This Thursday we will most likely be celebrating Thanksgiving with family or friends – or both. There are many takes on this holiday. Some come from the perspective of the Pilgrims who came to North America, while others speak of blessings that we have in our lives. For many years I was part of a tradition where after the Thanksgiving meal we would go around the table and say something we were thankful for in our lives. What I endeavor to do today is to look at Thanksgiving from an Evangelical Perspective, i.e. from the perspective of the Gospel.
Let’s begin with a look at where we are first. What I mean by this is the fact that according to the Scriptures we live in a fallen, Genesis three world. Our very first relatives, Adam and Eve, chose to disobey God and rebel. That plunged the world into sin and the subsequent mess caused by death’s unwelcome entrance into God’s creation. If that is not enough, there is also the fact of spiritual death that happened as well. The Bible is clear that we all are dead in trespasses and sins. Here is the stark reality of where every single human being stands before God. We are sinful, spiritually dead, and seriously in danger when we die and stand before God on the day of judgment.
I realize at this point, if you are still with me, that you may be thinking, “THIS is a Thanksgiving article?” It is, but first we have to grasp why we should be thankful. Knowing the truth, even when it is difficult truth to swallow, is key to truly being thankful.
“But God,” is where Paul takes us after learning the difficult truth of our state before God prior to the Gospel. Ephesians 2:4-5 reminds us, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” In a moment of glorious, blindingly brilliant mercy and love, grace steps into our lives. In that wonderful moment God makes someone who is dead in sin, alive in Christ. Let this be a Thanksgiving passage for all of us. Let’s look at what we have to be thankful for, regardless of our current circumstances.
God does this, “being rich in mercy.” Let’s consider that for a moment. God is rich in, “not giving us what we truly deserve.” Consider this past year and take a moment to remind yourself how often you’ve sinned. Even more consider, using the 10 commandments, how much you had sinned prior to His grace saved you. I’ve done this and the 10 commandments alone have yielded knowledge of 10’s of thousands of sins, committed in my actions, thoughts, and attitudes. Yet the reality is that God did not ever break into my life and truly give me what my sins deserved. This “rich in mercy” God lavished the wealth of His forbearance and kindness on me year after year before I was saved, and He continues to pour it out on me even after I’ve been saved. Oh, how thankful I am for the mercy of God!
God also does this, “because of His great love with which He loved us.” God loves you. He loved you before you ever gave a thought of loving Him. He loved and loves you even when you do not love Him. And let us be reminded that love is a selfless action where one chooses to give to another, regardless of whether they ever get anything back. Love is giving what is truly the best to the one loved. Romans 5:8 reminds us that, “. . . God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” When did Jesus die? He died physically outside Jerusalem around year 33 AD, but we should remember that He was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. God’s love has been an eternal reality, something we can be confident of beyond the reach of time itself. This love was never dependent on us doing something to deserve it. Contrary to that, His love was given in spite of what we have done. Paul wrote to the Ephesians that God’s love is a “great” love. God is the One who has “mega-loved” us. The word for love is the Greek word, “megas” from which we get our term, mega. So, remember this Thanksgiving, you’ve been mega-loved this past year. More than this, there has never been any moment in history, and even outside of history where you were not “mega-loved” by God. We should remind ourselves of this as we gather with loved ones this year at Thanksgiving. Go ahead and add it to your prayer around the table. “Thank you, God, for mega-loving us this year, just like you have mega-loved us from before time began, and, just like You will mega-love us forever and ever!
God loved us, “even when we were dead in our transgressions.” Here is another word, “transgressions.” What does it mean? The word means to do something wrong, to willfully disobey someone, and it carries the reality of guilt and consequence. Here is where Thanksgiving “gospel-style” gets REAL! We were sinners who deserved punishment – period. We chose to disobey because we wanted our own way instead of God’s way. This has led to guilt. There was not going to be a plea deal. There was not going to be a technicality. There was not even going to be a pardon from the governor or the president. We were going to be punished, eternally. This is where I am so thankful that this passage began with the phrase, “But God.” This act of mercy. This act of mega-love. This happened when I was a guilty sinner who deserved punishment in the most “slam-dunk” case of all history. It is the same for all of us. To understand where this put us, we also need to understand that this word is the opposite of the word “justify,” which means to declare that someone is righteous or right. We were not right with God, and because of our transgressions, there was no way that we could ever be declared righteous on the basis of our own works or supposed goodness. To say we were doomed is the understatement of all eternity. But . . . even when we were in that state before God, He made us alive together with Christ – by grace we have been saved.
I know it is terrible English – but it is wonderful gospel to say – this is where the Gospel gets even “REAL-ER!” With no hope of ever being declared righteous before God – and – knowing that such a fate means we would be damned immediately on the last day – God chose instead to make us alive together with Christ! That meant that the sin price would have to be paid by another. That meant that we would have to be declared righteous with someone else’s righteousness. And . . . that is exactly what God did. Here is a glorious truth for which we need to be thankful every day of our lives. Even in that horrific state God chose to make us alive, to give us His grace, and to declare us righteous. He provided for this by having Jesus take up our sin, pay the full price for it, and die. He then resurrected Him from the dead. Now, we can be declared righteous, not with our own righteousness, but with one God gives us. He gives us a righteousness by grace through faith, and it will stand forever before Him.
I know that this is a theological article. I also know that our minds will be filled with many messages over the next several days. Thanksgiving preparations, Macy’s Day Parade, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, college football, pro football, basketball tournaments, kids’ presentations, and a host of other things will vie for our attention. But I want to encourage you to take some time and walk through an “evangelical perspective of Thanksgiving.” Do it personally and do it with your family and friends. There are many smaller things for which we should be thankful. We should consider our blessings. But what greater blessing is there than being a recipient of mercy, mega-love, life, and grace? I’ll finish the article with a simple quote from the apostle Paul, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” Happy Thanksgiving precious saints of God!
Strange Resurrection Day Meditation: Why Did David Sin and Israel Get Punished For It? 1 Chronicles 21
How come David sins – and Israel gets punished for it? That is a question that came to me as I was reading 1 Chronicles 21 this morning. It is a good question to ask – and yet, as a person with leadership responsibilities in regard to my wife, my family, a church, and even a ministry at the Pregnancy Resource Center – it is a very sobering one to consider.
The quick answer to this question is simply that anyone who leads has a very large influence over those whom he leads. It is not that his sins are more wicked than others. But it is important to realize that when a leader sins – it has a greater effect because of the influence the leader has on those who are under him.
David’s sin was two-fold in this chapter of 1 Chronicles. First, he numbered God’s people on his own – something only God reserves the right to do. God is the One who calls for any kind of census over His people. When that happens, there must be a ransom payment for everyone who is counted. The amount of that is a half of a shekel.
That is what God commanded in Exodus 30.
The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying, "When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them. This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the LORD. Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the LORD. The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the LORD to make atonement for yourselves. You shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves." Exodus 30:11-16
What is this commandment supposed to mean? It is a very important principle having to do with how we see ourselves. God wanted every count of the people to include a ransom payment – because the only count that is truly going to matter in the end is those who are redeemed by His mercy and grace. This count was only to be done with a view to counting the “atoned ones” in Israel. Note that in this the rich and the poor are to pay alike (an illusion to God’s grace in salvation – all come on the same basis and with the same price of Christ’s blood atoning for their sins). But why would God do this?
Pride. Here is the reason why such a thing was to be done. Any gathering of God’s people – whether they are a nation like Israel or even a church in the present day – has a sinful tendency to number themselves and take pride in how big that number is. We should note that the counting of the church in Acts only was mentioned in regard to those who were being saved. When God refers to a number of people in Corinth – it was only in reference to those who belonged to Him in the city (i.e. those He was going to save there).
David was priding himself – and Israel was taking part in that same sin – by seeing how big they were – and it was not with a ransom payment. There was no reminder that this was God’s doing with His redeemed people. It was solely so David could know how big his army was. It should make us take a step back that even his general, Joab (not exactly known for his godliness) found the request odious in his sight. Oh, and the fact that 1 Chronicles 21:1 starts with the fact that Satan rose up and moved David to number Israel. Yeah, anything that involves being moved by Satan is going to be bad. The sin he was moving David to – PRIDE.
David’s pride was mirrored in Israel – and his descent into pride only was a horrible example for them to follow. Now before you protest too loudly, consider our own nation and the example of 2 presidents (even though the number is probably beyond 2). Currently President Trump is embroiled in a controversy over an adulterous affair that allegedly took place 10 years ago. We also know that President Clinton was adulterously involved with an intern in the Oval office during his presidency. Both of their examples have been horrible to the rest of our nation. The character of those who lead us DOES matter. It DOES matter that they honor their marriage vows. It DID hurt us that they did not. When our leaders dishonor marriage in this way it lowers the view of marriage throughout our nation. This is especially true when their defense of their actions asserted that it does not matter what a man does in his personal life. That cavalier attitude toward a wedding vow – will carry over to the people as they figure that if it is OK for a president to do this – it is OK for me too.
David’s sin cost Israel dearly – in spreading the same attitude of pride and disregard for seeing people in light of the atonement. The physical plague that came upon the nation mirrored the spiritual one that was growing in their hearts. What was interesting was that it ended when God came to the point where the Temple was going to be established. It ended when atonement was made – and that place was where atonement would be made again and again for centuries. It would be THE PLACE where the world would be reminded that God was going to build a people – not on the basis of national identity – but on the basis of a blood atonement.
It is interesting that we were reading this on the day before we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in 2018. What a reminder of the seriousness of sin – the fact that in Adam (the very head of our race) we have sinned. There is a plague that has come from that sin that is here even today. The wages of sin is death – it has been since Genesis 3 through 1 Chronicles 21 – and even to March 31, 2018. The same plague wreaks havoc on the nations – costing them their lives. But there is an answer – just as there was one in David’s day. In the midst of our plague – we see the place where the ultimate sacrifice was made. We see, not an altar of stones, but a cross of wood. We see a lamb – but not a lamb of the flock, but the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. We see a sacrifice – not one to be made again and again – but one made once for all. We see a counting – not one where we count ourselves for the purpose of competing against one another – but a counting of every tribe, nation, people, and tongue before the throne worshipping the Lamb of God.
You see the question is not, “Why was Israel punished for David’s sin?” The real question is this, “Why was Jesus Christ punished for OUR sin?” On this Resurrection Day Eve we should consider the astounding, infinite love of God that allowed His Son to be punished for our sin. Then we should lift our voices to sing the song that will echo through eternity.
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." Revelation 5:12
This past Sunday I was in Nashville and Murfreesboro visiting my children for Thanksgiving. This meant that rather than being the one responsible for what happened on a Sunday morning, I was simply someone attending a church service. That is a rare situation for me - and I want to share something with you about it. I want to offer a warning about the beginning of this article. It will be filled with what may seem like complaints about church this past Sunday. Stick with me though until the end of the article and I hope you will be blessed and challenged.
It is not often that I get to be a visitor and just another saint in the congregation when I go to church. I am a pastor and as such, I am usually responsible for seeking God and putting together what we hope God will use to minister to those who come to Calvary Chapel. These are some of the things I noticed as I entered into the service. First of all it was a little warm in the room (which may have been more due to me being in a sweater - as I always am this time of year - rather than due to the heat being turned too high). Nevertheless, I was very warm in the services. As we began to sing, I only knew one of the four songs we sang. Since I don’t honestly have a style I prefer in church, I didn’t mind the style of the music, but I only knew the song, “10,000 Reasons” during the set. As they did the set of music I could tell that the mix of the sound made it difficult to hear the guitars playing. Then the pastor came up and shared with us from Acts 12. He was young - about 33-35 - and at times he was a little more relevant than reverent for my personal tastes. I did notice these things for a moment or two as I attended the services - but only for a moment.
Now, from the paragraph above it sounds like I had plenty to complain about in this service. I did notice these things because - well because I am a pastor and I tend to notice such things every week if they happen in the services that I lead. But, as I said earlier, I only noticed these things briefly. The reason for this is because something else was dominating my mind, thinking, and attitude that morning. You see, when Sherie and I left for church that morning it was with the intent of experiencing God at the services we we're going to attend. That was my longing as I went to church. I don’t get to go to church and not be responsible for the service. Therefore what I wanted more than anything else was to experience and meet with God. Let me explain to you the way I truly experienced the services outside of a few things I noticed for a moment.
I met friendly people who greeted me and took joy in meeting other saints who knew Jesus and wanted to join with me in seeking the face and heart of God. As we began the worship through music I enjoyed reading the song lyrics which blessed my heart - and I attempted to sing them when I could. I thoroughly enjoyed singing the song “10,000 Reasons” to the Lord with all my heart. I also thought about asking the praise leader where they got their music because it evidently was from a source I didn’t know and might be able to benefit from in the future. When I couldn’t sing due to not knowing the songs, I loved listening to the saints singing to the Lord and entered into their worship as I read along from the words projected on the screen. As the pastor spoke I listened to the Word of God taught - and was blessed greatly as God spoke to me from the Word. There were so many little nugget of truth that I enjoyed very much. During the invitation I was seated praying because of what God had revealed to me that morning. He was working mightily in my heart through what had been shared - and honestly - through some things He brought up in my heart at that time. After the service I stood with Elisha and met some of the people he knew - and loved getting to see Sweat (who is on staff at MTSU with Campus Outreach) for the first time in a long time. I walked away from the service having been truly blessed.
Now, from what I’ve written today I want to share something with all of you. It would have been the easiest thing to allow all that I didn’t personally like about the service to dominate my mind. I could have gone to lunch with my family grousing about how the temp was off - and they didn’t play enough or played too many songs I didn’t like. I could have complained about what I didn’t like about the pastor’s style. Here is why I didn’t. To be perfectly honest with you - I didn’t go to church that morning to see the praise team - or to sing my favorite songs. I didn’t go to make sure that the grounds team kept the auditorium at a good temperature (which being defined means a temperature I like). I didn’t even go to listen to the pastor - or hear a sermon that was put together in a biblically sound but wonderfully creative way. I went to meet with God - to seek His face - to spend time with Him among the saints of God. I went to hear what He had to say - to sing to and adore Him. I went to know His heart and His Word. AND - I went to meet with a group of imperfect saints - who have an imperfect grounds team - an imperfect praise team - an imperfect sound person - an imperfect pastor - and to marvel that God could take all these imperfect people - and minister in a perfect way that my heart needed on November 29th in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. And do you know what happened? I was blessed so very much!
Precious saints of God . . . please hear me. I hope to labor to bring a service where the temperature is right - where we play music that glorifies and honors God - where we mix sound so that you can hear all the various instruments and voices properly - where we sing songs we know and can actively participate in singing - where your pastor labors in study and prayer so that I bring as close to what God wants to be said as is possible on this earth. But - even if we brought you the perfect service every week (which I hope we can all honestly admit is not the case - especially that whole pastor part at the end) - that is not what will bless you. If you come expecting God - wanting Him - and desiring that He speak to you (albeit with imperfect instruments), you will experience Him and be wonderfully blessed. But if you are coming to church wanting the perfect church experience - you will go home most weeks disappointed. Let’s come this and every Sunday seeking the face of God! Let’s come with a longing to both see and hear Him. Let’s come knowing that we will be attending an imperfect church with imperfect leaders and imperfect people - BUT - let’s come knowing that our perfect and glorious God can use all of it to speak - to minister - to bless - and to draw us into His wonderful work in our hearts. And if anything - let’s glory in the fact that He does not need everything to be perfect in order to bless us weekly. We will still labor to offer Him something worthy of His glory every week - I can promise you that the hearts of those who lead us weekly beat in that way. But - let’s come to experience Him!
For the next couple of weeks I want to take a few moments to reiterate some very important principles by which we want to live and minister at Calvary Chapel. One might even call these things core principles and values that we hold.
This first of these core values we have is that we believe that there is only one way for sin to be forgiven - and that is through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures state this fact numerous times.
Jesus *said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6 (NASB)
"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12 (NASB)
"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." John 3:36 (NASB)
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NASB)
Therefore we hold as one of our core values that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only means by which anyone can have their sins forgiven and be made righteous in the sight of God. We also hold that this salvation is through Jesus Christ alone, through faith alone, by grace alone. It is not Jesus Christ and baptism (which is the error of baptismal regeneration). It is not Jesus Christ and the church (and by that I mean ANY church - even ours).
Permit me to unpack the rest of that previous statement. We believe that salvation is by faith alone. There are no works that we can do to merit or earn our salvation. Salvation is by faith alone - faith in what Jesus did through His perfect, sinless life - His substitutionary death (meaning He was our substitute on the cross - we deserved what happened there - yet He paid it for us) - and His glorious resurrection, by which God declared that He accepted what Jesus did to pay for sin and make sinners righteous in His sight. Faith is not just mental assent to these facts, but rather is a total commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is a surrender on our part, where we lay down our own works as dead works - and our righteousness as filthy rags. We no longer trust in anything from ourselves - no religious standing or good works can make us righteous in God’s sight. The only thing God will accept for that work is what Jesus Christ did for us.
Finally, let me explain what we mean when we use the phrase, “by grace alone.” This phrase has to do with whether we ourselves can do anything for our salvation. The answer to that is a resounding NO! We cannot do anything for our salvation. It was God alone who chose to save us - we had nothing to do with our salvation. Romans 5 describes God’s grace this way,
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. “ Romans 5:6-8 (NASB)
The Word of God makes it clear that our state before God was that we were, “helpless.” There was nothing we could ever do - no amount of obedience to the Law - no amount of religious works - no amount of religious payments we could make that would ever bring us one millimeter closer to God. We had not just “messed up a little” with our sin. We had, “. . . fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (NASB) Therefore as Ephesians chapter 2 puts it, after painting the bleakest picture possible in verses 1-3 about our condition before God, “but God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions - made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). We believe that we are saved solely because of the grace and infinite mercy of God. Therefore no one may boast of having done anything whatsoever to deserve their salvation. We are infinite debtors to God for His indescribable gift - His marvelous, matchless, incredible grace.
This core value also comes with a core responsibility. We believe because there is salvation in no one else by Jesus Christ, we are responsible to take the gospel of His salvation to the ends of the earth. Our amazing salvation comes with a very real responsibility. If there is only one way of salvation - then all other religious views that do not come to God through Jesus Christ alone, by faith alone, through grace alone - are false. In the end all their religious fervor will amount to nothing - and they will face the wrath and judgment of God. This places on us a very serious task of proclaiming the gospel to every nation, tribe, people, and tongue (which by the way is Scripture). If our core value of belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation, does not lead to a core practice of taking the gospel across the street, across the city, across the state, nation, and world - then we are being very disobedient to the gospel, as well as very selfish toward the rest of the world who desperately need to hear of it.
Saints - we at Calvary Chapel of Jonesboro are very, very serious about the gospel of Jesus Christ and its implications. We know that this Core Value is at the heart of all that we do - and indeed is at the heart of who we are as a church. I urge you to consider what has been said here. Think about it and meditate on what is means - for you - for our fellowship - and for the world around us. If we will not just adopt such a Core Value as a statement of faith - but rather as the “reactor core” of our faith - I believe that God will revive us and begin to move among us in powerful ways. I believe those ways will include a reviving of our own hearts as we embrace the truths of the gospel - and a reviving of our passion for the world around us as we grasp the ramifications of the gospel.
The Utter Uselessness of Spiritual Self Beat-Downs, part 5
Five Questions to Ask to Determine Whether You are in a Spiritual Self Beat-Down
For the last several weeks we’ve been looking at the total worthlessness of engaging in spiritual self beat-downs. This is the last week for this series of articles. In concluding them, I want to give you five things to ask yourself to determine whether or not you are engaging in a spiritual self beat-down or in genuinely constructive fellowship with God.
The first question is this. Is this leading you to confess specific sin to God? One of the hallmarks of a spiritual self beat-down is that specific sin is not being confessed to God. Instead either some sort of spiritual insult of your condition is being rehearsed for your self-non-edification or you are dealing in generalities. An example of this would be God saying you are bad – or that you are a complete failure – or you’re a doofus for doing the things you’ve done. The living God, as He works through the Holy Spirit, convicts of specific offenses. He does not convict in generalities. Therefore, if you are spending your time in generalities or in heaping spiritual insults on yourself, know that this is self working, not the Holy Spirit. If you, on the other hand, are confessing specific sin – saying the same thing God’s Word says about those sins – that is the work of God. Look at the confessions of God’s people in Psalm 51 and in Ezra. As God worked, His people knew the specific ways that they had sinned against God – and were confessing them specifically.
Second question: Is this leading you to turn to God, expecting to be received lovingly by Him? A great example of this is the prodigal son. The father in this story is a type of our heavenly Father. The wayward son had turned to his father already in his heart – admitted to sin within himself – and was on his way to confess his sin to his father. What did he find as he got home? Did he find a father who received him lovingly? Did he find himself shut out and not received? Did he come to his father – only to get the cold shoulder after he confessed his wrongs? What he found was probably pretty shocking. His father was waiting for him – and when he saw him returning, ran to embrace him and greet him. Once he confessed his sin – he didn’t get the cold shoulder. He was lovingly received by his father – who subsequently threw a party celebrating his return. Too often we want to impose on God how we might receive someone else who has hurt our feelings. We hear their confession – but want to make them pay a little more for how they’ve hurt us. That is completely contrary to God’s heart and how He receives repentant sinners. He runs to us and embraces us – already knowing the change in heart that is about to issue forth in a verbal confession of sin. How does He receive us? He does so with rejoicing, with a party to celebrate repentance, and with an embrace that does not require some additional payment commensurate with the annoyance we’ve been in the past. That may be what some humans require – but God responds with grace, forgiveness, and love!
The third question is similar to the second. Is this leading you to experience forgiveness from God? The answer we get from our spiritual self beat-downs is this – eventually. He forgives me – but only after I’ve had a good quiet time. He forgives me – but only after I show that I’m going to be good, by acting right for a few hours, days, weeks, months, etc. What God says is that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. That is what is written in 1 John 1:9 – and God meant it. In the moment we confess our sin – in that moment He has forgiven our sin, no longer counting it against us. He does not hold grudges for our behavior – not even partial ones. His forgiveness and restoration to fellowship are instant! There is no required testing period where we have to behave much better. There is no confession plus penance in doing some religious stuff first. There is just forgiveness – full and complete – the moment we confess sin.
Is this leading you to live in expectancy of God’s blessing? Here is a hard one for most of us. How long after we’ve confessed sin are we in line for God’s blessing? If we see what God says in Scripture – it is immediate. We were out of fellowship due to our sin – but the moment we confess it to God – we are returned to fellowship and the blessing of God. Far too often Christians feel there is a period between getting right and getting back under his blessing. Just as forgiveness is immediate – so is the expectancy of blessing from Him. We cannot make God out to be mad and sullen – refusing to receive and bless us because, even though He has forgiven us – He still is pretty ticked about what we did in the first place. Remember . . . the Father received the prodigal immediately into his blessing – even after all he has done – all he has wasted – and all he did to shame the family name. Boy, you’d think God would make him pay for all this. But the truth of the matter is Christ Jesus paid for ALL OF IT – for ALL PEOPLE! Therefore as we come confessing sin – we are received with all the same astounding grace the prodigal was received.
The last question is this: Is this leading you to enjoy renewed fellowship and intimacy with God? Spiritual self beat-downs do not lead to renewed intimacy or fellowship. They lead to being able to talk – but it is talk where God is distant. He might say something like, “Oh, it’s you – wow, you are actually coming to talk to me?” There are numerous other ways we sadly impose ourselves on God with how we’ve been treated or treat others when we are offended or sinned against. We need to grasp something. God is NOT sarcastic with us! He does not take the “poor pitiful me” stance where He reacts with passive aggressive statements. This is a very sinful and sad representation of Him and His glory. He provided a payment for the full price of your sin. Because of this – and this alone – He hears your confession, forgives your sin, and restores you to full, complete, loving fellowship with Himself. That means that He will once again embrace intimacy and gracious fellowship with you – without you sitting in spiritual time-out for an hour or two after your confession.
What is the hallmark of God’s dealing with us when we’ve sinned? It is this – mercy and grace. First, He does not give us what we truly deserve for our sins. Second, He gives us what He Himself purchased with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ – GRACE! You may not want to give yourself grace as you come near Him to confess your sins. Know this though – that is your issue, not His. He hears, forgives, and restores – all by the grace that comes through Jesus Christ. Learn to receive that and humble yourself as His astounding love overwhelms you in its generous graciousness!
Greetings in the name of our gracious Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that this article finds you growing in grace – even in the midst of times when you struggle with sin and lose. Actually, that is when I hope you grow the most in grace – because the other option is truly one that is empty and meaningless.
So, what do you do when you sin? I am not asking what sin you committ, I am asking what you do when it is clear that you have sinned. Do you run to the Lord to make it right – or better said – to receive forgiveness and grace to change? The reason I ask this is that unfortunately there are those of us who think that a little time in self-punishment is in order first. You know what I am talking about. It is when we take time to truly “beat ourselves up” for what we’ve done by sinning against God. Let me illustrate. The reason that I can is that I have a tendency to practice this meaningless religious rite.
I’ve sinned against God in something I’ve done. My next step SHOULD be to run to God – confessing my sin. But a little more often than I am comfortable admitting (but I guess I just did), I take a trip to spiritual self-deprecation mountain for a ride on the “beat-down master,” a ride known for its ability to pummel its riders mercilessly. The weird thing about this ride is that the beat down does not come from a source outside of the one riding it. The beat down is self inflicted. The rider takes it upon himself or herself to inflict as much guilt and shame upon themselves as possible. Here are some of the things I’ve heard while on this less than enjoyable ride.
“I can’t believe I did that again!”
“You are so stupid to sin against God!”
“I’m awful – just awful for doing that!”
“What was I thinking?!”
“I don’t deserve to be a Christian!”
“Maybe I am not a Christian – if I do this?”
“God is so mad at me – bet He doesn’t even like me anymore. I know right now I sure don’t like myself!”
These are a few of the choice statements I’ve heard others (and honestly have said myself) while on the “beat-down master ride. Oh, by the way, I may have kind of enjoyed the ride – but it has NEVER furnished me one bit of good having ridden it. I get off pretty much like I got on the ride. If anything, it increases my sense of guilt and shame – and more often than not – actually delays me from going to Jesus for what I truly need – forgiveness and grace.
What I truly do need when I sin is a visit to my Savior. I need to follow the counsel of Scripture in 1 John 1:9 where it reads, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Note, there is no mention of giving yourself a spiritual beat-down before you go to Jesus. That is something religion has added to this process. Now, please understand that I am not saying that we do not need conviction of our sin. That is very much needed! But there is a clear distinction between how the Holy Spirit convicts and how we go to extremes in beating ourselves up over our sin. In fact, in a coming week I will share with you several distinctions between the Spirit’s conviction and our contrived beat-downs.
The real problem with spiritual beat-downs is that we are not changing our focus at all. We sin because we get our eyes off the Lord and onto ourselves and the world around us. When we decide to engage in spiritual self-insults and other ways to make ourselves “feel worse” about our sin – guess where our focus still remains? Yep – it remains on us! When we decide to deride the world and bash it for how it crept into our lives – again – we still have our focus off of Christ Jesus and on the world. The best thing we can do for our renewed spiritual health is to get our focus completely off ourselves and the world around us.
Confessing our sins to God involves coming to Him. He is asking (actually commanding) that we come to Him and make a full confession of our sin. We do that by stating what the sin was – as we come to Him and turn from it. Note the sequence in 1 John 1:9. We first come to God confessing our sin. That confession involves saying the same thing about our sin that God says about it. If there is a problem with not being “hard” enough on sin, this is usually where it shows up in this process. What did God’s Word say about your sin? That is what you are to say to God that it is as you make your confession. Don’t come to Him saying that you slipped up – admit that you were angry – filled with rage – that you lusted – you were greedy – you were unkind – you were unforgiving – or any number of things God says is sin. BUT . . . when you’ve done this – take the next step. What is that step?
Believe that God keeps His promise and forgives you! That is the next step in the verse. “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin.” There is a promise of forgiveness – and cleansing from all unrighteousness. Do you take it? That is where it is hard – very hard to humble yourself and receive God’s forgiveness. We think we need to be miserable longer. We want to go through some sort of religious penance that seems worthy of our misdeed. It cannot be as easy as confessing our sin – and receiving God’s forgiveness? But that is exactly what it is. Grace is God’s forgiveness of our sin – at the expense of Christ Jesus. Jesus paid the price on the cross. Therefore there is NOTHING – ABSOLUTELY NOTHING you can do to merit it.
Here is the dirty little secret. We put ourselves through a spiritual “beat-down” because we FEEL like that makes us more “forgive-able.” Let me redefine that last sentence according to truth. We are too proud to actually humble ourselves and admit that we never have been able to – nor will we ever be able to do anything that will merit God’s forgiveness. It is offered to us and given solely and completely by grace! Isn’t that pretty astounding?! No matter whether we are coming to Him for the first time for salvation itself – or we are coming as a Christian for the 10,418th time to confess a sin we’ve committed – the entire matter is accomplished by grace and grace alone. Kinda blows your mind doesn’t it? So, if you have sinned. If you’ve blown it – again! Don’t think for a moment that beating yourself for a while is going to offer you any spiritual help whatsoever. You have one hope and one hope only – that as you come to God – He will receive you, forgive you, cleanse you, and change you by an act of His wonderful grace. That is it.
A Theology of Aging, part 1
The last time I wrote to you, I spoke of the lessons God was teaching me as I care for my mom after her stroke. This is not something isolated to me - many who live into their 40's and 50's will have to walk through a time when their parent's health fails. Some lose their loved ones quickly through a heart attack or massive stroke - but others face the task of loving their closest family members through a much longer, debilitating illness. That is what I may be facing in the weeks and months ahead. It is already what I've faced in the we lost Sherie's mom and my father. So where does God fit in to all this?
As I've walked through this time, I've been thinking about aging. If you see another sunrise - you are participating in aging. It is something we all do in life, but seldom think about unless there is a situation which pressing such a thought into our minds. Before all this happened, the only times I thought about aging was after a workout after a long layoff - or maybe someone's death. Most often we let such thoughts come and go rather quickly. But a debilitating illness brings the issue front and center. Let me share a few things I learned - and maybe lay out a very brief theology of aging.
First of all - aging is a result of the Fall. I am not sure what exactly would have happened with Adam and Eve if they had obeyed God and lived until they were several thousand years old or more. The Fall brought aging and death to the world. Even after that the early ancestors of Adam and Eve lived for hundreds of years - most of them passing 500 or more. It was only after the Flood that God chose to limit man's time on the earth to a hundred years or less. His decree at that time was that He would only strive with man 70 years - and so from that time forward old age was relegated to our 60's through 80's. Those who would live into their 90's were few and even fewer would live past 100. The norm for mankind was exactly what God said in Hebrews 9:27, "It is appointed for man to die once, and then comes the judgment." Any decent theology of aging begins here - because I am not sure that before the Fall aging was going to be an issue. It certainly is not one in heaven, where we will receive a new body that will last for all eternity. Thus the issue of aging is only applicable for those of us who are between birth and death here on earth.
The fact that we are going to age and eventually die is to have its proper effect upon us. The reality of death and an appointed time to face the judgment should turn us to seek God. That is the effect it had in Genesis on men. When Seth had his first son (which was after the death of his brother Abel whom Cain murdered) he named him Enosh. That name means mortal man - and focuses on the mortality of man. It was at that time - and after that name was made known to mankind that ". . . men began to call upon the name of the LORD." There was something about knowing our mortality that awakened mankind to the need to call on the name of the Lord. We needed God - and death woke us up to that truth. That is why Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes that thoughts of our mortality will make us wise. Let's look at those verses in Ecclesiastes 7 for a moment, as we close out our first installment on a theology of aging.
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure. Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 (NASB)
Solomon is not just a depressed old man, as some may think. He spoke wisdom when he wrote these words by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The end of every man is to be in a house of mourning. A wise man knows this and "takes it to heart." He remembers that this life is not just about "this life." We will have to face God when our lives come to an end - and a wise man would consider this fact as he lives out the few days he has on this planet. The rich farmer in the parable of Jesus made his decision without a proper theology of aging and death. His barns were already full when he had another bumper crop. As he thought about what to do, his thoughts turned to what he should do with this additional wealth. His decision was to tear down his existing barns, build new ones, and store his new found wealth so that he would be set for life. What he did not realize was that his life had only one more evening before it was over. God's Word to him was this, "You fool! This night your life is required of you, and what will you do with all this wealth?" His decision was based on a wrong theology of aging. He was about to see his life end - and - he had done nothing to prepare for eternity. He would not enjoy any of his wealth for longer than 24 hours - followed by an eternity in hell. So now how do you feel about Solomon's wise words from God?
The mind of fools is in . . . are you ready for this? It is in the house of pleasure. This man is thinking that the purpose of life is pleasure. Now we need to realize that God wants us to enjoy things. Even Solomon speaks of enjoying the wife of your youth - good food - good friends - and life in general. But - a life lived only for pleasure is a foolish life. Our times of pleasure and fun need to be balanced with times when we consider the end of life - and what is beyond the grave. A wise man thinks about things like eternity - and about what this life is all about. Death and the way it takes everything of this life from us - should make us realize that life is about more than the things of this life. As Solomon says, ". . . this is the end of every man, and the living take it to heart." We are to take to heart the death of family and friends. We are to see that all is not as it should be in this world. In a later chapter of Ecclesiastes Solomon describes the process of aging - and honestly - it isn't very pretty. Very real and truthful - just not particularly pretty. Yet - that is the end for all of us who walk through this whole thing called aging.
So what should our response be to this whole thing called, aging? First of all I want everyone reading this to know that there is not just one response. But, that being said, there should be one response that we should not miss. That response is the one that addresses our mortality. We should be wise in knowing that there is more to life than just this present existance. We should see things like mortality and death and allow them to speak an important message to us. Things are not right here - and we should explore whether there is more than just the here and now. We should explore why the creator of such a marvelous world as ours, filled with so much life, creativity, and wonder - has it age, fall apart, and die eventually. As we ask such questions and explore such things, God's purpose is that we would come to understand the gospel and His work to restore and redeem this world from the death and dying that dominate it. Remember that the purpose of theology, even a theology of aging and death, is to know God through it.
Aging and death are real - that has once again forced its way upon my consciousness. But how glorious it is to see that even in this God's purpose is to bring His gospel and His calling me to Himself to the forefront. Yes, the topic of the theology of aging and death can seem depressing - but only to those who miss God's grace in it all - calling us beyond this life - beyond the mere pleasures of today - to eternity and the glorious pleasures forever at His right hand.
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord remind you this week that He has NOT forgotten you - nor will He ever forget you as one of His redeemed children!
Have you ever thought that maybe God has fogotten you? Have problems arisen and surrounded you to the point where you really wonder if God has just forgotten you and no longer remembers you or hears your cries? Some might be tempted to think I only say this from a lack of faith - or from not seeing the facts (the biblical ones) properly. But the truth is that many of God's choicest saints came to this point in their lives. In fact, I have come to the point where I am a little shocked if those who are following hard after the Lord have not experienced this.
David experiened this when he wrote, "Why O Lord do you forget me? Why O Lord do you hide Your face from me?" in the Psalms. Moses cried out to God, "Do not take us up from here unless You Yourself go with us!" Job had searchings of heart that go beyond anything any of us have experienced - and many of them had to do with whether God had left him or not. This is far from a rare experiece. In fact, the godly men and women of earlier times called these experiences, "the dark night of the soul."
What do you do in these "dark nights of the soul" so that you do not give up in your pursuit of the Lord? The main thing you do is turn to Scripture and find reassurance in the promises of God that even as He hides Himself for a period of time - He has not - nor will He forsake you.
Today I was reading in Isaiah and came upon this amazing promise.
"But you have said, 'the LORD has forsaken me, and the LORD has forgotten me.' Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold I have increibed you on the palms of my hands . . ." Isaiah 49:14-16, NASB
When God's people had wondered if God has forsaken and forgotten them, God made it clear that even if a brand new mother could forget her nursing child - He would not forget His people. What this means is that you would see all the mothers in the world forget their newborn infants before you would see God forsake and forget His people! What a wonderful promise. That means every time you look at a mother with her newborn - and note how much she loves that little baby - you can be assured that God feels similarly about you. When you see the light on at 2 or 3 in the morning because that mom is totally committed to caring for that little one - you can walk out into the night or day knowing that with an even greater commitment God cares for and loves you!
But there is an even more amazing statement made here in Isaiah 49. In verse 16 God tells us that He has "engraved" or "inscribed us on the palms of His hands. The word that God uses here for this means to cut, inscribe or pierce. How do we know that God has not forgotten or forsaken us? Literally - there are inscriptions on the hands of God Himself that will forever remind us of how much He loves us! What are those marks? They are nail prints in his hands that God chose NOT to heal as His Son, Jesus Christ, was raised from the dead. The disciples saw those glorious wounds of eternal love after He rose from the dead. Jesus told Thomas to put his fingers into those nail prints to realize that it was truly Jesus that was before him. The price of our forgiveness and salvation is forever etched into the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we ever need proof that God has not abandoned or forsaken us - all we have to do is look there. That statement - that commitment - that price that was paid - and those wounds that He bore and bears to this day - forever speak to us that He will never leave us or forsake us!
Let me close this article with the words to a hymn that we sing.
Crown Him the Lord of love
Behold His hands and side,
Those wound yet visible above
In beauty glorified.
All hail redeemer hail,
For Thou hast died for me!
Thy praise and glory shall not fail
- Matthew Bridges -
Dearest redeemed ones of God, know that He loves you! He will not forsake you - nor will He forget you! He has loved you with an everlasting love, and has drawn you to Himself with lovingkindness. He loved you long before you ever thought of even acknowledging Him. While you were yet a sinner - even in the moment when you were your very worst - Christ died for you! (Romans 5:8). His love for you is and never has been because of your performance or your level of recent obedience. You are forever graven on His hands. Those wounds - now glorified in heaven - are there not as a reminder of your shame and disgrace. They are there for the glory of God - who has loved you forever - and who will love you for an infinite number of forevers as time marches outward to the vanishing point and beyond! If you ever doubt this - just remember to look at His hands - and know and rejoice that you have been inscribed there for all eternity!
These were originally shared on Facebook - and there were requests to re-publish them on the church website.
Post #1 - Thought a lot since yesterday and the drama surrounding marriage. There is a storm coming (actually, already is here). There is going to be a battle between who will have "civil rights" when this is done. That is because the Bible has always held homosexual activity to be sin - and will not change regardless of how people voted on Prop 8 in California vote or what the Supreme Court decides. Therefore if homosexuality is considered a civil right, then the Biblical view of homosexuality will be deemed illegal - in free speech rights - in the hiring of church personnel - and eventually in what is taught legally in churches. Those who think this is extreme need to remember that when abortion was first argued in the early 1970's wise people said it would one day be available up to the moment of birth and for things like sex selection - and they were considered extreme.
After a comment from a friend in my hometown about how my children would react if they were homosexuals - and that they probably would not come to me - but suffer shame and misery silently - this post was made.
Post #2 - Just to let you know, although it was not homosexuality, I've had times with my children where they were walking in some pretty serious sin (from a biblical standpoint). Rather than wait for them to come to me - my sweet wife and I lovingly, yet firmly and boldly approached them. We did so making sure or several things . . . First, that they knew we had sinned in the past (my past involved actually hating Christians and Christianity - and a great deal of sexual immorality). Second, we assured them that although we were crushed and disappointed with their current choices - we would NEVER stop loving them. We assured them that there was nothing they would ever do that would make us reject them as persons - or as our children. Our problem was with choices they were making outside of God's will. Third - we took the time to sit down with them and share the Scriptures - specifically what they were doing that was outside of God's will. We did so unapologetically and with boldness (our confidence arising from God's Word - not from any pseudo-religious standing we thought we might have as parents or me as a pastor). Afterward, we assured them of two things - we would continue to side with God's Word on the moral issue - and second that we loved them very much.
Post #3 - My original post was about the political ramifications of the current debate. I have known several people who chose a homosexual lifestyle - have loved them - shared with them - and continue to affirm my love for them personally. God does not approve of their homosexuality - even as He did not approve of my fornication before I came to Christ (and He wouldn't approve of it now either!)
There are consequences for a nation when they choose to codify a sinful choice as legal. BUT - as a pastor and disciple of Jesus Christ - my responsibility is to love the person who is sinning, tell them the truth, and let them know that as a fellow sinner - I found grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ. God gave it to me when I responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Who used Scripture to show me my sin) in repentance from my heterosexual immorality (as well as breaking His Law multitudes of times in ways that blew my mind). They can receive the same grace from God as well. The one thing they will have to do, though, is see their choice (homosexuality is a choice - not a DNA driven lifestyle) as sin and be willing to respond in repentance as they turn from it, and faith in Jesus Christ as the only way to pay for their sin and be right with God.
Post #4 - Still thinking about the homosexual marriage debate . . . As Biblical Christians we have an interesting number of roles to live out in regard to these days.
First and foremost we have our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That we walk out loving and knowing Him - and do so with humility - always grasping that He first loved us and drew us to Himself due to His immeasurable mercy and grace.
Second, we have a dual responsibility to our world which means we will walk a fine line in regard to how the world works. The first of these dual responsibilities is to proclaim the gospel of God's grace in Jesus Christ! That means that we cannot allow the political or social discourse to become so toxic that we are rejected because of our political beliefs alone. The first offense in our lives needs to be the offense of the cross and the gospel. If people are offended with us - it is because we love them enough to tell them of their condition - their true condition of falling short of the glory of God. Here is where we have to be careful that our political discourse does not make it seem like certain sins are "more sinful" that others. Sin is sin - and it all separates us from God - and requires of us repentance and faith in Jesus Christ to be forgiven and to receive Christ's righteousness as a gift so we can stand before God. In regard to sin - I am no different than the homosexual - for we both have sinned against God and we both need pure, unadulterated grace that only comes in the gospel. This ALWAYS has to be our first message to the world.
BUT, we also have a second role that comes into focus in times like these - and that is a prophetic one. Especially in a democratic republic like ours - we play a part in our governing process. Therefore when our nation begins to turn from its godly heritage (which is has been going on for probably 60-70 years now - I am not one to say that this is the big issue - we've made choices for many years now - racism and inequality for blacks from the end of the Civil War until the Civil Rights movement of the early 1960's, the free love movement of the 1960's which popularized heterosexual immorality i.e. sex outside of monogamous, heterosexual marriage, abortion in the 1970's, the love of money in the 80's and 90's, and now homosexuality from the 80's to the present) - again, when our nation turns from its godly heritage and wants to codify as law what God calls sin, it is our responsibility to prophetically speak God's Word to our society - not that we predict the future or write new Scripture (which is unscriptural) - but we speak the morality that is in the Bible - boldly and unapologetically to our society. We lovingly, yet strongly state where we are going - and where it will lead. We do so hopefully knowing that it is most likely the case that we will be rejected - mocked - and called any number of names. Yet we do this for God's glory - and for love of the people in the world - and never for any kind of vindictiveness. We remember where WE came from - and that we needed grace and truth to come to Christ too.
Finally - we do this for God's glory - knowing that Jesus made it clear that His Kingdom is not of this world. There is a strong possiblity that we will be misrepresented, cursed, spoken evil of - and maybe even arrested and put to death eventually for our stand with God's Word - and with the gospel of Jesus Christ. If I remember rightly - our Founder and Savior was cursed, mocked, arrested and eventually crucified for speaking the truth (wonder what week that happened in history? - oh, yeah, this week!)
Just one last admonition for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Hold fast to the Word of God - to the testimony of Jesus Christ - to the gospel of God's salvation - and when you do have to speak prophetically to the culture - SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE! Tough to do - I know - but when we do have to speak prophetically to our culture and our government - we do not want to do so in such a way that will disqualify us from sharing the more important message of the gospel later! (Yeah - just looked at the length of this - and I am a preacher - HA! - and a long-winded one at that!) Love all of you - and especially those I have the honor of ministering to weekly at Calvary Chapel of Jonesboro!
It is a new year - and with that comes the feeling that you are making a new start - or at least you can make one. This time of year results in massive sales of exercise equipment as well as a large increase in the enrollement at health clubs. We charge into each new year with a sense that maybe this year we can make the changes that will bring us greater joy. The sad reality is that these good intentions or new year's resolutions are often short lived. Very few actually change in the way that they desire or initially intend. How do we take the excitement and freshness of a new year and turn it into the kind of change that will last beyond the end of the month - or for some - even the end of that first week?
If we are going to experience true change we need to begin with our motive for change. For most of us that involves wanting to look or feel better. If we were to be brutally honest - most of our new year's resolutions center around us. I'd like to be slimmer and be in better shape . . . why? Because I'd like to look good - and the compliments from others are not too bad either. Very few of our resolutions have at their core the glory of God. Most of mine - if I were to be brutally honest - are for the glory of pastor John. Real change will have at its core God's purposes - God's will - and God's glory.
This examination of our motives brings us to the second important point about real change. By what power are we expecting to accomplish these changes? If our motives reveal that we want change for our glory, comfort, or convenience - guess whose power is going to be foremost in achieving it? If you guessed your own - you are right! This is where most change short-circuits. Our ability alone is not able to make changes - if it was - we would have been able during the year. Just because it is a new year - does not change the lack of power with which we struggle. What we need to a power surge - or a power change. That is where God comes into the picture. He is the One with the power to change our hearts and live. When we put His will at the center of our desires - as well as His glory at the center of our purpose - real power will be released in our lives.
The last aspect of change is honestly the MOST IMPORTANT. Most changes we seek to make on our own involve the principle of "Law." We begin to make a promise - or a list of things or actions we are going to do to bring about change. The list seems helpful to us until we mess-up for the first time. Then the list seems to condemn us for not conforming to it. We failed - the change did not come - after a few failures add up we become discouraged and give up. That is what the principle of Law does in our lives. Change that is entered into by grace is much different. Grace urges change just like Law does. The difference comes when we have a failure or two. Law does nothing to encourage us - in fact it looms ever higher after each failure. Grace calls us to change - but meets us with - well, with grace when we fail. Think about how often God forgives us - dusts us off from our failures - and lets us know that God chose to love us. We are reminded that God's love is based upon grace and what Christ did - not on our performance. This frees us to get back up and continue seeking to love and honor and obey God - even though we don't always do it perfectly. Even when we become discouraged, grace urges us to get back up and trust God anew to change and transform us.
Each year we have an opportunity given to us - by nothing more than a change of calendar. The problem we've faced is thinking that the calendar alone can help us to make the major changes we desire - only to find that these changes rarely if ever come. My hope is that by looking at this in a more biblical way - there has been opened to you a fresh opportunity with God to see change in your heart and life. The best thing about this is that with God - this change is not limited to once a year in January. It can happen any time you choose to turn to the Lord and access the grace He offers to you.
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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