God Restores

This morning I concluded my annual Scripture reading plan and, once again, I can hardly fathom my life this year without this discipline.  (If you’re interested in a reading plan for 2016 The Discipleship Reading Plan has served me well for years).

As I completed my reading this morning, I am brought once more to the glorious reminder of God’s great sovereignty applied generously.  Today’s final reading was from Job 42, John 21, and Revelation 22.  In each of these passages there is the promise of restoration.

In Job 42 God restores Job.  He restores him after years of suffering AND after He (God) flexes His sovereign strength.  But yes, He then uses those sovereign muscles to restore Job.

In John 21 Jesus restores Peter.  He restores him after a very tumultuous time in which Peter did the unthinkable when he shamefully, cowardly denied knowing Jesus.  He restores him after conquering death, revealing His strength and ability as a Keeper of promises.   He restores him with sovereign love.  This sovereign love restores him and gives him a mission.

In Revelation 22 we see the ultimate restoration.  The restoration of God’s eternal plan.  This restoration is the culmination of all things.  This follows years of suffering, pruning, war, and hardships.  This restoration is the ultimate revelation of God’s sovereign strength and His sovereign love!

My dear friends, I am not sure how you feel about 2015.  I can tell you that none of your “secrets” are truly secret and none of your public embarrassments are final.  Move forward in 2016 believing that God is SOVEREIGN – and His sovereignty is great enough and good enough!


HE IS BIGGER (and better) THAN IT ALL.





So this is how I get to wrap up my 2015!  You can do this too!  Begin the new year diving into His promises which are FOR YOUR JOY, for YOUR PEACE, for YOUR SUCCESS.

Revived From a Familiar Text

I must have read I Thessalonians chapter 1 and 2 over a hundred times in my life. I’m not exagerrating. Not only have I read it annually in my years of daily (yearly) reading plans, but it was part of this passage that became the core values of my previous church, Hope Fellowship in Port Lavaca. Therefore, every January I would preach on being Grounded by Faith, Fueled by Hope, and Inspired by Love (taken from 1:3) and present to the church God’s vision for us as we remembered the church in Thessalonica. This has been a good “staple” passage for me as I press on to pray for my church, my former church, local churches and the global church. It has been used to pray through heart-gripping injustices like slavery, prejudice, sex-trafficking, and abuse. I know this text. I love this text.

However today, that moment that we pray for when we commit ourselves to the discipline of daily scripture reading happened. I read a portion of this chapter (again as it fell in place with my annual reading plan) and I learned something new. Actually, I didn’t learn something new but felt something new, as if I had just learned it for the first time. And I should say, that what I re-noticed made me tremble, and it then moved me closer to His heart for His Bride.

Paul writes in v.4, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,” — now, this made me think. What amazing variety of emotions one should feel when this could be said to them. Paul is affirming them that he has no doubt that they are (1) loved by God and (2) that God has chosen them. Think about the weight of these words as it landed on these people, these first generation believers! All the turmoil, suffering, hardships, loss of “stuff”. Think about the possible anxiety they might have felt wondering if they were “doing it right”. I mean, there were no church conferences. No Passion Network. No Acts 29, DGM, 9Marks, emergent communities. No Chris Tomlin or KLove. Not even a John MacArthur, John Piper, or RC Sproul back then (I think).  No bloggers or leadership conferences. No strategic plans or church growth models.  In fact, Paul later tells them that THEY are the model!  So again, imagine the reassurance this little flock must have felt to hear Paul say, “we know…”. Translation: We can see it, taste it, and have no doubt that YOU are born again and YOU are loved and CHOSEN by the majestic God of both Jews and Greek! Wow… what encouragement!

And today, as I was reading this text I wondered how Paul could have had this much confidence to assure them this way. I mean, I have wanted to say this to so many people but found myself truly wondering if I would only be enabling a false dependence on feelings of assurance that they should not have. How can Paul confidently provide this counsel to these believers?

v.5 provides part of the answer: “…because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” Another part of the answer comes later in vs 9-10: “…how you turned to God from idols to serve the living true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Look at the latter passage first:

  • they turned TO GOD
  • they turned to God FROM IDOLS
  • they turned to God from idols TO SERVE the living true God
  • they turned to God from idols to serve the living true God, and WAIT FOR HIS SON FROM HEAVEN

These people had shown significant life change.  They turned from idols to long for Jesus and Heaven.  Paul writes this in such a way as to communicate that this is unusual.  This is supernatural.  This is Spiritual, born of God.  It is evident that they are HIS.  But again, this is only part of the reason why Paul can give them this assurance.

The former passage (in v.5) speaks to that first time of repentance.  The latter speaks to the fruit and the testimony of life change.  But it’s this first part that hit me unusually this morning.  He writes, I know this “because our gospel came not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”  And  as I re-read that (for what is like the 101st time) I paused, then wondered, when was the last time I remember experiencing that?  Being in a place where EVERYONE could say, “those are not just words from a man, but the very power of God is squeezing me to let everything go”.

I paused, thought, trembled and then prayed.

I have heard MANY sermons.  I have preached many sermons.  I have seen my friends in ministry come and go.  I have watched people “surrender” to ministry and leave it.  I have watched others surrender to ministry and stay in it even though their hearts have left it.  I have read book after book about this church, that church, this movement, that movement, these leaders, those leaders.  But few are the places where I’ve been that I can say with great confidence that God’s power showed up there.

I have tasted this several times and there is nothing like true awakening and spiritual birth coming over a congregation.  Paul is reminding the Thessalonians that you are proof to the world that God is alive and He is love and He is changing things.

May the gospel come to us, not only in word but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.  Leading us to turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from Heaven.  When this happens, we won’t be needing to evaluate or guess or try to build various training, strategy sessions.  In fact, I bet those would just serve as lids.  I believe what would happen would be an unleashing of crazy love that translates to service, freedom, and contagious spreading of the gospel.

More than anything, I want this!  Pray for your church and your city.  Pray with expectation and hope.

If nothing else, perhaps when you read this you will find encouragement to keep reading Scripture even though you are familiar with it.  God promises to bring His words to life when we submit ourselves to Him and His precepts.  His promises are new every day.  And today, this was my reality.  Keep reading and watch Him work in your mind and heart.

True, Helpful Accountability

I love authentic, real, soul-sharing brotherhood.  You know, guys that will join me crying out to God for purity, strength, courage, and holiness.  These are the guys that I will go to battle with and guys I genuine love to laugh with.  I’ve had this before and I pray every man can find this sort of partnership with another brother.  I found this blog helpful in my desire to become a guy who is a worthy accountability partner.


Avoiding Shock and Awe in our Culture

As the rainbow banners are being placed all over and everyone from athletes to politicians and (of course) brilliant hollywood celebrities rejoice with the chants “LOVE WINS” – I am reminded just how unaware the church is to our new American culture.  My friend texted after my post yesterday that these recent decisions by our Supreme Court should not be a surprise to us, yet so many will be in shock over what is our new reality in the great U.S.A.  The church needs to respond but not with shock and awe.  It’s important that followers of Christ follow Paul’s example from Philippians 3 and 4:

1.  Lament over the right issues.

“For, as I have often told you before and now say again with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things.”  (3:18-19)

As Paul writes his loved ones from jail (because of an unjust decision by leaders) he weeps.  He is not lamenting over his circumstances or because of the freedoms that he is losing but instead for those outside of God’s will.  He hurts for them because they are enemies of the cross of Christ.  Yes, enemies … but of the cross.  He is deeply troubled that those who reject God’s truths have an adversarial relationship to the ONE EVENT that can bring them hope – the cross of Christ.  So, when Paul states that “their god is their stomach” he is reminding the readers that those who reject God’s truths reject it because He is not their God, their own feelings are.  He is most sad and laments that they are embracing a love for something that will not fulfill them.  A love for their own feelings and their own cravings, their own way.  And when all of that is supported by the law of the land, they will glory in it.  And their minds will remain only on earthly pleasures, false gods.  This is what grieves Paul and it should be what grieves us.

(To learn more about lamenting properly regarding our culture/country, Piper writes it better than I could here:  A Proper Lament)

2.  Celebrate the right things

Paul continued,

“But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” (3:20-4:1)

I must once again express that I am continually grateful to God to have been born in Texas and as an American citizen.  And it is sad to me that this is not the country that our founders dreamed of nor is it even the country that it was in my childhood.  We are, for the most part, truly a post-Christian nation.  That saddens me.

However, I must also confess that I have often elevated my American citizenship over my heavenly citizenship.  When I do this I often will grieve and lament over secondary issues vs. primary issues.  I will fight and argue for MY rights vs. grieve and lament that the citizens of this country are marching boldly as enemies of hope and true peace.  Paul is reminding us that we should celebrate our eternal reality.  We have a King who has real power and will bring everything under His control in His timing.  This is what we celebrate and in this we place our hope.  Loving HIM will win.  Loving our stomachs and feelings will lead to destruction.

The way to avoid a shock and awe response this week is to lament of right issues and celebrate the lasting citizenship we have through Jesus Christ.  People are hurting and hoping in their own “stomachs” (feelings).  They are in love with what will not last.  If love for gay rights is your god, I grieve.  If love for the perfect America is your god, I grieve.  There’s more.  Much, much MORE!

Just to remind how Paul begins to wrap up his letter to his loved ones who are tempted to be in shock and awe of the times:

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to GOd.  And the peace of God, which transcends our understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”  (4:4-8)

The cross of Christ is the event to dwell on, not a SCOTUS decision.  Jesus, our redeemer, is King and His court will reign.  Our citizenship is in heaven.  Let’s help each other think on these things and be fueled by this hope.

My Response to the Supreme Court Decisions

The leadership of the United States of America has decided and acted according to their conscience concerning health care laws and the definition of family.  And now we will witness the reaction and response to all of this from all view points.

My view point is simple:  we Americans (and all nations) are idol worshippers.

Personally, I could not disagree more with the decisions given by the Supreme Court, however, I do not bow to our court system, our politicians, our traditions or our national heritage.  I will submit in humility to our leaders but not give them my affection or pay them much honor or loyalty.  There are many things I am so thankful for in our country, but I do not surrender my heart and life to an “idea” of a perfect country or culture.  Since nations are made by imperfect people, we will always have imperfect nations and governments.  No matter the country, no matter the time in history the worship of culture, country or institutions will always leave us empty.  And at some point, we’ve all done it.

However, the Gospel is the good news that Jesus died for our idol worship.  He died to give us life and rescue our hearts. Our pledges to country, to marriage, or to ideas should never replace or destroy the beauty of the news that God sent His Son to save us from our self-destruction.  As Christians, we must be ready to declare victory for all eternity.  We must be ready to help those who will throw themselves into the corruption of same-sex marriage believing it to be their key to peace.  We must be ready to understand why those who love God’s plan for the family are hurt and even feel betrayed.  We must admit, as Christians, we all know too well that we put our hope in all sorts of things that will, not only let us down, but work against our pleasure and satisfying joy.

In this season, I will not worship country or ideology.  I will not say that I’m proud of or mad at my country.  I will not cheer for those who have been given a license to extend and further their self-destruction.  I WILL seek repentance for my sin… daily.  I WILL be grieved and saddened by the horrible sins in my nation.  And I WILL strive to help others celebrate that God is supreme and that it is better to spend one day in His court than ten-thousand elsewhere – no matter the country.

I value Russell Moore’s response here: