Is God listening to you?

Do you ever feel far from God and wonder why? Do you sometimes wonder if your prayers are in vain? Because you, like me, are a sinner, the answer to those questions is surely yes, at least occasionally. Why, though? Why do we sometimes not feel as close to God as we would like (for those of us who desire such closeness)?

While there are a lot of things we could discuss regarding closeness to God, I want to focus on prayer. To be clear, though, feeling distant from God is never God’s fault. He is not playing hide-n-seek and desiring for you to feel alone and abandoned. Rather, feeling far from God can only be the result of our sin – our failure to sincerely seek Him, surrender to Him, serve Him, and obey Him.

God does not make mistakes. We do. God is perfectly faithful. We are not.

Specifically, then, what does this mean about our prayer life? Is God listening? Similar to our awareness of God’s presence in our lives is the promise of God’s ear to our requests. If we are genuinely seeking Him in faith, then we can be assured of His presence and provision (spiritually). He is not a genie, though, that is simply waiting for our wishes regardless of our hearts’ affections.

Anyone who turns his ear away from hearing the law — even his prayer is detestable” (Proverbs 28:9).

In other words, if you are not seeking to honor God with your life, He despises your prayers to Him. If ever I am struggling in my prayer life and in my relationship with God, I must examine my heart and consider, “Have I been turning my ear away from hearing God’s law?” If so, it is no wonder I am struggling.

Let us consider such important truth, then. Are you walking with God? If not, do not expect Him to listen to your prayers. You have no such guarantee.

The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight” (Proverbs 15:8).

And so, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29).

The primary problem, then, is that none of us is righteous. We are all sinners and thus only deserving of God’s judgment and wrath (see HERE). Praise God, though, that in and through Jesus Christ, we can be counted as righteous (see HERE).

Thus, that is the first and most important thing you must do – make sure you have trusted in Jesus for your salvation and righteousness. Otherwise, you have no right to even bring your requests to God, let alone for Him to listen to them.

Then, though, you must also make sure that you are continuing to walk with Him according to His Word. Otherwise, as referenced above in Proverbs 28:9, your prayer is detestable.

A blind man healed by Jesus was right when he said, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, God listens to him” (John 9:31).

We are all sinners, but if you have trusted in Jesus by faith and are walking with Him (the proof that you have trusted in Him), then your status with God is one of right standing. Worship Him and live according to His Word, and you will be aware of His presence and experience the closeness that He desires for you.

Is God listening to you? If you know and follow Him according to His Word, then yes, He is. If not, cry out to Him today. He desires that you do and is faithful and merciful to our sincere surrender.

If you are not experiencing God’s presence and provision in your life, turn to Him today.

Don’t Love Isolation

Our dog, Lottie, spotted a turtle walking across our driveway yesterday morning and was immediately curious. After watching the turtle slowly advance toward the house, Lottie decided to check it out for a quick sniff. Then, as the turtle remained still, Lottie proceeded to lie down and rest in the turtle’s company.

This is not unusual behavior for our golden lab. She does not love isolation but rather is always interested in the company of others – humans, other dogs, other animals, etc. While she gets plenty of alone time when the kids are at school and Marsha and I are working (and Lottie is “guarding” our front yard), she never chooses alone time when opportunities for company are available. If anyone in our family is outside, whether paying attention to Lottie or not, she will be right there. Busy doing something else? No problem – Lottie will lie next to you.

I believe we can learn a lesson from a lab here. Yes, there are times when we need to be alone, and some people need more alone time than others. Even Jesus “often withdrew to deserted places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). We ought not love isolation, though, but rather should long for the company of others. This is especially true if you are a follower of Jesus, the One who created you to live in fellowship with Him and with His church (i.e. see Hebrews 10:19-25).

Labs love to be around others. This is one of their characteristics and one of the reasons, along with their loyalty, that dogs are traditionally called “man’s best friend.”

Christ-followers love fellowship and worship with other Christ-followers. Our care and concern for one another is what proves our relationship with Jesus, as He said, “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Loving others requires relationships, and good, loving relationships require time together.

Do you love being with other Christ-followers? If you are a Christ-follower, the answer can only be yes. If you are quick to answer no to that question and/or you are trying to justify your lack of desire to be around other believers on a regular basis, please examine your heart and your faith to make sure you have truly surrendered your all to the Lord.

Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands” (John 14:15), and He certainly commands our faithful commitment to a local church (i.e. see 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; Ephesians 3; and again Hebrews 10:19-25).

In Matthew 16, Jesus founded the church. In Matthew 18, Jesus established the church’s authority. In Matthew 28, Jesus commissioned the church. And, throughout the book of Acts and church history since then, Jesus has grown the church through the power of His Holy Spirit, the partnership of His people, their proclamation of His gospel, their perseverence in the midst of persecution, and His continued provision in keeping His promises.

Please understand, the church was and is Jesus’ idea, not our idea, and there is no plan B. Thus, it is not possible for a genuine follower of Jesus to lack in his or her desire to be in fellowship with a local church. Sure, circumstances will arise (sickness, military deployment, temporary work requirements, etc.) when involvement becomes inconsistent, but the desire will always be there. The commitment to return will be obvious. Otherwise, saving faith is surely missing, is it not?

John made this clear when he was talking about unbelievers who proved themselves so when they were no longer involved in local fellowship with believers in the church: “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).

Those who love Jesus love His church and thus love being with His church. Those who do not love the church and isolate themselves from her prove themselves to also not love Jesus.

Do not love isolation. Follow Jesus and love His church. If this is a struggle for you, pray for the Lord’s grace, mercy, and help. He desires that you walk with Him and find fulfillment in Him. The church is part of His plan for that to happen.

Learn a lesson from Lottie, and do not pursue isolation. Pursue the company of those who love Jesus and will thus love you and help you to grow closer to Him. All glory be to Christ!

To learn more about what it means to truly know and follow the Lord, please check out The Story.

When Boasting Is Beautiful

Most people would agree that we should not boast about ourselves. Bragging about your own accomplishments is usually a turnoff and not something we would encourage of others. “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth — a stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).

Who do you brag about most, though, and what does such boasting say about you? We tend to brag about our spouses, our children, our favorite school, our favorite sports team, etc., and while none of that is necessarily wrong (when truthful and seeking to honor others’ worthy achievements), such boasting does say a lot about who we are and what we value.

I believe we would do well to take stock of our boasting. Whom we boast about most, after all, says a great deal about our commitments, priorities, loyalties, and devotion, right? If you love and care about your family, you will talk positively about your family. If you are a big sports fan, people will know what teams have your allegiance. Again, not necessarily anything wrong with that kind of boasting, unless, however, it progresses to worship.

Boasting is beautiful only if and when appropriate priorities are in line. And, God’s Word determines those priorities for us. Above all else, His glory is to be the priority. He alone is worthy of our greatest boasting – boasting that is worshipful and points others to Him.

When boasting is beautiful, God gets the glory.

What if we bragged about God as much as we bragged about ourselves or our children or our favorite teams or our favorite ________? You might say, “Well, I love my ______, and I’m not ashamed of them. I want the world to know it.” Hey, that might be just fine, but do you love God more? Do you love Him most? If so, should not your greatest amount of boasting and your only worship be about Him?

If you were to scroll through your social media feeds, who is getting the most glory? If you could listen to recordings of all of your conversations, who would get the most attention? If you could see a log of all your thoughts and ambitions, what would they say about your greatest devotion?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Psalm 40 on “Turning the Page.” Do you prioritize turning the page of God’s Word in your everyday life? Are you seeking to grow in your commitment to Him and His Word? Do others see in you a contagious devotion to the Lord Almighty?

I delight to do Your will, my God; Your instruction lives within me. I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; see, I do not keep my mouth closed — as You know, Lord” (Psalm 40:8-9).

Perhaps we are pretty good about not keeping our mouths closed when we brag about our children or sports teams, but the One about whom we should never keep our mouths closed is the King of kings. Boasting about Him and His provision and His faithfulness and His goodness – that boasting is beautiful!

Are you in His Word enough to know and meditate on how great He is? Are you devoted to Him enough to prioritize your relationship with Him above all else? Are you pointing others to Him?

Let us join David in declaring to the Lord, “Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; let those who love Your salvation continually say, “The Lord is great!”” (Psalm 40:16). Praise and glory be to God!

If you have not yet experienced how great it is to know and worship the Lord, would you consider checking out The Story and turning to Him today?

Don’t Wish Your Life Away

Years ago, I remember my father-in-law – Mr. Cox, as all four of his sons-in-law call him – giving Marsha and me excellent advice when he said very simply, “Don’t wish your life away.” We were going through a stressful time with our first two children and were dreaming about the days when such stress would be no more. Reminding us that we would one day cherish those days (and he was right) and that God was in control (and he was right), Mr. Cox told us not to wish our lives away.

Such advice is simple and yet powerful, to-the-point and yet sufficient. We ought not wish our lives away, as if life will be better when we are out of our current trials. Maybe life will be better. Maybe it will not. Regardless, God is sovereign over the present and the future. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Sure, there are injustices that will be made right. There are promises that will one day be fulfilled. There are hopes we can and should have for the future. And, it is good and right to look forward to those things. Yet, we are living in the present. Wishing only for the present to pass because of difficulty is misguided at best and unbelieving at worst. Trust God now, both in His sovereign purposes for the present and His perfect plan for your future. Do not wish your life away.

Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

If you struggle with doubt and fear, which we all do to some extent, then “wishing your life” away can be a temptation at times (or, perhaps, often times). Do not give in to the temptation, though, to wish your life away. Do not doubt God’s plan and provision.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through John 20:19-29 on moving “From Doubt to Worship.” Like Thomas in that famous true story, may we experience Jesus and respond in worship. Rather than doubting God’s sovereign control and wishing our lives away, let us worship Him for who He is, for what He has done, for what He continues to do, and for what He will certainly do.

Yes, let us pray for things to be better, for hearts to be changed, for lives to be transformed, and for God to receive the glory. We are here today, though, so as we pray for the Lord’s will to be done, let us understand that His sovereign will is being done. He is in control. He does desire our contentment and satisfaction, but such contentment and satisfaction are found in Him, not in our circumstances. Praise the Lord!

Don’t wish your life away. Praise God in the present, and trust Him for your future. As you do, you can move from doubt to worship and live a life that pleases the Lord and points others to Him. Like Jesus said about trusting and worshiping Him, “Those who believe without seeing are blessed” (John 20:29). Are you blessed?

To truly trust and follow the Lord, you must have a personal relationship with Him. If you have yet to turn to Him for salvation, please check out The Story for more information.

Reason to Celebrate

As Zoe smiles about in the picture above, Marsha recently painted the walls and bookshelves in my office. The picture does not do the great job much justice, though, as it looks amazing, especially when compared to before. Since Marsha completed this project and all the books were put back onto the shelves, I have found myself, many times over the past week, just looking around my office in satisfaction, gladness, and celebration. Might sound silly to you, but I truly am thankful. Might seem like a small cause for celebration, but I spend many hours in this office every week doing sermon preparation, writing, meeting with people, talking on the phone, and working on various ministry tasks. This fresh, new, clean look is a reason for me to celebrate.

Life is full of reasons to celebrate, whether we recognize the reasons or not. Of course, many reasons, just like the fresh paint in my office, are fleeting. They are temporary. They will not endure.

What truly brings the church together, though, and what lastingly keeps the church together is not temporary at all. Jesus is His name, and our worship of Him is a celebration. So much greater and infinitely more satisfying than a fresh coat of paint, Jesus is the Only One who can give us cause for celebration that never ends.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Psalm 98 on the great joy of the “Worship Celebration.” If you know and follow Jesus, then worshiping Him (both corporately and individually) really is a celebration. Not a meaningless religious ritual, worshiping the Lord with others and worshiping the Lord with our lives ought to be a growing passion.

Have you given your life to Jesus? Do you have a growing passion to worship Him? In what areas can you grow in faithfulness in your corporate and private worship? He is our reason to celebrate!

Sing a new song to the Lord, for He has performed wonders; His right hand and holy arm have won Him victory. The Lord has made His victory Known; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.

Psalm 98:1-2
If you are unsure of your lasting reason to celebrate, would you consider checking out The Story?

Worship Requires Repentance

If you have damaged your relationship with someone by betraying them, how well would things go if you showed up at their house wanting to hang out but without any acknowledgement of your betrayal? Surely, that would not go well. We can never, in our right minds, expect things to be “okay” without any effort to resolve problems and conflicts.

Now, consider that any form of disobedience to the Word of God is sin – a betrayal of God and His plan for your life. Yet, how often do you seek to worship God, whether individually or corporately, without turning away from sin? How often do you pray for God’s will for your life, while willfully continuing to disobey His Word? How often do you ask for God’s blessings, while holding on to bitterness toward others? How often do you expect God’s provision, while picking and choosing which parts of His Word to obey? How often do you sing songs of praise, while your heart is sick with unrepentant sin?

If we truly want to honor and worship the Lord (and be in a right relationship with Him), we must repent of our sins and turn to Him. Firstly, of course, this requires we believe the gospel and surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. That humble surrender that requires sincere repentance, though, is not a one-time desire that ends with our justification. Repentance is an ongoing expectation in the Christian life, and without regular repentance (because we are still sinners), we have no right to cry out to God in worship, whether individually or corporately.

Really, we have no right to do so anyway because God is holy and we are not. When we trust the gospel, though, Jesus takes away our sins and makes it possible for us to boldly approach God’s glorious throne. Now, repentance and worship go together. They are inseparable. One cannot sincerely worship the Lord without turning away from sin, and one cannot truly turn away from sin without a resulting desire to worship the Lord.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Nehemiah 9:32-37 on “Repentant Worship.” We will consider a couple ways to worship the Lord in repentance, as I hope to challenge our church family (all of us together) to be marked by a lifestyle of repentance.

Is there any sin you are holding on to right now? Is there any part of God’s Word you are refusing to obey? Will you ask for God’s help to turn away from sin and to Him? Let us return to worship with repentant hearts!

Please click the picture above if you want to learn more about the life-changing (now and eternal) result of sincere repentance.

Rightful Desires

The weather has been cold lately, unseasonably so. In fact, the average high temperature here in Missouri this time of year is 45 degrees. Recently, however, the high has been around zero. No sane person can argue with the fact that it is colder than usual, almost across the entire country.

When the temperatures are as low as they have been, we desire heat and warmer clothing much more so than usual (at least I do). There is a certain recognition and respect for the frigid temperatures that cause us to do things now that we do not do in warmer temperatures. For example, I warm my vehicle up before driving it, wear mittens, wear my hood on my winter coat, and wear two pair of socks when I am going to be outside for any extended period of time. I desire to do these things because of what subzero temperatures can otherwise do to me. My desires are right based on the weather and my comfort and my health.

If you understand and accept certain elements of the elements, you cannot help but desire to do certain things in response to the elements.

So it is in our worship of God. When you come to know and follow the Lord and learn who He is and what He has done for you, you desire to worship Him. Furthermore, the more you rightly learn, the more you rightly desire. In other words, your desires are rightful when you understand and embrace the God of the Bible and His call on your life.

The more you understand the cold weather and the effects of the cold weather, the more likely you are to respond rightly to the cold weather.

The more you understand the Lord and His sovereignty over your life, the more likely you are to respond rightly to His Lordship.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Nehemiah 8:9-18 on “Desired Worship.” What are some appropriate reasons and desires for worship? I will discuss those in the message, as we can certainly have wrongful desires if we do not have proper understanding and faith.

If you misunderstand the brutal effects of subzero temperatures, you can wrongly desire to wear shorts and flip-flops outside and reap the resulting consequences of frostbite.

If you misunderstand the biblical truth of God, you can wrongly desire to do things contrary to His Word and reap the resulting consequences of judgment.

What are your desires when it comes to worshiping God? What are the reasons for what you desire? What are the results of your desires? Let us rejoice in the Lord and desire to honor Him in worship, both as individuals and as a community (in the context of our local church families). Let us rightly respond to God according to His perfect Word.

Before you can rightly respond to God with desires that honor and glorify Him, you must have a right relationship with Him. That right relationship only comes in and through the One and Only Son of God – Jesus Christ our Lord. To learn more, check out The Story.

Back with the Body

One of the clearest evidences that someone is a follower of Jesus is that the individual loves the church of Jesus (John 13:34-35). The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated this, as Christ-followers who have quarantined and consequently missed gathering with the church have longed to return. That return is sweet and precious, and we believers understand that, perhaps now more than ever.

Most have returned, while others remain isolated, to some degree, for various reasons. In conversations with many of those individuals, I can sense their heartache as they long to be back with the body of Christ. Hopefully, that return will be sooner rather than later.

Then, there are others who are not with the body because they are out of the habit of gathering and have failed to make corporate worship and fellowship a priority. For most, this is likely because no genuine relationship with Jesus exists. “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).

For others, though, perhaps they have fallen into unrepentant sin, or they are about to fall into such a trap. Rarely is someone walking with Jesus while simultaneously willfully neglecting the body of Jesus – His church.

Whatever your situation, would you consider your values and priorities? Is corporate worship important to you? Is church involvement a priority? Even if, for health reasons, you are currently unable to gather with your church family, are you staying connected for the sake of growing closer to Jesus and helping others grow closer to Jesus?

Remember, church is not just about you. Primarily, church is about the glory of God. Secondly, church is about building up His people. We need one another, so when you are tempted to think, “I don’t need the church to worship God,” remember that the church needs you. And, really, you do need the church. We all do. Jesus established the church, in part, because we are to be interdependent on one another, needing one another to grow as He intends.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a new sermon series on the power of repentance and returning to God in worship. Looking at Nehemiah 7:1-5 and 8:1-8, I hope to encourage our church family to value and prioritize “True Worship.” Nehemiah led the efforts to identify the people of God, rebuild the wall for protecting those people, and return to faithful worship with those people. While we do not have a need to rebuild a wall, we do have a need to identify what it means to be a Christ-follower and regularly turn to Him in faithful worship.

What will it take for you to gather back with the body? Please understand, I am not asking this question to those who are waiting for the vaccine and are thus self-isolating for health and safety reasons (for a time). Rather, I am asking this question to those who are willfully neglecting the church – the family of God. Will you return? Will you let us walk alongside you? Will you tell us how we can help and how we can pray for you?

If you do not value the church because you have not yet surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, would you turn to Him today? You can learn more by watching or reading The Story.

What can we even give?

Yes, I know Thanksgiving is not even here yet, but supposedly some people are already Christmas shopping. My mom asked for my list, and she might already be done shopping for me. Christmas is only six weeks from today!

You have probably heard it said and have maybe even said it yourself, “What do you give someone who already seems to have everything?” We often say or hear things like this when referring to our parents or grandparents, especially in this country where most of us truly have more than we really need. We are materially blessed far more than the vast majority of people on this earth. So, what can we even give someone who really does not need much, if anything?

GIVING IS INADEQUATE

Regardless of what we might decide to give to those we love, we tend to agree that there is nothing we can give that sufficiently expresses our love for those about whom we most care. Giving is inadequate for that purpose, just as it is inadequate to earn their love in return.

Even more inadequate and insufficient, though, is any attempt we make at giving back to God to earn His love and favor. We are simply unable, as sinful human beings, to sufficiently give enough to a holy God. In fact, our attempts to give offerings and sacrifices for the purpose of fixing our sin problem are garbage. Even if we had everything this world can offer, we would not have enough to earn God’s love and favor. He is God. He is perfect. He is holy. We are none of those things.

RECEIVING LEADS TO GIVING

Our reality, in our sinful state, is that we have nothing to offer God unless we first receive what He offers us. We must receive His mercy, grace, and forgiveness before we can give to Him our lives. We must receive the free gift of salvation in and through His Son before we can give to Him our devotion.

Perhaps you are under the false assumption that you must figure out what you can give in order to win God’s approval. What you must understand, though, is that you will never truly give what God desires of you until you realize you have His approval in the cross of Jesus Christ.

We cannot give enough and therefore be accepted. We are accepted in Christ and therefore we desire to give.

This begins when we experience the mercy, grace, and forgiveness God offers in the gospel, and this continues when we daily grow in our faith and dependence on Him.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Hebrews 10:1-18 (“Jesus Is the Better Offering“). He alone can and did offer the sacrifice that was necessary for our reconciliation with God and our eternal salvation. Furthermore, He alone is able to equip us through the work of His Holy Spirit to be whom God created us to be and to do what God created us to do.

Have you trusted in His superior sacrifice? Are you continuing to trust Him to enable you to endure until the end?

Watch THE STORY.

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…