Getting The Word Into Me

I don’t read through the Bible every year. I know that’s probably an unexpected confession from a pastor, but it’s the truth. I previously tried on multiple occasions but always seemed to fall just short, or worse, succeed yet not remember a word of what I read. A few years ago, I decided to make some devotional changes that have been extremely beneficial.

First, I surrendered my ego-based need of saying I read through my Bible every year.  In all honesty, it had become a source of dishonesty. I didn’t exactly go around bragging that I had finished another round. but I also wasn’t quick to confess I hadn’t. Reading the Bible had become more of a merit badge than an accurate metric of grace. Honestly, I was more concerned with what people said about my spiritual habits than I was about what God thought of my heart. When the Spirit made me aware of that, I knew something had to change.

Second, I had to relearn what time in the word meant. I approached time in the word as just that, time in the word. Though I wasn’t always consistent when I read, I had a certain mentality about how many chapters were required. I tried my best to do right, but it all still felt so wrong. When I sat down to read in the morning, it was a legitimate struggle to stay awake, yet I felt I had to do what I was supposed to do. Therefore, I got into the Word without giving it any time to get into me.

I’m not saying reading Scripture was fruitless. I just personally realized that, though I was doing what I was supposed to do, I wasn’t getting what I was supposed to get. I was checking a box, but the word wasn’t changing my heart. Yes, Scripture promises that God’s word will not return void, but I was still left with a void. I began to recognize that I was consuming large portions of scripture, but I wasn’t digesting anything.

That realization forced me to ask myself the question, “What gives? If the word is alive, why can’t I hear its voice?” I slowly realized that the problem wasn’t that the word was being silent, but that I was in too much of a rush to hear what it was saying. I was trying to complete my assignment without any time for assessment. As the old saying goes, I was trading quantity for quality. I was reading my self-assigned three chapters, but I wasn’t really taking anything in. The Lord had to retrain me to understand that time in the word consisted of more than just reading. It consisted of meditating. The reason I was getting so little was that I was investing so little. I was trying to swallow without chewing. It was that realization that led me to my next change.

Third, I quit biting off more than I could chew. I decided to read less and get more. This, of course, isn’t an excuse to read one verse in the morning and be one your merry way, feeling you have done God some excellent service. I mean, I traded in large portions of Scripture for a few verses that I could think, study, and pray through. In the spirit of transparency, I sometimes still read several chapters at a time. At other times, I may settle on one paragraph. It has been tremendously helpful for me to learn to read until the Spirit speaks and then stop there until He is finished.

When some specific phrase or thought catches my attention, I often find it an excellent place to stop and meditate. Asking questions like, “What does this mean? What does this teach me about God’s character, and what implications does it have on my life today?” has been hugely beneficial. By God’s grace, I am now finding that I can recall what I read in the morning because, unlike a rushed breakfast that I bit into while on my way out the door, it was something I took the time to taste, chew, and enjoy. Trust me, it is far better to have a small meal you genuinely enjoy and are nourished by than it is to have a buffet you can’t remember.

We are now entering the second month of this new year. My encouragement to you as your brother, your pastor, and your friend is, get in the word and give the word time to get in you. Find a system that works for you. When you open the word, you are opening a window into the heart of God. That is a privilege not to be rushed or taken lightly. Therefore, have a pen and notepad ready. Please write down the things you learn, make notes of the verses that spoke to you, journal how they apply to your life and circumstances, and revisit them throughout the day.

I promise, if you open the word, God will speak.

You probably will not hear an audible voice. Yet, make no mistake, if you are reading the word of God, you are hearing the voice of God. If you make one change this year, let it be giving the word the time it needs to change you.

In Christ Alone,



Lost in Broad Daylight

I can’t remember why, but I can remember where. I was traveling through Virginia when I came upon a road closure. Bright orange signs marked detour pointed in the direction I needed to go, to get where I was going. I watched as the other cars followed the sign and made the right turn, but I thought I knew better. I needed to go west, but the signs were pointing east.  “There has to be a better way,” I thought to myself; so rather than taking the turn, I just turned around. I drove until I came to a road that was going my direction and took the turn off the main road.

It was afternoon, so it seemed a logical gamble for me to drive away from the sun. I figured if I took enough right turns, it would have to bring me out on the other side of the road closure and put me back on track. The reasoning seemed sound, but the outcome was far from reasonable. I traveled for a few miles before I came upon a right turn. The road I found seemed a little suspicious. It was marked as a state road, but it was unpaved and unkempt. My first thought was to keep going forward, but after a brief discussion with myself, we decided to take the chance.

The going was slow because the road was rocky and full of ruts. The further I went, the more aware I became that I was going nowhere and getting there fast. I thought about turning around, but the road was too narrow, and I couldn’t risk ending up stuck in a ditch. So, I drove on, hoping the road would eventually lead me somewhere. Like water in a desert–after quite some time–I thought I saw pavement ahead. When my front tires reached it and proved it to be more than a mirage, I was thrilled. I had two choices, right or left. Right was the right decision. I took the turn somewhat relieved and more thankful than ever for asphalt.

“Now,” I thought, “I’m back on track or at least heading in the right direction;” but oh, how wrong I was. I didn’t consider how far to the left the gravel road to the right had taken me. What I didn’t know was that the road I was on ended up nowhere near where I wanted to be. I knew something was wrong when my right-hand turn took a sharp left curve and started heading back down the mountain. This was before I had GPS on my phone. Honestly, I doubt any cellular driven GPS would have helped where I was anyway. When I started seeing road names like Squirrel Holler, Bear Foot Drive, and Possum Trot Lane leading off into the woods, I knew I was in trouble. I turned down my radio to see if I could hear any banjo music.

One might think, “Why didn’t you just turn around?” Trust me, I thought about it, but I had been driving for so long at that point I was too stubborn to turn back. Indeed, as I suspected, this road led somewhere. However, the somewhere it led was far below the somewhere I thought I was going. As the nose of my car continued rolling downhill, it dawned on me that whoever posted the detour sign knew more about how to get to my destination than I did.

A scripture I learned as a child came to mind. In Proverbs 16:25, Solomon wrote, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” It dawned on me that I thought I knew better than those who had mapped the detour, and now it was getting dark, and I was lost because of it. I’m afraid many people will realize, as I did, just how lost they are a moment too late. When the car started heading downhill, I knew I had missed my chance to turn around. I had followed the way that seemed right to me, and I wasn’t thrilled when I discovered where it led.

Is this not an allegory of the lives of lost men? God says go this way, but they choose to go another. Truthfully, men shouldn’t be surprised when they spend their whole lives driving away from the Son to, in the end, end up in the darkness. No one gets to write their own directions to Heaven, but that doesn’t seem to stop people from trying.

Has it ever occurred to you that maybe the best person to tell you how to get to Heaven is someone who has already been there? Jesus said I am the Way. He has mapped the road to Heaven in His own blood. There is no other way to get there than the way He has chosen. The only way to Heaven is following the Son. Following His directions, however, means more than just acknowledging His deity. It means driving the way He’s pointing.

Many think that because they “believe in God,” they have nothing to worry about. However, Bible straightforwardly states that demons believe in God, yet are not saved. What gives? Didn’t Jesus say believe in me, and you will have eternal life? He did, but we don’t. When Jesus said believe, He didn’t mean just to accept that He exists or that He came from Heaven. When Jesus said to believe, He meant to turn towards Him and put all your faith in Him and Him alone. Yet, if you asked many who claim to be Christians why they think they will be allowed into Heaven, they would respond, because I have tried to be good. What they tragically fail to realize is that their goodness will never be good enough.

Only Jesus is good enough for Heaven. Trying to get there any other way is not only dangerous; it is impossible. Narrow is the way that leads to life. If we could have been good enough, Jesus would not have needed to die. There is only one way into Heaven, which is through the work Jesus did on our behalf. I’m afraid that far too many admirable Americans have yet to understand this. They are lost in broad daylight and rolling quicker than they realize downhill toward the darkness.

The gospel is clear: Jesus Christ suffered for us and as us on the cross. He bore the penalty of our sin and offers us the provision of His goodness.

All who come to Him by faith, rejecting their goodness, and embracing His, are granted free and full access to the Father in Heaven.

All who refuse to come His way will certainly go their own way. Our own way will undoubtedly lead to darkness and death. I was lost in Virginia’s mountains and, thankfully, eventually found my way out. Still, I fear many are lost on the road of life and will one day be surprised to find that the direction they were heading didn’t take them where they thought they were going.  The sad part is they are lost in broad daylight. God has posted clearly marked signs along the way; yet still, some believe they can devise better directions on their own. Friend, there is no better way to God than through Jesus. He is not just the right turn; He’s the only road that leads home.

In Christ Alone,

Pastor Benjamin Webb

The Parable of Politics

Politics, just the mention of the word, sent many running to gather their arsenal of arguments. Some ran to the left, others ran to the right, but both sides may have unintentionally rushed past a critical truth. Politics are parabolic. They tell a story. The story they are telling right now isn’t a fairy tale; it’s a true-crime documentary. However, all the crime isn’t taking place behind locked doors in low-lit Washington conference rooms. Much of the crime is taking place in open, well-lit living rooms.

I don’t want to come across heavy-handed or accusatory, but current events have brought me to a clear realization. A realization that first applies to me and may secondarily apply to you. I’m afraid that we are often not as concerned with the truth as we are ensuring everyone knows the other side is lying. If we will open our eyes and listen, the current crisis has a secret to share. It’s not a secret about the corruption in politics; it’s a secret about corruption in people. It’s not a parable about them; It’s a parable about us.

In recent days God has graciously helped me to see something I would have otherwise been blind to. What goes on in Washington is not so different than what goes on in me. What can politics teach us about ourselves? The answer may be one we are not ready to hear. However, ready or not, here it comes. Hypocrisy is not a political problem. It is a human problem.

We say one thing but do another. We point out the inconsistencies of our opponents while acting as if ours are unimportant. We rant and rave about the singularity of truth while covering up multiple facts and dismissing mountains of data that don’t fit in the boundaries of our preselected narrative. The contradictions of our politicians should force us to ask a question. Am I as concerned about the integrity of my party as I am the integrity of the other?

According to scripture, the Church is both the pillar and foundation of the truth. As people of truth, we must be careful to hold the standard high, even if it means bringing our party low.  

If you are thinking, I wish my liberal neighbor or conservative co-worker would read this; then, you’re probably missing the point. If your immediate reaction was to assume I’m talking to them, then I’m probably actually talking to you.

While we are saddling up the donkey and harnessing the elephant to pull the splinter out of our opponent’s eye, modern politics has a way of revealing the log in our eye. It may be true that sometimes, “they” are hypocrites. However, it is also true that sometimes, so are we. Truth matters even if it disproves the story, we are so desperate to share. Before we can ever tackle the corruption in government, we must first be willing to deal with the corruption in us.

No matter the outcome, I challenge you to use the same ruler on yourself, your party, and your ideals as you do on your opponents. You may be shocked to find that many of your own assumptions don’t measure up. God doesn’t have a double standard. Neither should we. Integrity matters to God; therefore, it should matter to us.

Pastor Benjamin Webb

Broken Crayons

Recently, while traveling down the interstate, I noticed a billboard that I had passed many times before yet never read. Big white letters stamped on a baby-blue background read, “Broken crayons still color.” At first, I only smiled and continued driving; but then, in the same way a warm breeze can bring back a long-lost memory of summer vacations, the big white words transported me back to a wooden table situated in a dimly lit dining room.

At that time, I was working as a children’s bereavement counselor for a local hospice organization. I often said that I was paid to play, but honestly, I learned some valuable lessons about life, love, and loss while coloring submarines and drawing dragons with grieving children. One case involved me meeting with a seven-year-old boy whose father had been murdered one week prior to our visit. This appointment vividly illustrated a lesson for me that I hope never to forget

As we sat there rummaging through my box of crayons looking for specific colors to complete our self-proclaimed masterpieces, my little friend and I discovered that many of my crayons were bent, broken, or bare.  I had a bad habit of leaving my coloring box in the car on hot days. I should have remembered my childhood discovery that crayons don’t react well to heat. I had learned this the hard way as I scraped splattered crayon from the roof of my grandmother’s microwave after attempting to make finger paint in a Styrofoam bowl.

While apologizing that my crayons were in such poor shape, I remember casually saying, “I should probably throw all the broken ones away.” Immediately he looked at me with a confused expression, picked up a broken cherry red Crayola that was missing its wrapper, and said, “Why would you do that? Broken crayons still color!” Whether he realized it or not, I was dumbfounded. That seven-year-old had just preached one of the best messages I had ever heard in only a few simple words. While he continued to color, I sat there thinking about that fact that “broken” and “worthless” were not synonymous.

That day I went to counsel him, but he ended up doing far more for me. When I later saw that sign on the interstate and reminisced to what I had learned at my little counselor’s table, I couldn’t help but think about the broken, bent, and bare people that I encounter every day. I couldn’t help but wonder how many times others, like myself, had suggested throwing them away. I couldn’t help but wonder how many times Jesus, like the little boy, chose them as the perfect tool to complete His masterpiece.

We’re all flawed in different ways. Some of us have been bent by the consequential heat of our own choices, others have been broken, like a crayon snapped in half by the overbearing pressure of a preschooler, while others are as bare as a Crayola without a wrapper because of the inescapable wear and tear of life. Because sin exists, so do defects. They are an unavoidable part of being human. However, our defects do not have to define us. Even broken things can become useful again when placed in the right hands. My little friend didn’t let the crayons limitation limit him. He used it despite its faults to create something beautiful.

That’s exactly what God does with broken, bent, and bare lives that are placed in His hand. God sent His Son into the world not to condemn sinners, but to save sinners who were condemned already. Jesus did not come to judge us, but to justify us. God demands perfection–a state none of us could ever achieve. So, Jesus came and achieved it in our place. Furthermore, He not only did what we couldn’t; He suffered so we wouldn’t. When Jesus died on the cross, He was punished in our place. Our sins were placed on Him who knew no sin so that His goodness could be placed on us. This is what we call the gospel.

Jesus is the good news in the middle of our mess. He came to bring beauty from the tragic ugliness of sin. Looking back, I remember the final strokes my little friend added to his picture.  I can still see him, tongue barely sticking out of the corner of his mouth, hard at work. When finished, he proudly held up his picture for my approval. I have to say it was the most beautiful red rose a seven-year-old boy ever imagined onto a sheet of paper; and the miracle was that it was all done with a half of a warped crayon that was missing its wrapper.

If you are reading this and you recognize your life looks more like my hodgepodge box of mixed up, messed up Crayola’s than it does a pack of new, unopened, and unused crayons right off the shelf, you are actually in a good place, not a bad place.  You are just the color God is looking for. He didn’t come to help people who were well. He came to help people who were in need of a physician. If you’re broken, you are not helpless; if you’re bent, you are not useless; if you’re bare, you are not worthless. God makes His best masterpieces with tools that others considered to be a throwaway mess.

If you will come to Jesus, I guarantee you, He will come to you. If you will take Him at His word and trust Him for His forgiveness, He will take you as you are and change you into what you were meant to be. He will take the broken, bent, and bare parts of your life and restore them. Not only will He restore them, He will use them to create a masterpiece He can hold up and show His Father, a masterpiece that the Creator of color Himself will find breathtaking and be proud of. Jesus chooses, and Jesus uses the broken ones, because Jesus loves them too much to throw them away.

-Pastor Benjamin Webb

Fitting the Pieces Together

Have you ever tried to put a massive puzzle together without the box to guide you? I think it would be well nigh impossible. Every piece of the puzzle has a specific place where it is meant to fit in the larger design. The church is not so different. We are all pieces of a bigger picture. The question is, what is the picture and where do we fit?

For the last three years we have corporately devoted the month of June to intentional prayer and fasting. We have sought God for many things during these designated times, and many of those specific prayers have received specific answers. Last year, in obedience to His command we asked God to send us laborers for His harvest. This is a prayer we have prayed often, and this is a prayer God has answered. Crestwood has been uniquely blessed with a collective body willing to go where God leads and do what God commands. A large percentage of our body is actively involved in some form of organized church ministry. For this we should be especially grateful.

Furthermore, we have not only been blessed with loyal and willing followers, we have been blessed with insightful and gifted leaders. I know I say it often, but I do not know if we really realize what God has done for us. We have been blessed with six men called to and gifted for the ministry.  Over fifteen percent of our active congregation have been given the gift of teaching. What is most interesting to me about this, is not only are these teachers obviously gifted, they are very gifted.

We know from the scripture that every member of the body is gifted for service in the body. We tend to focus on the speaking gifts, but the serving gifts are of equal importance. It’s obvious God has woven our local body together for a specific purpose. It is time we get serious about discovering what that purpose is. Beyond our gifted body we have been blessed with a large facility, parts of which remain almost totally unused. God has seen our church through difficult days in the past and has strengthened us to become a growing thriving church.

All our financial and physical needs have been met with blessings to spare. It is obvious that God has favored us. Now, I want to know why. I know the chief answer to the why is simply that He is good, but I am convinced there is more to it than that. God has a purpose for His church and a purpose for every individual in His church. I want to know what that purpose is. We could attempt to do many things for the Kingdom of God, but I would much rather do the one thing God has designed us to do for the sake of His kingdom.

Therefore, I would like to ask you to join me this month in praying and fasting for answers to two questions. What is His purpose for our church and where do I fit in the bigger picture? I believe God has given us the pieces, but we need His wisdom in putting them together. It may be that there are still some scattered pieces that He must bring to us before the whole puzzle can be complete. It may be that some pieces need to be turned around so that they can fit where they belong. No matter the case, we need His leadership in putting the puzzle together. I think it would be somewhat arrogant of us to assume we can ever completely understand the God’s whole plan, but I also think it would be foolish and faithless of us not to ask for directions in putting the puzzle together one piece at a time. Again, I ask you to pray and fast for direction on these two questions: What is God’s purpose for our church and how do I fit in the bigger picture?

In Christ Alone,

Bad Boys

The theme song for the hit show COPS was one of the 90’s most distinctive sounds. The lyrics weren’t great, but the lines became legendary. “Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do, when they come for you, bad boys, bad boys?” I remember sitting in front of the television as a kid watching silly people do stupid things, thinking to myself, “How can anyone be so dumb?” The problem wasn’t just that the criminals were bad. The problem was that they were often so bad at being bad. At that time, If I’m honest, I thought I was a little better than they were. In fact, I was sure of it until I had an encounter with the law myself.

I didn’t go to court, but I did stand before a judge. To my surprise, at seven years old I found myself tried and found guilty for the crimes I had committed. I was mortified to discover that the prosecution was pursuing the death penalty. Worse still, I knew I deserved it. My crime–I lied. That was it. I had lied many times, but once was enough to earn me a death sentence. You may be thinking, “Oh, you had me there for a minute. I thought you really got arrested.” Honestly, I did, just not in the way you’re thinking. It wasn’t black uniforms backed by blue lights that had tracked me down. It was far worse than that. God Himself had cornered me, and He had enough evidence to put me away for eternity. I thought I was pretty good, but standing in His presence was enough to convince me I was actually pretty bad.

As long as I compared myself to the bad boys on the screen, I could brush my shoulders off and feel fairly good about myself, but God wasn’t buying that defense. You see, His standard of goodness was far better than mine. He wasn’t comparing me to people who were worse than me. He was comparing me to someone far better than me, His Son Jesus. I could boast that I wasn’t as bad as some people, but I couldn’t even begin to argue the case that I was as good as Jesus. Jesus was and is perfect in all His ways. He never said, thought, or did anything that displeased God or violated His law.

Therefore, God does not measure us by us. He measures us by Him.

When compared to Him, even our good looks bad. God doesn’t just look at what we have done, but why we did it. He examines our motives, not just our actions. The slightest hint of selfishness or falsified information is incriminating. The good deed we thought would take the stand on our behalf often becomes evidence for the prosecution. When I found that out, I knew I was in trouble. It wasn’t just that I was going to be tried for my bad deeds it was that I was going to be tried for my good deeds as well. Suddenly I realized that my best had left me in worse shape than I could imagine. I was just another bad boy in big trouble, and I wasn’t alone. The truth is, I found a lot of company in my holding cell. As I looked around, I realized, there are actually no good people. We are all basically bad. Even our good deeds are tainted by selfishness and pride. Listen to Gods assessment of humanity:

Psalm 53:2-3
2 God looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
3 Every one of them has turned aside;
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one.

According to God, who always gets it right, we’ve all got it wrong. Yet, it’s our bad that makes His gospel good. The gospel is the true account of Jesus. God’s own perfection demanded that He judge sin, and before we think Him harsh, we should be careful to admit that we ourselves believe justice should be served; just not against us. Most of us have an inner sense of fairness that forces us to believe if you do the crime you have to do the time. We believe that crimes must be paid for, but we are shocked to find out how much our own sin cost. The fine for every crime is the same, execution. The only catch is that the punishment doesn’t end there. Death is just the beginning. The real punishment is a life sentence in hell, without the possibility of parole. Make no mistake, even this proves the goodness of God. He is so just He cannot and will not overlook even the smallest crime against the crown. Every crime gets paid for, one way or the other. The bad news, that God is good, is also the best news we could hope to receive.

God isn’t just the judge of what’s good, He is also the justifier of those who are guilty. God didn’t just require a payment for sin; He made the payment justice required. The only Good Guy gave Himself as a ransom for all the bad boys. He was shackled, punished, and executed in our place. The law demanded blood, so Jesus gave His. The exchange was bigger than just pardon; it also meant purification. In His death, Jesus not only took our rebellion, He offered us His righteousness. All who come to Him by faith are not only forgiven of the charges against them, their record is expunged, and all past crimes are completely erased.  The beauty of the gospel is not just that we can be forgiven and free. No, the beauty is that we can be clean.

When we come to God through Christ, He doesn’t only take our bad away; He gives us His good. Literally, Jesus trades our orange jumpsuit for His white robes. He gives us his righteousness. When we get that, then and only then can we understand what makes the gospel so good. The gospel is the good news that, though we were bad, Jesus is always good. It’s through our badness we see His goodness most clearly. Jesus didn’t come to save good people; He came to save sinners that could never save themselves.


The Final Score

There were only 6.6 seconds left on the clock. The Duke Blue Devils had, in dramatic fashion, bounced back from a 15-point deficit at the end of regulation. I know pastors aren’t supposed to pull for devils, but we all have weaknesses. Duke hadn’t beat Carolina at the Smith center since 2016. The Bible says there is pleasure in sin for a season. I was hoping this would be our season. The score was 96 -95 in Carolinas favor, and Tre Jones was going to the line to shoot two. He made the first shot, tying the game 96 all.  Nervous didn’t even begin to describe how I felt. Everything was riding on the next shot.

Honestly the Heels deserved to win the game. They had played better, harder, and smarter almost the whole game. Even if Jones made the second free-throw, I was well aware a lot could happen in six seconds. My stomach was in knots as I scooted to the edge of the couch waiting to see the outcome of the final play. Then something occurred to me, something I knew, yet was somehow overlooking, I had no reason to be nervous. I knew how the game ended!

My wife and I had gone out to eat with our families for her birthday that evening. The fact that I would miss the biggest game of the season wasn’t a big deal, because I could always record it. As soon as we arrived back at home, I grabbed the remote, jumped on the couch, and pressed play all in one smooth sweeping motion. In the first few minutes of the game, I was painfully aware that things weren’t looking good for the Devils. I looked at the time left on the recording and instinctively knew this one was going into overtime. Then, I impulsively did something I try to never do. I looked ahead at the final score. The headline read, “Carolina falls to Duke 96-98 in crushing overtime defeat.”

As the game was winding down, I literally breathed a sigh of relief and sat back to watch the epic last few seconds. The final few minutes of that game will go down as one of the all-time rivalry matchups between Duke and Carolina, but I got something more than just the pleasure of the win that night. I learned a valuable spiritual lesson. No matter how bad it looked, it didn’t change the fact that the final score had already been posted and my team had won. Knowing the final score freed me from the anxiety of wondering how the game ended.

Of course, there is an unmistakable parallel here. Listen to what James said in his letter to the early church.

You also be patient. Establish your hearts,
for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
(James 5:8)

The word establish means to stabilize. James was telling the suffering church, though things may look bad, Jesus is coming and when does, we win. Now, stabilize yourself with that truth. God’s kindness has been made evident to us in many ways, one way being His revelation of how the game ends. He hasn’t left us reason to fret about the final score. Over and over throughout scripture, He hit fast forward and showed us how the game ends. We know the game is fixed and we can’t lose. If He controls our destinies, there is no valid excuse for allowing that nagging nervousness to dictate our lives.

Knowing the final score shouldn’t cause us to lose interest in the game. Rather, it should be a catalyst to make us consider how we play our remaining minutes. Knowing the final score, there are three encouragements I want to leave you with.

Give it all you’ve got.

If we know we win in the end, there may be a temptation for some to coast through the final seconds. I encourage you, don’t waste your minutes running out the clock when you could be running up the score. You see, stats matter. According to the scriptures, we will not be rewarded because we were on the court. We will be rewarded based on how we played the game. Please don’t misunderstand me; our goal is not applause from the stands. Our goal is a “well done” from the coach. I encourage you to allow the promise of his smile to be the motivation for how you play the game. Don’t just play to finish, play to win.

Be foul conscious.

Just because our team is ahead doesn’t mean we can’t foul out. Consider how embarrassing and even ridiculous it would be to earn a technical with seconds left on the clock. Knowing the game is already won, don’t play dirty. Be careful to represent your team with integrity. Play with an awareness that flagrant conduct will not be tolerated. There is wisdom in developing a healthy fear of being benched. None of us are above fouling out. In Mark 13 after instructing His disciples about the events of the end times Jesus said, “But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.” Knowing how the game ends, don’t just guard the ball, guard yourself. Memorize the regulations and play by the rule book lest you miss out on the joy of participation in the final play.

Enjoy the game

Since we know the final score, we don’t have to fret about the buzzer. We’re up, and we will never be down again. Darkness will not be able to mount a comeback. There will be no surprise last-second buzzer-beaters. When God showed us the final score, there was no error in the replay. We really will win in the end. That said, enjoy the rest of the game.  Celebrate every good play, learn from your turnovers, cheer on your team, and enjoy your minutes on the court. Our name is already on the trophy, Heaven’s band is standing ready to play our fight song, the saints are about to storm the court. The pressure is off, enjoy the game!

-Pastor Ben Webb

Debt Free for Keeps

Are you in debt over your head? Are you behind on payments and can’t catch up? Do you owe the credit companies more than you can afford to pay? These questions can be heard over and over every day on radio and television. Media centers, however, aren’t the only place those words are playing on constant repeat.  According to 2019 studies, individual Americans owe a combined total of over 1,000,000,000,000 in credit card debt and the national debt is quickly approaching $250,000,000,000,000! The voices in our own heads are asking the same questions as the advertisements, “How did we get in so deep and how are we ever going to dig our way out?”

Few things are more stressful than debt. It fills every unoccupied space with worry and taxes the joy out of life. The borrower signs his life away to the lender and tragically it’s often for things that weren’t even necessary. Beside almost every fiscal reality, I see a corresponding spiritual truth. Doesn’t the pursuit of the unnecessary vividly describe what happened in the garden? God gave Adam and Eve everything they would ever need, yet for some reason they didn’t think they had enough. They were tricked into believing something more would make them happy.

Deceived by the Serpent’s convincing, yet inaccurate add campaign, they reached out for something they couldn’t afford and didn’t need. There was no fine print; God had plainly labeled the price of the fruit. Little did they realize one appetizer would leave their family in debt so deep they would never be able to climb back out. Their bad decision has left the family in a bad spot ever since. In one moment, the whole family went so deep in debt the children are still poor thousands of years later.

It’s not only our family history that leaves us in the red. We’ve all racked up fraudulent charges of our own. Much like our parents we have been mesmerized by the devil’s marketing plan. We have bought the lie that we need and even deserve things God said we don’t. We’ve swiped our card at Vanity Fair on a daily basis without any hesitation or consideration of the cost, but the bill is coming due.

Have you ever received a credit card statement and almost passed out when you saw the balance? Have you ever wondered, “How did I spend so much?” Sin is similar. We often think we’re not that bad, until we see the bill. It doesn’t matter whether we ordered an extra-small or an extra-large, all sin carries the same cost – death and eternal, permanent separation from God. God is perfect and therefore so are His laws. No charges will be allowed to go unpaid. Every sin cent must be accounted for. One would think that this knowledge would make us buckle down and quit spending, yet instead we continue to disobey and push our personal debt ceiling higher and higher.

Our obligations are so great that if we were placed on an eternal payment plan, we couldn’t even begin to repay the interest. No matter what our bank statements say, we are all in debt beyond what we will ever be able to pay, and one day the collector is going to come calling. We are in over our heads, we will always be behind on our payments, we owe more that we can ever afford to pay, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Yet, God, in a turn of miraculous mercy, offers a debt forgiveness plan that is unbelievable.

It’s unbelievable because it is historically unprecedented. His plan doesn’t include a loan or a refinance option. His plan isn’t just a settlement where we pay part of what we owe. He offers comprehensive debt forgiveness. To the debtor, this should be the best news ever heard, but still one must ask how it works. What’s the catch? If God’s law requires all debts to be paid in full, then how can God justly forgive our debts without violating His own rules?

The formula God used was simple, yet simultaneously incomprehensible. The answer is Jesus. He, being God, became a man. He experienced every category of temptation we face, yet never once swiped the card. On a hillside called Golgotha, just outside of Jerusalem, He was crucified for illegitimate charges He had not made. It was for our sin He was nailed to the tree.

Jesus came to earth to pay the debt we had accrued but couldn’t afford. He got in to get us out. The Bible teaches that when Jesus was crucified, God placed all our sin on Him. In other words, Jesus took on our debts and paid them with His own death. Since He had no debt of His own, He possessed the necessary capital to pay ours. God’s plan is breathtaking. Those who accept Jesus’ payment don’t just get out of debt. No, Jesus’ good credit is transferred to their account. There’s no credit check required; everyone qualifies for God’s debt forgiveness program. All the debtor must do is quit trying to pay the bill and believe that Jesus already closed the account.

Whoever the Son sets free is free indeed. All who come to Christ by faith are, in the eyes of God, Debt Free for Keeps. If you don’t have a dime to spare, you’re a perfect candidate for God’s free program, because Jesus paid it all. If your debt has you down, God wants to talk.

-Pastor Benjamin Webb

Tic-Toc Goes the Clock

Tic-toc, tic-toc, tic -toc. Besides the occasional slow exhale, those were the only sounds heard in the room. The scene was a normal Tuesday morning prayer meeting. We were spending our usual five minutes in silence preparing our hearts for intercession. It was into this silence the generic round wall clock spoke. No one else in the room may have even heard it chattering away, but I knew it was talking to me.

Every time the hand clicked away another second, it seemed like the tic-toc got louder. Realistically, the clock probably wasn’t any louder than usual. I was just finally quiet enough to hear it. Its message was much shorter than most of mine, but it rang out with a clarity I often spend hours trying to achieve. The message was simple, “Your life is quickly ticking away. What are you doing with it?”

Almost immediately, the twelfth verse of the ninetieth Psalm came to mind. There, Moses penned the words, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I find it fascinating that, somewhere past age 80, Moses was not praying for power or protection. He was asking God to teach him how to count. His concern wasn’t the ability to tally the days he’d lived; what he wanted was to learn how to count the days he had left. His reasoning was simple. He wasn’t asking so he could plan elaborate trips or know how much he would need to save for retirement. No, he wanted to learn how to count so that by preparing to die he could learn how to live.

Like Moses, we all have an invisible, unchangeable expiration date stamped on these bodies of clay. We are all on death’s layaway plan. Every day he’s making payments, every day he’s getting closer to claiming what’s his. We can’t cancel or postpone our meeting. This is one appointment everyone will be on time for. When the buzzer sounds there will be no overtime. When the game is over, win or lose, the score will be unchangeable.

One day–and it may be sooner that we would care to imagine–our entire life will be summed up by nothing more than a dash between two dates. It’s a sobering thought to realize that once our last breath is taken, the dash can’t be undone. No one gets a dateline do-over. As certainly as the first date on our headstone is already written, so the final date is already set in stone. We’re just living on the line.

This knowledge should force us to confront ourselves with the question, “What am I doing with my dash?”  Living in the shadow of our own mortality isn’t a morbid thing; it’s a wise thing. Wisdom is not knowing something; it’s doing something with what we know. We know death is certain. Wisdom is making prearrangements. Numbering our days doesn’t come naturally for most of us because we don’t want to think about our own expiration date, but it is an essential element to wise kingdom living.

I think back often to that day in the conference room. Sometimes I can still hear the clock methodically ticking away. Every time I think about that morning, I feel forced to ask, “Am I investing my minutes in things that will last longer than the carnations placed on my grave?” The phrase my childhood pastor often quoted comes to mind, “Only one life, will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

One day we will all stand before God. When we look into the fiery eyes of Christ, and the fiery eyes of Christ look into us, all that will matter is what we did with Him and what we did for Him. In the moment we behold the Invisible One, our achievements, our status, our elaborate trips, and our bank accounts suddenly won’t even be a story we care to tell. All that will matter then will be His approval. If it will be that way then, shouldn’t it be that way now? Knowing our time is limited should cause us to want to learn to count our days now so that our days will count later.

Even though no one else may have even heard it, I knew that God was in the room that morning, and He was speaking to me through the tic and toc of a Walmart clock. I encourage you, no matter your age, it’s never too late to learn to count.  There is wisdom in learning to count early, but learning to count late is better than never learning to count at all. Living with death in mind is wise, but dying without ever considering how we’re living is foolish. Life is brief but eternity is not. Therefore, our prayer should be, “Lord teach me to count.”

-Pastor Benjamin Webb

Open Windows

We are taught to believe our hearts are basically good, but God says they are basically bad, and He is the leading authority on the subject. Our hearts are compulsive liars, always at the loom fabricating fairy tales and false information.  One of the greatest temptations we face in life is naively believing the lies our own hearts whisper to us; lies not about others but lies about ourselves.

Knowing just how conniving and convincing our heart could be, God unlocked two windows in His word through which we could look and see the unflattering truths our hearts would rather keep secret. These two windows are our words and our wallets. Allow me to explain.

Our words provide an open window to look in and see the condition of our heart.

 Matthew 12: 34-35
You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil?
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good,
and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.

According to Jesus what comes out is a product of what’s within. It is easy to convince ourselves that we are faithful followers of Jesus, but sometimes our words speak louder than our actions. What comes out of our mouth is an unmistakable betrayal of what is in our heart. How often have we said something like, “I didn’t mean to say that,” when we should have said, “I didn’t mean to say that out loud”?

God lets us in on this little secret; if you want to know the truth about your own heart, look through the window of your words. A dirty mouth is the fruit of a dirty heart. Sweet water can’t come from a bitter well, nor bitter water from a sweet spring. What comes out of the fountain is only the product of what’s in the fountain.

At this point many of us may be quick to defend ourselves and say, “Well I don’t talk ‘dirty’ so that must mean I’m clean,” but we must be careful to examine the whole case laid before us. It’s not just how we talk that matters, it’s what we talk about. It’s very possible to have a clean mouth and still have a cluttered heart. We talk about what we cherish. If the majority of our conversational life is about everything and anything but Jesus and His kingdom, then the view from the outside window tells us the inside is cluttered and needs to be cleaned. By nature, we are hoarders. God doesn’t just want an organized mess, He wants a decluttered house.

Our hearts may lie but our lips always tell the truth. Even our lies tell the truth about our heart.

Our wallets provide an open window to look in and see the disposition of our heart.

Matthew 6: 21
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

It seems to me, Jesus taught that our wallets, rather than our eyes, are the windows to our soul. If the location of our treasure determines the location of our heart, then it is safe to also say that wherever our heart is pointing is where our treasure will be placed. Few things can pull the curtain back on our inner life better than the way we use the money God has entrusted to us. Our bank statements give a more honest testimony about what we believe than our confession does.

The belief that this world is transient, but Christ’s kingdom is permanent, the conviction that Christ is better than everything else, the assurance that God will meet my needs according to His riches in glory are all key components of the Christian faith. It is one thing to recite a confession as an affirmation of these truths; it is another thing to give sacrificially as a confirmation we believe these truths. Talk is cheap, but sacrifice is not. It’s easy to sing, Oh How I Love Jesus with our lips while our hearts are singing, In It For the Money.

Our hearts lie, but the paper trail doesn’t. My question to you is not whether you believe in the Kingdom. My question is, would your accountant be convinced you believe in the coming King and His coming Kingdom? How we manage what we have been entrusted with is the needle on our inward compass, and it always points not just to where our treasure is but to where our heart is also.

Often, God’s most obvious acts of kindness are His most overlooked overtures of grace. One of the surest evidences of God’s love for us is His unending pursuit of our holiness, for without holiness no man can see Him. Though it is often unwelcome, unwanted, and unappreciated, conviction of sin is an act of compassion. God’s call to repent is always a call to return. It is an instruction to turn from the sin that leaves us thirsty and an invitation to return to the only well where water can be found.

It is mercy that opens ours eyes to see the corruption of our own soul. It is grace that calls us to come to Christ for cleansing. Only God has the power to open our blind eyes and expose what He’s seen all along. It is a great kindness when He opens the bolted windows and shines the light of His word into the dark and forbidden corners of our heart. It is a great blessing when He enables us to see the lies we have been hiding from ourselves. He doesn’t just open the window to let the truth out, He opens the window to let the Breeze in. I encourage you, don’t just acknowledge the truth; ask the Spirit to blow through and change your reality.

-Pastor Benjamin Webb