Thursday, June 24, 2010

Where would I be without the Lord?

This post is a bit of a departure from the norm. Typically I don't post things about my life, simply Scriptural posts. This will be a bit of a hybrid of the two.

At 10pm Friday my daughter will turn five years old. Now, I celebrate her life and the life of my son every day. They are a tremendous blessing and gift to me from God. He has chosen to give them to me to steward them towards Him. I celebrate each one of them daily, but this birthday is especially meaningful to me. When Preslee was three years old, through a LONG set of circumstances, she had to have a full body MRI done to assess how her shoulder was injured... Well the shoulder ended up being slightly fractured but it was so minor that it could barely be detected.

In that process we were told that she possibly had a condition known as White Brain Matter Disease. Now, I've never researched it online (at the advice of the doctor), but from what he told us that day, it is a cruel disease that is rare but is deadly and has no known cure. We were also told how it would manifest itself and that it would take her life within 1 year. He wanted to run blood tests to be more certain that this was in fact what she had because he wasn't entirely sure. By this time though all I was hearing was that my baby was going to be taken from me. He rushed the order to draw the blood so we could start the process as quickly as possible. Immediately Meg and I were calling upon every Christian we knew to pray and pray fervently for my little Preslee.

They drew the blood a couple of hours later and sent us home telling us we'd have to wait 1-6 weeks for results. I waited one day and then began calling the doctor every day for one week until finally they had completed the testing.

Of course during this time, as you can imagine, Meg and I were devastated. No, devastated doesn't even begin to describe what we felt. Only someone who has been through a similar or worse situation can understand this.

I cried myself to sleep night after night. Always pleading with God to please spare her this disease. If He was willing, to heal her. I would hold her as she slept and rock her and cry and pray and pray and cry.

God answered my prayers immediately as I prayed and studied the Word over that week. He assured my heart as He did Paul in 2 Corinthians 12. He reminded me that His Grace was sufficient. He reminded me that Preslee was not my child. She was His. He made her. (Psalm 139) And it was His to do or allow as He saw fit.

I altered my prayer. I began pleading still of course that He would heal her. But also that if He chose not to heal her that He would supply my family with His Grace and care to see us through the whole process.

You're probably wondering how it turned out... well, after a grueling week that felt like a million years the nurse checked the status and reported that in fact the tests had all come back. They had all come back NEGATIVE for the disease!

The Doctor was baffled. I knew full well, as did my wife and family, exactly what had happened. God had healed my daughter. My legs buckled and I fell back into my office chair. I asked her again to repeat what she'd said and to make sure it was the proper results. She double checked. It was true! She was healthy!

I can't begin to express in a blog how joyous I was. I ran out of my office and drove home quickly to tell Meg. Now we were both overjoyed but we hadn't told Preslee anything about any of it and so Preslee was confused as to why Meg and I were now crying tears of joy and hugging her and her brother tightly all the while thanking God for His Mercy and Grace.

Reflecting tonight on the whole thing. I am especially thankful for this passing birthday because from those doctors point of view I would not even have my sweet precious little Preslee any longer today. And as it is in the Bible, so it is in our life, some of the most beautiful words ever, BUT GOD! BUT GOD, in His divine and sovereign perfect will chose to heal my daughter. I still have her and He has kept both children healthy. I can't thank Him enough because I know parents who've lost their children suddenly. I won't even pretend to understand what that feels like but I know that it must be worse to actually lose one than to just be told you are going to lose one. If being told you are going to lose a child is a small sampling of the feeling of actually losing one.. well I can't begin to understand what they go through, nor will I pretend to. But I will pray harder for them as they cope.

As I think about the whole ordeal I can't help but observe that were it not for Christ in my life, I would not have been able to have even dealt with the thought of losing Preslee, or Spencer for that matter. Or my lovely wife or any family member.

I find myself in Peter's place in John 6 asking, Lord... where else would I go but to you? Whom else would I follow? The answer: No one, for there is no other name under Heaven by which we are saved. No false God provides mercy, grace, eternal peace and joy... only Jesus Christ.

If not for the sustaining Grace of God, I would be utterly hopeless on all levels.

When did God heal my daughter? I don't know exactly obviously, but it does not escape my attention that it likely happened sometime between the MRI scan that morning, the results, and the blood work a few hours later. Could it have happened after the blood work and God supernaturally altered the blood tests sometime over the week and changed the outcome? Sure He could, He's God and He can do whatever He jolly well pleases. But I am more inclined to think that it was God reacting to the fervent prayers that went up from so many for my daughter that moved Him to act on her behalf in a healing way in that three hour span between the results of the MRI and the subsequent blood work.

The doctor told us in that if the disease had not manifested itself before age 4, then Preslee was indeed in the clear. Well, my healthy happy little girl turns 5 tomorrow and not a trace or sign of the WBMD is anywhere to be found.

Praise GOD from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, the maker and sustainer of all things, upon whom we live and move. Upon whose very Word we are dependent for life. Praise Him for His all sustaining Grace that would have carried my family through had Preslee not been healed, but that same sustaining Grace moves me still to bow before Him in humble adoration of a Good and Holy God.

Does God still heal? You bet He does. But whether He does or not, is He still a good and loving God? You bet He is. A God whose Grace is sufficient, whether He answers our prayers in the way we ask them or not.

I hope this encourages or helps or at least gives a little insight into my heart and my God.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Q&A - Love languages

I received an email question from a friend. Each week this guy takes part in a men's discipleship group. Recently a new guy has been coming and has been talking about something called 'words of affirmation' and how that has improved his relationship with his son. The question in the email was, is this a word of faith doctrine? is it false? what is it!? The questioner was also curious as to whether or not he was being too critical of the man's statement.

Well without knowing the guy or the context the only time I've heard about words of affirmation was when I was reading Gary Chapman's 'The Five Love Languages' book. So assuming that this was what this man meant by it, that's how I answered the question. Enjoy???
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Well I don't know of any WoF doctrine called words of affirmation. It actually sounds like he's been reading a book called 'The Five Love Languages of Teens' by Gary Chapman. Chapman wrote this as a follow up to his best selling book 'The Five Love Languages'. The latter was more geared for adult relationships. The former was bent towards improving your relationship with teens.

It is a Christian book more or less. Basically Chapman says that there are five love languages and we all speak them. We do though have an order in which we speak them. The five languages are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, Physical Touch. In the book he first has you take an assessment to see what your primary language is that you speak and which one is the primary one you receive.

For example, some people are really good at discerning when someone needs to hear an encouraging word. Now, granted we are all called to do it, but some folks are just way more perceptive at picking up when someone needs to hear it and they speak those words well. (The best way of course is if they are scriptural words of encouragement). For those folks, words of affirmation are probably their primary 'language'. But that same person may best receive love in their life by the quality time they get to spend with their loved ones.

Basically the 5 languages are the ways we want our loved ones to show love to us. In other words, some people receive the language words of affirmation. Meaning that to feel loved they need to hear that people love them.

He points out that we speak the language we want to receive but our kids, for example, may be wired to receive a different 'language' than we speak. So because we love them we need to be aware of that need in them and make attempts to speak that language to them. So not a big problem with it per se.

So what do I think of the whole deal? Well it can help improve a relationship. It can help parents better communicate with their children and husbands with their wives. However, if the whole thing isn't being done so that the Gospel can be better communicated and Christ can be better Glorified by our words and actions, so that we are better living out what God calls us to be as Christians, then it is all for naught.

It's been a while since I read the books so I don't recall how Christ centered it was, BUT, I don't remember anything that just made my blood boil either. As with anything, tools like that book can be very helpful. But if they are used in place of Scripture or they are used as a means to an end instead of a clearer focus on Scripture and Christ-glorification, then they are a waste of time.

Are you being too critical? Depends. ha... If this guy is relying on this rather than Scripture, then no, you are dead on. If he attributes the relationship fix to this and not to God using the 'love languages' as a tool, then no, you are dead on. But if he acknowledges that ultimately God is working in their relationship and that the love languages thing is just a tool that has helped them to identify more of how God has fearfully and wonderfully made them, then give him some slack. Just listen to him with a discerning ear (Acts 17:11). And when, or if, you hear something that is errant get him to explain further and if it is in fact errant, then reprove him with gentleness and love but full of truth.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Make WAR against your sin...

How do we fight against sin?  We name it for what it is.  We need to recover a Holy hatred for sin.  Here in a world that is ever-increasingly hostile towards Christianity we need to see sin for what it is.  That is pride.  Pride that tells us that we know better than God and prompts us to choose our own way over His.


An inadequate view of your own sinfulness is spiritually debilitating.  So I want to give you some practical and Biblical principles that will aid you as you grow in Holiness and as things inevitably tempt you or test your faith.


1.) Don’t underestimate the seriousness of your own sin.  This is the very reason that most people tolerate sin in their lives and give in to temptations.  If they saw sin as God sees sin, they could not continue to live indifferently to it.


Sin violates God’s holiness, it brings His discipline, it destroys our joy, and it causes death.  Jeremiah Burroughs said that “even the smallest sin contains more evil than all the torments of Hell.”


The more you understand your own sin, the more you will appreciate God’s grace and the more you’ll treasure Christ.


2.) Purpose in your heart not to sin.  Daniel 1:8 - But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; …


Daniel’s refusal to eat the King’s food had nothing to do with the consumption of rich food or wine.  There were two problems with the King’s menu.


1.) It must have included foods that were restricted by Mosaic Law.

2.) The meat had probably been dedicated to idols and false Babylonian gods.  To eat it would be to recognize or confess that you believe in those idols.


Daniel chose to let God be his influence.  He purposed in his heart that he would trust in God and not the world.  So many times the world offers what people think is best when in reality it is only more distractions and deceptions from Satan.


Daniel was influences by what he had learned from the Word of God.  He knew that what the world offered would defile him and so he chose to trust the Lord even though it would go against all popular opinion and open him up for persecution.


Look at what Ephesians 4:17-24 tells us about how a right influence of Christ helps us respond to testing and temptation.  So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,  18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;  19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.  20 But you did not learn Christ in this way,  21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,  22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,  23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,  24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.


You need to make a solemn vow in your heart to oppose all sin in your life.  All temptation.  One of my favorite Christian Hip-Hop songs is called ‘Make War’ by Tedashii.  In it he talks about our walk with Christ being walked in obedience to Christ.  Making war against lust, pride, hate… all sin in our lives.



Psalm 119:106 - I have sworn and I will confirm it, That I will keep Your righteous ordinances.


Unless you have that serious a determination in your life, you will find that becoming entangled in sin will be a very easy thing to do.


In fact, it is that type of boldness and earnest heart that is at the root of all holy living.  Until you make that kind of conscious commitment to following Christ, you’re going to continue to battle the same sins over and over and over.


3.) Don’t rely on your own strength for this, but God’s.  To truly pursue holiness requires that we take action on what we’ve purposed in our hearts.  Any action we take must be taken in the power of and under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  We cannot rely on our own strength.


We are called to mortify our sin.  It is the painful and effective discipline of rooting out and putting to death sin in our lives.


Romans 8:12-13 - So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—  13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.


Colossians 3:5 - Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.


You need to resist the first hint of an evil desire.  Don’t toy with sin.  James 1:15 - Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.


The time to stop sin is at its conception, not after it has been born grown legs and is running rampant through your life.


1 Peter 2:11-12 - Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.  12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.


Proverbs 3:5-8 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.  6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.  7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.  8 It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.


God blesses obedience.  Not necessarily with financial prosperity or calm existence, but with refreshment and an unexplainable joy and peace in our soul that can only come from trusting in Jesus as our Living Hope!  A peace and hope that we can only have in Jesus because our sins, our infinite transgressions against a Holy God, have been forgiven and that we will one day be with Him in Glory even though life on earth will be hard.


1.) Let Christ be your image that you pursue.  Colossians 1:27 - to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.


2.) Live by one standard, the standard of God.  We find that standard in His Word.  Daily check your life out against the Scriptures and pray that God continue to renew and transform you. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Guest Blogger: Melanie Gatlin - Secular music and my pursuit of Godliness

Melanie Gatlin is a young lady that I had the honor and privilege of having in my student ministry during my time at First Baptist Graham.  She frequently amazes me with just how much God is using her and growing her in holiness to be more conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ.

There came a point in Melanie's walk with Christ where God clearly convicted her to rid her playlist and CD case of secular music.  She was obedient and the fruit produced as a result has been apparent.  I talk about folks needing to rid themselves of these type of things frequently but with teens I know that sometimes it helps if this comes from a peer.  Someone their age and someone who is facing the same pressures that they are.  The following is a blog I asked Melanie to write.  It is essentially her testimony on why she felt so convicted and the results of it.  Thanks for guest blogging for me Melanie!

Enjoy,
j

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It's funny that Jason asked me to write this when he did. Coming up this month is my 3-year anniversary of giving up secular music. Also, during the past week, in the midst of chewing on what all I wanted to say in this, God started a conversation among a few friends and myself about secular music. Becuase of this conversation, I got a refresher on the excuses I gave and the ones I now hear all the time when this topic comes up.

I'm not trying to make myself look better or more Godly than anyone else. And I'm not trying to condemn anyone who listens to secular music. I don't believe it's a sin to listen to secular music. When I used to listen to it, it wasn't a sin for me. However, when God began to tell me to rid my life of it and I didn't obey, the secular music then became a sin in my life (James 4:17). For example, when God first convicted me to delete any music that didn't specifically glorify Him I said, "okay, Lord". But when the time came to actually do it, it was a lot harder than I expected. I made compromises, only deleting the worst of my music. For about six months I was trapped in the sin of my secular music because God told me to get it out of my life and I didn't listen.
The impact: My walk with Christ has grown. It definitely would have been hindered had I continued to spend my time searching for Godless music just so I could show off to my friends. This sounds lame and like a generic answer, but it is extremely uplifting. In my car, I plug my iPod in and listen to it without any worries about filtering the songs when my little brother is in the car, or when a non-Christian is in the car. Yeah, I am left out of some conversations from time to time and people don't understand why I don't listen to the secular music, but isn't this life all about glorifying the Lord? Isn't that why I am here on this earth? Am I here to be in on all the conversations about the newest, hottest band? This is my only life, my only opportunity to make a stand for Christ.

Every time I'm in my car I am listening to music and singing along. Because of that time in the car, when you add it all up, I spend so much time daily praising Him and glorifying His name. I am not saying all of this to glorify myself and make myself look good. The only reason I even deleted my songs in the first place was because God made it so heavy on my heart that I finally decided to give it a try. It's all because of Him that I am now able to experience Him everytime I get into my car; to Him be all the glory. I can honestly say I don't feel like I'm missing anything by not listening to the music that "everyone else listens to." Instead, what I listen to now uplifts me. Also, because I don't listen to secular music, I don't sing it either. This creates a sort of, I guess "pure" voice between the Lord and myself. It's become like a romantic type of thing, strengthening our relationship. In the same way we save ourselves physically for our spouses, my voice is something I save only for the Lord, making music so much more personal, sincere, and beautiful.

The excuses:

1.) "I'm just singing the song, I don't really pay attention to the lyrics. All I pay attention to is the beat." James 3:10 "Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be." This verse applies 100%. There is no, "I'm just singing the song, I don't really pay attention to the lyrics." Why would you speak not knowing what you're saying? 2 Timothy 2:16. I promise you, whether you are intentionally listening to the lyrics or not, the message the song is sending is leaking into your mind. You can say all day that the lyrics don't affect you, but after listening "only to the beat" of a song say 15 times, you'll still be able to sing it word for word, even if you weren't focusing on the lyrics. I understand, I gave this excuse too. For six months I gave every excuse I could imagine, but after finally submitting, I have experienced a more pure relationship with God than I ever had before.

2.) "He is so talented! I am praising the Lord for the talent God has blessed him with." You're still filling your mind with useless, meaningless things. There are thousands upon thousands of talented, Christian musicians. I promise, God didn't only bless the secular musicians.
 
3.) "I listen to the musical aspect of it and Christian songs aren't all that musical, just lyrical. Besides, I can't get into any of the Christian music, it all sounds the same to me." This may be 2 excuses in one, but nonetheless, it's an excuse. I personally can promise you that there is atleast one band in which you can "get in to". I have 1060 Christian songs in my iTunes alone, just imagine how many more songs there are out there than that! And because God is placing this decision on your heart, I promise He will provide for you accordingly.

I understand giving the excuses, I did it too. I blocked the Lord out for 6 months when He was wanting me to purify my life from secular music. I'm not asking you to completely get rid of secular music, that's all up to God. I just want to plant this seed and let God grow it (1 Corinthians 3:7). From here, it's all up to God to impress the desire upon your heart to purify your iTunes.

 
The benefits of having a pure iPod: the answer is in the subtitle-pure. Listening to only Christian music is the most mind-purifying thing I've ever experienced. Rather than pulling me down or planting unclean thoughts in my head, Christian music uplifts me on a daily basis. I don't regret deleting my secular music, and I haven't regretted it once in the past 3 years.

Also music is no longer an idol for me. When I listened to secular music, I would split up my God time from my music time. I would set aside a time for my music and then maybe ten minutes before bed for God. This separated my day, and I spent much more time saturating myself in the world rather than in God's beautiful presence. But now with Christian music, I don't have to put God on hold when I want to listen to music. When I'm busy driving in my car, I am still praising Him because I have my iPod full of uplifting, God-honoring music. This decision has strengthened my relationship with my Savior.

I don't mean to preach at you, I just want you to hear the benefits of a pure iPod. You should try it yourself. No, you don't have to delete all of your music, but make a playlist of only Christian songs and challenge yourself to listen to only that for a full week. You'll see a difference. If you don't listen to your iPod in the car, change the radio station to a Christian one, I promise you can find one. And if all else fails, just try turning off the secular music altogether, even if you don't have Christian music to replace it. You won't be missing out on anything for those 7 days, trust me. It's been 3 years and not once have I regretted my decision to rid secular music from my life. I pray you'll try it. Oh the wonders God will do when we take a break from the messages the world wants us to hear and just listen to Him.
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