Dwelling Place

4 08 2010

[16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

(Colossians 3:16 ESV)
I was reading Colossians 3 a couple days ago and something new caught my eye that had I had missed in the many other times that I had heard, read, and studied this chapter.  Paul’s call to put on the “new self” and leave behind what died with Christ on the Cross and press forward to the new self that abounds “above all these in love” has always caught and held my attention.  However, in my concentration on the type of love that “binds everything together in perfect harmony” and the character traits that come with a new life in Christ, I never made it to verse 16 that describes a follower of Christ as someone in whom the Word dwells.  This week when my gaze reached this verse, immediately the Spirit stopped me on it.  More specifically, I was stuck on the word “dwell.”  The word dwell carries with it a connotation of living in or settling in.  So, when Paul called those who are made new in Christ to have the Word dwelling in them, he was calling Christians to not only have the Word in them but desire it to be in them.  People dwell in homes, sea creatures dwell in the sea, birds dwell in the air.  It’s where they belong, it’s where they are most comfortable and most adept.  The same is true for God’s Word.  It BELONGS in our hearts, that is where it is designed to be and that is where it has the greatest impact.  For the Word to be read, heard, preached and remain as simple sound waves or letters on a page is to take what is designed to dwell in our hearts and leave it homeless.  That’s the same as taking a fish and asking it to dwell in the treetops or throwing a lion into the ocean and asking it to hang out with Nemo.  That’s not what its design is!  God Word’s is not designed, inspired or preached for the purpose of dwelling purely on the pages of the Bible.  In fact, if God’s Word remains in the pages of the Bible then God’s Word is ineffective, dead and worthless.  It’s when regenerated Christians desire God’s Word, spend time reading, meditating and struggling with it; it’s when God’s people spend time memorizing it, living it and are refined by it that it fulfills the purpose for which it was inspired.  God’s Word is supremely effective when it DWELLS in our hearts not when it DWELLS on paper.
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Eyes to the hills…

29 04 2010

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth!”  Psalm 121:1-2 (and I added the exclamation mark because when I read that verse I get excited at the end)

Grief is an emotion that all of us have either seen, experienced first-hand, or helped others through.  I was lucky for most of my life to aviod any real grief associated with death until I lost two grandparents in the same year as well as a close family friend.  Honestly, that type of grief was tough for a time but Christ’s promise of good to come after death as well as a growth of trust in His sovereignty made those times much easier.  However, until recently I have never truly felt grief over sin.  Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that I was ok with sin or that I constantly looked past it.  I just don’t know that I have ever even begun to understand how sin so grieved God that it was necessary to send His Son to wash it clean.  Sin so grieved our heavenly Father that He had to send His Son to stand in our place and to stand in front of us in front of God.

I don’t know what triggered the difference but all this week I have been emotionally wrecked by my own sin but even more by the sin I see in this world that so grasps those that I love.  My sin I can seek forgiveness from, I can gain repentance from it, I can turn away from it by God’s leading, and by the Spirit I can see that sin pattern decrease in my life.  (Don’t believe me read 1 John)  However, what I can’t wrap my head around is how powerless I am to cleanse myself of that sin and even more how powerless I am to help others to see and understand their sin.  This is especially tough with people who I see Christ in and I have seen fruit of their relationship with Him.  I just want to shake them and scream at them and tell them they are sinning and they should repent and seek Christ.  But nobody ever did that for me- it took the Spirit convicting my heart to see my sin and seek Christ’s forgiving love.

The point in all this is that this week has been incredibly tough for me as I see those who I know love Christ turn their backs on light and turn toward darkness.  What scares me and grieves me is that James 2 says very clearly that faith WILL BE MODELED BY GOOD WORKS.  We can’t judge the heart as men but we will see great faith by works.  Good works show a decreased pattern of sin in our lives and if we have an increased pattern of sin in our lives then we are not walking in good works and thus according to James 2 our faith is dead.  Dead faith=no faith.  No faith=no Christ.  THAT SCARES ME TO DEATH AND GRIEVES MY HEART!

1 John 1 is even clearer that those who walk in light will walk away from darkness and toward light but those who walk in darkness cannot call themselves children of God without being called liars.  This doesn’t mean that Christ-followers will never sin.  That’s impossible and illogical.  What it does mean is that followers of Christ will have a decreased pattern of sin in their lives, they will be constantly convicted of their sin by the Holy Spirit, and sin will not be ultimately pleasurable.  I remember life without Christ and in that time sin was fun because I didn’t know the joy of life in Christ BUT when I gave my life to Jesus all that changed and all of the sudden true joy came in Christ’s fullness not in worldly sin.

This is what grieves me today and has pulled me to my knees all week.  When I see those close to me so grasped by their sin that I am concerned for their heart.  I know that I can not judge their hearts but I can grieve and because of  the decreased pattern of good works that I see and their powerlessness to sin I grieve.  I grieve when I hear those close to me say that they can’t do what is right because it is just too hard or they justify their sin with morality or hedonistic reasoning.  I grieve because I want so bad for people that I love and all people to understand Christ at an even greater level than me.  For them to see Christ as ultimately powerful, incredibly bold, unashamed of His Father, and completely loving.  Most of all, this week, I have grieved because the presence of sin and Satan’s grasp on so many has overwhelmed me as Christ opened my eyes to it this week.

However, just like I had trust in God’s sovereignty before I have to trust in that now.  In times like this when God reveals to me the depth and despair of a world wrecked with sin particularly in those close to me I have to trust in His power and His sovereignty.  I have to lift my eyes to the hills and remember that He created the world, He saved the world, and He is big enough to handle my grief, my sin, and the sin of those that I love.

Bottomline:  God is sovereign.  Sin will always tempt and destroy this world.  I should grieve over sin under the umbrella of Christ’s sovereignty and NEVER NEVER NEVER cease to pray for the Spirit to convict and work in the lives of people; especially those whom I love.

Love yall

Conquered <><





Reflections 2 weeks later

22 04 2010

Lately I have been spending a lot of time thinking about what life is going to look like over the next couple months.  44 days away from wedding day, 102 days from moving to Dallas, 124 days away from jumping back into a classroom at Dallas Theological, and 125 days away from being 23 years old (an age I have always feared).  After I finally got the chance to share some of my bittersweet feelings about leaving Jefferson, Georgia for Dallas, Texas with those closest to me and deal with the initial reactions, I find myself both nervous and anxious for the future.  As those countdowns get closer and closer I find myself waking up stressed out and a little worried about the unknown.  In those moments I find myself in Matthew 6 seeking encouragement from Christ who tells me not to worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself.  However, today I noticed that just prior to that verse (Matthew 6:34) is the verse I should have noticed first.  “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”  I realized as I read and memorized that verse that what the future holds is Christ’s path for my life (and Megan’s) and in that I should find great joy.  Francis Chan defines worry and stress in his book “Crazy Love”  like this:

Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what is happening in our lives.

Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control.

That is a slap in my face and a kick in my butt.  Pslam 16:11 tells me that in the Lord’s presence is fullness of joy and that ONLY He can reveal the paths of life.  In that I should trust and in that I can be excited (not stressed or worried) about the future.  Since my God is big enough to save me, keep me, and guide me, He is certainly big enough to both provide and comfort Megan and I as we head into the next 125 days and further.

Bottomline: Don’t trust my word for it.  Trust His Word for it.  Your future, whether it’s college, graduation, prom, marriage, an empty nest (or closer to one),  a different church, a different state, or whatever the Lord has for you, is in His more than capable hands and to stress or worry about is to try and make us more powerful than Him.

Love yall!





Our Future in Dallas

12 04 2010

This past week it became public knowledge about Megan and I’s move to Dallas coming in August.  There are so many people I need to call or talk to personally that it would take me all week to explain the move and answer questions.  Since that is not something I can do at this point in time and I want those people close to me to find out as “first-hand” as possible I decided a blog post would be the best way to make this news public.  That being said I sent a letter the parents and church members at my church this past weekend and I have revised it a little to be fitting for this blog post.  It should explain it pretty significant detail why Megan and I are leaving and our plans for the future.  We love you all and we only ask for prayer from you as that day approaches.

The Bottomline:  God has called me to Dallas Theological Seminary and Megan to be my wife.  We both feel very confident that Dallas is the place that God has for us.

Letter:

April 7, 2010

Dear Parents, Students, and Church Members, and Friends:

In Genesis chapter 12 we read the story of Abraham’s calling from his homeland to “the land that the Lord will show you.”  Anytime I read this story I am always incredibly impressed by Abraham’s courage and faith to follow God to places that he never envisioned himself going.  My bet is that Abraham’s life plan never included leaving his family ties and his father’s land behind to follow God to a foreign land.  However, it was Abraham’s obedience to that call that led him to be such a great patriarchal model for us today.  His obedience, courage, and faith to follow God, especially when the future was more daunting than comfortable, have always been something I have admired.  Almost three years ago, I found myself in the same place as Abraham.  I felt God’s calling to ministry stronger than I had felt any calling to any cause ever before in my life.  That calling lead me to humbly accept the job as youth pastor for Jefferson First and through lots of trial, error, fear, successes, joy, and faith I got to see the youth group grow both numerically and in depth of faith.  Watching that growth has been one of the most encouraging and uplifting gifts that God has ever blessed me with.

However, now I find myself again in the place of Abraham.  God intends for me to be in ministry for the rest of my life.  I know He originally wanted me in youth ministry but as I have matured and grown in my faith that call has changed.  In fact, for quite some time I have known that the Lord’s will for my life is to fill the role of pastor.  After graduating last December and with Megan and I getting married this June a time of transition is upon us.  Last October, after talking to a couple of close friends in pastoral ministry, it became very clear to me that in order to follow God’s plan for my life I needed to further my education and get some experience surrounding the pastoral role.  Around this same time, Megan started looking at a doctoral program for her chosen occupation in Dallas, Texas.  A friend had also recommended to me Dallas Theological Seminary that sits very close to the school that Megan wants to attend.  After spending some time in prayer and talking with Megan, I applied to Dallas Theological in January and was accepted in February.  After acceptance, Megan and I visited the seminary and Dallas area. While in Dallas, God confirmed His call on our lives to make the transition to that area.

All of that being said, Megan and I have decided to move to Dallas in August to pursue God’s plan on our life.  For both of us that is a decision that is not easy, comfortable, or something we saw coming three years ago.  However, we have always followed the Lord’s calling on our lives and put our faith in Him just like Abraham did and we are trusting that God will take care of us.  Megan and I will be leaving on August 1st and we are both excited to go but also saddened to leave.  We love this area and we love our friends but we know God’s next step for us is in Dallas.  This summer I will be fully devoted to my youth group and fully devoted to my friends and family here in Georgia.  These circumstances will not change that devotion.  I hope that instead of sadness this letter brings excitement for Megan and I as well as excitement for what God holds for the future of this church and youth group.  God doesn’t create change without the good of those who love Him at its core.  The future always has great hope for those who trust in the Lord and our future has great hope in Him.

Love Yall

Spencer Arnold
Philemon 4-7





Influences and Distractions

27 01 2010

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”

~Philippians 4:8

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

~Ephesians 5:15-16

Recently, I was reading an article in the USA Today passed on to me by Andrew Lyle.  The title read “Kid’s electronic media use jumps to 53 hours a week”.  As I read this astonishing article I was floored!  The article surveyed 2,002 kids ages 8 to 18 and found that kids spend an AVERAGE of 53 hours a week on electronic media of some sort including TV, Music, Computer, Cell phones and Video Games.  The study found that an average kid in America today will spend 10 hours and 45 minutes, 7 hours and 38 minutes when we consider multi-tasking, a day on some sort of media resource.  That’s more hours than most full-time employees spend at their jobs!  That’s more time than they spend at school or sleeping!  The availability of these media resources has jumped drastically in the last couple decades to the extent that one researcher said “iPods and cellphones may be this generation’s magazines and chewing gum, harmless ways to fill time.”  The problem is that I don’t think 53 hours spent on anything materially, especially today’s media, is “harmless.”

Paul was writing to the church at Philippi on joy and Christian virtues when he stated, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS!”  This statement drives a dagger in the heart of students who think they can spend ALL of their time consumed with the negative images, sinful lyrics, and the trash in media today.  Further, for those who tell me, “Well Spencer, I don’t watch or listen to bad things” Paul says in Ephesians 5 to make “the best use of the time” and you will not get me to believe that Facebook or Garth Brooks for 10 hours a day is “the best use of the time” and I know God doesn’t buy that lie either.

This afternoon, I was driving two 91 year olds to a doctor’s appointment and we were talking about how much Athens has changed in their 91 years here.  Talking about change in Athens lead us to talk about how different people are and how untrustworthy and integrity deficient today’s society is compared to their childhood.  Dr. Reed, an incredible 91-year-old man of God, leaned over to me and asked me why things are so different today.  I paused a second and could only attribute the morph in character over the years to the media.  We become what we spend the most time watching, absorbing, and thinking about and with kids spending the bulk of their time absorbing a morally deficient media source it is no wonder our society is becoming more and more immoral and walking farther and farther from God.  Kids certainly spend more time absorbing media than they do with their families, being active with friends, or with God.  It should not surprise us that our society has followed that trend.  My challenge (adults included): get out from in front of the TV, turn off the cellphone, take the headphones out of your ears and make family, friend, and our God more important.  Time with people will always benefit you, others, and the furthering of the Gospel over time on the internet.

The BottomLine is this:  Anything that distracts us from God will keep us from growing in our relationship with God so by spending limitless amounts of time on things that don’t bring God glory we are driving a wedge between us and our Lord and Savior.

Conquered <><





We should be called the children of God…

6 01 2010

I was helping serve communion this past Sunday which is typically a great joy for me.  I enjoy getting the opportunity to help serve this sacred sacrament to our congregation and I find great joy in breaking off a piece of Christ’s body and placing it in someone’s hand.  “This is Christ’s body broken for you…” Or holding the cup in which the bread is dunked.  “Christ’s blood poured out for you and the forgiveness of sin.”  However, there are days that I wish I was on the other end of the serving being served communion because I too need to be reminded that I am a wicked, depraved, sinner only saved by the body and blood of Jesus.  I love to be the first in line so I can spend the longest amount of time at the altar thanking God for His grace and begging for forgiveness for a life tainted by sin.  (I haven’t decided if that can really be construed as selfish yet)  However, this past Sunday somehow was different.  As Pastor Carey handed me the cup of juice, after blessing it of course, and I took my place beside Bob to serve, an eye-opening experience began to make this Sunday a little more special.  Maybe it was the Lord revealing how much I have to truly learn about Him and in doing so put me back in my place.  Or maybe He was revealing just how great His grace truly must be to cover so great of sins.  But what I think God ultimately showed me this Sunday through a great welling of joy in my heart as I served His blood to everyone from nervous 4 year olds to reverent 80 year olds was how much He loves us ALL THE SAME.  See, many of the people who came to the altar this past Sunday I know at least a little bit about their circumstances or what situations they come to the altar from.  I served some who had lost their spouse or child, some whose life is wrecked with sexual sin, addiction, anger, and idolatry, some whose family is in turmoil financially, some who are desperate for even a little love and support as they try to be good parents, some with such a great joy  in their life that it was plainly evident, some with every reason to smile so they do, some who are greatly alive in Christ, some whose brand new faith has placed them a mountaintop that they never want to leave, some who feel so distant from God that they come to church every Sunday hoping this Sunday it will all change, and some who have no idea who Christ is and are just eating a mid-morning snack for all they know.  However, what Christ revealed to me is that I am one of those people too and so is Bob and so is Pastor Carey and so is every person who walks this earth.  Colossians 1:16 tells us that we were all created by God and He didn’t create us to each be loved at different levels, He created us all to be loved as much as anyone else.  1 John 3:1 calls all of us “children of God” because of the love the Father has given to us.  What was impressed on me this past Sunday was how alike we all are.  We all come from different circumstances, with different home-life’s, different sins, different temptations, different hurts, different emotions, and different needs BUT we are all alike in that Christ’s love covers us all no matter our differences.  As each individual person dunked their bread into the cup this Sunday it was so painfully obvious how sinful I was and how much I need Jesus just as much as anyone walking to that altar.  Humility is far from my greatest virtue and this Sunday Christ made that very clear…

The Bottomline:  We all need Jesus and we all need Him now.  We don’t have to clean our lives up or get rid of our sins or get our homes in order first.  He wants us now despite it all!  But how bad do you want Him?





Living the “Good Life”

30 12 2009

I believe one of the greatest tragedies in all of the sports world has occurred recently and if you are a Sportscenter junkie like myself then you know exactly where I am going with this.  Recently Tiger Woods, who I believe to be the number one athlete in the world, fell from the seat of glory and prestige to a place of despair, brokenness, and embarrassment.  Tiger’s once very private personal life was made very public as the number of alleged mistresses reached double digits.  As I watched the privately wicked life of one of my idols , a man I have always respected for his professionalism and integrity, become very public I couldn’t help but wonder how a man with everything the world could offer would allow himself to make such big mistakes and ruin a reputation that was once spotless.

We all desire a good life.  It is a natural desire to want health and wealth.  It is natural to want to have the resources to care for our friends and family.  It is a natural desire to feel the want to be secure and unexposed to liability.  I think that is what is so fascinating for most of us about celebrity’s lives.  We can’t understand how they can have everything we desire and still not guard it with ferocity and responsibility.  I look at all the endorsements Tiger has (at least for now), all the tournaments he has won, the family he is blessed with, and I wonder how could he risk that and not be satisfied.  I think from our perspective most of us feel like we would be satisfied with half the things Tiger owns.  However, the Bible gives us a little different picture.

In the story about the rich young man found in Mark 10, a man with great wealth who followed all the commandments of the law was still looking for more.  Did you catch that?  A man with all the world had to offer was still not fulfilled and still looking for satisfaction and he came to the right place in Jesus.  However, what the man received was a commandment to leave all the he owned and valued for something of greater value; Jesus.  It was as if Jesus was saying, “what you seek you will not find in this world, you will find what you seek in me.”  Eternal satisfaction cannot be found in this world and what it has to offer but can only be found in Jesus.  The rich young man could not understand Jesus and left sad because for him, Jesus wasn’t enough.  He wanted Jesus and his life the way he lead it.  What he wanted was the satisfaction of Jesus mixed with the hedonistic pleasure of perishable things and the problem is that anything mixed with Jesus is no longer Jesus.

Tiger’s life seems so great from the outside looking in but what we see now is that he wasn’t satisfied.  He had to look to other things, in this case extra-marital affairs, for satisfaction and with each one he was left still unsatisfied and looking for another woman, another place for pleasure and satisfaction.  The problem with Tiger and with many of us today is that we look to the world and to possessions and to instant pleasure for satisfaction and our heart never looks to the eternal source of satisfaction in Christ.  I feel like this is particularly true in this United States where we are measured by the size of our houses, the cost of our car, and the security of our bank account.  The problem with this mentality is that it will never satisfy.  Christ tells us in Matthew 6 to set our hearts on the thing that will not fade away and to treasure Christ.  There is where our satisfaction lies and in Christ we find fulfillment not in a world full of fading, dead possessions and worldly desires.

The BottomLine is that Tiger is not so different from most of us.  His sights were on perishable, empty, dying possessions and hedonistic pleasures and his eyes were never lifted to the gift of an imperishable, undefiled, unfading Savior in Jesus.  Our satisfaction and joy will only become eternal when we are most satisfied in Christ.

Conquered <><