Throw Logic Out?

Everyone seems to be outraged by gas prices these days. Most of us are paying over $3 per gallon. That equates to approximately 2 ½ cents per ounce for the final product.

Of course, reflected in that price is the cost of pumping oil out of the ground, transporting it to a refinery (where it goes through a long process to become gasoline), and then transporting it to retailers. It’s a very involved process.

So, it might seem strange that we are upset by paying 2 ½ cents per ounce of gas when we pay almost three times as much (7 cents) per ounce of bottled water or 10 times as much for specialty coffee (25 cents per ounce).

I’m not an expert in any of these fields, but I think the technology involved in creating gasoline is a bit more advanced and costly than purifying water or grinding coffee beans.

So why do we gripe about the gas prices when, at the same time, we choose to be gouged by the coffee and water companies? It’s just not logical!

Here’s my theory: when it comes to getting what we want, we tend to throw logic out the window.

In the spiritual world, the same holds true when it comes to the desires of the flesh. Logically, we know that anger, lust, greed, and jealousy all lead to turmoil, strife, frustration, and destruction. In Galatians, Paul explains, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

Even though we know the danger, temptation convinces us to give in to sin –even knowing the consequences. You see, sin is just not logical –especially considering the alternative! Paul continues, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

So why would we ever choose temptation to sin over the fruit of righteousness? Because our flesh makes a compelling emotional argument for our affections.

The problem is when we try to fight these affections for sin with logical reasoning for righteousness. Don’t get me wrong –logic is good, and righteous living is logical. But, when temptation is dealing with affections –we must fight fire with fire!

So how do we do that? We must increase our affection for Christ! The good news is that 1) Christ is greater than sin. Therefore, He offers more joy than sin. 2) Christ has conquered sin. Therefore, our affections have a logical basis for desiring Him more than sin.

That’s why Paul continues in Galatians 5 by stating, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).

So how do we continue to cultivate those affections for Christ? Surely you have experienced, as have I, the frustration of falling back into the same sins time after time. What does Paul recommend for our continual affection problem?

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

Just like in earthly human relationships, our relationship with God is cultivated by spending time in communion with Him. Of course, daily study, meditation, and prayer centered on God’s Word is key.

But Paul takes it one step further. He says to “keep in step” with the Spirit. This wording seems to indicate and continual state of communion in which we fellowship with the Spirit everywhere we go. In this way, when temptation strikes, we don’t leave God behind at our morning “quiet time,” but instead, we remain in His presence continually. And, when temptation comes, instead of welcoming it, we see it as an interruption of our true affection: Christ!

Now that ‘s worth considering over a cup of coffee –no matter how much it cost!

A Lunch to Laugh About Forever

On December 20, 1999, I was eating lunch in College Station, TX with my soon-to-be bride. In the middle of a delicious meal, Jill received a phone call from her mother. Jill was very animated during their conversation. Whatever her mother said to her really made her happy. I couldn’t wait until she said, “goodbye,” to find out what was going on.

After Jill ended the conversation, I asked, “Why was your mom calling? What did she say?”

Jill paused for a moment and then in a very polite and gentle manner said, “She wished me a happy birthday.”

Ouch. I had totally forgotten my fiancé’s birthday. (Your not supposed to do that until after you are married!)

That was one of the most awkward lunches in the history of dating. There was no way to recover from that one. I simply blew it.

Of course Jill was gracious and didn’t make a big deal out of it. In fact, we had a lot of great laughs about that lunch over the years.

As humans, we are all prone to let each other down from time to time. Imperfection is just a part of who we are. In fact, the Bible even states that it is possible for a woman to forget her baby at times. Isaiah 49:15 states, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget…”

Wow! God isn’t afraid to point out our human weaknesses –even the most unthinkable ones.

But God doesn’t just leave it there. He goes on to finish the verse saying, “yet I will not forget you.”

God never lets us down. He never disappoints us. And He never forgets His promises toward us.

He even remembers our birthdays. Better, He remembers our spiritual birthdays, recording our salvation in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 21:27). Because of that, one day, Jill and I will once again laugh together about that awkward birthday lunch!

Hän ei ole 1 vuoden aikana saanut minkäänlaista hoitoa sairauteensa, koska sitä ei ole olemassa. Nykyään kaikkien eurooppalaisten verkkoapteekkien pitää esittää sivuillaan sertifikaatti, jota klikkaamalla pääsee valvovan viranomaisen sivuille tarkistamaan verkkoapteekin laillisuuden.

Who Should Choose the Wedding Dress?

Jill went through great lengths to keep her dress a secret until our wedding day. I even remember how much care she took to make sure I didn’t catch a peak of her bridal portrait shoot.

Apparently, things are changing.

According to a recent survey, 19% (almost 1/5) of grooms say they are either solely or mostly responsible for selecting their bride’s wedding dress. I don’t know about you, but that sounds strange to me.

On second thought, this new trend does reflect a biblical truth. The Bible refers to the Church as the “bride of Christ” (Revelation 19:7-9). In fact, verse 8 describes the garments we (the Bride) will wear in Heaven.  “…it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”

At first it may sound like these fine linen garments are of our own choosing. After all, it does say that the very linen is the “righteous deeds of the saints.”

But, hang on. Think about that phrase again.

Any righteous deed we perform is actually a result of Christ’s righteousness that has been placed on us “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9).

And, since Christ has placed His righteousness upon us at the moment of salvation –we can start exhibiting His righteousness now with Christ-like works. We are “created to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

So, in a sense, you could say that Christ chooses our heavenly wedding garments! Just like the old hymn states, we are “dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne!”

Lace Up Your Church’s Shoes!

Bryce has grown out of the Velcro shoe stage. I don’t mean that he’s “too cool” for Velcro –I mean, they literally don’t make many Velcro options in his size anymore!

Last Spring I bought him a pair of “lace up” sneakers. So, over the past few months I have been tying his shoes for him –every time thinking, “one of these days I’m going to teach him to do this for himself.” That day finally came.

We had some extra time one afternoon, so I decided to begin the “shoe tying 101” course. How hard could it be –right?

To be honest, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve tried to teach anybody. I tried the bunny ears method, then I tried to just coach him move by move, then I tried guiding his fingers with my fingers. What a challenge! I was tempted several times to go online and do more searches for “big boy Velcro shoes,” but instead I stuck it out. I wanted to make sure Bryce knew how to tie a tight knot that would stay tied.  Why? Because knowing how to tie your shoes is important.

You see, if you don’t know how to tie your shoes, you can’t pass kindergarten, play sports, or get a job (especially at a shoe store). And, most likely, if you can’t tie your shoes, you can give up on getting married too!

Am I blowing this out of proportion? Am I making too much out of something so elementary? I don’t think so. In fact, I think we all need to be reminded that the “basics” lay foundations for life –and a good foundation is crucial for building upon. Likewise, a poor foundation can make building impossible.

The same is true for churches trying to help believers grow in Christ. In our efforts to teach the deeper things of Scripture (which I am completely in favor of) we must not forget that newer believers need a good foundation –especially if they did not grow up hearing the Word taught.

We need to take time to discuss God’s attributes. We need to explain that He is Holy and completely righteous. We should make clear how offensive our sin is to God and how much we need a Savior.

We ought to be sure that our people know that each person of the Trinity is fully God at the same time. We need to explain why Christ is described as the Lamb and why He shed His blood.

We need to make sure our congregations trust the authority of the Word of God and understand that it is inspired and inerrant.

As I was teaching Bryce to tie his shoes, I became frustrated because he didn’t catch on instantly. If we aren’t careful, the same thing can happen to us as we teach foundational truths. We can easily become frustrated with believers who don’t “get it” yet. But the nature of the gospel calls us to be patient and never grow weary of sharing the powerful foundations of our faith.

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Oh, and there was another reason I got frustrated teaching Bryce to tie his shoes. As I was trying to verbalize the tying process, I realized just how much I took my shoe-tying-skills for granted –to the extent that I could hardly put together one intelligible sentence of instruction!

For many of us, it’s been so long since we have revisited the basics, that we may find out we have forgotten or taken for granted some wonderful truths. In fact, it might be just as beneficial for us to revisit the basics as it is for those who are hearing them for the very first time. In other words, the “basics” aren’t just for new believers. We all find our shoes untied from time to time and have to stop and re-tie.

Praise God for the new believers who cause us to revisit the basics. In our ministry to them, they mutually minster to us by causing us to keep our spiritual shoes tied tight. That’s a great way to keep from tripping!

Long Song

Have you ever caught yourself singing a song during a corporate worship service only to realize you have no idea what you are singing? I think we’ve all found ourselves “going through the motions” from time to time feeling as if we are in an everlasting musical trance.

So can you imagine being a part of the St. Burchardi Church in Halberstadt Germany where the sanctuary will be full of music for at least another 627 years –NON-STOP? Why is that? The church organ has been programed to play an incredibly slow recital. In fact, the songs are being played so slowly that chord changes typically happen in intervals of weeks!

The name of the 639-year organ recital is appropriately named “As Slow as Possible.” It is a tribute to the late composer, John Cage who once said, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four… Eventually one discovers that is not boring at all.”

That reminds me of a phrase that the Bible seems to indicate will be repeated eternally in Heaven. When Isaiah catches a glimpse of Heaven’s throne room, he discovers angels crying out, ““Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). And in Revelation 5:4, the Bible indicates that there are four living creatures who never cease to say, ““Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

Will all of this repetition in heaven become boring? Absolutely not. You see, the cries of all creation will be motivated by the unending awe that we experience each moment as we realize more and more of the majesty of God. Because His majesty is infinite, our awe and wonder will never cease. Therefore, the overflow of our hearts will forever be meaningful and sincere. No more “going through the motions!”

No Need to Recalculate


I bet you’ve heard that phrase before. Personally, I feel like my GPS is scolding me when I hear the word, “Recalculating.” It’s as if the little device is implying, “Can’t you just turn when I say’ turn?’” Occasionally, I have caught myself talking to the GPS out loud saying something like, “Be quiet, I know a better way. You’re trying to take me the long way around.”

In Exodus 13, as the Children of Israel are fleeing Egyptian bondage under Pharaoh, the Bible tells us that God led them out the long way around. The Bible indicates that the Children of Israel began to complain about their location -as if to say, “Moses, we need to seriously recalculate!”

“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea” (Exodus 13:17-18).

Did you catch that? The reason that God took them the long way around was so that they couldn’t turn back easily when they see the Egyptian army coming after them.

Ouch! Does that mean that God intentionally led them into a difficult and dangerous position? Absolutely. And that’s not the end of it.

In the next chapter, God instructs Moses on where to set up camp.

“Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea…” (Exodus 14:2).

The word “Migdol” means “fortress” or “watchtower.” In other words, God led his people to camp in a place where they were stuck between an Egyptian watchtower and the Red sea. Now they were trapped.

It wouldn’t take long for word to travel back to the Egyptian army from Migdol. Can you imagine what the Egyptian messenger would have said? After riding as fast as possible back to the army headquarters, he would probably yell out something like, “Those Israelites are right where we want them –trapped between our fortress and the Red Sea. What were they thinking?”

As soon as the Egyptian army showed up on the horizon, the children of Israel were thinking the same thing –what were we thinking? They complained to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” (Exodus 14:11).

While it may not have made sense humanly speaking, it made perfect sense to God. What looked like a major step back for God’s children was actually setting the stage for a remarkable move of the Lord.

In fact, God told the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13-14).

And we all know the rest of the story. God delivers Israel from the Egyptian army by parting the Red Sea enabling them to escape. Then, after they escaped, God crushed the Egyptians by collapsing the Sea over them.

I think it is safe to assume that we all are looking for the “Red Sea” moments in life, but very few of us embrace the “Migdol” moments.

When we read this account of the children of Israel and the Egyptians, it doesn’t take any faith for us to see that Migdol served a purpose in God’s plan. However, when we are the ones encamped between the enemy and the Sea, faith is the only way to believe that God is in control!

Just like a bow and arrow, before God propels us forward, He sometimes pulls us back.

When the unexpected bills cause us to wonder how we will provide for our family, God is not worried.

When the death of a young believer leaves us asking “why?”, God is not confused.

When our most trusted friend betrays our trust, God is not caught off-guard.

Faith means trusting God’s sovereign ways no matter what. That’s easy when we are standing on the other side of the red sea watching the Egyptians drown. But it’s difficult when God places us between Migdol and the Sea. The key is to realize that no matter our circumstances, God is in control. Our situations may change, but He remains the same.

Wherever you are in life right now, God has not forgotten you or neglected you. Have faith –there is no need to “recalculate!”

Who Is Responsible For The Pastor’s Joy?

He’s not a soldier, but he fights for truth;

He’s not a police officer, but he watches out for me;

He’s not a university professor, but he teaches me;

He’s not a social worker, but he is always available to listen to me;

He’s not a professional consultant, but he provides guidance for me;

He’s not a relative, but he loves me like family;

He’s my pastor and he wears more hats than any other job in the world.

Nobody understands the pastor’s workload, stress, pressure, and demands. Every member of the church takes home their own worries, but the pastor takes home everyone’s worries. He wears their burdens and feels their pains. He laughs when they laugh, cries when they cry, and mourns when they mourn. Most of the time, nobody else sees what is going on inside of his heart. Constantly giving of one’s self can be a lonely, draining job.

October is Pastor Appreciation month. I want to publicly express my appreciation for the pastoral staff at my church: I am incredibly blessed by the ministries of Jason Aultman, Bobby Tucker, Brian Ratliff, Stephen Castleberry, Nathan Brewer, Shawn Hammontree, Travis Sellers, Luis Ortega, and Randy Anderson.  These guys go the extra mile for our congregation and never complain. They serve our church like soldiers, officers, professors, counselors, consultants, and family!

Unfortunately, in many churches, the congregation treats their pastor like an employee rather than honoring him as God’s chosen leader. But Hebrews 13:17 condemns that kind of thinking.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy (emphasis added) and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Did you see that phrase, “let them do this with joy”? Can I paraphrase that? “Give your pastor a break and make his ministry to you a joy.” You are responsible for making your pastor’s job a joy! Further, it is to your advantage to have a joyful pastor! 

So here are a few ideas for blessing the man who wears so many hats for you!

  • Send him a gift certificate to his favorite restaurant.
  • Volunteer to babysit his kids.
  • Mow his yard or wash his car without asking.
  • Give him season tickets to your local High School team events.
  • Bring cookies to his home or the church office.
  • Write him a letter of encouragement.
  • Have your children draw him a picture.

There are so many ways to bless your pastor. So go ahead, make his job a joy!

Hypocrite Dad

I knew something was wrong when we were getting in the car Sunday morning and Bryce said, “I know, I know, we’re in a hurry –we’re always in a hurry.”

His comment caused me to pause. Is that the message I’m always sending him? Is that how he sees me –as a frantic, impatient timekeeper? Is that the extent of our relationship?

Recently, during a small-group Bible study, someone brought up our tendency to be hypocrites. He pointed out that we could be full of compassion and gentleness on Sundays, but act the opposite on Mondays.

My heart sank. What he said resonated strongly within me. But what convicted me the most wasn’t the difference between how I acted on Sundays versus Mondays.

I spoke up and explained that my worst hypocrisy is how I treat my son publicly versus privately. This was very difficult to admit.

I explained that I struggle with patience with my son. It’s difficult for me to be Christ-like toward him when he doesn’t realize we are in a hurry to get in the car to go to school.  I often skip over story time at night when I’m tired and many times I rush my nighttime prayer with him just so I can enjoy solitude.

Turns out I’m not the only one struggling with this. One of the ladies in my small group agreed explaining that if a teacher spoke to her daughter the same way she sometimes speaks to her daughter, she would be outraged.

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I can totally relate.

Why is it that we often feel comfortable neglecting the ones we love the most? Is it because we think, “they’ll understand because they are family”? Or is it because we get so comfortable around them that we assume they already know our faults, so there is no use in trying to hide them?

My opinion? It’s pure selfishness.

  • I am selfish when I steal story-time from my son and spend it on reading the sports-page.
  • I am selfish when I tell my son I’m too tired to go to the park, yet I find time to workout.
  • I am selfish when I hurry him to get ready for school because I wanted to sleep a few extra minutes.
  • I am selfish when I treat him the way I wouldn’t want anyone else to treat him.

Indecently, selfishness is the same reason for my hypocrisy.

There is no doubt that I treat everyone else better than I treat my son. I pay extra attention to my friends’ children and afford them more patience than I do Bryce.

Why? Because I selfishly want everyone else to think I am patient, gentle, and kind all the time.

I was thankful when another member of my small group shared a similar thought. He explained how he acts patient and gentle with people at work, yet on the inside he isn’t always displaying the fruit of the Spirit.

Today, I am praying and focusing on that simple command of Christ: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).

Simply put, I want to love my son the way Christ loves me. If Christ was able to patiently take the time to love me in my rebellion –even when the weight of the world rested on His shoulders- certainly I can be genuinely patient with my son when I’m running 5 minutes late!

So, when time seems to get away from me today, I’m not going to compensate by “stealing time” from Bryce. Thankfully, Christ never “stole time” away from His love and attention toward me.

Further, when I get to the end of the day, I’m not going to allow my fatigue to infringe on Bryce’s story time. After all, Christ did not allow His pain and suffering to infringe upon His self-sacrifice on my behalf.

And, in the times where I find myself distracted with the worries of life and the stresses of work, I’m not going to “brush off” Bryce’s sweet, innocent questions with petty replies. Instead, I’m going to turn my full attention to him and patiently answer –no matter how many follow-up questions he requires –just as Christ is patient in lending His full attention to my prayers.

I imagine that what I’ll find is unspeakable joy in imitating Christ to my son! After all, that’s the kind of dad I want him to have –nothing less.

The most humbling thing about all of this is that the way I treat Bryce shapes the way He views God’s love for Him. I must fulfill my responsibility to be a godly dad!

This won’t happen in my strength, but instead, it will require Christ working in me to transform me into His image. Praise God He is perfectly patient in the process –the way that I want to be with Bryce.

So am I in a hurry? Yes, just a different kind of hurry. Today, I’m in a hurry to be a Christ-like dad!

Three Plans Every Church Needs

God has blessed my church with plenty of talented members of the medical community. If a medical emergency were to take place, it is reassuring to know how quickly and efficiently our members could work to resolve the issue.

But what if our church didn’t have people with medical expertise? Or what if there had been a different kind of emergency? What if this had happened at another church? These sorts of questions echoed in my mind all Sunday afternoon.

I believe that every church should have emergency plans in place. No matter the size of the church, emergencies can strike at any time. Here are three plans that every church should be prepared for.

1) A Medical Emergency Plan:

As long as you have people attending your church, you are at risk for medical emergencies. If an ambulance arrived at your facility, would the first responders know which doors to enter? Are they clearly marked? Are the doors big enough for stretchers?

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Do you have one or two church leaders in charge of calling 911? What about someone assigned to stand in the parking lot to meet the ambulance when it arrives? (to make sure they don’t accidently pass by your church or miss the entrance).

Have you thought through what the musicians should do if something happens during a song in the service? What if it happened during preaching –or another element of your worship service? (By the way, my pastor did an excellent job informing the congregation of what was happening and following up afterwards with a reassuring update on the situation before He began preaching).

2)A Security Emergency Plan:

Unfortunately, churches are just as susceptible to crime and violence as any other establishment. Even worse –many churches leave themselves open to opportunities for security breaches every Sunday. Have you thought about all of the unattended, unlocked doors around your building while everyone is gathered in the Sanctuary? Do you have a secure system for your nursery and child-care? What would you do if someone kidnapped a child? Is there a leader on duty in the children’s area of your building who would call 911? Is there a plan in place to “lock down” the facility in case the perpetrator is still in the building? Do you have descriptions of each child available to provide law enforcement immediately? (the first hour after a kidnapping is the most likely time to recover the child –time is of the essence and parents may be too rattled to provide a description quickly.) How would you communicate the security breach to your congregation?

What if someone became belligerent during a service? What if someone began shooting in the sanctuary? Would the congregation know what to do? (One wrong move by just one well-meaning person could risk the lives of the entire congregation).

3) A Weather Emergency Plan:

What if a thunderstorm, tornado, or ice storm trapped people inside your building for a prolonged period of time? What if the power went off? Do you have enough supplies in case the congregation is required to stay in the building for a couple of days? Do you have enough food on hand? Does your church have a generator?

If part of your building were destroyed suddenly during a service, what would you do? Who would be in charge of calling emergency personnel? Who would assess the situation to determine whether the congregation should evacuate or remain in the building?

Plan Ahead

While these kinds of questions are never fun to think about, the alternative is worse. Pastors are charged with overseeing the flock as shepherds –and the sheep trust the pastor to care for them in a Christ-like manner. Can you imagine how the mismanagement of one emergency could jeopardize that trust? No pastor wants to think about how his own lack of planning could lead to losing a child to a kidnapper or a member to a heart attack. Imagine the pain of thinking “If only I had planned ahead….”

So please, for the sake of your congregation and for the sake of your ministry –make a plan. Keep it up-to-date and share it with your leaders and congregation regularly.

Hopefully, you’ll never need it!

Wake Up

Sometimes my son has difficulty waking up. I’m not talking about being a “sleepy head” and not wanting to get out of bed. I’m talking about pulling back the covers, stepping on the floor, walking in the kitchen, sitting in front of his breakfast and still being asleep.

I guess its technically sleepwalking. But basically, he has the strange ability to function without being awake (sometimes it freaks me out a little). However, as a side note -if you are ever unsure whether or not your child is awake- I suggest NOT telling them to go to the bathroom -at least not alone.

In Ephesians 5, Paul is talking to believers when he quotes the Old Testament saying, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

In the context of this verse, Paul is telling believers that they must no longer live in the darkness of sin, but instead live in the light of Christ. Then, he says, “Awake!”

Just like my son sleepwalking, believers can have a tendency to “sleepwalk” through our spiritual lives. By all outward signs it may look like we are conscious, but in reality we are just going through the motions.

Perhaps you can relate. Sin has crept back into your life and you haven’t even realized it until now. Has anger taken root towards a co-worker who tramples over you on their way to the “top of the ladder?” Has jealousy lulled you into a trance as you long for the new car your neighbor bought last week? Have you become enslaved to your purchases –always trying to buy the item that will make you “happy?”

It’s time to wake up! Let the light of Christ shine on your life and expose the lies of anger, jealousy and greed. Your idea of “living the dream” might just be a nightmare.

Sometimes, in order to wake up my son, I have to speak loudly. Will you let the Word of God speak loudly to your heart? –Loud enough to wake you up from your spiritual nap?