How Far is Too Far in Sanctification?

What exactly is “sanctification”? This is the process whereby God works in our lives to change us and to transform us in many degrees so that we are like our elder brother, the Lord Jesus Christ. I know this on an intellectual level, but what does it mean in my life? I’ve known that this was a hard process, that sanctification can hurt. I also know that it is necessary. I thought I’d experienced the pain of this process. To be quite honest, I’d even glamorized this process somewhat, thinking that I was such a good Christian: “Look at me! I’m being sanctified… I’m suffering for Christ’s sake.” That was before this past week.

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Firm Through the Fiercest Drought and Storm

We live in the Northpointe neighborhood in Pensacola, FL… the one that got hammered with a tornado Tuesday night (February 24, 2016). Aubrey and Ragan were away from home, babysitting for some friends while I held down the fort with my younger two children. We knew that a fairly large stormfront was coming through, but I had no idea that we would be in the center of it.

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2015 New Year’s Resolutions

Looking Back

2014 has been a milestone year in my life. God sovereignly transformed my life sometime around Easter in the biggest way possible… He saved me from my own self-righteousness and unbelief. What I had previously thought was the Christian life, was really a false sense of hope and a works-based religion. You can read about that in My Personal Testimony.

Consistent with being a “new man”, my desires have changed radically this year. I spend a lot of my free time reading about Theology or watching sermons online. I have endeavored to “catch up” on the meat of Christian faith that I have missed out on, and it has been good. I have read God’s Word more consistently and with more fervor than ever in my life. I am truly thankful to my Lord and my Savior, Jesus Christ for this year.

A Different Kind of Resolution

My wife read an article about closing out the year writing letters to Jesus and placing them in your stockings before packing them away for the year. We thought it would be a good tradition to try out, so we all wrote letters of resolution to Jesus. In that letter I wrote my sincere commitments to serve and know Christ. It included overall statements, such as the desire to serve God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. I also wrote practical things, such as continuing my daily time of reading the Bible, praying and studying.

So my public New Year’s Resolutions this year look more like changes in habit that I would like to implement in my life.

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Personal Parable: Repentance

1) to feel or show that you are sorry for something bad or wrong that you did and that you want to do what is right
2) to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life
3) to change one’s mind

“Repent.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 26 May 2014. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/repent.

An Interaction With My Son

This morning my son and I were involved in what you might call horseplay. He knows that I am ticklish and so he likes to tickle me. I, of course, am (for the time) much larger than my son and so usually turn the tables quickly and tickle him into submission. This continued until the playing became a bit too rambunctious; it was beginning to bother other members of the family. My son tends to take things too far, which I wanted to prevent.

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2013 New Year’s Resolutions

Bilbo-The-Hobbit

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring)

I thought it appropriate to use this image and quote taken from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring) and the recent release of the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for my New Year’s Resolution post. My wife, kids and I went to see the movie together and thoroughly enjoyed it. Anyway, each year has the potential to hold something new, perhaps something adventurous. While I don’t particularly feel that it will at the moment, the future is unknown and as Bilbo stated, “there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

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Status Quo… So Far

Tree Time Lapse

The gauntlet has been thrown down, the New Year’s Resolutions for 2012 made and the proverbial ball is in my court to do something about it. The trees in the picture above show a progression of the seasons and how they affect the tree. It’s basically the same, except for some surface changes in the leaf color and leaf volume. I feel like this year, so far, has been basically maintaining the status quo.

What should I be changing? Well, the main thing I wanted to change centered around putting God first… in everything. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” I really don’t feel like I’m currently doing that; I feel more like I’m just maintaining the status quo. Sure I started a read the bible in a year program, which I’m currently on track with. Other than that, though, I don’t feel like anything has changed. God hasn’t taken a larger role in my every day life than in 2011… at least not yet. I guess I’m writing this to be out in the open and hold myself accountable before the world (wide web) to never be content with being stagnant in my faith.

How are the other resolutions (goals) coming? I’m still training for the New Orleans marathon in March. I haven’t practiced any piano this year. I did, however, implement some cross training this week which will hopefully start working on the mid-section fat. Finally, we are still working on debt. We’re taking a bit of a step back because our oldest daughter just got braces today. That required a fairly large down payment, which we were able to pay without getting behind in our bills, and adds another payment to our list. I think that we are doing well in that area, though, and expect to keep striving towards the goal of being debt free.

2012 New Year’s Resolution(s)

Spock Cyclops

Ever hear that song, “The Future’s So Bright” by Timbuk 3? [Video] The catch phrase goes, “the future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.” That is a little of what I feel like looking forward to 2012. We have taken some excellent steps towards becoming debt free, I have a great job, I’m training for my second marathon, I’m growing closer and closer to God… it seems like a year of possibilities (at least at this moment).

So with further ado about nothing, here are my 2012 New Year’s Resolutions.

1. The Greatest Command

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31

I am not saying that I am a “law” man or a legalist. I fully believe that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, and not from myself. It is a gift of God, not by works, so that none can boast. (Paraphrased from Ephesians 2:8-9).

However, living as Christ lived is a worthy enough goal. I’ve been stewing over this verse for the past 6 months or so and have decided that this is what I want to focus on this year.

What does it mean to love the Lord your God with all your heart? What does it mean to love the Lord your God with all your soulall your mindand all your strength? What does that type of love and devotion look like in my every day life? What does it look like in the morning before I’ve had my coffee? What does it look like when I’m frustrated with something at work? If I were to truly act out this commandment in my life, how would my priorities change or my life for that matter?

That’s it.

Don’t you think that one is big enough to be the only resolution for this year? lol I think so. I thought about listing some others here, just as a blogging placeholder, but they haven’t really changed from last year. So I’ll just list them out here more as “continuing goals” for this year. They are:

  1. Practice My Talents – More specifically, the piano
  2. Run in my second marathon
  3. Get rid of the gut – I mean it this time!
  4. Pay off debt – We are going to hammer on this one until the debt monster is finally dead!

Well, I hope you and yours have a very Happy New Year and an excellent start to 2012! God bless.

2011 Resolutions : Looking Back

Once again I find myself at the end of a year looking back on the resolutions I made at the start. How did I do? Was it worth setting any goals at all? Let’s have a look see.

Rear View Mirror

1. Die

The point of this resolution was to try to focus my attention and energies on dying to “self”. Did I succeed? Well, not completely. I don’t think this is one you can perfect during your lifetime, though, it certainly is a worthwhile goal. So how much did I grow in this area? To be honest, I don’t have any clue. I know that God promises that He will finish the work that He began in me.

…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

I’m glad that God is control of the progress, though I do realize that I have a responsibility to live my life “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).

2. Practice My Talents

This one centered mainly around practicing the piano. How did I do? Fail. I totally did not spend any extra time practicing, other than the time required to prepare for Sunday mornings.

3. Marathon #2

Also a fail, though not entirely my fault. Right after my first marathon I was clowning around with my kids and ended up with a stress fracture, so I was not able to run for quite some time. I was able to get back into training by April, however, the time off was more of a setback then I thought it would be. I did manage to run another half marathon, though, and am currently training for my next marathon.

4. Get Rid of the Gut

Miserable fail! I think it actually got bigger. Nuf said.

5. Pay Off Debt

Success! No, we did not pay off all of our debt. However, I can proudly announce that the only debt we have left is our student loans, the car payment and a small-ish medical debt. Once we decided to get on board with Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and truly get focused, God came along side us and helped us to pay off way more than I could have anticipated.

Well, that’s it for last year. So long, 2011, you were good to us.

WorshipGod11 Audio Messages

WorshipGod11 Conference - Audio Messages

I thought I would post links to the audio messages (free download) from the WorshipGod11 conference that Aubrey and I attended this year. These messages were/are really good and I would highly recommend them to anyone.

Gathering to Behold

2 Corinthians 3:18

Ray Ortlund is lead pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He holds a Ph.D. from The University of Aberdeen, Scotland. In addition to a number of essays and articles, he has published five books. He participated in The New Living Translation and the English Standard Version of the Bible, and wrote the notes to the book of Isaiah in the ESV Study Bible. Ray is the President of Renewal Ministries, a Regional Director in The Acts29 Network, and serves on the council of The Gospel Coalition.

Gathering to Rehearse (the Gospel)

Isaiah 6:1-8

Bryan Chapell is President of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Professor of Practical Theology. His insightful Bible teaching can be heard daily via the internet on Living Christ Today. He is the author of many articles and numerous books, including Christ-Centered Preaching and Christ-Centered Worship. Bryan and his wife, Kathleen, have four children and live in Memphis, Tennessee.

Gathering to Hear

1 Timothy 4:11-16

Thabiti Anyabwile is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. He has written numerous books, including The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors and What Is a Healthy Church Member? He also shares his musings and perspectives at his blog, Pure Church. Thabiti and his wife Kristie have three children.

Gathering to Edify

1 Corinthians 14:1-33, Ephesians 4:15-16

Bob Kauflin is the director of worship development for Sovereign Grace Ministries. Bob was a writer and arranger for the group GLAD from 1976 to 2006, and is one of the worship leaders at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He blogs at worshipmatters.com, and his book, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, was released in 2008 by Crossway. He and his wife, Julie, have six children and ten grandchildren.

Gathering to Commission

1 Peter 2:9

Craig Cabaniss is the senior pastor of Grace Church in Frisco, Texas, near Dallas. His winsome and biblical preaching has been a favorite of WorshipGod conferences in past years. He and his wife, Ginger, have four children.

NOTE: The bios above came from the materials we received at the WorshipGod11 conference and the message titles link to a page on the Sovereign Grace Ministries website where you can download and/or listen to the sermons.

Pursuing Excellence

Excellence

My wife and I recently had the privilege of attending WorshipGod11, a praise & worship conference hosted by Sovereign Grace. It was a great time of worshiping God among 2000 or so other people who were all (mostly) involved in music. So as you can image the praise & worship music was excellent! There were also many practical application sessions that taught various topics like vocal technique, team organization, song selection and even some techie topics like sound equipment and stage volume. The amount of good, solid teaching was overwhelming and Bob Kauflin said during the last session of the conference to NOT take everything home and try to implement it all at once. We are however going to begin trying some of the things we learned. Not just because they are cool or neat, but because we are called in scripture to excellence.

Called to Excellence

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Colossians 3:15-17

So in whatever we do, including leading music on Sunday morning, we should do it in the name of the Lord Jesus. Does that really call us to excellence though? For me it does. If you understand who Jesus is, who God is, the one who created everything by His very word [Genesis 1:1], the one by whom all things are held together [Colossians 1:17] then it should change your perspective about just who you are worshiping. This isn’t the president of the United States we are singing to, this is the God of the universe! We should present the very best that we can possibly muster to honor this awesome being.

In addition to the magnitude of who we are worshiping, we should also remember what He has done. The NIV translation of the bible has headings over certain sections. Above the Colossians section quoted above is the label, “Living as Those Made Alive in Christ.” We have been made alive! We were dead in our sins and Christ died [John 3:16] and was raised from the dead [Romans 8:11] so that we could live, all because He loves us. This awesome, magnificent, holy God is also a personal God who loves you. We should offer our very best to Him because of His great love for us and the gratitude that should generate in our hearts.

So What Is Excellence?

“Excellence is the process of becoming better than I once was. I’m not to become better than someone else or even like someone else. Excelling is simply, and radically, the process of improving over yesterday…”
Harold Best
Dean – Wheaton College Conservatory of Music

I like Harold Best’s description here because it boils excellence down to a journey, not a finish line. Excellence is not being the best guitarist in your church. It is not that you can sing for the opera or a pop album or play the piano like Vladimir Horowitz. It may include all or some of those things, but probably not. When we start comparing our skills and talents to those of other people we begin to judge. It may be ourselves that we are judging or the other people, but in either case it can lead to non-edifying thoughts and behaviors. If we are going to compare ourselves to anyone it should be to Christ. In that scenario the only outcome is to realize how vast the difference is, how great is the grace extended to us and to start moving down the road to being more Christ-like.

Wait a minute, Christ played the guitar!? I don’t have an actual scriptural reference to confirm or deny that, but I’m sure if the devil did go down to Georgia and challenge Jesus to a music duel there would be no contest. I think the point I’m trying to make is that whether it is in playing or singing skillfully, knowing the word of God, loving others as ourselves, being generous or being thankful – whatever the case – we should always be moving towards becoming better than we once were.