they are, the more likely you will be able to watch your progress and the more likely you will stick with it because you can be encouraged at the progress you are making.

Baby Steps

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There is a hard struggle in being a Christian. When you begin following Jesus, he forgives you of your sins and you begin a lifelong process of following him, in which he leads you away from sinful tendencies and makes you more holy. This process will not be completed until we either die or Jesus returns.

So, my struggle is that I want to be fully free from sin, but I still have a long way to go. It would be really nice if I could be free from sin and be finished with that process next week, but the reality is that if I live to be 70, I still have a nearly 50 year battle with my sin to go. My desire is to be fully like Jesus and with him, but I have a long time to go.

Just when I think I almost have my sin under control, the Lord exposes to me 10 other areas where I am not even close to overcoming. I may be doing really well at patience and then I’ll be in a group of people and make 3 or 4 comments that I really shouldn’t have, that were arrogant, rude, or discouraging. I may be doing well at not looking at women with lust, but then lose my temper. I may have my language under control, but then cut someone off in traffic for my own gain.

I am a sinner.

And I want to be free from this curse over my flesh. I am completely forgiven of it because of the cross of Christ, but may we never use that as an excuse to indulge in it. I don’t want it as a part of my character anymore. But it is. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Maybe you feel this way. So what do you do?

I am a planner, so my one of my biggest thorns in the flesh is trying to think weeks, months, and even years out. There is value in not being content where you are in your walk with Christ, but there is also pain in fretting that you aren’t yet with Jesus where you won’t be for another 5 years. For whatever reason, God takes a lifetime to do a complete work in us and make us completely free from sin.

So instead of only focusing on the big picture, focus on today. Following Jesus and becoming more like him involves a lot of baby steps. We are never going to pole vault all the way through the Christian walk. It takes a lot of time. It is a battle. It is hard. Take it a day at a time and follow the Lord today. Keep the future in vision, so you know what you are aiming for, but don’t rush the sanctification process. Give everything you’ve got. When you give everything you’ve got and are fully surrendered to Jesus, you are in the appropriate posture at which he can do the most work in you.

“Oh that day when freed from sinning, I shall see thy lovely face

Full arrayed in bloodwashed linen, how I’ll sing thy sovereign grace

Come my Lord, no longer tarry. Bring thy promises to pass

For I know thy power will keep me til I’m home with thee at last.”

The Glory of God in the Snow

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It’s been covering the ground for over a week. It has been called many names.

Snowmageddon. The Snowpocalypse. The White Death.

And I have been right there among the complainers about it. I live in Louisville, KY and we got about a foot of it. For over a week, I was stuck on my seminary campus and couldn’t go anywhere. My vehicle is terrible in snow, so I don’t even want to risk it. I also lost a couple shifts at work, because if the seminary closes, my shifts are cancelled. This means that my paycheck is down and I need that income.

Now, there is a second one coming pretty soon. My hometown has already cancelled school for tomorrow because of its potential. Don’t get me wrong, I want spring to be here. I want to be able to spend time outside again. I want sunshine. I want to stop having to dress in 3 or 4 layers to stay warm.

But I pray that I won’t make the same mistake this time that I did last time.

In the previous snow storm, I spent a week complaining about it. Then I was in Job in my devotional time and I came to Job 37:5-7.

God’s voice is glorious in the thunder. We can’t even imagine the greatness of his power. He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down. Then everyone stops working so they can watch his power.”

It was like I had been smacked in the face. I missed about 7 hours of work and all I did was complain. But there was not a flake of snow that fell to the earth that God did not command to fall. “Then everyone stops working so they can watch his power.” I could have watched the power of God fall in the snow, yet all I did was complain.

So as the snow falls over the next couple of days, it will be cold. We will be cooped up inside. We may loose shifts at work that we need. We may not be able to drive our vehicles for a few days.

But let us watch the flakes fall from the sky and gaze on the glory and power of the God who caused it to fall.

Why Revival Hasn’t Started

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Many in the American church are majorly emphasizing revival of the United States. It is my prayer that that is what happens. However, before we call on the Lord for revival, let’s make sure we are calling for the right kind of revival.

I think very often our emphasis on revival is just a hope that all of the people in America will develop the Republican Christian view. It is hoped that abortion will be made illegal, the pull for same-sex marriage will die out, and everyone will start honoring the Bible (even if they don’t actually read it).

Let me be clear that I think all of these are issues we should fight for. We have to protect the unborn, seek the proper design for marriage, and we have to read and glorify the Word of God. But if that’s all we want, that’s not revival.

Revival is something much deeper. Revival will never happen until Christians in America actually want Jesus. So often, revival is made into a political movement. When revival comes, things will be better in the country. Of course, there will be no sin (or at least none of those murderers, rapists, and bank robbers), everyone will be nice to each other, and our kids will be able to safely play outside.

But this is not revival.

Revival will only happen when those calling for it want Jesus and him alone. It will come when the hearts of those calling for it are wholly surrendered to the will of Christ. A divine blessing on America is not enough. A Christian worldview in America is not enough. We have to love Jesus. We have to be in love with him and be willing to do anything he commands us. We have to surrender to him as the Lord of the Universe.

I want to see revival come to the United States and to the whole world. I want to see people fall in love with Jesus. I want to see Christians repair communities all around the world with a message of hope. I want to see people surrender to leave their current realities and move around the world to take the Gospel to people. I want to see the billions of people in the world who have never heard of Jesus be reached with his Gospel. I want to see the Kingdom of God come to completion.

But this will never happen until we love Jesus. Until we really love him. More than we love our lives. We must be in love with him to the point that if we have to choose between dying for Jesus or living without him, we choose death.

Until Christians in America surrender to him as the Lord of life that they love, we will never see revival. We will see churches continue to close, the buildings be abandoned, and the people dispersed to their homes. We will see sin take the country. We will see Christianity become more and more of a minority.

Do you want to see revival? It starts with you. Surrender to Jesus as Lord. Even if you have already done that. Wake up every morning, pick up your cross, and say, “Where are we going, Jesus?” And actually read the Bible, not as something to “bless your heart” but as something to actually change you into being more like Jesus.

Hear, O America. The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your strength.

The Joy of Sabbath Rest

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Sundays are my favorite day of the week. It’s not because I get to go to church, even though I am always excited to gather with other believers for worship. It’s not because my place of employment is closed that day, so I don’t have to work. It’s not because the Walking Dead comes on at 9, even though that show is cool.

Sunday is my day of rest. But not the kind of rest you might think of. I don’t just relax. I seek Sabbath rest.

We never think of the Sabbath as a big deal anymore. After all, didn’t Jesus say we don’t have to keep it anymore? Technically speaking, no he didn’t. What he said was:

The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. (Matt 12:8)

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)

Jesus did tell the Pharisees that their extra rules they had added to the Sabbath were bad. He told them it was okay to heal on the Sabbath. It is okay to get an animal out of a pit on the Sabbath.

So what is Sabbath rest? I could give you a theological definition of it, but you are still not going to know what to do with it, so let me tell you what it looks like in my life.

It is usually Sunday for me, however, that is not required. Church worship is on Sunday and you should attend that, but the day that you seek Sabbath rest is going to depend on your schedule.

On that day, I lay aside my weekly jobs. My place of employment is closed, so I don’t have to worry about working. I refuse to do homework on that day. I don’t do laundry, dishes, or any chores.

For at least a few hours, I turn my cell phone off and stay off my computer, unless it is needed. During that time period, I allow the Spirit to lead me in my activities. I do things that are going to center my mind and my heart on the Lord.

I may spend several hours in the Word. I may have a time where I just sing and pray. I read Christian books that are not required for my seminary classes. I might write a blog post. I might journal. I might listen to a sermon. If it’s nice weather out, I might go to a park and go for a walk or a hike and spend that time meditating on the things of God.

Whatever the Spirit leads me to do, I spend that time period with the Lord, seeking his presence, and worshiping him. This is what Sabbath rest is. Jesus is the greater Sabbath. Sabbath rest isn’t relaxing on the couch. It’s relaxing in Jesus.

God made the Sabbath for man’s benefit! He made one day a week for us to rest, but the rest that is best for us is rest in Him.

So start taking a day off every week. Reorganize your schedule and your to-do list in a way in which you can. No matter which day of the week you do it, spend that day putting away as many distractions as possible and seek the Lord of the Sabbath.

A Misunderstood Humility

As a Christian culture, sometimes we are really confused about what humility is. We think being humble is saying something like:

If you are a good preacher: “I preach every Sunday, but I am terrible at it.”

If you lead worship: “I lead worship, but I am terrible at it.”

If you have a really strong prayer life: “I am terrible at praying.”

This isn’t humility. This is self-degradation.

This is done out of our good attempts to not boast in ourselves. On a lot of things, including humility, we have a tendency to over-correct and flip our car into the ditch.

If we want to understand humility, we look at Jesus. Paul describes the humble example of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11. Jesus, though he was God, laid aside his divinity and became a man who was so obedient to his Father that he was willing to die on a cross for the sins of humanity. Thus, the passage shows that this is true greatness and that Jesus will be exalted forever in it.

That is the idea throughout Scripture. The sign of true greatness is a willingness to be humble. (Matt 23:12) But the humility that Jesus shows is not like what we try to do. He doesn’t come to earth and say, “I am the Son of God, but I do a really bad job at it.”

Jesus comes fully set in his identity as the Son of God and he takes his shirt off and bends down to wash his disciple’s feet. (John 13) He shows true greatness by thinking of others before himself, even though he is the only one worthy of anything.

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Humility is not looking down on yourself but thinking of other people’s interests first. If you have a great prayer life or a great passion and talent for leading worship and then you say that you are terrible at it, what does that say about your view of the gifts God has given you?

No, we never boast in our skills. We don’t exalt ourselves over anyone. Rather, we know that everything we have, we have because God has given it to us. So therefore, we give him glory by being obedient to him and loving others and never think of ourselves.

This is true greatness, that the Son of God was so clear on his relationship with his Father that he becomes a fragile human and washes the feet of sinful humans.