If You Love Me

“If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15 NIV)


We have a 13-year-old beagle named Lucy, and she is a wonderful dog. During my coffee with the Lord this morning, John 14:15 “wiggled” on the page. As I reflected on this very simple, yet very profound, verse, Lucy came to mind. She’s not trained, but she’s very obedient–always has been. Her obedience isn’t the slavish, downtrodden duty of a dog that has been kicked into submission. Rather, it’s the happy, almost worshipful devotion of a dog that loves her master.

I remember when we got Lucy from a shelter. She was two and full of spunk (she still has the spunk at 13, it’s just a little slower). It seemed evident to us that she had been handled roughly by a man in her past. She was skittish around men, taking on a beaten-down posture of fearful submission and growling if a man came too close. We brought her into our basement, and I spent the next few hours sitting with her. At first, she wasn’t having any part of it, but after a while, she came around. Once I had her trust, I was surprised at how quickly she picked up on what I wanted her to do and did it. She wants to please, loves the praise she receives and is eager to obey (unless there’s a squirrel or a rabbit, then all bets are off).

God brought Lucy to mind as an illustration of what He desires from me. He doesn’t want slavish, downtrodden duty from a beaten-down broken-spirited servant kicked into submission. He desires joy-filled, loving, worshipful devotion from a child who loves his Father and wants to feel God’s smile. It’s not about doggedly following a list of rules out of fear, it’s about loving Jesus enough to figure out what He wants and do it. Why? Because that is the essence of love, pouring yourself out for another. That’s what Jesus did for us. His wish is my command, not because I need to check off my be-a-good-person checklist, but because I love Him. I follow Him out of love.

My prayer for the week is that God will whisper something to you, and you’ll spring into action with all the joy of a child running an errand for his/her Father (or a beagle running to the door for a biscuit, lol).

Your Word is Truth pt 2

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17 NIV)


This is part two of a two-part post. In part one, we looked at the second have of John 17:17, “your word is truth.” In this part, we’ll look at the first half of the verse, “Sanctify them by the truth.”

Sanctify them by the truth

I recently watched Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey, a documentary about Billy Graham on Netflix. I didn’t know this, but in the 1940s, a few years into his preaching ministry after he’d already started to become famous, Dr. Graham had a minor crisis of faith. In those days, the progressive theologians, Bible scholars, and pastors who were up with the times were abandoning the truth of God’s Word. The popular opinion among many mainline Protestant church leaders was that the Bible really wasn’t “truth.” It was full of myth, legend, error, morality stories, etc., but it couldn’t be considered “God’s Word.”

Dr. Graham described how he began to doubt the authority and truth of the Bible, but then made a decision to accept it on faith. He said, “I got on my knees and told God, ‘Just as I accepted Jesus on faith, so now I accept the Bible as Your Word on faith.'” From that moment on, he said there was a power, an authority, and confidence in his ministry that hadn’t been there before.

God’s Word is powerful and effective. As Jesus said in John 17:17, God’s Word is truth. He didn’t say, “Your Word is true,” but rather, “Your Word is truth.” The Bible isn’t just a book of true statements, facts, and historical information. It certainly is true, but it is more than that. It is truth, and truth has the power to change lives. That’s what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Sanctify them by the truth…” (John 17:17a NIV). The word sanctify means “to make holy” or “to purify or free from sin.” God’s Word sanctifies us–it makes us holy, it purifies us, it sets us free from sin; it is the truth that changes our lives forever.

Here is just a sliver of the truth that God’s Word reveals. Accepting this as the defining truth of our lives will transform us and make us holy as we live according to it (over time, of course).

  • Every inclination of the human heart is evil, even from childhood. (Gen. 8:21)
  • There is no one on earth who never sins. (Eccl. 7:20)
  • Every human being is sinful and has committed sins. (1 John 1:8-10)

We have to acknowledge that we have a problem, namely, sin. Only then can we receive the Savior. Jesus doesn’t just save us from our hurts, our pain, and our sorrows. He saves us from our sin. Yet, so many today don’t want to confess their sin. The problem is, we can’t be sanctified by the truth unless we accept the truth–we are sinners. But God’s truth doesn’t end with revealing our sin. Jesus saves us from our sin in what has come to be known as the Great Exchange:

  • “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

The Bible teaches many things about how Jesus changes us. Believing these statements will transform our relationship with God, with ourselves, and with others. Here are just a few points:

  • I am God’s child. (John 1:12)
  • I belong to God. (1 Cor. 6:20)
  • God will complete the work He has begun in me. (Php. 1:6)
  • I am a citizen of Heaven. (Php. 3:20)
  • I am forgiven. (Eph. 1:8)
  • I have a purpose. (Eph. 1:9)
  • I have a hope. (Eph. 1:12)
  • God desires me to be fruitful. (John 15:5)
  • I am invited to be God’s co-worker. (2 Cor. 6:1)
  • I am a dwelling for the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 2:22)
  • I am not alone. (Heb. 13:5)
  • I am victorious. (1 John 5:4)
  • I am no longer condemned. (Rom. 8:1)
  • I have been chosen and appointed by Jesus. (John 15:16)

There are so many more things the Bible has to say about who we are, what happened to us when we accepted Christ, and what God wants for us. And there is even more truth about who God is, what He’s done, and what His plans are for the world! Allowing the truth to penetrate your heart and mind will change everything about you. For our church this next season, we are internalizing this truth:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20 NIV)

The life we live is Christ’s life. My prayer this week is that God will show us all where our lives are not aligned with His so that we can die to our false understanding of the world and come alive to the Truth in Christ.

Your Word is Truth pt. 1

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17, NIV)


This is a two-part post. In this first part, we’ll look at the second half of John 17:17, “your word is truth.”

Your Word is Truth

We live in a culture that is constantly asking, “What is truth? You have your truth, I have my truth. That’s true in your eyes, but something different is true in my eyes. This is how I feel, my feelings are real, and therefore this is what is true to me.” We have lost the concept that truth is an objective correspondence to reality. We have replaced it with the idea that “truth” is my perspective of reality and my feelings about reality.

The implications of this are massive and damning.  For one thing, if truth is defined by what we feel or from our perspective, how can we ever be wrong? Who can contradict how I feel? If I am living true to my feelings, how can I be convicted of sin? It is impossible for me to lie because I’m simply telling “my truth.” It’s impossible for me to do anything wrong because I’m simply living out of “my reality.” And if I can’t sin, I can’t acknowledge sin because there’s no sin to acknowledge. And if I can’t confess my sin, I can’t repent because there’s no sin to turn away from. I don’t need Jesus to save me from my sin that doesn’t exist.

Additionally, our popular thinking about truth means there is no solid foundation on which to build our lives–there are only the shifting sands of feelings and perspectives. Remember the children’s song? If our houses are built on the sand, when the rains come down and the floods come up our foolish lives go splat.

Thirdly, often our feelings don’t correspond to reality. We start to believe things about ourselves that aren’t true, even though it’s how we feel at the time. This is very evident with eating disorders. I’m told that people who are anorexic look in the mirror and see an overweight reflection even though they are often dangerously underweight. They feel like they are “fat,” and they believe their feelings rather than reality. But this isn’t just a problem with eating disorders. People believe all kinds of things about themselves that are not true. I’m ugly. I’m stupid. I’m awkward. No one could love me. I’ll never amount to anything. I’m too far gone for God to want me. I have nothing to offer. All my friends on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram have it together more than me. If I can’t be like _________________ (fill in the blank), I’ll never be accepted. If this is how you feel, your feelings are lying to you!

In John 17:17, Jesus said a single sentence that will change everything we know. In fact, just the second phrase, “your word is truth,” is a paradigm-changing, profound statement that will literally turn your world upside down. Truth is not what we feel. Truth is not what I see from my perspective. Truth is not what popular opinion says it is, or what the majority vote says it should be. Truth is revealed in God’s Word. God is the Author of truth. What He says is not only real but true–regardless of how I feel about it or what I think about it; whether I like it or not.

My prayer for this week is that God will show you something you have been believing that isn’t truth, and that He will help you find the truth that He has spoken over you.

The Promise is for You

Sermon delivered at LakeView Church on 3/20/19.

At the very first church service in history, the Apostle Peter preached the sermon that is the bedrock of our faith, the unstoppable message that defines what Christianity is. Let’s dig into Acts 2:14-41 and find out what that rock is on which Christ built His church.

Full Confidence

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.” (Proverbs 31:11, NIV)


I have blogged my way through the entire Book of Proverbs, writing about the conversations I have with the Lord in my quiet time. My goal over the 31 weeks was to take a chapter each week and meditate on it, listening to what God might be saying and sharing it with you. And now we’re on the final page of Proverbs! I hope you’ve found this little series helpful.

Proverbs 31:10-31 is a very famous passage describing a “wife of noble character” (v. 10). Most Old Testament scholars agree that these verses do not describe an actual woman, but rather combine the strengths of several women into an “ideal woman” who can serve as a role model for all women. Reading through the passage, she can serve as a role model for men, too!

Verse 11 caught my attention. Often (not always) when I am reading the Bible devotionally to meet with the Lord, a verse seems to “wiggle” or stand out, like it was highlighted or bold font. Of course, it’s not actually wiggling on the page, but it catches my eye and doesn’t let go. That twinge in my heart when I read it, the way it draws my eyes to it, these are signs that perhaps the Lord wants to speak to me through that verse. So, I read it again, more slowly, in context, listening. Why did God bring that verse to my attention? What is it saying that I need to hear? I reflect and meditate on that verse, and talk to the Lord about what comes to mind. It is during that time that He sometimes speaks directly to me through the still small voice in my heart (read 1 Kings 19:9-18 for more on the still small voice, or the “gentle whisper”).

This morning as I pondered Proverbs 31:11, the word trust came to me. The woman described in these verses has the full and complete trust of her husband. Trust is foundational to every human relationship, not just marriage. Trust takes a long time to earn but can be broken in a moment. Once trust is shattered, it may never be rebuilt to the same extent it was before, or it may take years to regain what was lost.

Trust must be given to you, you cannot take it for yourself. I cannot force Corinne or anyone else to trust me. I have to demonstrate through integrity that I am worthy of her trust, and then I must walk in integrity in order to keep her trust. It is the same in every marriage, every friendship. The challenge is this: If you were your spouse or your friend, would you trust you? Knowing what you know about yourself, what you say when that person isn’t around, what you do when no one else is watching, what you think about that no one else ever knows… would you trust you? Are your thoughts, words, and actions full of integrity and honor? Do you live a life worthy of full confidence?

My prayer for the week is that the Holy Spirit will reveal an area of our hearts that lacks integrity, that we will confess that and become more trustworthy.

Surely You Know

“Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know!” (Proverbs 30:4, NIV)

Yesterday at LakeView I felt led by the Lord to give an invitation for people to repent and declare their faith in Jesus, to be saved. In some churches I’ve attended something like this would be handled through an “altar call.” That is, we’d have had prayer partners at the front, and we’d have invited people to step out and come forward to pray and receive Christ. In a couple of churches, they even had an actual altar, a bench at the front of the church before the stage where people could come and kneel to pray.

I didn’t give an altar call yesterday, I did the old “every head bowed, every eye closed” routine and two people raised their hands to receive Christ. PRAISE THE LORD! However, I keep wondering if I should’ve challenged the people gathered to take a more declarative step…

I’ll be transparent. My church background, with its dysfunction, has put fear of altar calls in me. There have been a few times at LakeView when I felt nudged to invite people forward for prayer for one reason or another but chickened out. The culture of our church is not an altar-call culture. What if no one comes forward? Will it seem like the service was a failure? Will people think I’m not a good pastor? Hello, pride, there you are again. I’d sure like you to be crucified in me so that Christ can live in your place!

This morning, when I read Proverbs 30:4, I felt the challenge from the Lord. (Sidenote: It’s amazing how God can give a rebuke without condemnation. He is incredible!) Why do I let fear and pride influence my actions? “Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know!”

As I reflected on these words, the last line held my attention. “What is his name, and what is the name of his son?” His name is Jesus, and His son’s name is… me. I’ve been born again into His household. My confidence and sense of self-worth shouldn’t come from whether or not people respond to an invitation. Neither should I be afraid (whether afraid of failure or wounded pride) to be obedient when God stirs my heart. Our job is to obey faithfully and let God produce the fruit. If we do what He tells us to do, then we cannot fail because the definition of success is obedience, not results.

My prayer for the week is for those who accepted Christ yesterday (please join me in that), and for God to remind you who He is what His son’s or daughter’s name is, yours. Be humble, yet confident in who you are in Jesus.

Music, Revelation, and Instruction

“Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” (Proverbs 29:18, NIV)

Every now and then, I come across a worship song that is so rich in its music and lyrics that it feels like a feast. When an artist is able to match the revelation of God in Scripture with music that fits the message in tone and emotion, something amazing happens. Some of these songs become timeless classics, like Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, Because He Lives, and How Great is Our God. Others may be less well known or less often sung, but are no less moving. Some of my favorites are Great Are You Lord, This is Amazing Grace, Christ Be All Around Me, and This I Believe (The Creed).

Music has long been recognized as a powerful tool for instruction. It brings together mind and heart, word and emotion, and it seems to stay with us–ever had an annoying song stuck in your head? I believe the power of music to serve as an expression of our hearts, a reinforcement of our faith, a remembering and retelling of the great saving works of God in the world, and a tool for instructing new believers in the faith are all reasons why God tells us to sing (see Ps. 5:11; 33:1-3; 101:1; and too many others to list here). Music is a powerful medium of God’s revelation and wisdom’s instruction, and we are blessed when we participate by singing in worship.

Here’s a new song I found recently by Chris Tomlin. The style is a little different and the lyrics are a wealth of truth, revelation, and wisdom that bring glory to the One who is worthy. Take a few minutes to listen and let the Spirit soak your soul as you do. My prayer this week is that this song will bless you as much as it has blessed me in recent days.


Unstoppable

Sermon delivered at LakeView Church on 2/24/19.

How did Christianity go from a movement started by Jesus and a handful of disciples to over 2.3 billion people who identify as Christians today? We begin a new series through the Book of Acts, which shows just how this whole “Christianity” thing started.

When Christians Get Dunked

Sermon delivered at LakeView Church on 2/17/19.

Baptism is one of those weird traditions in church. And what makes it confusing is that it seems like every church does it just a little differently. What is baptism, why do we get baptized, and why does LakeView practice baptism the way we do?