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.

Politics Are Not the Source

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.

If you are finding your hope in politics or anything/anyone else besides Jesus Christ our Lord, will you turn to Him today? Will you ask Him to take over your life and change your heart? Learn more HERE.

Because of Faith, Not Politics

When I became a Christian during my sophomore year of college, a lot of things changed in my life – praise be to God! About a year after trusting in Jesus, I began to think a lot about the kind of woman I would want to marry and began to desire getting married, particularly after I met and got to know my amazing wife-to-be. Truly, of all the things I wanted most in a future wife, genuine faith in Jesus Christ was the most important. Growing Christian faith was a non-negotiable for me, as I had no desire to marry someone who did not believe what I believed and was not committed to following Jesus.

Do you know what never even entered the equation? Politics. Never once did I consider political parties or voting history when having the initial conversations I had with Marsha about our future.

Yes, there are certainly plenty of times when faith and politics intersect, but because Marsha and I both desire to follow Jesus and live according to His Word, we completely agree on those “political” issues that are what we believe to be important (i.e. protecting the lives of the unborn, preserving traditional marriage and the family, religious liberty, caring for the vulnerable, etc.).

Are you Democrat, Republican, or Independent?“, though, was never a question we asked one another. Foreign and economic policy are not issues we discussed, not because I did not or do not enjoy talking about politics. I do enjoy it.

Faith, not politics, though, is the foundation of our unity, and I praise God for Marsha’s enduring faith in Him. I want to plead with you too, Christ-follower, to make sure faith, not politics is your reason for unity… our reason for unity.

Faith in Jesus, not politics, transcends culture and religion to form a foundation that cannot be shaken (by the grace, mercy, and power of God).

Faith in Jesus, not politics, creates a unity that is eternal (when our hearts are set on Him and not giving in to sinful temptation and division).

Faith in Jesus, not politics, is our source of hope and peace (if we have trusted the gospel).

Faith in Jesus, not politics, is our reason for joy and contentment (as we continue to trust in the gospel).

Faith in Jesus, not politics, is what unites and sustains a biblical church.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I am going to finish our short “political” sermon series – The Red and The Blue – and preach through 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 on “Unity in Jesus, Not in Politics.” Unity in Jesus is unity we ought to long for and unity we ought to sincerely seek.

How about you? Is Christian unity something you value and prioritize? Or, are you allowing lesser things to control your time and energy? Do not settle for less than Jesus has for you. Trust and follow Him, and let faith, not politics (or anything else), be your foundational source of unity.

If you find yourself unsure of whether or not you have the saving faith that is necessary for Christian unity, will you check out THE STORY?

The Mask of Pride

Rather than writing a weekly blog post this week, I recorded a weekly blog video in order to share my personal convictions about an issue that has, unfortunately, become far too political. No, I am not trying to convince you to wear a mask but rather to consider your motivations for doing so (or not doing so). In preparation for my Sunday morning message in our Walk Humbly sermon series, I want to challenge you to be prepared for God’s just judgment (as I’ll preach, Lord willing, from Micah 6) by responding to Him and others with humility and not with pride.

Before we can do what God has called us to do, we must be who God has called us to be. This is only possible when we turn from sin and surrender our lives to Him, trusting in what Jesus did on the cross and what Jesus accomplished through His resurrection. To learn more, check out The Story.

Why Justice & Politics Will Let You Down

How much hope do you place in worldly justice and/or politics? Your answer to that question likely indicates how encouraged or discouraged you are on a regular basis. The reality is that the justice and politics the world has to offer will leave you disappointed.

Yes, I still think we should vote. Yes, I still think we ought to take a stand for things that matter. But, the world has never known a truly just court, and the world has never seen a politician who can deliver continued hope.

Sure, there have been many heroes, including people who have accomplished great (and good) things politically, but does the change last? Do things just keep getting better? Do they fix all of our problems? Of course not.

Sadly, the good politicians seem to be quite rare in world history, and the devastating effects of oppression, injustice and corruption only continue.

Solomon’s words are still true today: “There is wickedness at the place of judgment and there is wickedness at the place of righteousness” (Ecclesiastes 3:16). Worldly justice and politics will let you down, but the Lord God will not let you down.

If you are trying to find your hope and security in justice and politics (or in anything(s) other than in the God who created you), will you consider seeking and trusting in the Lord?

This morning during our morning worship service with Richland Baptist Church, I preached on the “Futility of Justice and Politics,” sharing three reasons justice and politics will let you down (and what you need instead). You can listen to this and other messages HERE.

Please understand, I am grateful for the country in which we live and the hard work of those who seek to uphold justice and integrity. I praise God for people like my friend Jake (pictured below with his parents at his recent graduation), who is now a Missouri State Park Ranger. We must be careful, though, to realize the absolute futility of finding our hope and assurance in what people can do in a fallen world. Let’s serve and rely on one another, but let’s always find our hope in the Lord.