God's Ungrateful Guest

His language towards me is that of a father to a child. I treat Him like an ungrageful guest.

Happy Birthday to My Bride

I'm an insider to a gorgeous soul.

How to make millions.

If you follow Jesus, you should not want less, but more.

Why Does God Stop?

Have you ever wondered why it is when you need God the most, He's in no hurry. In fact, He just stops.

How to Help When Mother's Day Hurts (Part 1)

Sometimes life is not made for a holiday.

Your Biggest Money Mistake

Spending is not a dollar amount. Spending is a character choice.

May 26, 2015

Back Porch Psalms - Psalm 4

How do we pray in times of distress?  Our prayers in distress are important, but so are our actions.  How do we respond in times of distress?  Learn how as we take some time to meditate and pray through Psalm 4.

video

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May 21, 2015

God's Ungrateful Guest

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  (1 John 3:1 ESV)
How often do I respond to God’s grace as if I am an ungrateful guest rather than His son?
The language of the gospel offers the invitation for me to abide in Him, enjoy communion with Him, to be guided and guarded by Him, to be loved.  God says I am His child.
Yet I only want to leave.  I do not want a place to dwell, I only want a place to stay.  In His grace He opens to me His home, yet I use it like a cheap hotel room.  I have no intent to connect with Him, I just need the password to the wifi.  I have no intent to commune.  I am staying here because I can get a free breakfast.  And then I’ll be on my way.
The gospel calls me to be a citizen of Heaven.  I go through the day more like someone staying at Hampton Inn.
Hey God, when I need you, I’ll call you.  I’ll make a reservation along the way - what’s the rate?  It’s all on my terms, in my time - can you help me with my luggage?  Whoops, I sinned.  Will you forgive me.  Thanks.  I’ll be on my way.  I have no intent to stay.
I’ll be back.  And when I return, I expect the same kind of service.  I’ll let you know.  See you soon.
I act like an honors member entitled to points.  I act nothing like a son.
This is not the language of a child to a father.  Our language to Him in prayer sounds more like the things we say to a clerk at a hotel.  We are His children, not His guests.  
His language to us is that of a Father who opens to us His home.  He does not intend for us to stop by.  He intends for us to stay.  The gospel is not an invitation to use a nice room, it is an invitation to dwell in the presence of God.  
Christ did not suffer the crucifixion so we could check-in and check-out.  He died so we could stay.  If I am as close to God as I am a hotel counter clerk, I have cheapened grace.  
Good morning.  Thanks for the newspaper.  I switched my door hanger from “do not disturb” to “housekeeping” so they can now clean up my mess.  I’ll be gone all day.
God bless me today.  I read my devotion, thanks for the encouragement.  Forgive me of my sins - because that’s what you do.  And now I will walk away from this prayer, AMEN, as if it doesn’t matter what I do all day. 
Never a word to the Almighty the rest of the way.  Tomorrow morning - same routine, same lack of intimacy.  It is more like the interactions we see in the breakfast nook at a hotel lobby than it is like children in communion with God.  
Each day should be lived like I know I am home.  I have been with God.  I have heard His voice.  He is impacting my life.  I am accountable to Him.  He defends me.  He provides for me.  He is my father - He is not room service.

His intent is to connect with me as a father to a child.  He does not consider me His guest.

May 18, 2015

Happy Birthday to My Bride

We fell in love in college.  You were finishing your freshman year.  I was finishing my college career.  We dated for two months before we spent the next 22 hardly ever within five hours of one another.  I was in seminary, then an interim youth pastor, then a pastor.  The snippets of time we salvaged together were usually late on a Friday night or a shortened Saturday afternoon.  Why?  I have always been crazy about you.  I would drive every hour of the distance to spend what seemed like just five minutes with you, but you always understood why I had to end every date early - Sunday’s coming.
You never saw it as a chore.  You were always proud that this was us.  
Youth lock-in.
Valentine banquet.
Visitation.
Worship service that morning, a meeting that afternoon, worship again that night.
Some people had steak, we had casserole.  Who needs to go out to eat so much when you have potluck?  Even though it should have been your night, you sat there with me at a napkin-paper cloth covered table in a Baptist fellowship hall and gave everything to every person who wanted to talk.  And you gave me to every person who wanted the same.  You never complained.  You knew this was our call. 
We didn’t do a lot of things young couples do.  Even though it was hectic, every minute we spent together during those days was special.  I always hated leaving you.  Now I never will.
You left Charlotte a bride.  You arrived in Crossville, TN one week later the pastor’s wife.  Very few understand what that really means.  With grace you embraced it.  My admiration for you is immense.
For those whose lives are given to ministry there is no such thing as a weekend.  The church demands your all.  Christ deserves even more.  Pointing people to Jesus, serving them in loss, meeting them in crisis, writing the next sermon, making sure you do not lead someone astray - there is no end.  There is no time for a late movie, a Saturday night concert - what’s a 3 day weekend?  There are so many parties we have missed for one simple reason - the sermon was not finished.  Yet you have counted all of it gain, never a loss.  Because you are so sacrificial for Christ and so in love with me, in your eyes, you never missed a thing.  Don’t ever think I haven’t noticed.  You have never taken your eyes off of Christ.  I can’t keep my eyes off of you.  
For some the week ends.  For us, it never does.  You have yet to even realize how much we haven’t missed.  I guess it is true, love is blind.
Even though our early dates may have consisted of three hours of Saturday morning door to door visitation, you loved me.  You did what you did and you continue to do what you do because you love Jesus.  Because of Him, you have sacrificed everything you are for what we do.
You are so much more than people realize - sacrificial, beautiful, teachable, humble, special, stable, flexible, available.  I think the hardest thing about being a pastor and a pastor’s wife is that it demands everything you are, but at the same time the grind and expectations of it all make it nearly impossible to be who you are.    
But I know you.  I know the things we laugh at that no one will ever know we said.  You know I love it when you’re sassy - but be careful with the choir.  You are dead on right about that - but you can’t say it.  The things you have forgiven in me and protected about me, making sure no one will ever see - you are soft for me when I need your comfort you are a shield for me when I need your strength.  You are beautiful to everyone, but I am gifted most when you are simply mine and I get all of you.
Life in ministry makes friendship complicated.  Every connection is complex, every person tied to someone else, every relationship intricate and delicately balanced between what you may be going through as a person and what must be done for the sake of The Kingdom.  The personal side is always slaughtered on the altar of Romans 12:1-2.  The most beautiful thing about you, Shannon is your life of sacrifice.  You love Jesus way more than you love me and that makes me crazy in love with you.  Every friendship, every decision, every word, every choice, every weekend, every day you somehow bring it back to Christ.  You are His treasure and that makes it so much more precious that you are also mine.  You are my bride, but I am blessed that you are my most uncomplicated, take me as I am, yep - I really said that, friend.
Today is your birthday.  All I can say is that as wonderful as you are in the eyes of so many, I only wish that the world could know you like I do.  But that is my privilege and delight as your husband.  I’m an insider to a gorgeous soul.  
Happy birthday to my bride.     

May 14, 2015

How To Make Millions

From God’s Word I am going to show you not only how to plug the drain, but to turn on the faucet.  We need to stop the drain, but we also need to make some gain.
If you could, would you not only be willing to stop the drain, but would you be willing to make millions?  What I am about to say may shock you, but if you follow Jesus you should not want less, but more - millions!



How to Make Millions from Brian Branam on Vimeo.
Are you making an investment with God's resources or simply holding on and just trying to plug the drain. Learn how to not only stop the drain in your finances, but how to turn on the faucet to true wealth.

Brian Branam is the Lead Pastor of 
Liberty Baptist Church in Dalton, GA 
and the author of #TheWalk, now on Kindle for just $3.49.

May 13, 2015

Jesus Just Stops (An Excerpt from #TheWalk)

God is the prime mover, but He is not a fast mover.  As prime mover, God set all things in motion.  As a general mover, God is frustratingly slow.  Two stories serve to demonstrate.
The pace of Luke 8 seems fast and furious.  Jesus is healing.  He is teaching.  His family is looking for Him.  He is caught in a turbulent storm that He calms while crossing the sea.  He casts demons out of a maniac man who lives in a graveyard.  There is a lot happening.  The more He does, the more attention He draws and the crowd grows.
When it seems like the stories have reached fever pitch, Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue falls at Jesus‘ feet and asks Jesus to accompany him to his house.  His twelve-year-old daughter is sick and dying.  Jairus is desperate for Jesus to heal her.  Jairus thinks he needs Jesus to move fast.  Jesus is more interested in helping Jairus go far. 
As much as Jesus has going on, He complies and begins the walk toward Jairus‘ home.  The next part of the verse sets the scene, “As Jesus went, the people pressed around him” (Luke 8:42).  Imagine a throng of people, each of whom has needs, vying for Jesus‘ attention as He walks.  The scene is loud and chaotic.
All of the sudden, Jesus stops.  Unknown to the crowd, a woman with a blood issue has touched the hem of Jesus‘ garment and is healed.  She has dealt with this problem for twelve years and had spent all of her money on physicians who all failed to help her.  Like Jairus, she is also desperate.  
Her problem probably caused her to have a constant menstrual flow.  An issue of blood in Jewish culture was not merely a physical problem, but a spiritually crippling one.  Because of the flow of blood, she was constantly unclean and would not have been allowed to enter into the Temple for worship.  
Jesus stops.  Though the crowd has no idea of what happened, Jesus knows.  With all that is going on, Jesus is able somehow to focus on one thing.  The Master is not a multi-tasker.
In the midst of a throng of people that is described by Luke as a “press”, Jesus addresses the crowd and asks a question:  “Who was it that touched me?”  
The Bible says that everyone in the crowd denied it, yet Jesus must have persisted to know.  Peter, wanting to bring some logic to the situation, tells Jesus that it is impossible to know who touched Him.  It is a press of people.  A press is a group so large you have to keep moving, but you are stopping.  Who touched You?  Everyone is touching You!
Yet someone touched Jesus in a way that power came out of Him and He knew it.  Eventually, the woman reveals herself, and Jesus simply says to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” - Luke 8:48 (ESV)
Luke records nothing of Jairus’ reaction in this moment.  As the father of two daughters, I cannot ignore the man.  Luke says little of him in the scene at this point, but I can see him.  Time is running out.  In his mind the solution is in hand, but far from where it really needs to be.  We must keep moving.
For a man who needs Jesus to move fast, walking would be difficult enough; stopping and taking the time to poll the crowd for a mystery toucher would have been excruciating.  In Jairus’ mind his total focus must have been on the fact that it appeared by stopping for the woman, Jesus was going nowhere.  
It is inexplicable, but there are times in walking with God, that when it seems we need Him to move the most, He stops.
The progression to the next part of the scene is heartbreaking.  The Bible says while Jesus was still speaking, as if He is putting the final touches on His statements about the triumph of the woman’s faith, Jairus receives the most devastating news.  A nameless woman in the crowd may have been healed, but “Jairus, your daughter is dead.”  The bearer of the bad news follows up his statement: “do not trouble the Teacher anymore.”
Too late.
Too slow.


For the nameless woman, the stop was the beginning of new life.  For Jairus, the stop appeared to be the end of life.  Don’t trouble the Teacher anymore.  He’s too busy dealing with other things. 

Read the rest - #THEWALK, now on Kindle for just $3.49.  Get your copy today.


May 12, 2015

How to Help When Mother's Day Hurts (Part 2)

I have a great mother who is involved in my life.  I have been married to the same wonderful woman since Feb. 1, 1997 and she is the mother of both of my daughters.  Mother’s Day is a joyous, easy fit holiday for our family. 
Sometimes life is not made for holidays.  Hallmark has yet to create a card that explains every situation.  Under certain circumstances, the perceptions of Mother’s Day may range from an annual reminder of loss to an empty celebration of a relationship someone never had. 
Yet, in our perfection and dysfunction, we all sit together in church.  In comes Mother’s Day, once a year, with a glossary of stereotypes, categorical assumptions, and ignorance of the caveats of life that may make celebrating motherhood at bit uneasy.
What do we do when Mother’s Day hurts?
How do we avoid, amongst the people of God, emotional separation in a day of celebration? How can we do Mother’s Day in a way that is not insensitive but at the same time remains sincere?  
In my previous post I stated the first two of four ways I believe we may help when Mother's Day hurts.

Everyday needs grace.
Celebrate the story of the gospel.

Below are the final two ways I believe we may be able to help hurting people on Mother's Day.

Speak to the opportunity all women have on Mother’s Day.   
On the Saturday before Mother’s Day I attended a birthday party.  Joan Hamrick was there.  There is nothing genetically that connects me to her, yet when I introduced her to someone at the party I put my arm around her and said, “This is Ms. Joan.  She is a mother to me.  I have lots of moms.”  
There was nothing in my statement that diminished the role of my own mother in my life.  There was nothing in my statement that took away from Ms. Joan’s role in raising her own son, who was also at the party.  Instead, the statement echoes something incredibly Biblical that rings true for all of us.  In Christ there are familial bonds that are birthed of which no hospital on the planet has record.  There is no birth certificate sufficient to explain the birth of the church.
If there is anything unfortunate in Mother’s Day, it is the way we ignore these otherwise unnatural bonds that are critical to the story of our faith.  Pat Bishop, Ellen Eaker, Wanda Altman, Carol Lea, Jessie Foster, Bernice Mueller, Janice Swanson, Kathy Johnson - there is a massive roll call of women in my story, many of them having their own children, some who had no birth children - yet all of them playing a critical, mothering role in my life.  
Birth is the most common way in which we think a woman becomes a mother, but it is not the exclusive way.
Mother’s Day should celebrate the role women play in mothering our faith, but it should also raise the awareness of a myriad of children in our culture who are in desperate need of a godly woman to step into their story.  This need also raises the ugly reality that birth doesn’t qualify a woman to be a mother.  Some women possess the biology but lack the character and love it takes to finish the job of mom.  If this is the case, the lack of birth doesn’t disqualify a woman from being a mom.  God has gifted far more women than we celebrate with a holiday to be moms. 
Be thankful for your spiritual moms.  Hug them.  Celebrate them.  Share with them the impact they have made on your life.  We don't have to wait until a holiday to give honor to whom honor is due. 
Use the day to advocate.
I did a better job of it last year, but on Mother’s Day we should be advocates for adoption and champions for the sanctity of life.  Mother’s Day should be the ultimate celebration of life.  As stated above, there are so many ways that women step into our stories and give us life, but how incredibly intentional does that life giving capacity of women become when they give life to a child who otherwise has none? 
In 2014 I set aside my sermon and asked three mothers to tell their stories to our congregation.  Two of them were adoptive moms.  One of them a single mom.  The third mother was adopted when she was a child.  We set their stories up in a panel discussion type format, but it was greater than any sermon on the subject I could have offered.  The experience not only enriched my life, but it touched many people in the audience and expanded our view of exactly what it means to be a mother.  
Mother’s Day give us an opportunity to advocate for something that is incredibly gospel centered; to protect the lives of the unborn and to give familial connection to those who have been abandoned.  We cannot ignore the fact that every person who believes in Christ has been adopted (Gal. 4:5-7).

Mother’s Day is not a perfect day.  Life on planet Earth, post-sin, provides us with many painful caveats.  Yet the hope of the gospel gives us reason not to allow loss and trial to overcome us, or any of our days.  May God bless us with more life giving moms and let’s look forward to celebrating what Christ has done again, next year on Mother’s Day.

Brian Branam is the Lead Pastor of 
Liberty Baptist Church in Dalton, GA 
and the author of #TheWalk.

Pic credit to: just4u, http://www.freeimages.com/photo/587236

May 11, 2015

How to Help When Mother's Day Hurts (Part 1)

I have a great mother who is involved in my life.  I have been married to the same wonderful woman since Feb. 1, 1997 and she is the mother of both of my daughters.  Mother’s Day is a joyous, easy fit holiday for our family. 
Sometimes life is not made for holidays.  Hallmark has yet to create a card that explains every situation.  Under certain circumstances, the perceptions of Mother’s Day may range from an annual reminder of loss to an empty celebration of a relationship someone never had. 
Yet, in our perfection and dysfunction, we all sit together in church.  In comes Mother’s Day, once a year, with a glossary of stereotypes, categorical assumptions, and ignorance of the caveats of life that may make celebrating motherhood at bit uneasy.
What do we do when Mother’s Day hurts?
How do we avoid, amongst the people of God, emotional separation in a day of celebration? How can we do Mother’s Day in a way that is not insensitive but at the same time remains sincere?  
Every day needs grace.
We live in a highly sensitive culture that makes an impossible demand - get it right for everybody.  Fortunately the church is a community of grace that embraces us when we don’t get it right at all.  Romans 14 teaches the church how to handle our days with grace.
Some people will find a holiday hard to live without.  Some will find a holiday hard to live with.  It is required of both parties to use a measure of grace to realize what a holiday is and what it isn’t.  Paul warns us not to esteem any day as so important that we lose sight of Christ.
Mother’s Day doesn’t make a mother, but mothers make the day.  A mom with children should not be made to feel guilty for her family on Mother’s Day.  At the same time the day should not be used to deflate or devalue those who are not.  Yet grace gives us a loving way to handle our days that creates a bond between us despite the variables in our community of circumstances.  
Mother’s Day is an opportune time to share incredible stories of how God’s love has created familial relationships, helped in times of loss, or provided sustaining strength in a world not ready made for Hallmark.  In a culture that questions the value of birth and by its innuendoes communicates that parenting is a hassle; grace creates a place where the stories of women who want, love, lose, adopt, have big families or struggle to have any family are shared.  In grace each find a place.  
Some of my favorite moments of Mother’s Day, through the lens of a pastor, are not in the conversations we avoid, but they come while listening to the conversations grace demands.  Grace creates a place where the mother who lost an unborn child receives strength, love, and counsel from the matriarch of many.  At the table of grace sits an adoptive mother who shows a new mom how to handle her colicky baby.  Grace makes Mother’s Day beautiful. 
Grace liberates us from an environment of legalism in which sensitivity is the law and celebrates the story of motherhood in an imperfect world.  Every day needs grace.
Celebrate the story of the gospel.
Following the curse, Adam inaugurated the first celebration of moms.  In Genesis 3:15 God informed the serpent that a child would be born of the woman who would crush the tyranny of Satan and liberate us from the curse of sin.  
Adam understood well the prophecy and responded by changing the name of his wife, a woman who at the time had no children, to Eve which means “mother of all living (Gen. 3:20).”
While we do live in a world that struggles with infertility and infant death, we cannot deny that every person that exists can celebrate God’s goodness in preserving the blessing of God to be fruitful and multiply.  We have been born.
In Mother’s Day we should also be reminded that the Son of God has been born of woman (Galatians 4:4).  It is through His virgin birth, atoning death, and victorious resurrection that we find new birth.  
What we will deal with in this life, until the return of Christ, will always be an imperfect version Mother’s Day.  There will always be loss and caveats to our sin cursed stories that will bring pain into the holiday.  We are all vulnerable.  Therefore, Mother’s Day should not simply be a recognition of mother’s but a proclamation of the hope we have in Christ.
Mother’s Day should remind us of the gospel story.  It is a story that tells us, yes, you have been born, but we must be born again.  It is also a story that reminds us that in whatever situation we find ourselves on Mother’s Day, there is a meta-narrative that comforts us all, reminding us that in Christ all things will be made new.  His grace is sufficient.  He has not left us hopeless. 
Mother’s Day should carry with it the proclamation that for every broken hearted woman, no matter the circumstance, that we have a Savior who has stepped into our story.  The gospel gives us hope in the loss of every unborn child.  The gospel speaks into the grief of every mother who has ever said goodbye to a child of any age.  The power of Jesus being the firstborn from the dead brings the potential of fertility where there is none.  
When Adam heard the gospel it compelled him to look at his wife in a whole new way.  She was not yet a mother in one sense - in another sense, she already was and would always be a mother.  However, one chapter later she would lose a child.  Even after Cain killed his brother Abel, the gospel preserved the meaning of Eve.  Because of the birth of Christ, she would always retain the title Mother of all Living.  Through Christ, there is a dignity every woman shares with Eve.  The gospel is that powerful.  
I am sure in the centuries of life God gave them on the planet, that Adam and Eve experienced every conceivable heartbreaking story that threatens to crash a Happy Mother’s Day.  Yet Adam and Eve heard the gospel in the promise of the Savior’s birth and it gave them hope as they walked away from the garden as exiles into a less than perfect world.
Because of the gospel none of us are exiles on Mother’s Day.

Brian Branam is the Lead Pastor of 
Liberty Baptist Church in Dalton, GA 
and the author of #TheWalk.

Pic credit to: just4u, http://www.freeimages.com/photo/587236


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