Wartime Thoughts

The-Bible-Is-Our-Sword“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” – Ephesians 6:11-13 ESV

 

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV

Brothers and sisters, we are at war.  I fear we often forget it.  I fear we rest on our laurels and enjoy playing church.  In the meantime the enemy is diligently doing his work as he devours our friends, neighbors, and, most regrettably, families.

Oh how easily we believe the lie of peacetime.  We  live in an age of extravagant comfort and weaponized distractions.  So very gently we get rocked to sleep as we hear the gentle tune of materialism and shallow Christianity singing us into the night.  As we slumber, the enemy does what he always has: he steals, kills and destroys.   We fake a shocked face and question God’s goodness as we watch our children reject the faith, our marriages fall apart, our churches forget the gospel, and our communities pursue libertine pleasure.  Then we go back to sleep.

Will we ever wake up?  Will the bride of Christ remember the call of the Lord who bought us? Will we remember that the day of the Lord is at hand? Will we remind one another that each of us will give an account before almighty God? Or will we sip on our pornography, dabble in the culture war, and ignore the “cosmic powers over this present darkness” that are destroying us?

What is the war?  It is the war of ideas.  The war of belief.  The war of thoughts in your mind and in the minds of your brothers.  The battle ground truly takes place at the idea level.  What do we believe about Christ?  What do we believe about love?  What do we believe about the goodness of God, the wrath of God, or the grace of God?  

I challenge you brother or sister, get in the fight.  Pick up your armor.  Know how to use your sword, which is the word of God, and bring hell fire against the enemy. March forward into the darkness with the gospel of peace.  A day of peace is coming, but today we are at war.

Mouth and Mind

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart 

be acceptable in your sight,

 O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”
Psalm 19:14 ESV

I tried to pray Psalm 19 this morning.  I so enjoyed praising God for creation and thanking Him for His word, but I stumbled over this verse that closes the chapter.  I tried a few times to repeat at least the thoughts in Psalm 19:14 in my own words before the Lord, but I just couldn’t get them out.  It’s not that I don’t want this to be true for me.  It’s not that I don’t crave that my words and thoughts honor God. If I am honest, I have trouble believing God would grant this prayer true for me.  

For others I can believe it. For others I can imagine that their words and thoughts might be a sweet smelling aroma to God but not for me.  I know myself too well.  I know my thoughts too intimately.  One moment I am dwelling on precious and magnificent promises; the next moment I’m rolling around in the gutter and enjoying it like a sewer rat.

I have grown horribly intimate with the pain from the lashings the devil unleashes on me after every interaction with another human being. “You sounded arrogant” “You sounded foolish” “You sounded unloving” “You offended that person” “You should have said ______.”  These are the things he says as he laughs at me and mocks my failed attempts at holiness in my speech.

Oh the depth of my depravity.  My words?  My thoughts?  They will never be acceptable before God.  I can’t imagine it.  

But then the ending crescendo.  Those marvelous seven words.  Who is this unimaginable request being lifted up to? “O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  I’m not asking the one who mocks me to restore me.  I’m not asking one who is quick to anger or reluctant with grace.  I’m asking my God.  I’m asking the rock that I rest on.  I’m asking the one who gave himself for me.  My plea before the throne is not lifted up to some distant ruler in the sky.  It is heard by a gentle savior.  A savior who walked through the absurdities of this life just as I do.  A savior who sympathizes with my temptations and yet never gave himself over to them.  A savior who is righteous.  A savior who is my righteousness.

Let the enemy hear me say, “The words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart are already acceptable in God’s sight because of Jesus Christ the righteous.”  In this grace, there is freedom.  Freedom to speak redeemed words.  Freedom to think redeemed thoughts.  Freedom to fail and still find embrace at the cross of Jesus Christ.

Headed to Haiti

 
Tomorrow morning a group of students from Arlington Heights will be headed to Haiti on a mission trip.  We will be returning on Tuesday, June 23rd.  Our trip is being coordinated through Servant Life, and I couldn’t be more impressed with how much they have helped us thus far.

Our excited group of travelers includes Charles Denis, Adam Easley, Reed Gable, Andres Sanchez, Luis Sanchez, and myself.  We will meet an additional teammate named Lauren in Dallas who will join us for the trip.  Lauren is from the Dallas area and is joining up with us to serve.  We are thrilled to have her!

We’ll be working in Tirolli, Haiti each day and staying just accross the border in the Domincan Republic each night.  Our team of seven will be leading a VBS for approximately 200 children with the help of a few translators.    

After arriving at our mission sight on Monday, June 15th  and getting our bearings straight, we will start working with the children on Tuesday June 16th.  

Please pray that God will bless each student as they go, and that he will go before us and prepare hearts and minds to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.  I’ll try to provide a couple of updates and pictures while we are there.  Thank you all so much for your prayers and support!

Don’t Forget the Gospel

Imagine you went to a car dealership and the salesman told you he had a car that had every feature you wanted for a low price.  It has power everything, leather seats, your favorite color, a premium sound system and low mileage.  The body and interior are in excellent condition, and the tires have thousands of miles left on them.  There’s one catch.  This car has no engine.  Would you buy this car?

Imagine you went into a church that had everything you wanted.  Great programs, exactly your “style” of worship music (whatever that means) and the best facilities you can imagine.  The age demographic is just what you’re looking for, Sunday School teachers are really nice and lot’s of fun, and the people act super holy, vote republican and have strong morals.  There’s one catch.  The church has no gospel.  Would you go to this church?

A car with every feature under the sun isn’t worth much if it has no engine is it?  It can’t go anywhere or do anything.  It sits there and looks flashy and pretty, but ultimately it’s ineffective for it’s intended purpose.

I worry that in the church, we look for the features, programs, ministries, and styles that suit us best, but we forget to ask the most important question.  Is the gospel at the center of what we’re doing?  On a smaller scale, is my Sunday School lesson, my small group, or my service team built around the gospel?

A car’s engine is what makes a car a car. The good news of God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ is what makes the church the church.  As we move forward as a church, we want to have programs and ministries that serve Jesus bride well, but ultimately, we must have the gospel.  It must be at the center.  Without it, we have to ask if what we’re doing is distinctly Christian.

 

Disciple Now 2015

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This past weekend the Arlington Heights Students participated in a Disciple Now Weekend hosted by FBC Pascagoula.  We had a great time and learned a lot.  A big thanks John Vickers and the folks over at FBC for inviting us. We also couldn’t have done it without Mike and Candice Howell and Peyton and Kayla Kelly opening their homes to us for the weekend!  We also were blessed in a major way by our small group leaders Ike Armour and Liz Wright.  Thanks to all for sacrificing your weekend and loving our students so well!

Please pray for the students that participated as they take the truths they learned this weekend home with them.

PS: The video below is my first attempt at using the Adobe Creative software our church recently bought.  Most of the editing happened after midnight so don’t judge.

On Leaving Chevron

9231153-largeSome decisions in life are complicated.  How do I invest for retirement?  What type of vehicle should I buy?  Where should I send my kids to school?  Decisions like these require careful analysis and consideration, but once the best alternative appears, moving ahead is relatively easy.

Some decisions are not complicated, but they are hard.  Do I really need another scoop of ice cream?  Is getting up for my workout this morning really necessary?  It’s not that these decisions are complex.  We usually know the right answer. It’s just hard to do the right thing sometimes.

Leaving Chevron was a hard decision. God has been leading leading me into full time church work for some time now, and my wife Taylor is 100% on board.  My sense of calling has been very clear for a number of years, but recently that calling received some clear direction.  God opened doors for me to go on staff at Arlington Heights and serve with a staff that I already love dearly and work well with.  Simple decision right?  Yes, but hard.

I have thoroughly enjoyed being an engineer at Chevron. I have had the opportunity to learn from and work with some of the best in the business.  I’ve made many friends, and had opportunities that a small percentage of people will ever have.  I’ve been well treated, well developed (they tried anyway), and well cared for.  With all that said, it became clear a few months ago that now was the time to part ways.  April 16th will be my final day at the refinery.

While leaving is certainly hard, I am very excited about the doors that God is opening, and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes my family and me.  I will start as an associate pastor at Arlington Heights Baptist Church in early May.  My job function will be somewhat broad, but I will be focusing on family ministry, Christian education, and missions coordination. To put it more simply, I’ll be helping spread the name of Jesus in every way I know how.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to many people in this process.  Both the folks at Arlington Heights and Chevron have been very understanding during this transition.  My wife has been incredibly supportive despite the obvious upheaval my family will experience in this transition.  Most of all, I’m thankful to Jesus Christ for giving me grace and the opportunity to serve Him in a new way.

If you are reading this, I covet your prayers for my family as we seek to step out in faith and obedience.  If I can ever serve you in any way please feel free to reach out to me.  To my Chevron friends, come see me at the church sometime.  We’re right next door!

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” Psalm 67:1-2 ESV