Self-Talk Reminders

thI BELIEVE in the God who loves me unconditionally.

I BELIEVE in the God who is faithful even when things do not change in my life.

I BELIEVE in the God who picks me up every time I fall.

I BELIEVE in the God who speaks to me through His Word.

I BELIEVE in the God who expresses Himself through others for my good.

I BELIEVE in the God who chases after me when I should be chasing Him.

I BELIEVE in the God who lets me catch Him when I am chasing after Him.

I BELIEVE in the God who became man to rescue me from my sins.

I BELIEVE in the God who craves relationship with us like Adam and Eve in the Garden.

I BELIEVE in the God who prepares those He wants to work in and through in obscurity like Moses.

I BELIEVE in the God who calls us to be courageous in Him like Joshua.

I BELIEVE in the God who works through less than ideal men and women like Jepthah.

I BELIEVE in the God who works through nobodies to make a generational difference like Ruth.

I BELIEVE in the God who speaks to children to have a lifetime impact on others like Samuel.

I BELIEVE in the God who wants a heart relationship and not just a religious one as seen in David.

I BELIEVE in the God who overcomes our intellectual arrogance as He did with Solomon.

I BELIEVE in the God who is overwhelmingly gracious when we are in a run away-return cycle of relationship with God like the Kings of Israel after Solomon.

I BELIEVE in the God who will go to great lengths to reach us and love us as he did through the prophets like Isaiah.

I BELIEVE in Jesus who is God.

I BELIEVE in Jesus who died on the cross for the sins of men that they might be reconciled to God through faith.

I BELIEVE in Jesus risen from the dead to give us everything we need for life now and eternally.

I BELIEVE in Jesus at the right hand of God and interceding for all who believe in Him.

I BELIEVE in Jesus who triumphed over all the power of Satan, and enables all who believe to be more than conquerors.

I BELIEVE in Jesus the only priest and mediator needed between God and man.

I BELIEVE in Jesus who is there for us in every trial and temptation.

I BELIEVE in Jesus the full expression of God’s love for us.

I BELIEVE in Jesus who will make me stand before Him in glory as blameless before God.

I BELIEVE in Jesus coming again to raise the dead and give eternal life to all who believe.

I BELIEVE in Jesus who will judge all those who do not believe and condemn them to the fires of hell which is the second death.

I BELIEVE in Jesus creating a new heaven and a new earth, the home (my/our home) of righteousness.

AND BECAUSE I BELIEVE I know love, mission, purpose, transformation, and the power of His presence at work in and through me.

I BELIEVE…

JT

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A Broken Mended Faith

indy11“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desire. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” -Psalm 37:4-5

 

I try to keep a regular daily prayer time. My practice is to walk while I pray. While not every time I pray, I often include some singing in my prayer time. (If you have not done this, you are missing out on some blessings.). The problem for me is one of my vocal cords is paralyzed. This led me to play a song in order to “sing.” Yesterday the song I was led to was “How Great Are You Lord” by Robin Mark. I could not do it; not even hit the right note – just a croak. I went through that song twice in that prayer time being broken by the Spirit to sing in faith “how great are the things that You have done for me.” Don’t get me wrong. The statement is true when I look over my life and other areas God has worked. But this gaping hole of thus far not healing my voice is heart wrenching. I haven’t figured out how to worship without singing. I have to fight off envy when I hear the clarity in the voices of others. And I had to come to the place of “singing” by faith – whether He completely heals my voice or not, whether He gives me enough voice to do what I need to do or not.

Then, This morning these words from Psalms came to me in my personal time with the Lord. They speak to my need, my faith my trust. Whatever you are going through, take these words to heart. They are words about relationship – our relationship with the Lord.

Relationships require interaction. In our relationship with the Lord interaction is necessary. Our part of the interaction requires faith in God keeping His promises. In these verses our part is to “take delight in the Lord”, to “Commit your way” to him, and “to trust in Him.” God’s part is to give you your heart’s desire, and to act in your behalf. We do not do our part to get what God has to give. He is not a candy machine. We do our part because of what God does for us though undeserving. His giving of our heart’s desire and acting on our behalf is grace, not earned. Therefore, our part is a love and gratitude choice. It is a choice of faith in the graciousness and loving kindness of God.

So, take delight in Him today – in spite of circumstances. Commit your way to Him even if the next step does not look so great. Trust in Him to do you good – not matter what you see or how you feel. He will act. He promised!

JT

Don’t Choke

th-1Last week I was using a hand planer to level out an edge on a insert I was making for a table. The planer was not working well. Truth be told, it had not worked well for some time. I finally had enough and pulled out the grinder to sharpen the blade of the planer. Sometimes life is like a dull blade. We can look good in appearance but truth be told, we are not fully living out our purpose.

Jesus speaks to this issue in the following verses:

“Others are sown among thorns; these are the ones who hear the word, but the worries of this age, the seduction of wealth, and the desire for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” -Mark 4:18-19

 

Jesus speaks these words as part of a parable he is explaining. In these verses Jesus refers to a believer whose life is “unfruitful” or in other words not living out the purpose God has for them. While we need to focus on what caused the problem, I want to call your attention to the one thing Jesus refers to that makes our lives fruitful; the one thing that enables us to live out fully the purpose for which we are created. The Word of God is what is choked out, and it is the Word of God that makes our lives fruitful. The Word is choked when things get in the way of our time in the Word and/or our applying the Word to how we live our lives. The word is choked by being so focused on living life – paying the bills (which are excessive because of what follows), the desire to build up wealth, and wanting more things. Now, saving money, providing for yourself and your family, and wanting nice things is not wrong, until we allow living life the way we want to be a greater priority than the Spirit speaking into our lives through the Word of God.

Therefore, to live the life we are intended to live; the life with the greatest joy and satisfaction, is only possible by prioritizing time in the Word of God – personally, in study with others, and in preaching/teaching. Living a life of joyful purpose means recognizing when we (yes, we) are choking out what the Spirit wants to speak into our lives.

I have laughed more than once at a sporting event when a player “chokes.” But as a follower of Jesus, choking is no laughing matter. It robs us of joy, fulfillment, purpose, accomplishment, and being a difference maker.

Making sure we don’t choke,

JT

Fire & The Value Of A Life

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Untended fires will go out… Every fire we have in the pit in the back yard goes out when not tended to; when more fuel is not added.  In Leviticus 6:13 (I know, can anything good or relevant come out of Leviticus?) we are told the fire on the altar must be kept burning 24/7/365.  

The altar is a place where God and man intersects in worship during the time of Moses.  The fire could easily be representative of God.  The sacrifices made are made to Him.  The fire consumes the sacrifice.  The fire could also pertain to man.  There is the need to maintain the fire within us for God.  The sacrifices made on this altar would all contribute to the fire within us.  The sacrifice for sin fuels the fire within through forgiveness.  The fellowship offering fuels the fire for intimate relationship.  The thanksgiving offering fuels the fire with gratitude and dependence.  In addition, there are a number of ways to fuel the fire of God in our lives.  

One of the ways of fueling the fire of God in us is to stand against evil.  The news this week has been replete with reports on the states that have condoned infanticide.  Two states have legalized the killing of babies full term, and even post birth.  The state of New York has passed a law that allows for a child who survives an abortion to be killed!  This is vile.  In watching the news this morning, I watched a Democrat twist into a pretzel to try to justify this ruling.  This is not a political issue.  It is not just a difference of opinion.  It is about life.  It is about maintaining human dignity.  It is about God being involved in the creation of life.  It is about culture.  It is about the fire in our hearts for God.  

It is time for those who believe to fuel the fire of God within.  Fuel the fire by confessing our sin as a nation in this matter.  Fuel the fire by seeking a growing relationship with Him.  Fuel the fire by being thankful.  And fuel the fire by asking God to speak through you by changing one life at a time.  The issue of abortion, and specifically this latest approved bill in two states will not be remedied by political action…. until there is a change in the hearts and minds of individuals.  May God work in and through us to lead people to Christ as Savior.  Large numbers of people coming to faith in Christ are the necessary precursor to changing this barbaric law.  

JT

Crisis Awakenings

th-1Sometimes crisis is necessary to sharpen our perception of reality. Late last spring I began having problems with my voice. Thinking it was allergies, I treated it as such. Things continued to deteriorate. My preaching on Sunday morning was more a whisper than a full voice. In August I was diagnosed with one vocal cord not functioning (temporary paralysis).

Since that time a procedure was done to give me a bit more voice. The reality is I never know what the quality of my voice will be on any given day. Some days are better than others. But I can’t raise my voice. In a noisy room, I cannot speak over the noise.

As a preacher, I have long known, and lived by the truth, that the Spirit of God is essential to speak through me. My presentation, no matter how “good” is not enough. I agree, and long ago adopted as a life verse, 1 Corinthians 12:9-10 where God says “my power is made perfect in weakness.” But now, the quality of my voice, and the lack of ability to include the passion of the moving of the Spirit as I speak is disconcerting. It has driven me to an even greater dependence and prayer. And it has also brought to light that when my voice was “normal” I counted more on my delivery than I thought. The quality of presentation does not equal passion or significance.

I share this to urge you to see if there are subtle ways you are counting more on you than the strength and power of the Lord. To do this you need the heart of Abraham. When God speaks to Abram in Genesis 12 there have been generations (yes plural) with no recorded contact between God and man. Yet Abraham listens, believes, acts on what God says. And in chapter 13 he begins to call on God, with no apparent precedent for it other than maybe the stories about Noah. Faith and a tender heart toward God are essential for God to work in your life. We must choose to exercise both. One or the other is not enough! To have faith without a tender heart leads to presumption. To have a tender heart with out faith leads to feeling good without action. Therefore, living by faith with a tender heart will lead us to a greater dependence of Him in everything we do. Oh, and don’t take your voice for granted either.

Blessings,

JT

Restoring Shattered Desire

th-1I was coming home from the Dump.  As I pulled in I noticed a car in the driveway, and a man at our front door.  He was interested in quoting our church’s insurance policy.  As we talked more, I discovered this man was a former Pastor.  Not only had he Pastored most of his life, he had also coached numerous churches in decline to seek to bring new life.  In fact, his last pastorate was a church that was revitalized through his ministry.  

I know life has seasons, but I could not help but wonder why he left…  Today most pastors leave ministry within 5 years.  And now, there is a crisis, across denominational lines, due to a shortage of people even willing to be pastors.  I can’t say this is a surprise, but it is disheartening.  Countless times church people  (both in the church I pastor now and others) have said to me “I would never want your job.”  Not once have I thought their reason was about calling or preaching.  Those things are givens.  It is all the other things that generate this response.  With that mindset, what sane young adult would even consider God’s call to ministry?

So what do we do? We will all agree the first line of attack is fervent, consistent prayer for God to call people into pastoral ministry.  But beyond that, what?

Let me offer a few ideas.  While the list of reasons is much more extensive than what I will share, hopefully it will serve as a beginning point to move forward.

Love your Pastor.  I know this sounds too simple.  You are already doing that.  Love him and his family in words.  I am blessed with a number of people who affirm their love to me.  One man says so every time we talk.  Pastor’s need that support.  Love them in actions, beyond Pastor Appreciation day.  While that day is a great encouragement, they need more.  Love your Pastor by being involved in the ministry and mission of the church.  Love the Pastor by intentionally growing in Christ.  Love your Pastor by loving his family.  Love your pastor by praying for him.  Love your pastor by partnering with him in what God is and wants to yet do in the church. Love your Pastor by including him as family.

This kind of love in word and example can be a vital ingredient to people in the church God may be calling into ministry.  Let your love for your Pastor be a green light to even consider pastoral ministry.  The sad truth is too many churches have treated their Pastor in a way that sends out the caution or red light about considering God’s call into Pastoral ministry.

Love the ministry of the church.  Certainly we should love the people in the church.  How we love them is key.  Loving others even when they are making poor choices, conveys that caring is part of ministry.  Love what God is doing in the church.  Love what God will yet do in the future.  Love what God has done in the past, but do not get stuck there.  Churches stuck in loving a past era tells youth that ministry is not for them.  And by all means, stop, stop, stop saying to your Pastor “I would never want your job.”  It implies many negative things about your church and pastoring (which in turn, runs people away from considering pastoral ministry).

Deal with chronic complainers.  People who are allowed to always complain in the church are slowly eroding it.  The chronic complainer can wear down the best of people.  How many Pastors have moved on or out of ministry because they were just worn down by the complaints?!  Take a look at the book of Jude!  While the complainers there were false teachers, and identified as not believers, they also identifies them as “without the Spirit.”  Complainers in the church, though believers, need to be assessed as to whether their caution is of the Spirit or of them.  Chances are, if they are chronic complainers it is all about what they want and how they think church should work.

Recognize, your church is not the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Most people love their church, as they should.  There are churches where the Spirit is clearly at work fulfilling His mission through them.  There are also churches that are struggling for a variety of reasons.  Both types need to heed the warning of Romans 12:3 “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think.”  Every Pastor who responds to God’s call to a local church does so because the Spirit has given him eyes to see the church is in a great place, and/or because of what the church can become.  There are great churches that are becoming churches (why they are great to begin with), and there are churches with the potential to become.  Pastors take up the ministry because God has given them insight to what a church can become.  Resisting the becoming of all God wants a church to be not only discourages the Pastor; it discourages anyone from considering Pastoral ministry.  

Pastor, love your church.  This is more than just giving lip service to this idea. Loving your church takes an investment.  Frankly, I think it takes at least 3-5 years to love your church.  This does not mean you don’t love your church the first three years you are there.  We must commit to love our church by faith and by the call of God.  But when you clearly know all the people in the church – the good, the bad, and the ugly – then God brings you to a place to love your church under grace.  You love your church seeing it as it really is.  When Pastors move on too quickly to another church (though there may be good reasons for the move) they do so because they don’t want to deal with “the bad, and the ugly” side.  Such moves unconsciously tells others not to consider God’s call to pastoral ministry because it is just too ugly and messy.  When you choose to embrace messy spirituality God can work.

I share all this because it is time for the Spirit to blow a fresh wind of calling people into Pastoral ministry.  I grew up in a great church.  The church encouraged people to consider ministry.  A number of men in the church encouraged it.  My Dad conveyed to me and my brothers that the first thing to consider before deciding on what to do with our lives is the question “is God calling you into ministry?”  It is time to restore the shattered desire for Pastoral ministry.  Love the church.  Love the ministry, as messy as it may be, of changing lives through faith in Christ.  Love Pastors.  Pray.  Challenge people to consider ministry.  

JT

Nightstand Clarity

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The book has been sitting on the nightstand beside my bed for probably two years, along with a small stack of other “to read” books. It was a get to in no hurry book. The title just didn’t stir me to grab it yet. But it has surprised me. The title is “Good Grief” by Dr. David A Dean.

I have read about half of it thus far. It has brought to the surface a range of emotions, partly because of the subject matter, and partly because I know all those involved. I have smiled, sometimes a happy smile and at times that knowing sad smile. I have broken down in tears I could not hold back. But through it all it has given me a personal appreciation for grief and loss.

But, rather than focus on the grief of losing a loved one I want to focus on a quote from the forward, written by Dr. Sid Bradley. He writes, “We know that the grieving person is likely experiencing a combination of different feelings such as sadness, emptiness, hurt, confusion, frustration, anger, fear, or a number of other possible emotions.”

Grieving comes with painful loss, and most of us know painful loss is not the exclusive territory of death. Our own sin can produce such grief. It would appear the grief of sin produces the same range of emotions. For the moment I want to focus on just one grieving emotional response – fear.

I see a positive and negative side to the grief of sin. On the positive side, grief that produces fear is a means of drawing us to God and seeking His forgiveness. This fear reminds us we are moral beings. It reminds us there is a reckoning that will take place before a Holy God. That fear points out the separation our sin is causing us in relationship to Christ. Though He loves us, things are strained, and it calls us to confess, and seek forgiveness.

There is a negative side to this grief and its resultant fear. It explains why in numerous ways the Bible seeks to tell us forgiveness is ours through Christ. Forgiveness is ours for the asking because of the death and resurrection of Jesus in our stead. And, the most astounding of truths, this forgiveness is instantaneous and complete. I find myself in awe of the simple words of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” There is no provisional stuff or temporary certificate of forgiveness until I pass the test and get my salvation license. No, it is immediate, and there is nothing I can or have to do to realize it.

However, fear is an emotion that creeps back into our lives, or at least my life. Even after we have sought forgiveness, and claimed the promises of God there is that grief and fear like my shadow. The enemy knows how to use it to advantage as well. And with fear over past sins I get distracted, paralyzed thinking how and why would God use or want me? No wonder the New Testament reminds us many times, “Do not fear.” Grief over past sins can limit our faith, our growth, our influence. And it is the grief, the false fear that limits us, not our past sins. Those are covered by the blood. Isn’t it funny? No matter how long one has followed Jesus our feelings and faith can run counter to each other! I say all this to remind me, and to remind you, when grief strikes because of your past; when fear approaches, choose faith over fear. Live the life God has for you by faith.

JT