A Great Friend Is Priceless


One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,  but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:24

A great friend is priceless. How can you put a value on a relationship that adds so much to your life? That friend you do life with… that friend who you know has your back and you have his or hers. You cannot put a high enough price on that.

I have been blessed with good friends. Friends I can trust. Friends that are safe. Like all things priceless, these types of friends are rare. To get one you have to be one.

With a good friend of mine leaving our church to go to another opportunity, I am reminded of the value of friendship. I have many, many friends. I only have very few that I can be completely real with. It is those friendships I treasure the most.  Those rare friends help shape me into the person I am.

Are you a good friend? An invaluable friend to someone else? Here are qualities I see in this kind of friend.

  1. They go the extra mile when you need help.
  2. They always make you feel wanted.
  3. They tell you they have your back and mean it.
  4. They don’t project their negativity on you.
  5. They listen to you and don’t just share their own thoughts and passions.
  6. They accept you as you are, faults and all.
  7. They don’t try to one up you.
  8. They find humor in things and make you laugh.
  9. They really do pray for you.
  10. They are safe in that you can trust them with your deepest pains and feelings.

I pray you have at least one of these friends. I pray you are this friend to someone else.

Don’t Look Inside Because I Don’t Like What I Will See

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“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”   Matthew 23:25-26

Real change requires a look inside. An infected saint knows this all too well. I have tried in every other way, but my own journey says in order to make lasting change in your life, it starts with an honest look at your insides.

What does it mean to change? You know God desires it. You know there are things hindering you that He wants removed. But if you are like me, the struggle is real, and change is extremely difficult. When you are forced to look within, you know something needs addressing. You know there is something dreadfully wrong. It creeps up when we are put on the spot or someone dislikes us or we feel foolish. Something in us feels really broken, and we want to quit thinking about it as quickly as possible. We make ourselves busy, or we shift our thinking so we don’t have to deal with the unpleasantry of the wound within.

When we take time to look on the inside, to go deeper than what is at surface level, we find that things are complicated. It only takes a moment to realize, while there are good things happening, we have a really long way to go. Our garden is not without weeds. We wish we were better than we are, but we are not. And what is the result of this? It brings strong feelings of shame to our life. Shame makes us want to hide. Sometimes, it can be strong enough to make us want to curl up in the fetal position, hide in the closet or run with all our might to escape.

We want to feel whole. We want to feel like things are good and in order. We don’t want to feel empty or rejected. We avoid it at all costs. Yet, without an honest look at what is going on inside, how can we ever really change? How can we ever become like Christ? How can we ever experience the joy that is ours in Him?

Looking inside brings real fear. We are not sure we can face it and make it. It requires loads of courage to investigate deeper into our soul. If we want to change, we have to face our own sin and insecurities. We can’t be like the Pharisees who put out an image to everyone that was not consistent with who they really were in their souls. We have to face the pain, the shame, the guilt, the weakness. We have to face it in confidence that Christ’s grace is greater than our sin. That He will not leave us exposed and condemned.

How do we receive this great grace? We face courageously the depth of our sinfulness and we repent. Repentance moves us from deceiving ourselves that everything is okay to trusting in Christ’s work. Repentance produces a growing strength and stability in our inner core. It produces a change of character. It is the Gospel at work in us.

Let your complacency be disrupted by looking within. Change can only happen when we are first unsettled at our core. When we take the time to face our demons and get the help we need. Once we do, change is possible with the work of Christ and the accountability and support of others. God wants to do a mighty work in you – so have the courage to trust Him as He reveals the depths of your soul to you and changes you from the inside out.

 

Happy Funerals

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He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

Being an Infected Saint means facing the reality that we are all going to die. Infected saints are positionally perfect in Christ but still battle with sin. Unless Christ returns first, death is inevitable. Rarely does anyone look forward to dying. As Christians we get much more excited about the thought of resurrecting with a perfect body. I can’t imagine me with a perfect body. That is Heaven! But seriously, you cannot know the joy of the resurrection without first knowing the pain of death.  It is only out of death that something beautiful resurrects.

I read an article in Christianity Today (March 2016) recently on Christian trend towards “happy funerals.” Christian funerals are encouraged to have a positive spin: they are in a better place;  they feel no more pain; you need to move on while cherishing the memories.  More upbeat songs are being played at funerals. There has even been a change in clothing. Dark suits have been replaced with something more upbeat and casual. The goal is more celebration, more moments of joy. I get that.  Jesus brings victory over death. Death is not the final word for a believer. That is cause for celebration. Yet, joy should not replace our grief. It is not only ok to hurt; it is necessary.

If not careful, we could be in danger of brushing over the truth about death. Death is loss. It is a time for grieving. Shortest verse of the Bible shows Jesus weeping over the loss of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). Was Jesus showing a lack of faith? Did Jesus not know death was not the final word for Lazarus? Why didn’t Jesus celebrate? Jesus knew that Lazarus would walk again in a few moments from then, yet He still wept tears of grief. Jesus felt great sorrow. His tears were not just for His friend but for the necessity of pain and death because of sin. Death is a constant reminder of the destructive nature of sin. Jesus wept for it.

Hope should be apparent in a Christian funeral. As the word says, we “grieve but not as those without hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Yet, we are no different than any lost person who loses someone they care about. In fact being Christian means we understand better how to love and so our pain might be felt even deeper than the nonbeliever. That pain should not be ignored. Not letting yourself feel or express the pain is not a mark of spiritual achievement but a denial of the reality of loss. We need to deal honestly with our pain. We hurt because we cared. We need to feel that, experience it, and let it come through in whatever way it wants. Grieving is not a sign of doubt, but serves as evidence that you loved deeply.

Death reminds us of the tension between living in this age and the age to come. Infected saints know that this world is not home. We look forward to the afterlife but face the reality that we have to pass through death to get there. Death is necessary for resurrection. Resurrection is our hope. Death might be imminent but it is not the final word!

We should celebrate our hope in Christ at a funeral but not to the dismissal of our pain. So if you lose someone you love, grieve deeply. It’s ok. Don’t lose hope while you grieve, but do not feel guilty for hurting deeply. Jesus did and so should we.

When One Hurts, We Rally

picture taken by Josh Amyx.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

Good friends of mine lost their house in a fire this week. They lost everything but pot holders, a signed basketball, and a few pictures salvaged. Fortunately, their lives were spared. And of course that is really what matters. Nevertheless,  I am hurting for them and the loss of not only their valuables but those things that cannot be replaced… pictures and awards and certificates that are precious to us as families.

Their loss ignited an outpouring. Our church rallied. The amount of prayers and support would inspire the greatest doubter that people can really care. It was inspiring to see. It reminded me of an absolute truth… We need each other.  You really do need your church. You might think you don’t but I assure you God never intended you to go it alone. We don’t need the church only to receive but for us to give as well.

We need each other. The body of Christ was meant to be a group of people that do life together. That love each other and rally around its members when they are hurting. The body is not always perfect in this. There are times where people slip through the cracks and feel neglected. Sometimes it is because they Attend the church but are not connected to the church. There is a difference. God intended the church body to be a close, connected community that loves each other.

We need each other. We were never meant to do this life alone. We need those outside of our immediate family to love us. So often when something happens it effects our family and those outside of it are the ones who can comfort us and love on us in our greatest time of need. It shows us how much God loves us when church people rally to show us support. It is supernatural. It is God’s will for His body.

We need each other. We need each other to share our burdens with; to celebrate our joyous moments; to grow together in the Lord; to raise our kids together; to serve with one another. To come together as a community that we can be real with. It is an authentic community. I am accepted and loved just as I accept and love others in return.

We need each other. When life throws us a curveball, we need others to help hold us up; to help us find perspective; to hold us while we grieve; to help us pick up the pieces and move forward. God wants His body to take care of each other. Christ would have us reach the world with the gospel but if the church doesn’t care for its own, how will our message be received?

The church is not the church if it doesn’t care for its own in the name of Jesus.

Dax

Five Must Things To Consider When You Lose Your Dad


Losing my Dad 4 months ago still bring moments of  devastating pain. Dads are special and losing the one you have changes you. Whether your dad was a positive influence on you or not, losing your dad makes the world feel like an emptier place. There is a huge hole that nothing can fill. Sadness isn’t quite the right word. It is deeper than that. A loneliness that is part of you now. And no one really understands fully unless they have lost their dad. Don’t get me wrong, people’s support is appreciated regardless but losing your dad makes you understand this loneliness in a deeper way.

And you fight… You fight to keep your memory of them sharp. But time makes you begin to forget the small details. I find myself constantly looking at pictures of my dad to remind myself of the details. I try to remember what his voice sounded like. I don’t want to forget. I need to talk about him to others even though I find myself not wanting to because of the pain. My pain is not just for my own feelings of hurt. I hurt for my mom and can’t imagine how tough some days are now that her life has so quickly changed. For my brother and sister, especially my sister, who looked at dad as her hero, I feel pain for them. For my children and my nephew who have lost their Papaw. To see my daughter tear up because she misses her papaw and my son to no longer have the “fan man” to sleep with now that he is gone. To see them hurt over the loss feels like daggers piercing my soul. I want to fix it for them but I know I can’t. I can’t even take away my own hurt. And that’s ultimately ok. Pain reminds me how much I loved and to love deeply is worth the agony of loss.

Here are a few things I would say to those who have lost their dads:

1) Death can motivate– losing my dad was crushing but there is one thing that has come crystal clear to me: my family means everything to me and every day I have with them is a precious gift from God. I don’t want to take life for granted and look back one day and regret. Please, say those words of affection that you feel for your family members but have not said in a while or maybe ever. Give an extra hug to them. Make time for another visit. Squeeze every ounce of joy in being with your family for another day.

2) Be the kind of Dad your kids will want to remember- I want to be a hero to my kids. I want to be a knight in shining armor to my daughter. I want my boys to learn how to treat a woman by how I treat their mom. I want to earn their respect everyday. I want them to be proud that I am their dad.

3) Write down memories- don’t trust your ability to remember. Write down in as much detail as you can those things you want to remember about your dad. These are not only for you but for your children and your children’s children. Keep his legacy alive.

4) You need to embrace triggers not fear them- my dad loved golf. This weekend the Masters Tournament was on television. My dad and I would have talked several times discussing the scores and the course. We would have been so happy the course was tough and the scores low. Watching it this year was very emotional for me. From the mention of certain players my dad likes to seeing the golf ball he liked to use, triggers were set off. Triggers can happen anytime from the craziest things. They serve as reminders to us of our lost loved one. Triggers can lead to pain but if you train yourself, triggers can turn into a blessing. A reminder of good memories. A reminder of time spent together.

5) People grieve differently- since my dad died I no longer just sympathize with people but now I am able to empathize with them in their pain and grief. Empathy means you have been where they are now. I have lived it and that gives me a whole new perspective to better understand their hurt and pain. What Inhave learned is people grieve differently.  My grief looked different than my sisters or my brothers. We all grieve in our own way. There are steps of grief that are common but people come to them at different times and in different ways. If you have lost your dad, take time to empathize with others who are going through the same loss. You can understand in a way some cannot and that gives you something to say. Be a support by being there for them.

For those of us who have lost our dads,  I am so thankful for every memory, even the painful ones. I am thankful for the lessons they taught us. I am even thankful for their mistakes that we strive not to repeat. We would not be who we are without our dads.

I love you and miss you Dad. I will never forget.

Dax

Last Week of Jesus- Thursday

 

 

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36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.    Matthew 26:36-44

It is Thursday night. In less than 24 hours Jesus will be dead. Could you imagine the emotional turmoil of knowing tomorrow would be your last? Jesus was humans and he was struggling with knowing what was to come.  So he led his disciples to go and pray. His favorite spot was the Garden of Gethsemane. He and the disciples had just finished the Last Supper for the Passover. Jesus had watched as Judas left the table to go and betray Him. He passed the cup to Peter, knowing that Peter would deny him three times tomorrow. One last intimate meal with his twelve, knowing they would all scatter from Him in His hour of greatest suffering.  Jesus needed perspective so He went to the garden to find peace, guidance, and comfort from His Father.

How Jesus dealt with his impending suffering and death epitomizes how we should deal with our own pain and tragedy. We can learn how to deal with our own times of trials and pain from Jesus here in three specific ways.

Jesus brought Friends With Him

In His most difficult hours, anticipating His own death, Jesus drew his friends close to him. During these difficult times, we need people to walk with us. So many times we isolate form others when facing tough times. Be vulnerable with them. You are hurting. Ask them to bear it with you. People who care about you will do that. Jesus never shut them out. Even though they were often confused and probably frustrating to him, He included them until the end. He needed them.

Don’t Write Friends Off If They Fail To Meet Your Expectations and Disappoint You

Jesus asked His disciples to pray with Him. It had been a rough and tiring week. They were emotionally and physically spent. While praying, the disciples fell asleep. Jesus was disappointed to say the least. Wouldn’t you be? You are going to die and your closest friends fall asleep on you when their supposed to be praying for you! But what I want you to notice is that Jesus did not write them off. He continued to let them in and share His burden even after they disappointed Him. He needed them and He did not let their mistake destroy the bond. We need friends to be with us when we are hurting but we need to remember they have their own lives to live and their own struggles to face. They may fail to meet our expectations perfectly in our time of need. Show them grace. You need them. Let them be there for you even in their imperfections and quirks.

Jesus was Persistent In Praying

Jesus found a special place to pray. He found His prayer closest. No coined prayers offered here. Jesus prayed his guts out. His intimacy with the Father was on full display. Jesus prayed all night and did not stop until he had peace and His answer. Notice Jesus didn’t get what he asked for. He wanted to be saved from the torture, the pain… He wanted to be released from impending death. Yet, His Father said no. His Father’s will was for Jesus to die for humanity. The very ones to kill Jesus was who He would be dying for.  Jesus submitted fully and came to peace with what his father desired. We give up to quickly in our prayers. We pray a quick prayer and walk away already anticipating no clear answer. Why? We need to pray with determination. We need to cry out to God and not stop until we hear from him. God will answer if we seek Him until he does. If we need to pray all night then so be it. God will answer.

What a gut wrenching night this was for Jesus and his disciples. To know that tomorrow you die. Jesus could have stopped it. He had the power to do so. Yet, he submitted to His Father and died for us. He went through all of this suffering for me and for you. When we suffer, He is with us. He understands our pain and agony. He has experienced it. We are never alone. He walks with us all the way into eternity.

Oh God Rescue Me

 

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Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.    James 1:2-4

Sometimes God does not change your circumstance because He is trying to change your heart. When things are tough you cry out to God. You beg Him to remove the pain, the sorrow, the difficulty. You been there? You don’t want to hurt anymore and so you cry out. And often… God seems silent. He doesn’t remove the thing that is causing you such pain. The cancer is still there. The broken relationship is still broken. The bank account is still empty. The loss of a loved one is still permanent. Others tell you to find hope in it all and you wonder what good could ever come out of such pain.

But what if God, in fact, is not being silent. What if he is speaking a different way than you would have thought? What if God is thinking much bigger than your circumstance? God knows if He were to just remove the circumstance you would most likely fall back into business as usual. You are slow to remember and would go back into living life as you choose, oblivious of His working in and around you. What if God wanted to get your attention in a much more transformative way? What if He wants to change your heart? Draw you closer to Himself by getting you to recognizing your desperate need for Him. Is the pain worth that, to be loved and cared for by our Creator? To see your need for him and to be filled up by Him? So you lose things you loved and valued, but gain more of God. Is there any greater prize than eternity with Him?

It’s not easy. Life was never meant to be. God does not promise health and wealth (1 Peter 4:13). Run from those who teach that. Those who truly follow God will most definitely find hardship and suffering on this earth but the life to come is well worth the suffering.

Why God Do You Let Them Die?

 


Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am, in order that they may behold my glory.    John 17:24

Now a disclaimer here before you read. I am speaking only about those who are in Christ below. Without Christ death is the grand finale of condemnation. We are correct to feel despair for the death of a person without Christ. May it be a reminder to us of the urgency to share our faith so no one has to die without hope.

Here is something I have come to terms with: What we want God to do and what we get from God often does not agree. I want to personally admit that for myself today. Perhaps there is no more obvious example of this than when it comes to our prayers for the dying. We weep and beg God to save our loved ones from death but often they die anyway. Forgive me if I sound insensitive but that is our reality. I recently experienced this with my own dad. He was in ICU for two weeks and everyday it seemed he got slowly worse. It was torturous for us. We begged God to save Him. We had others come in and do the same in their prayers. Hundreds were interceding in prayer for him. We cried out in faith, knowing God could save him. But on December 18th he breathed his last breath. I had to process again why my prayers and the prayers of the faithful didn’t seem to be enough to save dad. Did God not care? Was He too busy to help one hurting family out? Did I not have enough faith when I prayed?

Most of us feel the way I did after my dad’s death but we don’t dare say it. We don’t want to come across as doubting or that we are angry with God. Even in our despair we feel the need to defend God. We are left with so many unanswered questions though. We are unsettled in our spirit and struggling to find solace that they are in a better place. In our minds, a better place to us is with us!

What I think we need is perspective. Perhaps we are missing a big piece of the puzzle.  We so desperately want our loved ones here that no other option seems justifiable in our desperation. We can’t see beyond our own pain and grief. Surely God would want to give them back to us. But what if Jesus feels the same way that we do about them? What if he so wants our loved one to be with Him that no other option is acceptable. In His prayer for his people, Jesus reveals His desire for them:

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am, in order that they may behold my glory. John 17:24

He wants them to come home. He yearns for His people to be with Him in glory. Sure God respects this life and allows us to live it but He wants to be with His people as His ultimate desire. When you see it clearly you know this to be glorious news. Jesus wants to be with me! He wants us to enjoy the paradise He has created for us. He wants us to be in His presence. It is hard not to be selfish and want them here but what are we keeping them from? If it is time for them to be welcomed home what could really compare to what they are about to gain in Christ?

When a loved one is suffering in the hospital, who knows the pain and agony that await them if they were to live. Sometimes I think death is an act of mercy from God. We want them with us so badly that it is hard to conceive death as mercy but God doesn’t want us to suffer needlessly. He rewards us by bringing us home. The doctors told us that if dad survived his quality of life would be poor… most likely life on a ventilator. I would not wish that on my dad. I would not want to keep my dad from going home.

James compares this life to a water vapor, here and gone in an instant. Ever wonder why God made life so short? Again, I see it is an act of mercy. God doesn’t want us living a  long time without having the opportunity to walk fully in His presence. When we can see it this way we recognize death for what it is, a gift. Even if it comes suddenly or unexpected, we must not go into despair, knowing that are loved one is with Christ.

A TRIBUTE TO AARON CARL TORIAN

 

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While I only met him once, Aaron Carl Torian grew up in the church, Heartland Worship Center (AKA Bible Baptist Church) in Paducah, Kentucky, where I am one of the pastors. I never knew him except for a quick hello here and there but I heard about him often. I heard how he had immense passion for his country and that many of his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan were due to his volunteering. Aaron understood that freedom had a price. He was willing to sacrifice it all to protect that freedom for you and me.

While I’ll never know exactly all that he did, I know that he was a sniper and that his rank was a Master Sergeant. I read how he was named 2005 2nd Marine Division’s Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for his actions during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.  I know that he was well respected by all who spoke of him and that he received great honors over his career. The word is on the street that he saved several lives of other soldiers and civilians. That he risked his life for their benefit.

There is a lot I don’t know about Aaron but I do know this… He is a Hero. A hero is someone who gives his or her life to something greater than themselves. That was Aaron. He was adored by his mom and step-dad. Adored by his children. Adored by his church. He is not just a hero because he died doing what he loved, defending our country. He was a hero before that. My guess is all his brothers who served with him would tell you that we in the states only know a small fraction of all the reasons Aaron is a hero. The sacrifices he made. The courage it must have taken to go where he went and to do what he was called to. The brotherhood he shared that very few will ever experience.

I wish I had known him better. I wish I could have spent time with him to see what motivated him. I wish I could have been inspired personally by his passion. To be challenged by his discipline. To be a better person because I spent time with him. When I heard he was killed in service my heart broke as if he were someone very close to me. When heroes die we all feel the weight of it. We know that we have lost someone significant to the very world we know.

Most of all I am thankful for Aaron’s faith. That he put his ultimate trust in Jesus Christ. There is nothing that brings more joy to my heart and to the heart of those who knew Aaron than to know he is now in Heaven. A place where there is no more suffering, no more tears, no more pain. A place that Aaron will be able to rest and enjoy His Lord for all eternity. I will see you one day Aaron and I will be honored to call you a brother and to enjoy the presence of the Lord with you for all eternity. For now I honor you and remember your sacrifice for me and my family. Thanks for reminding me what constitutes being a hero.

To his wife, Jurley, and his children, Elijah, 9, Laura Bella, 4, and Avery, 2, we will do our part to remember well the man you called Husband and Father. Thank you for your sacrifice and know that his memory will live on in the hearts of a nation.