A Man After God’s Own Heart

‘God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’  -Acts 13:22

There have no doubt been countless sermons, books, and other thought-pieces written on this subject, but the Holy Spirit shared a surprisingly obvious one with me a few days ago when I was in my daily reading of 2 Samuel.

As he walked he cried, “My son Absalom! O my son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! Absalom, my son, my son!” -2 Samuel 19:1

Absalom had done all sorts of evil against David, but he was still heartbroken over his son’s death. Absalom’s exploits make it evident he never loved his father or cared for anything but his own ambitions. He was David’s enemy, yet David was ready to trade his own life for their reconciliation at the news of his death. Don’t we see the heart of Christ here?

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” -Luke 19:10

Every day we march one step closer to death, and the Word of God says death without faith in Jesus is an eternal one. That means no reconciliation with the One Who Loves Us. Knowing the end from the beginning, God’s Holy Heart pleads to us, begging that we accept His Death in our place so that we might live with Him forever. The Heart of God is truly a wonderful thing.

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Faith In Firefighting #1

Leviticus 1:3 “…it must be a male with no defects.”

We all know that the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was always intended to reflect the future, perfect sacrifice of Jesus’s death on the cross for our sins. But even with all the illustrations the Bible provides, this is still sometimes a difficult concept for us to grasp given our selfish and sinful nature. Then, today, the Holy Spirit, in all His Gracious Wisdom, made me think about ladders.

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Ladders are regularly tested in the fire service, for obvious reasons. When you’re trusting your life with something you’re climbing, you’ll want to make sure it’s capable of supporting your weight. If defects are found, the ladder will be taken out of service and replaced, for no firefighter in their right mind would climb a defective ladder.

And so it is the same with Jesus. A weak, defective sacrifice would not spare us from the judgement of our sins just as a weak, defective ladder wouldn’t support us and the weight of our equipment. If we were to trust in such a ladder, we know we’d risk falling to our deaths. Like I said, no firefighter would do such a thing.

But still we take this very risk with our immortal souls which are so precious to God! We live on the edge of self-reliance every day, the weakest ladder if there ever was one, instead of trusting Jesus the way we should!

He is the Perfect Ladder on which we can rest in faith as we climb through life toward eternity. He was tested and tempted as we are and found to be without defect. He was God in the flesh, who offered himself to death in our place, trading us our sin for His Righteousness and right-standing with God. Trust in His Perfection and His Death, and His Life will be yours forever.

“All to you Jesus, I freely give. As long as there’s breath in these lungs, I will live. With reckless abandon, my heart in Your Hands! Surrender it all, I’m going all in.”

-Matthew West

 

Believe and Obey

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. -John 3:36 ESV

I was lying in bed listening to John last night. I wasn’t trying to hear anything or listen purposefully, just trying to go to sleep (I’ve battled insomnia for years and note that giving my brain something to focus on often helps me get to sleep; might as well be the Bible, right?) My mind still wanders as I listen, though, which is why I don’t ignore anything that sticks with me. If I manage to catch it through the ‘noise’ in my brain, I now always assume it’s likely from the Holy Spirit. I only share this hoping it might apply to you who may be reading at as well, that you don’t spend the years figuring it out as I did. Moving on.

When I heard the verse, it’s structure, and the use of the word ‘believe’ in the first half and ‘obey’ in the second, both seemingly relating to Jesus in the same way, it reminded me of something I heard in another sermon a long time ago. I may not be quoting it exactly so forgive me, but I remember it being something to the effect of there being little to no distinction between belief and obedience when it came to the audience to which this was written. To believe, to them, was to obey.

This makes complete sense, of course. If you believed you were going to die from a disease, you’d fully seek out every attempt to cure it, be it medical, homeopathic, and so on, right? The point is, true belief inspires action

To be clear: I AM NOT MAKING AN OBEDIENCE VS. BELIEF SALVATION ARGUMENT, I am simply observing what it seems the Holy Spirit shared with me, and no doubt others long before me. To the writer of the Gospel of John, according to the ESV, NLT, and other translations I’ve read, believe and obey seemed to be used interchangeably in this passage, or at least, in such a way that there’s an powerfully implied link between the two.

To believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, is to obey him, for he has commanded belief from everyone. Thus, if I truly believed He was the Son of God, His Words should carry enough weight in my life that I hold no part of it back from him. In my obedience to the Word, I live my belief, and in living out my beliefs, I am obedient.

Faith, Fire, and God’s Great Victory

I recently had to fight a massive church fire, likely the biggest I will ever fight in my career. As I think about all that happened, seeing the smoldering ruins where beautiful church buildings stood, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a few things.

The First Bossier Fire is a terrible tragedy. No one was hurt, and people will truthfully proclaim ‘It’s just a building’ but that building was built by human hands. Hands created by God to build things like churches which glorify His Name if the Body of Christ within operates according to His Word. I’ve heard many stories since about the memories people had in those buildings. My friend met his wife there, proposed to her there, and was married there. When we have fond memories of something tangible, it’s okay to ache for their loss as long as that ache doesn’t become an idol. That’s a little off track of where I was going, so bear with me as I correct.

Too often in great tragedies like this one, we focus on what happened and why. We look for reasons to pass judgement and focus on the bad. This was true even in Jesus’s day (Luke 13:4). What we focus on becomes our thought life and affects everything and everyone around us (Proverbs 4:23). We are aloud to mourn, we are aloud to root out blame when necessary, but our Good Father never intended for us to live in those distressful states of mind (Philippians 4:8). Doing so only leads to a negative outlook of the future, which leads to negative actions.

When I see this picture, despite all the tragedy, it makes me excited for the First Bossier Family. I’ve attended services there and read their Statement of Faith. I’ve seen the Body of Christ, their Church Family, live and breathe in a godly manner. I know the Spirit of the Living God dwells in His people in that church. I’ve seen Him bring about wonderful things through the ‘tragedies’ in my life, through the metaphorical fires and car wrecks that happened by chance, or were self-inflicted. I’ve seen the good He brought out of them for my sake. Like the good He brought out of Joseph’s time in prison, and the decimation of Job’s family and possessions (Psalm 105:19, Romans 8:28, Job 42:10-16).

So, all that being said, I can’t wait to see how brightly the Church Family of Bossier shines in the wake of this tragedy because of the Faithful God they serve and their earnest desire to be the Body of Christ to this broken world. I’m excited to see what good things God Almighty lifts out of the ashes of this terrible fire. There are too many verses about our faith being ‘tested with fire’ not to see the beautiful victory God is preparing for the First Bossier Family. In their hearts, they have doubtless already claimed that victory, but our God’s Power radiates through the physical world as well as the spiritual. I believe the physical victory of the First Bossier Church will affect lives in this city for years to come, all for the Glory of Jesus Christ. May we all mourn with them, pray with them, and then, after the Lord has restored everything that was lost, celebrate with them.

1 Peter 1:7
“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

Let Your Father Buckle You In

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.” -Ephesians 5:1

God continually blows my mind as He shows me His Plan in the daily things of life. My three year old is in the ‘I want to do it’ phase. She just discovered she is capable and now insists on doing certain things (like buckling herself into the car seat). Most times she is successful, but it’s not uncommon for a thick coat or baggy jacket to throw a wrench into her efforts and send her into an epic tantrum.

The Holy Spirit showed me that our relationship with our Heavenly Father is very similar. When we’re born again, everything’s easy. We’re bathed in the Spirit, zealous for the Lord, doing everything we should. Like a baby in its mother’s arms, we need only let the Father care for us. Obedience comes easily . . . but only for a time.

Like any good parent, the Lord doesn’t coddle us forever. We grow and mature. We become ready for His work. God’s way is never easy, though. To do His work, we must pass His tests. He lets us venture out, do things on our own, be obedient without offering His hand to hold. Because if we’re not holding our Parent’s hand as we walk down the metaphorical street of life, we can trip and fall.

To this day, I watch my little girl fight with her car seat. I no longer help her buckle in immediately. We’re past that point in her life. She knows she can do it herself when she wears normal clothes, but she hasn’t figured the complications cold weather clothes bring to the problem she can normally solve, so she’s faced with three options:

1. Try on her own and fail, suffering the disappointment and misery that comes from losing a battle you know you’re capable of winning.

2. Ask me for instruction. I’m not buckling her in anymore, but I’m still her father. I know more about the car seat than she does. I can give her instruction if she’ll heed my words. She can use my higher level of wisdom to defeat the problem and buckle herself in. But she must memorize what I say and put it into practice. (Like memorizing Scripture and doing what it says)

3. She must ask me for help. Even if my little girl listens to my instruction, memorizes it, and applies my advice correctly, at the end of the day. Some problems will still be too big for her. Her tiny fingers and arms won’t be able to perform the complex movements necessary to adjust the shoulder belts to the correct position to accommodate her coat or tighten them afterward. I know she physically can’t do it. Only I can. And I want to.

I’m her father. I hate watching her struggle and fail and get upset. But at this point in her life, I’m restraining myself for the sake of her independence. I wait for her to ask for my help. Sometimes she does. Sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes I can simply reach back and put one finger on the buckle that needs a little extra pressure to lock itself in. Other times I have to get out of the car, walk around, open her door, and use both hands. My level of intervention differs in every situation.

It’s the same with the Lord. We are His dear children, adopted into His family by the Cross of Christ. He has no favorites among us. One day, He won’t reach for our hand any longer, He’ll ask us to reach for His. If we don’t, we will fail. If we don’t listen to and memorize His life-giving words, we’ll head into spiritual and physical battles unprepared. If we don’t pray for His help facing problems too big for our little fingers and arms, we might never get ‘buckled all the way in’.

And, because we aren’t buckled, the car can’t go anywhere. Our Heavenly Father is the one driving, after all. He’s a Good Father. He won’t let us speed down the road when we aren’t safe. We’ll sit in the driveway of our spiritual lives until we’re ready to ask for help, or until we grow strong enough to apply His instructions successfully.

Regardless of how long it takes, whether we sit in the driveway, crying and frustrated, grow strong enough to do it ourselves based on His instruction, or simply ask for help when we know we need it…we must realize why it’s happening. Our Heavenly Father, our Good Parent, is driving the car. He wants to take us somewhere exciting and new. But how fast we get there is entirely up to us.

God’s Perfect Solution

Some time ago, my wife came in to show me her dress that she loved. It was stained. Several of those blotchy, grease-type stains that darken the fabric. She explained that she tried washing it and was upset the stains had not come out. The fabric was delicate and there appeared to be no solution. If you know my wife, you know how hard she works to find solutions to her problems. I’ve always assumed if she couldn’t figure something out, there’s no way I could. So she ended up throwing the dress away in the trash can under the bathroom. Then we both forgot about it.

A few days later, I was throwing something away and happened to see the dress in that trashcan under the sink. Instinctively, I thought “I can fix it!” I grabbed the dress and quickly hid it cause my wife was nearby. Over the next few days, I didn’t have time to work on the dress, but I kept moving it from one hiding spot to another to keep her from finding it. I never had time to look up stain removal techniques or anything like that. I was so busy it was all I could do to keep it hidden.

Then, today, busy as I was, I decided to work on removing the stains from the dress because my wife wasn’t home. I looked up the fabric, rayon, and read about a myriad of stain fighting techniques. One even involved WD-40. Never felt confident about any of them, but as I was about to put the dress up again, a thought popped into my head. Call your friend Robby. I’d seen a post he’d made on Facebook asking for accountability in his Christian life. I’d been proud of him so I’d been thinking about him a lot that morning. He also happened to manage a dry cleaners.

I called and congratulated him on his efforts to mature in his walk, then asked him about the stain. He told me to go find something called Totally Awesome. He said I could buy it at any dollar store, treat the stain, wash it, and it would be like new again.

I went to the dollar store. They didn’t have it. I went to another dollar store. After twenty minutes of searching, I found it. I’d been looking for an exquisite bottle with brand lettering and graphics and all the pizazz of a high end product. This wasn’t what I found. I found a cheap plastic spray bottle with plain red lettering…located not in the laundry isle but in the cleaning isle. It was a general degreaser, nothing about laundry written on the bottle. It even had the words ‘As Seen On Tv’ off to the side. I was immediately skeptical and called Robby back, but he confirmed that was the correct product and gave instructions to dilute it and treat the stain.

I got home, followed his instructions, then washed the dress and waited. It came out stain free.

God does the same thing with us. He is an expert in all things, because he created all things. If we have problems we can’t solve ourselves, we often hide them, and keep hiding them, sometimes with the best intentions. The problem remains though. The dress is still stained, hidden in the dark where no one can see. Someone else will find it eventually, no matter how well you think you hid it.

However, if you examine the problem at the right opportunity, call the Expert, and do what He tells you, strange or pointless as it might seem, you’ll find that His Perfect Solution was exactly what you needed. Give your life to God. Let the blood of Jesus wash away your stains. He will lift you out of the garbage where circumstance left you, hide you under the shadow of his mighty wings, and, at just the right time, make you clean. Make you new. You can have everything you want in ways you never expected.

For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

-2 Corinthians 6:2 NLT