What it takes to Keep Falling in Love in Marriage

05.20.15, Three Ways Save Marraige Post

I have been formally counseling married people for over three years now, and the one thing I hear more than anything is, We’ve fallen out of love.”

Let me start by putting my opinion right up front: you cannot “fall out of love”. You can stop liking a person, but to fall out of love is a choice to neglect a commitment. We view love as some feeling (and true, feelings are involved) but to love someone is a choice you make, no matter the circumstances or feelings.

I’ve been married to Molly for six years, but we’ve been together for 15 years (yes, we dated forever… I don’t recommend that). I have loved her for nearly all of those years, but there have been times where I get frustrated with her or our romance plateaus. I know that she would say the same. Nonetheless, our LOVE is something we’ve chosen not to neglect. We made a commitment before God and all of our loved ones; we are not about to go back on our word.

So what do we do when we hit the hard days? If we are truly in this for life, how do we stay “in love” so that our marriage continues to flourish and grow?

In my counseling office, I recommend three things often. I want to share them with you here:

First, spend time to plan how you will invest in your relationship. I remember C.J. Mahaney talking about how he would sit down on Sunday afternoons and plan his date night with his wife that week. He would search for local deals, make reservations, or simply create a plan for a date night the following Wednesday or Thursday. I was so impressed by his intentionality. Maintaining a love relationship over a simple roommate relationship involves taking the time to plan when you will invest in shared experience and make room for deep and meaningful conversation.

Second, pay attention to details. I carry around this small black note notebook in my back pocket almost everywhere I go. I take notes throughout the day in meeting, but I also take notes of things Molly says when I am around her. I write down key things she says or things I want to talk with her about later. I use this as a springboard for conversation on specific topics. I also notice what she enjoys, and I take note of those so that I can bring them back into her life on a date or as a gift at a later time. I’ve also taken notes in Evernote and even made a conversation list in my iPhone Reminders app. I do this to make sure we are talking about more than “So how was your day?” I’ve seen this tip give so much life to marriages when couples take it seriously. Observation is a key to intentionality and intentionality is a key to intimacy.

Third, keep guards around your marriage. I have a list of “guards” that I am held accountable for monthly by an accountability partner. These are specific things like, “I will not ride in a car alone with another woman” or “I will not go to a meal or coffee alone with another woman.” I also make commitments to only “compliment the character or the conduct of another woman – never her hairstyle, clothing or appearance.” I have also resolved to “speak often and publicly of my affection for my wife, when she is present and when she is not.” All of these small things are intentional guards to make sure my marriage is protected. I don’t want my heart to wander nor do I want ever to leave the door open for intruders in our marriage.

All of these things fall under the idea of being intentional. That word is often not used enough in our marriage relationships. Once we’ve had the wedding, we fall into a way of life that neglects all intentionality. We must stay awake in our marriage, paying close attention, or else we will wake up to find out we’ve crashed and will not be sure how we ever got there.

Marriage is one of God’s great gifts to us. He allows us to experience love in the deepest way possible; He created love and wants us to have a deep understanding of His glorious design. Marriage is also a picture of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. The Church is referred to as the “Bride of Christ” and Christ as the groom. By being in a marriage, we are given a sweet illustration of how God views us and how He keeps His commitment to us no matter our faithfulness or feeling.

To invest in our marriage is to make a decision to steward a gift that has been graciously given to us by a great God.

Molly and I watched this video the other night and were impacted by the response of the couple. It made us both more aware that we are in this for the long-haul, way beyond beauty or happy circumstances. Love isn’t rooted in vein preferences but is a commitment rooted in the deep soil of covenant before God.

If you find your marriage struggling, below are some resources that would be good for you to check out. Simply throwing your hands in the air and accepting that your marriage already failed is letting go of something God has given you and called you to cherish. Invest in it and guard it with your life!

Resources:

How To Prepare to Preach Expository Sermons for Maximum Impact

Plan Well to Preach well

Preaching well is not something I simply strive to do, it is something I am called to do. When I sit to plan my preaching the weight of that calling can sometimes crush me underneath it. The effort of creating a sermon that allows the Holy Spirit to do great and unhindered work is a sweet but rigorous task.

So how do we plan in such a way that it yields unforgettable messages in the end?

With much prayer, we submit ourselves to the proper preparation needed to make the most of our series. Simply picking a book of the Bible to preach isn’t going to give you a plan for series with specific dates, topics and titles. You and I have to diligently goldmine to find the best way to present the content so God’s Word can speak into the lives of our listeners.

I am starting a new series on Colossians in a few weeks. I’ve had to engage this four-chapter book to find the best pace to preach this text in a meaningful manner. I always want the text to drive the sermon, not the other way around. Therefore, my preparation before the series even start is vital to executing well-crafted sermons in this series.

Let’s take some time to identify the key elements to planning an expository sermon series that will given you epic results in the end:

1. Pray. If I start planning a series without praying, I deny myself and my congregation the greatest power of the series. I always start by asking God, “What do you want me to say?” I am His ambassador, so I wait for His assignment.

2. Listen. Ask the elders and the people what they need to hear. Not necessarily what they “want” to hear, but what is happening in the lives of the people and what do they need to hear from God.

3. Read and Re-read. Once you’ve chosen a book of the Bible (or two), read and then re-read the books. Read them in several translations. Listen to them. Soon you will find the one that you should preach; continue to saturate yourself in that text. For example, as I prepare to preach Colossians, I am reading it in its entirety every day. You need to (1) let it feed your soul and (2) become an expert in the book’s outline and context.

4. Divide the text in pencil. Once you feel you have a good understanding of the structure, take a pencil and start dividing the book into the series you will preach. Choose the verses for each sermon (i.e. Chapter 1:1-14, Chapter 1:15-23, etc.). I mark these in my Bible. I also underline the main passage I think will be the thrust of each sermon (I am aware this may change when I study the passage).

5. Check other sources. Once I’ve divided the book into the series I hope to preach, I will go look at outlines of the book by commentators. I will also find other preachers who have preached this book in an expository manner. I take note of their divisions, titles and main passages of emphasis. Sometimes this changes my outline, but most of the time it affirms the work I have done. Notice that I do this next to last—I want my study to be my study and not rely too heavily on the word of other men but rather the leading of God.

6. Type it up and sit on it. Once I think I’ve nailed the series breakdown, I will type it up and even put the dates I will preach next to the passages. Often I will also type the big idea or key passage I hope to preach on that day (this helps the worship leader and others in their planning). Then I sit on it—I wait, pray, think, review and ask God to affirm that this is his leading. If I am at peace with it a for a few days, I will then finalize it and send it off to the people that need to know it.

When we spent adequate time in the series and sermon preparation process, the message begins to grab our heart. William Feather said, “The best sermon is preached by the minister who has a sermon to preach and not by the man who has to preach a sermon.” May your work and toil in your study be a message of maximum impact in the pulpit.

Art and God: Podcast interview with Jake Weidmann

Play

05.13.15, Podcast Post

There are few people I am more proud of in my life than my brother, Jake.

Take last night for example—Molly and I had a gentleman over for dinner. As soon as the plates were cleared and desert was arriving at the table, I grabbed my iPad to show off my brother’s facebook page. His work is diverse, excellent and one in a million. If you haven’t had a chance to see his work, check out the latest at JakeWeidmann.com.

In this podcast, Jake and I have a phone call about his art and how it has impacted his faith. We talked about the role of art in the Bible and the way a creative God has used art to declare His glory. Jake says some a statement at the end that really impacted me—“Art can be means of going to greater intimacy with God.” If you contemplate that statement, no matter how creative (or non-creative) you think you are, this may be something you need to invest in more for your walk with God. Listen and let me know what you think.

Recommended Resources

God’s Most Unfair Trade (Mark 8:31-38)

“The Gospel calls for our life!” This was the message I wanted to leave with the congregation I love at Mission Hills. I cannot remember a sermon that was harder or more emotional to preach than this last sermon. The content, my love for the people, and the emotion of the announcement to come was all running through my mind. Yet, God was so good to sustain me and allow His message of surrender to come through loud and clear.

If we want to live life, we must lose it. God offers us something much greater than we can ever imagine. That is exactly what Christ is trying to convey in Mark 8:34-37.

My notes for this sermon: God’s Most Unfair Trade, Outline

Following the call of the Lord

NYC

I have something exciting to share! Two days ago I received a call from the Grace Chapel elders. They were all on speaker phone, calling me from an evening elder meeting. Brian Moe, the chairman of the board, spoke for them all and said, “We are calling to tell you that we have had a unanimous vote to invite you to come as our Senior Pastor.” I was in the car with my family at the time. We had just finished dinner and were driving home. It was a sweet call to receive at a sweet time.

When the phone rang, my heart began to race. Before I answered the phone, I turned to Molly and said, “What should I say?” She said, “Tell them yes!”

We have been praying about this for months. God had been clear in the circumstances both at Grace Chapel and Mission Hills that this was right. God speaks through circumstances, His Spirit, His Word and other believers in Jesus. In all of these, He had been clear that this was the right next move, but He used circumstances as His megaphone to make sure I didn’t miss it.

One more thing has made this very clear to me—Molly’s passion seems to be coming to life in a whole new way. She told me the other day, after many interviews at Grace, that she was “feeling so alive” being with me through the process. She enjoyed standing by me on Sunday, shaking hands, and supporting me before and after I preached. I can tell that she is already loved by the people of Grace Chapel and they are embracing her. In fact, a running joke with some of the elders is that maybe they should hire Molly on staff instead of me—she is just that amazing!

I know that part of stewarding my call is to steward my wife and her calling. She is a gift from God that He has entrusted to me. The fact that she is so “alive” so “at peace” makes it all the clearer that this is the right place for us.

God is good, so good! I can’t believe that I am going to be the Senior Pastor of Grace Chapel. I attended there from 1985 until 1998, where most of my spiritual foundation was built. Now to return and lead, preach and serve will be a high honor. It is amazing to me how life has a way of repeating itself. I have learned the importance of faithfulness through all seasons of life; you never know where and with whom you will find yourself again.

Leaving Mission Hills is hard for me. I love it there. The staff are some of the best on the planet. The counseling center we have been building is in its infancy, and I wanted to see it come to maturity. The congregation are some of my favorite people in the world, and I have love preaching, leading and loving on them. It is with grief and heartache that I leave, but I know that that church is not my church, and my life is not my own. God will move me as He desires, and He will always care for His sheep with grace, gentleness and love. I will miss them greatly but hope that our paths often cross.

So here’s to following God’s will, no matter how comfortable, clear or courageous it may be. We must strive to live a life of obedience in the same direction. As I pursue Christ, I am sure this is the next step He has for me; I will follow, trusting Him with the details and the outcome. I serve at the pleasure of the King!

Here is a message I sent to the people of Grace Chapel:

For more information on any of the transitions for both churches please check out their websites: Grace Chapel or Mission Hills.

For regular updates, please join me on Facebook and Twitter.

Israel Tour 2015 Update One

Israel Tour 2015 Post

Today we are in the Galilee region staying in the city of Tiberius. We started our time here by having a night out on the town (we arrived late) and grabbing some good coffee at a local shop. The next morning everyone awoke to see the Sea of Galilee out their window with the sun rising and declaring the glory of God. It isn’t hard to understand why Jesus would have risen early in the morning to get away and pray when you see the splendor of this place.

seaofgalilee

The Sea of Galilee is a beautiful freshwater lake. It is shaped like a harp and its Hebrew name, Yam Kinneret, comes from the word kinnor, which means, “harp.” It was also known as the Lake of Tiberias after the nearby city, built by Herod Antipas. “Galilee,” the name by which the lake is known in the Gospels, means, “ring” in Hebrew. This comes from the surrounding mountains on all sides except the north.

In Jesus’ day the lake was divided between Jewish and gentile populations. Jewish areas were concentrated from the west, around to the northeast. Gentile populations surrounded the rest of the lake. It is important to read the events of the gospels in light of where they took place around the Sea of Galilee. Some locations are important in understanding the context and method of Jesus’ ministry.

Then we went on to the Golan Heights and experienced sites such as Tel Dan, an ancient settlement of the Canaanites and Israelites. We observed an alter platform dating back to 900 B.C. At the time of King Jereboem.

Upon seeing Dan for the first time, you may have to remind yourself that you are in Israel. Visitors immediately notice the tangled jungle of trees, the water tumbling down small waterfalls, ancient oaks and pistachio trees towering overhead, and thick carpets of moss and maidenhair ferns. The spies’ report back to the tribe of Dan was true. It is a land that wants for nothing (Judges 18:10).

We learned about not just serving God out of convenience or comfort, but to obey out of sacrifice and love for God.

falafel

We ate lunch in a small hole-in-the-wall falafel place and then we’re on to Ceaserea Phillipi where Jesus asked, “Who do people say that I am?” We saw several other sites and are being transformed by the move of God’s spirit and the truth of His Word.

With this question, Jesus of Nazareth challenged those false gods. Peter answered, “the Son of the living God”. The emperor Augustus, to whom the nearby temple was dedicated, was dead. There were dead gods, and there was the living God. Perhaps there was hope after all.

But the disciples had much to learn about what that meant. The Roman gods came to rule. The Messiah came to serve. The Greek gods came in strength. Jesus came as a baby in a manger. Caesar Augustus had made many suffer. The Lord of All would suffer for the sins of the world.

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Why Joppa (Jaffa) Israel is Important to Our Lives Today

Joppa post

Today I am in Joppa which is the southern end of the city today called Tel Aviv. The port of Joppa was of great significance in both the Old and New Testament because of access that it gave to Jerusalem and other sites in Israel. This would have been the port Herod the Great used to bring in materials for Caesarea Maritima in 10 BC, which is approximately 30 miles to the north on the shore.

There is a Tel located in Jaffa, called Tel Yafo, which is over 130 feet tall. This site would have provided a perfect view of the coastline, which would have been important for military purposes in the past. Archeology shows us that the natural port of Jaffa has been used since the Bronze Age.

Biblically speaking, Joppa is referenced in Joshua 19:46 in the context of an inheritance for the tribe of Dan after the conquests of Israel. This port city most likely was not under Israelite control until the conquest of David. Solomon, David’s son, used the main port of Joppa for importing cedars from Lebanon to build the first temple, according to 2 Chronicles 2:15-16. Then 800 years later, this port was used again to import material for the rebuilding of the Temple according to Ezra 3:7. This speaks to the significance of Joppa over hundreds of years.

Perhaps one of the most well-known stories in the Bible that takes place in Joppa is Jonah’s struggle with God. God had clearly told Jonah to go to Nineveh, located in the east, which was in the Babylon kingdom (located in modern day Iraq). Jonah was commissioned to prophesy to Nineveh concerning their ungodliness, which is referenced in Jonah 1:3. They were evil people and the enemies of Jonah and his people. Instead of obeying God, Jonah headed to Joppa to find the first ship he could find to get away from the presence and commands of God. He paid a fair and caught a ship headed west, and the rest if the story is history from there. I believe it is an easy conclusion to draw that God placed Jonah back near this port once the large fish spit him out on dry land. So where you come by plane, boat or fish, it is very apparent that this small town has a long history with a lot of significance.

After the death of Christ, we are told of a few more biblical stories taking place in Joppa. The New Testament account of Peter’s resurrection of the widow Tabitha (Dorcas in Greek) written in Acts 9:36–42 takes place in Joppa. Also, in Acts 10:10–23, while Peter was in Joppa, we are told that he had a vision of a large sheet filled with “clean” and “unclean” animals being lowered from heaven, together with a message from the Holy Spirit to accompany several messengers to Cornelius in Caesarea. Therefore, we can conclude that the early church had presence in this city.

There are other stories and accounts of great Jewish and Roman history taking place in Joppa. We know that in the 700’s BC Hezekiah had rule over this city and fought against Sennacherib to keep its control. In the 300’s BC Alexander the Great’s troops were stationed in Joppa. It later became a Seleucid Hellenized port until it was taken over by the Maccabean rebels (1 Maccabees x.76, xiv.5) and the re-founded Jewish kingdom.

During the first century AD, Roman repression of the Jewish Revolt, Joppa was captured and burned by Cestius Gallus. The Roman Jewish historian Josephus (Jewish War 2.507–509, 3:414–426) writes that 8,400 inhabitants were massacred. Pirates operating from the rebuilt port incurred the wrath of Vespasian, who raised the city and erected a citadel in its place, installing a Roman garrison there.

Archeological excavations of Tel Yafo have yielded at least seven layers of occupational levels, dating back to the seventeenth century BC. This is not an easy place to excavate because there are many people still living and using this small Tel Aviv suburb every day. While large boats no longer use the port, it is still a hub for all sorts of small aquatic vessels.

So what Can we Learn from Joppa?

Has God even been clear with you about something, yet you chose to ignore Him?

 

Perhaps God told you to reconcile a relationship, care for someone who is hurting, or share the Gospel with someone who doesn’t know Jesus. Maybe you heard His voice, but you chose to ignore it and run the other way. That is exactly what Jonah did.

 

Who Was Jonah?

Jonah was a prophet who lived the eight or ninth century BC, during the reign of King Jeroboam II (782-753 BC) according to 1 Kings 17:7-24. His name means “Dove” and sometimes in the Old Testament we see a strong correlation between a person’s name and their demeanor. Therefore, it may be safe to assume that he was a gentle and non-confrontational man who tried to avoid conflict at all cost. Many theologians and commentators refer to him as the “Reluctant prophet” because of the way he avoided God’s command in the book bearing his name.

 

We know that his birth place was Gath-hepher in Northern Israel because it is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25, “He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.” It is interesting to note that his father’s name, Amittai, means “truth” which adds significance to the call of Jonah’s life to speak the truth on behalf of God. Many believe that He was also the son of his later widowed mother, Zarephath.

 

Before Jonah was ever born, God knew exactly how He would use him. He even knew the struggle that Jonah would give when commanded to go to Nineveh. However, we can learn from Jonah’s life that God knows our credentials and qualms but chooses to use us anyway. God’s sovereignty will always prevail even over our preferences. We see several times in the book of Jonah that “God made” or “God appointed” the storm to appear, the fish to swallow Jonah, and even the worm to eat the plant at the end of the book of Jonah. There’s no denying the fact that God was completely in control of what was happening throughout the story even though Jonah tried everything in his power to stop. It should be a comfort to our souls to know that there is a God who is in control of our mistakes and sins; He is masterful at weaving them into His perfect plan.

 

When Jonah came to Joppa, his intention was to get away from the Lord. In Jonah 1:3, we are told that he “paid the price” to jump on a ship headed to Tarshish. The truth for our life is that there is always going to be ship headed in the wrong direction. This begs the question: will you pay the price to try to get away from the commands of God in your life or will you stay the course? Eugene Peterson pointed out that our call as Christians is to “live a life of long obedience in the same direction.”

 

Hear His Voice and Do Not Run

God spoke to Jonah without a hiccup or stutter, but Jonah didn’t like what He had to say. In Hebrews 1:1-2 it says that “In the past [God] spoke through prophets… But in these days he has spoken to us by His son whom he appointed over all things.” Jesus gave us a clear way to live. The Holy Spirit applies this truth to our live daily, but the choice is our as to whether we will listen and obey. Sure, there are bound to be things we don’t want to do, or things we wish we could change God’s mind on. However, we are not God, nor do we have His view on the greater picture or purposes. Our calling is to trust God through faith and obey Him with our actions. Hebrews 3:7-8 says, “Today if your hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

 

How a Trip to Israel Can Change Your Life

03.23.15 Holy Land post

Sometimes the most significant things in life sneak up on us.

My first trip to Israel was one surprising moment after the other. I joined a tour that was already planned and headed to Israel. The fund were provided for me to go, so I packed up and went, not sure of what to expect. Sure, I had studied the Bible before — even memorized hundreds of site names and locations throughout the land of Israel — but I never imagined my life would be changed so dramatically.

As our bus pulled up to each site, I began see the hand of God in a way I never had before. As we studied the Bible stories in the places they happened, a gained a new level of biblical understanding and my relationship with God was impacted forever.

There is something unexplainable about this land. Even if we wrote volumes about Israel, it isn’t until you see it for yourself that you can appreciate just how special this small country is to God’s story. I have a firm belief that God has preserved this land, not just for a place to fulfill future prophecy, but to bring His children on earth into a closer relationship with Himself. Just as any good preacher will use sermon props or stories, so God uses the land of Israel as a visual aid to bring to life the lessons of the past and the applications for the present.

As I enter Israel today, I can’t think of a better way for you to spend your time and money than to study Israel and to see this amazing place for yourself. While it is always good to learn and become educated, gaining greater head knowledge cannot be the mere purpose of studying or visiting Israel. This land stands as a monument to a living God. We don’t worship the monument, we worship the living God! Israel should bring you closer to Him rather than cause you to be distracted by fascinating findings, significant rocks or sacred site. Whether you are a minister or a mechanic, a mom or a medical expert, the call to know God is woven throughout the fabric of our life. Israel has an open invitation for all to come and grow closer with God and bear witness to His goodness through all generations (Psalm 100:5).

Today I have a bus load of people with me as we enter this splendid place. If you have not considered going, I beg you to begin considering it now. No matter how old or how young you are, there is a great necessity for every believer to study their Bible from this land. Of all the places in the world that God could have chosen to send His Son to live, He chose this place. Why wouldn’t you want to see and experience it for yourself? Some people say it is too far, not safe or too expensive. I am telling you, when you value the Word of God as the foundation of your life and Christ as the center of your existence, there is nothing that should stand in your way of finding ways to fall more in love with Him. Find a way to get here, it is worth it!

I lead tours every year to this place, so come with me sometime! Email me if you are interested. In the meantime, pick up a copy of my book “He Walked with Us” and find out why these ancient sites are valuable to us today.

Why Repeating Yourself Can be Worth It

03.23.15 repitition post

Communication is the crux of all relationships. We live with people who we love and some we merely stand. No matter the nature of the relationship, we want to make sure we are communicating for the sake of being understood.

I was recently counseling a couple through conflict in their marriage. As I watched them, I noticed they continued to say the same things more than once. The person speaking was frustrated to continually have to say things over and over. Truth be told, I am sure the other person hated hearing it more than once.

I took some time to evaluate what was going on – why were they continually repeating themselves? I watched them communicate, and it became clear that there were several things going on. It was not as easy as identifying one reason for their repetition. Each time they repeated something, it seemed like there was different nuance or emphasis.

When you think about it, there are three main reasons that we repeat ourselves:

  1. We repeat ourselves to be understood. We say things over and over to make sure the person we are talking with hears us out. All people long to be understood. If we feel like the other person doesn’t get the core of what we are trying to say, we will say it over and again. It isn’t until the person we are communicating to repeats what we’ve said in their words that we can rest assured that we’ve been heard.
  2. We repeat ourselves because we want to be clear. I started thinking about all the time in the Bible where God repeated Himself. Why did he do that? Because he thought we weren’t listening? perhaps. Because he forgot he already said it? Not likely. Rather, the main reason that God repeats Himself in His Word, or when speaking audibly to people in the Old Testament, it was for the sake of clarity. Repetition can guarantee clarity or emphasis of specific instruction or feeling.
  3. We repeat ourselves because we forgot. Humans forget things; this is a part of life. I worked for a man once who, I swear, forgot everything he told me once we left the conversation. The next meeting was going to be at least 50% a repeat of the prior meeting, simply because he forgot what he had said. We repeat ourselves because we are forgetful.

So, while repetition has its place, here are something we do to eliminate redundancy in our conversations:

  • Ask the person to clarify what they heard you say. If they say it back in their words, we can trust they have heard us.
  • When we are listing to someone else, we too can repeat back to them what we heard them say. “So I understand that you _____” This not only brings clarity, but also communicates the value of the person speaking.
  • If clarity is important, repetition still has its place, but we should try to repeat ourselves in new ways, such as writing it, emailing it, texting it, etc. Sometimes the best thing we can do it put a thought in black and white text.
  • If we are exceptionally forgetful (or even busy), we may just need to take better notes. By capturing what was already said, we can eliminate repeating ourselves again later. If you work with someone that is forgetful, write down what they said to you and give it to them before your next meeting.

Repetition is a powerful tool, but when misused it can be frustrating to everyone.

How to Overcome Complacency with Conviction (Acts 17:1-15)

In this message, we look at the Macedonia journey that Paul and Silas took in the first century, as recorded in Acts 17. From their life we can see the importance of conviction when facing opposition. The Christian life is not a life of complacency or laziness but one of transformation and resolve.

My Sermon Resources:

Study Notes on Acts 17.1-15

Conviction vs. Complacancy Sermon Outline

My slides for this sermon: