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What I Really Deserve

Nice FruitThis week, I’m staying in a nice hotel in Ocala, Florida, driving around in a rented Camaro, and eating fresh fruit – all sweet gifts from The Church at the Springs where Pastor Ron Sylvia and others are hosting Nuts & Bolts, a conference for church planters. I feel very blessed to be here. I don’t deserve it.

What I do deserve is the full weight of the wrath of God toward sin for my rebellion against God. I learned a huge lesson a long time ago from my friend, Bobby Conway. I walked into a nice hotel with Bobby where we were hosting him while he preached a revival at our church. He looked up at his beautiful surroundings and exclaimed, “I deserve hell, and I’m staying here?” That line deeply impacted me. I am not entitled to any of the good and gracious gifts of God.

I don’t deserve nice surroundings. I don’t deserve my awesome, loving wife. I don’t deserve my precious kids that make me smile daily. Life, for most of us, especially in America, is cushy. If we ever get the impression we deserve any of it, we’re sorely mistaken. Instead, we need to understand that each next breath is a gracious gift of a very forgiving God.

Not only have I been spared from ever seeing the wrath of God toward sin, I also get to enjoy the bounty of the goodness of God. Why? Because of what the prophet Isaiah foretold about Jesus: “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 NLT)

I’m not saying at all that we should refuse to enjoy good things. That would demonstrate ingratitude toward the Creator and Savior of the world. What I am saying is that every time we enjoy even the smallest of gifts, our hearts should be reminded of the price Jesus paid on the cross so that we might enjoy the freedom and promise of eternal, abundant life.

The old phrase is “never forget where you came from.” That’s a good starting place, but I like the way the apostle Paul put it even better…

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world… All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else… But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!

~ Ephesians 2:1-5 NLT

Look around, and be thankful. You and I deserve hell, but the offer is freely on the table for anyone in all the earth to receive complete forgiveness of sin because of the price Jesus paid for us when He died on the cross. If you aren’t sure what to make of that, let’s talk.

Things I'm Thankful for Today

I’m actually thankful for these things every day, but today in the U. S. is especially set aside for the purpose of saying (or blogging) thanks for such things. Gratitude is life-changing and invites the blessings of God into our lives. So let me offer my thanks to God for…

  • Being a holy, wise, perfect, immutable, unchanging, sovereign, loving, gracious, awesome Creator!
  • Giving His only Son, Jesus, who died on the cross to pay the penalty of my sins.
  • Granting me salvation and the forgiveness of my sins merely on the basis of my believing in Christ and receiving Him as my Savior.
  • My call to ministry – to touch lives, to change the world, to spread His Word.
  • Being born in a place and time in which I have the freedom to worship Him without fear of persecution.
  • My beautiful, sweet wife, for all the reasons I wrote about yesterday.
  • My precious daughter who has one of the sweetest spirits of any kid in the world, and who happens to be smarter than her Dad sometimes.
  • My cool son who is now learning to “run” on all fours and climb stuff. He belly laughed this morning – I’m thankful for that!
  • My little dog, Beau. He’s nice.
  • My parents, my brother Kevin and his wife, Robin, and their sweet kids, Emma and Carter.
  • My in-laws including Angie’s parents, the Perry clan and Josh’s crew.
  • My church family, along with my Pastor and my boss and fellow staff members.
  • The opportunity to be creative, to design stuff, to think and strategize about communications and missions.
  • All the physical stuff like food, a roof, cars, furniture and all the things we take for granted around us.
  • Creation – which shows off the awesomeness and beauty of our majestic God.
  • Lifelong friends from the places where we’ve served… and I do mean lifelong!
  • The future, from here to heaven. It’s all in God’s hands and I’m believing that He’s going to do some pretty awesome things in, around, and through us!

I know I missed things. That’s the point. There’s no end to our giving of thanks to such a giving God! We’re never more like God than when we’re giving, and “thanks” and “giving” go together. So may God help us be more thankful and more giving all year long!

In closing, hear the challenge of the apostle Paul…

Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.

[youversion]Ephesians 5:17-21[/youversion]

My Thanksgiving List

Yesterday, I had several hours in the car to think and pray while my wife slept (her way of helping get us to the destination, I think). I thought of all kinds of things I’m really thankful for, and wanted to spill out my list on my blog, in no particular order…

I’m thankful for…

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I So Appreciated Being Appreciated!

Bethel Baptist Church CampusYesterday, our church family blessed us (yet again) with a wonderful luncheon for Pastor Appreciation month. I’m honored!! I often stand before our congregation and tell them I’d do what I do for free (of course, I don’t mind that they don’t take me up on that) because of the joy it brings. They really make it easy in many respects to be their Pastor. Let me tell you some ways this is true…

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