SWEET, SWEET SUCCESSION

Seven Tips for a Peaceful Pastoral Transition

Retirement Dinner Photo

On Tuesday of this week our elders blessed Jan and me with a farewell dinner. After fifteen years of ministry, this Sunday will mark my final service as OGC’s lead pastor.

I can only describe our time with the elders and their wives as the sweetest of fellowship experiences. I love these folks and they love us.

We started talking about a succession process over two years ago. Throughout this process to pass the baton to Jim Davis, OGC’s fourth lead pastor, I have learned a lot.

I determined at the outset of my tenure at our church that I would seek to ensure, with God’s help, a peaceful transition that would guard our unity (Eph. 4:1-3).

Here are seven lessons for others who may profit–either now or in the future. After all, every pastor is an interim pastor.

One, get honest. I have never wanted to hang on to my position too long. I’ve wanted to finish with some force still in my stride.

Eventually I sensed a growing, prolonged angst within. It kept affecting my spirit and performance.

Integrity demanded owning that.

Two, do homework. I knew little to nothing about pastoral succession. Two books helped: Next: Pastoral Succession That Works and Passing the Leadership Baton.

Our elders spent the better part of a year reading/discussing the former. It fostered helpful dialogue about our approach to the process.

Three, take initiative. I started the conversation. I emphasized this fact over and over again.

No one pressured me to step down. Dismissing any doubts about that made things so much easier for everyone.

Four, stay humble. So important, yet so difficult. Preparation for a new pastor required a hard look at our situation.

Candid talk about our weaknesses humbled me. I struggled not to take constructive criticisms as personal indictments on my body of work.

Pride needing repentance reared its ugly head more often than I care to admit.

Five, be decisive. Initially we framed the timetable for succession as a two-to-five year window. Before long we realized the need for setting a hard target.

Once the succession cat escapes the bag, fixing a date matters–experts who’ve done it suggest no longer than two years.

Jan and I took initiative once again aiming for a finish line of September 2019.

A caveat. Decisiveness doesn’t preclude flexibility. God brought us the man of His choosing according to His timetable.

Be prepared to adjust readily and graciously.

Six, talk often. I am so proud of our congregation. Changing lead pastors can create anxiety. Our people embraced the challenge beautifully.

But a peaceful transition does not occur without adequate communication between leaders and followers.

I say to both–you cannot over communicate!

Seven, trust always. I clarify for folks, when they logically assume I’m retiring, that I’m actually rehiring.

At my age, I will no longer serve in a demanding context like that of OGC. However, I intend to continue working for a variety of reasons.

The kicker is this: I don’t know in what capacity.

We are waiting on the Lord for His direction and provision (Isa. 40:27-31). Walking with Jesus means walking by faith (2 Cor. 5:7).

This reality never ends until we finish the race (Heb. 12:1-2)–the text of my farewell message this Sunday.

Question: What lessons have you learned about pastoral succession?

FROM PEACEBREAKING TO PEACEMAKING

Eight Ways to Reshape a Church’s DNA

Fourteen years ago our church melted down in our last great church fight. When the dust settled, both vocational pastors had resigned, all the lay elders did the same, and half the deacons withdrew from office as well. It was ugly.

Make a change is your life,career,relationship concept

Since then we’ve worked hard to cultivate a culture of peace at OGC. If we can help it, we don’t ever want to go again to such a devastating place of disunity. We’ve worked hard over the years to cultivate a culture of peace eager to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).

We don’t do everything perfectly, but we have made strides in this department. Here are eight things a church can do in an ongoing campaign to make peacemaking a priority.

One, stress peacemaking as one of the core values. Different churches emphasize different biblical facets in their ecclesiology. Don’t leave peacemaking on the cutting room floor.

Two, pray often and eagerly for the peace and purity of the church. Don’t take unity for granted. Ask God to protect the shalom of the assembly and keep it from strife.

Three, write peacemaking into the church documents. Include it in the bylaws, membership covenant, and new member class training. Kick things up an extra notch by adopting a relational commitments philosophy.

Four, stock peacemaking books in the resource center and/or church library. Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker, among others, is an absolute must for reading that equips people for peacemaking.

Five, train people with relational gifts and skills in the arts of conflict coaching and mediation. Peacemaker Ministries offers excellent seminars in both. Build a reconciling relationship team so the burden of assisted peacemaking falls on more servants than just the pastors.

Six, recite The Peacemaker Pledge whenever new members enter the church. Hammer away at the Four Gs whenever possible. Drill them into engaged couples as part of pre-marital counseling so they learn to resolve conflict in a God-honoring way.

Seven, feature Resolving Everyday Conflict seminar offerings in the Christian Ed and/or small group ministries. We offer this at least every three years as part of our Sunday AM equipping class curriculum. Easy to do and highly effective in saturating folks with key biblical content in this crucial area.

Eight, cast vision for peacemaking excellence from the pulpit. I do this every year on the anniversary of our last church fight. I divert from the ongoing sermon series for that one Sunday and preach a peacemaking passage. Tomorrow I’ll take the congregation to Philemon with a look at Paul’s masterful mediation efforts to help reconcile a slave and his master.

The writer of Hebrews exhorts: Strive for peace with everyone (Heb. 12:14). The verb gets translated a variety of ways–make every effort, pursue, work at, follow after.

No matter how you cut it, shaping a church from peacebreaking to peacemaking requires intentional, strategic, and whatever-it-takes change over time. Remember. Change nothing and nothing will change.

What additional things does your church do to cultivate a culture of peace? I invite your comment below!

 

Transition – Time for Pondering Anew

Any time the Lord gifts me with the privilege of attending a pastor’s conference, especially the Desiring God one in Minneapolis each February, I always pray the same thing. Lord, speak. Let me hear your voice. Show me what you require.

Once again He has not failed me as I reach the end of day two of this particular event entitled, Brothers, We Are Still Not Professionals.

This morning Pastor John Piper introduced his replacement at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Pastor Jason Meyer. Ever since I heard about this young man having to step into such humongous ministerial shoes I have asked myself, who in the world would want to follow John Piper? I learned this morning as no surprise at all that this man has felt much the same thing. In fact, when first queried about the possibility of taking over Bethlehem’s reins by Piper himself, Meyer responded quite vulnerably, “Nothing scares me more than that.” To which the retiring mentor replied, “Well, that’s not a no.” The rest, as they say, is history.

In his talk entitled Pastoral Transition After a 32-Year Ministry: Strategy and the Supernatural, Meyer went on to do two things. He told the story of how the whole surprising and, in some ways, unlikely appointment to such an imposing post came about. And then he offered four lessons from the process for our edification. You can listen to the entire message here. Consider it a worthy use of your valuable time. You won’t be disappointed.

Bethlehem’s “Joshua” transitioning into her treasured “Moses” role as shepherd of this congregation, fashioned his talk around phrases from two great hymns of the faith – Praise to the Lord the Almighty and To God Be  the Glory. The phrase from the first was this: Ponder anew what the Almighty can do. There is where the Lord spoke to me in the way the man linked that timeless exhortation of the hymn writer to the challenge of change in any ministry. Transitions are not to be feared; they are opportunities  from God to ponder anew what He can do.

Truth be told I can get scared when I think of losing Greg & Christina this summer to his church planting apprenticeship. How will our rich music ministry continue? Where will help for pastoral demands come from? Who will take care of the seemingly endless number of administrative details Greg handles in a given week? These questions and more can keep any pastor awake at night.

God knows. I say it again. God knows.

So ponder anew with  me what the Almighty will do as we wait on Him for His provision. Pray with me and the elders that we will plan and execute a God-centered strategy that profits Orlando Grace nearly as much as the one these dear folks in Minnesota employed to arrive at a replacement for someone of Piper’s stature.

Let us not fear transitions, but God who unfailingly leads His people through one change after another.

Then we will sing once again, “To God be the glory, great things He has done.”

December Resource of the Month

Looking for a special gift with a spiritual thrust for someone this Christmas? Why not consider this new devotional from New Growth Press, Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives (2012, 412 pages)? This offering of daily devotional readings with suggested Scripture passages comes from the good folks at CCEF, a favorite around our ministry for promoting biblical counseling from a Christ-centered, gospel-shaped perspective.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

Change that goes deeper than the surface of our lives happens over the long haul as we daily remember and connect the truths of the gospel to our lives. Every day we need to be reminded – in different ways – that Jesus, God’s own Son, came to this world to save us from sin, sorrow, and death. The promises of God, which are all “yes” in Jesus, change the way we view ourselves, our circumstances, and other people.

This devotional gives a daily reminder of these life-changing truths. Anchored in Scripture and saturated with the gospel, the 366 selections include the following topics: love, hope, grace, redemption, faith, contentment, conflict, relationships, prayer, fear, patience, humility, and anger. These reflections will help the reader to:

  • Learn how God in his Word addresses a host of life situations;
  • Focus on how the gospel intersects with life;
  • Look beyond circumstances to God’s purposes;
  • See how God values relationship and to learn to value it too by persisting, by speaking truth in love, and by not shying away from conflict.
  • Grow in wisdom when confronted by life’s changes.
  • Learn that God works change that is effective and visible.

This hardback gem retails for $19.99. We managed to secure a dozen of them for only $8. Pick up a copy this Sunday in the resource center!

Resource Center Upgrade

I’ve been putting our summer intern, Jacob Yarborough, (What a HUGE blessing he has been to us!) through a variety of paces so he can experience the range of responsibilities that come with pastoral ministry.

Today I challenged him to write a blog post on our new facility’s version of the resource center, something I’ve wanted to blog about for a while now. I post it here today with a few tweaks of my own.

With the new building comes change in many ways.

One of the things that underwent a change was the Resource Center. Before it consisted of a small bookrack on a table in the hallway of the SDA, now we have four great shelving units with many titles on display smack dab in the middle of our gathering space/entry way.

The purpose of the Recourse Center is to be just that, a resource for the spiritual life and well being of the flock at OGC. Our staff selected these titles specifically with the our congregation in mind. This collection of books and booklets is meant to educate, encourage, and equip the people of OGC by giving them a reliable source for quality reads without the trouble of researching authors or titles. Many of these books will help to establish a Christ-centered worldview that will serve to shape our everyday lives.

Please make the effort to stop by the Resource Center Book area in the main lobby sometime soon. There are over 30 different titles on display from authors like: John Piper, J.I. Packer, Ted Tripp, Francis Chan, and Mark Dever. There is a price chart on one of the shelves to let you know what the cost of the books is as well as a collection box to place payment in for any book that you might want. The money made from book sales will go back into restocking the shelves with more great books.

Some new titles just added to the shelves are: Welcome to a Reformed Church by Daniel Hyde and What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips. Both of these books are especially helpful to members and regular attendees of OGC, not to say newcomers unfamiliar with our tradition, who might want to expand their understanding of what it means to be reformed.

In the future we will be featuring a resource of the month to draw attention to strategic books that change people’s lives. Watch the announcement slides and blog posts in the future for more information.

Reading quality spiritual books makes a difference in our lives. Why not pick up one of these excellent titles this Sunday and dive in at your first available reading opportunity?

State of the Church 2012

I delivered this report at our annual meeting on Sunday night. I wanted to make it today’s blog post in the interest of informing those who could not attend.

Overall, I praise God that I sense before the Lord that the state of Orlando Grace is better than it ever has been for as long as I have served among her leadership in one way or another since January of 2001. I base that on the following considerations.

First, we are at peace and have been so consistently for nearly ten years. Not only that, but our commitment to and proficiency in the biblical practices of peacemaking continue to increase. This is no small matter, particularly in a season when, for going on two years now, we have undertaken the construction of a facility. That we have experienced only a very few bumps along this road in the way of disagreements and, to my knowledge, have resolved those impasses where necessary through conflict coaching and mediation, is a great mercy to a church that wants to reflect the unity in the Godhead by the unity of its people. I plead with us to see this project to the end with a high commitment to preferring others over ourselves and guarding ourselves from trampling one another underfoot as we may zealously campaign for a preference or concern for how something is done or what it looks like.

Second, and this is related to the first consideration, we are a people committed to godliness of behavior, agodliness more and more fueled by the power of the gospel to transform us and not our own legalistic effort. A combination of elements seems to have converged to help us in this regard. My own regard for the importance of the gospel and the need to motivate from the gospel and only the gospel both in my preaching and in pastoral care is something the Lord has drilled into me, sometimes quite painfully, over the last year like never before. The influence of the Acts 29 Network has contributed to that for me personally, and though we still have yet to forge officially a strategic alliance with an association, denomination or network, whether Acts 29 or some other entity, even informal cooperation with these churches serves us well to this gospel end.

In addition to that, curricula like How People Change in our growth groups and other gospel-shaped resources serve to keep us from experiencing more bouts of gospel amnesia than we might otherwise suffer. Our leadership is more focused on the gospel than ever before and I believe we as a people are orienting our lives more thoroughly around the gospel as well. This is huge and must ever remain a principal concern for the wellbeing of our assembly. For this reason and by God’s mercy and His providence, our experience of church discipline has remained confined for quite some time now to only steps one and two of Matthew 18:15-18 and only rarely has even the threat of step 3 – tell it to the church – come into play in the shepherding of our people. In that God is holy, and means for His church to reflect that holiness in the way it conducts itself in the world, this too, I believe makes me a happy pastor and servant in His church, saying much indeed is well.

Third, our march toward building our first-ever church home has resulted in our taking a hard look at areas of weakness and seeking to address them with God’s help. For example, we have tackled our weaknesses in community by multiplying growth groups. We now have more than ever before with nine different groups total, I believe. The Soul Talk curriculum of the fall quarter equipping hour and the Graces of Gospel Shaped Community sermon series last year saw us make strides also in learning better how to love one another. And I watched our people come through heroically in most recent crises in the Mangrich and Willson households where we put our best loving feet forward to those facing crushing need. As the church is meant to mirror the love within the Godhead, this growth in community and love, not the only expressions mind you, but some of them, stands out as a reason for rejoicing.

Another significant way we have improved as we think about opening a building, doubling our space, and likely growing in significant ways, is the overhauling of our Christian Education and nursery/childcare ministries. The addition of the Praise Factory program for children as a gospel-shaped curriculum is enormously important in the way our church comes along side of our families in educating their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. The addition of Katie Fairey to our staff as the coordinator of the nursery ministry, along with Evan her husband’s help and the help of a number of others has led to a far better stewardship of the protection and welfare of our little ones that should make us all sleep better at night knowing that those most vulnerable in our midst have policies and procedures in place to secure their best of care.

Much progress has been made in the realm of discipleship as well. Kudos to the CE evaluation and subcommittee chaired by Will Powell as they have led us into our three year scope and sequence adult equipping hour curriculum overseen by Scott Devor and launched in January of this year. We now possess an identifiable, strategic curriculum for adults that addresses a comprehensive number of classes and emphases that once completed constitute legitimately a body of knowledge, if consistently applied in everyday life, that will contribute to our living more than ever as fully devoted followers of Jesus.

Operation Nehemiah, what we have called the rebuilding of the walls at OGC ever since our last major conflict in the summer of 2012, while largely finished, continues in some strategic ways. Building a facility and having our own church home has always been one of the nine action steps related to that campaign for church wholeness and health. We are drawing so close to completing arguably the most challenging of those steps. We gave last year in hard work to it. We are giving this year in even harder work to it. When concluded, and I remind you we have undertaken the task in a recession economy with nearly everyone pitching in through sacrificial giving so that God gets the glory and not us, we will no longer be an invisible entity in the community but rather possess a visible and permanent presence that will result making ministry in the community more viable in so many tangible ways. And we, the covenant members of OGC, during this season are the ones who have gotten to do this. No one else. It has been our privileged stewardship. No one will regret that reward. Heaven will make amends for every sacrifice.

Of course there remain concerns for the future. We have ministry areas that need leadership. I am pleased to report that there are some women who have been praying about stepping into leadership of an overall women’s ministry at OGC. We hope in this year to form a women’s ministry team. If you have an interest in serving on that team for a year or so, let your elder know. Similarly, we have someone interested in taking point in a local outreach team, a team which has been somewhat dormant due to a lack of leadership other than my own limited time to contribute to it. And this leads to areas of concern related to completion of Operation Nehemiah that lie before us.

  1. Continued growth in a missional commitment as a congregation. Whether that means church-wide and/or group participation in mercy ministry or other strive-for-the-welfare-of-the-city kinds of initiatives, or the commitment of each covenant member to pray for unbelieving people and to engage them in the places where we live, work, and play, or initiative evangelism in public places and from door-to-door for those who thrive in that kind of thing, we need to continue to turn up the heat on the thermostat of our commitment to outreach. Praise God that I hear more and more people asking for prayer for lost people, their sharing their faith with lost people, and making time to build relationships so that there is opportunity to be salt and light and reap souls where God might bring a harvest.
  2. We must solve our staffing issues with the potential of losing three of four support staff in Greg, Evan, and Katie. As you can imagine, this is number one on my list of concerns in a year when the obligations of ministry will likely spike with the opening of our facility that we would lose such valuable servants. That being said, I am trusting God that He has replacements in such a case or volunteers or both, who will come to serve in strategic ways in our church. We will not lack His supply.
  3. We still need to pursue affiliation options and pray for God’s direction in this regard. That being said, I rejoice that between the Spurgeon Fellowship and Acts 29 regional Gospel Cohort, we are not isolated. We have churches to whom we can turn if we have need and to whom we can lend aid if necessary.
  4. In 2013, Lord willing, we need to tackle the first-ever revision of our by-laws. Something to look forward to as God leads.

I am certain a great deal more could be said about the state of OGC. However, concerns notwithstanding, God has been very good to us and we have every reason to trust that He will do nothing but good to us in hard and sweet providences alike in the days ahead.

Praise be to His excellent name.

A Frightening Prospect

Someone has said, “You’ll be the same person next year except for the books you read and the people you engage.” Surely it isn’t as simple as that, but the force of the statement makes a valuable point. What we read and who we engage do make a difference in to what extent we grow from one year to the next. When Paul tells Timothy to demonstrate progress evident to all (1 Tim. 4:15) I take it to mean that logging another twelve months on the calendar with little to no recognizable change is something to fear in a good sense of the word.

So, how goes your reading this year? No book matters more than the Bible. Are you in the book of books? Are you persevering with your reading through the Bible in a year? Moses emphasized the importance of reading here above anywhere else with these words in Deut. 32:47 – “For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life.” But what about other books?  It’s already March. When was the last time you read a book on theology, marriage, family, parenting, the church, evangelism, prayer, missions, or a host of other weighty subjects? You make an investment in your spiritual progress when you read substantive books. Why not make a goal to read nine books between now and 2013? That’s only a book a month.

What about the people in your life? Paul writes in 1 Cor. 11:1 – “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” With whom are you spending time for the purpose of spiritual formation? Whom do you know going so hard after God that to imitate them would be for you to imitate Christ? When did you last ask someone to disciple you? To mentor you in spiritual things? To join you in a Fight Club? Nobody grows by accident. Perhaps it is time to get intentional about making progress in the things of God by connecting with others who will challenge your socks off.

What kind of people will we be come January 2013?

May our progress be evident to all for the books we have read and the people we have engaged!

A Season of Marathons

I received this earlier this week from Jared Combs (new member at OGC) with a little help from Jillian Groeneveld:

I’m not much of a writer, so Jill has agreed to help me with this article. The Lord has spoken so many priceless things to me recently so this is my attempt at jotting them down.  As I ran the Disney marathon a few weeks ago and then reflected on it, I started seeing the symbolism between the journey of a marathon and the season of life I’m in these days. [It’s not like I was hurting for time to reflect as I ran 26.2 miles over a period of 6 hours!]  The message wasn’t complex but simply fitting for where I am right now.

In 2005, as a freshman at Flagler College we took a class trip to Disney’s Magic Kingdom as part of the Orientation week. It was my first week at college and my drug and alcohol addiction was already gaining speed. I woke up around 5:30 a.m. to begin drinking liquor so that when I got on the bus at 6:30 a.m. to make the journey from St. Augustine to Orlando I would already be drunk. I brought along a bag of cocaine and a couple of marijuana joints that I had rolled the night before. We arrived and I felt that I was the life of the party trying to fill a void inside with alcohol, drugs, the acceptance of my peers, and girls. A few hours went by and as my buzz from alcohol wore off, I went into a bathroom and used a little over $100 worth of cocaine with a so called “buddy” of mine. Later as we came down from the coke we returned to the bathroom to smoke the joints to relieve any feelings of withdrawal that came after the coke high.

On January 8, 2012 I awoke at 2:30 a.m. to take a shower and get ready for the Disney Marathon. I had been running for a little more than 5 months, and after completing a half marathon with my fiancé Jillian about a month earlier, we were off to run our first full marathon. There might not be a better place then Disney to do it! We took off with 21,000 other people on this daunting task to finish what, as legends hold, killed a man named Pheidippides in the first century in Athens, Greece. Jillian and I saw my parents at the castle as we ran through Magic Kingdom at mile 10. [Mom & Dad faithfully drove us to the race, cheered us on, and brought us home as we whined!]  Shortly after seeing their faces, we ran through the rest of Magic Kingdom. I hadn’t thought about that day in 2005 in a long while, but before reaching mile 11, we came around a corner and directly in front of us was that same bathroom I got high in over 7 years ago.

It all flashed through my head! The death and destruction of my addiction, how far the Lord has brought me as I celebrate the sixth year of my sobriety the day before our wedding (April 14!), the fact I was running next to my wife-to-be, and how God has blessed me with a purpose to reach other addicts. It’s amazing to be reminded that God is in the redemption business even if it’s through an experience in a bathroom at a theme park.

The larger symbolic message the Lord spoke to me through the marathon concerns the season of life I am in. I have been a great sprinter my whole life and we’re not talking about athletics. I believe John Maxwell said, “My gifts and abilities can take me farther than my character can hold me.” This has proven true repeatedly throughout my life as I have battled addiction, pain, severe loss, sin, and numerous decisions that have caused me to form Ishmael’s in my life. But now I’m in a new season – a season of sustained and focused strength as I look to the Lord, or try to look to Him, more than Jared. It’s a season where I don’t sprint only to fall short of the race God has called me to. Instead it’s a race like a marathon that goes the distance because I’m not running alone anymore – Christ is hand-in-hand with me! He has surrounded me with godly brothers to help me with this, but even more significantly He has provided a wife! This will be unlike any other relationship I have ever had. It won’t be short; I won’t quit before obtaining the goal; injury won’t occur like in the past; and I’m not running alone. Jillian and I have trained together for a race of 26.2 miles, but that is only one of the marathons we will run together. We are embarking on marriage and the rest of our lives. Placing all confidence in Christ, we will finish strong and together!

How People Change

We’re gearing up this fall for a church-wide growth group emphasis using the How People Change DVD Seminar Curriculum.

You can hear more about this during our congregational meeting this Sunday during the 9:30 hour.

Here’s one description of the material:

In the How People Change Seminar Paul Tripp and Tim Lane explore the truth of the gospel and apply it to life in a fallen world. Through their teaching, they clearly explain and enhance the truths from the How People Change Study Guide that help people to understand how Christ’s life, death, and resurrection can and does change the details of their lives. Through twelve, 30-minute sessions participants will be challenged to experience the deep-down change that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings and given the tools to understand the basic principles in the companion study guide.

For a taste of what’s in store, take ten minutes to view the video below.

Please pray with us for God to use this to shape our lives for change all the more by the power of the gospel.

The Not-So-Dreaded "P" Word

By “P” word I mean potential.

I used to dread hearing from others, “You have so much potential.” This implied in my mind far too painfully that I still had a long way to go in more ways that I could imagine.

Lately I don’t hear that so much any more. I suspect getting older has something to do with it. If I haven’t reached my potential by age 58, well, it’s probably too late.

But today I found myself contemplating an old-friend verse of Scripture that puts the “P” word in a different light, one that a follower of Jesus and a treasurer of His gospel never outlives or grows.

Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This text declares some radical things. By faith in Christ we gain more than the benefits of the cross; we get united to Christ in His death. So much so that we no longer live. That is to say that Christ doesn’t just make us new and improved persons, but that he makes us utterly different at the core.

Lane and Tripp, in their book How People Change, drive home the significance of this truth for understanding the exciting prospect of gospel potential:

When you grasp the fundamental nature of this change within you as a believer, you will begin to grasp your true potential. You are not the same as you once were. You have been forever changed. You no longer live under the weight of the law or the domination of sin. Christ’s death fulfilled the law’s requirements and broke the power of sin. You do not have to give in to sin. You can live in new ways amid the same old situations, because when Christ died physically, you died spiritually. This constitutional change is permanent! Do you view yourself with this kind of potential for a new life in Christ?

Suddenly the “P” word doesn’t look dreadful. It looks downright delightful.