Nov 18

No Room For Division

One thing that we have seen over and over on our television screens and in our social media feeds is how divided we are as a nation. It is truly saddening to see. I can say that this is the most divided I have ever seen our country. I say that fully aware that I was not alive in the 1960’s when things were really bad as well. Therefore, some may have a different opinion than mine about when our country has been more divided. Here is the part that saddens me the most, the division is in churches as well. If there is one place that division should not exist based on external factors such as race, it is the church. Why do I say that? Because of what the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:6, “and that He might reconciled them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”

There are two types of people in this world. There are sinners who are still dead in their sin, and there are sinners who have been saved by God’s grace. In the cross, Jesus has abolished every other distinction between people. There are no separate nationalities or races in God’s eyes. This is not to downplay or take away someone’s heritage. This is speaking from God’s viewpoint. Before the cross, there was a distinction between Israel and the rest of the world. Israel was God’s covenant nation. The prophets were sent to Israel, the Law was given to Israel, and the sacrifices were for Israel. However, in Christ, all of that was removed. We are either saved or we are not. Yes, there are still men and women; black, white, Asian, Hispanic, etc.; Jews and Gentiles. But when it comes to the possibility of access to God through the sacrifice of Jesus, that was removed with Jesus’ death and resurrection. This must be the message of the church not only in words, but also in action. We must focus on who unites us more than anything that might divide us. To change a phrase I have read from A.W. Tozer, a divided world needs a united church. We must be united in the cross, proclaiming that only faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ can save a person. And we must be united in our message of proclaiming that Gospel. As much as we want to get into other things, and debate one another; we must let those things die so that we can point those who are dead in their sins to the One who can give them life. To do anything else is unbecoming of the One who saved us and has called us by His grace. Let the walls of division come tumbling down, and let it begin with us!

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Nov 17

Gracious Speech

Have you ever reacted in the moment and spoke before your brain had time to think about what you were going to say? It is often referred to as “foot in mouth” disease. Christians tend to call it the “Peter syndrome”, since Peter had a habit of speaking before thinking in the Gospels. Honestly, I think sometimes it should be called the “Justin” syndrome, because I have been guilty of it more times than I care to imagine. Therefore, what Paul wrote in Colossians 4:6 was specifically stinging to me. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”

The “real” issue with speaking before thinking is a heart issue. Jesus said in Matthew 15 that everything proceeds from our heart. Therefore, when we have an angry outburst or we lash out at someone, we are revealing that there is unresolved, unconfessed, and unrepented of anger in our heart. Because this is an issue of our heart, it is something that only God can truly deal with. We can try harder, but at best we are only covering up the symptoms, we are not dealing with the root cause of the problem. Lashing out in anger reveals a lack of self-control. We may not like to think of it this way, but lashing out at someone is the adult version of a toddler’s temper tantrum. It is a way to manipulate a situation or a person in an effort to get what we want. That is hard to read isn’t it? I know it is, because it is convictional to me. Yet, there is hope because there is a God of grace. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. If you are saved, then the Holy Spirit lives inside of you, which means you have the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5:23) already. It may not be full grown fruit yet, but it is there. And by being confronted with a painful reality, God is again showing His grace toward you, and giving you an opportunity to grow in Him.

That conviction that we feel, either over this or some other sin, is part of what Paul was writing about in Colossians 4:6. Salt has two functions. The first is it is purifying. Salt can be a healing agent. However, for it to have its effect, it is going to sting. Have you ever got salt into a cut? It hurts doesn’t it? But it also helps heal that cut, and can help kill some bacteria that may be in the cut. Spiritually speaking, this is the role of conviction. When the Spirit reveals our sin to us, we feel that conviction. Like salt, it stings and we don’t want it anymore. However, when it does its work, just like the salt, conviction by the Spirit heals. It doesn’t heal a cut, instead it heals our heart. The second function of salt is it is preserving. Salt can be used to cure meat to keep it good to eat longer. Hearing the truth about ourselves, although painful, can lead us to life. If we are Christian, we should act like it and speak like it. This means, God has to deal with any and all sin in our life, so that we will grow in our walk with God and be prepared to spend all of eternity with Him. With these things in mind, how should it shape our speech with others?

  1. Think twice, tweet once. This certainly applies to more than just social media, but the principle is to take a step back, think about what you are going to say, ask yourself is this really necessary, and is this the kindest most loving way I can say it? If it isn’t necessary and it isn’t the best way to say it, then we shouldn’t say it (or type it). I know in the moment it may feel good to get that quick witted comeback on them, but in the end it won’t feel good, and it won’t help the situation. Our goal is not to win an argument, it is to influence a soul towards Jesus and harsh, critical, snarky words will not do that.
  2. Surrender your emotions to God. Behind a quick witted comeback, snarky remark, or flying off the handle moment is a lack of self-control. It is an example of allowing your emotions to rule over you, instead of you ruling over your emotions. This has become dramatically worse in our society since the end of March with the lockdowns and restrictions imposed due to COVID-19. Emotion is a good thing, because it is something given to us by God. We can read in the Gospels how Jesus expressed His emotions. The key difference is that Jesus was always in control of His emotions. He never reacted in the moment. You can feel when you are starting to get on the emotional edge, and you need to learn to recognize that so that you can step back before you act. When we react in the moment, it doesn’t solve the problem, it often escalates the problem, and it always leads you to having to go back and apologize for what you said. Ask the Lord to grow you in self-control. He wants you to be like Him, He will help you grow in this area because He desires for you to grow in Christlikeness.
  3. Never speak when your heart is hurt. This goes back to the first point here. Most of the time, we lose our cool and spout off at the mouth not because we are angry, but because we are hurt. The greatest pain comes from those that we love the greatest. If we didn’t care about the person, then what they said about us wouldn’t matter to us as much. Hurt often comes out as anger. Therefore, when you are angry, it is best to stay silent. Step back and ask yourself, why am I angry? What is the hurt? How do you know when to speak? When you can talk about it without getting emotional or reliving the moment, then you are ready to address it.
  4. Be quick to forgive and quicker to apologize. As fallen humans, we are going to allow our emotions to get the best of us from time to time. It is often easier to feel justified in our reaction than it is to feel guilty for what we said. Yet, as a Christian we are called to love others the way that Christ loves us (see John 13:34-35). We are to forgive as Christ has forgiven us (see Eph. 4:32). That means we forgive completely and unconditionally, not because they deserve it, but because God loves them and so do we. The person who hurt us may never apologize, but if we inflicted hurt, we must apologize. We sometimes say, “I’ll apologize when they apologize.” This is the wrong attitude for Christians. If we were wrong, we need to own it, even if they never do.

All of these things hopefully show us our utter desperation for Jesus and His grace. None of this is possible without Him living inside of us, and working through us. Don’t allow Satan to condemn you for something Christ has already forgiven you for. Instead, seek God’s help and grow in His grace. Speak to others the way Jesus has spoken to you, and see how your relationships with others change.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Nov 16

Praying For Others Properly

One of the greatest gifts you can give to someone is the gift of praying for them. However, how should we pray for them? Certainly we want to pray for their health, their marriage, their family, and things like this. But is there something deeper, something more important that we should be praying about for them? The apostle Paul answers this for us in Colossians 1:9, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” What exactly does this mean? Paul then launches into what it means in the verses that follow. Before diving into this, I believe that what follows is something that we should pray for one another on a daily basis. Pastors and other leaders, we should lead our churches to pray this for one another and the church as a whole. So, how should we pray for one another as individuals, and how should we pray for the church as a whole?

  1. Know God’s will and how to live it out. Paul wants us to know God’s will for us as individuals, but He also wants us to understand how to live it out. This includes learning how to discern between good things and what God wants for you. This can sometimes be difficult if we don’t have others praying along with us.
  2. Live worthy of God’s calling. We live in a fallen world that is full of temptations both outside of us as well as inside of us. Therefore, we need to pray that our brothers and sisters will be strong in the grace of God, and rely on the Holy Spirit to run from temptation so that we don’t fall into sin. As a Christian, we are called to represent Jesus Christ to the world. We need to pray that we will do this.
  3. Be fruitful. A life that is rooted in Jesus will be evident by the fruit in our life. The fruit specifically in mind is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control. If we are relying on the Holy Spirit and growing in our relationship with God, we will also be growing in these things, because God will be growing them in us by working His will out through us.
  4. Be strengthened in the faith through trials. This sounds really strange, but it is vital for a Christian’s maturity. God grows us through difficult seasons in life. The problem is, when we are faced with a tough time in life, we typically ask God to remove it from us. This leads us to resist and pray that God remove what He intends to use to grow our faith in Him deeper and stronger. This doesn’t mean that anyone prays for tough times. Rather, it helps us to understand how a good, loving God can allow difficult times to come into our life. What we go through is not only to strengthen our faith, but it can also be used by God to reach others with the Gospel. Therefore, we should pray that we will be faithful to God through the trials of life, and that He would be glorified in our suffering well.
  5. Be thankful in all things. One of the most important attributes a Christian can have is thankfulness. We should be thankful for all things, because they are from God. This comes as we remember that God is in control. The biggest thing we should be grateful for is our salvation. This is the greatest gift we can ever receive. But we should also remember that “every good gift and perfect gift is from above.” Our life, health, job, and everything else is a blessing from God.

What could God do in our life and the life of others if we began to pray like this for one another? I believe that God would do a lot in us, and in our churches if we prayed with spiritual eyes, desiring what God wants for our life and for His church. Would you commit to pray for these things for yourself and those in your church? I want to challenge those reading this, to commit to it for at least the last 14 days of November. God may not change our circumstances, but He will change what He desires to, He will change us.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Nov 13

For A Purpose

How do you feel when your plans get messed up? I have to be honest, I don’t handle it well most of the time. I like my schedule and I like my plans. However, I am learning that my plans don’t really matter; it is God’s plan that matters. We may not always understand God’s plan. Truthfully, we may not always like where God’s plan takes us. But His plan is always perfect, and it is always the best for us. Paul had been desiring to go to Rome for some time now, yet he had never been able to make it. However, as we come to the end of the book of Acts, we see Paul finally making it to Rome, not as a free missionary, but rather as a political prisoner. Acts 28:30-31 says, “Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who come to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.”

For two whole years Paul is a political prisoner on trumped up charges. Now, at long last Paul has made it to the city he has wanted to go for years; except, he can’t leave the city because he is under house arrest. Why would God allow this? I think we can make the argument for a couple of reasons on why God would allow this. The first reason has to do with the Jews there in Rome. Paul had a routine when he went into a new city. He would go to the Jewish synagogue first to teach the Jews, and then he would go to the Gentiles. It always ended the same, some Jews believed, while others didn’t. Those who didn’t believe stirred up trouble for Paul. Yet, this isn’t the case here in Rome. Paul was able to teach the Jews the Gospel. Some believed and some didn’t. Why did those who didn’t believe try to stir up trouble for Paul this time? Earlier in the chapter we learn that Paul was under guard by a Roman soldier. The Jews couldn’t do anything or incite a riot against Paul, because it would cost them their freedom or maybe even their life. Therefore, we see God once again protecting Paul so that he can carry out his God-given mission. The second reason is the powerful witness of Paul while in chains. All Paul would have to do is recant his profession of faith in Jesus, and the Jews would have dropped the charges against him. Yet, Paul was so convinced of the truth of the Gospel, he risked his personal freedom and his life to tell others. This made Paul’s testimony even more powerful, because he believed the Gospel so much he was willing to risk everything for it. But why does any of this matter to us? We aren’t political prisoners, no one is knocking our doors down to come and arrest us. We aren’t living under the threat of death for the Gospel.

While we may not, we need to remember that there are brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are. But the purpose for you and I is to remind us that whatever God allows, He allows it for a purpose. Paul could have been focused on the fact that his own people turned on him and caused him to get arrested. Paul could have been bitter and angry because his life was constantly in danger. He could have been upset that he didn’t get a speedy trial. Yet, we see Paul focusing on what really matters. Paul spent two years teaching about the kingdom of God and Jesus. Anyone who would listen to Paul was going to hear about those things. Paul wasn’t angry or bitter because he had committed himself and his life to the Lord Jesus. He knew that God was in control. Paul couldn’t control his circumstances in life, but what he could control was his faithfulness to God. An interesting thing happens with Paul in the Bible, he just disappears off the pages of Scripture. We never read of his trial or his death in the Bible. Acts ends with Paul a political prisoner who taught about the kingdom of God for two years. In 2 Timothy, Paul writes that he is ready to be poured out as an offering to God, but we never read if, when, or where this happened. Why? Because Paul isn’t the point of Scripture, Jesus is. We again see as Matt Chandler says, “man goes into the ground, but the mission goes on.” Paul served the Lord Jesus Christ. No doubt he was faithful up to the very end of his life. But the Gospel didn’t stop with Paul. It can’t stop with you or I. We must be faithful in committing ourselves to the Lord, but also committing ourselves to His purpose for our life. And if we invest in others are we are supposed to, the mission will go on long after we are gone. And that is the point of life, that Jesus would be glorified in our life and through our death. Are you fulfilling your purpose? There’s no better time to start if you haven’t already started than right now.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Nov 12

Amazing Grace

Have you ever heard someone talk about God’s grace, but think that God’s grace might be for them, but it couldn’t be for you? Have you ever felt like you are simply too far gone for God to love and be willing to save? Satan loves to play those mind games with us. In today’s blog, I want us to see proof that no one is beyond God’s reach. It is the life of Paul. In Acts 26, Paul is defending himself against the Jews baseless charges against him. He is before the Roman rulers, Agrippa and Festus. As Paul typically did, he shared his story of how he personally encountered and was changed by God’s grace. Acts 26:9-10 says, “Indeed, I myself though I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.”

Not only did Paul hate Jesus, he hated the Christians who loved, worshipped, and served Jesus. He hated them so much that he rounded them up, threw them into prison, and he even consented to their death. In fact, the first encounter in the Bible we have with Paul (who was Saul at the time) is in Acts 8, when Stephen was martyred for his faith. Paul was raised in a strict Jewish home. He went to the religious school, he studied under a great teacher. If anyone should have known who Jesus was, it should have been Paul. Yet, it wasn’t until Paul heard the voice of God on the Damascus road that Paul learned who Jesus was. Paul had been like many other Jewish people during Jesus’ day and afterwards; he was still waiting on the Messiah to come. He and the others had a wrong understanding of what the Messiah was going to do when He came. Yet, God in His grace, blinded Paul on the road, spoke to him, and saved him. Why do I bring all of this up? After all, I have written about all of this several different times over the last couple of weeks. I bring it up for a very important purpose.

If Paul wasn’t beyond the reach of God’s grace, neither are you! My heart is grieved about this next sentence. The one place that should champion second chances more than every other place in the world, is often the place where second chances are never given. Think of some of the stories you have heard in the world of sports, entertainment, and even politics. How many people have gotten second chances after messing things up very badly? The answer is many of them, not all, but many. Yet, so often in the church, when a person messes us, they are branded for life. They are set off to the side, up on the shelf, or worse, they are run out of the one place they should be running to when sin ruins their life. This is a whole separate other blog that I’m not going to go any further in. I simply want to write to encourage each person reading this, you haven’t gone too far. If God is giving you the grace to see your sin, and the faith to turn from your sin, then God’s grace is for you. I don’t know what you have done or what you are doing even now in your life, and I don’t care because the message doesn’t change. Paul was a blaspheming murderer who God gave grace to and saved. Not only did God save Paul, but God saved Paul for a purpose. God saved Paul to go and tell the world that the same grace that saved Paul, can save them. And the good news is this, the same grace that saved Paul, that saved me, can save you as well! The beauty of God’s grace is that it isn’t about earning it or deserving it. It is about God freely giving it to those that recognize they need it. Have you recognized your need for it yet? If I can help you in any way, please reach out to me at pastorjustin@westlakebaptist.org. Paul had a story of God’s amazing grace. I have a story of God’s amazing grace. And God may be giving you one right now, so let’s tell it.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Nov 11

An Appeal For Justice

Today, in America we are celebrating Veteran’s Day. The men and women of our military live out every day what it looks like to put your life in the hands of another, and to trust them with it. We know this is also true of police and first responders. How many of us would be willing to place all of our trust, place our life in the hands of another? I have to say, it depends on who that person is. There are some people such as Diana, and some godly men I know, that I would have very little hesitation of trusting. However, there are some that I wouldn’t trust my yesterday to. Yet, there is only one Person, I inherently trust with every detail of my life, and that is God. The apostle Paul lived this out. In Acts 25, Paul is defending himself against baseless accusations. The Roman authorities are listening to the charges against Paul. Paul doesn’t something amazing in Acts 25. Acts 25:11 says, “For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

Paul wan’t appealing to the Roman authorities for mercy. He was appealing for justice to be done. He knew that the accusations against him were baseless. Yet, he was taking a very big risk. What if the Roman authorities had been bought off by the Jewish leaders? What is the Roman governor just wanted to make an example of Paul? I’m sure there are many other “what if” scenarios here. However, Paul had entrusted his life to God, and knew that God was in control of all things, at all times. Paul knew that if it was God’s time for Paul to die, there was nothing Paul could do to stop it. Paul also knew that he was supposed to go to Rome, and what better way to get to Rome than to appeal to Caesar? There are some important lessons for us in this text.

  1. Trust God with your life. Paul was unwavering in his trust in God with his life. He knew that God was in control of every detail of his life. Paul knew he had done nothing wrong, but if they still ordered his death; Paul knew it was God’s will.
  2. Desire justice. Every Christian should desire that justice is done for all people, in all situations. As William Gladstone said, “justice delayed is justice denied.” Regardless of the person or circumstance, we as Christians are to desire the right thing be done. Christians can not tolerate injustice to be permitted. Micah 6:8 says, “…what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
  3. Seek opportunities to share the Gospel. Paul knew that he was supposed to go to Rome. Paul’s desire was that people would hear about the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel. By appealing to Caesar, Paul knew that both of those things would occur, even if it wasn’t the way Paul anticipated going to Rome. We can tell by the letter to the Romans, Paul wanted to come to him and set up a missionary headquarters there on his way to Spain. However, for Paul it wasn’t about what he wanted but instead what God wanted for him. However, Paul could make it to Rome and share the Gospel, the main thing was that the Gospel would be shared. Is that our desire? Are we intentional about sharing the Gospel wherever God places us? How can you commit your life to God today and to His purposes?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Nov 10

Common Ground

Who are the easiest people to talk to in your life? I don’t mean your parents, although hopefully they are still easy for you to talk to. The easiest people to talk with are those who we have something in common with. That is both a blessing, and a curse. I won’t dive into why it could be a curse today, maybe another day. But we can easily talk to those that we spend the most time with, and that we have something in common with. Let’s apply that to evangelism. Who should be the most natural group of people we share the love of Jesus with? It is those we have something in common with or those we spend the most time with. Why? When you have something in common, it gives you more credibility. We see this in Acts 22:1-2 which says, “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now. And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent.”

Paul has been attacked, and some Jewish people want to kill him. They have incited a riot against him. So much so, that some soldiers had to swoop in and protect him. As they were going to take him into the barracks, Paul wanted to make a plea to the people. It is here that he starts to speak to them in Hebrew, their language. Or course, Hebrew was also Paul’s language because he was Jewish as well. At least for the moment, it gave Paul an “in” with the crowd. This wasn’t someone of a different country or origin wanting to tell them how to believe. This was one of their own. If you read on in Acts 22, you will see that it didn’t last long. However, Paul had a moment, and he seized it. Paul was intentional about pointing people to Jesus every opportunity he had. I have talked with many Christians who say that they know they should do that, but they struggle in doing that. I completely get it. Sometimes it is hard to get that conversation started, or it feels awkward. However, we need to realize that that is Satan trying to silence us, or it is possible that it is our own pride in wanting to be liked and accepted by people keeping us silent. Setting those two possibilities aside, what about those who want to do the right thing, but aren’t sure how to? Let’s let Scripture be our guide in how to get into those conversations.

If you read in Acts 22, you will see that Paul simply shared his testimony. He didn’t have some long presentation that he had memorized. When he was given the opportunity, Paul shared how God called him, saved him, and was in the process of changing him. That is the best advice I can give you, share your testimony. If you are truly saved, then you have a story. It breaks down into three parts: what your life was like before Christ, how you come to know you needed to be saved, and what God is doing in your life since He saved you. Use the Bible to help you in your presentation, but share your story. It always amazes me how God puts me in front of people who are walking down similar paths to the ones I walked down. God, in His sovereignty, arranges these meetings so that I can point people to Him. On Sunday mornings, I’m pastor Justin who is preaching to the people about what God says and how we should live. But in these encounters, I’m who I really am, a person who has been saved by God’s grace, and just wants to tell others how they can be as well. When I share my testimony, I gain some credibility because I can understand where they are, and what they are experiencing. It doesn’t mean that I have all the answers, but it does mean that our common ground builds a bridge that allows me to invite them to trust Jesus. What’s your story? How can God use your story to reach others? Will you let Him?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Nov 09

Finish The Race

We have probably all heard the statement, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish that counts.” There is a lot of truth to that statement. But let me ask this question, how many of us begin something or do something knowing that one day our life will end? We only have a certain amount of time on this earth. An amount of days that are fixed for us by God. There is no changing of this amount of time. I would submit to you that if we thought about this, we would probably invest our time a little bit differently. I know this is something that I have been thinking about, especially over the last week due to some personal reasons and circumstances. I think sometimes God allows us to be faced with our own mortality to refocus us when we have drifted off course. Listen to what Luke wrote about Paul in Acts 20:22-24, “And see, now I go bound in the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me here, except the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of those things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

The Holy Spirit had told Paul that he was going to suffer. Chains and tribulations were awaiting him in Jerusalem. Yet, he said he had to go because the Spirit was compelling him to go to Jerusalem. How many of us would have been willing to go to Jerusalem if we knew what was awaiting us? How was Paul able to face adversity? He had a right view of God and a right view of himself. For Paul, he knew that he was nothing more than a vessel that God had and would continue using for His glory and His purpose. Paul knew that one day his life was going to end. He resolved to serve the Lord with joy, and to be obedient to the Lord’s will, even if that meant bringing about his own death. Paul had a right view of God, in that Jesus was Lord for Paul. Jesus called the shots of Paul’s life. Jesus told Paul where to go, and what to do. We can have the same joy that Paul had when we know that no matter what happens in our life, God is in control and we are His child. I think about this nation right now, and so many people living in fear either from a virus or from the outcome of the election. This is not what God has for His children. I realize that many who are in fear, are in fear because they aren’t saved. My prayer for them is that God in His grace will call them and save them by His grace. But for a Christian, we should never fear. In fact, “do not be afraid” is the most often repeated command in all of Scripture (365 times). Because God is still on His throne, because He is still in control, and because He has saved us by His grace; we know how the story will end, we will fall at His feet, worship Him, and be with Him for all eternity. Nothing can change this outcome for a child of God! That is why Paul could have joy despite knowing the difficulties he was about to face.

The apostle Paul committed himself to finishing his race well. He was going to fix His eyes on Jesus, and he was going to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit no matter what. Dear Christians, will we make that same commitment? Will we hold on loosely to our own life while clinging tightly to God, the One who gave us something that this world can never give us, nor can it take away? A.W. Tozer said it well when he said, “a scared world needs a fearless church.” It’s time to run our race well, no matter where it leads us for the glory of God and His kingdom.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Nov 06

Purpose of Learning

Do you remember in school when you were taking Algebra or another subject that you thought was pointless? Do you remember what you would say to the teacher, or at least to yourself? We would always say, “why am I learning this, I will never need it.” Of course, as we go through life, we find out that we needed that information a lot more than we ever thought we would. At times, it made me wish I would have listened to my teachers a little more. Paul in Romans 15 encourages the Romans to learn from the examples of the Old Testament saints and from him. He wanted them to learn from them for a specific reason. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

There are many reasons that God made sure to have people record His Word, and through His power He has preserved it even to our generation. One of those reasons is so that we could learn from the examples of the people in the Bible, whether they were good examples or bad examples. One thing that I think is really important for us to understand is that everything in the Bible is important. God didn’t just put frivolous details in there. Every story reveals something about Him. We can learn from every story, because we are just like those who lived those stories. We are prone to fear, pride, forgetfulness, idolatry, love, faithfulness, and we all need God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Above all, we need to be redeemed by God. Paul was telling the Romans to learn from what they read in what we call the Old Testament. By doing so, they could learn how to live through adversity, but also see how to live in the hope that comes from God. Reading the Scriptures can encourage us to keep going when the road gets tough. I see a few lessons for us in this text.

  1. Read the Bible. If you want to know God, you have to read the Bible. Only the Bible reveals the person, character, will, and work of God. Be intentional about reading the Bible each day. It’s not about how much you read, it is about the fact that you do read it, and you ask God to speak to you through it and to grow your faith. I recommend smaller portions of Scripture, because it is easier to meditate on them, and apply them in smaller portions instead of trying to read three to four chapters a day.
  2. Write down your story. One thing that I think that has been lost in our present technological generation is the art of journaling. You don’t have to do it with pen and paper, but you really should write down what you read, and what God is saying to you. How is He calling you to respond to Him? One feature that I like on Facebook is the memories feature. From time to time a memory from years gone by will pop up. When I see the picture or read what was written, it reminds me of what God was doing in my life at that time. We all like to believe that we won’t forget, but we forget. I am so thankful for Replicate Ministries and their Replicate journal. It truly is a great way for me to write down what God is saying, and how I am feeling led to respond. Then, I can go back and see if I am obeying what God is speaking to me about or if I need to confess of my sin of disobedience.
  3. Share your story. If you have been saved, you have a story. People need to hear it! If God has brought you through a particularly difficult time, people need to hear that as well. They need to hear about God’s faithfulness, especially when we felt weak and maybe a little hopeless. I’m always amazed at who God puts in my path to talk with. It is generally people who are going through something that God has already brought me through. When I am willing to share what god has done, it allows Him to use me to point others to Him. A great benefit of journaling through your reading is that your journals are something you can pass down to your kids or other people. Then, they will be able to read what God was doing in your life, and you might be surprised at how God uses that to draw their hearts to Him or help them through whatever they are experiencing. Just remember, what you are going through right now isn’t just for you, it is for someone else as well. You may not be able to share it right now, but one day God will give you that opportunity, and it just might change someone’s life.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

Posted in Through The Bible in 2020 | Leave a comment
Nov 05

Ordained By God

Some call it coincidence, some call it luck; I call it the sovereign hand of God! For five days a week for the last 10+ months, we have been blogging through the Bible. Now as the calendar reads the first week of November, and we are still trying to get through this election season, we just so happen to be studying through the book of Romans. Not just any part of Romans mind you, but specifically the part where Paul talks about a Christians responsibilities as it pertains to their government. I couldn’t plan this if I tried, but God sure did. Therefore, I think it is important that we read through this and understand Paul’s instructions to us. Before we get to the verse, I want to give a little background. Remember, Paul wrote out Christian doctrine in Romans 1-11. Then, in Romans 12, he started writing out how we live it out practically. He told the Romans and us in Romans 12 that we are to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” What does that look like practically? It means that we love those whom God loves. It means that we call sin what it is. It means we live a life of repentance, that is running from sin and running towards God. That was all in Romans 12. Now, as we turn the page, Paul starts to write about Christians and their government. It is worth reminding ourselves that the early church did not live in a democratic republic like the United States of America has. They did not hold elections every few years. The Romans citizens didn’t get to participate in the governing process. The church had no concept of religious freedom. Truthfully, Christians were looked down on. They were persecuted, and many of them were martyred. While we as Christians talk about how our government is becoming openly hostile towards us, that was the norm for the early church. I imagine they would have enjoyed the freedoms that we enjoy right now, and they would probably laugh at all of our complaining in light of what they experienced. Yet, in spite of all of this, the New Testament is crystal clear that Christians are to obey the government. Why? Paul answers that question in Romans 13:1, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”

Christians are to submit to and obey the government, because it has been ordained by God. Therefore, in this sense, yes, God did ordain Donald Trump to be the 45th President of the United States of America. Just as God ordained the previous 44 Presidents. Is it time for a 46th President or will we hold at 45 for four more years? I honestly have no idea, but God does, and that is the point. God is the One who is in control over all human events. Paul goes on in Romans 13 to say that if you resist the government, you are resisting God. He also says that God has given the government the right to execute justice over those they govern. The two principles that should guide our voting are seeking to good for all people, and candidates who will establish and uphold justice. Paul also says in Romans 13 that if you obey the government, you don’t have to fear the government. Again, remember, Paul is not writing from a place of religious freedom. He knew the corruption of human government. He would ultimately lose his life due to corrupt politicians. We don’t have to fear as long as we obey, because God sees our obedience, and God has a plan for our life. It is ultimately God that we should be seeking to please, because we will all stand before Him one day. On that day, we will give an account for our life, and God will judge rightfully. One day, justice will be served for all.

Therefore, don’t lose sight of eternity by focusing on this election. Whatever God has ordained will be what happens. No matter what happens, it will be for God’s glory and His children’s good, even if that means persecution on the church. Regardless of the outcome of the election, we as Christians know who is in control, and how this ultimately ends. While we await Jesus’ return, we still must love God, love others, and make disciples of all nations. We can do those things regardless of who is in the White House, so let’s get busy doing them while we wait.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

Posted in Through The Bible in 2020 | 2 Comments