This is the first track and field season for Noah (ninth grade) and Levi (eighth grade). Below are a couple of short videos capturing their events (or the finish of races). Noah has been primarily focusing on high jump, and Levi has been running the 1600-meter run, the 800-meter run, and the 4×400-meter relay.
After I became a Christian during my sophomore year of college, I remember having some conversations with a Christian friend about tattoos. In my attempt to convince my friend the err of his ways, I told him tattoos were sinful, as I misapplied Bible verses and took them out of context. I was convinced that getting a tattoo was a sinful act, and surely, one cannot walk faithfully with Jesus and willfully get a tattoo.
As I grew in my Christian faith, however, I began to better understand the Christian liberty my friend explained. Sure, not everyone agrees on the issue of tattoos, and they certainly can be sinful if they, just like anything else, dishonor God and glorify sin. The Bible, despite my early misunderstandings and many others’ misrepresentations, does not condemn those who get tattoos. Rather, there is freedom to get them or to not get them.
Now, this is not a post to defend the case for tattoos or condemn the practice. A short and potentially helpful article on battling with that in your own mind is here. Rather, I simply want to make the point that what I once thought to be a form of godliness (judging others on issues of liberty, like tattoos) was actually a great deal of spiritual immaturity and ungodliness.
Do you have issues in your life like that? Are you finding yourself stumbling spiritually over the freedoms of others? If the Bible is clear on something, then let us stand up for such Truth. When the Bible is unclear, though, let us not divide.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on the “Weaker Believer Syndrome” (1 Corinthians 8:8-9; Romans 14). “Food will not make us acceptable to God. We are not inferior if we don’t eat, and we are not better if we do eat” (1 Corinthians 8:8).
Are you letting debatable things like food (and tattoos) rise to the level of that which makes us “acceptable to God?” If so, you are struggling with what Bob Ingle calls “weaker believer syndrome.” By the grace of God and a growth in spiritual maturity, you can grow past such struggles of conscience and pursue biblical unity in the body of Christ.
No, I have no desire or plans to get a tattoo. While I used to tell my parents I was going to get one as soon as I turned 18 (because they would not let me as a child), that desire diminished. I am thankful for that because I had planned on getting a really silly one that I would certainly regret today. Still, I in no way think that a Christian who gets a tattoo (as long as motives are pure and God is honored) is any less faithful to God’s Word.
Telling a Christian he is in sin for getting a cross tattoo on his forearm is no different than that same Christian telling me I am in sin if I do not get the tattoo. We can feel differently, respecting one another’s freedoms while uniting in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
To be clear, I do not believe drinking alcohol is a sin. The Bible declares drunkenness to be a sin (Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Peter 4:3), but drinking in moderation is not. Yet, I choose not to drink alcohol because for me, I believe it could be and even would be sinful.
WHY IT COULD BE SINFUL
Like everyone, I am a sinner who is prone to wander and prone to indulgence. I have eaten way too much ice cream and lived to regret such a decision. Thus, I plead with my wife, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully, not to buy ice cream. If it is not in the house, I will not overindulge. Perhaps such overeating of ice cream is even sinful at times, but it does not cause me to say or do foolish things. Ice cream cannot cause me to be intoxicated. As long as I do not eat so much that I become overweight, things are okay. Still, I know I have to be careful with delicious foods like ice cream.
If I struggle to say no to sweets because they taste so delicious, what could happen if I found an alcoholic beverage that tastes delicious? What could happen if I drank one and then wanted another and then another? I do not plan to find out, as drinking is just not worth the risk to me.
Wine is a mocker, beer is a brawler, and whoever staggers because of them is not wise.Proverbs 20:1
I am doing fine without alcohol, enjoying life and not feeling hindered by the lack of alcohol. It could be sinful for me to begin drinking because I am no less susceptible to drunkenness than anyone else. Wisdom tells me to just stay away.
WHY IT WOULD BE SINFUL
Not only could drinking be sinful for me, though, I believe it would sinful. Again, I want to be clear that I am not declaring alcohol consumption to be a sin. In moderation and in good conscience, it might be completely fine. Because of the message I believe I would be sending to my children, other believers, people who might stumble spiritually when seeing me drink, and unbelievers who might see drinking alcohol as Christian hypocrisy, however, I believe it would be sinful for me to drink.
This is a personal conviction that I am obviously okay sharing with others, although I do not try to push this conviction on those who disagree but are self-controlled, responsible, and do not appear to be damaging their Christian witness. If I am asked, which I am occasionally, I share my position. Otherwise, just as in any other area of life, I only confront people in sin when they are clearly in sin, just as I hope others in the body of Christ will confront me whenever I am clearly in sin. We need one another for encouragement, edification, and accountability.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will continue our Church Undivided series and talk about “The First Quandary: Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” (1 Corinthians 8). We do have a responsibility to help one another grow closer to Jesus. “Therefore, if food causes my brother to fall, I will never again eat meat, so that I won’t cause my brother to fall” (1 Corinthians 8:13). And, related to the topic of this post, “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble” (Romans 14:21).
Drinking alcohol, you can argue, is a freedom we have, not just as Americans but as Christians. The Bible allows for drinking in moderation and self-control. With all of the problems caused by alcohol abuse in our country, though, and with all of the division caused by this substance and this issue, is this a freedom worth treasuring or even maintaining? Or, would we better honor Christ and serve His church by letting go of this freedom for the sake of our example and for the sake of our witness?
What are some of the most ridiculous things about which people fight? A long list could be made, and this past year has provided plenty of examples through politics, the pandemic, sports, social issues, and much more. Of course, nothing really changed with the fact that people have always been fighting about things that are not worth the resulting division.
If you are a faithful Christ-follower, however, you are part of a faithful, gospel-centered church. In Christ and in His church, we ought to behave differently than the world around us. This is not because we are better and “have it all figured out,” but rather because we have been changed by the Spirit of God and desire to honor Christ by being one with His body – His church. Thus, we must refuse to divide over issues the Bible does not call us to divide over.
Yes, there are frequently times when we are called to take a stand for Truth, and the result will not be unity with those with whom we disagree. For example, we cannot, as followers of Jesus, unite with those who support abortion – the murder of the unborn. While we still must love and respect those who support (and even celebrate) such abominations, we lovingly and boldly speak the Truth and will remain divided with those who do not believe what the Bible clearly teaches.
In a gospel-centered church, though, issues that are clear in Scripture do not tend to be the issues over which division occurs. Instead, silly things derived from worldly preferences (where Christian freedom is permitted) cause division. Really, rather, people allow such things to cause division. People fight, but the Bible calls us to unite.
Not only does the Bible call us to unite under the leadership and authority of Jesus Christ our Lord; the Bible calls us to fight for unity.
“Now I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
Let us not fight over non-essential issues about which we can agree to disagree. Instead, let us fight together for unity in the body of Christ.
Should I get vaccinated or not? Should my kids go to private school, public school, or be home-schooled? Should I vote this way or that way (for an issue or candidate about which Scripture is unclear)? Should we sing these songs or those songs? Should we dress this way or that way? We can agree to disagree on issues the Bible does not address and still serve Christ faithfully together. We should and we must.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a new sermon series on the Church Undivided. In the first message from 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, I hope to challenge our church family to not fight like the world around us but to fight for unity.
Unfortunately, many people “like a good fight” and/or are often quick to settle for division. If we trust the gospel, though, our hearts are changed by Jesus, and then a growing desire for peace and unity will result. Have you surrendered your life to Jesus? Let us not fight. Let us unite.
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood, misused, and misapplied passages in the Bible is Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 7:7-8 (“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.).
That promise from Jesus is not an open invitation to get whatever we want from God. In the context of what Jesus was explaining, He was talking about seeking God in prayer and receiving from God what He wills for our lives.
The more we seek the Lord and find our hope in Him, the more we desire what He desires for us. The more we know His Word, the better we understand His will (and thus know how to pray and what to pray for). Only when we know and follow Him according to His Word can we experience the life He has for us. Only then is our identity in Him.
If you are trying to live your life with some other purpose, it is like you are stealing the identity for which you were created. When you try to find hope and meaning outside of the Lord, you will only be disappointed (sooner and/or later).
On Sunday morning for our Resurrection Sunday worship celebration, Lord willing, I will be preaching through 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 on our “Resurrected Identity” when we live in the light of Jesus’ resurrection glory. To experience that resurrected identity and live with a purpose and satisfaction that endures, we have to know and follow Jesus Christ and continually depend on Him. To do anything else is to steal your God-given identity.
Even good things (family, career, hobbies, etc.) can be used for evil, and if we find our identity in those things (or anything besides Jesus), then we are committing a form of idolatry. We are settling for far less than God’s best for us. We are not “asking… searching… knocking” rightly (biblically) and will thus fail to find and receive what God has for us.
Are you finding your identity in Christ, or are you stealing your identity for your own purposes? Do not give in to the temptation to think any other identity will fulfill you. It will only fail you.
Spring is a time of new beginning and growth. Praise the Lord – He is always at work in people’s lives, bringing forth new beginnings and growth! Just as the grass grows and the flowers blossom, so God brings about spiritual growth and development.
Of course, we are completely incapable of experiencing that growth and development apart from God’s grace. We must continually rely upon Him by seeking Him through His Word, walking with Him in prayer, serving alongside His church, and being committed to His mission.
Do you have people in your life to challenge, sharpen, and encourage you to walk with the Lord? Have you sincerely surrendered your life to Him? Are you continually depending on Him?
Knowing how much we need prayer and how much we need one another, I wanted to share some ways you can be praying for our family right now…
- Please pray that we will love, serve, and honor Jesus Christ above all.
- Please pray that we will be good stewards of our resources.
- Please pray that we will be disciples who make disciple makers.
- Please pray that we will faithfully serve and build up our church family.
How can we pray for you? Please let us know.
Finally, praise God for His continued kindness and goodness! Here are some recent picture highlights, with a throwback included.
On our way to our vacation destination last August, I was driving through a construction zone with very little traffic and no construction workers on site. The interstate on which I was driving was down to two lanes (one in each direction) with no ability to pass. Unfortunately, I was behind a semi, and I am not nearly as patient as I should be, driving or otherwise.
Of course, when you are going through a construction zone and trailing a semi, cruise control really is not an option, as speeds can fluctuate so much. Thus, I found myself creeping up on the semi, slowing down, creeping up, slowing down, etc. Meanwhile, an Illinois State Police officer pulled out of his observation spot and was following me. I knew he was behind me but did not think much about him, as I could hardly speed or do much, and there was nearly no one else on the road.
Well, as soon as the construction zone ended, the trooper put his lights on and pulled me over. Great! What did I do wrong? Apparently, I did two things wrong. Multiple times, my speed got up to 65 miles per hour in the 55-mph construction zone, and I was following the semi too closely. Looking back, I can recognize the officer was right, and I was guilty of both offenses. Still, I was frustrated.
I cannot really remember what I said to the officer, but what I do remember is that he let me off with a warning. Phew! Perhaps my sweet wife and five scared children sitting with me in the van helped. They certainly helped more than my driving did! One thing I am certain I did not say in response is, “Oh, no thank you, officer. Please give me the full force of justice and the maximum penalty for my offenses.” Instead, I was obviously grateful for the warning and thanked the officer. I am not sure how much he could have penalized me, but I imagine that, especially because I was driving through a construction zone, the fines could have been steep. Praise the Lord for warnings!
Of course, there are no more important warnings than those found in the Word of God. Over and over, the Bible warns us of our need to turn away from sin and trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation. Sin has consequences, and so we are warned of our need for atonement, which only comes in and through a relationship with Jesus.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Titus 2:11-14 on the “Second Chances” that only come by the grace of God. The greatest of all warnings points us to the greatest of all graces.
For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.Titus 2:11-14
STANDARD OF TRUTH
If I told that state trooper, “But, I didn’t KNOW I could only go 55 miles per hour here,” would that make me innocent? Of course not. As a driver I am responsible for knowing and obeying the law. Likewise yet more importantly, as God’s creation, we are responsible for knowing and obeying His Law – the Bible. Are you seeking to know His Word and heed His warnings?
If I told that state trooper, “Well, maybe it’s your opinion that I was following that semi too closely, but in my opinion, I was just fine. I was comfortable with what I was doing. That’s my truth,” how would that have gone? Not well. The law is not based on my opinions or feelings and abilities. The law is based on standards, regardless of how I feel. I have no right and no ability to change the law, at least not in that moment. Even more so, we can never change God’s Law. His law is perfect and enduring. His standard of truth never changes because He never changes. Thus, we have no right and no ability to pick and choose which parts of His Word we obey. Are you asking for God’s help to walk in humility and obey His Word? Do you have relationships of intentional accountability to help you grow in your relationship with Him?
By God’s grace, He has given us warnings throughout His Word, and He has given us chance after chance to repent and believe. Let us not fail to know and embrace the most important of warnings! Let us trust His grace for salvation and trust His grace for sanctification. To God be the glory!
As Zoe smiles about in the picture above, Marsha recently painted the walls and bookshelves in my office. The picture does not do the great job much justice, though, as it looks amazing, especially when compared to before. Since Marsha completed this project and all the books were put back onto the shelves, I have found myself, many times over the past week, just looking around my office in satisfaction, gladness, and celebration. Might sound silly to you, but I truly am thankful. Might seem like a small cause for celebration, but I spend many hours in this office every week doing sermon preparation, writing, meeting with people, talking on the phone, and working on various ministry tasks. This fresh, new, clean look is a reason for me to celebrate.
Life is full of reasons to celebrate, whether we recognize the reasons or not. Of course, many reasons, just like the fresh paint in my office, are fleeting. They are temporary. They will not endure.
What truly brings the church together, though, and what lastingly keeps the church together is not temporary at all. Jesus is His name, and our worship of Him is a celebration. So much greater and infinitely more satisfying than a fresh coat of paint, Jesus is the Only One who can give us cause for celebration that never ends.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Psalm 98 on the great joy of the “Worship Celebration.” If you know and follow Jesus, then worshiping Him (both corporately and individually) really is a celebration. Not a meaningless religious ritual, worshiping the Lord with others and worshiping the Lord with our lives ought to be a growing passion.
Have you given your life to Jesus? Do you have a growing passion to worship Him? In what areas can you grow in faithfulness in your corporate and private worship? He is our reason to celebrate!
Sing a new song to the Lord, for He has performed wonders; His right hand and holy arm have won Him victory. The Lord has made His victory Known; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.Psalm 98:1-2
As my basketball coach, my dad used to frequently say that in order to be a good player, you had to be a student of the game. You had to pay attention and always be learning, or you could not get better. He would talk a lot about “basketball IQ,” often frustrated that intelligent people did not always make intelligent players. He would preach, “You have to be a student of the game. Are you a student of the game?“
Of course, I find myself telling my kids the same thing. Silas (#22 above) and Noah (#22 below) both finished their seasons recently. Whether with them or with Levi and Zoe, whose seasons finished a couple of months ago, I am regularly reminding them of their need not only to practice the fundamentals of the game but to better learn the fundamentals of the game by watching basketball. If you do not know the game well, you cannot play the game well.
Similarly, but much more importantly, if you do not know the Lord well, you cannot follow and worship the Lord well. Are you a student of the game?
Really, though, life is much more than a game because what happens in this life matters for eternity. And, the only knowledge sufficient for eternal life is the knowledge of the gospel. Thus, are you a student of the Word? Do you know the Lord according to His Word and seek to follow and worship Him according to the standards of His Word?
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will preach through Psalm 145 on “Learned Worship.” We will consider five ways to learn right worship. God defines what is right, and knowing Him and knowing His Word will allow us to worship Him rightly. Otherwise, we go through the motions in vain, at best, dishonoring His name and destroying our lives.
Are you a student of the game? Your success depends on it. Are you a student of the Word? Your salvation depends on it.
If you have damaged your relationship with someone by betraying them, how well would things go if you showed up at their house wanting to hang out but without any acknowledgement of your betrayal? Surely, that would not go well. We can never, in our right minds, expect things to be “okay” without any effort to resolve problems and conflicts.
Now, consider that any form of disobedience to the Word of God is sin – a betrayal of God and His plan for your life. Yet, how often do you seek to worship God, whether individually or corporately, without turning away from sin? How often do you pray for God’s will for your life, while willfully continuing to disobey His Word? How often do you ask for God’s blessings, while holding on to bitterness toward others? How often do you expect God’s provision, while picking and choosing which parts of His Word to obey? How often do you sing songs of praise, while your heart is sick with unrepentant sin?
If we truly want to honor and worship the Lord (and be in a right relationship with Him), we must repent of our sins and turn to Him. Firstly, of course, this requires we believe the gospel and surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. That humble surrender that requires sincere repentance, though, is not a one-time desire that ends with our justification. Repentance is an ongoing expectation in the Christian life, and without regular repentance (because we are still sinners), we have no right to cry out to God in worship, whether individually or corporately.
Really, we have no right to do so anyway because God is holy and we are not. When we trust the gospel, though, Jesus takes away our sins and makes it possible for us to boldly approach God’s glorious throne. Now, repentance and worship go together. They are inseparable. One cannot sincerely worship the Lord without turning away from sin, and one cannot truly turn away from sin without a resulting desire to worship the Lord.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Nehemiah 9:32-37 on “Repentant Worship.” We will consider a couple ways to worship the Lord in repentance, as I hope to challenge our church family (all of us together) to be marked by a lifestyle of repentance.
Is there any sin you are holding on to right now? Is there any part of God’s Word you are refusing to obey? Will you ask for God’s help to turn away from sin and to Him? Let us return to worship with repentant hearts!