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A Legacy of Faithfulness

This weekend, two friends, two fathers in ministry, finished their race and went home to be with Jesus.

Bro. Paul BoxBro. Paul Box was my first pastor. I had the opportunity to catch up with him last year. I wrote this after our last visit:

I just got to visit with Bro. Paul Box. He was the pastor at First Baptist Moore when I came to faith in Christ. He was pastor when I was first called into ministry. He and his wife, Patti, were the first to teach me what life in ministry was all about.

I remember being in the 6th grade. They encouraged us to take notes during the services for 4 weeks. Those of us who completed all 4 weeks received a t-shirt. It had a pocket print that said, “Pastor’s Palls”. Oh yes, it was that cool.

When they gave out the shirts Bro. Paul shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m proud of you.” It’s strange, the effect of four simple words. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to live up to the faith so many others have had in me.

Today, as we finished our conversation Bro. Paul again shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m proud of you.”

And the 6th grade boy in me returned.

I hope someday I inspire others the way Bro. Paul inspires me.

 


Dr. Michael ComptonDr. Mike Compton was my College Pastor. To this day I catch myself using his quotes, and teaching his lessons. From him I learned what it means to become more deeply and intimately acquainted with the Heavenly Father and how to encourage others to do the same. He would challenge people with this idea,

“Jesus discipled 12 men who would change the world. What would it be like if you did the same?”

It was clear Mike was looking for his 12. He always said that since he didn’t have the privilege of knowing which 12 would be his ones to change the world that he would make it his goal to disciple as many people as God would entrust to him. He was faithful to this call and I am blessed because of it.

It makes me wonder who my 12 will be. It makes me hope that someday I will discover I became one of his.


Grief is the price we pay for loving relationships that last beyond the horizon of this world to influence eternity. Yet Scripture is clear, as followers of Jesus Christ, we don’t grieve like those who have no hope, and for good reason. Both of these architects of my faith would say it like this:

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” – Philippians 1:21-23

They would add:

“Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith I therein rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.” Philippians 2:17-18

And finally:

“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27

I am grateful for Bro. Paul and for Mike. I hope to live up to the legacy of faith they invested in me. They will be missed.

Post-Christian: Leaving Faith Behind


Malachi 1 & 2

Malachi is a minor prophet. Minor doesn’t mean insignificant. It means short. Minor prophet. Major message.

For more than 2000 years the Christian faith has influenced art, culture, government, economics and science. For a thousand years the church was the storehouse of knowledge, the stimulus for original thought and on the cutting edge of art and academics. We still experience the effect today. Hospitals bear the names of saints and denominations: St. John’s and St. Francis, Baptist and Presbyterian. These centers for science and healing find their foundation in the church. Many of our Ivey League Universities began as seminaries. The culture and traditions you live in, regardless of your belief or practice of faith, would be vastly different if not for the effects of Christianity. I believe the world is better for it.

But that’s not a popular thought today. We live in a world that is increasingly post-Christian. Faith is viewed as the enemy of science. Some circles consider faith a childish crutch for the ignorant and uneducated rather than the foundation of every other intellectual discipline. The sins of Christian culture and history, of which there are many, are amplified while the good that has been done is ignored or attributed to some other source.

Interestingly enough, this is nothing new. Malachi addresses the Old Testament, Jewish version of this very thing.

Listen to Malachi 1:2, “I have always loved you,” says the Lord. But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?”

The level of insolence of the children of Israel is remarkable. But it’s a level of insolence we experience everyday. It happens so often we’ve almost gotten used to it. Our nation is blessed. We’ve experienced the favor of God like no other nation in the history of the world. Yet when the gospel is preached, when truth is presented, when God is discussed our national response, “Really? How have you loved us?”

Our problem is simple. We want to blame our failures on God and our successes on our own rugged self-determination. We may choose to ‘worship God’, but like the children of Israel in Malachi 1 we do it on our own terms rather than on God’s terms. We offer up lame or stolen sacrifices. We shape our worship to reinforce what we think rather than what God wants. You see God’s response in Malachi 1:10, ““How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered!” In other words, God would rather see churches shut down than see people falsely worship him. And we’re seeing that happen today. The influence of the church is waning. People of the Christian faith are being marginalized.

Chapter 2 reveals why. It’s not simply because of the wickedness of non-Believers. They’re non-Believers. Wicked or not we should expect them to doubt the faith, deny it’s significance and work to minimize the influence of the church. Malachi identifies the problem. He says it’s the people in the church.

Malachi 2:2, “Listen to me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies…” He’s talking to the priests. He’s talking to the children of Israel.

Remarkably, in chapter one he says that there are non-Jewish people who worship him more purely than his chosen people. I see that today. There are people, disconnected from the church, who worship God more admirably than many who are in church every time the doors are open.

Malachi 2:2 offers the challenge and the solution. Listen to God. Honor his name.

That’s about coming to God on HIS terms. It’s about offering to God what he wants rather than what’s convenient for you. It’s about giving more than you think you can afford and trusting God to provide. It’s about surrender and submission. It’s about knowing his word and his will so well that you can actually live by them. It’s about recognizing the amazing number of ways God has expressed his love for you.

Regardless of our culture we can listen to God and honor him. What will you do today?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the many ways you have expressed your love for me. I am remarkably blessed. May I never forget it. Today I hope to recognize and remember even more ways you have demonstrated your love for me. I want to worship you in the way you choose. I want to hear your voice and honor you.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

When You’re All Used Up


We just finished 2 Timothy. I’m headed to Jonah next. Four chapters. Four days. Another entire book of the Bible.


2 Timothy 4

What happens when you’re all used up? I have a second cousin. He’s lived a long life. Now at 92 years old his health is in decline. He was shocked to learn his kidneys are slowly beginning to fail. When the doctor told him the news he asked, “But why!? Can’t you fix it?” His doctor was both calm and understanding. Patiently he responded, “Sir, you’re 92. At some point your body wears out.”

It’s not a terribly encouraging thought, but it’s something we will all face someday. There will come a time when our bodies wear out. They say the mind is the second thing to go…I can’t remember what the first thing is! I wonder if you’ll be ready for that day.

In 2 Timothy 4 Paul faces that day. He doesn’t face it because of old age, but because he’s a prisoner of the gospel. He’s received the death penalty for telling people about Jesus. Paul’s response? “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God.” (2 Timothy 4:6) Certainly Paul was as human as you and me. Being a martyr wasn’t his purpose. Being faithful to God was. And those two things were on a collision course Paul would not avoid. As Paul reflected on his life’s work he realized he was all used up. He was spent. He poured himself out for something he believed mattered. He poured himself out for something that had eternal value. He emptied himself and had no regrets. Listen to his words, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”

Earlier, in his life Paul wrote to the Philippians. He used similar language, Philippians 2:17, “But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God…” Do you see the pattern? 2 Timothy 4 tells the story of the immediate future. Paul was headed to his execution. Philippians reveals the attitude, actions and intent that got Paul there. He understood that one day he would be all used up. Like a drink poured out, all he had to offer would be spent. He made the deliberate choice to pour his life into a mission that had eternal significance. It was his determined purpose to one day be all used up for something that mattered.

My day is coming. So is yours. We will be all used up. Physically our bodies will wear out. Mentally our minds will slow down. On that day when our life flashes before our eyes will it be a life worth watching? You can pour yourself out for something that matters. You can write a story with your life and your choices that has significance beyond this moment. But that doesn’t happen by accident. Like Paul, it happens because of a deliberate choice. It happens because of a determined purpose. It happens because you intend to finish your life all used up, poured out for something eternal.

Will you be surprised when things get worn out or, like Paul, will you have the confidence to say, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”?

This isn’t a decision for later. It’s a decision for now. Today you will make a choice. You will spend your life. You will use up part of the time you have left. You will write your story.

Make it a good one.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the life you’ve given me. I hope I use it well. Today, I give my life back to you. I want to pour myself out for your glory. I want to use who I am and what I have for the benefit of others. At the end of the day I want to be completely spent, worn out, not because of misuse and abuse, but because I serve an eternal purpose and I’ve used what you’ve given me well. At the end of my life I want to be like Paul. I want to say with confidence, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” In that moment when my life flashes before my eyes I want it to be a story worth watching, a story worth telling, the divine story of Your relentless affection for me.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Build the House

Build the HouseHere’s how this works.

Each day I’ll read and S.O.A.P. one chapter of Romans. S.O.A.P. is a simple way to focus on what God is speaking to you through what you read. It stands for ScriptureObservationApplication, & Prayer.

Every time I read a chapter God always focuses my heart and mind around a specific part of that chapter. Sometimes it’s just a verse. Sometimes it’s more than that. That verse or group of verses becomes the focus of my devo.

There’s one other practice that helps me know, understand and follow scripture – memorization. Consider memorizing the verse or verses you S.O.A.P.


Romans 4

SCRIPTURE

Romans 4:20-21, “Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises (NLT)”

OBSERVATION

As I read this passage I was reminded of other verses in the Bible.

  • Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the substance of things hope for, the evidence of things not seen.”
  • 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.”
  • Philippians 1:6, “…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Abraham’s story is remarkable. God made Abraham a promise that Abraham wouldn’t begin to see answered until he was 100 years old. It’s a promise God later tested by asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son. It’s a promise that Abraham, in his lifetime, would never see fully filled. Yet Abraham’s confidence in God continued to grow. He was fully convinced that God was able, that God was trustworthy, that God would keep His Word.

APPLICATION

Faith is the confidence that God can be trusted.

I am blessed because of the faith of others. Their confidence in God has shown me the value of patience and challenged me to hold on, to remain faithful, even when things are at their worst. Their stories have taught me that God’s promises are personal. When He made these promises He was thinking of me. He will keep His word to me. Their stories have also taught me that God’s promises are bigger than me. In His time and for His purpose He will complete every promise. I may live to see it or the conclusion may come after my life is over. Either way, God will keep His promises and I will experience the benefit here or in eternity.

It causes me to ask questions – How’s my confidence in God? Do I trust Him? Can I learn to trust Him more? If He’s kept or is in the process of keeping all of His BIG promises – like salvation, forgiveness, and abundant life – what personal, ‘small’, promises is He keeping for me right now?

In those moments of doubt I need to remember that God isn’t finished yet. Building a house takes time. Plans are drawn up. Loans are made. Contractors hired and scheduled. Skilled craftsmen work to transform a rough outline on paper into the rooms and art that will contain our lives. One day it will be the perfect home for me and my family but right now it’s in process. It’s a home that’s being built.

Some of God’s promises are like this. He is the skilled craftsmen working to transform us by building the rough outline of His Word into the practical reality of our lives. And that takes time…

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for keeping Your promises. Thank you for the examples of faith we see in Scripture. More specifically, thank you for the people in my life right now who display an uncommon confidence in you. Their example challenges and encourages me. Bless them today with Your favor and allow them to see Your promises come true! Help me understand where I am in Your process of ‘faith’-building in my life. Grow my faith. Let my story be one that inspires faith in others.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad


There’s so much more in this chapter…what did God speak to you?

The Family Business

Family BusinessHere’s how this works.

Each day I’ll read and S.O.A.P. one chapter of Romans. S.O.A.P. is a simple way to focus on what God is speaking to you through what you read. It stands for ScriptureObservationApplication, & Prayer.

Every time I read a chapter God always focuses my heart and mind around a specific part of that chapter. Sometimes it’s just a verse. Sometimes it’s more than that. That verse or group of verses becomes the focus of my devo.

There’s one other practice that helps me know, understand and follow scripture – memorization. Consider memorizing the verse or verses you S.O.A.P.


Romans 2

SCRIPTURE
Romans 2:29, “No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people. (NLT)”

OBSERVATION
The book of Romans is Paul’s history of salvation. It’s the story of God’s purpose, plan and gift of deliverance for those who will have a right relationship with Him. It’s a story that began with the Jewish nation. Starting in Genesis people chose to reject God. We still do today. God has made himself and his desire for us clearly known but we have said, “No. I’d rather do things my way.”

Like a Father trying to re-establish a relationship with an estranged child by working through a mutual friend God chose the Jewish people to carry His message to the world. They were supposed to be a nation of priests and priest to the nations. He gave them His law, told them His story, asked them to share that story with the world and promised His blessing if they would. It was the family business passed down in the form of a covenant from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob and throughout all the tribes of Israel. But the Jewish people were as rebellious as everyone else. They rejected God again. They rejected the family business. Their knowledge made them arrogant. They misused His word to claim they stood above the world rather than to offer salvation to the world. They became no better off than than the non-Jewish people who rejected God without His word. Worse, they led non-Jewish people to believe things about God that weren’t true because they misrepresented Him and the family business.

In Romans 2 God sets the record straight. He reminds the Jewish people why He chose them, not because they were righteous or worthy, but because He wanted them to tell the story of salvation to the world. He reminds everyone about the family business and brings the mission of that business into focus. He makes it clear that salvation isn’t a gift for Jews alone. The message, the family business, was the special gift to the Jews. Salvation is for everyone!

APPLICATION
I would paraphrase Romans 2:29 like this, “No, a true follower of God is one whose heart is right with God. And true salvation is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”

As a Believer in Jesus Christ I’ve received the gift of salvation and inherited the family business. What story does my life tell about God’s work in me and through me? Is my faith defined by a narrowly focused list of rules? Has my knowledge of the Word, my participation in church and my desire to avoid ‘sin’ caused me to become arrogant? Do I measure my worth by the ‘good’ things I do? Is there a better way to measure? Do I represent God well? Am I living the mission of the family business?

Knowing and following God’s Word is important. Avoiding sin is a good thing, but there is more to a life of faith than the letter of the law. It is the Spirit at work in me and through me, sometimes even in spite of me, drawing me into a deeper relationship with God and significant relationships with others. It is me, living well, following God and involved in the lives of people. My interaction with people should encourage and challenge them to understand more of God and grow deeper in their faith. If they aren’t yet Believers my life and words should cause them to consider the value and validity of the message. Because of our relationship with one another they should see they are making a clear choice, to reject or receive the message. Whether or not they receive or reject Christ doesn’t have to break our relationship. On the contrary, it’s a significant part of the message for me to demonstrate that I (and God) love them regardless of their choice.

For Believers, my life should encourage and strengthen their faith. We should lean on one another in tough times, celebrate together in our successes and share our experience and knowledge of God as our faith grows deeper.

PRAYER
Heavenly Father,

Thank you for including me in the family business. Thank you for giving us your Word and for the kind way you have drawn me to yourself. Thank you for the people you’ve placed in my life who encourage, challenge and strengthen my faith. Increase my ‘relational bandwidth’ – give me the time, energy and attention to love people better, not just the ones who are already in my life, but the ones I have yet to meet and the ones I’m just starting to know. I pray that in all I do today I would I would represent You well.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad


There’s so much more in this chapter…what did God speak to you?

The Story We Tell

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Here’s how this will work.

Each day I’ll read and S.O.A.P. one chapter of Romans. S.O.A.P. is a simple way to focus on what God is speaking to you through what you read. It stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, & Prayer.

Every time I read a chapter God always focuses my heart and mind around a specific part of that chapter. Sometimes it’s just a verse. Sometimes it’s more than that. That verse or group of verses becomes the focus of my devo.

There’s one other practice that helps me know, understand and follow scripture – memorization. Consider memorizing the verse or verses you S.O.A.P.


Here we go – Romans 1

SCRIPTURE
Romans 1:8, “Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world. (NLT)”

OBSERVATION
I’m thankful for those men and women who have lived an incredible example of faith and faithfulness. They are as different as night and day, their stories as unique as they are, yet they demonstrate a humble and uncommon confidence in every situation. My faith is stronger because of theirs.

Last week I spoke with a widow who was married 63 years before her husband passed away. I led a funeral service for a man who was a combat medic in WW2 and was married for 49 years. Their faithfulness challenges me and gives me an example to follow in my life and marriage.

Faithfulness gives us a front row seat to all the promises of God.

APPLICATION
What do people say about my faith? When they talk about me is my faith in God even part of the story? If everything about my life can be explained apart from the work of Jesus Christ in my life then my faith is too small. I believe God wants to do something in me and through me that can’t be explained because of me.

That’s how Believers in Rome lived. Their faith was spoken of all over the world. Something was happening in their lives and their church that could only be described as God at work. That’s the story I want my life to tell.

PRAYER
Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the examples of faithfulness you have given me through friends and family and through your Word. Bless the widows I was with last week. Encourage them today. Allow them to know your presence and comfort. Let them know the significance and influence of their faithfulness.

Increase my faith. Grow in me an uncommon confidence in you. Help me to recognize that every decision I make, every challenge I face, is an opportunity to strengthen my faith.

Let my life be so wrapped up in who you are that when people talk about me they can’t help but talk about you.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad


There’s so much more in this chapter…what did God speak to you?

Basket Case

 

Psalm 13:1-6.

Do you ever feel like you’re living Psalm 13. It starts with an impatient plea to God, “How long will you forget me, God?” Yet ends with a confident cry of trust and praise. In-between, the Psalmist declares His desire to overcome His enemies, to not be put to shame before them, and to bring glory and honor to God.

I believe God has called me to fulfill a specific purpose. I often ask God to give me the job no one else can do. If someone else can do it, then let them and let them receive the blessings of obedience that come from following Him. I want those blessings, but not for doing your job for you. I believe God has given us each a significant task and mine is different from yours.

God had a significant task for David. David would become the King of Israel and a blessing to future generations. Yet so much of David’s early life was spent running from enemies. So much of his early life looked less like a blessing and more like a curse. It’s in these moments that David would write a Psalm like this. “God, please don’t forget me.” I have to confess, that while no one is trying to kill me, there are times I feel exactly like David. “God, you’ve called me to a specific purpose, a significant task, when will you allow me to fulfill it? Don’t let my opponents get the last laugh, don’t let the naysayers be proven right, for the sake of your glory and your name do your work in me. I don’t understand your timing or your ways, I’m impatient for your answers, but I trust that it’s all under your control. So today, I give myself to you.”

Sometimes I’m a basket case. I’m up. I’m down. I’m confident. I’m confused. But like David, I pray that my faith will never waver. In all the confusion, as depression begins to set in, I pray I will always turn to God, tell Him what’s on my heart and be reminded of His great faithfulness to me and my family.

I wonder if you’re up or down today. I wonder if you’re confident or confused. God wants to hear from you. He’s not afraid of your cries for help or your fragile and ever-changing emotional states. Tell him what’s on your heart and mind and be reminded of His faithfulness.

God has a significant task for you. He is working it out right now. Turn to Him when you’re up. Trust Him when you’re down. He will lead you through the confusion.

As David would say, “I have trusted in your mercy. My heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”

Faith on the Farpoint

I don’t like to admit it, but my faith is pretty small. I’ve never really faced down a giant with only a sling and a stone. I’ve never given sight to a blind man. I’m met with bored indifference every time I tell a mountain to move. For that little feat the Bible says it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed. Have you seen a mustard seed!? My faith must be very small indeed.

So how do you grow in faith? What does it mean to have faith on the farpoint? What can be done to develop what little faith that I have?

Faith on the farpoint is faith overflowing. It is faith enough to face giants, heal the sick and move mountains. It’s the kind of faith that believes God and acts accordingly.

The Bible tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Therefore, like an athlete in training, faith is something we can develop. Here’s how.

Faith is for the Hearing
Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” In order to grow in faith you must be IN THE WORD. There are several ways you can do this. The first is by reading God’s Word daily. I call this a devotional. It’s something you can do on your own. It’s also something friends from church can help with. I wonder if a daily, online devotional would help you get in to the word daily. If you’re interested, click here, and answer this week’s poll about this very thing.

You can also exercise your faith by hearing God’s Word preached at church. Every Sunday there are two worship services where the Bible is boldly preached. There are countless small group Bible studies called Sunday School. Throughout the week is Disciple University, FAITH, Ladies Bible Study and a host of other informal opportunities to get into the Word. If you’re faith is small the first step is to get into the Word.

Faith is for the Asking
The disciples tried to help a demon possessed man and found they couldn’t. Jesus said, “This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting.” The lame man asked to be healed. Jesus healed him. The blind man asked for sight. Jesus made him see. The Roman Centurion asked grace for his servant and Jesus raised him up. Faith is for the asking. We ask God for things through PRAYER. Did you notice that none of these people asked God for faith? They demonstrated their faith in Jesus by going to Him as the solution for their problems. When you pray, it’s adequate to ask for faith, but it’s exceptional to ask and expect God to provide your needs according to His riches in glory. I won’t say more here, but I’m convinced we don’t ask for nearly enough. And when we ask we ask amiss that we might spend it on our pleasures. The fact that we’re asking for wrong things doesn’t mean we should stop asking. Like a musician practicing for a concert or an athlete practicing for the big game we should keep asking till we get it right, till we understand the right things to ask for!

Faith is for the Disciplined
Again with the disciples – remember, “…this kind only comes out by prayer and fasting.” Fasting is about discipline. It’s about managing your appetites – not simply for food but for everything you desire. I’ve heard it said that sin is meeting a God given desire in a God-forsaken way. Fasting is the practice of submitting our appetites to God’s control rather than indulging in the whim of the moment. Our faith is strengthened when we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

This week your faith can grow. Listen to His Word. Ask Him to meet your needs. Discipline yourself to follow Him in every thing. And in doing so live the adventure of faith on the farpoint!

Love y’all, God Bless,
Chad