Expecting the Best

Unfortunately, what we feared and what we expected – the worst-case scenario for Ukraine – happened with the Russian invasion of Ukraine early Thursday morning. This is devastating, particularly for the people of Ukraine. For specific ways you can pray for the people directly affected by this crisis, please click HERE.

As I prepare for my Sunday morning message from Zechariah 9 (“Renewed and Expectant“), I am reminded of the many expectations we face in this world. With the Russian troops on the Ukrainian border and because of what we know about Russia and their evil president, we were expecting what happened yesterday to happen. I am not aware of anyone who was surprised. Our fearful expectations were fulfilled. May the Lord be gracious and merciful to those negatively impacted by this devastating conflict!

To be clear, though, the Lord God Almighty is still in control. While brokenness like this is difficult to comprehend and explain, the truth of God’s Word is still the truth. God is sovereign over all, and justice will be done. As Zechariah 9 and so many other passages of Scripture make clear, judgment for sin is coming. We can and should expect just and righteous judgment.

Unfortunately for every single one of us, though, we deserve that judgment. Publicly exposed acts of evil are not the only sins that justify judgment; all sin is deserving of judgment. And, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Not only do those who wrongly invade a country commit acts of evil; those who wrongly rebel against the Word of God in any way commit acts of evil. We are all guilty.

Now, this is certainly not to diminish the heinous evil on display in Eastern Europe right now, but rather to remind us that none of us deserves to expect anything good from God. Praise Him, though, that He made a way for us to not only expect better but to expect the Best! When we turn to Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, we are “Renewed and Expectant” – renewed by Him and expectant of His promised faithfulness. We are renewed in our relationship with God, and we are expectant of Jesus’ Second Coming – when He will restore all things to Himself.

Yes, there will be judgment – eternal judgment that we all deserve. Only those who are not renewed in the Lord, however, will receive such judgment. Those who are renewed in the Lord will receive restoration and life. On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I hope to clearly communicate this hope-filled truth by sharing two certainties we can all expect because of God’s faithfulness.

Is your faith in the promises of God growing? Expect the Best by trusting in Him today.

If you are unable to live with assurance and expect the Best because of what (and Who) is to come, please check out The Story and turn to the Lord today.

How do you respond to the sexual revolution?

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.

The Story explains how we can be delivered from sin and death now and forever.

The Cost of Winning

As long as I can remember, I have loved winning and hated losing. Not alone in that mentality, many others share this competitive nature with me. Do you? For things that really matter to you, even if you are not quite as competitive as some, I am sure you love winning and hate losing.

What is the cost of winning, though? How much are we willing to sacrifice in order to succeed? Are we willing to pay the price?

Growing up, when it came to basketball – perhaps more than anything else – I wanted to be a winner. I wanted to be the best. I never really was the best, but that was not for lack of trying. Since the third grade and until my sophomore year of college, I spent at least 2-3 hours per day (sometimes many more) in the summer months and at least 30-45 minutes during the off-season school months working on my basketball game. Ball handling drills, shooting drills, lifting weights, push-ups and sit-ups, jumping and agility drills – anything I learned from my dad and others that would make me better, I tried.

I counted the cost of what I believed and what I was told it would take to achieve success, and I embraced that cost. The cost of winning was worth it to me.

A BETTER VICTORY

So much better than winning at basketball, though, is the victory that comes from the Lord. On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 on “The Cost (of discipleship that leads to church unity): Whatever It Takes.”

As a child and as a teenager, I felt like I was willing to do whatever it took to be the best I could be at basketball. I made a lot of sacrifices for the sake of getting better. Never did I get as good as I wanted to get. Maybe I became a better-than-average player trapped in a below-average athletically gifted body. Maybe God was protecting me from the pride and foolishness that would have resulted if I did truly achieve the success for which I longed. I am not sure.

My goal was to play division-I college basketball, though. Well, I did not accomplish my goal. Was all that sacrifice worth it? To some degree, yes – I learned a lot about hard work, commitment, and dedication. To some degree, no – I am sure I, at least at times, sacrificed at the expense of other things that were more important than basketball. Then again, I was not yet a follower of Jesus Christ, so I did not really comprehend what those “better things” might be. I had yet to realize that a better victory was available – a victory that I could never attain on my own but that had been won on my behalf.

WANTING TO WIN

That better victory is so much better because it is a victory that lasts forever. It is a victory that we were created to long for and be miserable without. It is the victory that satisfies not only what we need most but also defines our very purpose. Have you experienced that victory – the victory that comes only in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ?

If you have experienced victory in Jesus, then you want a kind of winning that is so much greater than the winning I longed for as a basketball player. You want to experience winning people to Jesus. You want to follow Jesus and help others to follow Jesus. And, the cost of that kind of winning truly is worth the cost – worth the cost of stepping out of our comfort zones and risking our very lives so that others can experience the greatest victory.

If we are willing to sacrifice for worldly success, how much more should we willingly sacrifice for eternal impact?

I always attributed my work ethic and competitive nature to my dad, and there is certainly some truth to that because I am not sure if I have ever known someone as hard-working and competitive as my dad. He also loved to win, and some of my greatest childhood memories are when we won at things together. What I have come to realize, though, is that the longing to win is really the way God created us. We were made in His image, and so we were made to love and long for victory. He is the greatest Victor of all, and when we know and follow Him, we will want to experience that victory and help others experience that victory. Then, more than ever, is the cost of winning worth the sacrifice.

Praise be to God!

Please check out The Story if you have yet to experience the greatest victory.

Don’t Steal Your Identity

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.

If you want to experience the identity for which you were created, please recognize that identity only comes in and through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Learn more.

Thankfully Waiting

Jesus could return at any moment. We have all heard this, sometimes more often than others. The authors of the New Testament, inspired by the Holy Spirit, believed this and taught this. Jesus could indeed return at any moment, and we must be ready.

Consider, though, that He Himself declared this before He ascended to heaven after His resurrection from the dead nearly 2,000 years ago. That is a long time, from a human perspective, to be waiting. “Any moment” is a difficult phrase to embrace for a coming that generations have anticipated without realizing.

REASON TO BE THANKFUL

Yes, 2,000 years seems like a long time, but also consider how long people waited for the first Advent – the first arrival of Jesus Christ into the world. His first Advent was promised back in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) and to Abraham (Genesis 12:3), to Jacob (Numbers 24:17), to Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), to David (2 Samuel 7:12-13; Psalms), to Isaiah (7:14; 9:2-7; 11:1), to Jeremiah (23:5-6), and to Micah (5:2), and those are just some of the references. My point, though, is that people waited thousands and thousands of years for the promised Messiah to come into the world and be born of a virgin and save His people from their sins. Yet, Jesus’ first Advent did indeed happen just as God promised and foretold.

For this reason, we can be thankful even in waiting. We can thankfully wait for His second Advent – when He will return to judge the living and the dead and save forever all who know Him. No, we do not know when that day will be, but we can be certain that day will be.

THANKSGIVING TO ADVENT

Perhaps that can be our Thanksgiving-to-Advent bridge – thankfully waiting. Truly, we have many things for which to give thanks, but when is the last time you gave thanks that you can wait – wait with full assurance of faith for the second coming of Jesus Christ our Lord?

As sure as was His first Advent, His second Advent is sure. Praise the Lord!

What a great reminder to slow down and give thanks in the midst of the chaos that tries to consume our daily lives. Jesus is coming again, and His coming is guaranteed. He never fails to keep His promises. In fact, the reason we have not yet realized His second Advent is because of His love…

The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a new Advent sermon series on “A Season of Preparation.” By preaching through Matthew 1:1-18, I hope to communicate that “Anticipation Is Preparation.” We prepare to encounter Jesus by anticipating His arrival. The people of old did this when waiting for His first Advent, and we do this by understanding that first Advent and looking forward to His second Advent.

THANKFULNESS REQUIRES READINESS

If you are not ready for Jesus’ second Advent, though, you will not be able to wait in thankfulness because that day will be eternally terrible for all who are not ready. To be ready, you must know and follow Jesus Christ with a sincere heart of complete surrender. Learn more by watching and/or reading The Story of the gospel. Only Jesus can prepare your heart for His second coming by making you right with God.

If you are ready and walking with Jesus, will you be more intentional this Advent season about waiting in thankfulness? Will you help others prepare and be ready by sharing The Story with them?

If you cannot join us in person Sunday morning for family groups (9:30 – 10:30) and worship (10:40 – 11:45), you can watch the live stream of the service HERE.

Living the Dream

We have all heard it, and most of us have probably said it, whether in seriousness or in jest – “living the dream!” What does it mean to be “living the dream,” though? Of course, the answer to that question is subjective because “living the dream” can mean different things for different people. Generally and simply put, though, the statement implies that life is good. Things are going well. You are happy and thankful.

Are you “living the dream?” Why or why not?

CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE

From a Christian perspective according to the Word of God, living the best life we can live means living according to God’s plan for us. Oftentimes, this is in conflict with the typical idea of “living the dream,” though, because God’s plan is in accordance with God’s Word. And, God’s Word calls us to do things that are often uncomfortable and often not so “dreamy.” Loving your enemies, praying for those who persecute you, rejoicing in suffering, surrendering your life, and calling people to repentance, for example, are not usually statements associated with “living the dream.”

“Living the dream” – if meaning the best life we can live – is different when you have a Christian perspective, though, because your eternal status impacts your present reality. Because of what is to come for all who know and follow Jesus Christ, we can find great contentment and satisfaction now, even when things are difficult. While we might not be “living the dream” according to cultural and material expectations, we can be consumed with the hope and peace that people truly long for when they think of “living the dream.”

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on perhaps the most important section in Hebrews (chapter 10, verses 19-39). Verses 19-25, in particular, are really an amazing summary with which the author of Hebrews seems to be challenging his readers throughout the book. In this message, I hope to help you understand why “Jesus Gives the Better Life,” and this is the living reality now and eternally.

CHRISTIAN RESPONSE

To live the superior life – the life consumed with objective hope today because of the certainty of tomorrow – you must know and follow the One who gave you life. The Author of life is certainly the One who knows best, and if we try to “live the dream” apart from His plan, we will be disappointed soon and more importantly, for eternity.

Instead, “Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).

Are you “holding on” and doing so with confident assurance? If so, then you understand what “living the dream” really means because you know nothing/no one else satisfies like Jesus satisfies. Does that mean earthly riches and great health and ongoing comfort? No. What it does mean, though, is a “true heart in full assurance of faith,” (Hebrews 10:22), and while the world’s riches can be taken away, those riches (eternal life and the assurance of it) can never be taken away.

CORPORATE IMPLICATIONS

For those reasons, those who have genuine faith in Jesus Christ are “living the life,” and they are doing so in community with others who are “living the life.” As we will see Sunday when looking at verses 24-25, the expectation and assumption is that sincere Christ-followers will remain faithful not only to Christ but also to His church. The Bible does not speak of a Christian who does not both endure in the faith and remain with the church. Such an idea is contrary to what the Bible clearly teaches.

The Apostle John, for example, when speaking of those who had abandoned their local church, says, “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us” (1 John 2:19). When he said “none of them belongs to us,” he was declaring that those who are without a church family are without Christ.

The author of Hebrews, then, is not trying to convince Christians to gather with their church but rather is declaring that sincere Christians will gather with their church, whereas those who are simply professing faith in Christ but not truly possessing faith in Christ will eventually abandon Christ and His church.

Do you possess saving faith in Jesus? If so, your values and priorities will reflect such faith as you seek to grow closer to Jesus, grow in service to His church, and grow in commitment to His mission. If not, would you consider surrendering your life to Him today?

If you live in or near Callaway County and do not yet have a church family, please join us on Sunday mornings at 9:30 for family groups and at 10:40 for worship. Learn more at MyRichland.org.

The Best Friend in the Highest Place

More often than not, a saying that holds true is, “It’s not about what you know but who you know.” We all want friends in high places, right? We are grateful to have “connections” with people who can accomplish for us what we simply cannot accomplish on our own.

During my junior year of college, for example, because of a previous internship I had with a news station, I was able to stand on the sideline of a Minnesota Vikings game and then go into the locker room after the game to interview players like Randy Moss, Cris Carter, and John Randle. Did I do anything to earn that privilege? Not really. Did any of the guys in that locker room know me or invite me? Definitely not. Really, this was a classic case of it being all about who you know. There was nothing I did to gain access to the sideline and locker room, except that I had a connection with a television station that afforded me a media pass. My connection made possible an opportunity that otherwise would have been impossible.

THE SUPERIOR CONNECTION

Of course, the ultimate friend in the highest of places is Jesus Christ our Lord. How often, though, do we take for granted the fact that, as sinful human beings who are completely unworthy of approaching God, we can go to Him any time (and are encouraged to do so) in the name of Jesus?

Because He ([Jesus]) remains forever, He holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore, He is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25).

Wow! Jesus is always able to save those who come to God through Him, and He always lives to intercede for them. If we place our faith in Jesus, we are both made right with God forever and represented by the Son of God.

Talk about a case of it not being about what you know but rather about Who you know! Really, it is not about what you do but about Who you know. Jesus is the ultimate friend in the ultimate place.

THE APPROPRIATE RESPONSE

The good news is that, even though there is nothing we can do to earn eternal life, Jesus accomplished what needed to be done when He died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead to win the eternal victory over sin and death. That gospel message is indeed a very important what to know, but knowing the what is useless if you do not know the Who of the story – Jesus.

The appropriate response to this truth is to daily surrender your all to Him. Of course, this must start with knowing Him by asking Him to take over your life. You can learn how to do that HERE. That response must continue every day, though, through hope and obedience that endure, the endurance which will prove the legitimacy of your faith in and dependence on the Lord.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Hebrews 7 on how “Jesus Is the Better High Priest.” Do you know the Superior High Priest? Are you going to God through Him? Are you responding rightly to His Lordship? Does your daily life prove your devotion to Him?

Angels Didn’t Save My Dad

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.

One of the many things I miss most about my dad is how great he was with our kids. They LOVED playing with Grandpa Robbie, just like Silas was playing the “handcuff game” in this picture, which was taken on December 8, 2012.

Family Idolatry

I love my family! Over the past six weeks, we have had the great pleasure of going on vacation with Marsha’s side of the family one week and with my side of the family another week. Both vacations were a blast, and I praise God for them (and more importantly, for family).

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing our short sermon series – The Red and The Blue – preaching through Psalm 146 and challenging those listening to be careful not to make politics an idol. The same can be said about anything, though, including family. Idolatry consists of placing anything or anyone other than God on the throne of your heart. Bad, evil things can be idolized, but so can good things. Please realize – this does not mean that, in order to avoid idolatry of family, for example, we ignore or neglect our families. That would clearly be sinful and dishonoring God and His Word (i.e. see 1 Timothy 5:8). Rather, what this means is that we should not ignore or neglect God and our relationship with Him in order to prioritize as ultimate (worship) someone or something else. That is idolatry.

Of all the things in this world that I am probably most tempted to idolize, family – along with my own selfish comfort and security – is probably at the top of the list. Whether you are like me or not, there are certainly things you too are tempted to put before God. Thus, you can replace the word “family” with anything that might be a temptation for you. To keep with the theme of family, though, I am going to ask you (and myself) some questions to consider if you are making an idol of your family…

1. DO YOU NEGLECT TIME WITH GOD AND BLAME FAMILY?

We prioritize what we believe to be important. Are you prioritizing daily time with God in His Word and in prayer? If you believe your relationship with God is important, you will surely prioritize seeking Him and learning better how to follow Him, right? Do not hide behind your family and blame them for a failure to commit yourself to God and His Word. Make time for what is important.

I used to get up at 6:00 or 6:30 each morning to spend time reading my Bible and praying. Typically, though, at least one of my kids was getting up by 6:15 or 6:30, and I found myself getting annoyed by their distractions, even losing my patience with them while reading my Bible. What a sad, ironic contradiction for me to lose it with my kids while claiming to seek after God. Pathetic, really. So, I decided to change my routine and get up at 5:30 each morning. Now, I typically get an hour of uninterrupted time with the Lord before any of my kids are awake, not to mention they are old enough now that they distract me less in the early hours of the morning. This change, although hard at first, has been well worth it.

Let not your family be an excuse for neglecting daily time with God. Make time for what is important.

2. DO YOU LOOK TO FAMILY BEFORE GOD WHEN YOU ARE HURTING?

Whether it be discouragement, sorrow, physical suffering, or all of the above, do you cry out to God first, or is family your default for hope and comfort? Do not get me wrong – we certainly do need one another, and we are called to bear one another’s burdens. We certainly should pray for one another and ask for help when we are down, but not in place of giving our worries and cares to God. He must always be the One we turn to first and turn to continually, even while also turning to one another. Yet, so often we might be tempted to turn to the Lord only after all other options have failed us. He is the only One who never fails, though. Seek Him first.

3. DO YOU “VENT” TO FAMILY RATHER THAN PRAYING TO GOD?

Gossip is a temptation for all of us, I believe, but gossip is a sin, even if we call it “venting.” Simply put, gossip is saying behind someone’s back what you would not say and have not said to that person’s face. Instead of gossiping about someone when you are frustrated, what if you brought your concerns to God in prayer? You will not be gossiping then (He already knows everything), and God can use your prayers to bring about healing, including healing in your own heart toward people with whom you might be upset.

When you “vent” to your family rather than go to the Lord, you are pushing the Lord off the throne of your heart and falling into the trap of prideful idolatry. Beware and ask for God’s help. He knows we all need it.

4. DO YOU NEGLECT ACTIVE CHURCH COMMITMENT UNDER THE LIE OF COMMITMENT TO FAMILY?

I say “the lie of commitment to family” because for a self-professing Christian to claim commitment to family while not being faithful to the local church is a lie from the pits of hell. The best way we can be committed to family so that they are loved now and impacted for eternity is to put God first. And, putting God first includes prioritizing active church membership and service (see 1 Corinthians 12; 1 John 2:19; Romans 12; Philippians 2:1-11; Hebrews 10:23-25; Ephesians 4; the Book of Acts; etc.).

Yet, so often people neglect the local church to “spend time with family.” Why not do both? Serve God’s church with your family. Attend worship services with your family. Set a godly example for unbelieving family members by being faithful to your church. No one ever regrets faithful church involvement because God created us to need one another, serve one another, worship alongside one another, and grow together.

Love your family by loving God and loving His church.

5. DO YOU MOST LONG FOR YOUR FAMILY TO BE PLEASED WITH YOU?

Whose approval do you most treasure? If God’s approval is not the answer, then you have not (or are not) surrendering to His Lordship over your life. His honor and glory are what matter above all else, so why would we ever dare seek another’s approval above His?

Let us declare with the Psalmist, “Hallelujah! My soul, praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing to my God as long as I live” (Psalm 146:1-2). This will only happen, though, if you desire to serve and please Him above all else. And, that desire only comes when He changes your heart and life forever through the transformational truth of the gospel. Has He changed you? Are you seeking to bring glory to Him above all?

Again, I want to be clear – love your family! Take care of your family. Spend time with your family. Serve your family. Just do not idolize your family (or anything else). Include your family in your commitment to God and His church.

I sure do love my family and pray for them daily. Here are a few more pictures of our time together last week…

Eternal Heart Health

Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life” (Proverbs 4:23). In other words, what we do is a reflection of our hearts. Sincere kindness is a reflection of goodness. Hatred toward others is a reflection of evil. Love for God and others is a reflection of goodness. Idolatry, lust, and stealing are a reflection of evil. Sacrificial service is a reflection of goodness. Racism is a reflection of evil.

Sure, people with good hearts changed by God still commit acts of evil because we are all sinners. Likewise, people with evil hearts still do good things because God is gracious and merciful and sends rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45).

Ultimately, though, the health of our hearts will determine our eternal status before God. How is your eternal heart health?

THE IMPACT OF THE HEART

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Micah 2 on our need to “Accept God’s Judgment,” as I continue our Walk Humbly sermon series. Right away in the beginning of that chapter, we see the impact our hearts have on our lives. “Woe to those who dream up wickedness and prepare evil plans on their beds! At morning light they accomplish it because the power is in their hands” (Micah 2:1). Their hearts were full of wickedness, and they used their power to accomplish evil.

Some things never change. It happened then, and it continues to happen today. Why? Because the heart is evil apart from the grace of God.

Why, after all that has happened, is racism still a problem in our country? Because the heart is evil apart from the grace of God.

Why, after all of the advancements in this country and with all that we know to be true, does police brutality still exist when most cops are good cops who serve and protect like they should? Because the heart is evil apart from the grace of God.

Why, with all that is abundantly clear in the Word of God, do so many ministry leaders have massive moral failures? Because the heart is evil apart from the grace of God.

The problems in our country right now, the problems in every country throughout human history, the problems in all of our hearts… I believe the problems stem from the same thing: pride. Pride, it seems, is the root of every other sin that exists.

Think about it – pride is not limited to the outwardly arrogant. Pride is simply thinking of yourself more highly than you should. Pride is putting yourself and your wants and your needs and your comfort at the top of your priorities. Pride is pushing God off the throne of your heart and putting something or someone else there. Selfishness comes from pride. Lust comes from pride. Hatred comes from pride. Racism comes from pride. Can you think of a sin that does not find its root in pride? I cannot.

This is why the spiritual health of our hearts is so vital. Our hearts (and whether or not they are consumed with pride) affect everything.

THE NEED OF THE HEART

Pride cannot be fixed or defeated, at least not by us. We need help. The need of every single one of our hearts is the gospel of Jesus Christ. While policies and procedures might help to a certain extent, only the gospel changes lives because only God changes hearts eternally.

Now, I am certainly not implying that we should not have laws, policies, procedures, etc. After all, even the government is “God’s servant to you for good” (read Romans 13:1-7). Rules and regulations will not fix the heart, though. They can help administer justice when done properly, but as we have seen lately (and, as has always been the case), evil hearts will still lead to evil actions. Injustice will still happen. Lives will still be ruined. Sadly, that will not change on this side of eternity because pride will not be gone until Jesus Christ returns.

Still, we should stand up for justice and love our neighbors as ourselves. We should pray for God’s mercy and help, that we might see our country and our world changed for the better. We should speak Truth and plead with people to turn to the Lord. All the while, we do not lose hope in the midst of the evil around us because we know that God will indeed one day restore all things. If you know and follow Jesus, you have the promise of eternal life and perfect restoration. Praise the Lord!

Let us ask God to protect us from the evil of pride, and let us hold one another accountable. Do you have people who will speak into your life when pride begins to consume you? Do you seek God daily through His Word and walk with Him in prayer? How’s your heart, and how can you get better?

If you do not yet know the hope and peace that are only found in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ, will you turn to Him today? Learn more by checking out The Story.