Will you please continue to pray for the people of Turkey and Syria? I returned this week from a trip to southeast Turkey, just over a month after two devastating earthquakes hit the region. They are still reeling in the midst of the tragedy and heartbreak. If you want to give to the relief efforts, I highly recommend giving to Send Relief by clicking HERE.
Regardless, please pray…
Pray for God’s mercy and grace to be experienced and realized.
Pray for local believers and churches in Turkey to endure and remain faithful as they minister to those affected by the earthquakes.
Pray for God to use this horrible tragedy to open the eyes, minds, and hearts of people to see their need for Jesus Christ.
Pray for God’s name to be glorified across that land.
Thursday, I was with a water filtration team in Elbistan, Turkey, and my heart hurts for the people. Today (Friday), we will be heading to another city hit hard by the recent earthquakes. The pictures below are just a glimpse of the devastation we witnessed Thursday.
Will you join me in praying for Turkey (and Syria)? Pray for peace, hope, and healing in Christ. Pray for local churches who are faithfully and sacrificially serving others while dealing with the heartache and devastation themselves. We heard about one believer who lost 30 family members in the earthquakes. Can you imagine?! Please pray for God’s sovereign hand of provision and grace amidst this devastation.
If you are able to give to the disaster relief efforts for Turkey and Syria, you can do so HERE.
One of the most quoted (and wrongly applied) Bible verses is Jesus’ statement, “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Many people love to say things like, “Don’t judge me,” when defending themselves in confrontations.
What people often miss, though, is the context of that conversation during Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount,” a message in which He was judging all of us and also calling us to judge one another. Matthew 7:1 is a clear command to not judge others wrongly (by our own standards, rather than God’s standards).
Just verses later, though, Jesus is quoted, “Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). In other words, do not be a hypocrite and expect from others what you yourself refuse to do. Remove the sin from your life, and then you can help others remove the sin from their lives. Examine (and judge) yourself according to the standard of God’s Word, and then you can rightly judge others according to that standard.
While those in rebellion against God and His Word are quick to say, “Don’t judge me,” followers of Jesus should be quick to say, “Please judge me.” Why? Well, because we are all in need of such judgment – accountability, encouragement, and sharpening.
Please judge me. It might be the most loving thing you can do.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Galatians 6:1-10 on “The Service of Grace.” How does the gospel of grace impact our relationships in the church? How are we called to serve one another?
One of the most important ways we can and should serve one another is through intentional discipleship – building one another up and opening up our spiritual lives to one another. “If someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).
Do you see the call for judgment there? Please judge me. Judgment that seeks restoration is essential to that burden carrying and thus essential for fulfilling the law of Christ – to love God and love others.
To be clear, of course, there is gentleness and love required for such judgment. We are not called to the harsh and condemnatory judgment that is anything but loving, but rather to the concerning care for others that longs for them to experience a right relationship with God and with others. That kind of judgment is restorative.
Please judge me. For the sake of my relationship with God and for the sake of my relationships with others, please judge me. When I am stuck in “any wrongdoing” (and this happens to all of us, since we are all sinners), then I need to be judged – called to repentance and action – for the sake of restoration and healing.
Do you love others enough that when you notice unrepentant sin in their lives, you seek to “restore such a person with a gentle spirit“? Also, though, are you careful to seek and trust God according to His Word, “watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted“?
Please judge me according to the standard of God’s Word, and please open your life to the judgment of others. Jesus called us to this judgment, and we all need it.
Realize, too, that we all judge people, as it is impossible not to. We make judgments all the time. The key is – what is your standard for judgment? Let us make sure the Word of God is the standard.
We must invest in one another and have the tough conversations, not allowing our judgments to unnecessarily damage relationships.
God is the eternal Judge, and He created us in His image. Naturally, we are going to judge one another when mistakes are made and sin is committed, but we must also forgive one another and love one another, even in our judgments.
Please love those closest to you by judging them for the purpose of restoration, and be sure to communicate that such judgment is a two-way street. We need such accountability to be who God created us to be and to do what God created us to do.
I have long-made the argument that if our most important relationships are healthy, we can endure just about anything. On the flip side, even if we are successful in our careers, healthy, wealthy, and wise, we will be miserable without healthy relationships. Relationships matter.
Perhaps the greatest curse of sin that we all deal with in this life is broken relationships. Certainly, the greatest curse of sin eternally is broken relationships – most importantly, with God, but secondarily, with everyone else. Eternal death includes the death of all good relationships, namely any chance at a right relationship with God.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Galatians 3:26– 4:7 on “The Promise of Grace.” Without giving too much away before Sunday, I will be discussing the greatest blessings of the gospel of grace. God’s grace is promised and fulfilled in Christ. How? That is what we will consider from this amazing passage of Scripture.
How are your relationships? How is your most important relationship – your relationship with God? While our sin prevents us from perfect relationships (for now), we should certainly pursue and can experience healthy, growing relationships. That is God’s desire for us, but such relationships are only possible (in any lasting way) if and when you turn to the Lord Jesus for help. Jesus alone brings about reconciliation in our most important relationship and establishes for us the second best relationships.
For those who are part of our church family (or who live near us and do not yet have a church family), I pray you will join us Sunday to learn more about the greatest blessings of the Christian life. If not, the message should be available online Sunday evening.
“When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
When was the last time you held back saying something to someone, though you knew you should have, because what needed to be said would have been hard to hear? We have all been there, right? Perhaps we even hold back sharing truth under the supposed act of “love” for that person. We might say or think something like, “Well, I love them and don’t want to hurt them, so I’ll just look the other way [(or accept them as they are) or (let them live their lives)].”
To be clear, though, that is not love. Love demands truth.
You cannot claim to love someone, for example, while at the same time being okay with them playing Russian Roulette. If you know what Russian Roulette is, you know that “dangerous game” is an understated description. Furthermore, if someone continues to play Russian Roulette, they will eventually “lose” (and die). Love, then, demands we share the truth with them.
To say something foolish like, “I know playing Russian Roulette makes you happy, and I want you to be happy. If that makes you happy, play on,” is not a loving thing to do. No, the loving thing to do is to beg and plead with them to put the revolver down and live. Do not take such chances with your life. Please!
As dangerous and devastating as Russian Roulette can be, how much more dangerous and devastating is the eternal death that comes as a result of sin. It is the death we all deserve because of our sin, but God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to “take that bullet” for us. Now, everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
Refusing to turn from sin and surrender your life to Jesus, though, is like playing the ultimate horrifying game of Russian Roulette. The consequences are so much worse than a bullet to the brain and the end of physical life. The consequences are eternal death.
We cannot be sure when this life will end for any of us. We cannot be sure when Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. And, once this life is over, the chance for repentance and faith will be too late. That is why God’s Word appeals to all, “‘Don’t receive God’s grace in vain.’ For God says: ‘I heard you in an acceptable time, and I helped you in the day of salvation. Look, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation‘” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).
Do not play Russian Roulette with your spiritual life. Do not be content with any plan other than God’s plan for you (according to His Word). And, do not think that the loving thing to do is to sit by while others play Russian Roulette with their spiritual lives. We cannot take the gun out of their hands, but we can love them enough to tell them of the consequences and plead with them to surrender their all to Jesus and let God “take the gun.”
We discussed in our adult Bible study with our church family last night the calling of Jesus on our lives – “Whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them — this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
If you were so blinded from the truth that you thought Russian Roulette was the right thing to do, would you not want someone to tell you? Would you not want someone to do whatever they could to get that gun out of your hand and help you experience hope and healing? Of course you would! To love someone is to act on that love. To love someone is to speak the truth into their lives.
God alone saves. He alone has the solution to our eternal problem. Have you surrendered your all to Him and begun to experience that solution? Do you love others enough to tell them?
While I do not watch as many movies as I would often like, I really enjoy movies. I enjoy watching movies in the theater, and I enjoy watching them at home. Top Gun: Maverick, which I watched with Noah and Levi a few weeks ago, might be the best movie I have seen in a theater since my all-time favorite movie, Saving Private Ryan, back in 1998. Thankfully, my wife and I usually enjoy the same kinds of movies – action, adventure, and suspense. My kids have a similar taste in movies, and we have also enjoyed some good family-friendly movies with all seven of us over the years.
One of the reasons people often enjoy movies is because of the escape from reality, right? You can immerse yourself in a movie, be entertained, and kind of forget about other things for a while. Although that is not necessarily a good thing, that is the reality for many.
Because of that, though, we tend to think that movies are movies, and life is life. “It’s a movie,” someone might say when explaining or even defending something ridiculous on the screen. Usually, we say life simply is not like the movies, but in a couple of very important ways, life really is like movies.
1. THEY TELL A STORY
Life is a story, and movies tell a story. You have a story. I have a story. Everyone has a story. History tells countless stories.
One of the primary features that makes great movies great is the great way in which they tell their stories. Your story is your life. Movies tell stories, sometimes about the lives of people like you and me. In that way, life is like movies (or movies are like life).
2. THEY FAIL TO SATISFY
Movies also fail to satisfy our deepest longings, as does life. Now, you might be thinking, “Wait a second, that’s not true. Life does satisfy my deepest longings.” Or, maybe you’re even thinking that movies satisfy your deepest longings. While I doubt the second is true, I am sure many think the first is.
Please understand, though, that we were created to find our satisfaction in so much more than just this life can offer. Yes, life can be great. There can be many fantastic people and things and experiences in this life, but no person or thing or experience can satisfy our deepest longings for lasting hope, joy, contentment, and peace. And so, life is like movies in this way.
Movies can help us escape, can deeply entertain us, can make us happy, can give us fulfillment, can give us hope, and can even – depending on the story – give us a sense of peace. None of that will remain, though, and so it is with the greatest pleasures of life. We can find so much good, and yet what happens when that person or that thing or that experience fades away? The satisfaction will fade away (or quickly vanish).
When I watched Top Gun: Maverick last month, I was deeply satisfied during the movie. I was reminded of my childhood, when the first Top Gun movie came out, and I got immersed in the story yet again, finding myself entertained and delighted. Even when I left the theater, I am pretty sure I had a smile on my face. Weeks later, I still enjoy reminiscing about the movie with other people who enjoyed it. Still, the benefits of that movie did not last. They are far less now than when I was sitting in the theater.
Top Gun: Maverick satisfied me for over two hours, and while I can get split-seconds of satisfaction with some reminiscing or maybe eventually if I watch it again, the satisfaction has greatly waned.
Life is like movies in this way. There are extremely satisfying moments in life, but then the satisfaction disappears. “Absolute futility,” as Ecclesiastes declares. Things can seem so great, and then everything can come crashing down, like a fighter jet in the sky. That is life. Life tells our story, but life fails to satisfy. We need more.
LONGING FOR SOMETHING MORE
You and I were given life by the Creator of the universe, but we were also created for much more than this life, much more than what this life can offer. This life, like the movies, fails us because life, like the movies, will end. We need more than this life. We need eternal life. We need to know and follow the God who created us and has the perfect plan for our lives – lives that will never end if we trust in His One and Only Son for our salvation.
Sure, enjoy some movies, as long as they have redeeming qualities and do not cause you to stumble into sins like lust, hate, rebellion, gossip, etc. Likewise, enjoy life, as long as you do so seeking the One who gave you life, and the One who is able to give you eternal life. Otherwise, you will never be satisfied, and you will eventually be horrified.
“So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
If you have not been “raised with the Messiah,” turn to Him today. Only then will your life (now and forever) be better than even the greatest of movies.
Perhaps the greatest visible devastation of the fall of mankind is the reality of broken relationships. Does anything hurt more than when a meaningful relationship is broken? How many of those relationships are broken because of a failure to ask for forgiveness and/or a refusal to offer forgiveness? The vast majority, I imagine.
Why is forgiveness so difficult?
In thinking through the devastating tragedy of unforgiveness recently, my heart has been hurting for those who are stuck in that horrific rut of unforgiveness. How many relationships could be healed by forgiveness? How many churches could be united once again by forgiveness? How many lives could be eternally changed by forgiveness?
While difficult to embrace and live, the need for forgiveness is simple. There are a few things we must do to experience the freeing joy of forgiveness. Together, these three things are essential and inseparable, I believe…
1. ASK FOR FORGIVENESS
Start by looking in the mirror and examining your own heart. We all need to do that and do so more often, do we not? From whom do you need to ask for forgiveness?
Prideful fools claim they do not need to be forgiven. We all need to be forgiven. We all make mistakes. We all sin against God and against others. We all need to ask for forgiveness.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Ask for forgiveness. You might be one of the very rare people who does not need to ask for forgiveness from another person (at this time – though you certainly will need to eventually), but there is no doubt you need God’s forgiveness. No broken relationship is more eternally devastating than a broken relationship with the God who created you. Start by asking for His forgiveness, as well as asking for His help to know whom else you need to ask for forgiveness.
Can you imagine how much better life would be if we were all better about asking for forgiveness?
2. OFFER FORGIVENESS
Ultimately, bitterness hurts the one who is bitter far more than it hurts anyone else. Do not hold on to bitterness and unforgiveness. Offer forgiveness to others and forgive them! I do not believe we will end up regretting having hearts of forgiveness. Sure, we might get burned, but who has ever said, “I sure am glad I refused to forgive and instead, held on to that bitterness!“? Plenty of people have held on to bitterness, but I have never met someone who was glad he or she did.
In the great words of Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame, “Turns out resentment is corrosive, and I hate it.“
More importantly, in the words of Jesus Christ, “If you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.” (Matthew 6:15). To be clear, Jesus did not put conditions on that. He did not say that we have to forgive people who “earn” our forgiveness. Rather, He said that if we fail to forgive others, God will not forgive us.
Do you realize how big this is? Eternal life is not possible without forgiveness from our sins, and so, if you do not forgive others who sin against you, eternal damnation in hell is your only option. No exceptions.
Now, while God is perfect in His gracious forgiveness, we are not. People are not. Still, when we are humble enough to admit our mistakes and ask for forgiveness, we can and will see the benefits of such behavior. How many of our broken or severed relationships could be restored?
Turn to the Lord to receive His forgiveness, and humble yourself enough to seek and receive the forgiveness of those you have wronged, even if it is not “all your fault.” God honors humility, and He expects it from those who know and follow Him.
You might be thinking, “What about the people who have sinned against me?” Well, if you are faithfully doing the three things above, only then can you rightly respond to those who have sinned against you. I would encourage you to check out Matthew 18:15-20 and follow Jesus’ advice on dealing with those who are sinning against you, sinning against the church, and/or simply living in clear, unrepentant sin.
In the meantime, though, first make sure that you are asking for forgiveness, that you are offering forgiveness to others, and that you are receiving forgiveness. To God be the glory!
One of my favorite things to do with family and friends is to sit around a fire. I love the sound, the smell, the nostalgia, the company, and the fire. If not for the grace of God, I fear I may have ended up, at best, as a crazy fire man who has done even more dumb things than I have already done, or, at worst, as an arsonist who starts unnecessary and possibly illegal fires for fun. While I do enjoy playing with fire sometimes, I do not break the law with such fun and am usually able to avoid much fire-foolishness.
One of the things that people like me enjoy doing, though, is putting sticks in and out of fires to see them glow, stoke the fires, and simply satisfy our pyromaniac tendencies. Have you ever pulled a stick out of the fire, though? The stick will be burned, but it is still a stick. You snatched it from the fire before it was consumed.
In Zechariah 3, we have a recorded vision of an Israelite priest named Joshua representing the people of God and standing against the accusations of Satan. The Lord said, “Isn’t this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” (Zechariah 3:3). In other words, Joshua was facing the judgment and consequences of his sin (and the people’s sins), but God redeemed and restored him (and them). What a great picture of redemption in the Lord!
We, too, are like burning sticks in the fire, deserving of condemnation and judgment and yet completely unable to deliver ourselves from such devastation. And, unlike the sticks and logs that do not burn themselves but that I place in a bonfire, we are the ones guilty of sin deserving of eternal death. Our sin condemns us to that fire.
Praise the Lord, though, that He loves us so much that He sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to satisfy the just fire of His judgment. Jesus took God’s wrath upon Himself when He died on the cross for our sins. Then, He defeated sin and death for all of eternity when He rose from the dead. If you simply repent of your sins and believe in Him alone to save you, then He snatches you from that eternal fire.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from that passage in Zechariah on what it means to be “Renewed and Restored.” What does God do for us when He snatches us from the fire? What are the results? What are the truths of such restorative redemption?
Do not be deceived into thinking you can snatch yourself from the fire, and do not be deceived into thinking that you are not deserving of the fire. We are all deserving because we are all sinners who fall far short of God’s perfect standard, but we are also completely unable to save ourselves. We need the Savior of the world to snatch us from that fire. Have you trusted Him to snatch you from the fire, and are you sharing the good news and urgency of such salvation with others?
Only in and from the Lord can anyone hear the words, “See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes” (Zechariah 3:4). To Him be the glory!
I love this country because I love the people, love the culture, love the food, and love the history! Over the past several days, I have really enjoyed my time here with friends. We have had some great conversations about Jesus, and we have enjoyed Turkish hospitality.
Of course, I am greatly looking forward to being reunited with my family and, Lord willing, will be on my way home when this post is published.
Still, I wanted to share some pictures from my trip…
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.