Category Archives: Response to God’s Word

The Unbelievable Gospel

Unbelievable Gospel

 

Are you fearful of sharing your faith? Does striking up conversations regarding faith cause your palms to sweat and your head to spin? Do you find it hard to know when and where to bring up your relationship with Jesus in conversation or how to even try to transition? Or do you maybe wonder why it seems people are not open to the gospel message as much as it seems people used to be? If you answer yes to any of those questions, you are not alone. Many Christians would be right there with you, including myself, even as a youth pastor. The Unbelievable Gospel is the book for you.

Having never heard of Jonathan Dodson before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the insight and wisdom shared within this book is helpful as well as challenging for the individual seeking to learn how to truly engage the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jonathan, the founding pastor of City Life Church in Austin, TX, blends in personal stories to help people learn from what he himself has experienced.

One of the main themes woven throughout this book is that we as Christians need to have a way to share what we believe that helps other people see that it is in fact worth believing themselves. A point Jonathan argues is that many people do not see the gospel as something worth believing and thus when Christians try to share the gospel with them, they are not interested. This can be due to many various things going on in their lives but in many situations, it comes down to Christians not presenting the gospel in an attractive or believable fashion. Thus, Mr. Dodson wrote The Unbelievable Gospel to “show us how to communicate and embody a gospel that is believable, personal, and culturally engaging” (Back cover). How does he do this?

The book is divided into 3 sections: Defeaters, Re-evangelization, and metaphors. Defeaters is all about the things that pull at us and keep us from sharing the gospel. Re-Evangelization helps the reader recover the Gospel and “remind us of the need to continually communicate the eternal gospel in new ways to various cultures and people” (p. 100). Lastly, metaphors is the practical part of the book “filled with examples of how to share a believable gospel” (p. 142). Metaphors is where Jonathan simply started sharing story after story in hope of “stimulating our missional imagination” to help us see it is not difficult to share the gospel in a believable way, it just takes us being willing to listen to culture and the people around us to find ways into their lives. Mostly gone are the days where we simply just asked people to come to church or an evangelistic meeting with us; today, people want to hear and see the gospel lived out before their eyes. When people see authentic faith lived before them, it gives us more of a voice with them but we also have to be mindful of the people we are sharing with and be listening for ways to engage people in a way that is personal. We cannot simply use gospel presentations anymore.

Let me share a couple quotes with you:

“Surprisingly, it isn’t all that hard for someone to mistake clear gospel preaching with moral, religious teaching…This is why gospel preaching and teaching, as good as they are, are not enough. We need everyday evangelists, people who are willing to rub shoulders with those outside the church, hang out at their parties, take them to lunch, and ask enough loving questions to surface true beliefs. It takes time, conversations, and patience for people to get grace, to get it down into their hearts.” (p. 62)

“We desperately need to set apart Jesus as Lord in our hearts, not what others think as Lord. This is where deep security is found.” (p. 95)

“People need to know why Jesus is worthy of their faith.” (p. 143)

“An evangelizing church is a praying church. The church that evangelizes has to pray because it knows evangelism is ineffective apart from the powerful work of the Spirit, who responds both to our prayers and to God’s will.” (p. 203)

Are you looking for some renewed energy and motivation for sharing your faith? Has your approach to share the gospel kind of gotten stale? The Unbelievable Gospel will give you energy and ideas for how to share with people what we as Christians believe is the most important aspect of our lives. I am going to be looking for ways to use this book with my church youth group. I would also love to see a church curriculum come out of this book as I believe it would personally help the people in the church where I currently serve. The gospel is life changing and life giving and as followers of Christ, it is our mission to be sharing it with people we come in contact with. This book will help encourage you to engage the world.

In compliance with regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, I received a complimentary copy of by Zondervan in exchange for this review.

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All I Need

simplicity

My life is full. I have more than I need. I have more clothes than I can wear in a couple months, and yet most of the time, I wear the same clothes time and again. I often waste food because I do not eat the leftovers from a meal. That in and of itself is amazing, that I have leftovers. I live in a home that offers shelter. I have many conveniences and nice things that help make my life extremely satisfying. In fact, many people around the world would love to have my life. Often, I do not think in this manner. Many times I allow myself to have pity parties because I might not have something that someone else does and it leaves me desiring it. But the simple fact is, no matter how hard your life might appear, I can guarantee you there is someone in the world right now, who if they knew you, would rather have your life than the one they are living. Why are we so easily dissatisfied? Why do we find ourselves wanting more than we need? Why am I so selfish?

This morning, I was reading through my Bible reading plan on YouVersion and read through Numbers 11. I see I am not alone in my desire for more. The Israelites have been led out of Egypt by Moses and they are now free from the slavery they had been in for many, many years. God had provided everything they needed. The Israelites had seen firsthand the miracles God performed before even coming out of Egypt. They had seen the Red Sea parted and they walked on dry land between two walls of water, nothing holding them up. Sometimes I wonder if they could actually see fish or other animals swimming around in the water. Or maybe someone tried to dive in to the wall of water. Either way, this is pretty amazing; nothing like this had been done before. God was physically present every day: in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They could physically see that God was with them. I can look at my life and take notice of the same thing, not so much in a cloud or pillar of fire, but God gives evidence that He is with us. I can often overlook it but the signs are there.

However, when we read in Numbers 11, we see the people complaining. How could someone complain when they have already been through all they have been through? Not only did they begin complaining, they began to long for Egypt. Remember what Egypt was for the Israelites? It had become slavery. They were not free people. They were enslaved. The first verse of Numbers 11 says this: “And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes.” What misfortunes did they have? They had everything they needed. God had provided time and again what they needed. And the most important thing they needed was His presence, but they missed it. But, it continues. Look ahead to verses 4-6:

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now, our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.

Read those verses a couple times and let the irony sink in. Then think about your life. We have strong cravings too don’t we? I know I do. It is amazing how our tastes or desires for stuff can be affected by the world around us without us even noticing it. God wants to bring us all to a place where we come to understand we have ALL WE NEED IN HIM. The Israelites did not need the food of Egypt to be content. God had provided what they needed, which most importantly, was His presence, yet they missed it. I miss it every day. They had the food they needed to remain strong. God was providing for them each and every day. Had they forgotten the hardship of their lives in Egypt? Had they forgotten their misery of being driven day after day to work for Pharaoh, to do his bidding?

This happens to me quite often. I see something I want so I find a way to get it, though I had no need for it, whatever IT is. IT is different for each of us. However, God was trying to help the Israelites see that ALL THEY NEEDED was HIM. They did not need all the extra luxuries of Egypt because all it did was distract them from being the people God had called the Israelites to be. And they were comfortable in their slavery. If the Israelites had taken a minute to look at God and check their hearts, they would have seen this. Yet they missed it.

When I take a minute to check my heart, it helps me curb my desires for more stuff, more of the things of this world that do not truly matter. Will my life be any less exciting if I do not get the latest model of something? Am I experiencing a life less satisfying due simply to the fact I do not have _____? If so, then my heart is in the wrong place because all I need is God and when I seek Him first, He has promise to provide everything I need. My problem is too often my wants go further than my needs. God has me right now in a place where I am learning to curb my desires for wants by helping me focus on how He has provided my needs. This is not an easy place to be because of everything around me screaming for my attention and that I pay it some of my mind. However, when I get to a place where I can quiet those screams, it is there God reveals to me I have so much. My life is full. And my life is full so I can use it to impact those around me with the Gospel of God’s grace. My life is not full simply for my pleasure. My life is full to bring glory to God. I find myself praying that God will keep me in this place and that I will continue to curb my desires for more in this life because all it does is drown out the voice of God. I want God’s voice to be the loudest I hear, not the cries for more stuff.

What about you? Are you in a place like this? I would love to hear your story. I pray this encouraged you in some way and feel free to share this with others. Thank you for taking the time to read this post.


God’s Word

Moving is not small endeavor. This past weekend my wife and I experienced this firsthand as we moved to Clifton Forge, VA. We are here to continue our ministry at Temple Baptist Church in Covington, VA where I serve as the youth pastor. We are excited to be have a place to call our own for the next year and look forward to seeing what God does in the church and in the youth group. I am praying for God to move in a mighty way. I would covet your prayers as well.

With that said, this morning as I was catching up on my reading plans on YouVersion, I read the following from Billy Graham’s reading plan titled

Day by Day with Billy Graham

and I wanted to share it with you.

Meditate on Scripture

Many of the difficulties we experience as Christians can be traced to a lack of Bible study and reading. We should not be content to skim through a chapter merely to satisfy our conscience. Hide the Word of God in your heart! A little portion well digested is of greater value to the soul than a lengthy portion scanned hurriedly. Do not be discouraged because you cannot understand it all. Go on reading. As you read, the Holy Spirit will enlighten the passages for you. Reading the Bible has a purifying effect upon the heart and mind.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. (Psalm 119:9 ESV)

Daily Prayer

Let the enlightenment of the riches of Your Word sink deep within my soul, Lord.

I hope this encourages and challenges you in your daily walk with the Lord. If there is any way I might pray for you please let me know.


Weekly Scoop 10/4

The Government has temporarily shutdown. The very well known Catalyst Conference is happening in Atlanta right now; maybe that is why the government has shut down, they are all in Atlanta to learn how to be better leaders. One can hope. Major League Baseball playoffs are here. The NHL season has just begun and the NBA season is right around the corner. There are a number of things that have begun since my last weekly scoop. And here is the next edition of “Weekly Scoop” with more links that you should check out.

The first one is kind of sad. BBC reports that adolescence has been extended so as to keep young people from developing an inferiority complex. I am not joking. Read for yourself: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2430573/An-adult-18-Not-Adolescence-ends-25-prevent-young-people-getting-inferiority-complex.html.

Next, this is an article that is a little surprising. The pope has made some very vague statements recently. Here are some quotes published in the Washington Post’s On Faith site. Read some of the comments at the bottom if you feel so inclined. Our faith is under attack: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/10/01/key-quotes-from-pope-francis-interview-with-atheist-journalist-stop-vatican-centric-thinking/.

The next two links are hard for me to post but since I became aware of them, I believe they are something the church needs to be able to respond to. I am not saying either of these writers is 100% correct in their response but I firmly believe the Bible is where we need to go for the answers.

First link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/08/15/conservative-christianity-and-the-transgender-question/?wprss=rss_on-faith&clsrd

Second link: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/08/19/transgender-issues-more-complicated-than-some-christians-portray/

Are we here in America really remaining silent? I know of many churches who will often mention the fact that our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are being killed for their faith. But, it still warrants mentioning here because here in America, we try to make it easy to be a disciple of Christ, whereas the early church preached it as it was: hard. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/27/a-global-slaughter-of-christians-but-america-s-churches-stay-silent.html

Lastly is a heart warming story of Ryan Leak and how he made it possible for him to propose to his wife AND get married on the SAME DAY! Not many men would want to go about the trouble of planning a wedding but that is what men should be willing to do, go above and beyond for their bride. Too often we make excuses such as “I’m not the romantic type” or “Men aren’t wired that way.” Men are wired to lead and to go above and beyond to show how much we love our wives because that is the example Christ gave us. Check out Ryan’s story and let it encourage you to go above and beyond in your relationship with your bride:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqgRaZIRHRI

 

Thanks again for checking out my weekly scoop. Feel free to comment and share any links to stories that might be worth sharing. Thanks for your time.


My heart is heavy

 

Through the last month, I have been reading Christine Cain’s book Undaunted. It has been a book I wish I could have read when I was in my early 20’s because of how powerful it has been to me. Christine is an Australian who has traveled the world speaking to various groups and her heart is to reach those who have been victims of human trafficking, or sex trafficking. Her and her husband started the organization A21 Campaign to help expose the problem of human trafficking and eventually and hopefully bring it to an end. The fact that it is even a problem in this world today tells an even bigger story of the depravity of humanity.

When you think of human trafficking, what first comes to mind is slavery and dealing with older people. However, the problem does not just involve older people, it involves people of all ages. The even more unfortunate part of human trafficking is the fact the biggest targets for those in human trafficking are little children through teenagers. When I say children, just being open and honest here of the severity of the problem, it can mean kids as young as infants. Let that sink in for a second. Romans 1:30 speaks of how humans can be “inventors of evil.” Little kids are taken from their homes and beaten and abused by others for their own pleasure and profit. How has the human race become so depraved as to actually do something so hideous and horrible? This breaks my heart even more now that I have an almost 3 year old daughter at home. Unfortunately, it does not break my heart like it should and as it no doubt breaks the heart of God.

Christine shares personal stories of how God brought her to the place of giving all she has to this cause and how He helped her overcome fears and feelings of inadequacy to actually begin doing something. She shared a powerful story of how her, her husband and a couple friends were lost in the Australian wilderness overnight and most of a day. Nick, Christine’s husband, left the other 3 to go try to find help and was gone for a number of hours before finally finding civilization and a helicopter to go back in and rescue the others. When she heard the helicopter, she say that God clearly spoke to her in a way that she has never forgotten. She remembers that when she first saw it, her thoughts were “We’re saved. We’re saved.” She shares what God spoke to her heart that day:

“Yes, Christine, you are saved. Remember what it is to be saved. Remember what it is to be lost. Remember the darkness and the difference between feeling carefree one morning and by evening sad and scared and sorry for being careless. Remember that I am here. Remember that I want to save every soul. And remember what it is to be unable on your own ability to get out of the dark. “

Too often, once we are saved, it is easy to forget what it is like to be lost, or caught in darkness. We forget what it is like to be scared and without hope. We do not like to think that there are people out there who have no hope unless we as Christ’s followers stand up and do something. We believe that since we are able to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” then these people should be able to also. But that just reveals how uninformed we are.

One of the most powerful stories she shares is when her and Nick took one of their daughters to get a flashlight at Wal-Mart. After picking one out, they gave it to her and she turned it on and because of how bright the store was, she could not truly see the flashlight working. So she asked them “Can we please go find some darkness.” This little girl spoke mountains of truth into their lives through that statement and even as I sit here thinking about it, is that my mindset? Do I realize that Christ in me is a light and through me, God wants to shine a light into the darkness all around me? Do I really want to seek out darkness so Christ can truly shine? Or am I content with being in so much light that I forget about the darkness all around me? Or, am I fearful of what it might mean to my life?

I have to admit, I have many fears in my life and many times, I find myself being more driven by them than by my faith in God. It’s amazing that even those of us who claim to have faith in the almighty, powerful God who saved us from death and darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son can still be driven by fear. Christine’s book truly challenges you to live undaunted in the world around us. We need to stop living so blindly and allow our eyes to be opened to the world around us, the hurt, the pain, the darkness; and then we need to run towards it because we have the light. We have the answer; we have God’s Spirit inside of us and His mission to make disciples as we are living this life. We are to be carriers of justice and hope and peace in this world. But we cannot do that while waiting for them to come to us. We need to go to them.

One final story for this post comes when Christine was able to meet face to face with some girls who had been trafficked. After talking with them for a while one of the girls asked why she was there. She was able to share with them the gospel and why she had come. The girl’s response was this:

“If what you are telling me is true,” she yelled, “if what you say about your God is true – then where were you? Where have you been? Why didn’t you come sooner?”

I cannot imagine the feeling in that room at that moment. But I can understand her question. God tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. If something were to happen to someone in your family or in mine, wouldn’t you stop everything and help them or search for them if they were lost? If something were to happen to my family, I would give up everything to search for them and would not stop until they were found. If that is the case, if we say we love God, how can we sit by and do nothing when those around us, those God calls our neighbors, are hurting and lost? This just makes me think even more about the part where they were lost in the wilderness and God told her to remember what it was like to be lost.

If we as Christians have this light to shine in the darkness, how can we just sit back and be ok with what is happening in the world around us? If you were sitting face to face with someone who had been trafficked, what would you say to them if they asked you why you didn’t come sooner? How would you respond? At that time, I really believe your life would be put in perspective and what you spent your time doing would be shown their true importance. Unfortunately, we are so easily distracted. I can honestly say this book has truly helped open my eyes and challenged me to not let fear drive me. I have God’s Spirit in my life and a mission from Him that He wants me to accomplish. And because of that, I can live undaunted. Because of the Gospel at work in my life, I can live without fear because the Gospel changes everything.

Before I close, I want to share a couple quotes that stood out to me:

“He does not ask, Are you capable? He asks are you willing?”

“The oppressed do not see too much difference between those who would keep them down and those who do nothing to help. There is no in-between.”

“Saving costs something. Rescuing risks everything.”

“When you’re not lost – when you’re safe – it’s hard to understand the urgency of needing to be found, needing to be rescued.”

If you are not sure where to begin, you can start by checking out organizations such as International Justice Mission, A21 Campaign, Freedom 4/24, End It Movement, Do Something Now, Liveyourdream.org and Polaris project. These are a few to start with but there are so many more out there working to the same end.

2 Timothy 1:7 says “for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and sound judgment.” Let’s live that way and run towards the darkness with the light that we have. Thank you for taking the time to read this review. If you want a challenge, please go out and pick up the book, it will definitely challenge and change you.

In compliance with regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, I received a complimentary copy of by Zondervan in exchange for this review.


A burning in my bones

 

I have been reading through the Bible using M’Cheyne’s One Year Bible reading plan on YouVersion. It has been a great accountability help with keeping up with regular reading besides what I study for upcoming lessons and sermons. For the past couple weeks we have been going through Jeremiah, who is also known as the “weeping prophet.” The “weeping prophet” is not a popular nickname for anyone. But, regardless, that is how Jeremiah is commonly referred to. Today’s reading plan called for chapter 20 of Jeremiah and one verse stood out to me:

Jeremiah 20:9 – But if I say, “I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name, then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.”

Read over the verse again and think on it. Let it ruminate in your mind. Put yourself in his shoes. He is given a mission that is anything but desirable. Even today, it would be hard to find someone who would want to do what Jeremiah did, especially if you based it on this chapter alone. Jeremiah was a prophet in Jerusalem for about 40 years right up to the time of the fall of Judah and their deportation to Babylon. He most often spoke towards people who had rejected the one true God for false idols. He warned them time and again right up to the point where the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed. All of that to basically say no one would want to be Jeremiah. Jeremiah 20:10-18 share his emotions at this time:

10 For I hear many whispering.
Terror is on every side!
“Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
say all my close friends,
watching for my fall.
“Perhaps he will be deceived;
then we can overcome him
and take our revenge on him.”
11 But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble;
they will not overcome me.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
will never be forgotten.
12 O Lord of hosts, who tests the righteous,
who sees the heart and the mind,[a]
let me see your vengeance upon them,
for to you have I committed my cause.

13 Sing to the Lord;
praise the Lord!
For he has delivered the life of the needy
from the hand of evildoers.

14 Cursed be the day
on which I was born!
The day when my mother bore me,
let it not be blessed!
15 Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father,
“A son is born to you,”
making him very glad.
16 Let that man be like the cities
that the Lord overthrew without pity;
let him hear a cry in the morning
and an alarm at noon,
17 because he did not kill me in the womb;
so my mother would have been my grave,
and her womb forever great.
18 Why did I come out from the womb
to see toil and sorrow,
and spend my days in shame?

 Can you imagine coming to a time in your life where you cursed the day you were born? I have been through times where I have felt sad or depressed but I do not believe I have ever been at the point Jeremiah was where I cursed the day I was born. This provides a little insight as to why he was labeled the “weeping prophet.” However, as you read verse 9 about a “fire burning within” it brings you to a place where you need to ask if you have that fire within you? We have all been given a mission by God to take the Gospel to the world, and to share the love of God with everyone we come in contact with. We are to make disciples and to take His Word to the nations. Do we have a fire burning within us that keeps us from being silent? Or do we have no choice but to speak the message God has placed on our heart? Do we get tired from trying to hold the message inside of us? Why not?

I am praying that God will light this fire within me that will not allow me to be silent. Even though Jeremiah had a message no one wanted to hear, he did not let that keep him silent. He spoke unpopular words but they were necessary. Today, the Gospel message is unpopular, but it is necessary. May it light a fire in us that we cannot keep inside.


Does it matter how we live?

 

I have been thinking a lot recently about 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. This past Sunday I shared it with the youth and college students at Temple Baptist. It says:

“For the love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” (ESV)

The reason I have been thinking about this passage recently is I have noticed a trend moving in the church today, especially in younger people, where everyone can just live their lives the way they want to while professing to be a Christian. One can live however they want to and everything is fine because God loves everyone. We can do whatever we want all because God loves us and wants us to have a good time in this life. He is a God of grace and mercy so you can lie, steal, cheat, lust, etc. as long as your choices are not as poor as the next person.

However, this passage does not in any way give that impression. In fact, it says the exact opposite. First, as a follower of Christ, we should be controlled by the love of Christ. There are many times I have to remind myself about this. If the love of Christ is not controlling me as a follower of Christ, then what is controlling me? Nothing else should control me and have a tighter grip on my life than Jesus Christ. How can the love of Christ control me? It takes work and effort on our part. One does not become a follower of Christ and never have to work at living for God. Daily living for the Lord takes discipline and Bible reading and prayer and allowing God’s Spirit to guide you. This does not come easily to everyone. But that is what it truly takes to live a life controlled by the love of God.

Along the same lines, why should the love of Christ control us? Because of the Gospel. Verse 14 states the Gospel in a simple way, “One (Jesus) has died for all, therefore, all (followers of Christ) have died.” That is the Gospel clearly stated. We deserved to die the death Jesus died in our place, or on our behalf, or for our sake. He died so we would no longer live for ourselves. This is the essence of sin, living for ourselves. It is the very thing that caused Adam and Eve to sin. They wanted to live for themselves and fell for the lie of Satan that God was holding out on them and that their best life was right on the other side of eating the fruit of the tree God told them not to eat of. We are still trying to eat of that fruit even though God has given us His Word to show us the better way to live, His way. His is the way which leads to everlasting joy and peace, not temporary happiness and pleasure.

Moses chose to be with God in the wilderness than have the pleasures of Egypt without Him. By choosing to live for ourselves, we choose to live in the pleasures of Egypt apart from God while still trying to experience God in the wilderness. However, as you read through the Old Testament, we see that did not play out in the Israelites favor. Moses chose to let God lead Him and control his life.

This brings us to the end of the passage above: “might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” The part translated as “for their sake” in ESV, in the NASB is translated as “on their behalf.” When someone does something on your behalf, it is done in your place and no longer needs to be done. This means since Jesus died on the cross, we no longer need to pay for our sins because it is already done. Nothing we do can help pay more or less for our sins. Nothing we do can bring more grace to our lives and nothing can take grace away from our lives. God loves us all the same no matter what we choose to do with our lives. This means God loves the most faithful pastor of a mega church or small town church the same as He loves Osama Bin Laden. Thus, because all God did for us, we are to live our lives to Him. As followers of Christ we can no longer say “it is my life, I can do what I want.” Everything we do, from eating to how we dress to how we talk to what we watch on TV or listen to on the radio should all be done out of love for Christ.

But how is this possible? This seems pretty legalistic and rigid don’t you think? To say that God wants us to consider Him in everything we do is crazy. Two more passages:

Colossians 3:23 – “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

It is not legalistic, it is what Christ desires from us as His followers. Read what Galatians 2:19-20 says:

“For through the law, I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

These verses contain the same idea as 2 Corinthians 5. Lastly, look at Galatians 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” What are the desires of the flesh? You can simply say it is the desire to live for ourselves. Can you imagine a world where followers of Christ truly had this mindset instead of the mindset that I can do what I want? If we are a follower of Christ, we cannot live the way we want because our lives are no longer our own, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) Can it be any clearer?

To close, I don’t want this post to only sound negative and restrictive because that is not how God presents Himself. God tells us many times that life in Him is the abundant life. Life lived according to His Word brings life. The more we live for ourselves, the more we become slaves to it and to our own passions which is in direct contrast to what God desires for us. God wants our very best. Living for ourselves does not bring us the very best. It eventually leads to a less satisfying life for many reasons, more than I will take time to go into here. But I would urge you as a follower of Christ to look at your life. What is controlling you and guiding you? Only God’s love can lead to the most fulfilling life regardless of your current circumstances and situations.

When asked why we live how we live, may our response be “for the Love of Christ controls us.”

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. It is always my prayer that this encourages you and challenges you in your walk with the Lord. Feel free to pose any comments or thoughts.


Covington…Here we come!!

Well, since my last post not related to a book review there has been a pretty big change in the life of thetoddlynn. My wife and I, and our daughter too, will be moving to Covington, VA where I have accepted the position of youth pastor at Temple Baptist Church. My new ministry will begin June 1st which means my time at Journey will end on May 31st. Marcie and I have had so many memories at Journey and while we are sad that we are leaving and will miss everyone so much, we are also looking forward to this new opportunity.

From the very beginning of this process, God has been clear that this is the next step He wanted us to take. Having lived in Covington for 8 years of my life from 1989 through 1997, I never expected God would lead me back there. When I first heard that a church in Covington would be looking for a youth pastor, my initial response was “no way!” Maybe with a little more emphasis though. However, as I prayed about it and sought after God’s leading, it became obvious I should send in my résumé for consideration. After sending it in, Marcie and I continually committed it to prayer and asked God to make it crystal clear what He wanted us to do. We were hesitant because of the ministry that we had at Journey and how we had built some strong relationships with the youth and did not want to leave that. However, the more we prayed, the more God kept opening the door and leading us towards Covington. Through this whole process God has constantly shown Himself to Marcie and me in numerous ways to encourage and comfort us that this was His leading, and not our own.

Marcie and I have had numerous conversations regarding what God might want for us in the future. I would try to encourage her that with the heart God has given us for students, we needed to be ready to go anywhere and do anything. In my pride, I really thought God was using me to help prepare my wife for some kind of move whereas; God was actually preparing my heart. As I said before, I never saw myself moving back to Covington. I constantly challenge the youth at Journey to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and share the love of God with those students they come in contact with each and every day in school. It is so easy to be passive in our relationship with God when God calls us to be intentional.

Intentional.

That word has been on my mind constantly in the last couple months. What do I want to be remembered for when people look back on my life? When I look back at my life, what do I want to see? How do I want people to say I lived? How do I want to live each and every day?

With intention, intentionally. Not just letting life pass me by but living intentionally. Being intentional with my wife. Being intentional with my daughter. Being intentional with the ministry God has given me. Living intentionally and sharing the Gospel intentionally with my words and with how I live.

The first way God has chosen to help me live intentionally is to follow Him intentionally to Covington, VA where I will get the awesome opportunity to pour into students of all ages, from elementary kids to college students.

One verse that has stood out to me through this whole process, one that I have tried to live my life by is Acts 20:24:

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God.

This is the ministry that God has given my wife and I. This is the course that He has laid out for us. We are excited about this new chapter about to begin but at the same time, sad the chapter we are in is about to come to a close. I am very thankful for social media and text messaging so we will still be able to keep in touch with the youth we have poured our lives into the last 2 ½ years. These last couple years really helped bring Marcie and I to the point we are at right now and it’s been amazing to look back and see God’s constant provision and direction in our lives. Even though it might not have come in the way we would have wanted, it has come in a way that has lead us to lean more heavily on God and learn to trust Him with every area of our lives. He is in control. God never promises us an easy life but He has promised to go with us every step of the way.

The other verse that has been laid on my heart is Matthew 28:19-20 which the way we have translated it says “Therefore, Go and make disciples of all nations…” The word so often translated in our Bibles as “go” really means “as you are going.” It has the understanding with it that as we are living our lives, be making disciples. Wherever God places you in life, wherever He leads you, make disciples. As we begin this transition, we go with that command, to make disciples in Covington, VA. So Covington, ready or not, here we come!!!

I pray this little recap of our lives challenges you. Not because we are great people of God but because we are people trying to serve a great God.

It’s all about the Gospel.


Psalm 62

This passage came at the right time today.

1  For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
2  He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

3  How long will all of you attack a man
to batter him,
like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
4  They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
but inwardly they curse. Selah

5  For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
6  He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7  On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

8  Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah

9  Those of low estate are but a breath;
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
10  Put no trust in extortion;
set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

11  Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
12  and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
according to his work.

 

For any of you who might be going through a rough day, I pray that this is an encouragement to you as well.

 


Treasure

Each morning throughout the week, I am doing some reading plans through the Bible and one of them is called “Right From the Heart, 1 Minute Devotions.” It is a short reading coupled with a passage of Scripture, typically no more than a couple verses. You can find this on “YouVersion.” I highly recommend it if you are someone who needs some help with reading through the Bible.

Well, this morning’s reading had something that I figured I would share with everyone. It was a pretty convicting read for myself:

“I had an interesting conversation with a friend who is an atheist. He had visited our church and heard statistics on the high number of families who give nothing to the Lord’s work each year. The basic minimum in faithful giving, according to the Bible, is ten percent, or a tithe. My friend said to me, ‘I was shocked. I thought if you people really believe this stuff about God, heaven, and hell, and the importance of spreading the message, you’d want to give more than ten percent. Because what could be more important than that?'”

When I first read this, it was truly a challenge to me and even now as I think about it, it is pricking my heart. What would someone say about my giving if they could see where I spend my money? Do I put my own selfish desires before reaching others for the kingdom of God? The Bible says that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21. I hope that my treasure and heart are in the same place.