What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Today I opened a journal I kept while being a live-in student at Pure Life Ministries and read the first entry.   This is what I wrote my first full day there, dated November 4, 2011: 

“Today I had my orientation with counselor Brother Ken. I can tell that this place will be a challenge for me. I’m hearing a lot about a ‘personal relationship with Jesus.’ I’m not sure I understand that language anymore….”

Looking back, it wasn’t just the language I didn’t understand.  I didn’t understand how that could happen nor why it mattered.   

Nearly 3 years later I can say without hesitation that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ has made all the difference in the world.   Years of self-indulgence had made me callous to such talk and in my “theologically educated” mind such language lacked rigorous thought.  God, for this addict, was an objective reality for me to teach, preach, and debate about and was on my side irrespective of my ability, even desire, to know Him.   People who spoke of a “personal relationship with Jesus” were depending on feelings rather than faith.  

That’s exactly what someone without a personal relationship with Jesus would presume.  

What flipped the switch for me was an honest inquiry on my part which began soon after that journal entry above.   I prayed, “God, do you want to be my friend?  Do you want me to be Yours?”  

As I began reading the Bible straight through – not to preach it, teach it, or debate it but just to eat it, digest it, and live it – I saw a God aggressively seeking an intimate friendship with His creation.  I read how The Lord would speak to Moses “as a man speaks to a friend” (Ex. 33:11), or how God gave land to Abraham, “his friend” (2 Chron. 20:6-8).  And of course Jesus called those who were his disciples his friends (Luke 12:4; John 15:15).


It became abundantly clear to me that God desired friendship with me.  With us all.   But what was preventing this from being a real in my own life?   The answer came from the same source:

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant (Psalm 25:14)


You are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15:14).

My life of self-will, bolstered by my self-reliance in my education, was blocking me from the benefits of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.   I was not his friend because I did not fear him nor did I obey him.   I proclaimed him and debated him, but I did not know him nor love him.  

Admitting this to myself and to God was the first step in my recovery.   It opened a whole new world which I thought was beneath me.  My friendship with Jesus has sustained me these past 3 years, helping me to forsake the idols of my eyes and heart.    And like any good friend, he’s with me every step of the way, teaching, guiding, loving, disciplining, nurturing, and blessing.  What a friend I have found in Jesus!

May the words of this wonderful hymn encourage you to seek him today as your most needed, and most cherished, Friend.  

  1. What a friend we have in Jesus,
    All our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
    Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
    Oh, what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
  2. Have we trials and temptations?
    Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful,
    Who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness;
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
  3. Are we weak and heavy-laden,
    Cumbered with a load of care?
    Precious Savior, still our refuge—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
    Take it to the Lord in prayer!
    In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
    Thou wilt find a solace there.
  4. Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
    Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
    May we ever, Lord, be bringing
    All to Thee in earnest prayer.
    Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
    There will be no need for prayer—
    Rapture, praise, and endless worship
    Will be our sweet portion there.




Taking off the Mask

Some readers may be interested to follow the Recovery sermon series currently happening at the church I serve as pastor.  We are thrilled to be in connection with Recovery at Cokesbury, and this series which they have helped make is meant to prepare all of us for what’s ahead.

Those of us in recovery know that we need all the help and support we can get.  I pray that these messages bless you and encourage you and challenge you to keep pressing in to Jesus who wants to make you whole.   To learn more about this series check out our webpage HERE and LIKE our Facebook page Recovery at Dayton.

Pastor finds freedom from sexual sin

This past Sunday I kicked off an 8 week Recovery sermon series as a way to prepare our community for the Recovery @ Dayton ministry we intend to launch November 6.   To hear more about all of that you can check our church webpage HERE.

Sunday’s message was titled, “I Don’t Need Recovery” and addressed the reasons we all do, and why Jesus is central to it.    My wife, Amy, and I were blessed beyond measure to be visited during that weekend by Rev. Tim Dilley and his wife, Deb.   Tim and Deb became friends of ours through a time of crisis in their lives when pornography threatened to destroy Tim and everything he held dear.   Today, nearly 6 months later, he is a new man, thanks be to God, and shares his testimony for the first time near the end of this message (it begins around the 31 minute mark).

Here’s the entire message.   I pray it blesses, encourages and challenges you today!

Confession Brings Glory to God

Read this in my devotion time this morning and pray it will bless someone today.

The accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accuses them before our God day and night (Rev. 12:10).

Satan is a murderer and a deceiver; he entices and he attacks.  But today he specializes in accusing.  Heaven recognizes this, and so much every Christian.  Night and day he accuses us, and his charges, which are not unfounded, are directed at our conscience – the very point where we most lack the strength to fight him.  His object is to drive us to think in despair, “I am a hopeless failure!  God can do nothing with me!”  Conscience is a precious thing, but to repeat endlessly “I am no good! I am no good!” is not Christian humility.  To confess our sins is wholesome, but let us never carry confession to the point where our sinfulness looms for us larger than the work of Christ.  The Devil knows no weapon more effective against you and me than the creation of this illusion.  What is the remedy?  Plead guilty to God. Confess to him, “Lord, I am no good!” but then remind yourself of the precious blood, and looking away to his glory, add: “But Lord, I am abiding in Thee!” 

                                                                       ~ Watchman Nee, A Table in the Wilderness

A truth that impacted my life a great deal was the remedy spoken above: Plead guilty to God.  After falling to temptation yet again for so many years I began to believe that confession was no good.   While there is a danger in false confession or being on a confession cycle and we would do well to avoid both of those, we never have to fear coming to God, humbly confessing that we are guilty.  In fact, this brings glory, not horror, to God.  


I learned this reading Roy Hession’s books, The Calvary Road and We Would See Jesus.  He taught me that when I run to God immediately after falling (as opposed to my former practice of waiting several days or weeks so as to allow God to “cool off” before I confessed) I bring glory to God because I am declaring that His word about me is true.   I am declaring in my confession that yes, I am am a sinner in need of a Savior, that I am guilty as charged, and that His diagnosis of my condition is confirmed in my behavior and thoughts.    Confession ultimately means agreeing with God about things God already knows about me.  

When I don’t run immediately to God and confess my failings I am essentially saying to God that He is wrong about both my condition and my need, and therefore I cut myself off from the provision He has already provided and the cure He so desires to apply.  

Do not hesitate to run to our Father in Heaven the moment the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin.   You will find there the assurance and the peace you long for and thwart the tactics of the enemy who would love to keep you in denial of your need and feeling ashamed of your plight.   

I love this promise:  

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus… (Acts 3:19-20).