Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

I’ve been listening to Jadon Lavik’s version of the song below a lot lately. It’s speaking to me. What insight a pastor from 1757 who penned this hymn had even today into my heart.

I’ve made bold the parts which speak to me most (and made super bold the line which rocks my world).

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy unchanging love

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy great help I’ve come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God

He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be

Let that grace now, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy unchanging love

Which phrases speak to you most?

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Go to Bed Tonight

father-daughter

Did I begin today in prayer?

Have I read my Bible today?

Did I give today my best efforts?

Did I make someone’s life a little better today?

Did I take steps towards the dreams I have and God has for my life today?

How did I add value to the world around me today?

Was my attitude ever in the way of me or others having a productive, happy day?

Can I put today behind me, go to sleep, and give tomorrow another chance?

How can I improve my answers tomorrow night?

Am I ending today in prayer?

What My Ants Taught Me About Following God

We Are The Ants. ant tales

My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words. Psalm 119:139

The Psalmist who wrote this verse was excited about God! So excited, in fact, that he apparently wore himself out with service! There were so many enemies of God, that kept the Psalmist so busy! Oh that we would be found so faithful!

That reminds me…

I am marveled by ants. I know what you may be thinking, “What an awkward transition and how can anyone make a Biblical illustration with a bunch of ants?” Bear with me. Ants are fascinating.

Several years ago, when we still lived in the house where we raised our boys, if the weather was nice, I would sit on my back patio, drink my coffee, and read my Bible in the morning. For a period of months, I was captivated with a trail of ants that began on one side of my patio, and ended on the other side…a distance of about 30 feet. The ants marched in a straight line, two ants going one direction, two going the opposite direction. They were spaced no more than an ant’s distance apart from each other. All total, there were hundreds of ants on my patio at any given time.

Now, I have to be honest. When I first discovered there were ants on my patio each morning, I was not very excited. I tried spraying them with ant killer. I tried washing them away with the garden hose. I tried stomping on them. I even got creative by trying to place obstacles in their way. (Perhaps you can tell I was starting to have fun with this project.)

My attempt to rid the patio of ants went on for over a week. Guess what? THE ANTS WERE STILL THERE! Oh, they would disappear for awhile. I was very good at getting rid of them temporarily. I felt successful everytime I tried, but before I knew it, the line of ants was back again…bigger, stronger, more determined than ever. I actually decided I kinda liked those ants. They became my ants!

As I have watched the life of an ant, and spent time in my morning devotion, it occurred to me that just as they are diligent in their labor, so should I be in mine. Just as the Psalmist was diligent in serving God, I should be in my work. He pursued God’s enemies as the ants pursued my patio, as I should pursue God’s call on my life.

If I am called to serve a mighty God, I should serve Him mightily!

Even when I’m distracted.

Even when obstacles get in the way.

Even when the work is harder than I think I can do.

If I am asked to work for a God who is steadfast in His love for me, then I should work for Him steadfastly!

My ants taught me a lot about following God.

What are you learning about God these days?

Do All Dogs Go To Heaven?

Naje.couch

Do all dogs go to Heaven?

It took me a while to write this post. We lost our sweet NaJe…our Yorkie…our overweight, 12 and a half year Yorkie…last summer. She was doing great, although she had slowed somewhat in the later years. We had just moved to our new city, and she loved it for the walking. One morning I was at work and Cheryl went to lunch. When Cheryl came home NaJe was not the same. She became paralyzed immediately…within the hour Cheryl was gone to lunch. We took her to the veterinarian as soon as we could. The Vet said it was a brain tumor. There was nothing we could do for her. It was one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made and being with her at the end one of the hardest things I’ve personally ever done.

I know…it’s a dog, right? But she was our dog. She was part of the family. She was named for our two boys…Na…Nathaniel…Je…Jeremy. (Jeremy is the oldest, but NaJe sounded better to us than JeNa.)

So the question…

Do all dogs go to Heaven?

Believe it or not, I get asked that question. Very seriously. And, I understand.

Unfortunately, the answer is one that I can’t solve that for you. Not definitively.

I wish I could, but I am a Bible teacher. I read and believe the Bible as truth. I can’t make it fit my needs or desires. I have to take it for what it says. I can’t add to or take away from it. I know mankind is His highest creation. The Bible makes clear provision for mankind and Heaven. (If you confess with your mouth and believe in your hear that God raised Jesus from the dead you shall be saved.)

The problem is, I can’t definitively assure myself of any eternity for my dog or any dog. Or cat. Or hamster. Although I would think my dog would likely to get in if any animal did :).

I know this though. My viewpoint has changed in light of NaJe. I now recognize I can’t say dogs “don’t” go to Heaven. Can you?

All creation waits. “All creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” The Bible says that. Revelation also says “every creature” pays reverence to the glory of God. Every creature. But, is that creatures created now or then. I can’t say. Will there be dogs in Heaven. I don’t know? For sure.

But, I do know NaJe was God’s creation. She did exactly what she was created to do while she was alive on earth. Everything. She loved. She loved greatly. She loved passionately. She was a most loyal man’s best friend. I can’t imagine God wasn’t pleased with the example of unconditional love NaJe proved to be.

If any dogs went to Heaven…NaJe would be one. Probably you feel that way about yours too.

And, though I can’t solve the question for you, not definitively, I can’t imagine a perfect place without a dog like NaJe. But, then no eye has seen or imagined what God has created for us. Heaven will be perfect. I’m not sure I have really ever seen perfect as God intended perfect to be. Some day I will.

I also know this, as much as I entertain this question, I’m most concerned about your eternity. I am confident God will take care of His creation, but He’s given you and me the option to choose to be obedient or to rebel. Will you be in Heaven? Have you surrendered your life to Christ’s life? Do you believe that Jesus died on a cross, rose from the grave, and that by your faith in Him you shall be saved?

What do you think? Do all dogs go to Heaven?

(Opinions are welcome…I honestly don’t believe we know definitively, but please don’t write me your “theological” understanding based on what you “think”.).

7 Things I’ve Learned or am Learning About God

7 things I’ve learned or am learning about God:

Sometimes God opens doors simply to show me that He can. I’ve seen it many times. God seemed to provide an opportunity, only to later make it clear that’s not the right one for this time. It’s always though an encouragement than when He is ready He can and will make a way.

God’s plan for my life is always bigger than mine. Every. Single. Time. I have underestimated Him all my life. You’d think I’d learn.

When God stretches us we are never the same. God style elastic never goes back completely in place. He has stretched me so many times and each time I was forever changed. I’ve learned the places He stretches He also longs to fill with Himself if I will fully submit to His plan.

God has ways I have never even thought about. You don’t learn this one until after the fact, because you couldn’t script it if you tried. Hollywood couldn’t. But God’s ways are not our ways. Period.

God uses people I wouldn’t have expected. (People like me) It always bothers me when people dismiss others because of their past, apparent inabilities or even their current condition. God tends to make me eat my words when I do that kind of thing. God uses whom God chooses.

God allows the darkest periods of my life to produce the greatest light. Every major breakthrough in my life has come after a period of profound darkness. I’ve learned the best things I know about life and God through the most difficult seasons of my life.

God never gives up on me. In some ways, I feel like Jonah. I’ve never felt called to go to Nineveh, but I’ve resisted going where God called me to go or do at times. Sometimes for a season and sometimes only briefly, but I’ve run. I’ve stalled. In the end, God always has the final word. Imagine that. I end up obeying or my life is a mess until I do.

What’s God taught or teaching you?

Join Me on a Free Lifeway Webcast, with Pete Wilson, Ronnie Floyd and Eric Geiger

I recently completed a Bible study for Lifeway on addressing conflict within relationships. (Not that any of us would need such a thing. :) ) Several other pastors are involved in this project, addressing other areas, but all in the newly designed Bible Studies for Life Series by Lifeway. I was honored to be a part, because I think it will be helpful, practical studies.

Along with the release of this project, Lifeway is providing a free webcast, Wednesday, May 8th, from 12:00 to 12:30 CST. I will be one of several prominent names, Eric Geiger, Pete Wilson, and Ronnie Floyd. (Again, I’m honored to be a part.) You can find more information and register for this at BibleStudiesforLife.com/webcast.

For a preview, here are a couple of videos about the webcast…one from me, and one from my much cooler friend, Pastor Pete Wilson.

Hope to have you online with us.

10 Considerations for Understanding Biblical Faith

Praying man silhoutte

Are you struggling to understand faith? 

To understand faith I always have to put it in terms of a relationship.  When we speak of a Biblical faith, we are speaking in terms of having faith…trusting…based upon our relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ.

With that in mind…based on my understanding of Scripture…

Here are 10 considerations of understanding Biblical faith:

1. Faith is defined for us as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1-2)

2. Faith believes even when it makes no sense to believe, not because of the proof before you, but because of the trust you place in the object of your faith.

3. Faith is based on the will of that person in whom you place your faith, not my will. You can have faith that the person you love most will never hurt you, for example, but whether they do or not is up to their will, not yours.

4. Biblical faith is in a person, the person of God.  (God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…they are One.)  Faith is not in me or my abilities, but on God and His abilities.

5. When Jesus used the illustration of moving mountains He was giving an example of the power of God and how we should place our whole faith in Him.  He was not talking about the power of my ability to have faith, but rather the power of the One in whom we place our faith.  If God’s will is to move a mountain, He will surely move it. You can even ask Him to by faith.  (Remember, Jesus also said, “apart from me you can do nothing”.)

6. When we talk about faith in God then, we are talking about His will, not our will.  That’s how Jesus taught us to pray….”Our Father, who is in Heaven…thy will be done…” Faith is based on God’s agenda, not my agenda. It’s not your ability to move mountains. It is God’s ability.   It’s not your will to move mountains; it’s God’s will.

7. Faith is based on the promises of God, not our hopes or desires. When you struggle with faith, you don’t doubt your ability; you doubt God’s ability. Sometimes we get upset that God hasn’t done something we think He should do, but God never promised to do it.  It may have never have been His will.

8. When you pray by faith then, you are praying that you trust God to do His will in your life, based not on your wishes or desires, but on what He has promised to do.  Some things we can always have faith that God will do, because he has promised to do them, such as “love you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), “work all things for good” (Romans 8:28) and “never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8). We can’t always know that God will heal every sickness, for example, because He’s not promised that He will. In fact, He promised we would have trials, but that throughout it all we could rejoice in our sufferings.

9. God is trustworthy…worthy of our faith. I love how The Message Version puts 1 Thessalonians 5:24, “The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!” Do what?   His will. Faith in the person of God is based then on your trust that He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.

10. When your faith lines up with God’s will, you can absolutely, positively, unquestionably claim by faith that God’s will be done. One of the reasons it is so important to know God personally is so that we will know His will, so we can know how to pray in God’s will. (Romans 12:1-2)

What would you add in understanding Biblical faith?

(This is a revision of a previous post.)