Have you ever felt like you just need a good dose of encouragement? The older I get, the more that I realize that “life” seems to send its trials your way. I’ll be the first to admit that my life is not characterized by perfect submission and heartfelt praise to God in the midst of my trials (James 1:2). There are times when I (and probably you) simply don’t feel like being joyful during a trial or testing of your faith. The apostle Paul was obviously cognizant of this fact, for he consistently is encouraging the believers in the early church to press on toward the prize (1 Corin. 9:24) and pursue heavenly rewards. Let me offer the following encouragement to you (and myself) from the book of Romans.
Therefore, I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world ,but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
While it is relatively easy to quote a verse on encouragment (thanks Google), it is much harder to live a life according to Romans 12:1-2 as a means of encouragement. Sacrifice and submission to spiritual service are not easy tasks. Breaking out from conformity with the world is even harder. Staring the down the barrel of real transformation, just might be too much to bear! Perhaps, our (my) ability to persevere in joy in the midst of trials is directly related to my daily intake of the mercies of God. For to cry out for God’s mercy on a daily basis, despite the promise that they are new every morning (see Lam. 3:22-23), requires just that…to cry out for God’s mercy on a daily basis! Our self-reliance and culture of achievement may be the largest stumbling block to real spiritual breakthrough and maturity, as least I believe I have found one of mine. Our daily bread from the Lord truly must be daily, just as it was for the Israelites in the wilderness. There was to be no regular storing up of bread, because it would become moldy (just as our spiritual lives).
Join me this week in meeting the Lord at the fountain, instead of relying on moldy spiritual bread to sustain!
“Whom have I in heaven but You? And beside You, I desire nothing on earth.” ~ Psalm 73:25
You’re my last hope and yet my first
You’re my brokenness and my strength
You’re my death and my life
The earth holds nothing to be desired but your presence
Nothing to be sought after but eternal riches in heaven
Nothing to be gained but my loss
(words penned in my college journal 8 years ago)
Our chuch, First Family Church, is smack dab in the middle of our Romans series. Here is a link to a devotional piece written by me for Romans 7. Check it out and subscribe to get weekly updates.
Since my wife and children are enjoying a nice vacation at her parents’ house in Nebraska, I was spending the weekend visiting my family in Eastern Iowa. Otherwise, this morning started rather normally, waking up, grabbing a Dr. Pepper for breakfast (needed the caffeine), and then heading to church at BIG. I always enjoy heading back to BIG and seeing the church body that we were apart of when Angela and I were married. It’s always a sweet time of genuine heart-felt worship and this morning was no different.
Pastor Bill opened up to Matthew 28:18, and immediately my mind flashes back over the numerous Great Commission sermons that I’ve heard preached. Thankfully, I was able put aside any pre-conceived notions and allow the word of God to work in my heart. There nothing necesarily “profoundly new” or “earth-shattering” about the sermon, just the simple and powerful word of God. However, the statement made at the end of the sermon, I quickly jotted down, and have been pondering it throughout the day: “Christianity is a thinking man’s religion”. How true that statement is! While child-like faith is the pre-requisite for entering the kingdom of God (Mark 10:13-16), the facts for the thinking man do hold up.
Pastor took us all over the scripture to illustrate the disciples adherence to making disciples of all nations, by their willingness to reason, go to the scripture, reason again, and go back to the scriptures. Spend every sabbath doing it, spend every day doing it, week in and week out for months and years at a time. We often hear Great Commission sermons focused solely on the disciples adherence to going to the ends of the earth to spread the Gospel, but we often overlook the necessary work reasoning and contending for the scriptures.
While I have always held an affinity to the the truth and theological discussion, I often wonder if “we” as the “American Church” have missed the boat. In our drive to grow the church numerically have we missed the message of the Great Commission and God’s design for church growth? Why shy away from the fact that God’s truth is bulletproof, there are no contradictions? In our efforts to simplify the gospel to the “Romans Road” or “Sinner’s Prayer”, have we stripped the Gospel and the Word of it’s power (Romans 1:16)? Perhaps, I’m over thinking the thinking man’s religion or perhaps we need a fresh dose of the Great Commission lived out as the disciples did.
Our chuch, First Family Church, is beginning a new series in Romans. Check out the first E-Devotional and subscribe to get weekly updates.
Today, our church was blessed to have a special speaker, Daniel Punnose from Gospel for Asia
. Daniel is the son of the founder of Gospel for Asia and author, K.P. Yohannan
. I have heard representatives from Gospel for Asia speak before, so last night I knew that this morning I would be faced with an eternally focused message. In all honesty, there was a part of me that was fearful of that. Sure enough, Daniel brought the word of God with conviction and sincerity. Preaching from a familiar passage in John 4:27-35, he emphasized the last verse and Jesus instructions to his disciples…”lift up your eyes.”
For the better part of the past year, my wife
and I have felt at times like we are running on empty. Four kids, four and under presents its daily challenges, but the real challenge has come in my battle with my selfish, sinful nature. In all honest, I feel much like the disciples in John 4:35, who are so concerned with the physical (i.e. the harvest is 4 months away), that I am missing the spiritual (i.e. the fields are white for the harvest). It is apparent that when you are unable to take your eyes off of yourself, you miss the spiritual (“lift up your eyes”). I wonder if perhaps I am not alone in this “confession of a selfish 21st century Christian”? Not that it would make me feel any “better” about myself, because I know it is God who is stirring my heart (thankfully!). But I have to come to the realization, that without making the choice of doing things differently, I am just going to have the same ho-hum spiritual results. If I want a vibrant prayer life,then I need to eliminate the snooze button of my life and rise to pray while my family still sleeps. If I want the word of God to speak to me, I have to desire it above my physical appetites. This stirred heart of mine has challenged me to be moved!
Lord, you know all things and know my heart. Lord, you know my weaknesses. Move me. Change me. Teach me to live authentically so that because of the way that I’m living my life someone else will know the gospel! Lift up my eyes and stamp eternity on them! In Jesus’, precious, holy, saving name!
I can’t believe I am the father of a four year old. Today’s is my oldest son’s birthday. It’s hard to believe that 4 years ago my wife and I were in the hospital with our newborn son. We were newlyweds (9 months under our belt) and I was still finishing up college (on spring break of my senior year to be exact). We knew that children are a blessing from the Lord and have accepted that from day one. However, I’m sure to some extent we tempered what we expected that would look like!
Parenting has not always been easy and I’m sure my wife and I have made our share of “rookie” mistakes. But, tonight, my heart is very proud. My son is an incredible blessing to our family. He is obedient, fun-loving, one-of-a kind kid. I am proud to call him my son.
“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.” ~ Psalm 127:3-5
I’m sure many of you have heard the cliche that sometimes “life catches up with you”…well what do you do when you feel like you can’t catch up with life?
That describes me for the majority of the past 8 months (which coincidently coincides with the ages of my twin daughters). For example…feeling like you don’t have enough hours in the day… days of the week… weeks in a month… and months in a year?! Don’t get me wrong…I love my children and the hours of the day that they demand, but I am constantly praying to God that he would cause me to redeem what time I do have for furthering his call on my life.
So far this year, God has been teaching me about desire. He’s teaching me to desire intimate fellowship through time in the word and prayer. He’s teaching me to desire the greater working of spiritual gifts in my own life. He’s teaching me to desire to know him.
Psalm 25:4-5 – “Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For you are the God of my salvation; For you I wait all the day. remember, O Lord, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses, for they have been from of old.”
Q: What is obedience?
A: For my kids, it means following though on the instructions which my wife and I give them (Ephesians 6:1). Why is it that “obey” (when spoken by parents), carries with it a fear of repercussion for “not obeying” (disobedience)? For me, it means submitting to authorities, paying taxes, following the laws of this great country, etc. Again, obedience carries with it a fear of repercussion or losing reward. It seems that we are conditioned in this life to associate obedience and disobedience in the context of reward and punishment.
Q: So what is obedience to Christ?
A: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). “…blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:28). It is doing God’s will; it is keeping his commandments.
So, we define obedience to man in one manner that seems different that the way we define obedience to Christ. It is no wonder that when the topic of obedience some up we put up the defensive shields. But…what if we truly grasped the concept of obedience from an eternal perspective? What if we applied the “eternal outlook” test? What if we saw obedience as a blessing?
We would teach our children to obey out of love, we would submit to our authorities because it is God who appointed them to that position. We would pay our taxes no matter how unfair or wasteful the uses of them seem. We would uproot all bitterness and obey with gladness of heart, not because we necessarily “like it”, but because we grasp what biblical obedience means. Our obedience to Christ shows that we belong to Christ. Our refusal to complain about authorities (in my case Obama, Culver, Democrats), proves that we (I) understand our rightful place under God’s ultimate authority (by no means am I trying to promote passivism in regards to government – just expound on the concept of obedience). Our complaints should turn to prayer and our prayers should beseech the Man who sits at the right hand of our Father.
So, how many of the commandments must be obeyed to constitute obedience? The spirit which prompts a man to break one commandment is the same spirit which may move him to break them all. The spirit of disobedience is a dangerous thing to play with.
That’s what we must be restful in the Lord and submit to obedience. Easier said than done… obedience (period).
Another year of leading the Squires Lighthouse has begun. This month marks the start of the third year of the Squires Lighthouse and our fourth year involved in the Lighthouse (small group) ministry at First Family Church in Ankeny, Iowa.
I always look forward to fresh beginnings. A chance to kick it up a notch, get back on track. For one thing, we typically take summers off, so it’s refreshing to be back in regular fellowship with other believers. Secondly, the last four months have been a rather blur. Needless to say, with a three year old, two year old, and twin infants, regular adult fellowship was harder to come by this summer. My wife and I absolutely love meeting with fellow Christians and are so thankful for the opportunity to have Christian friends who we can meet with and enjoy godly fellowship.
Anyways…so what is exactly is the Squires Lighthouse you ask? The Squires Lighthouse is currently comprised of young married couples in various stages of life. We love the Lord and strive to have deep, godly fellowship when we meet Sunday evenings to study the bible, pray, and grow in the Lord together.
If you live in the Des Moines area and want to meet and join in our fellowship let us know!