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If you’d like to follow along with my trip ti Burkina Faso, Africa, here is the site that I will be updating while I’m there. Feel free to check it out daily, as I plan to update it each night. By the way, for those of you keeping up, I will be 5 hours ahead of you.

Burkinafasotrip.shutterfly.com

So it’s less than a week out from my trip to Burkina Faso, Africa, and I am trying to make last minute preparations for the trip.  I have gotten shots, secures my passport and visa, gotten stuff ready to be packed, and tried to imagine what I need that I haven’t thought of yet.

Part of the preparation is trying to determine a way I can highlight the trip while I’m gone for those of you interested in following along.  I’m gonna try to use this blog to do that.  Jaylon and I went on an outing to the state park yesterday and took some pictures.  so, I’m gonna use that outing and pictures as a test to see how that might work from Burkina.  Enjoy the pics from yesterday.

http://cmd.shutterfly.com/commands/pictures/slideshow?site=mattjennandtheboys&page=mattjennandtheboys/pictures&album=8&albumPath=

Well it has happened again. Last Monday was our annual Celebrate Recovery Banquet and blogging didn’t make it to the calendar. That event requires a lot of work prior to the night and a whole lot of work that day. I want to say thanks to all of our volunteers who work tirelessly to make that event a success. Thus far we have raised over $41,000 in gifts and pledges to continue doing the great work of recovery in our community.

The last two weeks at LifePoint have been exciting. As our Manifesto series is winding to an end (only one more week), the last two messages have proven to be insightful and controversial. There is nothing more controversial than telling people that Jesus is the only way to heaven (last week) and that everyone who doesn’t follow Jess will spend eternity in Hell (yesterday). This all seems narrow-minded, intolerant, and arrogant. In fact, the more I think about it, it doesn’t just seem narrow-minded, intolerant, and arrogant, but it really is narrow-minded, intolerant, and arrogant. But then, so is all truth. Isn’t it narrow-minded that 2+2 only equals 4? Isn’t it intolerant that 2 hydrogen atoms combine with 1 oxygen atom to only form water? It is definitely arrogant of a foot to only be 12 inches. Truth is absolute. Truth is definite. Truth is Jesus. Of himself he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one gets to the Father but by me.” Jesus is definite. He is only. As such any one attempting to get to the Father by any other means fails. The wrath of God toward sin and sinfulness must be avenged. Hell is the vengeance of God’s wrath on sin. We can absorb the wrath of God toward sin ourselves in hell, or be beneficiaries of His willingness to avenge his wrath toward our sin on His son on the cross. We have but two options-pay for our sins ourselves in hell or receive the free gift of redemption found in the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. I choose Jesus. I hope you do as well.

Yesterday was another incredible day at LifePoint. The band sounded great. It amazes me how great those guys are. Who would have thought that Enoch could play a wooden box and make it sound that good? Aside from the technical difficulties with the right side projector-hopefully that will get fixed this week-everything went well. Nick did a great job teaching about “whosoever believes.” However, I must admit that one comment has me intrigued, perhaps even perplexed. Nick said, “The only thing Jesus will ever ask you to do is believe.” Seriously? Is this really true or just hyperbole? Does Nick really expect us to believe that Jesus will not ask us to do anything else but believe? It seems far-fetched. It seems ridiculous. It seems impossible. It got me thinking. Obviously, there are many other things in scripture we are asked to do-obey our parents, take care of widows and orphans, share the gospel, attend church, and on and on. So what;s up? It seems as though Nick is trying to pull a fast one. I think I may have some insight.

Hebrews 11, the passage Nick shared with us yesterday, is filled with outrageous acts of obedience. Noah builds a boat, Abraham journeyed to an unknown destination, Moses led the nation of Israel out of egyptian slavery, Rahab risked her life to hide spies, men and women were stoned, sawn in two, beaten, and scourged. And the writer of Hebrews credits belief as the motivating factor for such bold obedience. So let’s wrap this us and put a bow on it. Obviously, God asks us to be obedient in many different ways, but it is belief that God is who He says He is, He can be trusted, and will do what He has promised that motivates us to obey Him. If we believe, then we will obey. Obedience is motivated by belief. Unfortunately, the converse is also true. When we disobey, then we have unbelief. Typically we don’t believe God’s ways are the best ways so we choose our ways.

So what if Hebrews 11 was still being written today? How would the verse with your name in it read? By faith,_______________(your name), _________________________________________. What great act of valor or obedience would be motivated by your belief?

Sorry about the absence last week.  Last Monday Jenn and I celebrated our 13th anniversary and got away for a couple of days in Gatlinburg.  We had a great time, and I was reminded of how blessed I am with an incredible wife.  

This past week seemed like a whirlwind.  Our whole family has had the crud and by Sunday I could barely talk.  But I really wanted to preach.  We are in the middle of a series we are calling Manifesto where we are discussing the basic core tenets of the Christian faith.  yesterday we focused on the deity and humanity of Jesus.  I have to admit this is not necessarily the most engaging topic.  In fact it is somewhat boring.  We would rather hear sermons that inspire us to mend relationships, get of debt, or take giant risks.  But the truth is all of the excitement that comes with a relationship with God is made possible by the obedient death of the God-man, Jesus.  Understanding the redemption story means understanding the humiliation Christ endured as he “took on the form of a bond-servant, and was found in the likeness of men.”  I hope that in some miraculous way, the Holy Spirit communicated to the hearts of listeners the greatness of the truths this passage holds.  I feel as though He showed me so much more than I was able to communicate, and my prayer is that He did the same for those who heard the message.

On another note, Easter is less than 8 weeks away and LifePoint is planning the go over the top in every area.  Hopefully you got a chance to meet our Easter Mascot, Invitesum Bunny yesterday.  i would recommend following him on Twitter @invitesum_bunny and checking out his fan page on Facebook.  We are planning for 1500 people at our Albertville campus and 250 people at our Brindlee Mountain campus.  This means every person must work diligently to bring one person with them to one of our 4 Easter gatherings.  We will be telling you ways in the next several weeks you can help get the word out.  You don’t want to miss Easter and you definitely don’t want to miss the opportunity to bring someone with you.  One invitation could change someone’s life.

I was reminded this weekend of the truth that “what we believe affects how we behave.” Intuitively, we know this to be true. It is true in average, everyday things like believing in the law of gravity. it is this fundamental confidence that the law of gravity is reliable that keeps us from jumping off of bridges just to see if if it is still true today. it is also this fundamental confidence in the law of gravity that causes me to tremble uncontrollably with paralytic fear when i am find myself in a high place or on a balance beam on Sunday morning. What is true in average, everyday things is equally true in more important, complex things like belief in a sovereign God or infallible scriptures or Salvation by Christ alone through Grace alone. Belief indeed affects or behavior.
Belief often leads to “foolish” behavior. This is an appropriate day to see this reality. Tonight, Alabama will play for the BCS National Championship. We live in a state divided by football loyalties. Both Alabama and Auburn have fans whose beliefs that their team is the best has led to all types of radical behaviors. I am always optimistic of the Tide’s chances regardless of who they are playing because I “believe” in them.
Throughout history belief in the reliability of scripture has mandated much “foolish” behavior. The confidence that God has revealed himself through the pages of scripture, made a way of redemption through the shed blood of Christ and His resurrection from the dead, and called us to holy living as describe in the pages of scripture has resulted in saints who have been persecuted, taunted, despised, and even martyred. All because belief affects behavior.
I was reading scripture this morning and ran across this passage:
Now because we are fellow workers, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “I heard you at the acceptable time, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation! We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry. But as God’s servants, we have commended ourselves in every way, with great endurance, in persecutions, in difficulties, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in troubles, in sleepless nights, in hunger, by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by benevolence, by the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, by truthful teaching, by the power of God, with weapons of righteousness both for the right hand and for the left, through glory and dishonor, through slander and praise; regarded as impostors, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well-known; as dying and yet – see! – we continue to live; as those who are scourged and yet not executed; as sorrowful, but always rejoicing, as poor, but making many rich, as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:1-10 NET)
This is very interesting. Paul says that all of these things that they endure was to “commend” themselves. I looked this word up. It turns out that a better translation might be to “prove oneself.” In other words, our behavior proves our belief. After reading this passage, I found myself very convicted. I believe scripture is infallible, reliable, accurate, life-giving, and profitable. But does my behavior prove my belief? I am intrigued by the passage defining the fruit of the Spirit and have decide to study that passage to better understand it. But I must say that initially my behavior doesn’t seem very congruent with that passage. I don’t seem to be very patient, gentle, or self controlled. The tendency is to attempt to modify the behavior, but I want to do an experiment based on the aforementioned hypothesis. Instead of modifying behavior, I want to better understand scripture and believe it wholeheartedly, that it might affect my behavior. I’ll let you know how it goes.