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Archive for July, 2012

Wow! What a firestorm that has been created across the nation because President and CEO of Chick-Fil-A, Dan Cathy says he supports traditional, Biblical marriage.

He’s had death threats. Can you believe that? Amazing!

I really, really have sooooo much to say about this. I sometimes just shake my head and say, “Lord, why do you continue to put up with us. Why don’t you send Jesus back and just burn this place. Why do you tolerate us?” Well, eventually this earth will be burned and a new earth will replace it and because of God’s love and mercy He delays His judgment. And that is what so many people have been saying to me about all of this Chick-Fil-A talk. “God is a God of love and mercy and He loves everybody and He doesn’t hate. He’s all inclusive…all loving… etc., etc., etc.” And I respond, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, but…”

But what? But, God in His love does not and will not tolerate sin. But, some say, “Oh…that’s the Old Testament, hateful and mean God. The God of the New Testament is loving and tender and all-inclusive.” But, the Bible says, “God is the same yesterday, today and forever,” right? Sure He is. He is a God of love and a God of mercy, but He is a God of justice and He unequivocally hates sin. He hates sin so much that He allowed His Son to be slaughtered to pay for our sin…all sin.

Think with me about Jesus. What does Jesus tell people to do? Think about Jesus talking to the woman at the well. He told her after their long conversation to do what?? What did He tell her to do? Did He say, “I know you are trying hard ma’am, just go and do the best you can. I love you and you’ll be ok.” Did Jesus say, “You are a good person and I know that you will step up in the future. Bless your heart…” Think about Jesus talking to the woman caught in adultery. Did He tell her “Just keep living like you are, I still love you.” What did He say?

“Go and sin no more.”

Yikes! Oh no Jesus! Don’t say that! It’s not loving! It’s not accepting of her lifestyle. But, that’s exactly what He said, “Go and SIN NO MORE.” Why did He say that? Surely the woman who had five husbands and was living with a man and the woman caught in adultery said to Jesus: “Sorry, you see, I was born this way. I can’t help but be a person who is a fornicator. So, don’t you judge me. Don’t you tell me to go ‘sin no more.’ Who do you think you are?” Is that what these women said? You know, if they lived in our culture today they might would be guilty of saying such things.

I mean come on Jesus! Show some tolerance! Show some love! Telling the woman caught in adultery to “Go and sin no more,” man, that’s so closed-minded, Jesus. You need to be more inclusive and loving and tolerant. After all Jesus,  she said she was “born this way.” She can’t help herself, Jesus. It’s genetic. You ought to know…you created her this way in her mother’s womb. Don’t you know Jesus…I think they’ve found a gene that explains that it’s all in our DNA!

Ok…enough already… Let’s look at what Jesus really said over and over again to His true followers. He said….

“Deny yourself…take up your cross and follow me.”

Deny yourself?

No…you are supposed to understand the way I am…

No…deny yourself…take up your cross…follow me. Give up your life to gain it.

What does this mean? Does that mean we really have to give in to our inclinations and our predispositions to anger and alcohol and porn? Just a couple more examples…

Can you hear the guy in the courtroom telling a judge, “Hey Dude, don’t you judge me. I don’t know why Wal-Mart is mad at me because I stole a $750 flat screen TV. I was born a thief…it’s genetic. Don’t judge me.” Or “Hey Judge, don’t you judge me… I can’t help myself when I get angry. When I get angry I just shoot people. I was born this way…you’ve got to accept me the way I am. Don’t you ask me to change.” Now these are ridiculous examples aren’t they? Or are they?

Isn’t that what we have been hearing in all this Chick-Fil-A hullabaloo from the gay community. Please hear me and understand that I love gay people. I love murderers and thieves and drunks and liars and adulterers. But, just like God, I hate the sin. I hate the sin in my own life. And understand this…we don’t have to stay in our sin.

Read this carefully.

Jesus died to deliver us from sin.

All sin…

Is the power of Jesus Christ via the Holy Spirit, (the same Spirit that raised Him from the DEAD), not able to deliver mankind from ANY and ALL sin? You see homosexuality is no worse a sin than a businessman committing adultery on his wife in a faraway city or the man in Colorado who kills 12 people and injures 58 more or me, a man who in my anger has spoken mean words to my family that were unloving and un-Christlike. Sin is sin and Jesus died to pay for all of it. And He didn’t die for it so that we would have to stay in it or tolerate ANY of it.

Truth is…

We were all born sinful. We all were BORN sinful. We all have the ability to sin. We can kill, steal, covet, lie, you name it. Why? Because we are all cursed from the womb with sin. Yet, thanks be to God that we can be delivered from our sin. Don’t believe it? Take a look…

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:  neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such WERE (my emphasis) some of you. But  you were washed,  you were sanctified,  you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Did you see that word “were” in verse 11 that I emphasized? Do you see that we can be delivered. The word “were” means the past tense. It means that any of those listed in verses 9 and 10 can be delivered from their sin in Christ. Isn’t that wonderful!!! It’s the power of Jesus Christ and deliverance through Him! But in order to be delivered, we must give up our pride in our sin saying, “It’s the way I am and you just have to accept me.”

C.S. Lewis in his classic book, Mere Christianity says:

“We must not think Pride is something God forbids because He is offended at it, or that Humility is something He demands as due His own dignity–as if God Himself was proud. He is not the least worried about His dignity. The point is, He wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself. And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble–delightfully humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life.”

When we give up pride in our sin and being “right” in our sin…then we will be free.

Yet, Christian friend…we must understand, when we stand on the Word of God, we are going to be called all kinds of names: bigots, close-minded, hate mongers, intolerant and even evil. Understand this nation has changed from 50 years ago. You see, in American you can be anything you want to be and you can believe anything you want to believe EXCEPT for those who believe in the Bible and stand on the principles of Scripture as espoused by Jesus Christ. So, be ready to be called names and ostracized. It’s ok. We must return love for hate.

So, Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” And what we (sinners) ought to say regarding our sin…

“Guilty as charged,” and then run to Christ.

In closing may I humbly say to you as you go to lunch or dinner tomorrow:

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Recently I was made known of a man named Gary Burge, who serves as Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He has been testing incoming freshmen on their knowledge of the Bible. What he has discovered is shocking. He says these students from evangelical churches could average only 50 to 55 percent correct on a simple Bible exam. Burge points to the results of his tests to prove that we are living in a post-Christian era.

Burge says there are ignorant Christians in the church today and it is the duty of the church to minister to them, but they should be the exception and not the rule. Our Lord came that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly. A revival is simply a return to a good spiritual diet. We can be strong in the Lord only as we are strong in His Word.

How well do you really know God’s Word? Try testing it with Burge’s quiz and then check your answers with the key at the bottom.

1. Which one of these books is not in the Bible?

a. Isaiah; b. Jude; c. Hezekiah; d. Amos; e. Song of Solomon

2. Who was Israels first king?

a. Saul; b. Solomon; c. David; d. Samuel; e. Moses

3. Sarah and Abraham had a son in their old age and named him laughter. What was his real name?

a. Samuel; b. Moses; c. Isaac; d. Jacob; e. Ishmael

4. Which of the following is not an Old Testament prophet?

a. Elisha; b. Elijah; c. Aaron; d. Isaiah; e. Joel

5. Place these events in their biblical order:

a. the giving of the law at Mount Sinai; b. Creation; c. the Fall; d. the Exodus led by Moses; e. the flood of Noah

6. Place the following characters in their biblical order:

a. Moses; b. Adam; c. David; d. Solomon; e. Abraham

7. Which of the following books is from the New Testament?

a. Judges; b. Malachi; c. Deuteronomy; d. Hebrews; e. Isaiah

8. Who wrote Philemon?

a. Philemon; b. Paul; c. Peter; d. Onesimus; e. John

9. Which one of the following was among Jesus 12 apostles?

a. Paul; b. Matthew; c. Luke; d. Timothy; e. Silas

10. Whom did Pontius Pilate release during Jesus trial?

a. Barnabas; b. Peter; c. Silas; d. Barabbas; e. Paul

11. How many temptations did Jesus face in the wilderness?

a. one; b. two; c. three; d. four; e. five

12. Place the following events in their biblical order:

a. The Holy Spirit descends on Pentecost; b. John has a vision on Patmos; c. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River; d. Paul, Barnabas and Mark are sent out on a mission by the church; e. Peter denies that he knows Jesus

13. Place the following events in their biblical order:

a. Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem; b. Mary’s song; c. Nicodemus’ conversation about rebirth; d. Peter’s denial of Jesus

14. Where would you find the Ten Commandments?

a. Isaiah; b. Exodus; c. Genesis; d. Numbers; e. Matthew

15. Where would you find the first Passover?

a. Genesis; b. Numbers; c. 1 Samuel; d. Exodus; e. 2 Kings

16. Where would you find Create in me a clean heart, O God?

a. Proverbs; b. Ezekiel; c. Psalms; d. Deuteronomy; e. Luke

17. Where would you find the Lord’s Prayer?

a. Matthew; b. Acts; c. Ephesians; d. Malachi; e. Isaiah

18. Where would you find in the beginning was the Word?

a. Acts; b. Isaiah; c. John; d. Leviticus; e. Romans

19. Elizabeth and Zechariah were the parents of:

a. Jesus; b. Samuel; c. Paul; d. Timothy; e. John the Baptist

20. Jesus was crucified during:

a. Passover; b. Hanukkah; c. Tabernacles; d. Sabbath; e. Purim

Answers:

1. c; 2. a; 3. c; 4. c; 5. b, c, e, d, a; 6. b, e, a, c, d; 7. d; 8. b; 9. b; 10. d; 11. c; 12. c, e, a, d, b; 13. b, c, d, a; 14. b; 15. d; 16. c; 17. a; 18. c, 19. e; 20. a

So, how did you do? Bible knowledge is not caught, it’s learned. How? Reading. Studying. Hard work.

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker  who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

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The Movie Massacre and Justice

I’m sure you have seen pictures of this man over the last 24 hours.

For me, when I see this man’s picture it draws many emotions to my mind. I feel sorrow and pity for the man because Satan has such a hold on his life. The senseless murders of 12 innocent lives. 58 others left wounded and certainly people he had hoped to kill as well. What a tragedy!

So now what? The police have him in custody. So let’s have justice! Right? We want justice for the families of those who lost loved ones and for those who he’s hurt, right? Yes. There should be justice.

And a thought struck me about justice. Where does justice come from? If you believe in evolution and that all of us got here from a Big Bang in space 13 billion years ago, then you’ll have a hard time explaining “justice.” Lions, for instance, have no sense of justice. Cats and dogs have no sense of justice. Can they show some compassion, perhaps. But, can the animal kingdom show and exhibit justice like we (humans) do?

Think about a lion who sees a momma rabbit and a couple of little baby rabbits. Does a lion have a sense of justice? Let’s say the lion sees another rabbit 15 feet away, off to itself. If the lion had a sense of justice and fairness it would seek to kill the single rabbit versus the momma and her two babies. But, no, that’s not how it works, correct? The lion sees a larger “dinner” with the three than with the one. It has no sense of fairness or justice.

Justice is born into the human being because we are quite simply “made in the image of God.” God is a spirit. He is light, love and a consuming fire. God is not man or woman. He is spirit, who lives and has His being in the masculine. He is Father. He is Son and He is Holy Spirit. He is the triune, masculine God and we are all made in His image, in that we are “spirit-beings.” When we die, our bodies go to the ground but our spirits leave these earthen jars of clay and travel to either heaven or hades.

With that said then, I think most would agree that human beings have a sense of fairness and justice. That’s what we want in the case of Holmes and the murders he committed by snuffing out 12 innocent lives. But, what is justice?

“Justice” according to dictionary.com is:

1. the quality of being just;  righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause. 2. rightfulness or lawfulness

C.S. Lewis says, “Something…appears in me as a law urging me to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong.”

Let me present a scenario for your consideration. Let’s assume two thieves break into your home while you aren’t there and they steal some jewelry and your TV and some cash they find. They jump into their “get-a-way” car and the thief who is driving looks over at a watch that his partner in crime has stolen from your house and he snatches out of his buddies hand and says, “I’ll take that!” And the thief riding in the passenger seat who has just had this watch taken from him says, “Hey, what are you doing! That’s mine!”

Now let that sink in for a second. This is perhaps a silly example, but can you see it happening? Why would a thief say to another thief, “Hey that’s mine!” I mean, give me a break, both guys are thieves and they have just stolen what’s yours and now one is complaining. Why? Can you hear the conversation. The passenger thief says, “Dude, that’s not fair, I took that watch. That’s mine. Give it back!” Why does he say that? Because of a sense of justice that is innately in each of us that comes from our Creator, in whose image we are made. Can you see the image of God even in this silly example? Do you see why we want justice and fairness and what’s right? It’s “born” into us from God, our Maker.

So, as you and I have opportunity to talk to people about the movie massacre in Colorado. Talk about justice. Talk about fairness. Use this example to point to God, our Creator. By the way, and evolutionist can not explain what I have just described to you. You’ll stump him with this. I’ve done it and I’ve used this example not to beat him over the head with it, but to simply say, “That sense of right and wrong, fairness, justice and what’s moral comes from the God you say doesn’t exist.” It leaves them to wrestle with what is divine that is within us all…from our Creator…the God of all justice.

By the way, pray for Holmes. Pray for his salvation. Jesus died for him too. Pray for the families and for those who might not be saved in those homes/families. And one other thought. Should this six-year-old really have had to die?

Veronica was her name. Why was she at a movie theater at midnight prepared to watch a movie that wouldn’t end till almost 2:30 am? I’m so afraid that we are “entertainment” crazy in our country. My grandmother always told me, “Nothing good happens after 10 o’clock at night.” I agree. I feel so sorry for this child’s parents. Yet, it shows me how far we have strayed from doing what is best and right for our children. No child should be allowed to go watch a movie that begins and midnight and would get him/her into bed at 3 or 4 am in the morning. We need to wake up! We need to use this tragedy to teach and to train. All of it is a senseless tragedy and shows the effects of sin on this cursed earth.

But, praise Jesus! One day, all things will be made new! The Lord God will reverse the curse and He will remake this earth and even heaven. Read this carefully…

Revelation 21:1-6

Then I saw  a new heaven and a new earth, for  the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw  the holy city,  new Jerusalem,  coming down out of heaven from God,  prepared  as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold,  the dwelling place of God is with man. He will  dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and  death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

5 And  he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I  am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for  these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me,  “It is done!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. 

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Hello everyone! My name is Keith Anderson, and I attend Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, the same church that Pastor Kevin, well, pastors. I am part of the summer internship program he is leading. I think Kevin Cox and Pastor Kevin have already explained the background as to why we are blogging. And as for why I was in Guatemala, I believe Kevin already explained that one as well. But in case you missed his explanation, we were in Guatemala because my grandpa took Kevin, two of my brothers, our cousin Jonathan and myself on a trip to see his native country and to discover the legacy and impact our great-grandparents (missionaries with Central American Missions – CAM) had on the country.

I just want to share some of the lessons that I learned while on the trip. Two weeks in another country immersed in a foreign culture full of history can be very inspiring.

We know that man was made to work. That is a Biblical principle. But the Bible also tells us to spend our time working for the Kingdom of God. Well, the people of Guatemala are hard workers, and our guide even said that the Guatemalans are some of the best entrepreneurs in the world. But sometimes their work is misguided, especially when it comes to their ancestors, the Mayans. Since this trip was meant to be a “legacy discovery” type of trip, I think it’s also cool to see the various legacies of the various types of work done many years ago in Guatemala.

My great-grandparents were missionaries and translators for the Akateko Indian group, located in the San Miguel Acatan region of Guatemala. I say Indians because virtually all the inhabitants of the small mountain towns in the northwest corner of the country are descendents of the Mayans. Well, my great-grandparents translated the Bible into the Akateko dialect of the Mayan language group. While there, they saw very little fruit from their work. In fact, after they left, the guerrillas burned down their house. This is what’s left of their footprint on the land they lived on:

That’s the house they built (or rather what’s left of it). Overgrown, in ruins… Not real spectacular. But this is their footprint on the hearts of the people they worked with.

Even though my great-grandparents never really got to see the fruit of their labor firsthand, one can now point to the towns were over half the population consists of believers and churches with congregations numbering in the thousands as evidence of how God used my ancestors and others. Now, take a look at the physical footprint of the ancient Mayans:

Impressive, isn’t it? I tell you what, getting on those things is exhilarating! Just thinking about the incredible society that existed on and around these structures, picturing the battles that occurred as the Spanish armies poured over the surrounding mountains like the locusts descending on Egypt, and imagining the frantic (and gruesome) religious rituals that these structures were centered around is a lot to take in.

And that is the physical footprint of the ancient and revered society of the Mayans, considered a much greater success than my great-grandparents – by the world. The world compares the two physical footprints, a burned-down house versus half a continent of massive stone buildings, and judges the bigger physical impact as the bigger success. Wouldn’t you like to have a legacy as great as the Mayans?

Now let me show you a few more pictures of the Mayan legacy:

The picture I showed earlier of the gray pyramid is from Saculeo, a relatively small group of pyramids that a fruit company excavated and restored the temples (as our guide said, “They actually decided to pay for all the fruit they were removing from the country”). The second set of pics is what a relatively untouched pyramid looks like. It looks very similar to my great-grandparents house, doesn’t it (albeit just a hair larger)? But both structures are overgrown, falling apart and little more than historic sites.

And that picture of the round cement circle? That is part of the first pyramid I showed you, and its use [this is a bit graphic: just an FYI. I’ll give you some space to consider if you want to read it

…………………………………………………………………………………..…………….. don’t say I didn’t warn you] is to hold heads. *Gasp Really? See, these pyramids were not something that the Mayans built to sit around and stare at, even if that seems to be their only purpose today. Rather, just as the entire Mayan culture was built around religion, so their buildings were built with a religious purpose. Well, apparently, human victims were forced to scale the pyramid and were then sacrificed. Once decapitated, the head would fall from the dais above into the circle and not roll away.

Why did you just tell me that, you ask? Just to make you squirm… No, no, I just want to you to think about what the Mayans were really like. I think you’ll realize that these were not just some innocent group of people wandering half-naked around Central America that happened to throw together hundreds of massive structures and then disappear like good TV programming. They were a hard working society, highly advanced (although after that picture, you may not quite agree), and zealous in their religion. They made incredible achievements in various arts, constructed highly impressive tourist attractions, and created a calendar that has another “highly advanced” civilization (ahem, ours) going bonkers 1,000 years later because it simply stopped counting the days.

I mentioned the spiritual footprint of my great-grandparents, remember? The impact they had and continue to have vicariously through the believers they helped lead to the Lord was their footprint. Well, the Mayans have their own spiritual footprint. Their animistic beliefs (the idea that spirits indwell natural objects and that we ought to somehow appease them) have continued to “inspire” the fabled witch doctors of fairy tales and church missions conferences. In all seriousness, witch doctors do still exist. One town we passed, our guide told us, was, in essence, controlled by a witch doctor, and there was little to no success in reaching the inhabitants with the Gospel. And once a year, the witch doctors around San Miguel (my great-grandparents’ town) will take turkeys and sacrifice them along all the mountain peaks in the area.

Other contemporary Mayans still try and retain or return to the ways of their ancestors. Yearly dances are put on featuring costumes of various creatures and humans, in which the already poor participants pay a fortune for the opportunity to wear the costumes and dance around a fire. If one dances for three years, they are supposedly granted good fortune and wealth (to replace what was lost in the pursuit of such blessings).

And those are just a few toes of the spiritual footprint left by the Mayans. So let’s do some application, shall we? Because history has this funny thing about it where the same things happen repeatedly unless people learn the lessons each repeated situation has to offer. We’ll start with the physical footprint. Mayans made massive pyramids and other cool photo-hotspots. My great-grandparents built a house next to a stream that got burned down. One physically altered thousands of square miles of land, and the other only a couple-hundred square feet in a small mountain gorge. I think that even the world has the right answer here as to who had the bigger firsthand physical impact.

Now let’s compare the eternal footprint. The Mayans have a legacy of poor, disillusioned farmers that dance around fires to gain wealth and spiritualistic men who sacrifice turkeys on mountaintops to appease the wind. (You say ‘Well anything sounds stupid when you put it like that!’ Maybe, but I’ve just told it like it is. I could fluff it up to sound good, but then you’ve lost the true essence and picture of what actually occurs). My great-grandparents, on the other hand, have a legacy of vibrant, enthusiastic brothers and sisters who are now on a one way trip to heaven!  They have purpose and a future.

My point is, that even though we may build up massive earthly empires, the size of our physical footprint has little eternal value. The world will applaud us, but we’ll only be able to show them a house and maybe a car or seven. And these pictures show us what happens to physical accomplishments. 2 Peter says it’s all going to burn eventually anyhow. Then there’s the eternal footprint, the impact you have on the lives of the people around you and the treasures stored up in God’s kingdom where rust doesn’t rust and moths don’t eat your things and the jungle doesn’t hide your accomplishments in Jesus.

Which direction do your footprints lead?

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Summer Interns-Guatemala

I’m honored this summer to have some great young men working with me as “summer interns.” They are a joy. One of the young men is Kevin Cox. I asked the guys if they would be willing to be a guest “blogger” for me this summer from time to time and Kevin has been the first to oblige.

Hello, my name is Kevin Cox and I am doing a summer intern program with Pastor Kevin. It has been great! We have had many meetings and conversations. We go to shut-ins to deliver CDs. We also write devotions for Pastor Kevin to send online. It has been a great way to serve and learn. A few weeks ago, I took a break from the internship to go on a trip with my grandpa, great-uncle, and cousins. I would like to share what that trip was about and challenge you guys with something.

My grandparents are amazing people! God has used them so much in my life and in the lives of countless people. May God receive all the glory! My grandma does something with her grandchildren called Grandma’s Day. It is a special time of fellowship, sharing, praying, games, and fun. Once a week, all the grandchildren go over to her house and we spend the afternoon with her. Once the grandchildren reach 18, we have something called Graduation from Grandma’s Day and then my grandparents take us on a special trip. Well, this year, it was my turn to graduate. So 4 of my cousins and I, together with my grandpa and great-uncle, went to Guatemala. That was where my grandpa and great-uncle were born.

(Note: Kevin is in the middle kneeling in the yellow shirt. He has light-colored hair.)

The purpose of the trip was not just tourism even though we did plenty of that. The main purpose was to see the legacy that was left behind in the many cities we visited. My great-grandparents started Bible translation with the people of Guatemala and we were there to see the results of their work. It was amazing! Here is Guatemala…

We had a Wycliffe missionary of Guatemala as our guide. He also did translation work with the people down there and had many awesome stories to tell us as well. My great-grandparents started translating the Bible into one of the Guatemalan dialects. When they first got there, there were no Christians. Imagine how hard that must have been.

In the USA, it’s sometimes easy because there are churches all over the place and you can find Christians everywhere you go. But in Guatemala, when my great-grandparents went, there was no one. When we went this summer, we visited one town where half the town attended the local evangelical church! What a change! The town where my grandpa and great-uncle lived has many Christians and a growing evangelical church! How did this happen? Because of the Bible translation that my great-grandparents did a long time ago. Praise God! Let Him receive all the glory! Our guide…this is him in the middle…

He told amazing stories of how people have come to the Lord as a result of his own translations as well. God has used people in incredible ways down in Guatemala.

This was a huge challenge for me. When I see Christians that have done amazing things for God, it inspires me. A few days ago, I went to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte NC and I saw everything the Lord accomplished through one obedient man. People like that inspire me. I want God to use me in amazing ways like that. And don’t you? Don’t we all want to be used in amazing ways? Don’t we all want to do amazing things for God? Don’t we all want to leave a legacy that our children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren can follow? This should be our desire.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 shows us how we can be used by God. It says, “20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” If we want to be used by God, we must cleanse ourselves from what is dishonorable. We don’t choose how God will use us. He will use us in the way that seems best for Him. Our job is to be usable material. We need to cleanse out the dirt and let God use us in His way.

But you might think you are not good enough to be used. You may have failures or fears. You may think you are not sufficient enough to be used by the Almighty God. Well, Jeremiah thought that too. In Jeremiah 1:4-7 it explains Jeremiah’s reaction to God’s call. “4 Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” 7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8 “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.”

Are we willing to say yes to God’s call? Are we willing to be used by God? Are we willing to cleanse ourselves? This is what God wants from us.

Isaiah was called by God. Isaiah 6:8 says, “ 8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” ” This is what God wants from us. “Here I am! Send me!” Are you willing to say this?

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As a pastor, I do a lot of counseling and I often say, “The best way forward might be backwards.” What do I mean by that. Well if you are standing in front of a cliff that leads to an abyss, the best thing to do is, what?

Turn around, right?

Yes…turn around…please!

C.S. Lewis said, “Life is long obedience in the same direction.” He also said, “Your dreams do not determine your destiny, your decisions do.”

Many people are making wrong decisions over and over again and they are ruining their lives. As I counsel, weekly, I see people who continue to struggle because they simply refuse to make the right decisions. Do you know why? Because the right decisions are usually the hardest ones to make.

Can I ask you a question?

What kinds of decisions are you making right now? Are they good ones? Are you making good decisions about your family? How about work? How about in your finances? How about spiritually? How’s your health? Are you making good choices and wise decisions about what you eat? How is your self-discipline. You know self-control is number 9 in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. Most of the questions I just asked could be answered in the affirmative and positively if we have self-control. Do you? Can you tell yourself, “No.”

That’s where most problems begin. Think about it. You can’t tell yourself, “No.” A drunk can’t say, “N0” to that drink. A shop-o-holic can’t tell herself, “No” and stay out of the department store. The thief can’t tell himself “No” at the convenience store. The porn addict can’t tell himself, “No” and not click on that porn site. Can you tell yourself, “N0?” Are you making wise decisions?

If not, then I tell you what I tell myself: REPENT.

REPENT

One word. Just one word…but, it can change your life. It can change anyone’s life.

What does it mean to repent? It means to “turn around.” If you are at a cliff, turn around. If you see sin coming…turn around. Repent. How do you know if you repented? Well, if you can get away with it and you know you’ll probably do it again, then you haven’t repented. I you have truly repented, then most likely you won’t do it again.

We must see ourselves and God sees us. He sees the real “you” and the real “me.” The REAL person. He sees into our souls. He sees past the mask we wear for everyone else.

If we truly see our sin, and we truly see the horror of what it does to the Father, then we will stop it. We will repent and we will turn around. But we will only be able to walk away in the power of Jesus Christ. We can’t will ourselves to walk away, to stop drinking, stop spending, stop stealing, stop lying, stop looking at porn, stop smoking, stop overeating. We must do it in His strength. We surrender and repent. We say two words, “I quit.”

Do you get that?

I quit!

When we say those two words…that’s what surrender looks like and that’s the first step to repentance and healing. You see we are all bent toward “self-deception.” We think we are really better than we are. Sin makes us dumb and foolish, did you know that? We will always rationalize why our behavior is right. We will justify it and find people who will justify it with us and run from those who won’t.

Are you living in lock-step with Jesus or with the world? If you are living in lock-step with Jesus, then this is what it looks like…

Being in “lock-step” is like a two-legged sack race. Who’s leg is in the sack with you? The Lord Jesus or Satan? It’s one or the other.

Two last questions.

Who are you accountable to?

Who has the license to ask you anything in your life?

The anwer to those two questions will determine if you are accountable or if you are free-birding in this life. If you aren’t accountable to someone, then you WILL struggle. Count on it. For instance I have a computer program on my computer called: X3Pro. It keeps me accountable. A report is generated and sent to my wife every Sunday regarding everywhere I’ve been on my computer. Some of you men reading this need that kind of accountability. It’s $7 per month. Here’s the site: http://www.x3watch.com/

But, most won’t check into it, because they simply don’t want to be accountable. That means that you are OWNED by your habit, sir. Sorry to be so blunt, but you are a slave. Yet, it can stop…you can turn around…repent…get accountable.

I love the lyrics to Matt Maher’s song entitled “Turn Around.” Take a look…

Young man on the side of the road, lost indeed and don’t know where to go.

Smells like a hangover from days ago. He does what he can to survive.

Single mom with a deadend job, 90 hour week just to keep what she’s got.

The bills add up and now she’s caught.  She does what she can to survive.

Well, let me say that love won’t take away the pain. But don’t be afraid, cause it will never walk away.

(Chorus) If you’re scared that you don’t matter, if you’re lost and need to be found, if you’re looking for a Savior, all you gotta do is turn around.

Some turn to a bottle, some turn to a drug, some turn to another’s arms, but it seems like it’s never enough.

Well, I won’t say that you will never fail again, but there is grace to wash away your every sin.

(Chorus) No one listens to you anymore, and your heart has broken down.  You don’t need to move, love has come to you, all you gotta do is turn around. All you gotta do is turn around.  Turn around!

You don’t have to take the broken road. You can turn around and come back home.

It’s a great song. You can watch Matt perform it live at a church in Arizona, here.

So…life is long obedience in the same direction which comes after you turn around, repent and say, “I quit.”

Will you?

Will you quit?

This is what that looks like…

That’s it. Just look to the Father and say, “I quit” and then turn around…

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As you know I’ve been sharing of late about Katy and Josh. Many, many people have emailed me and told me, “Thank you so much for sharing their story. It helps so much to see that there is another way for a young man and young woman to discover their mate.” I appreciate the fact Katy and Josh are open to their lives being…well…so “open” to the world. Truth is, the “another way” that is so often said to me is the Scriptural way. It really should be the “only” way for Christians. However, I’ve discovered that once most “Christians” begin the dating game, the peer pressure is so great and immense, that they can’t get out of it. It’s like a drug that controls their lives.

So, my hope is that the parents of a younger generation (probably under the age of 10), yet to “casually date” on the “meat market” of the “love turnstile,” will be open to this “another way.” Katy has chosen to never date. She has been ridiculed and maligned, even by Christians. Yet, now look at the reward. Is it worth it? Ask her. She’d tell you in a heartbeat, “You better believe it.” Truth is, if you ask Josh if he could do it over, would he have gotten involved in the dating scene and he’d tell you in a heartbeat, “No way. I should have waited for Kathryn.” Just so you’ll know “Kathryn” is what he calls Katy, which is her full name (named after her Grandmother, Kathryn “Kathy” Brown).

So, parents, if you are reading this. The choice is really yours when your children are young. You can load them up with Nickelodeon and all the “teen shows” and “dating” and let that set the grid system in their brain. You can let them have “boyfriends and girlfriends” in the 2nd and 3rd grade. But, there is a price to pay. You decide if that price is worth it. You see, mom and dad, if you don’t begin when your children are young (I mean 5, 6, 7 years old…that young) talking about these things and planting the seed in the mind of what their future can look like, then they won’t embrace it when they’re 12 or 13. It’s too late. The concrete has already dried and busting it up is way too painful for most to start over and they won’t do it.

In fact, many parents like their children dating. They think it’s kind of cool that their son or daughter is a hot commodity. That kind of vicarious living is so sad. We must set the bar according to Scripture, not the world. Dating is something that we’ve done only in the last 50-60 years. Prior to that people followed the teachings of the Bible. Today we go the way of “Happy Days,” the “Fonz” and “Richie Cunningham.” You know…a new guy or a new girl with each coming school year. Oh yeah, that’s who they dated in the 8th grade or was that the 9th grade. Oh well, who can remember? But, they will remember. Every kiss, every hug, every caress… Just given away…given away…thoughtlessly and carelessly.

You say, “Wait a minute. My child is telling me the person they are seeing now is the ONE.” Hmm. Do you really believe that? Do you know that very, very few relationships make it through high school into marriage today. 50 years ago those relationships did, but not today. We’ve got TV shows like “Friends” and “Seinfeld” and “Jersey Shore” to thank for that. Don’t like them any more, dump them. No strings. Just end it. You can even end it on Facebook today or maybe even with a text message.

But put one of these on…

Well, that will require a “divorce.” But, why should we be surprised. They have been having “mini-divorces” for years. Funny, you can “date” someone for a couple of years and then drop them and everyone says, “Well, they probably got tired of each other.” It’s amazing! It’s like we don’t even blink an eye at these young people splitting up after these long-term relationships. I mean they tell us, “Mom/Dad, he/she is the one.” And then when he/she isn’t what do we do? We say, “That’s a shame.” Oh, it’s more than a shame. It’s a divorce. Your son or daughter has just had a divorce. Can you see that?

Is it any wonder that we have a 55% divorce rate in this nation? It shouldn’t be. They’ve been practicing how to do it since they were about 13 years old. So, I offer to you now Josh’s story of asking Katy to marry him. It’s a marvelous testimony of a young lady (even though she is my daughter) who did it the right way. Now you might say, “You’re being smug.” No I’m not, honest. Or at least I don’t mean to be. I’m just stating the truth. She DID do it the right way and God is blessing and honoring her for it.

Matthew 6:33 is true. “Seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His RIGHTEOUSNESS and all these things will be added to you.”

When you seek God first and you seek to be righteous, He will bless you. That’s a promise!

Josh’s story:

“It is not good…”

When I look back at my life I think of moments. Moments that I was sad, happy, hurt, content, nervous and on and on and on. I remember when I rode a bike for the first time without those training wheels, it was a red Huffy and I was above the clouds. My mom was full of joy and probably relief that I didn’t fall right over :). I remember when I was in the fourth grade and I ran into a boat propeller and gashed my knee open, it hurt so bad. It was the first time I had really hurt myself and there was blood everywhere, and in that moment I thought I was gonna die… Two stitches later I was just fine.

I also remember lying in my bed with my bags packed waiting for my dad to pick me up and him never showing up. Even to this day when I talk to my dad I remember how I felt all those nights when I was left waiting. I remember all the years I lived with my mom and her alcohol addiction. How most nights I was scared of what would happen next, and all the times I put my life in danger trying to protect hers.

I remember my first football game at West Wilkes High School. My first win on the wrestling mats, and my first mile I ran in track. I remember my first car, it was a 1999 Honda Accord and it would fly. Unfortunately, I remember my first ticket as well. I remember the night I fell on my knees in a prayer chapel in Hendersonville NC, with no one around, I gave my life to Christ and made the biggest decision I’ll make on this earth. I remember walking into the Marine Recruiting office and making the decision to serve in the military.

I’m not gonna bore you anymore with everything I remember because there are so many things I could say. God has brought me out of so much and He continues to protect me and put moments in my life. Last week I did something I had never done before and that’s propose. God has put the most wonderful woman on this earth in my life, and I know without question she is the one. It is something that was in development for months, as Kathryn and I learned and spent more time with each other. I knew it was time to take the next step in our relationship when it was hurting both of us every time I left.

Seeing the tears in her eyes as I left completely broke my heart and I knew it wasn’t good for us to be apart any longer. I have read Genesis a couple of times and there is a verse in Chapter two that means so much more to me now that I’m in love and engaged. Chapter 2 verse 18 Then the Lord God said “It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now that I’m back in Cherry Point at the Marine Base away from Kathryn, I totally understand that now.

Before in my life I never really thought about Adam and Eve and the love that they shared. God literally made Eve perfectly for Adam. I can’t even imagine the love they shared for one another. God made Kathryn for Me and Me for Her. And I have realized it really isn’t good for me to be alone. Since I left this last time, I truly am more lonely than I have ever been. It feels like I’m just missing something, and that something is Kathryn. She is my helper, and I know it’s God’s will.

Asking Kathryn to marry me is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I can not even begin explaining how nervous I was. I was shaking and my heart was beating so fast and hard. It couldn’t have been healthy. Thankfully she said “yes” right away or my heart may have exploded. That’s something I will never forget. The way she looked right into my eyes, she didn’t even look at the ring or anything. The box could have been empty and it wouldn’t have even mattered. Her eyes teared up and she put her hand over her mouth and tried to pull me up to wrap her arms around me. I had to push her hands back just so I could put the finger on her hand. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It truly was perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’m gonna end with this. I was watching a movie the other day, and the couple in it had been dating for years, and had experienced everything together already. At the end of the movie they finally got married and when the priest finally said, “Now you may kiss the bride,” and when they kissed nothing was different, because it was something they had been doing for years. I say all that to say, that first kiss is supposed to be sacred. The priest was giving permission to finally kiss. That’s why Kathryn and I have decided to have are first kiss on her wedding day.

When Kevin, her father, finally gives us permission, it’s gonna be well worth the wait! The wedding is 4 months away on Nov 10th, and I know it may seem soon, but why wait when you know you’re supposed to be together, when you know it’s God’s will.

Well said Josh, well said!!

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