Happy Father’s Day

To all the father’s out there, Happy Father’s Day. I hope the Lord blesses your time being celebrated. But I also hope you take the time to celebrate.

The Lord has been impressing on me all week, leading up to this morning, just how blessed I am to have the heavenly Father that I do. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around John 1 all week–that through the finished work of Jesus, I have the right to be called a child of God. The right. Not a privilege, which it is. Not a favor, which does no justice. But a right.

I am a child of God. He saw my desperate need, traversed the insurmountable distance, and completed all the legal work on my behalf so that  I can now proclaim the irrevocable right of adoption and be called a child of God. More so,  He hasn’t been an absent Father.  He did the legal work, and then took me into His household, care and riches.

Happy Father’s Day, guys. Be celebrated, but please don’t let the day pass without celebrating your heavenly Father.

New Year — Old Man

So, it’s a new year. 2015.

Praise God for a wonderful year with my beautiful and amazing wife, my kids (OK, they’re all old enough to hate being called that, but I’m a dad, sue me…), each of whom I am so proud of, and all of whom I love more than words can describe. Praise God for all of the wonderful family I have at Calvary Chapel Ooltewah. I don’t deserve to have you in my life, much less have the privilege of serving you, serving with you, and leading you.

Praise God for the coming year. I can’t imagine what God has for me, our family and the church. I can’t wait to see. As far as the church, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God has an exciting new season for us. (The building we’ve leased for 4 years has sold to a new, amazing, very Godly owner. But nonetheless, we’ll need to find a new place to meet by April of this year.) I’m not sure what God has in store, but He owns the church. Jesus leads it. And He doesn’t do things for no purpose. So, I am excited to see what He has for us.

In any event, for whatever reason, I awoke this morning thinking as much about last year as the coming year. I had several questions on my mind that I want to consider balanced between my own ‘old man’ nature and God’s gracious heart that loves that me wherever I am.

  1. Did I give my everything for Jesus?
  2. Did I give my everything for Judy (that beautiful, amazing, supportive, loving wife I mentioned a moment ago)?
  3. Did I give my everything for my kids?
  4. Did I give my everything for Calvary Chapel Ooltewah?
  5. Did I give my everything for my day-job?

That’s a lot of ‘everything’ isn’t it? Now, I’m not a math teacher, I just teach one on Sunday mornings (love you, Toni-sis!), but I know enough to realize that none of us have 500% to give. Maybe some motivational speakers will tell you that you do, but they’re bad at math too.

So I guess my questions revolve around the idea of whether I gave my all to others or held back for my own comfort, entertainment, laziness, whatever… Did I go to the mat or throw in the towel? Did I run the race to win, or flail my arms?

The answer to all five of the questions above is– ‘no’. No I did not give it my all. I still have many of the same character flaws that I started 2014 with. I have failed everyone in some way, whether they know it or not. I have had my lazy moments, my scared moments, my weak moments. I have procrastinated, given partial effort, lacked faith, lacked empathy, lacked resolve, lacked courage…

But here’s the cool thing. God has used the introspection today to swallow me in His love and grace. He has gently caressed me. He has whispered that that’s why it all has to be about Him, what He thinks, what He does… And He’s used that introspection to give me a renewed zeal, renewed vision for how I may pour myself out–ways I can be with and for others, ways I can develop in Him, ways to serve Him, my family and my church.

There is an excitement in introspection sometimes–if we do it with Jesus. He’ll shine a light into our heart. The old man retreats, and the shadows get smaller.

I can’t wait for the new year. My hopes for that year are varied. Among the hopes is this:

When I awaken on January 1, 2016, I’ll ask the same questions. I’ll undoubtedly receive the same answers. But I’ll have spent more time on the mat, more time running, and less time flailing my arms. The old man will have another foot in the grave, and I will be closer to what Jesus calls me to be.

Happy New Year. I hope to serve you better. I hope to serve and represent Jesus better. I hope we both do it together.

 

AJ

 

 

 

 

 

A few words about grace…

Theology is a strange thing sometimes–which is to be expected when trying to understand and describe a holy God. I mean, ‘holy’ means ‘different’, ‘other-ly’, well… ‘strange’.

This weekend I’m getting ready to teach Matthew 7, and it’s a heavy chapter. We’re told not to judge one another, while immediately then being commanded to make judgments (Matthew 7:6). We’re told that the path is wide but the gate narrow. We’re told literally that there will be people standing in judgment who thought they were a Christian–had even done good works in Jesus’ name–but who were not Christians. They claimed to know Him, but He didn’t know them. They were goats that looked like sheep. They were tares that looked like wheat.

That’s a pretty sobering thought. It could lead to fear. It could lead to doubting grace. Do our works save us?

I always have to fall back on what I know clearly of God and His word. I know that I know that we are saved by grace through faith, and this is not of ourselves–it is a gift from God. I know that the blood of Jesus is fit to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I know that it is the power of the Holy Spirit to transform me into His image.

Do you know what I think? (Well I know it, to be honest…)

Jesus was talking about those that thought they were going to get into heaven based on what they’d done. He was talking to the ones that thought they’d earned it. He was talking to the ones that had planned on walking through the pearly gates with their heads high and a self-serving grin on their faces.

Because those folks… They never really meet Jesus. They never come to the broken place where they admit spiritual bankruptedness and are forced to ask for the righteousness of Jesus. We are saved by grace through faith, and this is not of ourselves–it is a gift from God.

If I think I have it all covered, I never come to Jesus. If I think I don’t need it, I never really accept the gift.

The path is wide, but the gate is narrow. It’s narrow because there’s only room enough for you and Jesus. Before going through, you have to take an honest, humble look at yourself standing right next to Jesus–the actual standard. And if anyone of us ever truly do that, we are broken to the point of begging for grace.

Jesus, thank you for loving me even though I don’t deserve it. Thank you for teaching me to love myself, as I learn to deal with the fact that I don’t deserve it. Thank you for carrying all my sin to the cross, that you can one day smile and invite me in as a good servant. Thank you for making it about you and not me.

 

Amen…

 

Thoughts from the Crucified Life

If you did something last week that you are ashamed of, feel conviction and condemnation about it. Simply say, ‘I repent’. Turn it over to the Lord, tell Him about it, and then do not do it anymore. What is the purpose of these trials and temptations that sometimes cause you to fail? It is not to show you that you are not a true Christian. Rather, it is to show you that your conscience is tender, and you are very near to God. The Lord is trying to teach you that last lesson, so that you rid yourself of self-trust.

AW Tozer– The Crucified Life


It’s a scary fact that God will allow us into situations that stretch our physical, emotional and spiritual selves. We may fail physically and emotionally because God stretches us too far on purpose, to either teach us something or drive us closer to Him. So learn and draw near.

We may fail spiritually because we’ve room to grow. God will never make you sin, but He always allows you to. It’s meant never for (the Christian’s) condemnation, but instead to remind us that we are human and ever reliant on his power and grace unto forgiveness and transformation. It’s also meant as an encouragement, I think. For, when something pricks guilt today that didn’t prick yesterday, it’s a sign that I’m closer to Him today, and my conscience is softer in this area than it was then.

A living dog…

Great Dane

A living dog is better than a dead lion’ as it is said in the Old Testament. And so it is better to have a little church that is real than a big church that is artificial. So it is better to have a simple religion that is real than to have a great, ornate ceremony that is hollow and empty.


AW Tozer

The Crucified Life