A Few Thoughts on Parenting!

Written By: John - Jul• 22•14

I often find myself wondering if moms and dads know that they will one day stand before God and give an account of how they bring up their children. How would we bring them up if that truth stayed at the forefront of our minds? What would be priority number one in your life, in your family, and in your day-to-day planning if you really let that fact sink deep into your heart?

I’m amazed at the goals we have for our children. Some would never express it this way, but they seem to live as if their only goal is to get their child out of high school without getting pregnant, without getting someone pregnant, and without going to jail.   Then it is off to college where they can sow their wild oats, get a good job, and live the American Dream! Is that really what we want for our children?

I have sought three things for my girls since I knew Kim was expecting—I wanted them to be healthy, I wanted them to be happy, but most of all I wanted them to be holy. My desire for them to holy has dictated my decisions in rearing them. I lived a very worldly life in High School, but I was lost. I do not expect saved people to sow wild oats—I expect saved people to grow in holiness.

In our life, for example, church is a priority. I know there are those who say—well, you are a preacher, but my being a preacher has nothing to do with that. I want them in church because I know it is God’s will for them to be in church. I’ve watched moms and dads let dance, baseball, music, or running lead them right out of church and for the most part their entire family goes with them.

Church is a priority in our schedule. My girls have always been active, but we will not allow someone else’s schedule to dictate ours. In other words—if I’m the parent and if church is a priority I will make sure it is a priority for them. I try to make sure they are home early enough on Saturday night so that they can get the full benefit of their time of worship. I know that our church isn’t perfect, but I also know that they have a much better chance of being around people who share biblical values here than outside of the church. It is amazing to me to see the number of children who drop out of church when they get to High School—moms and dads need to know that they will give an account for that one day.

Friends are a priority. Next to their decision to follow Christ there is no more important decision for High School students. I’m all about evangelism, but I’m not sending my girls out with a bunch of people who don’t love Jesus for the night. I encourage them to develop relationships at school, to be kind and compassionate to everyone, but at the same time I am not crazy. If your child hangs out with people who sleep around, drink, do drugs, etc.…don’t be so naïve as to think your child is the only one not doing those things. Soon or later they will be right in the middle of it all.

That’s not a slam on your child—that is just a true statement. Peer pressure is hard at any age, but when you allow your sons or daughters to be surrounded by people who do not love Jesus you are going to find them being pulled away. That’s true of friendship and that is true of dating relationships. Boys who want to date my daughters have to come talk with me. They have to love Jesus and they have to be able to talk to me about their spiritual walk. I want to see peer pressure work the right way—I want to see our Christian students surrounding those who are not saved and to have a positive influence.

I could go on and on, but I just don’t understand how our society has lost the perspective of the parent/child relationship. Someone has to be the parent and someone has to be the child. I want my children to love me and like me and want to be with me, but ultimately I’m going to base my decisions on my 48 years of life experiences instead of their 10-18 years of life experience.

As a parent of a soon to be college student, I would add one final thing. Recently I heard about a mom celebrating on Facebook that her child had turned 21 and was heading out to the bars for the first time. Scores of adults hit the like button and others were commenting that they wished they could be there. I don’t know the mom or the child, but really?! My daughter is entering college this fall and that education is a privilege and not a right. I am not going to throw out 18 years of expectations because she is now in college.

I will allow her to make choices, I will have to let her grow up, and I will have to let go of some of the reigns, but not all of the reigns. I can tell you this—if any of my girls become another statistic or a “Girl Gone Wild” in college I will not pay for that lifestyle. It is simple—they are in college because I am paying for it. Why would I pay for them to live a life that goes against everything I believe? In other words—they are not autonomous adults until they are self-supporting autonomous adults and even then I will continue to do all that I can to remind them of their call in Christ.

Moms and dads…what are your expectations? What are your priorities? What are you doing to show those two things? You and I will stand before God—dad, you are called by God to be the spiritual leader in the home. Are you leading or are you the king of referral?

How to Pray for those who suffer for the Gospel

Written By: John - Jul• 11•14

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_The_Christian_Martyrs'_Last_Prayer_-_Walters_37113Over the years I’ve wrestled with how to respond to reports of Christians who are martyred for their faith or thrown into prison for following Jesus. The moment the news comes out that a brother or sister in Christ has been imprisoned for their faith we find Twitter, Facebook, and all manner of media filled with calls to pray for their release, to write letters to the government, or just to express outrage at this unjust persecution.

The reason I’ve wrestled with how to respond isn’t because I do not feel compassion for them, but it is because we often act as if persecution is not normal. We act as if the only way people can truly live out their Christian faith is to live in what we would call freedom, but what if the freedom we worship in the USA isn’t really freedom at all? Stop and think about it—can you name a truly democratic nation where Christianity is thriving? Now, can you name a communist nation where it is thriving?

I’m not writing in favor of communism and I’m certainly in favor of democracy, but that simply isn’t the message we are to be about…we are to be about the Gospel. Nik Ripken’s book, The Insanity of Obedience, spoke to me and helped me clarify my struggle. He took me to the Old Testament book of Genesis and the story of Joseph. Joseph is sold into slavery, thrown into an Egyptian prison and all of it is due to the jealousy of his brothers. In other words Joseph is imprisoned unfairly.

How would we respond today? We’d champion Free Joseph prayer movements. We’d overwhelm the president to call for his release. We’d do all that we could do to set Joseph free, but what if that happened? Ripken said, “In the Genesis story, however, God is content to leave Joseph in jail for a long time. Somehow, God gives purpose to this time of suffering in Joseph’s life. Our typical assumption is that the highest goal would be to lessen Joseph’s suffering, to reduce his time in prison, and to put an end to his persecution.”

If Joseph gets out early—he doesn’t interpret the dreams, he doesn’t go before Pharaoh, he doesn’t become number 2 in the nation, he doesn’t put grain away during the time of plenty, and thousands die in the time of famine. Joseph knew it—he told his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” Are we willing to see suffering as a good thing, a thing that not only conforms us into the image of God, but also accomplish His purpose?

Chinese Christians see prison as a time of pastoral training—it is a place where they share the Gospel and start churches. I’m not suggesting we cease to pray for the persecuted church—in fact I am convicted that we need to pray more, but instead of praying for their release or for their comfort—let’s learn to pray for their boldness and for the door to open for them to share the Gospel. Let’s pray that their captors will come to Jesus and that the Gospel will spread.

When we hear of Christian Martyrs—let’s stop and thank God for their faithfulness, let’s stop and recommit ourselves to following God in suffering, and ask Him for the strength to follow in their footsteps should His providence lead us down that path. Let’s take time to pray with our children and thank God for godly heroes of the faith who willingly join the faithful witness that have gone on before us. In other words—let’s drop the purely United States attitude of fairness and seek to embrace a biblical ideal of holiness and suffering.

Mortified Eyes!

Written By: John - Jul• 10•14

I came across the following quote from Thomas Manton.  It is based on Psalm 119:37, “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”  Manton’s sermon “Mortified Eyes” preached in 1660 could have just as easily been written today,

“One great means of mortification is guarding the senses—eyes and ears, taste and touch—that they may not betray the heart into sin. I put it so general, because the man of God who is so solicitous about his eyes would not be careless of his ears and other senses. We must watch on all sides. When an assault is made on a city—if one gate is open—it is as good as if all were. The inlet and outlet of sin is by the senses, and much of our danger lies there. There are many objects that agree with our dispositions, and by them insinuate themselves into the soul, and therefore things long since seemingly dead will soon revive again and recover life and strength. There are no means to keep the heart—unless we keep the eye. In every creature Satan has laid a snare for us—to steal away our hearts and affections from God. The senses are so ready to receive these objects from without to wound the heart, for they are as the heart is. If the heart is poisoned with sin, and became a servant to it—so are the senses of our bodies “weapons of unrighteousness” (Romans 6:13). Earthly objects have an impression upon them answerable to the temper and affections of the soul—and what the soul desires—the senses pitch upon; and therefore if we let the senses wander, the heart will take fire.”

Standing between Initial and Ultimate Salvation!

Written By: John - Jul• 07•14

On Sunday mornings I have a routine…it is really simple, but I find myself sticking to the schedule week after week.  I arrive at the office early, meet with our Minister of Music to go over the first worship service—we just make sure there are no surprises, then I spend time praying.

I spend time praying, praising Him, thanking Him,  and asking Him to search me—I want to make sure that I’ve confessed my sin and that there is nothing in me that might quench the Spirit during our worship.  I spend time praying for four pastor friends asking God to use them and to help them preach His Gospel that morning.  After that I ask God to help me preach—I ask Him to help me know exactly what to say and what not to say that morning.

After I finish praying I spend time reading the passage that I will be preaching that morning.  I read over it and then I go over my sermon.  I preach from a manuscript and I pour over that manuscript—seeking to get the words just right, seeking to remove paragraphs that seemed good on Thursday, but just don’t seem to fit on Sunday morning, and sometimes I add thoughts God gave me during the weekend.  After I edit it I go over it a couple more times just to make sure it flows and that I’m ready to preach it without ‘reading’ it!

After I pray and go over my sermon I find myself reading the passage of Scripture that we will read in the worship service.  We have church members who read a selected passage, but I make sure that I’ve read over it just in case they are ‘providentially hindered’ from attending that morning.

I will also take time to go over the hymns we sing in the first service and spend time thinking about the ‘pastor’s prayer’ that morning.  From time to time I will write out the prayer, but most of the time I just pray from the heart.  Yesterday I found myself writing out the prayer and I wanted to share that prayer with you today.

Father,

We read in your Word that the living creatures and angels who surround your Throne worship you perfectly.

We read in your Word that there is coming a day when every knee will bow down—in heaven, on earth, and under the earth—and every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord to your glory O Father.

We read in your Word that when John saw the multitude worshiping you at the fulfillment of all things—the number was beyond his ability to count.

Here we are this morning—standing between our initial salvation and our ultimate salvation.  Draw us close to You!

If there is anyone here this morning who would not join that multitude should you choose to come today—draw them and save them.

If there is anyone who is at this moment living in such sin that they would be ashamed at your return—grant to them repentance.

Help us Lord to be filled with your Spirit.  To understand you have given us everything we need by your Divine Power for life and godliness and let us worship as if we were alive and let us live as if we were godly.

This we pray in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord,

Amen.

“All that we need for Life and Godliness”

Written By: John - Jul• 05•14

Yesterday I sat outside and did some reading.  I found myself closing out 1 Peter and turning to 2 Peter and once again I was amazed by the words of Peter,

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self- control, and self- control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:3-11, ESV)

There are phrases here that as just staggering,

“You may become partakers of the divine nature…”

“For if you practice these qualities you will never fail…”

“There will be richly provided for you and entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…”

But I will have to admit that the most staggering promise I find in Peter’s words is in verse 3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…” I absolutely love this verse!  Look at what the Holy Spirit says to us through Peter.

First, we find God’s goal for us—life and godliness.  We who were dead in sin have been brought to life.  We who were sinful and under God’s wrath have been brought to godliness.  God’s goal for every single one of us is simple—life and godliness, but how do we get it?

Second, we find the source for life and godliness, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…”  We cannot do it on our own.  We can’t earn life and godliness.  We can’t achieve it.  We can’t buy it.  It must come from the Author of life and the essence of godliness.  It must come from Him and Peter says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”  Not some things—all things.  Not most things—all things.  Everything you and I need for life and godliness is found in His divine power, but how do we get it?

Third, we find the means of life and godliness.  We have to read the entire verse: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”  The goal—life and godliness; the source—His divine power; the means—“knowledge of him.”  Peter is urging us to get to know Jesus and he tells us that our knowledge of Him starts with His call and then verse 4 tells us that it continues through our knowing His “his precious and very great promises.”

This reminds me of Paul’s words in Philippians 2:12-13 where we are told God to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but we are also told that it is God who works in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Everything you need for life and godliness is found in His divine power which comes from the knowledge of Him which is found in His precious and great promises.  God gives us all that we need in the Person of His Holy Spirit and in His Word.  We must devote ourselves to living out what He has done within us and we have all that we need to make that happen!

Worshiping God in Kenya!

Written By: John - Jul• 03•14

IMG_1151Those who know me know that I don’t see a lot of sunrises in life…I’m more of  a sunset kind of guy—in fact I often jokingly quote Psalm 127:2 as my life verse, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”  But while I was in Kenya I found myself walking out on a little grassy knoll looking toward at the this view of the rising sun and worshiping the God who made it.

I stood there going over the words of Romans 8 and then I slipped my headphones in and listened a couple of worship songs and sang along.  I listened to the hymn from Together for the Gospel, “Behold Our God,” I listened to the old hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and I found myself listening to Chris McClarney’s song, “Immortal Invisible.”

Here is a copy of that song with someone’s own sunrise!

Satisfied!

Written By: John - Jul• 03•14

I love JC Ryle’s warning in his book, Holiness,

“A right view of sin is the best antidote to that sensuous, ceremonial, formal kind of Christianity…I can well believe that there is much that is attractive in this system of religion, to a certain order of minds, so long as the conscience is not fully enlightened.  But when that wonderful part of our condition called conscience is really awake and alive, I find it hard to believe that a sensuous ceremonial Christianity will thoroughly satisfy us.  A little child is easily quieted and amused with gaudy toys, and dolls, and rattles, so long as he is not hungry; but once let it feel the cravings of nature within, and we know that nothing will satisfy it but food.  Just so it is with man in the matter of his soul.”

For what are you hungry?  Do you hunger for God or for the things of the world?  You have to look no further than to the things which satisfy you to answer that question.  If Satan can satisfy you with gaudy toys, and dolls, and rattles he has won the battle, but let a man or woman hunger for God and they will find nothing will satisfy you apart from Him.

When you hunger for God worship will come natural.  When you hunger for God prayer will be a blessing.  When you hunger for God time in His Word will, to put it bluntly, scratch you where you itch!  When you hunger for God you will find satisfaction, but when you hunger for flesh you will never find yourself full.

The Proverbs say,

“Three things are never satisfied;

four never say, “Enough”:

Sheol, the barren womb,

the land never satisfied with water,

and the fire that never says, “Enough.,”

But Jesus said, ““Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  Do you know what it means to be satisfied?  If you are hungering and thirsting for Him you will find it!

An Earthly Reminder of Eternity

Written By: John - Jul• 02•14

IMG_1172There are images that will never leave my mind.  Years ago in Mombassa I was asked to help with wound care in one of our medical clinics.  A young girl came in with a burn on her foot.  As I scrubbed her foot I did all that I could to keep my tears from falling into her wound.  All I could think about was Jesus washing the disciples feet I found myself praying that she would come to know Jesus.

This past week we found ourselves back on Mt Elgon.  One the first day a grandmother brought in her grandson.  He is pictured here and as you can see his arm is severely burned.  I watched as my sister and two other members of our team treated his wound.  As they scrubbed they literally de-gloved that little boy.  The skin on his hand pulled off and they lovingly treated him.

For the next four days Braven’s mother and father came to where we were staying and the nurses treated his wound.  Thankfully there is circulation in his fingers and if the parents continue to treat him there is a good chance that he will not lose his arm or hand.  Please pray for Braven and pray that he will one day know Jesus.

I’ll never forget the sight of his little arm.  As I watched and prayed I couldn’t help but think of the Bible’s description of Hell.  We were there to share the Gospel with as many people as possible so that we could fulfill the words of Jude, “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh…”

Let’s remember three things–Time is short; Eternity is forever; and the Gospel is essential.

Another Journey to Kenya

Written By: John - Jun• 19•14

DSC_0092_2 Tomorrow morning I join a team of 15 people from FBC Pell City on a journey to Kenya. We will be on a mountain right along the border of Kenya and Uganda and will be doing five days of medical clinics. The majority of the group has made multiple trips to this area, but a few, including my second daughter Hope, will be making their first trip to the Mountain.

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This trip is not a vacation. The roads are difficult, the housing is limited, and the travel is exhausting, but the people are wonderful and the effort is amazingly worthwhile.   We are going with a medical team that will do five medical clinics in five days. The majority of the team are medical, but several of us will be sharing the Gospel with every single person who comes through the clinic.

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We are working with six pastors and the goal is to help start one church and to strengthen four others. The people will line up early, wait in long lines, receive medical attention, and then they will be asked to sit down to hear the Gospel. They do not have to respond to get medical attention—the medicine will already be in their hands, but they will be given an opportunity to respond to Jesus.

 

Please pray for us as we go.

  • Pray for boldness in our witness.
  • Pray for kindness in our ministry.
  • Pray for health as we go…there are many things that can attack us—both physically and spiritually.
  • Pray that the roads will be dry…wet roads on the Mountain are difficult.
  • Pray for our protection, but more than anything pray for us to be faithful to the King of kings.

The first picture I posted is of my oldest daughter, Hannah, with one of the pastors. She went with me two years ago. Twelve years ago I made the first trip to Kenya. I had no idea that that trip would lead to me leading over 12 more trips there along with trips to Tanzania, Madagascar, Ecuador, Honduras, Peru, and China, but God has blessed me with those opportunities and with a church that sends me, goes with me, and prays for me as we go.

The first time I went I knew I wanted to take my girls and I made a deal with them—as soon as they turned sixteen years old they could go to Africa with me. Two years ago Hannah went and tomorrow Hope and I will make the journey. Pray for her as she goes—my prayer is that God will move in her life and call her to a lifetime of ministry and missions.

As you are praying—don’t forget to pray for the families that we leave at home. Our plan is to be back in ten days and I will share what God has done when I get back. Until then—keep praying!

 

Holy Spirit Inspired Repentance

Written By: John - Jun• 17•14

Sinclair Ferguson, in his book The Holy Spirit, discusses repentance.  He concludes with the following,

“The fact that repentance is a gift of the ascended Christ to His people (Acts 5:31) indicates that it comes to us specifically through the ministry of the Spirit.  Its nature indicates how manifold and comprehensive his ministry is.

Christ is a ‘Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel’ (Acts 5:31).  When we ask: ‘By what means does God bring us to repentance?’, the answer must be that it is by the revelation of himself in his word, illuminated by the Spirit.  A right view of God as holy and merciful is the only foundation for genuine evangelical repentance.  His holiness grounds its necessity; his grace and mercy ground its possibility.

Faith and repentance, as expressions of regeneration, are thus not merely inaugural aspects of the Christian life but characteristics and fruits of the Spirit’s ongoing ministry.  Indeed, the entire progress of sanctification is but regeneration coming into its own, and faith and repentance becoming more and more the dominant notes of life in the Spirit.” (Page 138, emphasis added)

This is an incredible statement, but I love the part I put in bold letters—we must repent because God is holy and the only way we can possibly repent is because of God’s grace and mercy.  What a God!  He is so holy that sin must be punished, but He is so full of grace and mercy that He took the punishment upon Himself.