Do you have a “Gotcha Day?”

Wednesday was Micah’s “Gotcha Day” – the anniversary of the day we adopted him as our son. It was May 15, 2017, when Micah went from being an orphan to being a son and a brother.

We praise God for bringing Micah into our lives! His sonship, both lovingly and legally, is completely legitimate, as if he was our biological son. We love him the same as our other children, and he has the same legal standing as our other children. Zoe, our adopted daughter, is no different.

Micah and Zoe’s “Gotcha Days” are special in our hearts and minds because they mark the official beginning of their entrance into our family.

Gotcha Day for Christians

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you also have a “Gotcha Day.” You may or not remember a specific day, depending on your age, how long ago it was, how your journey began and continues, etc., but every single Christ-follower has a day when he or she passed from being a spiritual orphan to becoming a child of God.

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).

Our adoption as children of God is part of the amazing news of the gospel. Like Zoe and Micah did nothing to earn their adoption as children into our family, we do nothing to earn our adoption as children into God’s family. Rather, because of His unfathomable love for us, He sent His Only Son to die on the cross for our sins and earn our salvation and adoption in and through His resurrection from the dead.

Now, everyone who repents of sin and trusts in Jesus Christ is adopted as a child of God.

And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life” (1 John 2:25). Who else can make that promise? No one. Who else can give us a “Gotcha Day” that literally impacts our eternity? No one.

Gotcha Day Proof

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will continue my sermon series Prove It and talk about the “Proof of Truth” (1 John 2:18-27). What is the proof of Truth in your life? What is the proof of adoption?

If someone wanted, I could give them sufficient, documented proof that Zoe is our daughter, and Micah is our son, just as I could give them proof that our three biological sons are indeed our sons. In fact, we have much more documentation proving our adopted children belong to us than we do for our biological children. All five are our children, though, and that fact would not be difficult to prove.

If you have a genuine relationship with God, there is also proof. The “Gotcha Day” itself is not the proof, though. Sure, we might celebrate the “Gotcha Day” and enjoy talking about the “Gotcha Day,” but the proof of adoption is not in a day.

For Zoe and Micah, the proof is found in various legal documents, as well as in their daily lives. They live with us. We are raising them. We are providing for them. We love them because they are our children.

For Christians, the proof is also in your daily life. Christ lives in you. You remain in Him. You belong to Him and walk with Him according to His Word. You are faithful to His church, loving Him and loving His body.

Is there daily proof that you are adopted?

Zoe’s “Gotcha Day” is September 13, the day she became our daughter in 2012. If you know Zoe at all, you can probably imagine that she loves to celebrate her “Gotcha Day.” We do, too.
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How to know you have the Light…

Do you have memories of how excited you were as a child when you were able to get together with cousins and/or friends for nothing more than fun? I sure do. And, I see that same energy and excitement with my children when they get together with their friends and cousins (like in the above picture from Easter Sunday afternoon). Pure joy is evident all over their faces.

Our son Silas said Sunday evening, “This was the best day of my life.” Hard to match that kind of excitement, right?

Light’s Impact on Longings

Naturally, we get excited about things we enjoy. We express excitement when getting to do the things we love doing. Kids love to play and have fun. Most of us adults do, too.

I would argue – and I believe the Apostle John made this argument – that genuine followers of Jesus Christ love spending time with other believers. Fellowship and participation with the local church excite us. This is the result of the light of Jesus consuming our hearts, impacting our lives and affecting our desires.

Light impacts longings, and darkness does, too. John argues (1 John 1) that people who know Jesus walk in the light and thus have and long for fellowship with God and with His church. Those who walk in the darkness, though, no matter what they claim to believe or desire, will only long for God and His church for what they can get out of them.

Signs of Light

Do you long for closer fellowship with God and His church? This past Sunday I started a new sermon series – Prove It – in 1 John, and this letter makes clear that fellowship with God and fellowship with His church are clear signs of the light of Christ in the life of a believer. Those who love and follow Jesus not only have that fellowship; they desire that fellowship.

Do you have a born-again relationship with Jesus? If so, fellowship with God and His church are signs of His light in your life. A longing for that fellowship and a commitment to that fellowship are essential. You cannot want one apart from the other, and you cannot claim one is genuine without the other.

Is there proof of Light in your life? Shine brightly in and for Christ and in and for the world.

Getting pictures taken is NOT something our kids tend to enjoy, but they do a decent job faking it at times. This one was taken before family groups and worship with our church Sunday morning. Certainly easier to smile when an exciting day lies ahead of you.

What’s more fresh than a haircut?

Oh, the joy!

Earlier this week, I gave all four of our boys haircuts, and Marsha gave me a haircut. Are haircuts not one of the simple, great pleasures in life that we take for granted? While I do not particularly enjoy giving my boys their haircuts, I certainly do love getting a haircut and enjoy the feeling of having a clean cut.

Does not everyone enjoy the feeling of a haircut (unless it is just a bad haircut)? Naturally, we like things that are fresh and new. We like, for the most part, cleanness and crispness. We like a revival, and a haircut is like a revival on your head.

Here’s why…

The reason we like revival and freshness and newness is because we were created that way by God. He put within us a desire to experience these things. Is it because, deep down, we all need these things?

When God made the heavens and the earth and all that exists, everything was not only fresh and new but also perfect. Even more perfect than your ideal haircut, God’s creation did not need freshness and newness and revival. But, sin entered the picture in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate fruit from the one tree from which they were forbidden to eat. From that point forward, we have always longed for revival and freshness and newness.

We long for what we can’t have.

Conceived, born and living in sin as fallen human beings, we long for the day, whether we realize it or not, when everything will be perfect. Because of sin, though, we are unable to obtain that perfection, but an answer, only One answer, exists. The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can begin to realize that newness now, and more importantly, experience the perfection for all of eternity. This is only possible, though, in and through a right relationship with Jesus Christ.

How can one know if he has that right relationship, though? Simply put, you must repent of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for your salvation. When people ask me about the assurance of salvation, however, I encourage them to read 1 John.

Proof of Resurrection Life…

Easter morning, Lord willing, I will begin a new sermon series through 1-3 John called Prove It. A Christian’s life should be living proof of a right relationship with God, a right relationship that is only possible in and through Jesus. So, as we begin the series Sunday morning, I want to challenge you to consider if your life is living proof of resurrection life – a life that is fresh, new and everlasting.

Of all four boys, Micah is most like me when getting his hair cut. He loves it!

The Good Kind of Fear

If you are worried about what others might think or are fearful of what others might do, life can be miserable. That kind of fear can be debilitating. In fact, the Bible tells us, again and again, to not fear but rather to trust God. “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Timothy 1:7).

A good kind of fear does exist, though. Furthermore, this kind of fear is commanded for all of us in the Word of God. This good kind of fear, of course, is the fear of God. “The Lord commanded us to follow all these statutes and to fear the Lord our God for our prosperity always and for our preservation, as it is today” (Deuteronomy 6:24). Fearing God is for His glory and for our good.

My Story

When I was a sophomore in college, I remember fearing God for the first time in my life. Sure, I grew up always believing in God, but there was no genuine fear of Him in my life. I had no sincere awe of His glory, no reverence for His power and no submission to His authority. Oh, I feared a lot of things, but God was really not even close to the top of my list. Rather, I feared what others thought about me, what I would become, how I might fail, etc. Life was about me.

During that pivotal year in my life, though, something happened. For the first time, I questioned my eternal destiny. “But, I am a ‘good’ person. Surely God would never condemn me to hell.” Up to that point, I believed eternal salvation was mine because I believed in God and because I was not nearly as sinful as those in prison and those who blatantly hated God. I was wrong.

Lasting Influences

Thankfully, I was attending a gospel-centered church at the time, and the pastor was consistently preaching the Word of God, challenging people to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. I also had some great friends who were faithfully following Jesus, and I could see a genuine difference in their lives. God used that church, and God used those friends to help me see I was missing something.

When a friend challenged me one day to make sure my heart was right with the Lord, I began to fear I was not right with the Lord. As a result of the combination of that fear, the continued preaching of the gospel in that church, and the continued example of discipleship by those friends, I was compelled to dig into God’s Word for answers. I was terrified of eternal judgment in hell, and so I was trying to find ways to justify myself and gain assurance that I was safe.

That hope and assurance would not come, though. I talked with my Christian friends, and I communicated continuously with my pastor. While I am not sure exactly what they were thinking about my heart, I could see an unexplainable sense of peace in their hearts (at least showing outwardly). Why did I not have that peace? Was it because I was on my way to hell? Simply put – yes.

The Good Kind of Fear

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7). Well, it was that “fear of the Lord” that drove me to His Word, which gave me the “knowledge” of salvation by grace alone through faith alone.

After raising my hand during a gospel invitation time in a Sunday morning worship service, I talked with my pastor about baptism. Again, though, this was all about me and selfishly wanting assurance and peace. Deep down, I was still thinking that my “good works” were my eternal salvation. Later, though, I talked further with my pastor about how to adequately communicate to my family about the reason for my desire to be baptized, even though I was sprinkled as a child in the Lutheran church. Something he said to me that night was used of God to change me forever…

Nick, it’s not about what you do, including baptism, that is going to get you to heaven. It’s about trusting what Jesus did on the cross and knowing that only He can save you from your sins.

Was that truth something I had never heard? Surely not, but it was at that time that it finally dawned on me – I was always trying to work my way to God, rather than trusting in what He did for me in and through His Son. I was on my way to hell because I thought I myself was good enough for heaven.

When I Was Changed

Shortly after that conversation with my pastor, I found myself alone in my dorm room with a longing to be right with God. I wanted Him to take over my life. I wanted to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I wanted Him to take away my sins, change my life and make me new. So, I knelt down beside Big Brown Bertha (my ugly couch) and asked Jesus to save me.

Finally, I had the good kind of fear – the fear of God that was the beginning of knowledge. Praise the Lord for opening my eyes and opening my heart to the truth of the gospel!

“Fearful of God” Sunday Morning and What It Means

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing my sermon series – The Gospel According to David – and sharing from 2 Samuel 6 about three reasons we should be fearful of God, not people.

Sure, there are still many times I fear people or things when I should not fear them, but the more I walk by faith in the Lord and the more His Spirit changes my heart, the more I find myself sincerely fearing the Lord above all.

What does it mean to fear the Lord? Job modeled that well: “He was a man of perfect integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1b). Want to know if you sincerely fear God? Consider, do you turn away from evil? Turn to the Lord and ask for His help – His help to fear Him above all and His help to turn away from evil.

Levi kindly wearing a mask while playing with Micah to kindly protect Micah from getting the strep throat from which Levi was suffering. This “fear” is perhaps a healthy balance of wisdom to protect others without taking away your ability to continue living life. Great example by Levi!

Patience isn’t passive.

One could make the argument that no one has ever been more patient than David was after being anointed the next king of Israel. Consider the fact that he went back to one of the lowest of jobs – shepherding sheep – after being anointed. He ran errands for his father after being anointed. He had his wife taken from him and given to another man after being anointed. He had his life threatened and nearly taken from him by a murderous lunatic, King Saul, after being anointed. He lived life on the run, even hiding in caves after being anointed.

Furthermore, David had multiple opportunities to essentially end all of his problems by killing Saul – opportunities that could hardly have been easier (1 Samuel 24, 26). Yet, David chose to trust God’s timing and obey God’s calling on his life, not taking matters into his own hands but instead being patient in the Lord.

David was not passive in his patience, though. In other words, he did not just sit back and do nothing while trusting in and waiting on God to accomplish His will. Instead, David worked hard. He honored and obeyed God. He wisely gained allies and protected his life. He boldly spoke truth and called for justice. He bravely fought to defend God’s honor and protect God’s people. And, David did all of this while still not being recognized by Israel as king and instead being in danger of losing his life at the hands of King Saul.

Patience is not passive. Rather, patience is actively suffering in faithful obedience to the Word of God. Biblical patience is enduring difficulty by trusting God’s perfect plan.

Lord willing, on Sunday morning I will be preaching from 1 Samuel 24 on “Suffering in Obedience,” challenging those who listen to walk in daily obedience to God’s Word through daily dependence on Him. David was not a superhero who had super power and super patience. David trusted and relied on God and was controlled by the Holy Spirit. That is how David was able to patiently endure his suffering with faithful obedience.

Are you trusting and depending on God in the midst of the trials you are facing? Patient endurance will not last unless you do. Every single one of us, without exception, needs Jesus. We need him for our salvation from sin and eternal death, and we need Him for daily victory over sin and temptation.

Do not confuse patience and faith, though, with laziness and apathy. Patience is not passive, as we must daily, actively seek God and surrender to His authority over our lives.

As I was reading through 1 Samuel 24 this week, a biblical prayer kept coming to mind. And so, when I preach Sunday morning, I will encourage you to pray five things you can and should pray in order to walk in obedience, no matter your circumstances.

Hope to see you Sunday morning! If you are unable to join us for worship, you can also listen to the message, which will be posted later that day HERE.

Photo by Ricardo Esquivel on Pexels.com

David vs. Goliath isn’t about March Madness.

We have all heard it before. Maybe, we have even said it ourselves. “It’s a battle of David vs. Goliath!” Whether it is the big school vs. the small school, or it is the seemingly great team vs. the not-so-great team, this time of year seems to be the time more than any other when I hear about David vs. Goliath. March Madness!

After all, David of Bethlehem was a teenager who probably was not much more than five feet tall, and Goliath of Gath was at least nearly seven feet tall and possibly over nine feet tall. Goliath wore armor that probably weighed as much as David. His spear was about 15 times heavier than the normal spear used during that time. David was the ultimate underdog when he entered the battlefield to face Goliath.

While we all understand why this well-known story is referred to in underdog scenarios, I fear we are missing a very important point when we make this story about basketball. More importantly, we miss the point when we make this story about us.

David vs. Goliath is not recorded in the Bible to make us look inward for courage and strength. David vs. Goliath is recorded in the Bible to make us look upward to the Lord God Almighty.

The reality is, we are all much more likely to behave like Goliath than we are to behave like David. In our sinful, prideful nature, we are prone to think we have it all figured out and can “do all things” through our hard work, accomplishments, acquired skills, preparations, etc. Yes, we would all like to think of ourselves as David, but the truth is that we are more like Goliath – doing things our way rather than God’s way. If that happens to be the case, then we, too, like Goliath, will fall.

Sunday, Lord willing, I will just-so-happen to be preaching from 1 Samuel 17 on the story of David vs. Goliath. While March Madness will not be a part of my message, I cannot help but think of the reminders that both of these well-known events bring.

But, David vs. Goliath is not about March Madness. David vs. Goliath is not even about you or about me. David vs. Goliath is about God. In fact, David the victor points us to Jesus the Victor, the perfect descendant of David who conquered our greatest enemies – sin and death.

David defeated Goliath because God was with him and because God is faithful and in control. Do not make yourself out to be David. Rather, trust in the same God in whom David trusted, and experience the victorious faith that only comes in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God.

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I need to get over myself.

I don’t think he ever sent us a thank you note for that gift we gave him.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

He was recognized, but they didn’t say anything about all that I did for them.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Hey, let’s take a selfie and show everyone what we’re doing to serve others.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Why didn’t more people like my most recent social media post?” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Ah, shoot! They took my parking spot.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Look – someone is sitting in our seat.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Narcissism is an excessive interest and/or admiration for oneself. It is vanity and high esteem for oneself, loving oneself most and selfishly putting oneself first. Narcissism results in a sense of entitlement.

And, narcissism is evil. I need to get over myself, and maybe you do, too.

There is a reason Jesus said that the second greatest commandment, behind loving God with your entire being, is to love your neighbor as yourself. “All the Law and the Prophets,” Jesus said, “depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:40).

Loving God most and loving your neighbor as yourself are the opposite of narcissism.

In talking about God’s will for unity in the body of Christ – unity that is impossible when we are self-entitled narcissists – Paul said, “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one” (Romans 12:3).

Yet, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others and constantly wanting more for ourselves, rather than obeying the command: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Narcissism does not have to be taught, as self-centeredness is part of our sinful nature, is it not? We see this with small children refusing to share their toys. We see this with temper tantrums when things do not go their way. We see this with kids running to get to the front of the line, cutting off others in the process. We see this when a child hits another child because a toy was taken. We do not teach our children these things. They do these things because they are sinners.

Oh, if only we adults were better, but are we? Surely, narcissism is not a problem in the church, right?

Sadly, our selfishness is on full-display every week in church activities…

How often do you arrive early for worship services but take the farthest parking spot, so that others can get the best spots? “Well, I got here first, so I deserve this spot.” Narcissism.

How often do you sit toward the front of the sanctuary and in the middle of a pew, so that others who arrive after you do not awkwardly have to walk past you and ask if they can get by you? “Well, I got here first, so I deserve this spot.” Narcissism.

How often do you do the things no one else wants to do, even when no one is watching? “That’s disgusting (or hard or miserable).” Narcissism.

How often do you volunteer to serve in the church nursery or in some other area of great need, even without being asked? “I’ve done my time, so it’s someone else’s turn now.” Narcissism.

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing a short sermon series on the downfall of King Saul – Becoming the Villain. If you consider the life of King Saul, you might realize that he had lots of problems, but did not narcissism seem to be the ultimate sin that destroyed him? His self-love led to his jealousy of God’s blessings on someone else.

So often with children, we see our own narcissistic nature shining through. If I am honest with myself and with you, I need to get over myself. I am a selfish sinner who needs God’s help every single day. My children are no different than I.

As they learn to trust in Jesus, though, and as He begins to change their lives for His glory, we see results. The Holy Spirit begins to change their hearts, which results in changed attitudes and changed behaviors.

Praise the Lord! If He can change selfish children and give them a desire to get on the floor and play a less-desirable game with their younger siblings without being told to do so, then He can change you, too.

Narcissism destroys lives, so pray for God’s help to live a life of humility and to have contentment in Him. This is only possible in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ.