Coram Deo

How should a Christian live their life? The answer is found in the Latin phrase “coram Deo,” which literally means “before the face of God,” or “in the presence of God.” A Christian is to live their entire life with the reality that all they do, both seen and unseen, is done in the presence of God.

What if we lived that way? What if we lived with the reality that everything we did, we did right before God? Would that change anything? The way we talked? The thoughts we had? The places we went? The way we treated other people? I would venture to say that everything would change. The problem is, we do not live like that. 

The other day I was taking my small children out of the grocery store and loading them in the car. Both of my littlest children require car seats, and it is always an adventure getting them buckled in safely and quickly. As I was loading them, one of them bumped their head and started crying, the other spilledtheirdrink, and I dropped the milk and it spilled everywhere. I would like to say that I responded calmly and patiently, but my humanity came out and I lost my temper a little. I was hollering, wiping things up and trying to calm kids down, when all of a sudden I realized someone was sitting in the car next to us listening to all of this. I looked over, waived, and the lady just began laughing and said, “Don’t worry, I’ve been there.” 

After I got everyone loaded, calmed, and things cleaned up, I got in the car and began thinking. When I saw the woman in the car next to me, I immediately thought, “I need to calm down and be more careful with how I respond.” As I reflected on that, it made me sad. The Bible tells us that God is with us, even though we cannot see Him. Even if that woman had not been there, God was there, but I was obviously more concerned about what the woman thought than what God thought. If I was living my life “coram Deo” I would have been more conscious of the reality that God was watching me and it was Him I was trying to please, instead of some random person.

This story, and a thousand like them, relate to all of us. We have all been there. We are all more conscientious about what we say and do when we know other people are watching. The truth is, someone is always watching, and it is God almighty. Imagine a world where people lived with a constant awareness of God. Imagine Christians who were consciously consumed with living “Coram Deo.” Someone has wisely said, “To live ‘coram Deo’ is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.” This is how Christians are to live; with a constant awareness and reality that all they say and do is before the face of God.

This week, live as though God were physically with you. Live as though you could see Him with your own eyes. Walk and talk in such a way that God would be honored and glorified. If we did that, just imagine how different things would be in your life and in the world. This week, live coram Deo.

Turning Points

A couple of weeks ago, I had to take a short trip to west Texas. I do not know if you have ever driven in west Texas, but it is not the prettiest drive. The people are incredible, but the drive can be a little boring and exhausting. As I drove, and followed the navigation directions on my phone, I found myself getting excited when a new turning point was upcoming. I would excitedly tell those riding with me, “Hey, in ten miles, we get to turn. Maybe when we turn, the next part of the trip will not be as bad as this part.” The turning points provided a little needed hope and excitement on the journey.

This is true of life as well. God allows certain turning points in our lives to keep us moving in the direction He has for our lives. Sometimes these turning points are life altering, and sometimes that are simply very small adjustments. Whatever the case, the turning points God allows are always for our good and ultimately for His glory.

As I have been preaching through the book of Genesis, I have discovered it is a book of turning points. Things such as, when sin entered the world, when the flood came, when the nations were scattered, etc. These, and many others, were turning points, both in the book of Genesis and in the history of mankind. God used these turning points to accomplish His purposes. I am sure at the time, these turning points were very difficult for the people living in those days to understand, but for us, looking back, we can see how God used these moments in powerful ways.

This is the case in our lives. We often do not understand what God is doing. Sometimes the turning points that come in our lives are painful, and we cannot see why God would allow such hardship. However, if we trust and walk with Him, over time, we get to see how God used what was hard for something good. Sometimes the turning points are positive though. We like those because they tend to be easier to adjust to and embrace. The goal in this life is to simply trust God. If a turning point is hard, we say, “God, we trust You.” If a turning point is easy, we say, “God, we trust You.” No matter what, we must trust the Lord.

The most important turning point in our lives is when we turn our hearts to God. For me, that happened when I was sixteen years old. I was headed down a dark path and God opened my eyes to His great love and sacrifice. On June 7, 1993, I had the greatest turning point in my life. On that day, I trusted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. That decision was and forever will be the greatest turning point in my life. I sometimes imagine where I would be had I not had that turning point, and when I do, I simply end up thanking God for intervening in my life.

If you have not had that turning point in your life, I would love to visit with you about it. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God loves you so much, He sent His Son to die in your place and raised from the dead in order that you might have forgiveness of your sins and enter a real relationship with God. That is the first and greatest turning point in all of our lives. Turn to Him and just watch what He will do in and through you!

Be Like the Leper

In our day and time, it is easy to find something to complain about. These are trying days and many people are experiencing very challenging circumstances. As a pastor, I speak with people each week who are on the verge of giving up and throwing in the towel. They are battling illnesses, various heartaches, financial trouble, relationship stress, etc. On top of all of this, there is the ongoing challenge of COVID and the affect it is having on all of our lives. When you put it all together, it is very overwhelming.

I was reminded of a tremendous story in the Bible that has helped my perspective. It is found in Luke 17:11-19. In this story, we are introduced to ten lepers who need healing. One day, Jesus is passing through their area and when they saw Him, they cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” If you had leprosy in Jesus’ day, you were considered unclean and could not enter the temple or be touched by other people. The fact that Jesus told them to go to the priests meant that He was going to heal them.

The story says that “as they went, they were cleansed.” Try and get this picture in your mind. These lepers lived in isolation. They were shunned by society. They were viewed as unclean and outcasts. They lived lonely and troubled lives. No one knew what to do with them, and sadly, even the religious leaders avoided them. Jesus was different though. He loved the unlovable. He welcomed the outcast. He healed the afflicted. These lepers met Jesus and he told them to go to the priests. They took Jesus at His word and headed into town to present themselves at the temple. As they were going, something incredible happened. They were healed. In an instant, their leprosy was completely gone. Years of pain and suffering gone in a moment. Can you even imagine the feeling of joy, relief, gladness, and peace?

The story then takes a turn. The Scripture says, “One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks.” Only one did this. The others went on their way. Jesus said to the man, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except you?” Jesus looked at this man and added something that would change this man’s life forever. He said, “Rise and go your way, your faith has saved you.”

Think about the power of this story for a moment. Ten lepers all received the same physical healing, but only one returned to thank the One who gave them healing. Only one returned. The one who returned also got something greater. Jesus forgave him of his sin. He received spiritual healing on top of the physical healing. This man’s grateful spirit caused him to return to Jesus, and as a result, he received the greatest gift a person could ever receive, forgiveness of sin. What an incredible moment in this leper’s life.

There are many lessons we can learn from this story, but one lesson for certain is the importance of having gratitude toward God. It amazes me that only one returned to thank Jesus, but I wonder if I would have done that. Would I have been so glad about what I received that I would have forgotten to thank the One who gave it to me? I pray not, but fear so. The truth is, God has given us so much, and we have many things to be thankful for. Even on our worst day, there is always something for which to be grateful. If you are a Christian, even if all you experience is trial in this life, you are still forgiven of all your sin, have a relationship with God, and an eternal home in heaven. That alone is enough to provoke a grateful spirit every day. We should have a heart of gratitude like the leper.

Let me leave you with one final encouragement. My wife recently decided to begin using a phrase in the good and hard times of life. She says, “Christ be magnified.” When we get news that something is going well, we say, “Christ be magnified.” When we get news that something has not gone the way we could choose, we say, “Christ be magnified.” What we have discovered is that if we want a grateful spirit, we must have a heart of gratitude toward God, just like the leper. We must thank and trust God, leaving our very lives in His control. Oh that we would be like the leper, falling on our face before God and praising Him.

Jesus, the One who paid is all, is worth all our praise. These words encapsulate my heart today, “Lord, now indeed I find Thy power and Thine alone can change the leper’s spots and melt the heart of stone. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.” Amen and amen!

A Year of New Beginnings

2020 is in the books. It is over and done with for good. We now enter 2021. What will this year look like? We already know we will face more unexpected challenges. We have already seen new trials come to our nation and world. Regardless of all that is fully to come, what we know is that 2021 also presents a year of fresh starts and new beginnings, and for that we can be thankful.

As we begin a new year, my mind wants to assume, project, anticipate, and plan, but what I need to do is set it on what I know to be true. I often tell my congregation not to focus on what they do not know, but on what they do know. Even though there is and forever will be much uncertainty in this life, there are many things we can be certain of and that give us encouragement.

As I began reflecting on 2021, here are a few certainties I am choosing to center on in my heart and mind. I pray these encourage you and give you peace, as they have me.

First, God holds the world and our lives in His hands. I love that reality. God spoke this world into existence and He holds it firmly within His grasp. It is incredibly comforting knowing that nothing will touch my life that God has not allowed, and if He allows it into my life, He has done so for a reason. I often tell my family, “At the end of the day, either we trust God or we don’t.” I am choosing to trust God and rest in the fact that He is in control. As Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Ah, Lord God! It is Youwho have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” This is who our God is, and we lift our eyes to Him.

Second, God walks with us every minute of every day. As the Psalmist said in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” We often focus too much on walking with God, when we need to remember that it is God who walks with us. Knowing that God walks with us helps give us peace and confidence. I often see this in my own children. When I am physically present with my children, it is amazing the confidence they display. They feel safe, protected, and loved. On an immensely greater level, that is how we should feel knowingthat the One who created all things and has power over all things, walks with us. Never forget that you are not alone. God loves you with a special and everlasting love.

Third, God cares for us more than we could ever imagine. I love the words of Jesus from Matthew 6, when He says, “…do not be anxious about your life…if God so clothes the grass of the field…would He not much more clothe you…your heavenly Father knows all that you need.” Rest in this today, God knows what you need and He will take care of you. Think about how much you love your kids and grandkids. Isn’t it comforting knowing that God loves you more than you love your family? Trust Him today. He’s got you and will meet your needs.

Finally, God has the final say on everything. The two words my family often uses are “but God”. That means God has the official and final say on our lives. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” while hanging on the Cross, it meant He had completed the work His Father gave Him to do. It meant that death would no longer have the final say on those who trust in Him. It meant that no matter what you face in this life, God has you covered through the power of death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. No matter what comes your way in 2021, if you have a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, you are secure in every possible way.

In 2021, be still and know that God is God! Rest in these truths I have listed in this article. Above all, look to the One, Jesus Christ, who is the risen and conquering King of kings. Knowing these things help us to keep all things in proper perspective.

Jesus Changes Everything

The Apostle Peter is a very unique character in the Bible. He was one of the early disciples of Jesus, and is sometimes referred to as the disciple who lived with his foot in his mouth. Peter was always acting first, and thinking later. Sometimes that is a great quality to have, but other times, it can get you into trouble. As erratic as Peter tended to be, he was a man who experienced the grace of God in a completely transforming way. He was the one who denied Jesus three times, but repented, was forgiven by God, and became a devoted follower of Jesus who was eventually martyred for his faith. He understood very personally and very deeply that Jesus changes everything.

Peter wrote two short letters in the New Testament. His letters were written to Christians who were suffering, and who were scattered all over due to the persecution they were facing. As he wrote to them, he wanted them to know that following Jesus was worth whatever trial they were facing. He wanted them to know who Jesus is, what He offers, and how following Him changes every aspect of their life for the good. In the beginning of Peter’s first letter, there are three things he speaks of that reveal how Jesus changes everything. It is these three things that remind us what Christmas is truly all about. 

First, Jesus changes everything by giving living hope. 1 Peter 1:3 tells us that God’s mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, there is nothing too great that He cannot conquer. For those who have embraced Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, there is a hope He brings to our hearts that is not dead, but is alive. Jesus gives us living hope.

For many, the Christmas season can be difficult. Some people, like my family, have lost a loved one, and this time of the year brings great grief. The only encouragement and joy we have comes from the fact that we will see our Christian loved ones again. Because of what Jesus has done, not even death can overcome or separate us from one another. Christians have a living hope because we serve the Living God. I pray we never forget that!

Second, Jesus changes everything by giving an eternal inheritance. Peter also wrote in his letter that, in Christ, believers receive an eternal inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” He went on to say, “In this, rejoice, though now for a little while you have been grieved by various trials.” This is a great encouragement to any Christian who is struggling. For the Christian, this world is as bad as it will ever get. God’s eternal Kingdom is much greater and much more excellent than anything we could ever imagine. Christians can rejoice in their trials because their trials are producing for them an inheritance that will never fade or perish.

Finally, Jesus changes everything by giving inexpressible joy. Peter went on to say, “Though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him, and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible…” It is as if Peter was saying, “Yes, you will have to suffer for a while, but it’s worth it. Keep your eyes on Jesus and He will fill your life with inexpressible joy! Not cheap happiness, not fleeting emotionalism, but deep-rooted joy that only comes in Christ.” This Christmas season, do not pursue joy, pursue Christ, who will bring you joy. Life can be hard, overwhelming, and stressful, but God wants to fill your life with His presence, and as the Psalmist said, “In His presence, there is fullness of joy.”

As you ponder this, remember that Jesus changes everything. He gives us a living hope, the promise of eternal inheritance, and a joy that is inexpressible! Merry Christmas!

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Psalm 23 is perhaps the most known Psalm in the Bible, and the most known verse in that chapter is probably verse four which says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” This verse brings tremendous comfort to Christians who are dying, family members who have lost a Christian brother or sister, and those believers who are walking through hard times on this earth.

If you studied Psalm 23, you would learn that everything in the six verses of this Psalm stems from verse one, which says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” As you might know, sheep are really helpless animals. They are totally dependent on the shepherd to lead, care for, and protect them. This why the Bible compares Christians to sheep. Left to ourselves, we can do nothing. The good news is, if we belong to the One who is self-sufficient, inexhaustible and utterly unchanged by time, we will lack nothing. God, the all-sufficient One, is sufficient for us. This is the main point of the Psalm, that with God, we have all we need. 

As I looked at Psalm 23:4, there were four things that stood out to me. I pray they encourage you as they have me. 

First, Christians will walk through valleys. I like what C.H. Spurgeon says, “To walk, here, indicates the steady advance of a soul which knows its road, knows its end, resolves to follow the path, feels quite safe, and is therefore perfectly calm and composed. The dying saint is not in a flurry, he does not run as though he were alarmed, nor stand still as though he would go no further, he is not confounded nor ashamed, and therefore keeps to his pace.” When I read this, it reminded me that the Christian, who truly walks with God, is not in a hurry nor a standstill, but moves at the right pace, with the right faith, and keeps the right perspective. There should be no alarm for the Christian. That is not to say that Christians will not have struggles, for we will, but rather that as we walk with the Lord in this life, we grow stronger and deeper in the faith with the One who walks with us. 

Second, Christians should fear no evil. The Psalmist does not say, “Walking in the valley, but through the valley.” That is a very important prepositional difference. To get to the “light,” if you will, you and I must walk through the valley of darkness. The truth is, knowing what awaits you when you die helps you understand how to live. This is why Christians can “Fear no evil.” Psalm 23:4 does not call it the valley of death, but the valley of the “shadow” of death. Why? For the Christian, in the valley, death in its substance has been removed, and only the shadow of it remains. Someone has wisely said that when there is a shadow there must be light somewhere, so we will either focus on the shadow or the light. I love what C.H. Spurgeon says, “Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot stop a man’s pathway even for a moment. The shadow of a dog cannot bite; the shadow of a sword cannot kill; the shadow of death cannot destroy us. Let us not, therefore, be afraid. Death is but a shadow, and the valley is simply something we walk through.”

Third, when Christians fear, they must remember God is near. As you probably know, one of the most used commands in the Bible is “fear not,” or “do not fear.” Since God knows we are prone to fear, He reminds us over and over why we are not to live in fear. It is in the valley where we have questions. Questions like, “Is God still in control? Is evil going to harm me? Will I be swept away?” It is in these moments we must remember that there is only a shadow in the valley, and our God is greater than anything we face. Jesus is the Light of the world, and the Shepherd’s presence is the answer, the remedy to our fear. Jesus, our Great Shepherd, traveled through the valley of the shadow of death and came out triumphant on the other side, and so too shall we.

Finally, God provides what we need in the valley. The Psalmist says, “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” The Shepherd will protect, defend, and lead us! We are, therefore, safe in every possible way. God defends us and walks with us down every road, including the roughest ones. We need God in death,because He is the only One who gives us eternal peace and eternal hope. We also need Him in life, because life can feel like death, and He helps us overcome all we face. Truly, He is all we need, and because we have Him, we lack nothing.

Jesus is King!

Isaiah 9:6 says, “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Psalm 145:13 says, “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and your dominion endures throughout all generations.”

I wrote this article yesterday, on the eve of the United States Presidential Election. I have no idea what the outcome will be today. As I sit here and think about what is to come, I am mindful of all the different emotions many people are experiencing today. There are some who are fearful, anxious, and nervous. Others are hopeful, eager, and excited. There are also many who are a mixture of those things, or experiencing other emotions and attitudes I did not mention. No matter what you are feeling, my ultimate desire is that we would all be prayerful, and at peace, as we seek to truly trust the Lord with the outcome.

Due to not knowing the outcome at this moment, there is a certain joy and freedom I have in writing this article. I can say things that no one can misinterpret because my thoughts are not tied to who won the election. What I would like to do in these few short paragraphs, is encourage you with what has encouraged me. Even if your desired candidate does not win, there is hope, peace, and joy you can still have. These are the things that I have chosen to center on, regardless of the outcome.

First, God is the One who is really in charge. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God is above us and beyond us. He is in control. Throughout history, kings and presidents have come and gone, but God remains the same. From cover to cover, God raises up kings and brings them down. They are but pawns in the hands of our good and sovereign God. While man thinks he is in charge, that mentality could not be further from the truth. As the great C.H. Spurgeon once said, “Not a blade of grass moves without God’s permission.” Dear friends, regardless of who the president is, God is in complete control. Rest in that beautiful reality today.

Second, God does what is for our good and His glory. As Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” If you love God and are seeking Him, then no matter what you face, God will use it for your good, and ultimately His glory. That does not always mean our circumstances will be good, but God can use even not good events to accomplish very good things. All we have to do is trust Him. Remember, you and I exist for God. He does not exist for us. However, because He is so loving and good, He even takes hard, unpleasant, and unwanted things and turns them into useful things when we trust Him. No matter what you are feeling today, give it all to God and watch Him turn it for good.

Third, God calls us to pray for those in authority. 1 Timothy 2:1-3 says, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet life, godly, and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.” No matter who and no matter what, we are to pray for our elected leaders. Today, stop and pray for our local, state, and national leaders. God has allowed them to be in the positions they are in, and He asks us to pray for them.

Finally, God’s people are a part of a Kingdom not of this world. At the end of the day, Christians have to remember that this world is not our home. Our final destination is the New Heaven and New Earth, where we will enjoy our great God and King forever and ever. While we are on this earth, we should seek to make a difference, but we should not get too wrapped up in it, for we are just passing through. Revelation 21 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…He will dwell with them and they will be His people…He will wipe every tear away from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anywhere, for the former things have passed away.”

This week, trust the Lord. Rejoice in Him. Pray for those in authority. Rest in God’s goodness and sovereignty. He is in control and Jesus is King!

Impossible Giant

We are facing overwhelming circumstances in our world right now. Every day we wake up, it is like we are climbing a new Mt. Everest. We are seeing a rise in COVID-19, political unrest, economic turmoil, moral compromise, injustice, racism, rioting, and many other kinds of civil unrest. It is also a Presidential election year, and opinions are flying high. What are we to do? How do we handle such adversity? How do we conquer what appears to be an impossible giant?

The answer is this. We look to the timeless and perfect Word of God. In the Old Testament, there is a famous story about David and Goliath where a simple shepherd boy slays an incredible giant. The point of the story is not that, given the right confidence, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. Nor is the main point about defeating your enemies and overcomingthe giants in your life. The entire point of this famous story is about defending and honoring God’s name and glory. This was a spiritual battle more than it was a physical battle. In fact, the real menacing giant in this story is the unbelief that dominates the heart of Israel, which causes them not to trust in their God. God, through David, shows us how to overcome impossible giants. Here are three applications.

First, honoring God is first and foremost is about the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that man looks on the outside, but God looks at the heart. From a human standpoint, you do not pick a guy like David to fight a giant. From God’s standpoint, this is exactly who you pick, because David trusted deeply in his God. David is not the hero of this story, God is! God is always the hero and God chose to make His name great through His choice servant. When David shows up in the story, he reminds Israel, not of the size of the giant, but of the size of their God. Understanding this makes all the difference in the world and in our lives. The starting point in every aspect of our life is not our ability, our faith, our obstacles, or our giants! God, who He is and what He can do, is always the starting point and everything flows from that reality.

Second, honoring God in the big ways starts by being faithful in the small. David was always in the right place at the right time. Remember this, being used of God in big ways is simply the result of being faithful to God in countless little ways. You might not think that the little acts of faith you do on a daily basis are significant, but they are! David’s genuine and routine faith prepared him for a moment and a giant bigger than he could have ever imagined. Never underestimate the power of small acts of faith. They are merely the preparation for greater acts of faith!

Third, honoring God will rarely be easy. David faced an enemy from Philistia, but he also faced some enemies among his own people and family. His brothers were hard on him, his fellow countrymen mocked him, and many others doubted him. When David should have been getting support and encouragement from those closest to him, he received contempt and negativity. David was trying to walk by faith and let the living God make Himself known, and apparently everyone else had forgotten that. We know that David took five smooth stones from the river and approached the giant. A simple shepherd boy slung a stone, struck the giant, and he fell dead. The point is, God can do more with a stone than any man can do with a sword!

Finally, honoring God is all about looking to Jesus! All of mankind stands in a similar situation to Israel, in need of a representative to save us from the menacing and crippling giant of sin. The biggest giant in all of our lives is alienation from God. Just like Israel, we find ourselves feeling hopeless and defeated, hiding in our own tents, and trusting in our own resources. All of which have no power over the giant of sin. What we need is a greater David to come to our rescue and defeat the giant of sin and death on our behalf. Guess what? We have such a representative. His name is Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “He who knew no sin, became sin on our behalf, so that in Jesus, we might become the righteousness of God.” We have a risen and conquering King, who has made a way for us to be forgiven of our sin and made right with God. All we have to do is look to Him.

This week, remember this. Because Jesus took out the real giant in our lives, we can bravely face all other lesser giants such as fear, stress, doubt, worry, etc. Truly, in Christ, we are more than overcomers and in Him we have victory in this life and in the life to come!

What Needs to Go

I am currently preaching a two-part series called, “Different: “What Needs to Go and What Needs to Stay.” The world we live in has changed and changed us. We are all different now. We have different schedules, abide by different rules, face different circumstances, and experience different emotions. What are we to do? How can we adjust to what is different and be different for the better? Personally, I think we do that best by evaluating what needs to go and what needs to stay.

In Colossians 3:5-10, we see some things God tells us that need to go. There are three things Christians must let go of, if we are to be different and make a difference in this world.

First, being different requires dying to sinful passions. Colossians 3:5 says that we are to put to death that which is earthly in us. What are those things we are to die to? Sexual immorality, impurity, evil passion, and greed. Every single day, often every minute of every day, there is a battle between our flesh (old, sinful nature) and Spirit (new, spiritual nature). A Christian’s new life in Christ requires putting sin to death so that we can really live. Sin promises life, but actually brings death, and we are to put to death that which seeks to destroy us. The list of sins the Bible gives us in Colossians 3:5 is not all exhaustive, but does speak to putting to death the evil desires and passions in our heart. As theologian John Owen once said, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”

Second, being different requires displacing sinful postures. Whereas passion speaks more to desire, posture speaks more to attitude and disposition. In Colossians 3:8-9, the Bible tells us what our posture should not be and what attitudes and actions we need to displace. We are told to put away anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive and profane speech, and lying. Again, this is not an all exhaustive list, but a reminder that our posture should not be one of hate and division, but rather love, honesty, and peace. Simply said, Christians should be known for pure, helpful, honest, and edifying speech. Can you imagine what things would look like if we actually spoke that way to all people? To do so requires displacing sinful attitudes and words.

Finally, being different requires discarding sinful practices. The result of sinful passions and sinful postures is sinful practices. Colossians chapter three helps us see this by saying, “Put off (discard/throw away) the old self with all its practices, and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” This is a beautiful image. Salvation produces a two-sided obligation for believers: negatively, they must throw off the garment of the old, sinful lifestyle, and positively, they must put on the garment of the new, spiritual lifestyle. A Christian’s new life in Christ is all about being conformed to the image of the One who created them, which first requires recognizing the evil things that need to go. In my next post, I will write about what needs to stay.

This week, do some self-evaluation. What passions, postures, and practices do you need to let go of in your life? Today, and every day, seek to love God and love others, and do so by letting go of things that take you away from doing those two things. Christians…let’s be different and make a difference!

Leading Under Trial

In February of 2020, I preached a series of messages on leadership. Once again, I had no idea how timely these messages would be, and as I preached them, I had no idea what trial would be coming to our world. In this series. I looked at various leaders who modeled for us how to lead in different ways. These were biblical characters who had different personalities, experienced different circumstances, lived in different time periods, and faced different challenges. I attempted to show the tremendous qualities each of these leaders possessed, and hopefully caused Christians to think about the kind of leaders we are.

In that series, I did not pick the leaders you would normally think about (other than one). The sermons were not on the more visible leaders our minds tend to gravitate toward, people like Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, etc. I purposefully chose more unassuming leaders to show diversity in the church, and how God uses all kinds of people to accomplish His purposes. I truly believe each Christian is a leader in some form or fashion, but they do not have to lead like everyone else. God has wired each person uniquely and specifically gifted them to lead right where He has placed them.

I began that series by looking at Joseph. Joseph is a hero in so many ways. His life is such an example and encouragement. If you have ever wondered how God can use your life, family, trials, difficulties, etc., you must look at the life of Joseph. Joseph came from a very dysfunctional family. He faced unique hardships. He was one of the youngest of his brothers, but favored specifically by his father. His brothers were jealous of him, his mother died giving birth to his youngest brother, and his overall circumstances were less than ideal. As I studied his life, he was a man who learned how to lead under trial. Here are five things I have learned from this life.

First, to lead under trial, you must cling to the promises of God. God gave Joseph a dream when he was seventeen years old, a promise Joseph would have to cling to time and time again. As Joseph shared this promise with his brothers, they grew jealous of him and betrayed him by selling him into slavery. Joseph never wavered in his belief. He trusted in what God had said to him.

 Second, to lead under trial, you must believe God is in control. Joseph’s faith was tested. As my father says, “A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.” As we walk with God in this life, our faith will be stretched. If we are going to endure in this life, we must truly believe that God is holding this world and our lives together. Joseph is an incredible example to us.

Third, to lead under trial, you must resist temptation. After Joseph was sold into slavery, an influential man named, Potiphar, took notice of him. God was always uniquely with Joseph and gave him favor before people. Joseph was promoted and made into a leader under Potiphar’s direction. One day, Potiphar’s wife made an inappropriate advance at Joseph. Joseph refused and this angered Potiphar’s wife. She falsely accused Joseph and he was thrown into prison for many years, but he remained faithful to God.

 Fourth, to lead under trial, you must remember that God sees you and is with you. Over and over in the story of Joseph, God’s Word says, “And the Lord was with Joseph.” When Joseph was in the pit, God was with him. When he was promoted, God was there. When he was thrown into prison, God came to him and strengthened him. Even when we feel forgotten, we must always remember, we are never forgotten by God. He is always with us.

Finally, to lead under trial, you must be controlled by Christ. As I have said before, “What consumes you, controls you.” In order to lead under trial, we must be consumed and controlled by Christ. While in prison, Joseph remained faithful. God gave him the ability to interpret dreams and Joseph found himself before Pharaoh. Joseph interpreted a dream for Pharaoh and he was promoted to second highest position in the land.

One day, Joseph’s brothers returned to Egypt to get food because of the famine in the land. They had not seen Joseph in fifteen years. Instead of getting even with his brothers, Joseph forgave them and said, “What you meant for evil, God used for good.” Joseph is such an example of how we walk by faith and lead under trial. Today, let us live and lead like Joseph, fully trusting God to accomplish His will.

If you would like to listen to the sermon I preached on Joseph, click here.

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