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.
Below is a story I wrote for SEND Relief to share about my time here for the purpose of helping with water filtration in response to the recent earthquakes…
I am really having a difficult time processing what I am seeing and experiencing here the past 10 days.
Overwhelming is a the word that comes to mind. I am overwhelmed by the devastation and destruction – the buildings and the lives. I am overwhelmed by the hopelessness of those trying to move forward without knowing the hope of Jesus Christ. I am overwhelmed by the necessary recovery efforts that will undoubtedly take years. Overwhelming.
Inadequacy is another word that comes to mind. We are so inadequate to meet the needs here. We cannot get enough filters or install enough filters to provide clean water for everyone who needs and requests it. We cannot have enough conversations and pray for enough people to make a spiritual dent in the darkness. We are completely inadequate for the task at hand. Inadequacy.
Discouraging is another unfortunate word that hurts my heart. I am discouraged by the buildings which still lie and ruins with bodies buried underneath. I am discouraged by a local organization that promised to provide water for a tent community after we installed a filter in their building, but then they refused share the water as they promised. I am discouraged by the overwhelming inadequacy of our relief efforts. Discouraging.
Despite all I said above, though, hopeful is the most important word that comes to mind. I am hopeful because of the local church here stepping up in amazing ways to serve their community. I am hopeful because I see people serving others even though they themselves have experienced tragedy. I am hopeful because the Lord is still in control, even in the midst of unspeakable brokenness and heartache.
Sure, I am overwhelmed, inadequate, and discouraged, but there is hope in the Lord. He is infinitely bigger than anything which overwhelms. He is infinitely stronger than my inadequacy is weak. He is infinitely more comforting than any discouragement is disheartening. Praise the Lord!
Will you pray for the people of Turkey and Syria? Pray for local believers to have wisdom, boldness, courage, and compassion. Pray for survivors to find the only hope that will not end – hope in the Lord Jesus. Pray for relief from the suffering, safety from further disaster, and peace in the midst of sorrow. Pray for God’s name to be glorified in this 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.
What is God’s will for your life? How can you know? What should you do to find out?
Contrary to what people might say or how you might feel, God’s desire is not that you walk through life aimlessly and confused about His will. Rather, He has revealed Himself to us through His Son Jesus Christ and through His Word – the Bible.
The problem we have in learning God’s will is not with His plan but rather with our pursuit.
God’s plan is perfect. Our pursuit, though, is flawed. We are sinners, and when we find ourselves confused, uncertain, scared, or uncomfortable, we tend to look everywhere except to God and His Word for answers. Yet, His desire is that we pursue and trust Him.
What is His specific will in your specific situation? You will only find the answer with the proper pursuit. Above all, pursue the Lord in two of the most basic but important ways possible…
1. PRAY TO HIM
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will continue my sermon series through Acts and preach through Acts 1:12-26 on “Prayer & Provision for Our Purpose” (available before Monday HERE). One of the most important things we can learn from the early church in the book of Acts is the importance of uniting together in prayer.
Seek the Lord by praying to Him. Pray to Him with your family. Pray to Him throughout your day. Pray to Him with your church.
Sadly, we are tempted to only resort to prayer before a big decision when we are unsure what else to do. Why not begin with prayer and continue in prayer?
Wrongly, we are tempted to think of prayer as a last resort when everything or everyone else has failed. Why not begin with prayer and continue in prayer?
Let us continually depend on the Lord in prayer, seeking and trusting Him for His provision. He is faithful, and what He said is true: “You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).
Are you seeking God with all your heart? Are you surrounding yourself with others who are seeking God with all their hearts? A sincere pursuit of God in prayerful dependence on Him is worth the regular, continuous commitment.
2. LISTEN TO HIM
While sincerely pursuing God in prayer, you might hear from Him through the conviction of His Holy Spirit, an overwhelming sense of peace and direction, and/or a clear desire He places on your heart. Are you listening to Him?
Most importantly, though, how we listen to God (and can be certain we are listening to and hearing from Him) is by listening to His Word – the Bible. Are you spending regular time in God’s Word? Are you talking with others about God’s Word? Are you listening to the preaching of God’s Word? Are you studying God’s Word? Are you praying God’s Word back to Him?
We are so incredibly blessed that God has preserved His perfect word for thousands of years so that we can know Him and follow Him!
So often, the very simple answers to our questions about God’s will are found in God’s Word. Pray for His help to understand, and listen to the truth of His Word.
Far more often than not, when people come to me for pastoral counsel and advice, the answers to their questions and concerns are abundantly clear in the Bible. Of course, I am grateful for that because I know that God’s Word is perfect and true, so any advice I give by sharing God’s Word is great advice because it is not from me.
Sure, there are plenty of questions we have that the Bible does not address, but the Bible does address the most important questions (Who is God? Who are we? Why are we here? Who are we to be?). For everything else, if you are sincere in your pursuit of God, you will not regret the results.
“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4). Are you delighting yourself in Him? Are you depending on Him in prayer? Are you listening to Him through His Word? Are you seeking the counsel of godly friends and leaders who are listening to Him through His Word?
What is God’s will? His will is that you “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Praise the Lord!
While “the sexual revolution” is widely regarded to have already taken place (beginning in the 1960s), you could certainly make a strong case that it continues today. Really, though, I would argue that, while the “revolution” of such things by cultural standards and societal norms took place then and continue to take place today, the very ideas of “the sexual revolution” have been happening since the days of Noah, the time of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.
Regardless of the terms and the times, the revolution of sexual activity has been ongoing for thousands of years and will continue until Jesus Christ returns.
Any practice of sex outside of God’s perfect design, however, is sinful. Sex is a beautiful gift from God but is, per His perfect plan for humanity, meant to be practiced, enjoyed, and celebrated only between a man and his wife. Anything less (or more) will not satisfy and more importantly, will result in God’s judgment.
How many marriages, families, communities, churches, friendships, etc. have been destroyed by sexual sin (pornography, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, masturbation, pedophilia, rape, incest, etc.)? On the other hand, how many marriages, families, communities, churches, friendships, etc. have been destroyed by sexual fidelity? No genius is necessary to accurately answer those two questions (sexual infidelity destroys lives; sexual fidelity promotes and advances life).
THE GRACIOUS WARNING
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from 2 Peter 2 on the “Grace to Know” God according to the truth of His Word. Unfortunately, the world is full of deception that seeks to push us away from God. By His grace, though, He has preserved and given us His Word to protect us and to teach us how to discern Truth from evil.
In the Bible, we are warned of the very things “the sexual revolution” has promoted and celebrated. Thus, the distortions and abominations should not surprise us, even though we should be saddened and prayerful. God help us!
In His grace, God has warned us not only that the world would be consumed by sexual sin, greed, idolatry, etc., but also what will happen if we turn to those things rather than to Him. Eternal destruction and damnation are the results of giving in to any sin, including sexual sin.
Since we are all sinners, this is really bad news.Praise God, though, that He has provided a solution.
THE WAY OUT
If you are trapped in the snares of sexual sin (or any other sinful lifestyle), please do not lose hope. Please do not give up. Please do not believe the lie that it is too late for your life to matter and for hope to be restored.
The Good News of the gospel is that God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. He took the punishment that you and I deserve, and then He rose from the grave and defeated sin and death for all of eternity. If we simply turn away from sin and trust in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our salvation, we receive forgiveness and a right relationship with God. And, that is more than just our eternal life; our life is different now.
Does that mean we will never struggle with sexual sin (or any other sin) again? Of course not. Rather, that means we will never be content to live in sexual sin (or any other sin) again. As the Holy Spirit of God changes our hearts and our lives, we will continue to grow in our desire to know and follow and obey God according to His Word. We will grow in our ability to discern Truth from evil. We will long to obey God’s Word and heed the advice of the Apostle Paul…
“Run from sexual immorality! “Every sin a person can commit is outside the body.” On the contrary, the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
What is your response to “the sexual revolution” and the destructive perversion of God’s plan for your life? Will you respond by fleeing from sin and turning to God? Seek Him through His Word. Depend on Him in prayer. Serve Him through His church. Declare Him to the world.
There is a way out from the trap of sin and death. Jesus is the Way. Turn to Him before it is too late. Plead with others to do the same.
Do you have hope for what is to come in your life? Think about your past for a moment. Do you have hope with that in mind?
When I was a child, I can remember at least a time or two when my sin and rebellion caused my parents to threaten the loss of presents I was going to be receiving for Christmas or my birthday. Did that ever happen to you? “If you do that again, I’m taking all your presents back!” Empty threat? Perhaps. “If you don’t shape up, you’re getting nothing for Christmas!“
Do you know what never happened, though? Those presents never were returned to the store. I never experienced a Christmas or birthday without gifts. Was this because I truly “shaped up” and behaved well? Definitely not. Sure, perhaps in the moments of the threats I did, but I made plenty of mistakes that would have warranted my parents keeping their “promise.” Instead, though, they showed me grace. They gave me the gifts I really did not deserve.
How much more is this the case with God and His grace?
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a new sermon series through Ezra and talk about “Reclaimed Hope” (Ezra 1-2). Have you ever considered that we can actually celebrate our past and have resulting hope in the future? Of course, this is not possible with a clear conscience in and of ourselves because we are sinners who have much for which to be ashamed and a devastating future if dependent upon our goodness. When we turn to the Lord for forgiveness and salvation, though, He redeems us from our sins (past, present, and future) and gives us a resulting hope that will never fade away. For that reason, we can celebrate our pasts because, in our pasts, we are reminded of God’s grace and love for us and thus confident in the future to come because of His promises that never fail.
Even more than I never deserved all those gifts from my parents, I do not deserve the gift of eternal life from our perfect God. Yet, just like He kept His promises to undeserving Israel in Ezra’s time, He continues to keep His promises to all who surrender to Him through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.
Do you believe this? Have you surrendered? Are you hopeful and rejoicing in what is to come?
What happened at our country’s Capitol Wednesday was sad, embarrassing, and tragic. Frankly, I was not overly surprised, and that further illustrates the discouraging state of our nation right now. What is especially frustrating to me is that the name of Jesus continues to be used wrongly and immorally for political purposes and for purposes of blatant evil.
Christ-followers are called to honor, respect, and pray for our government leaders, whether we agree with them or not (see, for example, 1 Peter 2:13-17 and Romans 13:1-7). What happened Wednesday was a disgrace. This is particularly true for those who claim the name of Jesus while also supporting sinful rebellion.
Followers of Jesus, let us be better. Let us set an example. Let us live according to the Word of God.
“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Those who stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday are not a cloud of witnesses, nor are the vast majority of our political leaders. The godly faithful referred to in Hebrews 11 (and those like them) – people who endure in the faith, no matter the cost – are the cloud of witnesses.
Our country’s leaders, whether great or not, are not the source and perfecter of our faith. Politics are not the source. Our government is not the source. Our country is not the source. Jesus is “the source and perfecter of our faith” and He, “who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”
That cannot be said about anyone else. Jesus alone could do that and Jesus alone did do that.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Hebrews 12:1-13 on how “Jesus Is the Better Reason.” He is the better Reason – the superior Reason – we press on and endure in the faith. He is the Reason we have hope, joy, peace, and contentment. He alone is the Reason who lasts because He alone is the the source and perfecter of our faith.
Politics are not the source, so please do not worship our country or any political leaders. Do not give in to the cult of personality idolatry, for no one but Jesus rules a kingdom that is eternal.
As a lifelong Minnesota sports fan – particularly of the Vikings, Twins, and Gophers – I almost feel as though I am destined for disappointment in my fandom. Yes, the Twins won World Series titles in 1987 and 1991, but they now own a record of futility that will likely never be broken by any professional sports team in all four of the major American sports – 18 straight playoff game losses? Do you realize how difficult it is to lose that many straight games when the playoffs are played in a best-of-3, best-of-5, or best-of-7 series? There is a reason that the only other professional sports franchise to even come close to the Twins’ losing streak is a hockey team way back in the 1970s (when the Chicago Blackhawks lost 16 straight playoff games). Simply put, according to some experts, the odds of doing what Minnesota has done are 1 in 131,072. Yikes!
As a Minnesota sports fan, am I destined for disappointment? Perhaps. For now, at least, the disappointment cannot be denied.
What was different about Wednesday’s disappointment of the Twins being swept out of the playoffs yet again is that my hopes were not very high. Sure, the Twins were the #2 seed in the playoffs, playing the #7 seed in an expanded pandemic-induced playoff setting. Sure, the Twins should have won the series, let alone at least a game in the series. Sure, both games were in Minnesota, and the Twins had just won another division title and were playing a team with a losing record. Yet, because of the continued futility of the Twins (and seemingly all Minnesota sports), my typical optimism has slowly but surely been shifting to realism.
I have little reason to feel otherwise. Still, I am disappointed and wish the teams for which I cheer were better.
What really makes this disappointment a different kind of disappointment, though, is because we are just talking about sports. Yes, sports are fun and can offer a lot of great lessons for life, but they certainly are not life. Sports are nothing more than entertainment for most of us, so when we are disappointed by our favorite teams, that disappointment is quite different than disappointments that destroy relationships or ruin health or cause lasting devastation.
DELIVERED FROM DISAPPOINTMENT
While my teams (and anyone’s teams) can let us down, we ought to have the proper perspective that disappointment from a game is nothing compared to disappointment that lasts. And, I mean disappointment that lasts forever.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Hebrews 5:11-6:12 on how “Jesus Is the Better Promise.” We might be inclined to put our hope in all kinds of promises in this life, but Jesus is the superior promise and hope. He is the only One who can deliver us from the eternal, devastating disappointment we deserve because of our sin.
For that reason, although life is full of disappointments – many of which are my own doing, I am grateful for the satisfaction I have in my Savior.
As a Vikings and Twins fan, I cannot help but think I might be destined for disappointment. More importantly, in and of myself, I am certainly destined for disappointment. In Christ Jesus my Lord, though, I am delivered; I am set free; I am rescued; I am at peace. Praise be to God!
Let us remember this important perspective when that which is temporary causes disappointment in our lives.
Six years ago yesterday, my dad lost his physical battle with cancer. Active and healthy prior to his diagnosis, my dad was only 57 years old when he died. I still miss him a lot.
Often, when people think of death and heaven, they think of angels. They might talk about guardian angels or heavenly angels. Really, though, angels are very limited in their power, as they are messengers of God who are sent to do as God calls them to do. Their power is limited to God’s will and God’s purposes for them, and so we are not to pray to angels or worship angels or even trust in angels. Rather, we are to seek the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in Him. In fact, “All God’s angels must worship Him” (Hebrews 1:6).
When my dad was dying of cancer, could God have sent His angels to comfort my dad? Sure. Angels could have ministered to my dad in various ways, but they could not and did not save my dad – not from physical death caused by cancer nor from eternal death caused by the curse of sin.
Only Jesus can do that. Only Jesus is God in the flesh. Only Jesus could take our sin upon Himself, die in our place, satisfy the wrath of God that we deserve, and rise again to defeat sin and death.
“Jesus Is Better than Angels.” That is the message, Lord willing, I will be preaching on Sunday morning from Hebrews 1, hoping to share some unique truths about Jesus that make Him (and Him alone) worthy of worship.
Thankfully, a couple of years before my dad lost his physical life to cancer, he received eternal life when he professed his faith in Jesus Christ. One of my life’s greatest privileges was getting to baptize my dad at his and my mom’s then-home-church – First Baptist Church of Marshalltown, Iowa – in December 2012.
Angels did not save my dad. Jesus did.
Whom are you trusting to give you hope, life, and a right standing with God? Jesus alone can do all three, so please look to Him today and every day.
Do you notice anything off about the picture above? Yes, that trailer is supposed to be hooked to that tractor. That trailer was hooked to that tractor, until one of my children (who will not be revealed in this post) was messing around on the tractor and disengaged the hydraulics. Apparently some other things were done, too, causing said-child to retreat in fear of the wrong that was committed.
Perhaps no one would find out, though. After all, when someone comes to move the trailer back into place for our Sunday morning outdoor worship celebration, he will hook the trailer back up, and no one else will be the wiser. So, nothing was said to Marsha or me about the trailer parked unhooked behind the tractor.
A little later, however, while all five of our children were playing outside, they noticed the tractor rolling down the hill. At least one of them wondered, “Who’s driving the tractor?” Oh, no one was driving that tractor. It was now helplessly rolling down the hill.
Praise the Lord that none of our children were near it when this happened, and no one was hurt or killed! Praise the Lord that no other vehicles were in the parking lot, and no damage was done! Praise the Lord that the tractor came to a perfect stop at the end of the gravel lot, and nothing bad happened! God’s mercy and grace are all over this story.
SIN HAS CONSEQUENCES
Well, God’s mercy and grace are all over this story, that is, until I walked outside the next morning for my (usually) very-enjoyable morning walk. Mercy and grace were not words that would describe my initial attitude toward my children when I saw what had happened.
When I first noticed what you can see in the above picture, I thought, “Why in the world did someone decide to use the tractor and then leave it down there? And, who was it?” That thinking was only for a moment, though, because I quickly realized it must have been something my children did. That was all that made sense.
How did this happen, though. When did this happen? How did my wife and I not know? How are all of our children still alive? Are we the worst parents ever? Do we have the worst children ever?
When everyone was awake, my wife and I questioned our children and quickly learned the truth, including the fact that all five of them knew who was guilty and knew what had happened. None said a word, however. No one told us, somehow thinking we would not find out and/or that it would not be a big deal if we did.
A John Deere tractor that our kids were playing around rolled 200 feet down a hill!
Needless to say, Marsha and I had a long, serious conversation with our children. Furthermore, they proceeded to lose a lot of privileges, and we hope they have learned their lesson.
You see, sin has consequences. In this case, disobedience and disrespect could have led to someone being killed, and death is the ultimate curse and consequence of sin.
THERE IS HOPE
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on how we can “Find Hope in God’s Judgment” (Micah 4). Yes, sin has consequences. Yes, God judges sin. Yes, we all deserve the devastating eternal death that is the curse of sin. Yet, there is hope.
We are all sinful, but we can still be hopeful, hopeful if we know and follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The only hope that conquers sin and death is the hope of the gospel. Do you have this hope? Do you rejoice in this hope? Do you find satisfaction and contentment in this hope? Are you daily living for the God of this hope?
Like our children, we all deserve much greater consequences to our sins than we have received. The fact that we are still breathing, despite our countless failures and rebellions, is living proof. We deserve death but by trusting in Jesus’ death in our place and by believing in His resurrection from the dead, we can have life and have it abundantly.
Look out for the consequences of sin. Look out for God’s certain judgment. Look out by looking up (to Him). Look out by looking back (to the cross). Look out by looking forward (to eternal life). Only then will you have the hope that never dies.
P.S. – “Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land” (Ephesians 6:1-3).