What’s YOUR Good News?

Our third son, Silas, turned nine on Sunday. Like pretty much all nine-year-olds, he was pretty excited it was his birthday. He was happy to talk about it and thrilled to get some gifts, his choice of supper, and his favorite (and my favorite) dessert – cheesecake. No one who spent any amount of time with Silas this past weekend would have failed to realize it was his birthday. He was too excited to hold in that good news!

Really, is this not the way it is for all of us? I do not mean that we all love and talk about our birthdays like children do. What I mean is that we all talk about exciting, good news. If something is important to us, we are compelled to talk about that something.

So, what is important to you? What good news are you sharing with others?

LIGHT

If you have believed and experienced the Good News – the gospel of Jesus Christ – then you will long to talk about this Good News. Advent – the Christmas season when we Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus Christ our Savior and longingly anticipate His Second Coming – begins Sunday. Do those who know you see in you a love for the Christmas story, the gospel story? If you have placed your faith in Jesus, the answer is surely yes.

On Sunday morning, I will begin a new Advent sermon series – The Light Has Come. Jesus, of course, is the Light of the world, and He came to our dark world to bring salvation to all who turn to Him. In this series throughout December, we will be considering the Christmas story according to the gospel of John and challenging one another to respond rightly to the Light.

LIFE

If you respond rightly to the Light by turning away from your sins and trusting in Him for forgiveness and eternal life, is there any better news in all the world to share with others? What would a close examination of your life tell others about your greatest convictions, commitments, and passion? Is new life – eternal life – in and through Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, at the center of top of those priorities?

Again, I sincerely believe that if you have experienced new life, the answer surely has to be yes. When you have new life in Christ, you are either passionately talking about Him, or you are convicted that you need to be talking about Him.

How is your passion? What is your good news?

What I am MOST thankful for with Silas right now is his sincere search for the Truth. He asks a lot of great questions about Jesus and seems to genuinely desire to know and follow Him.

“What do you saaaaay?”

Now, after the birthday party at your friend’s house, make sure you do not say, ‘Thank you,’ or express any kind of gratitude. Take things like this for granted. I don’t want you to be known as someone who’s well-mannered and appreciative,” said no parent ever.

We all want our kids to be thankful for what they have. We want them to have good manners, saying things like please and thank you. If they do not, we are naturally disappointed and are usually quick to correct them. When a child says, “I want some,” we are quick to reply, “What do you say?” When a child receives something with no words of appreciation, we are quick to chide him, “What do you say?

Yet, how are our attitudes? How thankful and appreciative are we? Parents (and everyone), we need to practice what we preach.

Sure, you might have very good manners and might be very good about saying please and thank you to others. How is your attitude toward God, though? How grateful are you to God? How often do you take Him and His blessings for granted?

THANKS AND GIVING

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be starting a short new sermon series on how we can develop a heart of gratitude to God and what that then looks like in our daily lives. We have so much for which to be thankful, no matter our lot in life, and at the top of that list of gratitude, of course, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I cannot help but wonder – if we really thought deeply about the truth of the gospel throughout each day, how much better would our attitudes be? How much more joy would we have? How much less complaining would we do?

THANKS AND GOSPEL

If all this sounds unrealistic to you, my first question is, have you truly believed the gospel and surrendered your life to Jesus Christ? Having given my life to Jesus as a young adult, I remember very clearly the difference between gratitude from my relationship with God and temporary gratitude from the things of the world. There is a huge difference, a life-changing difference.

While we are all sinners who obviously fail at times to have the proper perspective of gratitude, those who have the Holy Spirit are unable to continuously live with an ungrateful heart. Instead, we will regularly respond to God’s goodness just like the Samaritan man in Luke 17:11-19, who “seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him” (verses 15-16).

Are you grateful to God for what He has done in your life? Do you have both inward and outward gratitude? If not, will you turn to the Lord today and ask Him to change your heart and your life?

I am grateful for THIS view from my office window, and Micah is grateful when he gets to kill flies (what he was on a mission to do when this picture was taken).

Transformed and Talkative

Since getting our yellow lab, Lottie, in August, our lives have changed. We are not surprised about that, as whose life would not change when getting a puppy? Puppies take time, money, patience, and energy. They are also a lot of fun, though, and our kids (usually) like to talk about their adorable puppy. Life is different now. And, talk or no talk, no one in our family would claim that our lives are the same today as they were in July.

All this to say, Lord willing, I am going to be talking about an even bigger transformation Sunday morning. A new life in the family, like a baby or a puppy, changes the family. Bigger still is the change that comes with a new spiritual life.

NEW LIFE LEADS TO CHANGE…

Like the undeniable change our family has experienced in adding a puppy to our lives, the change that comes with a new life belonging to Jesus Christ is undeniable. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In Acts 16:11-15, the passage I plan to preach through Sunday morning, you can read about some of that change. The Apostle Paul, who was once a persecutor of the Christian faith, was changed in and through a personal relationship with Jesus and became a bold, courageous missionary for Jesus. And, that is where we find him in Acts 16.

Then, a changed Paul is used by God to bring about a change in an entire household – Lydia and her household. God is the One who does the changing, but He tends to use His followers to be agents of that change.

A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul. After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us” (Acts 16:14-15).

Lydia and her household were changed by God, repenting of their sins and surrendering to Jesus. Then, Lydia demonstrated that change through biblical hospitality. New life leads to change.

CHANGE LEADS TO CONVERSATION…

When life is dramatically different, we tend to talk about it. One cannot experience life with a new puppy, for example, and tell no one. More importantly and more dramatically, one cannot experience a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and not desire to talk about Him.

Paul and his companions, consequently, could not stop proclaiming the gospel. They had been changed by Jesus, and that change led to conversation. That conversation, then, led to more change. And so it goes – the cycle of change continues. God changes lives and uses those changed lives to change more lives.

ARE YOU CHANGED?

We are unable to change ourselves, at least in a way that lasts. Sure, we can fix some things temporarily and develop some decent habits through repetition, but we are incapable of producing change that changes our lives eternally. Only God can do that, and He does so through the power of His Holy Spirit, the promised Spirit who takes over the lives of all who turn from their sins and trust in Jesus Christ for new life. That is a new life we, just like Paul, love to talk about!

If you want to experience the change that leads to conversation, would you consider watching The Story by clicking the picture below?

Video can also be viewed by clicking HERE.

Will you frolic?

Indeed, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, when all the arrogant and everyone who commits wickedness will become stubble. The coming day will consume them,” says the Lord of Hosts, “not leaving them root or branches. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall” (Malachi 4:1-2).

When I think about what it means to “playfully jump,” I cannot help but think about our yellow labrador puppy, Lottie. She is really good at frolicking.

Will you frolic (“playfully jump“) like those described in Malachi 4:2, or will you face eternal judgment in horror like those described in verse 1?

The answer to that question is determined by your standing before our almighty God. The reality is that we all deserve eternal judgment because of our sin. If you have a right relationship with God, though, then you can frolic now and more importantly for eternity because of the hope, peace, and joy only He gives.

To understand how to have a right relationship with God, would you consider watching a video and/or reading more HERE?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be finishing our Greatness of God sermon series through Malachi, preaching through the last six verses and discussing “Our Great God of Promise.” Do you believe God’s promises? What is your response?

Please remember that every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Jesus. Therefore, the “Amen” is also spoken through Him by us for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 1:20).

The Visible Difference between the Righteous and the Wicked

There are several differences, of course, between those who know God and those who do not. God points out a very distinct difference, for example, in Malachi 3: “So you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him” (verse 18).

SERVING AND NOT SERVING

Many claim to serve God but really just go through the motions, not really serving Him at all. What a dangerous trap that is, especially when people assume they will be counted as righteous, only to find out they are among the wicked.

When I was a teenager, for example, I considered myself to be a Christian. In fact, I considered myself to be a devout Christian. I was in church services every Sunday and Wednesday. I was actively involved with our church youth group. I read my Bible often. I prayed even more often. I talked and sang about Jesus.

I was serving God, right? No, I was not. I was not following Him and thus certainly could not be serving Him. Sure, some people may have thought I was. I even thought I was. But, everything I did was for myself. I was going through the motions in hopes of impressing girls, pleasing my parents, and getting what I wanted from God (not what God wanted from and for me).

Really, I was worshiping myself and my happiness. The lords of my heart were my pleasures and my dreams and my goals. All the while, I claimed to be a follower of Jesus and claimed to belong to Him. I did not, however, “fear God and have high regard for His name” (Malachi 3:16). Rather, I feared what others thought about me and had high regard for my own name.

Although I thought I was considered righteous by God because I was a “good person,” I was headed straight toward hell with no earthly idea.

WHO KNEW?

Living in mid-Missouri, I do not often see many of the people I knew as a teenager in north central Iowa. I cannot help but wonder, though, who knew I was living a lie? Who knew I was going through the motions? How many people did I actually fool?

Of course, I cannot accurately answer those questions, but I am confident that any genuine followers of Jesus who truly knew me then surely knew I was not who I claimed to be. I wonder why no one told me, though? Why did no one challenge me with the truth? Perhaps they tried, and I just would not listen.

One who definitely did know that I was counted among the wicked and not among the righteous, was God Himself. He knew, and, thankfully, He put people in my life during my college years to reveal His Truth to me. For the first time, as a sophomore in college, I heard and understood the gospel. I turned from my sins and asked Jesus to forgive me and take over my life.

Finally, I was made right with God in and through a personal relationship with His Son.

JESUS IS THE DIFFERENCE-MAKER

The truth is that none of us is righteous. Not on our own anyway. None of us can do a single thing to make ourselves right with God. “As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become useless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

This is terrible news! And, the terrible news is for all of us.

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8). That is the good news.

Jesus is the difference-maker. He is the One who made a way for us to be righteous – counted righteous today and made righteous for eternity. If you have yet to experience the joy of knowing and following Him, would you consider surrendering your life to Him today? Check this out for a helpful summary of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

There are very few things I believe differently today than what I believed as a selfishly wicked teenager on my way to hell. What I do and how I do what I do with my beliefs, though, are drastically different. Not because I “have arrived” or figured out the tricks. No, I am different because Jesus is the difference-maker. Jesus has changed me.

I am no longer content to go through the motions and call that “serving God.” If and when I do go through the motions, God’s Holy Spirit convicts me to repent and follow Him faithfully. Daily I need His help, His guidance, His provision, His leadership, His grace, and His compassion.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I hope to preach on our “Great God of Compassion” from Malachi 3:13-18. I pray that I can encourage and challenge you to believe in and be changed by the Greatness of God.

Family Fun

Since I am not preaching Sunday morning, I thought I would take a break from my usual weekly update and share some fun stuff we did as a family the past couple months.

WE WENT ON VACATION

Both with my (Nick’s) family, as well as a few days with just us, we spent some time in Illinois and in Branson, Missouri.

THE KIDS STARTED SCHOOL

Only Marsha and Micah remain home during the week, as I am off to work, and Noah, Levi, Silas and Zoe attend Hatton-McCredie Elementary School. This is Noah’s last year there before he moves to North Callaway High School, at which time Micah will begin kindergarten at Hatton.

To see more pictures from the first day of school, click HERE.

WE GOT A DOG

Lottie is a yellow labrador who was born on June 23, 2019. She has added even more fun (sometimes) and frustration (sometimes) to our family.

To view more pictures of Lottie and her pals, click HERE.

JUST A GLIMPSE

Well, those are just a few big things we did over the past couple of months. We also had Silas in urgent care multiple times (he is better now), celebrated Papa Tony’s 75th birthday, spent more time with family, played a lot outside, ministered alongside our church family, and got on each other’s nerves.

Praise God for family!

Stop Complaining

My dad used to say to people who complained, “Cry me a river. Build me a bridge. And, get over it!” While that might not be the most sympathetic and compassionate statement, it is probably something we all need to hear more often than we would like to admit.

An even better statement in response to one’s whining and complaining is found in Philippians 2:14-15 – “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.”

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching about our “Great God of Judgment” from Malachi 2:17 – 3:6, and as has been clear in this series through Malachi, God is worthy and deserving of our worship, not our complaining. Furthermore, our complaining is a sin against Him.

So, stop whining and complaining!

About what?” you ask.

About anything. You name it – we like to complain about it. Let us stop it!

Here are two reasons I want to encourage you (and myself) to stop whining and complaining.

1. COMPLAINING BRINGS JUDGMENT

Just like the Israelites in Malachi’s time opened the door for God’s judgment through their rebellion and hypocritical complaining, so do we when we sin against God. And, complaining is sin.

We are not told to do some things without complaining or arguing – comfortable things, enjoyable things, or easy things. “Do everything without complaining and arguing…” Philippians 2 put no qualifiers on that statement. “Everything.” No exceptions.

“You have wearied the Lord with your words.

Yet you ask, “How have we wearied Him?”

When you say, “Everyone who does what is evil is good in the Lord’s sight, and He is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”

Malachi 2:17

That statement at the end of Malachi 2 could be addressing us, could it not? But God is here. God will judge sin. You and I and every other person on this planet deserve His judgment, and yet in His mercy and grace, He offers a way out. Stop complaining because complaining brings judgment.

2. COMPLAINING FORGETS GOD

Often when we are tempted to complain or talk about complaining, we might say something like, “There is always someone who has it worse.” While that is true, though, that is not the reason we need to stop complaining.

What if you could not find someone who had it worse? What if your situation was like that of Job’s, and you lost everything? Would it be okay to complain then? No.

Our reason for being grateful and not complaining is not because someone else has it worse, but rather because God is the best. And, complaining forgets God. Complaining closes our eyes and our hearts to God’s provision, God’s kindness, God’s goodness, God’s mercy, God’s justice, and God’s faithfulness.

Right before that challenge by Paul in Philippians 2, he explained the selfless sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord (Philippians 2:5-11). He, Jesus Christ, is our reason for gratitude. He is the reason we should and can do everything without complaining and arguing.

After all, Jesus made a way for us to be right with God now and for eternity. Stop complaining because, in Christ, you have everything you need and so much more. Jesus is that way out from God’s eternal judgment. He is the Only Way. Stop complaining and turn to Jesus.