This morning in my devotions, I read a passage of scripture in 2 Kings that describes the judgment that Jehu brought about on behalf of the Lord against the worshipers of Baal. It wraps up that account with these verses.

“And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal, and burned them. And they broke down the image of Baal, and broke down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day. Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel. Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan. And the Lord said unto Jehu, ‘Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.’ But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.” (2 Kings 10:26-31)

I don’t have any kind of clever outline here, but I do want to notice three things.

  1. The attack on and destruction of Baal worship is encouraged, commended and rewarded here. Baal worship in the Old Testament was characterized by both child sacrifice and acts of prostitution and explicit sexual immorality as acts of worship. It was a disgust to God, and should have been something that his people rejected outright, and it was absolutely proper for Jehu to go to war against Baal and the disgusting worship that was directed toward him. In our culture, there is a direct correlation to some common practices of the world: abortion, gay marriage, promiscuity, and the general corruption of sex that we see in our world. It is proper and needful for the Church to take a stand against these things, and to hold on to the truth of God’s Word and to not be ashamed to let people know that abortion, homosexuality, and lewd sexual practices are all sin in God’s eyes. It is admirable when churches and individual Christians make a public stand against these things, and a rejection of these wicked acts of the world should be synonymous with true biblical Christianity.
  2. The failure to deal with the idolatry of the golden calves is soundly condemned. Although Jehu is commended for how he dealt with Baal worship, he is condemned for his lack of response to the golden calves, both as the king of Israel, and in his own personal life. Jeroboam was the first king of Israel after it split off from Rehoboam, who was the son of Solomon. Jeroboam, for both political and logistical reasons, did not want his people to constantly be returning to worship the Lord at His temple in Jerusalem, so he created two of his own temples, one in Dan and one in Bethel. In each of these temples, he placed a golden calf, exactly as Aaron had done when Moses was on Mount Sinai hundreds of years before. Jeroboam then installed priests and a system of worship very similar to the system of worship of Jehovah, and many people were probably convinced that they were still worshiping Jehovah, but in reality their worship had become idolatry. Fast forward to the time of Jehu, and the Bible says “Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.” (2 Kings 10:31)These verses describe the state of the church in America perfectly. I believe that every Sunday, our sanctuaries and pews are filled with people who are fighting against the “Baals” of our world: abortion, homosexuality, and sexual perversions. Those people should be commended for taking a stand on those things. However, many of those same people (some of whom I believe have never been truly saved), return home after church on Sunday to houses, lives and careers filled with their very own golden calves. The average American church goer is not worshiping before the altar of Baal, but their actions and priorities would show that their lives are consumed with other idols. They are consumed with their children’s sporting events, and rearrange their lives and schedules to be at every single game and practice, but yet do not make it to Sunday School, or Sunday night service, or the midweek service on a regular basis, nor do they “have time” to put their gifts and abilities to work in a ministry of their church. Every Sunday, American churches are full of people who make Facebook posts about how wrong sexual immorality, homosexuality, and transgenderism is, and yet they return to their homes to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones, or the most recent R rated movie filled with explicit sex scenes, or in some cases to outright pornography. American churches are filled with people who speak out against abortion and may even attend rallies and marches against it, yet return to their homes, and do not walk in the law of the Lord to be an example to their own children about what a godly person should look like. The American church is filled with parents who are content for their children to be good, and not be participating in those “Baal like” sins of drugs, premarital sex, and alcohol, but yet are not teaching their children to be passionate about the Lord and to love Him with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. They are not teaching their children a respect for authority and a willingness to pursue the Lord anywhere, even if that means to the ministry and a low paying job. They are content as long as their children are good, and have no ambition to raise their children to be godly. The American church is filled with people who passionately follow after their favorite college or professional sports team with all their heart, who pursue their career with all of their heart and to the very best of their ability, who can spend hours watching tv, liking posts on Facebook, or sitting in a boat holding a fishing pole, but yet don’t “have time” for 30 minutes alone with God each and every day. The American church is full of people who are in strong opposition to “Baal worship” but have passionately embraced their own “golden calf.”
  3. I can be like Jehu, and so can you. The reality is that each one of us needs to examine our own life and identify what “golden calf” lurks inside us. It does no good for me to wag my finger at the “American church” if I am not willing to look at my own life, decisions and habits to find the idols in my life. It does you the reader no good to nod in affirmation as you think about your friend, relative, neighbor, or pew mate and the idols they need to deal with, while your golden calves are running rampant in your life. I, and you, need to be as passionate about destroying golden calves as we are about destroying Baal worship, and each individual in the American church needs to no longer be content with “goodness” but needs to be crazily, excessively and passionately pursuing godliness in our lives, and the lives of our children.

So after you read this, get out there and keep fighting Baal, but turn your attention to the golden calves as well.


Over the last few weeks I have been reading and hearing all kinds of things about the upcoming elections. Much of what has been said is in regards to Republican candidate Donald Trump. I have heard and read what many conservative Christians have said, ranging from full fledged support bordering on hero worship of Trump, to judgment and disgust that any Christian could even think of voting for an immoral man such as Trump. I did not vote for Trump in the primaries, and I believe that there were better candidates out there. This however is what we have. I usually keep my political thoughts to myself, mainly because I know my tendency to speak without thinking sometimes, and I want to avoid saying or posting something I will regret. However, on this particular subject, I feel the importance is such that I will weigh in, and do my best to do so in a gentle and compassionate way. Here are my thoughts on a couple of the big talking points having to do with the elections and Donald Trump.

  1. Donald Trumps immorality/failed marriages and lewd comments regarding women. Let me start by saying, that I am pretty sure that if there were recordings of everything we said and thought from 11 years ago, there would be something for each of us that not only would we be embarrassed to have made public, but that would also shock and appall the people around us that we could think or say something like that. Trumps lifestyle and words are inexcusable, and must be recognized for what they are – sin. Both Donald Trump and I will one day stand before God and have to give account of our lives, and he will be judged for his actions just as I will be judged for mine. However, let us be careful about getting up on our high horse and throwing judgments of condemnation at people before we have examined our own lives to see if we are being the person and leader in our sphere of influence that we should be. Also, let us be sure that we are not hypocritical in our “outrage.” It is easy to condemn the immoral actions and words of a man, and be sure everyone knows how wicked we think he is and how we are going to separate ourselves from him and condemn those things by not voting for him. Do your daily habits activities and habits demonstrate that same level of piety though? What about your movie and TV watching habits though? What websites are you visiting? What does your Netflix queue show? If you are going to be appalled at Trumps immorality why are you watching Game of Thrones? If his comments about women were so repulsive, why did you watch or read Fifty Shades of Grey? If his crude jokes and expletives really offended you, then why are you watching the Hangover movies, or the Deadpool movie? Let us be sure we are consistent in our standards.

    I have heard many people defend their decision to vote for Donald Trump based on the fact that God uses flawed individuals in the Bible, many times pointing to David, an adulterer and murderer, as an example of a flawed individual that God used. Now let me say, that it is indisputable that God uses flawed individuals. If He didn’t, He would never be able to use anyone, because we are all flawed individuals. However, there is a problem in comparing Donald Trump to David as flawed leaders that God used greatly, and that is that David expressed clear repentance for his grave sins. (Psalm 51) This is not something that I have seen consistently demonstrated from Donald Trump. Although he did not seek to defend his comments from 11 years ago, and openly stated that he was wrong to say those things, he has also said that he has never had to ask forgiveness for anything. This is not consistent with the life of David, a godly yet flawed leader. I believe it is consistent with another very flawed leader that God used to bring Israel out of a time of great oppression – Samson. If you are not familiar with his story beyond that he was really strong and had awesome hair (trust me the irony of that second part is not lost on me) read it in Judges 13-16. To give you the rundown though, Samson was involved in at least 3 immoral relationships, and never once demonstrated an attitude of repentance for those actions. He was a very self centered individual, and many times the heroic deeds he did against the oppressors (the Philistines) were done because they had done something that offended him personally, and often behaved like a petulant child. In fact his final most heroic deed was to sacrifice himself by destroying the temple of Dagon, taking thousands of Philistines with him, and he states the reason for this action in Judges 16:28. “O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” This flawed and unrepentant individual is listed in Hebrews 11 alongside such heroes of the faith as Abraham, Moses, and Samuel. This is not to excuse Samson’s actions, nor to say that God excused Samson’s actions, but he was clearly God’s man, chosen and used despite his selfish and unrepentant attitude.

  2. I am voting for Trump’s policies, not for his lifestyle. Although I wish that Donald Trump was a godly Christian man, my concern has more to do with his policies than with his lifestyle. Again, I am not excusing his lifestyle, but what he does and what he says will be judged by God, I am not responsible for his actions. I am however responsible for my actions, and to try to impact my country and culture by being the most godly citizen I can be. Although I agree with most of Trump’s policies when compared to Hilary’s policies, there are two that I believe are of vital importance to Christians, and are truly issues of morality: Abortion and the Supreme Court.

    I don’t have the time here to go into all the specifics of policies, but suffice it to say that Trump stands much stronger for the rights of the unborn, than does Hilary. James 4:17 tells all Christians that “To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Isaiah 1:17 tells God’s people to “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge [treat justly] the fatherless, plead for the widow.” Whether you want to categorize the unborn as the oppressed or the fatherless is up to you, but regardless it is my responsibility as a Christian to do my best to fight for the rights of these helpless individuals. If I do not vote at all, I am not fighting at all, and if I vote third party I am making it easier for Hilary to be elected, and therefore in my opinion, I am not fighting as effectively for those innocent unborn children as I could be. I am not as concerned about gun control, immigration, and jobs, although I have an opinion on each of those issues, but on the issue of abortion, I believe it is the responsibility of each Christian to fight for the rights of those who are unable to fight for their own rights and life.

    On the issue of the Supreme Court, it seems very likely that the next president could appoint at least 3 judges to the supreme court. Clear biblical and moral issues are at stake here, issues such as abortion, marriage, and religious freedom. The judges that Hilary will appoint will undoubtedly send America further on the road to the liberal agenda. The judges that Trump says he will appoint would be conservative voices that we hope would point us back toward conservative values and Biblical morality.

    People say that they don’t know if they can trust Trump to do what he says. The truth is that I don’t know for sure if I can trust Trump in what he says. I find it a distinct possibility that every politician will do differently to what they say. He might get elected and do things completely opposite to what he says, and he might not defend the unborn, he might appoint liberal judges, he might not defend religious freedom. That is on him, not me. I know I cannot trust Hilary. I know what Hilary will do. I know she will not defend the unborn, I know she will appoint liberal judges who will seek to further corrupt the sanctity of marriage, and who will seek to further oppress religious freedom. I know she will push her liberal agenda across all facets of government. Trump says he will defend the unborn and will appoint conservative judges. I have to accept what he says, and do whatever I can to further these two crucial issues of morality. If he goes back on his word, he will answer to God for those things, not me. By the same token, if I do not do everything in my power to defend the unborn and to stand by the truth of God’s Word in relation to marriage, I too will answer to God. For that reason, although he is not perfect, and though I may not even like him that much, I will vote for Trump.

It has been over a year since I last posted anything on here, partly due to business of schedule, partly due to not always having something that I really feel like I need to talk about, and partly due to forgetfulness. Today however, my heart is heavy as I read the news about Kim Davis and her current incarceration for refusing to give a marriage certificate to same sex couples.

As I have been looking at the news, I have been attempting to read articles and reports from both sides of the spectrum, from both the liberals and conservatives, so as to really get a grasp of what they are communicating in defense of their stance. As I have read and researched a few thoughts have come to mind, that I feel I need to share. Perhaps only a handful of people will read these words, but I want to publicly express my thoughts in regards to this very important social and spiritual issue in our country.

As I was trying to bring myself up to date on exactly what had been going on in Kentucky, I came across this video of two men coming into the county office to try to get a marriage license, As I watched it, there were several things impressed on my mind. Firstly, I was impressed with how gracious Mrs. Davis was in responding to the two gentlemen who were confronting her in what seemed to me to be a pretty belligerent attitude. She spoke in a very calm and gracious manner to them, and as they raised their voices to her, and the crowd began to chant against her, she continued to speak in a very civil and measured way toward them. As they began to make personal attacks against her, citing her four marriages (a point I will return to in a minute) she continued to speak very calmly, such that I could not hear most of what she was saying over the chanting of crowd and the raised voice of the man in front of her. She did not ask them to leave, she did not threaten them in anyway, she simply said that she was not issuing any marriage licenses today, and that they were welcome to stand in front of the counter as long as they would like to. They then asked that question that is so quickly thrown out when someone stands up for what they believe, “Why are you being so hateful?” Now if I were an outside observer, and to have no idea what the issue was over, and merely had body language, gestures, and voice dynamics to gauge from, I would have to say the one person in that office who was not behaving in a hateful way was Mrs. Davis. She never once condemns them for their decision to live a homosexual lifestyle, and specifically says that they have their opinion, and are entitled to it. Please tell me what is hateful about that? Eventually the encounter ends and she turns and returns to her office. I have a tremendous amount of respect for how Mrs. Davis handled herself and the situation, because truthfully, I wonder if I would have been able to be so calm and even pleasant as people began attacking myself, the choices I have made in the past, and my right to take a stand based on what I believe.

During this encounter, at one point, the gentlemen who were talking with Mrs. Davis, brought up (and threw in her face) the fact that she had been married 4 times, and claimed that because of that, she had no right to make a judgment about them and the way in which they were sinning against the standards of the Bible. I have read other liberal reporters and bloggers being quick to make the same point and accuse her of gross hypocrisy. Frankly, this is a load of hogwash, and does not even make sense. Firstly, usuall when we throw around the word “judgement”, we are using a Biblical term, from a specific Biblical context, that has a clear Biblical meaning, and then attaching our own modern day meaning to that same term. The verse that is frequently thrown around in this situation is Matthew 7:1 – “Judge not that ye be not judged.” This verse, in this context, is saying that Christians cannot judge others in the sense of a judge passing condemnation and punishment on a criminal. This verse is absolutely right. As a Christian, I do not have the authority to see a persons sin and condemn them to punishment for that sin. However, when most people accuse you or I of judging them, it is not because we have condemned them to punishment, rather it is because we have formed a negative opinion of them or their actions. Another popular catch phrase is, “Who are you to throw stones?” referring to the passage in John 8:1-11, in which Jesus is confronted by Pharisees who caught a woman in adultery, and tells them that whoever is without sin should cast the first stone. The problem here is, that this passage and context is talking literally about throwing stones at a person. I don’t know about you, but when somebody has told me that I have no right to throw stones, I have never had a rock in my hand ready to throw it at them. I have probably however formed a negative opinion about them and their actions, something which Jesus clearly does in v. 11 when He says to the woman who was caught in the sin of adultery, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” Christ did not throw any stones at this lady, but He makes very clear to her that what she was doing was sin. As Christians we are not to pronounce condemnation and punishment on somebody’s sin, nor are we to literally throw stones at them, however we are entitled, and even commanded, to form negative opinions about sin, whether that be in our life, or somebody else’s life. Hebrews 5:14 says that Christians are to “have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Romans 12:9 commands a christian to “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” There is a clear declination made between good and evil, and it is the Christians responsibility based on God’s Word, and the truths that it gives us, to form a negative opinion about evil, and a positive opinion about good. The ironic thing is that when somebody tells me I am wrong for “judging” them (forming a negative opinion about their actions) they are themselves forming a negative opinion about my actions… It just doesn’t make sense.

The second problem with the media throwing up Mrs. Davis’s past marriages and divorces to say she has no right to take a stand on what the Bible says, is the fact that sins I have committed in no way change the truth of God’s Word, or its authority in my life. I would be the first to confess very openly, that I have committed many sins in my life – I have told lies, dishonored my parents, taken the name of the Lord in vain, coveted, spoken filthy language…the list could continue. Sins I have committed in the past do not in any way change the Word of God, nor do they change my ability to hold myself and others to the standard of God’s Word. Every single person that has ever lived (except Jesus Christ) has committed sin. Just because I have told lies in the past, does not mean I have changed what the Bible says, and now it is ok for me or others to lie, it means that I sinned also, and I too will be held to the standards of God’s Word. Just because I have spoken filthy language from my mouth does not mean that I think that language is acceptable, it means that I was wrong in my past, and based on the Bible I have formed a negative opinion about what I did. For the media to say that Mrs. Davis has no right to make a stand against gay marriage, because she has failed marriage and divorce in her past is simply ridiculous.

Thirdly, I did some research into those past marriages of Mrs. Davis, and I found out something very interesting. I found in this article that Mrs. Davis was married and divorced three times, in 1994, 2006, and 2008. I am in no way seeking to play down divorce, or the sin that it is. The Bible is very clear in saying that God hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16) However, what is very interesting is that by her own testimony (in court), and reported by NBC, Mrs. Davis says that she became a Bible believing Christian in January of 2011 – three years after her last divorce. How ridiculous is it to accuse a present day Christian of doing things that do not match up with their Christian faith, when those things were done before they became a Christian? That would be about as ridiculous as me accusing Tom Brady of being the reason the Patriots lost the Superbowl in 1997. (For those of you who are not NFL fans, Brady was not drafted by the Patriots until 2000) I have not personally spoken to Mrs. Davis, but it would appear that when she accepted Christ as her personal Savior in 2011, her whole moral compass was changed, including her view on marriage. Her past failed marriages and sinful choices back then have no bearing on her ability to stand for right in the here and now.

I have some more thoughts on this subject, but my words have run long, and my time has run short, hopefully I will be able to do a part two next week. For now though, I hope I have provided some food for thought.

Yours, Mine, and Ours?

Posted: July 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

In the 2005 remake “Yours, Mine and Ours” a widow and widower with large families come together to be married. In the process of the marriage conflict ensues as different personalities, quirks and parenting styles are combined into a hectic and sometimes hilarious combination. The film ends with the two families unifying and reaching some form of agreement of compromise. This message of compromise makes for a good movie and for strong interpersonal relationships, but unfortunately too often we try to take this approach into our relationship with God. Many times we approach God saying, “This area of my life is yours God, but this area of my life is mine, and this other area I am willing to share with you.” The problem though is that we have no right to barter with God over any part of our lives. I Corinthians 6:19 makes it very clear to us that “you are not your own.” There are three principles that can help us grasp this concept in our minds and lives, and affect how we respond to God’s claim on our lives.

1. The Product Principle
You and I are making things every day. Some of us make furniture out of wood, houses out of bricks, or gardens from seeds. Others create delicious meals from ingredients, beautiful pictures from paint, or a letter to a friend with words. Imagine for a second that you are in your kitchen cooking a delicious chocolate cake. When you have completed that cake, because you were the one who made it, you are allowed to do whatever you want with that cake. You can eat it all yourself, you can share it with your family, you can take it to a neighbors house, you could even feed it to the dog or throw it straight into the trash can. You can do whatever you want with that cake because you made it. Now, we need to understand that no human being is capable of creating anything. Creating is to make something out of nothing – impossible for a human to do. However, even as we make things out of existing materials, we understand that because we made that product, we have the right to do with it whatever we want. God did not just make us, He created us and the whole universe we live in.
Coossians 1:16 – For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him.
John 1:1-3 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.
Revelation 4:11 – Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou has created all things.
God created you, you are the product of His hands. He has the right to do whatever He wants with you.

2. The Purpose Principle
All around us every day we see things that were created for a specific purpose. A hammer was created to pound nails, and a screwdriver to turn screws. If you tried to use a screw driver to pound a nail (as I must admit I have done in the past), you would not be very effective. Everything we see around us has a specific purpose. At times we may be able to use an item for a purpose it was not created for, but we still understand that it was created to fulfill a specific need. You may be able to use a big screwdriver to drive a nail in if you hit the nail enough times, but we still understand that the screwdrivers main purpose is to turn screws, and that the hammer would be a more effective tool at pounding nails. You and I were created for a specific purpose as well.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 – Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
Revelation 4:11 – Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Colossians 1:16 – For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.
God’s Word makes it very clear that we were not just created by God, but that we were created for Him. You and I were created to bring glory and pleasure to God. Now if you choose, you can try to have some other purpose in your life, like being a big shot business man, or having a half million dollar home, or being a professional athlete, but that does not in anyway change that the purpose you were created for is to glorify and please God. If you are not fulfilling your purpose, what are you good for?

3. The Purchase Principle
Imagine with me that you walked into a Dunkin Donuts, and ordered a dozen delicious glazed donuts. You pay for them, and receive your box of tasty treats. However, just as you turn to go, the lady behind the register reaches out, opens your box, grabs a donut, and before you can stop her, takes a big bite out of it. Can you imagine your outrage? If it was my box of donuts, I am pretty sure she would lose a finger or three! Why would you be so upset? You did not make those donuts, so you have no claim to them through the product principle. The donut was eaten by someone who enjoyed it, so it fulfilled the purpose principle. The reason you would be outraged is because of the purchase principle. You paid for those donuts, and because of that, you and you alone have claim to them now. Because you bought those donuts, you can eat them yourself, or share them with the lady behind the counter, or go feed them to the ducks. The choice is yours. Jesus Christ purchased you and I at the price of His own blood, and has sole claim to us now.
I Corinthians 6:19-20 – What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Titus 2:14 – Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
I Peter 1:18-19 – Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
When we were redeemed, we were literally bought by Jesus Christ, from Satan, out of the slave market of sin. Satan owned you, used you, and abused you from the moment you were born, but when Jesus Christ paid the price of His blood for you, you were bought with a price and became His. Just as you would be outraged if somebody ate your donuts without asking, so Christ is outraged when we do not live for the purpose that He bought us for – to glorify Him.

I think that it is time for all of us to examine our own lives and figure out how often we are coming to the Lord saying, “Yours, Mine, and Ours.” Let us start coming to Him instead saying, “Yours, Yours, and Yours.”

It has been a VERY long time since my last post, some of you probably thought that I had forgotten about this blog, and I am sorry about that. I have been very very busy during spring here, with a big college preview trip with my youth group, starting a soccer program at our church, as well as the normal day to day goings on of youth ministry. However, I am back!

In the last few weeks I have heard over and over again a phrase that has really started to bother me. In all honesty and transparency, I must admit that I myself have been one of the ones to say it, so please don’t think that I am waving my finger just in your direction, I am an equal opportunity finger pointer! It is a phrase that we say with the best of intentions and utmost sincerity, but it is a phrase that demonstrates a lack of conviction in our culture. What is the phrase, you ask? The phrase is…..brace yourself this might get a little bit rough….are you ready? Are you sitting down? The phrase is…. “They are such good kids.

Whoa! Hold on now Caleb! Just what are you saying? You are a youth pastor, you spend your days and weeks around teenagers, and you are telling me that you don’t want to have good kids in your youth group?!

That is exactly what I am saying. I don’t want good kids in my youth group. I don’t want my son (and any future children) to be good kids. I don’t want to be a youth pastor who sends good kids out from his youth group. I’m just not interested in that! Now I may have lost some of you at this point. Perhaps some youth pastors who are thinking that I am embarking on a mission to start a new “Bad Kid Youth Group” cult. Maybe some of you parents are thinking, “I don’t want my kid going to his youth group! He doesn’t want my son to be a good boy! Who knows what he could be teaching there!” Please though, bear with me, and let me explain myself. Let me explain why I have no interest in “good kids.”

The first reason that I have no interest in teaching and influencing “good kids,” is because in our culture now, we have drastically lowered the standard for defining what a “good kid” is. Many times (not always) when I hear a parent, or a youth pastor or even just a member of the church say “That is a good kid” they are merely looking at the outward signs. If you were to read between the lines and expand on their thought it would read something like this. “Jane is such a good girl. She doesn’t do drugs, she doesn’t go to wild parties, she isn’t pregnant, and she gets straight A’s in school. She is such a good girl.” I probably lost even more of you (if you are still reading) as you say, “What kind of whack job are you Caleb?? You telling me that as a youth pastor you are ok with teens in your youth group doing drugs, partying, and having sex outside of marriage? Are you telling me that you don’t want those teens to do their best in school?” That is absolutely not what I am saying. I don’t want my teens doing drugs, but I also don’t want them to have gossiping tongues. I don’t want my teens to be going to drunken parties, but I also don’t want them to have a disrespectful attitude toward their parents. I don’t want my teens to be involved in premarital sex, but I also don’t want them to be filling their minds with lustful images on the internet. We live in a world that has made their own standards and definitions about what good is, and sadly, we as Christians have bought into it. As long as we can’t see any outward signs of sin, as long as our teens lives aren’t falling apart, we are satisfied. We have set mediocre expectations for our teens and children (and as a result for ourselves as parents, teachers and youth pastors) and then when they succeed in these mediocre expectations, we congratulate ourselves and them. God does not want mediocrity though! He is not just interested on the outward symptoms of sin. In Matthew 5:28, he says that in his perspective, looking at someone in a lustful way is just as bad as committing the act of sex with them. I John 3:15 tells us that hating somebody is just as bad as physically murdering them. Isaiah 64:6 makes it pretty clear that even the very best that we as humans have to offer is, in God’s sight, as worthless as filthy rags. You and I (remember, my finger is waving in a 360 degree circle) need to raise the standard that we expect from those kids God has entrusted to us. God makes his standard pretty clear in I Peter 1:16, when He says, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” How does God define a good person? Holiness. No longer should we be satisfied that they are not doing drugs, not partying, and not having sex. Let us expect more from them (and ourselves) and then teach them to have these same standards of holiness in their lives.

The second reason I have for growing to hate the phrase, “They’re such good kids.” Is even more significant. I can just see some of you shaking your heads in disbelief…you thought my rant was almost over didn’t you. The second, and more important, reason I have for not wanting to have “good kids” is because as a parent and youth pastor, my interest is not in training “good kids” it is in training godly kids. Sometimes I hear people say that “so and so is such a good kid” and I have to agree with them. Sure they aren’t perfect, nobody is, but not only are they not doing drugs, partying and having sex, but they are also respectful to those in authority, they are kind to those around them (even their brothers and sisters), and they have a good work ethic. They are, relatively speaking, good kids. But what we have to understand as Christians, THAT IS NOT ENOUGH!!!! The Christian life is not just about following a set of rules, of not doing bad things. The Christian life is all about total submission to Jesus Christ, to literally be His slave, to actively do things for Him, just because He wants you to. A “good” kid will study their textbooks to get good grades in school, but a godly kid will study God’s Word to learn more about Him. A “good” kid will have a great work ethic, and will probably be able to get a good paying job. A godly kid will “do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31) regardless of the recognition they get or the pay they receive. They will serve God completely, no matter where it takes them. A “good” kid will obey the rules you give to them because they don’t want to disappoint you or be punished by you. A godly kid will obey God’s Word because he love the heavenly Father and wants to please Him. Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The key word in this verse, I think, is not “train,” although that is incredibly important. I think the key word is “go.” Go is a positive action, not a negative one. This verse doesn’t say “Train up a child in the things he shouldn’t do.” Essentially, it says the opposite. Can I give you the Frink paraphrase? (Trust me, you will not be able to find this particular Bible version in your local Christian book store) “Train up a child in the things he should do for the Lord, in wholeheartedly following Him. Then when he is an adult and on his own, he will continue to follow the Lord.”

You and I need to stop settling for “good” and start targeting godly. Because the truth is, that not every person we think is “good” is actually godly. (If you don’t believe me, check out what Jesus had to say about the Pharisees in Matthew 23) Every person though who is truly godly, will be good. So lets stop being satisfied with good, and set our sights on godly.

In our study about David in youth group, we just covered the story of David and Mephibosheth. As I prepared for this study I was blown away by the amazing picture that is presented through the actions of David of the grace that God offers to each of us. I hope that you will be as encouraged and humbled as I was as I studied this passage.

The story of David and Mephibosheth is found in 2 Samuel 9. In v. 1, David says that he wants to find a descendant of Jonathan to show kindness to. That word kindness is a very very similar word to our word grace that is found in the New Testament. This is more than just doing something nice for somebody, it has the idea of giving a reward to somebody who is not at all deserving of that reward. At it’s very simplest definition, grace is receiving something that you don’t deserve. David’s actions here to Mephibosheth are a perfect picture of God’s actions to us.

1. His Grace was Unrelenting (v. 1-5)

Notice that David is the one who instigates this endeavor. In chapter 8, we find David in a time of war, as he fights against Israel’s many enemies and expands her borders. As we come to chapter 9, this period of war seems to have come to an end, and David has an opportunity to catch his breath and reflect. As he does so, he remembers the promise he made to Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:12-17, where he promised that when he became king, he would show kindness to Jonathan and his family. Obviously, at this point Jonathan is dead, killed by the Philistines, but David remembers his promise, and actively begins to search for somebody to show grace to. During this time period, it was the common practice that when a new dynasty took power, all of the descendants of the old king were killed. Mephibosheth is living in Lo-Debar, which literally means “no pastureland.” Mephisbosheth is living out in the barren wilderness, hiding from the king. This is exactly how the grace of God is offered to us. Luke 19:10 says that “the Son of Man [Jesus] is come to seek and to save that which is lost.” Before Christ found me, I was living out in the barrenness of sin and death. Then Jesus came looking for me, and found me. 1 John 4:19 says that “we love Him because He first loved us.” That is His unrelenting grace. I have the choice to love the Lord, not because of anything I did, but because He loved me when I was unlovable, when I was hiding in a desolate wasteland, trapped by my sin. That, is unrelenting grace.

2. His Grace is Undeserved (v. 1-3, 8)

David makes it clear that his reason for showing this grace to Mephibosheth had nothing to do with the man himself. In v. 1, David says he is looking for someone from the house of Saul so that he “may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake.” When we look at Mephibosheth, we realize that he had nothing to offer. In v. 3 we read that he was lame in both feet, and even Mephibosheth calls himself a dead dog in v. 8. Grace was given to Mephibosheth, not on his merit, but on the merit of Jonathan. In the same way, the grace that is given to me has nothing to do with who I am or what I have done. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that the grace given to us is “not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” I have done nothing to deserve the grace that has been freely offered to me. I, like Mephibosheth, am a dead dog before the Lord, and yet he still unrelentingly offers me that grace. Why? Not because of my merit, but because of the merit of Jesus Christ. I Peter 2:22-24 tells us that Christ “who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth…who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” Christ, who was sinless, freely allowed Himself to be punished for my sins to satisfy the just demands of God. When David looked at Mephibosheth, he didn’t see a lame, dead dog. He saw Jonathan’s son. When God looks at me, he doesn’t see the sinful, dead dog, Caleb. He sees the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. That, is undeserved grace.

3.His Grace was Unending (v. 7-13)

David, in showing grace to Mephibosheth, essentially adopted him. He gave him, as an inheritance, all of his grandfather Saul’s land. He allowed Mephibosheth to eat at his own personal table along with all his other sons and daughters. Now obviously, David’s grace ended when David died, because David was no longer able to demonstrate that grace. My God, however, will never die, and His grace is truly unending. The Bible tells us over and over just how much grace God offers.Romans 5:17 talks about an abundance of grace. Ephesians 1:7 tells us about the riches of His grace. Ephesians 2:7 mentions the exceeding riches of His grace. 1 Timothy 1:14 tells me that the grace of our Lord is exceedingly abundant. Then, my personal favorite, Romans 5:20. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” I know that in my life, sin has abounded. Hatred, jealousy, anger, lust, pride, laziness, selfishness…they have all been present in my life. I have lived a life that is abundant with sin. I deserve to pay the full price for each of those sins. But where my sin abounded, God’s grace abounded even more. I can never out sin God’s grace! That doesn’t give me license to go and sin as much as I want because God’s grace will cover it, that isn’t how it works. But you and I can know, that no matter what is in our past, God’s grace is abundant enough to cover it. No matter what we do in the future, God will never stop loving us, and will never withdraw that grace from us. Why? Because that grace isn’t dependent on what I do! It wouldn’t be grace if I deserved it! God’s grace is unending to me because of Jesus Christ. He never stops offering it, I can never sin so bad that He takes it away from me, His grace is completely unending.

4. His Grace was Unconditional (v. 7-10)

David, as he meets with Mephibosheth, and Saul’s servant Ziba, says several things about what he is going to do for Mephiboseth. In v. 7 he says “I will show thee kindness for Jonathan they father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father, and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.” In v. 9, he says to Ziba, “I have given unto thy master’s son all that pertained to Saul. Then in v. 10, he says to Ziba, “Thou…shall till the land for him…but Mephibosheth…shall eat bread always at my table.” Never once are there any conditions placed on Mephibosheth. There are no requirements that Mephibosheth has to fulfill to earn or maintain this grace. It is given freely. In fact, in v. 7 David is saying that he will show grace in the present, in v. 9 he has already shown the grace in the past, and in v. 10 he says that the grace will continue on into the future. This is God’s grace. The fact that we are living and breathing today is God’s grace in the present. Jesus Christ came to die for us as God’s grace was demonstrated in the past, and Christians are guaranteed an eternity in Heaven, as God promises grace for the future. We don’t do anything to earn it, as Ephesians 2:8-9 says. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Praise God that His grace is unconditional, and that it extends for all of eternity!

Somebody may read this, who likes what they hear, but are confused. You might say, “Caleb, I want to experience the unrelenting, undeserved, unenending, unconditional grace, but I don’t know how to? I know that this gift of God is being offered to me, but how do I take it?” It is very simple, and is summed up in one verse. Romans 10:9 says, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” It is truly that easy. If you want to claim the grace of God, all you have to do is confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He is God. It isn’t enough to just say that He was a good man, because a good man could not merit the grace of God as Jesus did. Confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He is God, and believe that God raised Him from the dead after He paid for your sins on the cross of Calvary. If you truly believe that in your heart, if you tell the Lord that with your mouth, and you claim His grace to pay for your sins, the Bible says that you will be saved. Then you can begin to experience the full magnitude of God’s grace, each and every day of your life.

It has been quite some time since I last wrote. (My apologies) This has been due partly to the business of my schedule, and partly because there hasn’t been anything that has jumped out at me as something I would like to write about.

The last several weeks, I have been studying the life of David with our youth group. We have been working through some of the stories in his life, and learning some of the same lessons that David learned. The most recent story really caught my attention.

Many times I hear something along the lines of, “Well his heart was in the right place, that’s what counts.” Now many times, this applies to a child’s failed attempt to do a chore around the house, or to do something kind for their parents. (Just ask my parents about the disastrous yeast muffin incident of 1993!) However, sometimes we try to apply this same principle to our service of the Lord, which as we will see, does not work.

In 1 Chronicles 13, David has become the king over all Israel. This comes after Saul’s death, and a civil war between the tribe of Judah (ruled by David) and the rest of Israel (ruled by Saul’s son Ishbosheth). Upon unifying the kingdom, David then goes to war with the enemies outside of Israel, and defeats both the Jebusites and Philistines. It seems as though after this torrid time of upheaval in the kingdom, there finally comes a moment for David to “catch his breath,” and he develops a desire to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to its proper place in the tabernacle of God.

To understand where the Ark of the Covenant has been, we have to backtrack all the way back to the beginning of 1 Samuel. In the beginning of this book, when Samuel himself was still a child, he was under the care of the high priest Eli. Eli was himself a godly man, but he was a very poor father (a lesson for another time for all of us parents) and his two sons, Hophni and Phineas, were very wicked. They abused their authority as priests both for personal gain, as well as for sexual favors from the woman who came to the tabernacle. In course of time, Israel was at war with Philistia, and the battle was not going well for them, so Hophni and Phineas brought the Ark of the Covenant out to the battle with the belief that its “power” would win the victory for them. Well, as we know, the Ark had no power in and of itself, the power was from God who was unhappy that his people would use the Ark in such a disrespectful and unholy way. He caused Israel to lose the battle, Hophni and Phineas were killed, and the Ark was captured by the Philistines.

The Philistines took the Ark as a trophy of their victory over Israel’s God, and placed it in the temple of their god, Dagon. The One True God was angered by this, and miraculously destroyed the idol of Dagon. The Philistines panicked at this, and began to send the Ark from city to city, and wherever it went, it brought disaster to the inhabitants of the city. Finally, they sent the Ark back to Israel with gifts for the Jew’s God, where, through a long series of events, it ended up in the house of Abinadab, for possibly as long as 100 years. (You can read the whole story for yourself in 1 Samuel 2-7). This is where the ark is when we pick up the story in 1 Chronicles 13, as David expresses a desire to bring the ark home.

1. Human Consultation (I Chronicles 13:1-4)

The first problem we see in this story is in what caused the impetus for David to bring the ark back. In v. 1, it says that “David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader.” David begins to get an idea in the back of his head that he would like to bring the Ark back to the tabernacle, where it belongs. Now, I don’t think anybody would disagree that this was not a bad idea, in fact it is very possible that God himself planted that thought in David’s mind. The problem is, that David goes immediately to his human counselors for advice. Some of these men were likely his closest friends, men that he had been on the run with from Saul for all those years. It is very likely that some of them were very godly men as well! The problem is that they were just men. Nowhere do we see David asking God for his direction in this matter, nowhere do we see him spending time in God’s Word, or in hours of prayer. He just assumes this is what God wants him to do, and in fact, when the decision is made, in v. 4, the defining factor is not God! It says that “the thing was right in the eyes of all the people” and so they decided to go ahead with their plans. Let me just say, that no matter where our heart is, no matter how pure our intentions are, if we ever go forward with any endeavor without seeking the Lord’s will and direction first, that endeavor is doomed for failure. Look at other men in the Bible who made the same mistake! Abraham slept with Hagar to “help” God provide a son. Jacob and Rebekah “helped” God by tricking Isaac and cheating Esau out of his blessing. Moses “helped” God free Israel from Egypt by murdering an Egyptian. The list could go on, but the point is clear. No matter what place your heart is in, if you do something for the Lord without seeking the Lord first, the result can be disastrous – as we will see.

2. Hasty Conveyance (I Chronicles 13:5-8)

David made the decision to go get the Ark of the Covenant, and decides that the most logical and expedient way to get it from point A to point B is by a cart pulled by oxen. This makes sense to our logical minds. If you are moving a couch, or a big bookshelf, you are going to get a truck or a trailer, or at the very least, a dolly, to make the work less. Remember, the Ark was made out of solid wood, covered in gold, and to boot had a couple slabs of stone inside of it! If it was my job to move it, I would want it to be on wheels too! The problem though, is found in Exodus 25:12-14, where God gives specific instructions about how the Ark should be transported. “Thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four corners… and thou shalt make staves of shittim wood…and thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them. ” God makes it pretty clear. The Ark was too precious to be transported like a sack of grain on a cart, it was to be carried by hand by the priests and only the priests. In fact, in Numbers 4:15, it says “the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die.” The priests were allowed to carry the Ark, but the poles were not just for convenience, but also for protection, because the Ark was so holy that anyone who touched it would die. God’s holiness is serious business, and our worship of Him is serious business. David was very sincere. In I Chronicles 13:8, it says that he and all Israel were singing praises to God with all their might! But no matter how beautiful their music was, they weren’t doing things God’s way. No matter how sincere I am, no matter how great my desire is to glorify God, if I don’t do it His way, it does not glorify Him at all.

3. Horrific Consequences (1 Chronicles 13:9-14)

David’s heart was in the right place, but his actions weren’t and the consequences were devastating. 1 Chronicles 13:9-10 says that “Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and He smote him, and there he died before God.” We hear that, and our first reaction is to say “Wow, that is kinda harsh! All that Uzza did was try to keep the Ark from falling and maybe getting damaged!” I think David had the same reaction as in v. 11 it says that “David was displeased because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzza.” What we, and David, are forgetting, is that God makes the rules. God, who breathed our universe into existence, who created the very laws that keep that universe running smoothly, and who literally holds us together, makes the rules. I don’t know about you, but I remember playing tag as a kid, and there was always that kid who kept changing the rules, who kept changing base to whatever object he was nearest to. That isn’t what is going on here! God isn’t changing the rules, he created the rules. He isn’t adding new rules to an existing game, He created the original game! You and I could invent our own game, and name it whatever we want, and make whatever rules we want. When we played it with others, as long as the rules were explained clearly, we would be perfectly justified for enforcing the rules, no matter how difficult they might be. That is so true of God. He created our universe, He created us, and He told us very clearly what the rules were that we are to play by. When we disobey those rules, as Uzzah did, the rules must be enforced, because God is just. Because David didn’t play by God’s rules, a man lost his life, and the job didn’t get accomplished. The story tells us that David was scared, and they stored the Ark in the house of a man named Obed-Edom for three months. When you or I try to do a good thing but don’t do it God’s way, not only is God not glorified, but the thing we are trying to do may not even get done.

4. Humble Correction (1 Chronicles 15)

If you skip a chapter over to chapter 15, you find the conclusion of the story. I am so glad that the story didn’t end in chapter 13, and that even when I mess up, the story doesn’t have to end there. Look at how David responds. “Then David said, ‘None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites: for them hath the Lord chosen to carry the ark of God.” For three months, David has been trying to figure out why, when his heart was so clearly in the right place, things went so horribly wrong. Then the light comes on. In my imagination, I see him reading through the Torah, and he stumbles on a verse in Exodus that has been long forgotten. The light all of a sudden comes on. “Oh!!! I get it now! The Lord wasn’t angry because I tried to bring the Ark back, He was angry because I didn’t do it the way He commanded me to! It isn’t supposed to ride on a cart; the priests are supposed to carry it!” Later in v. 12 and 13, after organizing a new effort to bring back the Ark, he says this. “Sanctify yourselves…that ye may bring up the ark of the Lord God…for because ye did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought Him not after the due order.” David understands. The problem was not that his heart wasn’t in the right place, it wasn’t that he was acting from the wrong motivation, the problem was that he wasn’t doing things God’s way. As you continue to read chapter 15, you find out that the Ark was successfully brought home, and David rejoices with an exuberant celebration! I think that every one of us, at one time or another, has tried to serve the Lord from the very best of intentions. Our hearts are in the right place, and we have a sincere desire to do what is right and to glorify Him. Sometimes though, we get wrapped up in our own plans, and forget to seek the Lord’s blessing and guidance in our efforts. When this happens, the consequences may be disastrous, its true. We then have to turn to the Lord, and ask what we did wrong. We examine our hearts, to be sure our motives were pure, we acknowledge that we were wrong, and then we ask what we need to do different. We seek His will first, then figure out how to do it His way. When that happens, we can finally, truly, bring glory to the Lord, just as David did.

It is the New Year, and if you are like me, you have a list of things that you want to accomplish or change this year. You may (like me) have an (undisclosed) amount of pounds that you want to remove from your body. Perhaps it is a particular habit that you would like to break, or maybe a financial goal that you would like to meet. Whatever your goals are, I want to encourage you to not neglect the most important goal that we should make not just at the beginning of the year, but every day of our lives – the goal of being more holy. Holiness means to be undefiled and set apart for the Lord’s use. If you have not already set that goal, I want to challenge you right now to make that your goal for 2014, and to give you some practical advice from the book of Daniel on how to achieve that goal.

1. Have a Decided Purpose

In Daniel 1 we read the familiar story of Daniel having “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with…the kings meat.” (v. 8). In our English language, we use the word purpose as both a verb and a noun. When we use it as a verb (as it is in this verse) it means to set a goal or resolution for ones self. The first step toward achieving a goal is deciding that you will do what it takes to achieve this goal. You cannot say you want to do something, but not be willing to do what it takes to get it done. For example, if I want to lose some weight, I cannot make a commitment to lose weight, but be unwilling to increase my exercise and decrease my junk food consumption. “Purposing” is not just saying that you want to do something, but rather that you will do something, no matter what it costs. I am sure that most Christians would say that “want” to be more holy, but would they say they will be holy, and be willing to remove the junk food of sin in their lives, and to exercise more often in God’s Word and prayer? It is easy to want something, it is another thing entirely to do what it takes to achieve it. John 2:15 tells us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Are you willing to purpose in your heart that you will love the Lord enough to be holy for Him, no matter what it costs?

Purpose can also be used as a noun, in which it refers to the objective you are aiming for. Notice what Daniel’s objective was. The kings food, although most definitely delicious, would have been sacrificed to idols. According to Jewish law, this would make it sinful and unclean for a God-fearing Jew to eat. Daniel’s objective was not to be more healthy (although that was a side effect) nor was it to be more successful (although that also happened). His sole objective was to be undefiled, to be holy, for God.  I was thinking about this, and realized that to my shame, often times I am more wrapped up in my earthly purposes than I am in heavenly ones. I am more committed to losing weight or breaking an annoying habit than I am in being more holy for my Lord. Shame on me! Holiness is not an optional objective, it is a command! I Peter 1:15-16 – “But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

2. Have a Detailed PlanWhether you are committing to losing weight or being more holy, the decision to do so is vital, but without a plan on how you are going to do so, that decision will be meaningless. When you make your plan about how you are going to become more holy for the Lord, consider a few things.

     – Make it specific – Notice Daniel had a very specific plan about how he was going to avoid defiling himself. He asked the eunuch to allow them to eat vegetables and water for 10 days. (v. 12) He didn’t make a commitment and then expect God to just fill in the details, he purposed and then he planned. What is your plan to be more holy? Where do you struggle the most? Do you have a hard time exercising spiritually? Do you have a difficult time being regularly in God’s Word? Do you lack a consistent prayer time? Is their spiritual junk food in your life? Are their sins in your life that continually defile you so that you are unholy? Are their things that you are filling your mind with that are unholy? Figure out what in your life is holding you back from holiness, and then make a specific plan about how that will change.

     – Make it attainable – Again, notice Daniel’s plan. He asked to be allowed to eat vegetables and water for just 10 days. Understand, in his heart he was committed to never eating the kings defiled food, but in practice he aimed for just 10 days. If there is a specific sin that is holding you back from holiness, in your heart you should have a desire to never commit that sin ever again, but make it your immediate goal to go a week or two without choosing that sin. If you struggle with spending time in God’s Word, don’t make it your goal to study for two hours every day, but rather to spend 15 minutes each day studying. Make your goal something that you can achieve and then build on that! Although the Bible never tells us, I personally believe that Daniel never defiled himself with the kings food, but he started with just 10 days.

     – Make it measurable – After the 10 days of vegetables and water, Daniel and his friends were compared to the other young men, and they were found to be much healthier and vibrant. Their progress was clearly measurable. Measure your spiritual progress! Keep track of the days in which you avoid that sin and temptation that drags you down. When you do fail, don’t let it discourage you, don’t let it make you abandon your purpose, rather repent of it, and start again! Keep a journal with your Bible where you mark down the date, the passage you read and something that grabbed your attention from those verses. When you miss a day, don’t let it cause you to give up, but rather let it encourage you to be more faithful. Make a plan that you can measure so that you are aware if you are improving in your efforts to be set apart for the Lord.

3. Have Dependable Partners

Daniel did not go at it alone. In v. 7, we read the names of the three friends who were right beside him in his commitment – Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. In our efforts to be more holy, dependable partners are vital. I Corinthians 10:13 tells us that “there hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man.” No matter what you are struggling with, somebody else has, is and will struggle with it, and there are people that can share in your struggle with you. If there is a sin you are struggling with, ask a godly man or woman to meet with you every week to see how you are doing. Find someone who will not just pat you on the back when you are doing well, but will kick you in the pants if you are slacking off! If you don’t have any idea how to study the Bible or pray, find someone who can teach you! If you are not involved in a local church, find one that preaches God’s Word and get stuck in! Watching sermons on the television is fine, but those men on the screen cannot come alongside you and give you practical help in being more holy! There are accountability programs for addictions, for dieting, and for finances – we should have an accountability program for our relationship with the Lord.

4. Have Divine Progress

In v. 17-20, we read about the results of the ten days, and afterward. Their commitment was a resounding success – but that success was from God. Did Daniel have a detailed plan? Yes, but the results were from the Lord. Did he have wonderful partners? Absolutely, but his greatest partner was the Lord. As I seek to be more holy, this is probably the area where I struggle the most. I make a commitment to do what it takes to be set apart for the Lord. I make these awesomely detailed and specific plans of how I am going to get there, and I get godly people who I trust to help me along the way. Sometimes, though, I forget that without the Lord’s help, all my best efforts are worthless. Too often I get so wrapped up in how “I” am going to change myself. I get focused on how great the details of my plan are, and how I am going to achieve the results that I want. That is not the way to go. The reality is that we have to make a commitment to be more holy and that we have to have a plan about what we are going to do to achieve that result, but that ultimately, the result is the Lord’s responsibility. Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” The most vital step of all, more important that any spiritual goal we want to achieve, more important than whatever 10 step plan we put together, is the willingness to be changed by God into whatever He wants us to be. We have to understand that our plan could be flawed. Just because we read our Bible every day doesn’t make us automatically holy. Just because we have the most godly men and women helping us, our success is not guaranteed. We have to surrender ourselves to the Lord, to commit ourselves to being holy and willing to let Him change us in anyway He sees fit.

Will you make the commitment to be more holy? The truth is that nobody is “holy enough” every one of us has room to be more holy, more set apart for the Lord to use. As you make plans about the money you will save and the weight you will lose, will you also make plans to be set apart and undefiled for the Lord to use?



I was recently reading through some notes I had written from my personal study of God’s Word, and came across these devotional thoughts from Psalm 105:1-5 that I wrote several years ago. As I read them, I was really challenged in regards to my approach to worship and reminded again of just how worthy our Lord is to receive all the honor, praise and glory I can give Him. I just wanted to share these thoughts with you, I hope they will challenge you just as much in your relationship with our Lord.


Today I was reading Psalm 105 in my personal devotions, and the beginning 5 verses of the Psalm really jumped out and grabbed me by the scruff of the neck. The focus of this Psalm is remembering what God has done for us, and most of the Psalm is spent in a historical overview of all that the Lord has done for Israel, starting with Abraham, and going until the Israelites are out of Egypt heading for the Promised Land. The clear focus is on giving God the glory because He is worthy, and that is what worship is…”worth”ship. Praising God because He is worth it. The first five verses are what captured my attention though , especially as I have been really thinking a lot about worship. There are three aspects to our attitude if we want to worship God.

Praise – “Give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name: Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;Talk of all his wondrous works!” Psalm 105:1-2

The first component to truly worshiping God is the one we typically think of the most often and that is praise. There are three aspects to our praise here, firstly, we thank Him for what He has done, secondly we praise Him for who He is, and then lastly we tell others about Him. How often do we as Christians take time to praise God for what He has done, who He is, and perhaps the most difficult one, to tell others about Him? It is easy for us to speak about how worthy Christ is, and to sing songs about His worthiness, but how often do we demonstrate how worthy He is by what we say? We should constantly be talking about our God, because he is worthy of all “worth”ship we can give Him!

Pursue – “Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore!” Psalm 105:3-4

The second part of really worshiping God is to pursue Him. The word “seek” here holds the meaning “to frequently strive after.” Christians, our lives should frequently be consumed with a passion for the Lord, and to strive after Him, to not let anything get in the way. It says we are to seek the Lord and His strength, but also to seek His face. It is easy to seek the strength of the Lord, as we face circumstances in life that are too much for us to handle. How often though do we simply seek His face? How often is it enough just to be in His presence, simply enjoying intimacy with the Lord? Is He just a powerful being in the sky who gives me stuff and punishes me when I am bad? Or is He my friend? My Abba?


Ponder – “Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth.” Psalm 105:5

The last part of worshiping God is remembering. Christian, when was the last time you just sat down and remembered everything that the Lord has done for you? His marvelous works? What more marvelous work could there be than sending Jesus Christ to die for your sins? His wonders? What is more wonderful than a God who is not limited by anything except Himself? A God who created our universe in 6 days just by speaking? The judgements of His mouth? Have you thought lately about what a righteous, just, and holy God we serve? Have you pondered lately on His words through the ultimate book the Bible?


Christian, God doesn’t ask you for your worship, He demands it. Because He is worthy! Are you going to give Him the attitude of worship He deserves?

The Leaves of the Heart

We are in the full swing of fall here in West Virginia, and I love it! Fall is my favorite season of the year. In my opinion the crisp, yet not quite cold, weather is perfect, and I love seeing the beauty of the trees around me, which are quite spectacular in the hills of West Virginia. The one thing that I do not enjoy about fall though, is raking leaves. Somehow it seems like every tree on our street has figured out a way to dump their leaves on our yard. This past Saturday I spent over 3 hours trying to clean up leaves. I was raking, blowing, gathering, wheeling, dumping and sweating. I made a mountain of leaves that King Kong would be proud to climb, and yet at the end of it all, as I looked around my yard, I almost despaired, because it seemed as though I had not made any progress at all. During those three hours of raking and piling leaves, more had fallen, and the areas that just 15 minutes ago were “leaf-free” were now scattered with leaves once again. Less than a week later, my yard is really in need of being raked again.

As I continued to work, muttering under my breath about the neighbors trees that have the nerve to drop their leaves on my yard, and over the week as I saw more and more leaves accumulate on my once tidy lawn, I realized that my heart is just like my yard, and that sins are just like those leaves. No matter how many times I confess sins to the Lord, no matter how many times I commit to serving and obeying Him, it is never too long before sin comes creeping back into my heart, and I have to start all over. If you are anything like me, there are times when you want to just give up, to let the leaves win, and make no effort to tidy up the “yard of your heart.” However, this is not the way we should do it, and there are some lessons we can learn about leaves and yards that apply just as truly to sins and hearts.

1. Un-raked leaves damage yards.
Last fall, I was, to put it bluntly, lazy. I really don’t enjoy raking leaves, and as I just said, it seems pointless sometimes. I regularly cleaned the driveway off, but decided to just let the leaves lay in the yard. There was a problem though. As I blew the leaves off the driveway, a mound started to develop along the edge of the driveway. Rather than pulling out my wheelbarrow and hauling it away, I merely scattered it around the yard and left it be, causing there to be a wide but relatively shallow (less than a foot) pile of leaves in my yard. My “theory” (or excuse) that justified this was that the leaves would rot and fertilize my yard, making it stronger than ever. Unfortunately it didn’t work that way. The grass under the leaves died, leaving me with a big bare spot that took quite a while to grow back. The truth is, that sometimes we are just too lazy to deal with the sin in our lives. We get tired of fighting the same battles over and over again, and decide we will just let it be. We may even try to deceive ourselves into somehow thinking that these sins are not really wrong, that they are actually good for us, maybe even that they are God’s will for our lives. The reality though, is that just like that unattended pile of leaves destroyed my yard, unattended sin will destroy our lives. Proverbs 10:29 says, “The way of the Lord is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.” Matthew 7:13 says, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” Sin has a horrible effect in the life of a Christian, but it has an even worse effect on his relationship with God. Psalm 66:18 tells me that “if I regard iniquity in mine heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Don’t let the leaves of sin pile up in your heart! Confession and cleansing may be a never ending process, but it is a process that is worth it! The alternative for a Christian is too horrible to even consider!

2. Un-raked leaves look ugly.
This fall I have been incredibly busy. I have juggled soccer coaching, my church ministry, events and trips that had to be taken, and the added responsibility of my son. I knew that I absolutely needed to rake the leaves this year, and I had no intention of destroying my grass, but by the time I had an opportunity to do it, my yard really looked bad. I had leaves in the flower beds, leaves on the drive way, leaves in the gutters, leaves were even starting to creep into the house every time we opened the door. When I was finally able to get outside and take on the hordes of leaves, I compared my leaf infested yard to my retired neighbors crisp manicured leaf-free lawn, and I realized just how much of an eye-sore my leaf problem was. This is the effect that un-confessed sin can have in our lives! Firstly, our sin is so ugly that God the Father can not look at it! Sin is so ugly to Him that He even turned His back on His own Son when He was carrying my sins on the cross! This in itself should make us want to clean up our hearts, but our sin can also look ugly to the people around us. If I had a dollar for every time somebody told me that Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites, I could hire somebody to take care of my leaf problem for me! Sadly though, many times they are right. Too often, Christians talk about “being saved” and “loving Jesus” and “going to church,” then turn around and behave just like the world does. Why would somebody listen to what I want to tell them about Christ if I have allowed my heart to become just as ugly as theirs? Why would they want to hear what I have to say when they can see evidence of those leaves of lust, anger, pride, greed, and dishonesty? Do our hearts make the gospel attractive to those around us?

3. Raking leaves is good exercise.
I have to tell you, I am not in the best shape of my life. I could stand to lose about 20 pounds, and long gone are the days where I could run 3 or 4 miles at a time. Now I am lucky if I can run 3 or 4 hundred yards at a time! The layout of my property is such that the back of my yard ends in a small strip of woods, and is a perfect place to dump the unwanted leaves. The problem with this setup is that my back yard rises quickly in a sharp 10 foot hill. I probably went up and down that hill 20 or 30 times with a wheel barrow load full of leaves, and I gotta be honest with you, by the end of the day, I was dying! My calves were burning, my quads were begging for a break, and my shoulder and back muscles were on the verge of getting out their signs and setting up a picket line! It was hard work, and yet I know it was good for me. I think we would all agree that trying to keep our lives free of sin is hard work, and that we are not always completely successful at it. However, we have to understand that even if we don’t achieve the goal of perfection (which I am far from) that the effort we put into it strengthens us spiritually, and equips us to better serve the Lord. Paul pretty much presents this exact thought in I Corinthians 9:24-27. “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. i therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

How is the yard of your heart? Are there leaves accumulated in it? Have you let things go? Has your relationship with the Lord been damaged because of those unconfessed sins? Don’t let that discourage you! I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Grab a rake and a wheelbarrow, and start cleaning up the yard of your heart!

Image  —  Posted: October 31, 2013 in Uncategorized
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