Wednesday, October 16, 2013

the wide path

My wife is always right... and I don't mean that in the sense that most husbands say it. I guarantee you, that relative to my wife, yours is rarely right... my wife is incredible with the accuracy in the things she says. She has taught me much over the 13-ish years we've known each other. Through her invitation, I began attending First Baptist Nixa, and because of my desire to be with her, I attended events that ended up putting me in the path of God's grace. Through the ups and downs of our relationship, I unintentionally grew deeper in my knowledge of God. Wrapped in the pain of our severed engagement, I found reliance on Christ, and through the rebuilding of our relationship, I learned more about His grace. Believe me when I say that at every turn of my journey of faith, it was only her that stayed steady. God has used her in a mighty way in my life, and by allowing me to see Him through her, I have been truly blessed to be the man I am today.

I say that all to say that there have been times in our 13 years that the choices of my own life, and positions I placed myself into, spoke directly to my willingness to sacrifice all of who she is in order that I might gain something that I valued higher. We have all done things in our life that we never thought we would be capable of doing. We have all inflicted pain that we never thought we could. Somehow we buy into the lie that there are some sins we would never commit. This denial of our own depravity is an amazing foothold for the work of Satan. The total depravity of man opens each of us to the possibility of partaking in truly heinous acts... but not all at once.

The path to destruction may be wide, but the steps down that path are often slow and steady. We rarely choose to race head-long into our own undoing, rarely are we so blind. As we start down the path, we are wary of where it may lead... but just a short way down the path, we see something that looks good. We confuse it with something of God. Usually it is a piece of something... just a step or two down the path... so we shuffle our feet, we stretch out... we strain forward and grasp it... just a little down the path. That small morsel feels nice at first, but soon we get bored with it, and we see just ahead a little way further down the path, another little bit. We think that if we can add that piece to the one we already have, then we will gain some satisfaction. We may even recognize that we are leaving the path we were on, but its just a few steps, we'll be able to see where we came from, we'll just step out to get this piece, then go right back... its harmless... this pattern continues, and if left unchecked, we will find ourselves with pockets full of small pieces that are still failing to provide satisfaction, while also starting to weigh us down. We didn't realize we had wandered so far off the path we were on. We look around and realize that the path we have now chosen has been gradually twisting and descending. With all the weight of the pieces we have picked up along the way, we don't have the energy to turn and head back uphill... at this point, its easier to follow this new path, and see where it leads. Its at least easy to follow, and its all downhill... maybe soon we will see something we recognize. And just that easily we discover that we aren't at all who we used to be, this path has beaten us, we are weary, tired, and hungry... our desires still aren't satisfied, and the path seems unending, unyielding... we can't get out... we give up...

Maybe this cycle takes years, sometimes it takes weeks, but the mechanism never changes. If you find yourself on this path now... stop, take a look around, and yell out for help. Reach out to someone who has been steady and there at each step... chances are, they're still right there, waiting for you... ready to comfort you, show you God's grace. What you'll come to realize is that you don't have to climb out of that pit by yourself... you just have to allow Christ to restore you, place you back in the direction of His path, and seek him daily. It'll hurt, it'll be excruciating at times... the work of sanctification is a purifying as gold in a fire.

I'm thankful that each time I have wandered off the narrow way, my wife has been there... willing to remind me of the God I am to serve, and His immense grace. I'm thankful as well for the power of His grace to restore me, purify me, and love me.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Is there a more prominent, powerful, and defeating agent in our culture today than entitlement? Its everywhere! And, its at the core of so many of the problems with our world today...

The biggest problem I have with entitlement is that it is running rampant in our churches. Don't worry, I struggle with it as much as the rest of you... otherwise, your entitlement wouldn't bug me so much.

We see it in churches when we struggle to find people to serve in ministries that have great need. We see it when there is a change in format, style, etc. We see it when things go well, and more so when things go poorly. Its the voice of complaint, followed by lack of action to fix that which drew the complainer to speak. Its the crossed arms of those who have "served their time" and are waiting on the fresh new blood to pick up the slack. Its the slacking fresh new blood that waits for the elder generation to get up and get back into service. Its the thinking that you just aren't getting anything out of Pastor X... then realizing that you haven't gotten anything out of the pastor of the last 8 churches you've "visited" without realizing that the common denominator is you. Its the complaining that the tempo is too slow, the drums are too loud... its the demands for more cowbell! tambourine!

We get so caught up in what the church owes to us for our faithful attendance and the privilege of our presence. We get mad because the staff doesn't shake our hand just right, or doesn't stand strongly behind whatever moral matter of the day is standing out. We throw our tantrums when our ideas are not given the attention we feel they deserve...

Its all of this and more... but ultimately, its forgetting that church is not about us...

A sermon I listened to recently drew out a commentary by DA Carson, looking into the scene playing out at the verdict of Jesus' trial, as seen through the eyes of Barabas (the criminal sentenced to death, but freed at the calling of the crowd)... He sat in his cell, listening to the crowd shouting "Crucify him! Crucify him!" knowing that they were calling for his own death... the steps approaching the door of his cell, the keys in the lock... knowing that he was about to walk to his death. But instead, when the jailer opened his mouth, it was ushering Barabas to his freedom. He would learn that his place of execution was taken by the innocent Jesus. The innocence of Jesus, confirmed by the cowardly Pilate, would be instead nailed to a cross to suffer the crucifixion that was Barabas' sentence. It was the death he had earned by the life he had lead.

Why are we so entitled? Have we, the saved and pardoned sinners, forgotten the death we had earned? Did we lose the inconceivable thought of hearing our granted freedom, when we were awaiting the wrath we deserved? Are we so wrapped up in our own time that we are unwilling to sacrifice the pleasures of now for the eternity of stored up treasure? What will it take for us to drop the entitled sense of what we deserve? We've already been given more than we deserve, all that is asked is that we accept it with thanksgiving and joy... the love that surpasses ALL understanding should compel us to the service of which each of us is called.